If you wander the streets of any metropolis in the world, you might have encountered their works unnoticed. The art group “Faile” is New York based creative collective who doesn’t only work on street art but in various fields did cover design for this month. Each members were born in different country and one woman and two men met as if it was destined. “Collaboration” is the keyword which cannot be removed, when knowing them. We asked their past, present, and future thoroughly.
2004 POW exhibition at Diesel denim gallery, NYC
Could you introduce what’s/who’s Faile?
Miller: We are Patrick McNeil from Canada, Aiko Nakagawa from Japan, and Patrick Miller from the US.
How did you met each other?
McNeil: Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller have been long time friends going back to our days in high school in Arizona. I don’t think there was a time since we met that we weren’t swapping sketchbooks, collaborating on pieces or just talking about creating projects. They had always sort of talked about starting a studio together and it’s really exciting to be working together now. The pair kept in touch during Art School courses in Minneapolis and New York, during that time McNeil and Aiko (who was in Grad School at the time) had met at a club in New York, where she was doing motion graphic work and McNeil was exhibiting paintings in the space. Feeling limited by just doing club work, Aiko was introduced by McNeil to a new world in street art. She felt a new passion emerge, she loved the community of artists and quality of the work that was going on at the time.
With the third founding member in place our tentative ideas, based around large scale screen printed illustrations, slowly began to come together in early 2000. We were always interested in the idea of an art group, similar to a band but as visual artists. Something where the work could really be made through the collaborative process, where it is a result of everyone’s combined efforts. It gives us the ability to riff off each other and really be influenced by our work together. This is something Pat and I grew up with, and as that idea was really starting to come together, Aiko came into the picture and it just seemed to all make sense.
Did you choose street as your canvas from the start of Faile? Why did you choose street?
Aiko: Encountering street art is one of the biggest opportunity to start Faile. There were many artist’s stencils and posters on the street, such as Obey, Revs, Bast, and WK, in Meat Packing District where a nightclub I frequented with the friend those days was located, and the area itself had become like a gallery of a street art. Walking the way back from a club together with Patrick, I was getting familiar with each works on the street and, of course, I got interested in doing it myself. Since someone sticks something up or paint on the street every day, I remember that it was very fun to just walk around the town which changes rapidly. It is not only gallery where art is exposed. It’s the street where alive art comes out every day. Then, Patrick was producing big silk screen posters with other members in school, and we stuck about 100 sheets of the girl’s nude posters in downtown of Manhattan. It was the first street art we did. What interesting thing is that invisible communication with special language which is not actual “words” between artists exists because other artists overlap tags, posters or stickers one after another, and the network of street artists come out accidentally but necessarily, then the community is created naturally and become going out together at midnight. For example, although I go out for bombing with Bast now like a brother, I did not know even the name at the beginning.
McNeil: Well, Having taken a few notes for the Obey the idea in the begging was to wheat paste the shit out of cities and get up as much as possible to get the name out and to make our mark so to speak. On other reason was the pure enjoyment of what was going on in the streets and wanting to be part of that. But, things have changed a bit since we first started. as we have worked on the streets our ideas have changed and it seems to become less about the public seeing it everywhere and a bit more personal. We don’t think we care about getting tons of stuff up like we use to. For one we have not really wheat pasted of a year now. A lot of what we do on the street is on the down low. We really like to find a couple nice spots and do a really nice job on them. All the work we have done on the streets lately is painted with a brush and them stenciled. It is much more personal and artistic in a way There is a nice permanence to paint that you don’t get with a poster. Sometimes we felt when we were putting up posters that it was kind of like putting up advertisements, It kind of lost the fun and energy that we use to get out of it. We like to work there but it is more personal and less about trying to get up. We really hate all the bull shit beef that goes along with working in the street but It really enjoy working there and seeing the changes.
Aiko: During four years since the starting, we keep pasting and painting in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona and Tokyo as well as in New York but I agree that things have changed since some years ago as McNeil said. I think quality or feeling become more important than quantity. We still enjoy going out for painting with local artists where we visit at midnight. Recently, we visited Barcelona. We walked around the town and did stencil with local people. It was very fun. They don’t speak English and we don’t speak Spanish, but everyone got excited.
McNeil: Faile’s roots are in design so because of that we are open to any projects that concern any aspect of design, Fashion included. We don’t think we look at it at street art for the body. Street art is its own thing. We often apply images we have used on the street but a lot of the time when we do fashion project we are designing specifically for that project and it has nothing to do with what you see on the street.
Where do you get inspiration for your works?
McNeil: A lot of what inspires us and excites us is the opportunity to work with talented people and to work on projects that are a challenge. Having the chance to work on things of all different disciplines whether it is fashion, painting, shoe design, or making a toy. The ideas of getting locked in and known for one thing and having to reapeat. It sounds like a dreadful situation to be in. Recently we got the opportunity to work on the new Duran Duran album with John Warwicker for Tomato. We have always been really inspired by the work they have done and having the chance to work with him has been super inspiring and exiting.
I’ve looked at your activity archive “Faile 2004 Calendar”, and it was impressive that some images have a kind of lovely components like pink colour, small flowers, ribbons, stuffed toys but it also have gloomy face expression or destructive impression. What do you want to express through these works? Is there any message in them?
Miller: There has always been an attempt to embrace the idea of duality in our work. Love / Hate, Peace / War, Violence / Beauty. This has a distinct place in the world we live and can always be felt as a constant push and pull. That kind of duality has found its way into our work by juxtaposing certain visual, language and symbols which represent these ideas.
2003 FAILE BAST show at Neurotitan, Berlin
Could you tell me about the compilation book “LAVENDER” which has just released from Gestalten?
Miller: Actually we have made 4 books. Orange, Death, Boredom and Lavender. Orange and Death only exist as hand-built books with an edition of around 80 each. Boredom and Lavender have been published in limited edition as well as their hand-built counterpart. The books in a way serve as two functions for us. one is that they give us a chance to work with people that inspire us and second is they kind of act as a year book for us. We do a lot of traveling and along the way we meet a lot of talented people. the books kind of give us the opportunity to tie every one together under one theme and to see what happens. The themes are not what makes the book, it is the people in the books. The themes that we choose are often chosen quite randomly. In each book we try to mix it up a bit bringing together people from around the world and all different backgrounds from music, writing, fine art, street art, photography, to design. The books we do are one of the first projects that we started based on the idea of collaboration and bring together the talented people that around us.
2004 Lavender Book show at Transplant Gallery, NYC
Almost the half of 2004 has passed. What’s the biggest news for Faile so far?
Miller: It is always interesting at the beginning of each year we kinda think about what is to come. What we want to accomplish and what will come our way. 2004 has been a great year, we have been lucky enough to work with some great people and great companies and we certainly feel fortunate. I guess the highlights, have been working with Asics Onitsuka Tiger line, Duran Duran and John Warwicker from Tomato, Walrus Magazine in Toronto, a variety of great shows and releasing our fourth book Lavender.
But I think the biggest news of the year for Faile is that the whole team will finally be living in the same city (NYC) starting in October. No more long-distance late night work sessions. We will be starting a magazine set to release next Fall along with the fifth Faile Book and a whole lot more.
Tell me the concept of the cover design for this month of Shift?
Miller: It was a simple idea really, based-off a lenticular card that appears to change from one image to another as the card is shifted. The idea that with a shift in perspective you see something entirely new.
2004 FAILE painting exhibition at ONE EYE SPACE, LA
Is there any project your are planning to from now on?
Aiko: The biggest project which is already scheduled is still under operation in secret, so I can’t mention about it now. The other is a mask show at X-girl NYC from August 26th, where we show seven piece of Faile special wrestling mask created in collaboration with a fashion designer, NAM. Also, Faile web site will be renewed this fall. Cover design of Duran Duran’s new album will be released soon. In the next summer, Faile shoes (with toys) will be released from Onitsuka Tiger.
Please pass a message to Shift readers.
Miller: Whatever you believe in follow it towards its best possible notion, and truly appreciate every step of the way.
Text: Naoko Fukushi