Tibi Tibi Neuspiel works in sculpture, performance, digital imaging and video. He’s exhibited in Canada, the US and Europe including Art Basel and MOMA PS1’s NY Art Book Fair. The performance piece “Hurdles” with Geoffrey Pugen was commissioned by the Art Gallery of Ontario for Art Toronto 2012. It’s a follow-up of their 2011 Nuit Blanche performance “Tie-break” which re-enacted Björn Borg and John McEnroe’s fourth set tie-break at the Wimbledon Finals in 1980.
“Hurdles” starts out as a straight ahead race over hurdles but after each heat finishes, the winner gets an obstacle place in his lane. After seven heats, we have a level playing field for the eighth and final race. The obstacles are all going to be sculptural objects including this raccoon holding a power bar on top of a recycling bin. We just picked up this mishmash of mannequin body parts the other day. That plant was bought as an obstacle but we’re thinking we might switch it to a cactus.
After the performance, we’re going to take these objects and mount them as an installation in another part of the Art Toronto Fair. We’ll have it up for the duration of the weekend because the performance is only for the opening night preview. We’re thinking of the pieces as obstacle but also how they’ll work as standalone sculptures.
We train at the park next door. The hurdles we started out with were quite low, now we’re onto slightly higher ones. We’re not reaching the level of real Olympic men’s hurdles because they do forty-two inches high. The women do thirty-three so we’re thinking that’s a nice number because at least it has some reference to what goes on in the real world. We have to be realistic. Are we going to be clearing these consistently enough? We are in practice but it’s a different thing when people are watching you. When you have the cactus coming up next, you don’t want to run into that without a little bit of leeway.
With sculpture, I can be entirely dependent on my own thought process. These performances are developed in collaboration. It’s based on conversation. The sculptural pieces, I often think about for a year. Not that I’m actively thinking about it day by day, but I’ll have the initial idea and wonder if it’s good enough or worth doing. Most of the work is about a year turnaround. I make commitments with other work that don’t allow me to just tackle the idea right away which is sometimes for the best because I’ll back and forth on a few things and make some notes.
I can come across as a jerk because I want things to look satisfying as if I was the one seeing it. I’ve been a very disappointed art viewer for many years. Increasingly, I’m trying to imagine if I would even like my own work. The process of art making can be satisfying enough that you can be seduced by it. There’s the satisfying experience of, ‘I really got this work where I wanted to,’ but then to really see it, you have to objectively ask yourself, ‘Would I care if I saw this?’
Humour is hard for me to avoid because I think it’s the conclusion sometimes–when the piece is funny, it’s done. If you were drawing something in hyperrealism, it’s done when it looks real. My work is done when I think it’s funny but I’m turning away from that as the conclusion because maybe I’ve relied on that too much, to be honest. Some of the best work I’ve ever seen, I’m not sure if it’s comedy or not. The ambiguity I find to be quite interesting. If you make it clear that I’m telling you a joke now and you’re suppose to listen and laugh, it gets pretty boring.
I work in these two rooms of my house. When I was working with wax, I used the kitchen quite a lot. I kind of destroyed it. Luckily this house, which is hundred years old now, has so many other problems. I have urethane, which is a plastic, poured all over my balcony that will never be able to be removed but I’m thinking that when I leave, they won’t even notice.
I like to have natural light. These daylight bulbs help with working. Essentially, you can work from morning to night and through the night without the interruption of recalibrating. Galleries rarely have them because they don’t flatter art but a few have them and I quite like it because then the art looks exactly the same as it does in the studio.
I can’t work if it’s too messy because I just feel confused, unprepared to work. I end up cleaning up a lot. The more I work, the more I clean. It makes it easier to start something if you know that you can go directly to it. Going through a box to find something seems impossible. I’m organized because unfortunately, I’m very lazy. [Laughs]
–Tibi Tibi Neuspiel, as told to Studio Beat
Photos by Lauren Barless
Click HERE for Tibi’s website and check out a video of “The Tie-Break” below.