DIS on "Kids in the Art World"

Interview

Photo by Amalia Ulman

What does it mean today to have a life with kids, to have a life in art, and to live a life? Why are children and the artist's life so hard to unite? Or is this a false assumption? Spike Art Daily dedicates a series of interviews to the problematic relationship that the art industry has with its offspring. In this interview Lauren Boyle and Marco Roso, two of the four members of DIS, talk about why the concept of family is just "too much for the art world" and the differences between raising kids in Berlin and New York.

Timo Feldhaus: How old are your children? 

DIS: They’re 1.5 years old.

Sometimes I see the both of you strolling with your twins in a buggy through Berlin Mitte and the art world. How has your way of working changed through the birth of your children? 

Time is scarce but more structured and focused. You can’t say yes to everything you want to, so you really need to prioritize because it’s impossible to work 12-hour days. Your inbox is like a ticking time bomb. You're always playing catch up. But you’re more decisive; you trust your instincts and question yourself less. 

Because DIS is curating the Berlin Biennale in 2016, currently you live in New York and Berlin. What is the difference between raising your children in these two cities? 

In practical ways the cities could not be more different. For starters the standard maternity/paternity leave in the United States is two weeks. That wasn’t our situation but it gives you an idea of the laissez faire stateless support for families in America. New York is no exception; you’re on your own for childcare until they go to school. Before that you pay for private babysitter or day care. It’s nothing like Berlin’s one-year maternity leave and then kita [kindergarten] kicks in! 

It really is a microcosm of the two cities. 

New York  / industrial complex of metal jungle gyms and waterparks with rubber tiles edging up against handball and basketball courts. Thousands of children of different ages and backgrounds darting around, bikes speeding by, and gangs of pre-teens acting grown up. 12ft tall iron gates keeping the kids from running into the street. Nannies with sleeping babies and grandparents watching children from a distance. Endless phone calls with insurance companies. Fresh Direct and Diapers.com deliveries. 

Berlin / A bespoke playground on every corner. All natural materials. Wood, rope, sand and 2 foot tall gates. Sharing toys with strangers, balls, shovels, buckets, even an occasional “sippy” cup. Young parents with more than one child. Kita. Daily trips to the market for milk, diapers, groceries. No bathtub but plenty of elevators. Kita

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Do you sometimes feel alone by being a family (being a mother/ being a father)? Do you share the impression that there are not enough people having kids in the art world? To me this is the main reason why its sometimes kind of hard to have kids – you can’t share the good and the bad things with the people you are constantly working and living with; it’s a parallel world. I can imagine that this is similar in other fields of labour, but art is a special case insofar that there is no boundary between life and work. 

Of course it’s a shame for such a monumental experience to live in the shadows of the art world. Maybe there are more people in the art world with kids than what we think, but no one wants to talk about children. It’s almost taboo. Immediately your commitment to art is in question. The concept of family is almost too much of a convention for the art world. But for us, at least in our immediate circle in New York, there was a real baby boom the same time we had Andre and Pedro. It was beautiful seeing all these amazing couples reproducing and bringing their babies to the studio, to openings and to fashion shows. We were a little sad to say goodbye. In Berlin we're part of a super secret play group for art people and their toddlers, it's where you can be your whole self :)  

Two weeks ago you had some engagement on Instagram through the hashtag campaign #standwithplannedparenthood. What is this about? 

This is about reproductive rights. The conservative arm of the Republican Party is trying to defund Planned Parenthood. Since the Republicans haven’t been able to overturn roe vs. wade they are attempting defund Planned Parenthood, and close down clinics in order to block access abortions and other essential services for women. 

What is your favourite children’s app? 

We’re a bit boring on the app front. We haven’t really gotten into these. We read too many damning articles about the effects of screens and developing minds! When we need a break or we’re on the plane we turn on Sesame Street. 

Are your children art fans? How have your kids experienced art until now? 

They love shows, especially now that they’re walking. They sat through the entire Ryan Trecartin show at KW. They love video art. They’re big fans of Jon Rafman and anything interactive. Also the show at Swiss Institute curated by Felix Burrichter and with exhibition design by Shawn Maximo. 

Today I had a revelation: The art world’s fear of kids is part of a much bigger picture. The art world is from all fields of cultural production the most elite and closed with almost no connection to the “normal world”. That’s also the reason why it seems so irrelevant to do political art in almost every case: because the only people seeing art are art people. When you have kids, one of the first revolutionary impressions you get is the amazing strangeness of being in contact again with average people, on playgrounds, kitas, schools, hospitals. This anxiety of the non-art world centres on the art world’s fear of kids. Can you relate to this?     
 
Not sure, everyone fears kids before they have them. I think artists are very aware of different social spaces including the “normal world”, that’s not to say we don’t live in a bubble of our own making.  Maybe it’s not as much about the difference between the “normal world” and the art world as it is the difference between having “normal world” anxieties or being lucky enough not to have them.

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DIS is a New York-based collective composed of Lauren Boyle, Solomon Chase, Marco Roso and David Toro. Its cultural interventions are manifest across a range of media and platforms, from site-specific museum and gallery exhibitions to ongoing online projects. DIS will curate the 9th Berlin Biennale in 2016.

Timo Feldhaus is a writer and an editor at Spike. He lives in Berlin.

Read the other interviews from the series "Kids in the Art World" with Chus MartinezHarm van den Dorpel and Isabelle Graw

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