Q&A

Cory Arcangel on His Cryptic New Lifestyle Brand, Arcangel Surfware

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Cory Arcangel on His Cryptic New Lifestyle Brand, Arcangel Surfware
It's easy to forget, but the Internet it is not, in fact, a real place. Surfing the net has the odd distinction of being a deobjectifed experience that's based on very specific materials: computer monitors, hard drives, fiberoptic cables—all the stuff that we know is behind the screen, but does not actually constitute the browsing experience itself.

Cory Arcangel has made an entire career out of playing with the physical boundaries between digital technology and its host materials. The New York-based artist's work has consistently focused on making the digital feel real—projecting video-game backdrops in gallery spaces, performing folk songs through a live vocoder, and making paintings using predetermined Photoshop gradiants. His newest project, however, comes from the opposite angle. 
 
Arcangel Surfware is a lifestyle brand, of sorts. A line of clothing, accessories, music, and magazines designed for the 21st century Internet explorer; it amplifies the material nature of the Internet experience that we take for granted. Arcangel Surfware includes "everything one needs to 'chill' in bed all day and surf the Internet in comfort," as the press release says. The project is a collaboration between Arcangel and the global music merchandising company Bravado, and will officially be launched on May 17th at the Holiday Inn in SoHo alongside an installation of new work by the artist.

Arcangel was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the line and his recently opened show in Herning, Denmark. At the artist's request, we've preserved the original formatting of his answers, sent via Gmail.
 
How did you end up working with Bravado on this project? 
 
Tom Bennett, the CEO of Bravado had been following my art stuff for quite some time, and he approached me in 2011 to do a merchandise line with Bravado. I was, of course, immediately interested. 

What can we expect from Arcangel Surfware, visually speaking?
 
It's pretty similar to my recent art stuff actually... for example the bed linens and iPad covers take their designs from my recent series, Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations. 
 
You mentioned that you've been working on this idea for a few years. In that time, the way people interact with the Internet on a daily basis has changed dramatically. How did this project start, and has the idea changed along with changes in technology in the past few years?
 
The project started after I visited the Bravado office one day and saw all of the stuff they were doing with Lil Wayne's brand, Truckfit. I kinda had a light bulb go off... I thought why don't I work with Bravado to do something similar, ... u know, do my own lifestyle line?! And doing a "surfware" line just seemed logical, part software, part web surfing, etc, etc. I'm a lifer, after all.   

As for the timing, it's been a sec, but yeah, originally, I designed an iPhone 4 case, but we had to upgrade to an iPhone 5 for the launch BMHATW.   

"Magazines" and "music" are included in the Surfware product lineup, alongside sweatshirts, sweatpants, and iPad covers, among other things. Did you design all the products yourself? It seems like this project is, in a way, a combination of all of your creative interests.
 
Yeah, I designed all the stuff, and it's totally a continuation of what I've been up 2 in other areas. It's just that now, you can can take naps in some of it.  

You've said before that you're interested in standup—in fact, your presentation at the New Museum, "Continuous Partial Awareness," was essentially a standup set made up of funny ideas for new artworks. The humor of the Surfware project is apparent, but it also feels somewhat cynical—especially the idea of sitting in bed all day surfing the Net. How would you say humor plays into this project for you?
 
Well, I spend quite a bit of my time in bed surfing the web, and that's definitely not a cynical activity - it's something I enjoy a great deal. There tends to b humor in everything I do - it's a bit out of my control actually - but like many comedians, I guess I am quite serious about it.    
 
You're holding the launch party for the Surfwear line at the Soho Holiday Inn. Why there? Were you thinking of the art-related history of that neighborhood?
 
I chose it cause I am a fan of the Holiday Inn brand, and that was the only one I knew offhand in NYC... so maybe I would say there is "brand synergy"?!
 
The price point for Arcangel Surfware, as the press release states, ranges from $39.95 to $399.95—peanuts, in other words, compared to regular artwork prices. Do you think of these pieces as being art objects, artist-designed products, or something else?
 
Im not sure what these things r, but I have spent as much time and care designing these products then I do putting together an exhibition, or internet project, or any of the other stuff I do....
 
Your recently-opened show at the Herning Museum of Contemporary Art in Herning, Denmark is your first show of new work in three years. Does the Surfware project have anything to do with the works in that show? Or were they developed at the same time?
 
I have done a few retrospective (ish) shows in the past few years - one at the Carnegie in Pittsburgh, and one at DHC / Art in Montreal. 
 
The show in Herning, All The Small Things, is my first show of new stuff in 3 years. There's about 40 things in a the show, and all but a handful have never been seen before.  
 
Actually, a few of the Surfware products are in the show ......... one is called "The Source," which is a series of zines I made that contain the source code for past computer projects of mine (printed on 300-year archival inks and paper). The first 4 issues of that series is on display in Denmark, and are published under the Arcangel Surfware label - they r kinda like a mini ink-and-paper retrospective. 
 
I guess I'd say, the "fanning" out of my work into even more dispersed territory - magazines, vinyl, books, sculpture, hats, etc, etc - is the thing I am most pumped about. 
 
What work is going to be on display at the Surfware launch party?
 
It's gonna be a mix of the Surfware stuff which will be for sale (iPad & iPhone covers, bed linens, vinyl, magazines, hoodies, tees, hats), and an installation of recent work of mine. I havn't figured out what the installation works will be yet, but, basically, whatevz iz lying around my studio will get dragged over for the day - in that way it's gonna be as fresh as possible. 

You've also said you would love to get into sitcoms. Any plans for that? Is Surfware only the beginning?
 
Hahaha, did I really say that? LOL. Yeah, I'm up for anything. As they say, "you only live once."       

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