Name the magazine and if it has to do with art, design, interiors or even sex they have interviewed and done profiles on the Haas brothers. Rather than coming in late on this parade we have excerpted three interviews we found particularly interesting and suggest you read them in full.
What makes them so attractive is that they are attractive, telegenic, sexy and eloquent on a score of subjects other than art. Moreover they are outspoken particular on subjects society designates as shameful. Niki and Simon do not believe in shame.
So they speak openly about things that have cast shame in the past and even today, for Niki it is analingus, for Simon its prostitutes. Simon hopes that some who spend five minutes alone in their ex-Hogan installation at their exhibition at R Company (New York XX) will be provoked into masturbating on their art. Niki hopes they wont. They talk of recently taking their father his day-long shroom trip, “amazing bonding.” Mom is scheduled to be next:
Caia Hagel (Adult Magazine, June 13th, 2014) Next week at Design Miami/Basel, you boys will launch your first interactional piece: a giant walk-in installation called “Advocate for the Sexual Outsider,” presented by R & Company, accompanied by a manifesto handwritten on leather. Sounds rich. What’s with this manifesto? Is it part of a larger philosophy?
Niki: We started [our practice] with this thought: “I can do whatever the fuck I wanna do.” Now our conversations are about influence. How can we change our social realities? It all came from that initial freedom. The idea that an object’s highest purpose could be to alter reality. I don’t really know what we are. Designer is a good word, as long as it gives us a way to communicate.
Simon: We hope that the manifesto will undercut negative assumptions. We are aware of how easily sexual works can be dismissed as self-indulgent or vulgar before their substance is understood. If someone shy steers clear of this piece because all they know is that its entry is an over-sized vagina flanked with Caligulan phallus-like sculptures, we will have missed an important opportunity to share this piece with exactly the kind of person who should really be seeing it.
Who is that person?
Niki: Someone who’s judgmental. In the “Sex Room,” the viewer is confronted with many things. They’ll get to touch and grab all kinds of genitalia, different forms that are free of sexual orientation. The hope is that a viewer can go in alone and experience arousal or pleasure by empathizing with a sexual orientation they, or others, haven’t allowed them to identify with.
The way I grew up as a kid [in Austin, Texas], there were so many rules about who you were supposed to be sexually. In school, one’s sexual decisions could be social suicide. The existence of this type of problem is idiotic, and the worst part is that sexual standards and stereotypes are propagated by almost everybody. Myself included, before I knew better.
Simon: We made an effort to remove our own fantasies from the work as much as possible —two videos, one of a man and one of a woman, are non-pornographic, intimate, sexual studies. We asked our subjects to keep eye contact with our camera as they performed repetitive movements. The repetition allowed them to perform without motivation; their minds were probably on other things altogether. We tried to prevent them from being traditionally seductive, because it is nearly impossible for someone to pose nude without giving the camera a “blowjob face.”
We tried to prevent them from being traditionally seductive, because it is nearly impossible for someone to pose nude without giving the camera a “blowjob face.”
We also have some interactive pieces which are designed to separate and re-integrate different sensory experiences. One piece invites the viewer to finger a leather vagina while looking down a long, reflective tube. When one’s finger is inserted, LED lights illuminate the viewer’s eyes and a mirror reflects them back.
As siblings, how do you collaborate? What’s your relationship like?
Simon: Our creative process usually starts with an emotion generated by Niki or a formal question generated by me. It’s all very fluid. It’s not telepathy; we are simply able to speak to each other candidly and fearlessly.
What emotion or formal question led you to create this work?
Niki: The Sexual Outsider is a perfect example of someone who has been repressed by the expectations of others. We are hugely anti-shame. Sex is a really great way to explore the idea of personal liberty.
Simon: As far as I’m concerned, most people are sexual outsiders. It’s great that it will launch at Basel, a fair that is very conservative…
I love what you say about shame. Why do you think shame is still so present in our society? How could society look different if there was less shame, especially around our bodies, our animal parts, and our fetishes?
Niki: Shame is just a corrupt way for assholes to gain power. Shame is a corrupt tool. It’s still prevalent in society because people are power hungry and they’re too lazy to go about creating positive power. Without shame the world would be a much better place. Practicing being yourself is very important. The less worried you are about others perceptions of you, the more potential you have to be a really productive human. I think absence of shame would create a real renaissance of creativity in individuals and in society as a whole.
Simon: It’s no secret that religion is on a decline in America, but it isn’t gone yet. I think that, in general, reducing shame would increase diversity of expression and socialization… it would be less common, for example, to see heteronormative homosexual cliques. The “str8 acting” gay man would become a rarity. We’d probably see more androgynous styles become popular with heterosexual men, women might wear less makeup… the gay bar would most likely become increasingly rare (though I doubt it would ever fully disappear), and clubs might become more mixed. Nerds would excel in school and have fulfilling social lives, students would pursue their own goals more often rather than studying what they think they should study, girls would be allowed to talk about their sexual prowess, and far more relationships would be open. We’d probably have more heterosexual men in artistic fields and more women earning wages commensurate with their level of expertise. I would hope and assume that crime would drop since moralistic differences would be less common, hate crimes being a prime example of shame-based violence. The world would simply be freer.
Rachel Small (Interview Magazine from Ace Hotel, Los Angeles)
Why do you think that LA has such a draw to designers and architects?
SIMON HAAS: It has an exotic quality that I think artists—and anyone who wants to express himself or herself—is interested in feeling. You can spend a lot of time being relaxed here if you want to. Because everything is so spread out, it’s really easy to shut yourself off it you want to. Even the light here is so beautiful. David Hockney, for example, said he came here because of the light. You can tell his paintings were so affected, and influenced by the quality of the light. It has this alien charm to it that I think is irresistible.
NIKOLAI HAAS: All my artist friends in New York are struggling. We have a 3,500-square-foot facility. My friends are paying the same for 800 square feet. If we had that, there’s no way we could have produced even an eighth of what we’ve produced.
SIMON HAAS: We wouldn’t have ever been able to afford to start our business if we were there, actually.
NIKOLAI HAAS: The last year has been about us getting to do whatever we want to do. Which has been awesome.
What are your thoughts on the art market?
SIMON HAAS: In Basel Miami, I think it was pretty obvious. It’s like you’re on a stock exchange floor, but an art show. I think it’s a shame that a person is buying something only because it is going to appreciate in value. Like, bummer.
NIKOLAI HAAS: There’s an obsession with concept. It started with Duchamp, where it’s this tongue-in-cheek joke. Warhol did the screen prints. It’s incredible work. But, for an idea, the piece cost 10 bucks to make, but it is selling for millions of dollars. Everything we do, it’s really expensive to make. We have a commission now for a dining table that’s going to be over a million, for a table. But making it is going to cost $300,000.
I think that art is moving in a direction where people need to relate to it in a real human way. It’s not about some concept where you have to know what it is you are looking at to appreciate it. I love Cy Twombly, I love Basquiat. I love Warhol, I love Duchamp. All of that stuff is awesome. But it’s not immediately apparent to the Joe Schmo. Artwork is conceptual, but it’s about it being expressive. Expression before concept.
NIKOLAI HAAS: Have you ever played that game, Celebrity? You throw names in a hat, then you charade it out. You end up with names that reflect the people playing. The game is so much fun if people put in names everyone knows. New York attitude–it’s all about who you know. It’s like, “What the hell, can you please just put in James Brown or something so everyone knows who he is?” Then you can dance and be weird and funny. It’s easier to have human connection if you’re not trying to impress somebody. It’s a lot more fun than being like, “I know more than you do.”
SIMON HAAS: We were smoking this weed last night called L.A. Confidential.
NIKOLAI HAAS: So many times I’ve been with a friend at an art event. We stand in front of a piece, and they just go “I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I just don’t get it”—because it is super heady and super conceptual. Concept is important. I’m not saying concept sucks. But I hope people take from our work that it is expressive.
SIMON HAAS: People are very sexual, and they really enjoy humor. You need those things to be happy. Design is so devoid of it a lot of the time. We want people to see the stuff and think, “Oh, that has sexuality,” or “That is hilarious.” We’re making a hammock that is based on testicles. Whether you like it or not, it’s definitely something unusual.
NIKOLAI HAAS: For sure. That’s the whole point of art, really. It’s conveying human emotion. Yes, there’s an intellectual aspect to it, but to me it’s totally secondary, and I think it’s taken the forefront. Humans can do a lot with their brains, and it is really interesting. But the more they connect with their emotional self the better they become at being human. And art is a direct translation of that.
Designboom (September 5, 2014) Do you remember some of the first collaborations that you worked on together?
simon: the first thing we ever collaborated on were some slippers called ‘pussy foots’ when we were 13. they were vaginas that you put on your feet. they were the idea of niki originally and I decided to make some for him as a christmas gift. later on we started producing them for friends and people who requested them – it was amazing because we earned about $200 per pair! thinking about it, it’s funny that we were making a sexual, non-functional object – which is exactly what we are doing now!
niki: we’re just doing it on a larger scale now!
What do you both agree on most strongly?
niki: we are both anti-shame, anti-orthodoxy. we’re pro-human and pro-society – that’s where we are coming from.
simon: really there’s not much we disagree on. through working together we’ve become even closer and have developed the same philosophy on everything – that’s really what the work is about – expressing our shared philosophy.
What are some of the most important influences you both share?
simon: I would say that the biggest influence on us both would be vincent gallo.
niki: yes, definitely. vincent was a huge influence on us – he taught us a lot, in the way he perceives things and analyzes everything.
The majority of your work references sexual themes – how much do you self censor?
niki: I like to think of it like this; every animal has reproductive organs, every human has either a dick or a pussy – these things are always there – it’s a fact of nature. sometimes it’s sexual and sometimes it’s not. a lot of times the easiest way to know someone well, and know if they are real is to talk about sex with them or to use humor. we think of our pieces as a conversation with people, so by using sex and humor we’re immediately having a real conversation with people. buyers and gallery owners think the work is funny and that’s what we’re going for. by making people laugh it brings their guard down and we’re all on the same page – that’s the whole point.
simon: I think the only time that we’ve scaled back was with the sex room at art basel in miami – and that’s funny because it was very explicit but that’s a show where we had to think about the theme of sex and the messages in the work more delicately and accurately.
niki: we were adamant that sex should be shown as something positive, not something pornographic but also not innocent. Those were the things we were thinking about with that work.
simon: sex, humans and animals are themes that are evident in most primitive art and so what we’re doing is inline with a very early need to express these things through art.
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