this issue contains
>> Interview with Tom Sachs
>> Tom Sachs' Installation "Nutsy's"
>> Norman Kleeblatt on Tom Sachs
>> Weapons, Status, Shopping

>> archive

Remote Control
An interview with Tom Sachs

Tom Sachs in his studio, 2003

Nutsy's , Tom Sachs' latest installation currently opening at the Deutsche Guggenheim, is a modern-day Lord of the Flies, the beach transformed to a 1:25 model of an urban sprawl. And the boys, well, they're still the boys – only this time they're holding remote control race cars in their hands and sometimes they make hamburgers. Sachs' work is about how the public buys into systems, including hostile takeovers and corruption that causes power to tilt horribly forward. He's looking at how we submit to and readily comply with someone else's rules and regulations. Nutsy's is its own universe, loosely based on a real life character named Nutsy who lives in Jamaica, where he runs a bicycle repair shop. The bike shop is the perfect opposite of a Tom Sachs workplace, where even the duct tape is filed according to color and size. Sachs is interested in how we misuse things and how we ourselves are misused. There are two ways to explore Nutsy's: one is by entering a physical installation, the other is through film. In the three days I followed Sachs, he was never alone. His assistants are more like co-conspirators.

Duct tape cabinet                Le Corbusier in bookshelf

The philosopher Bahktin said: "The hero passes through life as would a man from another world… he is a rogue, a man who changes his everyday personalities as he pleases… he's a wandering actor disguised as an aristocrat, or a high-brow gentleman ignorant of his lineage (a ‘foundling')." Sachs enjoys de-stabilizing. He's at his best when he's unbalancing the world. I meet with him shortly before his departure to Berlin, where he will oversee the installation of Nutsy's. Sachs is also obsessed with flow charts, linking names to activities and projects. Sachs is the perfect organization man, and so is Casey Neistat, who calls himself Sachs' "Chief Operating Officer." He's probably one of the few COOs wearing a Malcolm X T-shirt.On the first day, we take a field trip to the movies. Everyone comes.

Part 1.
Location: Tom Sachs' studio across the street from the Police Department Building in Lower Manhattan. A skateboard is wedged in the upper part of a shop window. So are tools. This is where the work happens.

Across from Sachs' studio, Lower Manhatten's Police Department Building

Cheryl Kaplan: Have you ever seen the 1963 British film Billy Liar

Tom Sachs: Billy Liar's great, I love it.

Kaplan: It's about a man who leads an irresponsible life as a funeral director's clerk. He's a rogue, engaged to two women at the same time. When things don't work out, he assumes the role of a dictator ruling an imagined country called Ruritania. I thought of Billy Liar in relation to Nutsy's. Like Nutsy's, Billy Liar's rules are made-up rules. To what extent is Nutsy's a volatile world – a kind of David Mamet House of Games, where you don't know from moment to moment what's next?

Sachs: That's a really interesting and complex idea. With Nutsy's, I started as a creator, and now I have this whole team of people and I'm this director. I create parameters, rules, and guidelines by which things are built. Van calls it "to code." There are places where we break the rules and the code takes over.

Van Neistat and Tom Sachs

Kaplan: How many people are working on the project?

Sachs: Generally, the hard core crew is six. The idea of Nutsy's is that when you're the only bike repair store in town, you're a monopoly. In Nutsy's , it's our tracks – you can bring your car, but we make the rules. You can do whatever you want with your car, but if you use our tracks or our cars, you have to comply. Unite has a tight ideological program for solving the world's housing problems through architecture, and then greedy building management turns everything into a corrupt way of extorting money out of a dwelling. The viewer is in control. The operators are more in control. When you step into our world, you are subject to our rules.

Entry to Tom Sachs`studio

Kaplan: If you play by someone else's rules long enough, you're in collusion with them, and then you're dominated by them. You flip over to the other side.

Sachs: There's a bar in the installation, and one guy came every day to drink. He bought a car as an entrée into this world. He should have been the best with the car, but he just wasn't focused.

Kaplan: Why did you create two versions of the same place?

Sachs: The original idea for Nutsy's came from hearing Richard Wentworth's talk called "Making Do and Getting By." He was my teacher at the Architectural Association in London in 1987. It's about craft and technology and the misuse of things. Richard finds the same kinds of things all over the world: like the moon and NASA, he brings them together by drawing associations. I was inspired by a man named Nutsy who makes do and gets by.

Kaplan: Nutsy's also functions as metaphor, working against the ultra-refined qualities of the original Le Corbusier Unite d'habitation, the exhibition goes through daily transformations – and probably another one will happen as it moves from the Bohen Foundation in New York to the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin.

Sachs: The word "Nutsy" is a little self-serving – if I could, I would have given the work a much less interesting name, like "New Work." The title refers to being nuts, crazy, but also nuts and bolts – and it also means testicles.

Sachs` manifesto in studio

Kaplan: To what extent are you an imposter or a hero type?

Sachs: Both. I'm definitely an imposter. I've done all those things on that list professionally.

Kaplan: How much of your work is about craft and screwing around with the technical part of the work?

Sachs: That's the main focus – I only engage in social issues to do the technical stuff.

Kaplan: Nutsy is an alter-ego or a companion character. Who is the Nutsy you've invented?

Sachs: Nutsy is my alter-ego. I've created this contradictory system of building things, where very low materials are processed to a high degree of refinement. From Con Ed wood to found plywood. Foamcore is a perfect example, because no one would ever make a model that detailed from a low material because the stuff doesn't last. But we make a big effort to make it last. While I was growing up in Bogota, Colombia, there was a gardener who lived in a shack in the back house, and he had a radio he'd built out of building blocks that might have been stolen from me, or found. Little toy blocks. He made music out of nothing.

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