March 2009, Fantastic Nobodies Interview

March 2009, Fantastic Nobodies Interview
Installation view, Fantastic Nobodies, Living Frame Bedroom, Marc and Dave Striking the Set, courtesy Fantastic Nobodies, Brooklyn NY.


The Fantastic Nobodies are part of a scene in New York that must be experienced to be understood fully. They are a brilliant collective of diverse people who caught our attention in Miami during Art Basel week 2008. The following interview took place over several months...

Noah Becker (to the Fantastic Nobodies collective): Hello Gentlemen, Tell us a few stories about how the members met and formed, was it in art school? 

 Steve Johnson:
 hi ho,
 Columbus did not discover America.
 The nobodies were always there.
 The nobdies (sic) found each other.
 And nobody has figured out what that means yet.  

Daniel J:
Art school is such an incredible waste of money, I wouldn't be caught dead there. Maybe if I went I'd have better connections, less talent, and lots of "concepts." Maybe I should keep my opinions to myself. (This isn't over by a long shot.) I met these guys at the asshole factory called Williamsburg in the hipster storage facility. We were all in the reject bin. We may be cheap and a little used up, but the ideas are bright and we last a long time. (That usually happens when you fuck energizer bunnies.) bang. bang. Bang

Eric Laine:
The nobs all met at Steve Johnsons loft in Bushwick Brooklyn off and on and in between shenanigans out in the street or at openings and parties. This huge communal loft had a center stage area that bubbled into a variety Theatre more often than not, and more chaotic than linear. It was these art Poets' mecca called chez mez. I DJ'ed there which is how I met these starkly different but somehow related artists. The social contract, an unstated one based on friendship, became the basis for identifying with being a collective. It was a self-help group for outcasts of the glamour economy who chose to be working class slaves to the best galleries rather than suck dick to show there. The struggle is what makes the fantastic nobodies interesting and unique like any other minority group. I fell in love with the soulful moments even if they often involved heavy dionysian angst and transgression that was hard for even an ex punk rock non puritanical German raised culture vulture like me to swallow.
 Marc Grubstein:
 If my memory serves me correctly it was the summer of love, NYC 1995. I was out on the town drinking after work. I got kind of drunk and stumbled in to a gay bar called THE MANHOLE, somewhere near the west side highway. Even though I wasn't gay, curiosity got the best of me. A whole new world opened before my eyes: Rubber, leather and bald men with beards. They were all super friendly. I started doing poppers in the bathroom stall. I blacked out for a while, next thing I know I woke up in a bathtub to a golden shower. DHBJR, Dan, Chad, Eric and Steve all had their cocks out. Some were pissing and the others were jerking off all over my naked greased body. I vaguely remember how warm their urine was and how the splatter sounded like rain, however I did not care for the foul pungent odor. Dhbjr's cum tasted quite bitter and salty some even manage to squirt in my eye, it stung a bit, but I told myself I wouldn't cry. Later that morning I was the bottom boy in a full fledged all male gangbang. Chad’s cock was so big it hurt my spleen. Soon after that I was tied up gagged and then fisted by Steve, he showed me no mercy. As a sweet gesture to cap off an enchanted evening Eric gave me a Dirty Sanchez. I couldn't walk for a week after meeting those guys nor did I want to. It was shortly after I started walking again that I saw them at the gay pride parade on a float, we started collaborating shortly after that.

David Henry Brown Jr.:

The Fantastic nobodies met more than 10 years ago, a collision of super creative freaks in the trenches of the war of life/art. I met Marc Grubstein when I was butt naked and tied down with 100 white mice crawlin (sic) all over me, embedded into a miniture landscape. In the next instant I was shaking President Clintons hand as Alex Vonfurstenberg, and laughing my head off afterwards with Chad Spicer, blink again and Daniel Joseph was telling me about being in character for SIX MONTHS! stalking a woman client as part of Brock Enright’s Video Games, a reality games adventure service. We had all been de-brainwashed for at least a decade prior to meeting and we were/are gripped and driven by a chumanzee rabid lust for the blood of the core of reality, the constitution of reality written in blood. we are a self- bewildering but persistent creative movement. we will fuck our world with a happy ending.

Chad Spicer: I'll tell you the first thing I ever heard from the Fantastic Nobodies...

Marc: "So dude, what are you in for?"
Dave: "Paper? Or plastic mister?"
Dan: "Alright guy, put it back in yer pants"
Steve: "Hey buddy! Could you lend me your ear?"

A Fantastic Nobody
Noah Becker: There is energy, a consistent direction running through the work. Is this planned in terms of everyone getting together to decide content for projects? How is the group operated or structured? There is a founder but is that also a leader? My reason for asking is that looking through the Fantastic Nobodies book was hilarious the first time, then more and more serious as things began to sink in. How does this mechanism get organized?
Marc Grubstein:

There is an energy running through our work, that energy is our lord and guiding light Jesus Christ.
Not many people would deduce this from a gay art performance troop, we call The Fantastic Nobodies. But by the grace of God, let me state this now, Jesus Christ was the founding father of The  Fantastic Nobodies. He is our constant source of inspiration.

Jesus Christ is our leader, can I hear an amen, and with his blessed love we make our work. Our work is the lords work. There is no logic, There is just our lord Jesus Christ and Us, The Fantastic Nobodies.

  Jesus wrote a book, called the bible, so The Fantastic Nobodies also made a book our Fantastic Nobodies catalog that can be purchased for $10 through Unagi books in Berlin  or our website@
 (press the top left hand corner and the link will take you there.) Jesus did not act alone, for he acted with a group of wild men, weirdos and conceptual strategists. Once again we follow in the path of our savior, Jesus Christ. The mechanism inside all of us is Jesus Christ our savior can we all praise his name
Steve Johnson:


It is pitch black in here and I have no use for coffee.
 Yes, the work of the Fantastic Nobodies comes across as the
 babble of madmen, full of sound and fury, perhaps signifying nothing.
 It is ridiculous to call it work, no it is a particular attitude and it is a life's work.
 You see, you are talking about a tribe of complete individuals that
 somehow found each other and could not let go. The abyss out there
 can be bleak. Somehow we are able to laugh our way through but certainly
 there is seriousness. Is Alfred Jarry serious, or Beckett, or Gregory Corso?
 I would say as serious as a heart attack. As serious as Jesus Christ. It has something
 to do with being stuck in our bodies, and the absurdity of taking
 your particular predicament as an end game. As we all understand the feeling of being stuck, it may be that a slightly different alignment can allow you to let go.
 The Nobodies push each other to not take themselves too seriously, sometimes pushing each other to a completely different level of existence. And this is serious work. And we are all so completely different. We all tend to lead one another. We tend to be somewhat amazed by each other still. Our paths seem to overlap and it is completely
 dark in here and my shoes must come off and
 I would like a spot of tea.

David Brown:
Our organization is informed by the pop and break of the mechanics of life itself. Many art collectives have claimed to bring art and life together and I have lived through many other artistic movements/periods besides this one, but NEVER before have I witnessed life really being channeled into art, and art so deeply embedded into life/lives. Perhaps it’s an issue of the collective over confidence in our infantile pathologies that come about from our individual mastery/maturity of our art. We egg each other on to push the boundaries that might constrain us individually. 10 years ago it was all hazy antilogic in our collaboration, these days I watch the flow of creative decision making really attentively and let the members with the strongest vision take the reigns on the task. We all don’t live in the same hood anymore so some specialization has been evolving, especially in terms of preparing for exhibitions and shows. Once its showtime and the environment/trap is sprung, than it goes pretty freeform.....implicitly understood in our roots of 10 years of co-conspiracy.

Eric Laine:

Organization is beside the point. It all happens as a call and response or
one upping of one another that builds and builds until we crash and burn, 
then returning to our shells to work on meditative solo projects. The nobs
are anti-patriarchal and rebel against as much authority as they can
get away with without losing their sense of humor or freedom. There is an
unspoken language, maybe more physical than telepathic, that directs the crew form one thing to the next. This comes also from having labored, camped, and and taken drugs together experiencing each others human limits. The co-existence is more about raising the bar on each other than making it simple and easy. the logic behind it all i like to relate back to a portrait painting our most loyal female cohort Autumn Rooney made. It’s a family-like portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono who lived their mutual lives as a form of artistic expression, also rooted in defiance against the culture of so-called "plastic people."

Daniel Joseph:
I'm not sure if there is/was a founder to any of this. It's just what was in the air. Kismet. Not in a profound way, I think it was just bound to happen. When a group of people are going out, partying, exchanging ideas and dumb jokes (not to mention dance moves) something can click. Our strengths and our weaknesses is in our strength and weakness. We all come from so many different backgrounds (both artistically and otherwise) that all these angles can be conducive to a very volatile, yet highly creative framework."Just as those who belong to an organization or group can be presumed to have a common interest, so they obviously also have purely individual interests, different from those of the others in the organization or group."
It's a matter of taking the joke, or jokes too far. To stretch them out as far as possible and see what happens, what emerges. But there is a great deal of seriousness to just about all jokes. Someone slips on a banana, someone gets hurt. "When life gives you AIDS, make lemonAIDS." So we sit around and try and hack it out, but building just the bare bones and leaving enough room to fill with meat and flesh. Metaphor that however you want. There should be a blur to our logic, a blur to what is important and what is unimportant. It's hard to give a straight answer, because I don't think there is one. It's crooked and all over the place. As the RZA stated in the Wu-Tang Manual: "When you're rocking, you're just was spontaneous. We look at the crowd, and come up with ideas, and hit it...and then if some things work, we repeat them."

Chad Spicer:

It can be anything that sets us off. Something someone wears, says, or does. Something in the news… Things bubble up from our collective subconscious and we riff. Like jazz. Like abstraction; distillation. When we first started it was especially like this, now we may seek to work on a concept and lay out it's foundation. Then once in motion, we rely on our friendships and understanding of our individual and collective strengths to work it out. We think of ourselves the A Team of art. We each have our "thing". The most important thing is we are our own audience and we are expressing to each other our version of the moment. In that moment, a leader can emerge, but if we are all flying our egos at half mast, a new leader can emerge or we can all be keeping pace. Again, like jazz. 


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Editor-in-Chief: Noah Becker

Noah Becker is founder and editor-in-chief of Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art, a visual artist, jazz musician and writer.



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