Soho is empty of shoppers on a Sunday morning, and as I walk leisurely with Andrew Blackley through the intersection of Prince and Broome Street, we stop in front of the Pleats Please boutique window. Few pedestrians carry either gym clothes or paper coffee cups past us. We appear to be the only window shoppers. The windows contain featured items of the collection: micro-pleated baby blue pants, tops, and tunics as well as a nude backpack. As described, all articles of clothing in the store are pleated. Issey Miyake’s line of clothing never wrinkles, though permanently folded.

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Andrew: I love the backpack.

Erin: Is this a bag you have been coveting?

Andrew: It is a new addition to the window. This is a pleated bag, and it has this really fabulous fold in it that reminds me very much of bread-making as well as glass-blowing, but as it also reminds me of larvae, it does not stink of artisanal. I like things made in factories.

Erin: And it’s collapsable.

Andrew: In this window, I was noticing something really interesting, which is: look how these pants are on this hanger.

Erin: They are precariously balanced there.

Andrew: They are perfectly, precariously balanced. To the point – how would you describe this effect?

Erin: It’s affected by tension.

Andrew: I know, but there’s no drawstring. So it’s a perfect amount of elastic against the side of a corner of a hanger.

Erin: It’s very touchy.

Andrew: It makes me nervous in a way that’s really attractive. I was also noticing this line right here. I would say the line is 11 inches down from the waist.

Erin: Mid-thigh.

Andrew: Mid-thigh. You wouldn’t say it’s a pocket, would you?

Erin: No, it’s not functional.

Andrew: The pleats hide a lot of things.

Erin: Although they also form a deformation in a person’s body. The cuts of the shirts are unflattering. They give extra armpit or drooped breasts or too-high waists.

Andrew: I am really drawn to this blue color, and I am interested in this porcupine quill design. And I was also noticing these necklaces. I was curious about what was inside of the fabric necklaces, and how far they could stretch.

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Erin: I think the necklace has its limits. Do you window shop often?

Andrew: Only at this store, actually. As I walk east on Prince, I have the opportunity to look into the window. The north-facing window is never as satisfying as the west-facing window.

Erin: Do you think you want things more over time, passing the window again and again and again?

Andrew: Yes, but they always change the display at the point I really want something.

Erin: I don’t really desire things window-shopping, looking through windows.

Andrew: Do you desire them when you put them on?

Erin: Yes.

Andrew: Would you wear this dress?

Erin: I’d wear it for a couple of days. It’s a phase dress.

Andrew: What does that mean?

Erin: It means that, much like my outfit right now, I’m obsessed with it short-term. I have a phase with it. Do you have phase items?

Andrew: I try not to. I try to wear the same kind of clothes…

Erin: You’re loyal.

Andrew: Yes. I might have a loyal outlook on life.

Erin: Is that part of your interest in working on or with specific artists? Out of a loyalty to them?

Andrew: That’s an interesting question. I think the answer is “Maybe.” I’m curious to know what I am loyal to.

Erin: For instance, you spend your professional life working in archives. Are you interested most in the artist or most in working in an archive?

Andrew: I’m interested most when the archive represents a fundamental core of the work; when the work continues to exist over time. When something continues over time, it also changes over time. I’m interested in archives that are primed, that are ready to be used.

Erin: Ideas spoken through material.

Andrew: Yes. And I’m most interested when language is involved with art and archival matters.. So loyal…Do you think I’m loyal?

Erin: I think of the art world sometimes as a series of formed alliances and formed aversions. That might be part of the reason people are involved in it.

Andrew: Although I don’t remember who said it, or in what context, I read that the art world is the only sector in which you only seek recognition from the people that you already recognize. And I think that’s what you are saying? I think it can be clan-based. Like “these are my people” and we all share similar ideas, but I think the hierarchies of that are always changing.

Erin: New people are introduced, or other people are shifted.

Andrew: Are you loyal?

Erin: I have passing loyalties. Speaking of loyalty, are you susceptible more to trend that comes through fashion or trend that comes through art?

Andrew: I don’t think that I apply fashion trends to myself. With art though, I’m mostly interested in art of a generation prior to mine. And so I do have this luxury of being slightly removed from the immediacy of the contemporary art of my peers. Can you help me with a trend in contemporary art? What is one?

Erin: There’s always this trend of adolescence I think. Adolescent painting, making things like a child.

Andrew: I think there’s this trend of bad painting, but it’s so practiced, so capable. None of it is actually even bad. It’s skilled and therefore it means nothing. It never has and never will until it’s actually going to be bad. That would be a trend that I could live with.

Erin: Wallpaper has also been a trend.

Andrew: I went to see the Bob Gober show, and I think the wallpaper is phenomenal and important.

Erin: Beautiful. However, that came before this trend of wallpapers.

Andrew: Do people just want to be Bob Gober? I can understand why one would.

Erin: People are showing recognition of Gober.

Andrew: Diedrich Diederichsen wrote – I don’t know the intricacies of the essay at this point this morning, so don’t quote me – of a profound narcissism in today’s artists. It’s not even able to be Oedipal. It’s a significant block of self-involvement that actually prevents them from accessing the Oedipal. If someone was making wallpaper, and they wanted to capture or thread Bob Gober, they’re too wrapped up into themselves to acknowledge that he made it and what that may have meant.

Erin: Perhaps there is a surge of self-confidence, or over-confident making, similar to listening to over-confident rap. Everyone listens to rap because it’s a power anthem.

Andrew: I listen mostly to Prince, and also Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, and Prince has a supreme and magnificent confidence that is real.

Erin: That is god-like.

Andrew: He makes the game. He is the context. He is the figure and the ground of his confidence. No other person exists. There is only Prince.

Erin: I am a sponge in a lot of ways. I am a sponge person. When it comes to music, I take on the tastes of other people.

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Andrew: That’s what Pleats Please is all about.

Erin: A sponge?

Andrew: A little bit. It’s spongy, it’s active, it’s not active. Can you be loyal and have phases? Another recent phase is fabrication. What are your thoughts on that?

Erin: Do you mean making a fake version of something that looks real? Like a Robert Gober leg?

Andrew: Or making something with a high level of finish. Shiny new things from a fabricator. I went to David Zwirner yesterday and saw the Kusama show. The paintings are phenomenal. There were also these sculptures of gourds and pumpkins made of chrome. I prefer the paintings.

Erin: Because they are hand-touched?

Andrew: I like people making their own things. Or if things are fabricated, I’m interested in why and how they are fabricated. Why do artists make fabricated objects instead of making factories? Of course, we are all our own fabricators, even if we are painting and drawing on a piece of paper.

Erin: Fabrication suggests that multiple people could have made the fabricated object. Ultimately, an artist is distinguished by the viewer’s ability to recognize that a particular artist made the work versus another artist having made it. Are you interested in an artist who has a through-line of thought running through all of their work?

Andrew: I think yes, but that need not be uniform. I think it’s really interesting when something made today and something made ten years ago at first appear antithetical. I really believe in contradiction actually. And change. I also believe in lies. And experiments. I think those are really important things. Many people in the world are unwilling to be contradictory.

Erin: This is slightly backtracking to speaking about archives again, but – I’m thinking of your conference, exhibition, and writing around Keith Haring, your work at the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, and the exhibition “Not only this, ‘but new language beckons us’” that you curated from and alongside archival material from the Fales’ downtown collection at NYU – do you equate preservation with curating?

Andrew: I don’t really know if I’ve curated an exhibition. How would one know? I know I’ve organized things. What do you mean by preservation?

Erin: You are bringing archival materials to the surface.

Andrew: I think that there is a really important position to be taken that is not exactly preservation, or conservation, but about providing a context or an environment for certain histories or concepts. In short, I’m providing context for myself insofar as I’m a person in the world working with things that I’m invested in. It’s not about facilitation or organization. Maybe it is more about maintenance.

Erin Leland

Based in New York, Erin Leland is an artist using photography, writing and video. She has recently exhibited in the group exhibition, White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart at the ICA in Philadelphia and in her solo exhibition, Everything is Everything at Michael Strogoff Gallery in Marfa, Texas.

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