When couples argue, you might observe that the smallest issues can become the focal point of some pretty substantial blow-outs. Serving a bad cup of coffee can turn into a very vocal discussion about "listening." A miscalculation while driving a car can lead to an argument about "paying attention" that might last for the duration of the journey. A highly attuned therapist may describe this condition as "displacement," and would explain that the small issue the couple is arguing about is perhaps a distraction from a larger area of concern that they are trying to avoid.
This phenomenon of displacement in personal relationships can also be carried over to the larger realm of social interaction, where highly public dramas unfolding on our television screens or political scandals we read in the paper are not the problems themselves, but rather a distraction from a larger social ill.
We began seriously collaborating in 1996, concentrating mainly on a process that would amalgamate our lives with our studio practice. We typically begin with something simple: something seen on TV, heard on the radio, or witnessed on a magazine rack at the grocery store. After diligent research and intense dialogue that often lasts for months, and we should point out frequently mirrors a domestic dispute, we finally arrive at a method of conveying the social relevance of what we have seen (i.e. a video diary, a behavioral shift for a finite period, or a series of photographs which document an act).
We mainly choose subjects for our work that are widely publicized and emotionally charged. Consequently we maintain a particular attraction to popular culture and the LARGER THAN LIFE elements of entertainment and the media.
Our most recent project is a heavily researched play that attempts to recreate the last argument between artists Carl Andre and Ana Mendieta. Using two veteran actors, we are directing the play while it is performed. More details are outlined on our website: http://www.life-art.org
In a recent video work titled Proceedings (2004), we debate the evidence presented in the widely publicized and highly romanticized trial of Scott Peterson (who murdered his pregnant wife Lacy along with their unborn child in order to pursue an adulterous relationship with a massage therapist). In the months leading up to the trial and throughout the duration of the proceedings, we obsessively researched the evidence and then videotaped our discussions and arguments about the merits of both sides, intentionally avoiding the names of the parties involved. The resulting video diary presents these discussions in familiar locations, such as a kitchen or a bedroom or the supermarket, and presses the audience to consider whether we are discussing a murder trial or trivial problems in our own relationship.
Another topic we frequently address in our work is personal finances: the single largest explanation given for inharmonious relationships in the United States. This topic was at the forefront of our most recently completed collaboration called Death & Taxes, Inc. (2006). In this year-long project, we officially launched a private subchapter S corporation complete with a professional board of directors. The corporation’s chief responsibility was to preserve our lives and promote the survival of our intangible life-art projects. The 15 board members, comprised of museum directors, gallerists, writers, curators, and artists from throughout the United States, were directly in charge of our personal finances. Each quarter, we reported to our board and gave them an update on our lives, our cash-flow, and the progress of our fledgling company. In between these meetings, we juggled our jobs, our studio practice and the development and promotion of this unique corporation.
The project was often interspersed with small public acts which we referred to as "sonnets". These "sonnets" were promoted via press releases and media coverage at a frequency of about one per month. In one such sonnet Death & Taxes, Inc. joined the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce in order to attend their "Free Breakfast Networking Meetings." In another we began visiting with a representative from S.C.O.R.E. (the Service Corps. Of Retired Executives; a non-profit organization that pairs small business owners with retired volunteers) for assistance in writing a business plan. We purchased a time- lock to record our "time spent living" by punching OUT when we left for work and punching IN when we returned home.
We exhibit as often as we can internationally, and we have appeared on both NPR member stations KQED and KALW in San Francisco, on Studio 360 (a PRI syndicated program) in New York, and Spiegel On-Line in Europe. Our work has appeared in numerous art publications and the major media including Flash Art International, Art Week, East Bay Express, Der Spiegel, the Associated Press, The Contra Costa Times, The Oakland Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post. We have lectured at numerous universities and colleges as well as museums about our work. Outside the studio, Isabel Reichert teaches university courses in conceptual art, film, and digital media. Sean Fletcher works professionally as a financial planner in San Francisco, CA.