On being economical
My friend and I came up with this idea, FTK, which means “for the kids.” It’s doing what you do for the reasons you got into it as a kid; doing the work because you love and care about it, not because of any potential financial windfall. I try to organize events with it in mind, while still selling out all the tickets so I can pay the performers. That’s important: you should take the spirit of what you did as a kid, but organize it with what you’ve learned since then, and always pay the performers before you pay yourself. I’d lose money before I let a performer go home with nothing. I got the “FTK” tattooed on my wrist a while ago as a symbolic reminder, but it’s honestly just the way my mind works at this point.
When I was 10 years old … I saw the Internet, and bandwidth was very slow, so I thought I could make moving images. But I had to make them so they fit on the network, so it was in a visual language that was practical. When you reduce things, the loading time is much lower.
The computer is the cheapest and the most accessible material in a sense. … Most people growing up have a computer in their house. It’s not like you have to go and buy paint. Even if you don’t have the space, you can open up MS Paint and start making stuff.
I really hate stuff. That’s what I always liked about digital. I have a Kindle and I just read on that. If I want to see artist images I’ll go on Google. Keep it simple. It allows for so much more. I can focus on what I want.
I noticed that as soon as you move to a consumer model, you’re busy with a lot of things that are not making art. The reason that I minimize my life is that I can just constantly be drawing. If I have a lot of books I have to get a bigger apartment. I have higher rent. I have to compromise my work. I have a lot of furniture and I have a bigger house, then I’m taking care of a lot of stuff. The less stuff I have the less I take care of stuff.
The consumer model adds a lot of crap to your life, basically. I just hate stuff. I don’t want to make shower curtains. I don’t have a studio. Everything’s at the gallery. Most of the stuff gets sold. I don’t have to hold onto anything.
Just being in this world, [finances] always matter. I’m not independently wealthy. All of the work does hinge on access. So many of my shows end up being in museums, and these museums don’t have tons of money to produce things. Commercial galleries do, but largely the work hinges on whatever kind of production budget the museum has, and then you have to be clever with how you spend things and how you create spaces. I work with affordable materials, like paper, carpets, and neon lights. More square footage for a show can get intimidating, because you think outside of yourself, but it doesn’t necessarily make it better. It’s like getting signed to a major label or something. It doesn’t make the music better. It actually might damage it, and then eventually the singer leaves the label and goes back to their old one.
It has nothing to do with how good my other movies are or how good that script is. It has everything to do with how little money I’ve made people. I have accomplished enough to have access to actors I really want to work with and think are interesting. That means I can get them to come make a small movie. I can get the crew because everyone that I’ve worked with likes working with me and we can make these things in a way that feels very efficient. It’s a continuation of the last thing. Everyone’s happy. It will not turn out better when it’s “developed” by a studio because ultimately we’ll then have fewer resources and less time and it’s just a less narratively and visually ambitious movie by virtue of the fact that we’re not going to have as much money and as much time. Knowing that it’s going to be a smaller more modest endeavor, I know that it also just won’t be as risky, but it also won’t have the same high of a totally energetic payoff. It’ll just be very good. I know that because I have faith in everyone making it.
I learned how to make a show that would cost me no more than 10 dollars and, when making an offsite exhibition, take a whole group show in a suitcase and install it myself. I learned this from Lucy Lippard. You don’t need that much money to make a good show. A lot of what makes an exhibition memorable is an understanding of the space you’re going to work at, in terms of architecture and history.
[I keep a show to $10] by printing in Office Max in standard sizes, for instance. I’d use old frames I found at the thrift shop. Sometimes the artist would ship the work to me and I would only spend money on mounting tape. I used the school’s plotter more than once.
Brandon Stosuy is Editor in Chief at The Creative Independent and a Music Curator at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles. He was formerly Director of Editorial Operations at Pitchfork. He co-founded and co-curates the annual Basilica Soundscape festival in Hudson, N.Y. and the ongoing Tinnitus music series in NYC. For the past several years he and the artist Matthew Barney have collaborated on a series of live events, objects, and publications. They launched a Trump Countdown clock in June 2017 across from the UN. His anthology, Up is Up, But So Is Down: New York’s Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992, was published by NYU Press in 2006. His first children’s book, Music Is, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2016. He has a second children’s book forthcoming, also on Simon & Schuster, in 2018.