As Tea Person in the Department of Global Nostalgia
things are not always as easy as they should be. The demands of the
clientele sometimes being fiendishly wearisome and my own legs weary
of the trolley.
I have been pondering on my varied clients and their often outrageously
difficult positions and have come to the conclusion that I would most
like to speak of my only favourites amongst this wildly diverse group,
namely "The Three."
Most people in the contemporary art world are blissfully unaware even
of the existence of The Three, which is just as they would wish it.
With their first ever public exhibition coming up this December at the
Percy-Miller Gallery in that supposedly fashionable area of London,
Bermondsey, the situation is unlikely to change. What or who are The
Three female fashion models of the same age and similar looks, who live
together at a secret address (rumored to be in Brooklyn, rumored to
be in Marseilles), dress in a similar manner and reveal NOTHING about
themselves. Despite my occasional meetings with them I still do not
know their individual names, let alone where they live or what they
actually do. They are "Conceptual Artists," or so others claim for them.
They themselves refuse to say anything about their intentions, aims,
interests or activities.
The Three have mastered a Garboesque mystique by seeming to avoid a
cult of the personality while fostering it. They are quite invisible!
And certainly they are silent, their only gestures being ambiguously
negative. I once invited them for cocktails in Paris.
They rang my doorbell at 9 rue St.Romain, to say that " They had come
to say they could not come," and then they left. "Dans la grande sphère
médiatique qui nous englobe, tout est à moitié fictif, tout n'est qu'apparence."
Quipped one of them (they do look very similar sometimes) whilst waving
What The Three have made clear is that to be an artist is to invent
an artist and that the only way to subvert the mass media is via the
mass media. For artworks themselves are internally related to the interpretations
that define them and there are as many interpretations of The Three
as there are actual artworks. Which is to say, none.
For following their credo that more art should be about doing nothing,
they admit that the world is full of objects, more or less interesting;
they do not wish to add any more. They prefer, simply, to state the
existence of things in terms of time and/or place. " Our sole recourse:
to renounce not only the fruit of action, but action itself, to make
a rule of non-production." To be an artist is to have your life stand
as a satire on your art and The Three are happy to be the brunt of as
many misinterpretations and hostile jeers as they can gather together
in one gallery.
Art is anything you can get away with and The Three have managed to
get away with doing NOTHING. They have been called frauds, they have
been accused to mendacity and hoaxes. But just doing a hoax is not the
total performance. It's not the end of the piece or the objective. What's
more important, and more difficult to do, is to get the media to come
back to allow them to say why and what it means. It's more difficult
than to get them to initially fall for it.
As fashion models whose images appear in the worldwide glossy press
the secret work of The Three relies on the fact that although magazines
have no value as art, they are subject to some of the same conditions
and pitfalls. No matter how ridiculous, absurd, insane or illogical
something is, if it achieves a certain identity as a spectacle, the
media has to deal with it. The media have no choice. They're hamstrung
by their own needs, to the extent that they're like a puppet in the
face of such events.
The interventions and self-inventions of The Three are perhaps motivated
by a somewhat weary impatience toward the press and media's seemingly
willful exploitation of themselves. The rise of models has less to do
with the fashion industry, whose business has slumped since the 80s,
than with the potent blend of cultural preoccupations they embody: youth,
beauty and, perhaps most of all, media exposure. Models are perfectly
suited to a culture obsessed with fame for its own sake. Appearing in
the media is their job - their images are their stock in trade. They
are famous for being famous.
The Three actively cultivate and extend this paradox of the fashion
business, their art work being no more than "Test Pictures" - meaning
that both model and photographer work for free. Their art is dependent
on the financial logic of the fashion system, the way a modeling agency
advances money for the many expenses incurred in the development process...laser
prints for the model's book, multiple copies of each magazine she appears
The Three exist ONLY through the mass-multi-media and yet still refuse
to say who they are or what their aim might be. I consider them some
of the most famous women in the world, but also amongst the most mysterious.
That's why they are a success. They are very secret - they give nothing
away. And that¹s their biggest asset. You never really know them.
The sort of photographic and appropriation procedures that promise an
effacement of the authorial self are invariably recouped through other
media of publicity and critical attention, so that the daring gestures
can always be linked to a well-known individual. The sheer efficiency
of these moves, the way that an artist's minimal interventions can garner
substantial attention and rewards, inspire fascinated admiration for
the unique creative personality behind them. The less self-expression
has been valued, the more the self of the artist has come to loom over
To put it bluntly, as one of The Three once said to me, but categorically
refused to be later quoted on; "The content of this exhibition is publicity."