Interview with DETEXT

March 31st 2010

Interview with DETEXT

DETEXT is a collaboration between Raul Martinez and Valentin Duceac.  With Raul based in New York and Valentin based in Berlin, I was attracted to the complexities of this international partnership. Collaborating over different sleep patterns is something I have come to know all to well (and at times despise), yet these two seem to have used it to their full advantage.

IS: Your work with DETEXT is a collaboration with Valentin Duceac, who is based in Berlin.  Can you tell me about how this collaboration came about?

DETEXT: Valentin and I met in Tübingen, Germany around 2003. I was studying Law and Economics and Valentin was studying Politics at the University there. We shared the common will to work as artists. About two years later, we established DETEXT as a collaborative effort to explore our interest in signs and most especially, language and text as working material.

We are interested in the texts that most people discard, texts that are normally found in the media junkyard, like the“Self-portraits” made with personal classified ads or works made with Viagra spam emails. We are interested the language that doesn’t get published or when it does, it is only printed in tiny illegible fonts, like our work “Ingredients”, with food labels or some new projects involving administrative forms and legal documents. These apparently banal texts carry a lot of ideology, they’re fascinating for the rhetoric of power and sex found in them, the economic logic that structures them. We work with this material as a reflection of the individuals and groups that produce it.

IS: How do you maintain working collaboratively when based in different countries?

DETEXT: The fact that now we live in different countries in two different continents was not something we planned. But it happened and we dealt with it well. With current technology it’s easy to communicate with each other, exchange information and produce our work. Being based simultaneously in different countries and different time zones, as if we were a multinational corporation, offers many advantages.

IS: How important do you think it is to be able to build your networks and practice internationally?

DETEXT: Most of the media we use require some form of collaboration. We often cooperate with other artists, curators, designers, and different nonprofit organizations. We are interested in this form of production, based on combining different ideas and inputs, dialogue. In some cases, it can also be a more efficient way to work, we can develop projects faster and disseminate them internationally more easily. Being a collective allows us to work simultaneously on two fronts.

IS: What brought you to New York, and how long have you been here? Why did you come to New York?

DETEXT [Raul Martinez]: It wasn’t a very well thought-out decision. I was working for a gallery in Milan, went on summer vacation, realized that that horrible city wasn’t doing any good to me and decided not to return (maybe I was also fired for not answering my boss’ calls, who cares, we are still friends). Shortly after I was sleeping on the floor at a friend’s apartment in the Lower East Side. Like many people who came here before, it may have been the urge to leave another place, I guess.

IS: How do you find the art world in New York, in terms of being able to infiltrate it? How does this compare to other places you have lived and worked?

DETEXT [RM]: New York is an amazing city. I fell in love with it at first sight. Yet I wouldn’t consider it the most welcoming place. On the contrary it is ruthless and brutal. Pursuing the American dream is not like in the movies. There is a darker side that people normally edit out in interviews.

However, unlike in other places, if you work hard on your projects, occasionally do some degrading activities, and go out a couple of nights a week, I think you can easily infiltrate the local art world, as you say. Ultimately, the local art world here is made mostly of immigrants, people who didn’t fit in other places. Many of them came here looking to do something impossible in their places of origin, they are interested in meeting people with similar interests, they are happy take risks. If you come up with interesting proposals, someone will be likely to accept them.

IS: What artists and spaces based in New York would you recommend looking into?

DETEXT: Iván Navarro and Guido van der Werve. I’m also looking forward to seeing the upcoming exhibition by Italian duo Isola & Norzi at Art in General.

Another great thing about New York are its museums’ shows. You get the opportunity to see works that in other places you would only be able to know through books or magazines. If you haven’t seen those exhibitions yet, don’t miss 1969 and 100 Years of Performance at PS1