Whitehot Magazine

Summer 07, WM #4: The Burning House: Faile, Swoon and David Ellis @ HET DOMEIN

Summer 07, WM #4:  The Burning House: Faile, Swoon and David Ellis @ HET DOMEIN
Faile,Swoon and David Ellis The Burning House @ Het Domein

The Burning House: Faile, Swoon and David Ellis @ HET DOMEIN
Guestroom # 6 New Image Art Gallery Los Angeles: from 12-05-07 to 05-08-07

White Hot Magazine of Contemporary Art #4 July Issue

by Irmelin Hanssen

Smells like something’s burning



“I’m an ordinary guy

Burning down the house”

-Talking Heads

“Look at the sky turn a hell fire red lord

Somebody’s house is burning down, down”

-Jimi Hendrix

In the Guestroom of Het Domein Sittard, the , the guest exhibition space is taken over by a few prominent figures from the street art scene, namely Faile, Swoon and David Ellis from New York. Taking the streets into the museum, The Burning House leaves your heart with some burning questions. Where are we going from here? What will be left of us when the smoke clears?

 “This art is not about the ashes that will be left, it’s about the panic you can taste and smell before it hits you. In this maelstrom of swirling elements, disembodied lives and visual metaphors for our greater social disease is that backwash gag reflex stutter and tic of something wordlessly wrong. Like the frenzied antics of Dada in the cultural gloaming of sleeplessness before the dawn of World Wars would shatter the thin veneer of civilization, The Burning House is the anarchy that is born of anxiety” (McCormick 9). Pinpointing some of contemporary society’s letdowns, Faile, Swoon and David Ellis are trying to “burn down the house” by visually voicing today’s tensions. In Domestic Dread: A Conflagration, Carlo McCormick writes, “Mediators all, these artists aren’t simply commenting that where there is smoke, there is fire – they offer a specific text on the nature of calamity as written by smoke-signals themselves. Sure it’s hot in here, but more than that, it’s choking” (McCormick 9). At The Burning House, pleasure meets pain, desire meets failure, and, evil meets innocence. Faile, Swoon and David Ellis join forces in such a way, that a new art experience arises. Collage graffiti style, pasting over each other’s work, mixing and integrating their images, the smooth merging of Faile, Swoon and David Ellis’s work leaves quite an overwhelming impression on your retina.

The Burning House was first shown at the American New Image Art Gallery in Los Angeles, curated by Marsea Goldberg. For the Guestroom at Het Domein, part of the Los Angeles show is brought to the . The title of the show refers to the lyrics of songs by Jimi Hendrix and the Talking Heads.

The Burning House at Het Domein fills out four spaces with a mixture of Faile, Swoon, and David Ellis, as well as some of the artists’ individual work. The room in the back is painted black, which makes the three separate collages on every wall stand out even more. The rest of the exhibition spaces are left white - sometimes too white, compared to the way The Burning House was structured at the New Image Art Gallery in Los Angeles where it was originally shown. One wall is made up out of a collage consisting of the work of Faile, Swoon, and David Ellis accompanied by several TV-sets showing no signal, however, providing the recipe “for a happy home”. Chinese folk art influences meet Manga beats, Swoon’s paper cuttings meet newspaper flashes that go against American presidents like Nixon, who is given a Faile bunny figure for the occasion.

Faile’s images also poke fun at Bush, Blair and Mao, while David Ellis’s figures coils around them like a whirlwind. Scenes resembling a ride in a subway, ships that are burning, Katrina-like events: the Burning House has -and shows it all. A Mexican “Posada” figure can be recognized in one of the poster by Faile. An installation made out of wood leans against a background of two dressed up conversing skeletons. Swoon’s work stands out in her delicate, but powerful way of bringing life and reality into wherever she pasts her images. Some of the door openings are dressed up with black paper cut outs formed like spider webs. Unintentionally, another artist’s voice joins the show. The space next to the Guestroom of Het Domein is showing Clare E. Rojas’ Forget me Not. Some of Peggy Honeywell’s (a.k.a. Clare E. Rojas) songs/video’s are played/screened as well, whose sounds slowly move through the Burning House, adding an extra (accidental) enchanting effect to the whole.

Motion paintings

David Ellis lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He comes from a family of musicians, and this is also where he gets his inspiration from. His motion paintings find their origin in music and flow like rhymes into organic and colorful paintings. In addition, Ellis is also for example known for painting trucks in a unique graffiti-inspired style. For instance, in 2004, he created a video piece entitled “Paint on Trucks in a World in Need of Love” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He is one of the founding members of the collective the Barnstormers, and his work has appeared in projects in cities such as London, San Francisco, Tokyo, etc.

New York is My Bag

Faile is a three-person international artist collective based in Brooklyn, New York. They draw their inspiration from comic book art, pulp fiction, and popular culture, among other things. The core of their work consists of painting, stenciling, graffiti and printing. However, they have also started using different types of media such as film, sculpture, fashion, and house wares to express their ideas. Checking out their website at www.faile.net is definitely something I recommend doing.

That alone already gives you a really good feel of what Faile is about. From weathpasting their printed posters in New York and major cities over the world, such as London, Amsterdam etc, Faile grew out into being the pioneers of global contemporary street art. Additionally, their work appeared in respected galleries such as Tiger Translate in Shanghai, Andenken Gallery in Denver, One Eye Space, and New Image Art Gallery in Los Angeles, FIFTY24SF in San Francisco, Les Complices in Zurich Switzerland, Berlin’s Neurotitan Haus Swarzenberge, and of course they now surface as guest artists for the show The Burning House at HET DOMEIN Sittard, the Netherlands.

Swoon Street Life

Swoon is a female street artist, whose paper cutouts and woodcut prints can be found at several places when for example roaming the streets of New York. Some of her images have even found their way in Amsterdam, among other European cities. Her art becomes public, collaborating with the streets in such a way, that it becomes part of the visual experience of street life. Swoon’s paper cut outs give voice to the experiences of everyday people, using for example her friends, and family as her inspiration, doing things ‘ordinary’ people like to do, like riding a bike, running, doing groceries, etc. In this way, Swoon portraits and mirrors city life and real street scenes.

Her art even falls into a decaying process when left out on the streetscapes. Graffiti is tagged on it, the paper starts vanishing, etc, however, Swoon believes this is all part of the process of the experience of her art. Swoon’s work can be described as very delicate, fragile, and beautiful on the one hand, but powerful, and edgy as well. She is not supposed to paste her portraits out in the streets, which in some cases makes her art political. Swoon has been part of several street artist collectives, such as “Toyshop” and the “Indivisible Cities Project”. Her work has been shown at Deitch Projects, New York, as well as at the Whitney Biennial in 2006, and at New Image Art Gallery Los Angeles, before appearing here at Sittard.

Burning down the House

The Burning House is personal, political, universal, burning, honest, beautiful but above all, overwhelming and a warning sign to take into consideration. This collaborative show is worth paying a visit, either at the New Image Gallery in Los Angeles or at Het Domein Sittard, The curated by Marsea Goldberg and Stijn Huijts. Let’s Burn down the House..

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Irmelin Hanssen


Irmelin Hanssen holds a Master degree in American Studies from Radboud University Nijmegen, the . She studied a semester at  UC Berkeley in the where she specialized in Chicana/o art, literature and culture. She wrote her Master's thesis on  "Redefining Archetypes in Chicana Literature and Art- La Virgen de Guadalupe and La Malinche: ExtremeMake-Overs." She presented her research at two international conferences. She is currently active as a freelance art-writer in the Netherlands and looking into PhD programs in the United States. irmelinhanssen@hotmail.com


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