Friday, May 6, 2016

Frieze Hired a Pickpocket to Roam Their Art Fair—Here’s Why

Frieze Hired a Pickpocket to Roam Their Art Fair—Here’s Why

The Frieze Art Fair on Randall's Island.
The Frieze Art Fair on Randall’s Island. Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Steadman
I was about to dig into a $9 vegetarian slider on the Frieze art fair’s chilly patio when a mysterious text popped up on my phone.
“Meet us up front at 2:45” it said, from an unknown number. It took me a minute to remember that I was meeting the Los Angeles artist David Horvitz to discuss his new project for the fair. That was just enough time to inhale my mini burger, question my life’s purpose, and check out a few jazzy paintings before the long trek back to the north side of the tent.
Once there, I reconvened with the helpful PR woman I’d met earlier, who then escorted me to where Mr. Horvitz was finishing up another interview. We exchanged pleasantries before all deciding it was time to go back into the tent and look for “him or her.”
The mystery person we’re looking for is actually an art piece—a professional pickpocket (or more accurately, a “slight-of-hand expert”) that the artist hired to secretly accost fair visitors. But the catch? Instead of taking valuables from Frieze guests, Mr. or Ms. X will be gifting them small sculptures designed by Mr. Horvitz in an edition of 1000.
A silly and kind gesture, though one shrouded in mystery.
The restaurant: A good place for "marks"?
The restaurant: A good place for “marks”? Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Steadman
“I saw him over here about ten minutes ago,” said Mr. Horvitz, as our eyes darted around the massively crowded fair. After some brief discussion as to strategy (should you move to find a moving target or stand still?), we set off to look for the mystery gifter that Mr. Horvitz had scarcely met himself.
“I interviewed three people and tested them all,” he said about the sculpture-dropper. “This one was the best.”
Mr. Horvitz is said to specialize in projects that “subvert standardized systems and patterns of circulation,” and unlike many conceptual artworks that are often paired with catchphrases that don’t match their outward presentations, I actually felt as if this piece had altered my perception of the fair format almost instantly.
I was no longer considering artworks. I suddenly found myself regarding the various people at the fair: “Was that guy stalking that older lady? The woman in the baseball hat looks very shifty. That older gentleman sidles up very well,” I thought.
But I also engaged with the tent space in a completely different way. We tried to strategize about good areas for sneaking into people’s bags or pockets. Maybe we should try the restaurants. They had a lot of bustle, but also a lot of potential witnesses. The rest areas? People there seem pretty dazed, perfect Marks. The aisles? Tight spaces that seemed perfect for the bump-and-drop.
After about 15 minutes, we ran into another PR woman who was working with Mr. Horvitz. She dipped into her purse to give me her card and Lo! There was a sculpture inside. “I got one!” She screamed into her massive, wide open bag. “I actually do remember someone bumping me, but turned and saw a friend and thought it was her.”
This doubled my already thick layers of suspicion. “Was I being played by Frieze?” I thought.
Juliet finds a sculpture in her purse.
Juliet finds a sculpture in her purse. Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Steadman
“It seems like this is staged,” said Mr. Horvitz with a laugh, “but I swear that was a random drop.” It turns out, this person is likely dropping around 250 sculptures a day at the fair, so his story could check out. At this point, we’d been walking around for a half hour looking for this person. Then, suddenly, a text.
“I saw the pickpocket!!!” it said. It was from my art advisor friend who was near the north entrance—where we had started. “He was trying to leave one w/ a lady but kept chickening out lol” said a second text.
OK, so we knew two things now: It was a man and he was careful.
We headed back in that general direction, and then after a full hour of hunting, Mr. Horvitz spotted him. “Okay” he said quietly as he back pedaled to the nearest wall. “He’s over there.”
I looked at a gentleman whose head appeared to be on a swivel, with, hands down, the most active eyes at the fair (a place meant for constant viewing, mind you). I followed him on my own for a bit, trying to be inconspicuous, while studying him. He was always clutching something while observing the crowd. He had the feel of a pro athlete. I noticed his wide view and his precision focus (he studied one woman’s purse with the intensity of a hitter watching a moving curveball before almost making a drop).
He pulled out though, reconsidering the drop, and then slid around a wall toward the bathrooms. I bumped into a dealer I knew and said hello—and just like that—he was gone.
I gave Mr. Horvitz my recap and he seemed pleased. We agreed not to reveal much about said gentleman or the palm-sized sculptures (for the sake of the piece and the brave pickpocket), but if you go to Frieze this week, bring your big pockets, totes and beach bags. And don’t worry if you get jostled a bit in the aisles.

The Art of Procrastination

The Art of Procrastination: A Freelancer’s Journey from Panic to Done

Procrastination plagues us all, and that's especially true for freelance artists. Should we embrace it as an essential part of the journey? Or should we put off thinking about it until tomorrow? We asked New York-based writer and former editor of The Hairpin, Haley Mlotek to take us through a journey into her own psyche as she wrestles with procrastination through a series of clocks, illustrated by Society6 artist, Henn Kim
Last night I went to dinner with a group of friends: writers, actors, one musician and one poet, respectively. The poet posed a question to a group of us: had we ever felt like we had done enough? No, we instinctively responded, opposed to the idea even in theory. Enough, we said, ordering another drink, even though that thing was due tomorrow morning; never! No matter what day or time it was, we were late; no matter how much work had been accomplished, there was more to be done; no matter if our copy was clean, our ideas were solid, our research impeccable, we were a table of freelancers and as such our motivation was the constant reach for a goal we reflexively denied ourselves - finishing.
Procrastination is productivity's natural predator, or so we've been told since elementary school assignments. But I've always secretly thought that procrastination was, in fact, just a series of step necessary to the never-enough process: the drive to complete projects that are always meant to be ongoing, or to declare our work as "enough" when we know the yawning void of all the better things we could've written/made/performed instead is going to always keep us awake at night.
I can berate myself for years about how slow I'm moving, how little I'm accomplishing, how many Twitter feeds I'm creeping. But every so often it occurs to me that it is not that I am so lazy (I am lazy) but that the freelancer mentality is one keeping time to a series of alarm clocks set by something too internal for me to have any control over. There's a bunch of bells that go off in my head at certain times on the road to getting shit done, and if I could accept that smacking those hypothetical clocks at the times they go off instead of trying to reset them, I bet I would be a lot more fun at dinner parties, if not more productive.
My clocks have always followed a certain sequence and emit a certain direction telling me what it's time to do. Fighting them is useless; they are in charge, and we can only pay attention when they go off. They are as follows:  
1. The Panic Clock
The Art of Procrastination
You can summon this clock with enough foresight and self-loathing. This is the clock that goes off when you look at your list of deadlines, maybe, or when an editor emails you to "just check in" or when you've looked at your notes and realized that you are far dumber than you ever realized. This clock causes heart palpitations, a light film of sweat, and the other not-fun symptoms of physical arousal. The clock can be turned off by picking a fight with a loved one or by lying down with your eyes closed "to process."
2. The Idea Clock
The Art of Procrastination Sometimes it happens when you're walking; sometimes you're showering; sometimes you're listening to someone else talk and you have to go wait shut up I just thought of something. Subway rides, waiting in lines, watching dancer rehearsal videos on YouTube: your good idea (or the idea that you think is good, a crucial distinction) is an alarm clock, in many respects, but it is more like a surprise party for your brain. Surprise! Look, a party full of ideas, and they're all great! Gather up all the confetti and make rambling incoherent notes in your preferred iPhone app, but by all means, this is not the time to start working. Resist that idea. Trust that the party vibes will last forever, and that when the Work Clock goes off, you'll be able to pull these ideas back again.
3. The Work Clock
The Art of Procrastination You forgot your good idea. You've been sitting still for...hours. There is nothing to be done. It's gone, like sands through the hourglass, or that sweater you swear you shoved in your tote bag before you left the bar. Type gibberish. Type insults directed at yourself. Read things written by people far smarter than yourself. Make to-do lists by hand, and populate them with things you've already done today just so you can cross them out. It feels so much like work! How could it not be?
4. The Everything-But-Your-Work Work Clock
The Art of Procrastination
Oh my god, this table is dusty. Your wardrobe is full of clothes you don't wear anymore. There's a crumpled receipt at the bottom of your purse; should you rethink the entire way you file your expenses? This is the clock that tells you its time to procrastinate by only doing smart, good, useless tasks. I mean: of course you should have a closet organized by season! Who am I to stop you from achieving the perfect rainbow-spine bookshelf? Just - does it have to be today? Oh, this alarm clock says it does? Ok. Carry on then. No, this deadline can definitely wait. Have you tried that thing where you do a liquid liner with Scotch tape? Better try that before getting back to work, just in case.
5. The Finished Clock
The Art of Procrastination
Also known as the amnesia clock. This clock goes off when you blinked and discovered a passable draft; something that could look complete to the untrained (read: not your) eyes. Half of this work seems like yours, but you can't remember the physical act of making it. What year is it, you think, as the gentle hum of an alarm clock that soothes rather than startles goes off in your head. How long have I been out? Who am I?!?!?! None of that matters now. You might not be finished, ever, but today you're done. Eff it, file it.

Need a little inspiration (cough) distraction? You can purchase Henn Kim's Work Work Work art print here