2010 September 22
16′W x 30′L x 14′H Ceramic, marble, cast iron, steel, limestone, mosaic.
Commissioned for Portugal Arte 10
Installed July 16 – August 15, Praca dos Restauradores Square
After 5 minutes or so, my husband rushed into my office and blurted, “What’s wrong?” That’s when I realized that the “Oh my Gods” that had been reeling through my brain had also been coming out of my mouth.
FAILE (Pronounced “fail”) is a Brooklyn-based artistic collaboration between Patrick McNeil (b. 1975, Edmonton, CA) and Patrick Miller (b. 1976, Minneapolis, MN). Since its inception in 1999, FAILE has attained global recognition for their pioneering use of wheat pasting (posters) and stenciling in the increasingly established arena of street art, and for their explorations of duality through a fragmented style of appropriation and collage.
The collective’s work has migrated from the urban streets of New York to such urbane locales as the facade of the Tate Modern in London, The Sculpture Center of Shanghai and, most recently, that lovely Temple in Lisbon.
I contacted Faile. Thank you to Patrick (which one? I don’t know!) of Faile for being such a thoughtful correspondent and answering all my mosaic-related questions. The photographs are all theirs. Additional sources including an interview with the artists and installation photos are at the end of the post.
The duo has also recently released a new book covering 10 years of their prints and original works on paper and a show opening at the Perry Rubenstein Gallery in New York City November 4th.
Enjoy — Nancie
MAN: Could you speak to the symbolism used in the mosaic “posters”?
Faile: The mosaics were created from a set of paintings that we did based off images from our series and exhibition, “Lost in Glimmering Shadows” from the Fall of 2008 ( http://faile.net/site/gallery.php?i=1 ). We created a new set of paintings that would specifically be made into the mosaics.
Faile: I think we should take one step back. As mentioned maybe in other places, this was a project two years in the making with the mosaics being one part of a much larger structure. To tackle a project this big you must have a good team and that included help in creating the pieces that we envisioned as elements of the whole. Specifically to the mosaics and other pieces in the project we were not creating this hands-on. We had to rely on our team in China to help us in the mosaics creation. Stated above these were first created as paintings on canvas to be made into mosaics. While it appears to be torn pieces of paper, it is actually a painted canvas, so wheat paste is not quite accurate. From there it was really a matter of direction.
I guess on some level you could say it was a collaboration. We have the utmost respect of talent and craft for the people that were helping us fabricate our vision for this but it was a fabricator that we hired to create our vision. The way they interpreted our canvas into mosaics was directed on every level along the way. Though there are always some happy accidents that occur and become embraced in the process.
While many issues had to be solved, despite a lack of good verbal communication we were able to choose all the stone colors we wanted and redraw areas that were not coming together quite as we liked. In the end, it was a great process.
MAN: It looks like there may be glass or plexiglass in front of the mosaics. Is this true? How did the piece fair with vandals, etc?
Faile: No, there was neither. The mosaics had a resin poured between the stones to fill in any small areas where the stones didn’t meet up, in addition to the gluing process . After that, the stones were polished, obviously bringing the color to life and giving a more glossy finish.
Fortunately, the overall Temple fared well against vandals, the large marble Scuba Horse lost all it’s Bronze fittings which was unfortunate and one of the ceramic reliefs was damaged but when you leave public art to the public you never know what can happen. The mosaics were left unharmed.
A decision early on was to put them behind bars. This was really something that was inspired by living in a city where there is a lot of iron work. Many homes have windows that leave the viewer peering through iron gates obscuring the beauty of the outside world. Much of the Temple played off this mix between the soft and the hardcore, skulls and flowers, the savage and the sacred. Highlighting the destruction and obstruction of these beautiful and or whimsical objects. Ultimately, leading to the statement written across the back interior of the Temple reading, “Nada Dura Para Sempre” (Nothing Lasts Forever).
Faile: Yes, the medium is amazing, not to mention the relationship with much of our work – the idea of many small pieces coming together to create the whole.
These were probably the most exquisite individual part of the Temple. Covering them in this iron bars was difficult when the reality of it was upon us. But, it was the vision and in the end it felt right.
We certainly hope to work with this medium again.
MAN: A little about the construction — how long in the creation — how long on site.
Faile: Overall, the Temple took 2 years in the making from the first sketch to the last strike of the hammer.
MAN: What was the reaction from Lisbon to the Temple? I can’t imagine them ever letting it go.
Faile: The reaction was amazing. People of all ages came, starred, smiled and scratched their heads. It was very gratifying to see an idea of this size actually materialize. For us working on the street and public art in general is at our core. This is really an extension of that practice on a more involved level. To have the opportunity to engage people in this way is special.
To trick them just for a moment to believe this is something from the past that somehow is a part of a peculiar and fantastical culture. Tourists would stop and thumb through their tour books to find what this relic was. Locals would come and knock on it to see if this was real. Of course, we hope to show this again in other cities but it will never feel as at home as it did in Lisbon.
Nothing lasts forever…
Enjoy — Nancie
Faile website: http://faile.net/site/
Faile Temple website: http://www.failetemple.net/
Installation photos and much more from stick2target: http://www.stick2target.com/faile-temple
Interview with Faile by Print Magazine Editor James Gaddy http://imprint.printmag.com/environmental/faile-temple-lisbon/
Faile’s Concept Statment:
Concept: From 16 July to 15 August 2010, the Brooklyn-based artists Faile will display “Temple,” a full-scale church in ruins in Praça dos Restauradores Square in Lisbon. The installation was made in conjunction with the Portugal Arte 10 Festival and will tour abroad. While Faile is well known by now for their arresting, advertising and Pop inflected prints and sculptures, “Temple” marks the duo’s migration from a more strictly visual medium into the realm of site specific environments. While its structure is the ruin, Temple should not be read as a memento or celebration of decadence but instead as one of collaboration and renewal.
In retrospect, such a project seems inevitable: much of Faile’s recent work, from customized Buddhist prayer wheels to an American flag reworked with Pueblo-inspired linework, relies on re-imagining sacred objects on an increasingly grand scale. This year’s Deluxx Fluxx, a functional arcade bedecked in Faile’s trademark commercial iconography and vibrant palette, was a foray into immersive spectacle. Nevertheless, building a church from the ground up in an Iberian country is a symbolically freighted choice, and one that ups the ante considerably. Not only is sacred architecture deployed here as an artistic medium, it is forced to intermingle with the exotic and profane: Brooklyn-style window bars, new prayer wheels, and sculptural relief depicting Faile’s own idiosyncratic archive.
One might object that Faile’s use of religious objects devalues them by making them simply one more signifier in a visual system, divorced from their power and specificity. But the logic of Temple is neither the trivialization of pastiche nor the critical distancing of appropriation. Faile’s process is more aptly described as 3-D sampling, in which seemingly disparate pieces are brought together and reconstituted as something wholly other, but still animated by the energy, the spirit, of the original. In this case of course, the source material is 15th c. Florentine sculptor Luca Della Robia, not George Clinton. The result is a new site of public communion that recognizes religion as the social artifact that it is, but reminds us again of an underlying desire for unity that is often occluded by our urban edifices, be they cathedrals or skyscrapers.
In any case, it was from the shores of Portugal that Christendom first made its way across the oceans, from Goa to Benin and Bahia. Along the way, it synchronized fluidly with local traditions, resurfacing as Candomble and Santeria. Temple extends this tradition of dynamism and reinvention by returning Faile’s vertically-integrated vision of the church to the metropole, rooting its new permutations in the Portuguese cityscape. Like all ruins, Temple reminds us of the fragility of our most timeless institutions even as it lays the groundwork for its own sort of Renaissance.