by Stephanie Cristello
Duncan MacKenzie and Richard Holland of Bad at Sports are two of the best in town to talk with about art. Known for their witty commentary and contemporary art talk platform Bad at Sports, they are most admired for their weekly podcasts and blog. The three of us sat down to discuss their involvement with EXPO/2013 – the recent venture of a newspaper that will be distributed throughout the fair spearheaded by What’s the T?columnist Dana Bassett entitled The EXPO Register, and the live interviews they will be fielding from their booth next to the /Dialogues stage. The lineup for this year’s panel is impressive, titled “One-on-One,” just one of many sports puns, MacKenzie and Holland will be in conversation with gallerists, directors, and curators, such as Solveig Øvstebø of the Renaissance Society, Elysia Borowy-Reeder of the MOCAD Detroit, and Director Charlie James, as well as artists William Powhida, José Lerma, and Sanford Biggers. While the details of these interviews are kept secret (you will just have to see them in person to find out), our conversation breaches the extent of Bad at Sports coverage at the fair, their plans for the paper, and MacKenzie and Holland’s bucket list – like an interview about interviews, or something along those lines.
Stephanie Cristello: Let’s start off by talking about some of the things you’re doing for the fair. You’re working with Dana Bassett to publish a newspaper reporting live?
Duncan MacKenzie: Yes, the newspaper is going to be called The EXPO Register and reflects our collective style – slightly goofy, a touch irreverent, yet fairly straight ahead. The great thing about working with Dana is that she has the same wry sense of humor as us, which will definitely be a part of it, but it will also be a sincere tool for the fair goers.
Richard Holland: At Bad at Sports we are slightly irreverent, but not extensively. We are respectful of our guests – we will make fun of them now and again, but at our core, we are the fan club newsletter. This newspaper will be a different side of that effort.
SC: So you will be reporting on trends, how much gossip is there going to be?
DM: 98% trash! No – there will be a chunk of it that’s gossip, but it’s light.
RH: We’re just trying not to get sued, that’s why we don’t have comments on our site anymore. After the fourth time we got threatened with a lawsuit…
SC: I’m guessing it won’t be so different, style-wise, from what we’re used to listening to and reading on B@S?
RH: Exactly. There is a house style we follow, which is sort of self-selecting. People who work with us are either people who a) love it or b) have a slightly snarky sense of humor. That’s why were not an art magazine – we are fans, and we are in it for the love.
DM: Right. We are interested in a kind of arts discourse that reflects how we actually live with art. I don’t want to live a life where I’m fucking Hal Foster, like the king of un-fun. I mean, who wants to have an experience of the world they live in that is so directly counter and opposite to fun and enjoyment?
RH: Duncan’s point is actually quite profound – part of how we refer to it is “for the love of the game.” When we first started B@S we wanted to do it in such a way that we would want to be consumers of it too. We also wanted to fit in as many sports puns as possible.
SC: Would you listen to your own podcasts?
RH: Of course, we have to listen to them, we produce them all!
DM: We believe everyone on earth should listen to us. We’re working on getting it government controlled. Art fucking matters, Stephanie!
SC: It does!
RH: Essentially, we made something we would like – an arts discourse that is intellectual without being pretentious (hopefully), but also interesting and entertaining.
SC: And it’s also user activated – in the sense that I can go back and listen to interviews from months, or years ago, and even though they are not necessarily current, they are relevant.
DM: Our strategy has always been not to tie the interviews into specific exhibitions, so that you can participate in listening to the podcasts at any time.
RH: It is really about the archive. Ultimately, when this ends…and it will someday.
SC: Will it though?
DM: Will it ever stop? Hell no!
RH: Well, if it does, the archive – as an art piece, or bit of social practice – is the final result. I feel like we have done a service to art history, even in a teeny way, where we have all these people in this mid-stage of their careers (we have also had some rock stars), and we talk with them at this point in our lives.
DM: I think what Richard is trying to say (yes, I am his interpreter) is that we are making a very earnest contribution to the history of this place – the idea that “one of us” could speak for “us.” And B@S provides the platform to let artists speak for themselves.
SC: The content itself also moves so quickly – do you think the site is in a perpetual archive state, even as it’s happening?
RH: Yes, and in many ways, the blog added a depth we were lacking.
DM: Right, you can do more with the blog, with 5 days a week and an unlimited posting set, than we can do in an hour with all the production that comes with the podcasts.
RH: “On Air” is not for everybody. There are so many great writers in Chicago, and elsewhere that we work with; our writers are really the under-sung heroes. The newspaper we are doing for EXPO is not all that different in that regard, it comes of that. It’s going to be short, quick, and entertaining – you won’t find articles from the NY Times on the front page.
DM: The newspaper is also this weird shout-out to embodied objectness. It’s our opportunity to make a publication, specifically for and of an event, which has a physicality that counters our usual digital, virtual, or even ephemeral qualities of what we have with the site.
SC: But do you think the site is really all that ephemeral? The site is pretty solid, in the sense that sure, it may be digital – but its not fleeting or unstable by any means.
RH: Right (laughs) – it’s ephemeral in the way that hoarders store loose stacks of paper in their basement. We’ve talked about the newspaper for years; we are so happy to see it finally happening.
SC: Do you envision yourselves working with Dana to do the newspaper more often?
RH: Absolutely – but, like for EXPO, I think it would be event based. I don’t think the podcast or the blog could ever have the same artifact quality like a newspaper would at a fair. I remember being at fairs in London, and the Art Newspaper is just so heavily distributed. It is everywhere, and it was up-to-the-minute talk about everybody who was at the fair; it was almost unbelievable – like this booth just sold this 2 minutes ago. I don’t think we are necessarily going to go into that level of detail, but I think that having the newspaper offer depth of what is going on at EXPO is going to be a really good thing for the fair.
SC: You spoke earlier about how some contributors, for the blog especially, are from Chicago and others not – do you ever see B@S becoming a national affair?
RH: I could definitely see it being on a national scale in terms of art fair coverage, and travelling that way. We just had a presence in NADA, and it would be great if we were able to do that again.
DM: Yes – and The EXPO Register really comes from Dana doing the newspaper at ACRE, then going on to do it at NADA. When Dana started working with us, we decided to just do this all together. Richard and I had separately talked about doing this newspaper, four times a year, for years – but we always got to the point where is was just too much work in addition to our other projects.
RH: Dana and ACRE are the heroes, it would not have happened without them, Nick Wylie, and Emily Green.
DM: We’re really all in this together, we make our art world as we see it.
RH: It’s all for love, and perhaps mental illness.
SC: In addition to that project, you are also going to be broadcasting live from EXPO. You have covered and interviewed so many people – the roster of people for /Dialogues is extensive as well, which are some figures you’ve wanted to cover for a long time, correct? Who is on your bucket list?
RH: Correct. We have wanted to interview many people that we will be talking to at /Dialogues for some time, and some we have even talked with before – like José Lerma. I’ve wanted to make fun of Matthew Barney in person. And David Bowie is going to be at the MCA, I really want to interview him, but I think that is probably a bad idea.
DM: It’s so funny to think of a bucket list…but I know the answer. I want Hal Foster – that would be my answer. I want to ask him why he is so not fun. Like, what is going on dude? Why are you such a killjoy? I imagine Hal Foster getting back to me angrily saying, “somebody’s gotta hate,” I feel like he would get real. Dave Hickey would also be a great interview.
SC: So, other art critics?
RH: You know, we never do a lot of art critics – we usually interview artists.
DM: Well, my first four answers were going to be dead philosophers…and Richard’s was a rockstar (kind of), followed by another rockstar.
SC: Or like, Rush.
RH: Actually, I would love to interview Geddy Lee with Duncan MacKenzie, because they are both Canadian and would just end up talking about Tim Hortons. And he is like, 90.
SC: Stop it. Geddy Lee is not 90!
DM: He’s like, 60!
SC: Large difference!