Tony Feher, In the Factory



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First in Efroymson
Read more about the gift from the Efroymson Family Fund, which funded the Efroymson Entrance Pavilion at the IMA. Tony Feher was the inaugural artist in this special space.

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More pictures of Tony's work
Take a look at some images of a recent Tony Feher show held at the Pace Wildenstein.

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10 Spot Buddy
Learn more about Tony's work in the collection, and give it a tag or two while you are there.

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Do you know the rules of the game of Marbles? Learn about it here and prepare for your next trip to the playground.

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The History of the Bowery
Learn more about the rich social history of this tiny section of New York.

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Find a recipe for a good V and T
Learn more about the VAT in Britain.

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Who is Richard Serra?
Of course - visit wikipedia...

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Learn more about the Tony's body of work
Tony Feher is a very active artist, see some other things he is working on.

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Watch out, Tony!
New things are coming to the Bronx, too. See some of the projects going on in and around the Bronx.

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History of the Nugget
Why is it called In the Factory? Learn more about the Nugget Factory and the guys who create the nuggets themselves.

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Latest Happenings Documented
See the latest installations and exhibitions, documented in photos on IMA's flickr page. If you're already on flickr, become a contact and show us your pictures from the IMA.

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Channels: Contemporary Art
Artists: Tony Feher

Hear directly from Tony Feher, in part of IMA's In the Factory series, this time, on location.  Tony discusses much of his art career, installations at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and his experiences in New York City.

This guy is a pompous ass.
*you're p.s. beautiful work, too.
isnt that the same thing... your just changing the world person by person.

Re: Goya's Disasters of War (6:50-7:50), the portfolio was not published until years after Goya's death, so it was consumed by people remebering the events. Maybe this is why they "didn't do anything"? I'd argue that they did do something, and that maybe Feher's idea of what changing the world means is a little limited, and that art is for the long-term, for remembering and thinking things through as well as "changing the world."

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00:00:09 Hi, I'm Tony Feher. I came to the IMA at the request, at the invitation of Lisa Frieman, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art. Who asked me to

00:00:19 make a work for an inaugural piece, for the Efroymson Family Entry Pavilion and so...

00:00:29 which I was quite honored and thrilled and surprised by but, you know, I came out there and studied the space and through the process of how I work

00:00:41 by not so much a site specific, but as Bob Irwin says, "site determined" work, noticed some interesting curiosities

00:00:53 about the architecture of the space. The fact that it's an oval with a square of columns set in the center but they are twisted,

00:01:03 so that it, and you enter, from the side angle so nothing looks square, nothing looks round and I thought, "Well this is an interesting peculiarity

00:01:12 that I can probably take advantage of."

00:01:18 It's called "10 Spot Buddy," which is new to the collection here and again I am very honored that Lisa acquired it for the collection. It came out of my last show

00:01:30 at Pace Wildenstein Galley, in New York, and it is a piece that somehow originally is inspired by alcoholics

00:01:41 and alcoholism, honestly, because I work largely with found objects that are not so much Duchampian in nature,

00:01:51 it's simply those things that happened to be close by and accessible and in my wanderings through Lower Manhattan,

00:02:02 there were different places where you would find piles of the small pint and half pint bottles, the kind that homeless men and men in sad situations

00:02:13 buy, drink and then toss it down. So there were these piles, I was very intrigued by that so I started to collect those flask-type bottles and by just with the number of them

00:02:23 in collecting and seeing what you could do with them, I came upon this idea that by putting them in a linear context,

00:02:35 which is about this chain, and the way you hook them on, they actually start to spiral up the chain. So for something that was kind of an emotional response

00:02:45 to an object that is found in our society, I was able to glean formal information from it

00:02:57 and make a work that employs both those formal qualities and still has a kind of an...almost a romantic sentimentality.

00:03:09 Because what happened was it started to spiral up the chain and I thought that was a very beautiful gesture, but I didn't want it to be a complete thing

00:03:16 because it seemed forced and the way that it hangs slightly above your eye, you look up at it and it suddenly became almost a revelatory gesture

00:03:28 of looking and I put a red marble in each jar, which rolls down to the corner so there's this other little red gesture

00:03:39 and I don't know there is something, it gives your eyes something to focus on. Also, I kept the same liquid in the jar, so it is vodka.

00:03:50 Hence, I thought, you know, that was...I soaked the label off, but I just kept the liquid in. A lot of times what I work with is a bottle or jar that is empty and then I refill it

00:03:59 with something of my own, so water that I dye or marbles or sand or some other thing but I've gotten very interested

00:04:09 recently in just keeping the same fluid that's in the bottle, in it. So, this is, in fact, vodka and what happens to the water or a liquid

00:04:20 in the bottle heightens the optical quality and it makes it more of a lens. So when you're looking at this, and as I say you will follow the chain you look up and you're like, "Oh! The spiritual revelation", and it catches the light that's in the room.

00:04:42 Well, I had to resist not drinking them. So, I guess, I don't know if that's humorous or just kind of pathetic, know,

00:04:51 the funny part was discovering the bottle, in the first place, and having the kind of the emotion of seeing these bottles in the context of how they are

00:05:01 and realizing that they are coming from alcoholic men who basically live on the street or in the deprived situation of being an old bowery bum

00:05:12 and not wanting to exploit that or make fun of anybody but really understanding that it's something that's there, but taking it out of that context,

00:05:23 wash it up a little bit, glass is sparkly and crystally and shiny and bright and, I don't know, it almost becomes a beacon of hope,

00:05:34 which is not to say that I wouldn't like a vodka tonic right now.

00:05:44 You know, I have described what I do and as a, you know, the greatest cliche is it's an ongoing journey and I've made a career of

00:05:55 stumbling blindly through life and somehow collecting the debris and the disasters of my experiences into something that has

00:06:07 an aesthetic, an emotional resonance. For me, I wouldn't do if it didn't work that way and obviously for somebody else because

00:06:17 you know as an artist, you make art for yourself but you hope that somebody else is going to respond and I'm very touched that people have.

00:06:30 You know, I don't know that you can hope for that, honestly.

00:06:34 I believe that art has a transformative possibility and it's not that art is going to change the world

00:06:44 but I think it can effect people and take you to a more positive place. Richard Serra once said that art doesn't change the world

00:06:55 and his example was Guernica, Pablo Picasso's Guernica. He said, it didn't stop any bombs from dropping on anybody's head.

00:07:05 He painted that in the relative comfort of a cold water flat in Paris while the war was going on. He chose to make a painting that nobody saw for twenty years

00:07:14 while other people chose to fight and die and drive ambulances and I thought that was a very powerful statement. In the same way that Goya's, Catastrophes of War,

00:07:27 a very highly well published, it didn't do anything. So, I think as an artist you have to be careful that you're not seeing it setting out to change the world.

00:07:37 I think you're lucky if you can provide something that people take into themselves and are moved

00:07:47 and that's what people have told me and I find it very humbling, the fact that some bum like me could create something out of my own necessity

00:07:59 for my own selfish need that someone comes to me and says, "You really, you affected me, something happened."

00:08:07 And to me that is the greatest gift.

00:08:14 Probably, the new location where I've had to move. It was said once that mine was tenement art because it came out of my cramped quarters

00:08:23 down on the Lower East Side and the whole Lower East Side was my palette and this is something that I discovered over a period of time. Also,

00:08:33 when finally the echo of my mother's voice in my head, "clean up your room, clean up your room," when that finally faded away

00:08:41 and I just stopped and there was a sort of a debris that began to grow around me, I thought, "Oh wait a minute, this is interesting fodder,"

00:08:51 and I started using things that were immediate to me and then I realized that there was all this possibility on the street.

00:09:00 Well the Lower East Side has changed, it's clean now. There's no stuff and rents went up and I got moved out. So I'm in a very different location,

00:09:13 I've had to reinvent how I live in New York City. I'm in the South Bronx; I have a huge loft, which I never thought I would have before.

00:09:20 Some people were suggesting I was going to start making big work. In fact, the work got small again. It's almost like when I go inside this loft, it's so big,

00:09:30 I feel like I am outside but I'm in a private outside world inside and instead of trying to fill it up, I'm a little intimidated by it, it's not intimidating, it's just the scale...

00:09:44 It's a place to come back down.

00:09:51 I never go to movies. I don't like the experience of going with the crowd and I think the last movie I saw was Jackass

00:10:01 and I got busted by a friend, middle of the day, he said, "What are you doing out walking around?", I mean this is years ago, right? He said, "What do you do walking around?"

00:10:10 I said, "Oh, well...", "You're going to a movie, aren't you?" I said, "Yeah...", "You're going to Jackass.", "[bleep]".

00:10:18 Hot stupid guys running around in their underpants, I mean what could be wrong, you know?

00:10:26 You know, I'd be dead. I was supposed to be a Naval Aviator or a rancher in Texas,

00:10:37 or an oil man or a banker. I was supposed to, you know, at least have one wife, if not four down the road, with lots of children

00:10:47 and somewhere along the line I realized that the model didn't fit and I didn't go to art school. I took four art classes from first grade

00:10:57 to the end of high school. But one day I realized, you know what, you're an artist,

00:11:05 it's a way of thinking but I think that's the confusing part. Art is not about talent, it's about a necessity

00:11:13 and I woke up one day and I said you're not going to work in a bank, you certainly are not joining the Navy and you're an may be a bad artist,

00:11:25 but that's what you are. But I would be emperor, king, you know. What would I be otherwise? I don't know, nothing.

00:11:46 I could be a politician because I haven't answered one of your questions.