Interview by Amelia Stein Portraits by Curtis Buchanan
The artist Donald Judd sat for an interview with Bruce Hooton in 1965 to create an ‘oral history’ for the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. In the transcript, Judd manages to say an awful lot while giving away precious little. But about halfway, this changes. Hooton describes a drawing of Judd’s as “monumental” – but Judd insists that the drawing is nothing more than a “post and lintel arrangement,” entirely unprepossessing.
Hooton, an experienced arts reviewer, has no idea what to make of this. He loses his cool:
MR. HOOTON: There’s no kind of philosophical point to the whole thing? … One decides to throw paint; one decided not to throw paint; or to simplify things. I mean…what?
Now, Donald Judd was always direct. He discussed his art with candor and disliked any attempt made by others to label it. But in answer to Hooton’s incredulousness, Judd stops talking about his work or even art in general. He just talks about experience, immediacy, and a different way to work and live. He talks about a moment, the moment, where something is created that changes everything around it forever.
Recently, Erik Brunetti moved to Marfa, Texas, with his wife Emmelie and their young daughter. Among other things, Marfa is home to the Donald Judd Foundation and a community of people who are there to work and live as Judd did: doing as they like, inventing their own interests, avoiding the played-out and narrow. These words were Judd’s, but in a way the ideas belong to Brunetti.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of Erik Brunetti’s vision, as it continues to evolve through his label, FUCT, and as it manifests in his life and art. People who have been following Brunetti since the DEN ONE days speak about him with reverence: Too real to be an enigma, too tough to be ephemeral, but a legend and an icon all the same.
OK here goes… I can’t begin this conversation without acknowledging how strange things are in the world right now. Wall Street is down the road from where I am but it is also happening everywhere. I know this is a heavy question to start with, but have these upheavals influenced your thinking and your work?
I have always been politically aware. Always. I knew this was coming years ago. The USA has entrenched itself so deep with Middle Eastern affairs [that] it has finally come to bite us in the ass; Middle Eastern affairs meaning: supporting murderous hostile occupations throughout the Middle East. For example, Palestine – who are finally trying to climb out from under the apartheid of Israel [and] the USA – are finally seeking statehood at the UN, rightfully so. Obama has said he will veto this move. This has, in turn, isolated America from the rest of the world. Obama has completely lied in regards to Palestine statehood (see his speech in Cairo). Americans need to realize that Republicans and Democrats are the same exact thing. The US government is controlled by AIPAC: they make the decisions; they are the shot callers. With every election, every candidate panders to AIPAC due to campaign contributions, and the power they harness.
Currently, the US government is trying to “Wag the Dog” and invent these ludicrous stories of Iran teaming up with the “Mexican drug cartel,” who are “plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador.” This is fabricated to distract people from looking at the real problem: Wall Street. Israel [and the] USA are just itching to attack Iran, war is big business. All of this is directly tied to the criminals on Wall Street.
Tell me more about your political awareness and your art. How do they relate?
FUCT is not my art. It is a brand, with well-thought-out graphics and illustrations applied to garments, advertisements, photos etc. If you look at the entire entity as a whole, in theory, it could be considered art. I guess my mere being itself is the art. As I stated prior, I have always been immersed in politics, the government and world affairs. As a human being I feel it is my obligation to be aware. It is the force which controls the world, the economy, the people. I cannot walk around blindly being fed the news via the Western media. I have an immense library, in which I have read every book. I love to travel and meet people, I am the guy at the dinner table that will indeed bring up the forbidden topic of “politics and religion”.
Yes, I changed the orientation of that first question a little bit because I realised I wanted to know more about how political awareness fits into art for you, rather than how it fits in with FUCT. It makes sense to me that being aware and continuing to evolve – personally, politically, artistically – are key. I also think that this is especially difficult to do right now. There is always an option to close off because the world feels too messed up. Why do you think it’s important to stay open, stay evolving?
For me personally, I have a four year-old daughter. I want something left for her in 20 years. At the rate the government / economy is going there will be nothing. Everyone needs to evolve, and research what is taking place. The USA are the masters of deception, tricking the citizens via the controlled media. People close off, because they feel betrayed by their government. They were lied to. Most of the US citizens that pay taxes do not even know where it is going.
Can you explain a bit more about your art practice as separate to FUCT, and your plans for that?
I began FUCT while I was young, my thinking process had not developed to the current state it is in. My art and FUCT are different in the sense that FUCT is a brand, strictly for commerce and making a living, whilst my art is something I do daily, instinctively. Draw, paint, sculpt, photograph and so forth. However, my taste and thoughts cross over into some of the FUCT content. Currently, I am very much into theory, and the process of my art. When I make it, I I always need a synopsis or meaning or it is not relevant to me. Art is very subjective, depending who you talk to. I was born an artist, it is what I do. It’s that simple.
I moved to Marfa, Texas, to concentrate more on making art. I felt I had too many creative distractions in my peripheral to work in Los Angeles, so I left. My close friend Matt Jones turned me on to Marfa a while back. When I went there I felt a strong sense of support in the arts community. Marfa’s popularity is primarily based on the Donald Judd Foundation. [The Chinati Foundation is the contemporary museum founded by Judd in Marfa]. The town is very small, population 2000, everyone knows each other, etc. Christopher Wool lives and works in Marfa, Emmelie is always talking with Boyd Elder, the illustrator who did the Eagles album covers throughout the 70s, he lives there. It’s a great place. Los Angeles, at least to my knowledge, is too caught up in ‘street art’ and hype-driven openings, which produce the worst piles of shit I have ever seen. Just dreadful to look at.
Right back at the beginning, can you remember what you wanted FUCT to be? what was the space that you wanted it to fill for people?
I wanted FUCT to be the middle finger in the air, in the space of only surf and skate companies.(This was long before “street wear” came to fruition)
If you were just starting out in 2011, do you think FUCT would have happened?
FUCT would not have happened as a brand in 2011, FUCT would have become a movement.
I think in a way FUCT does qualify as a movement. It has inspired so many people for better and for worse (I know your feelings on Shephard Fairey etc). It has changed things in a lot of different fields and caused progress. Do you look at FUCT as a particular chapter, or is it still evolving?
I look at it as a chapter in my life. However, I am still evolving as a person.
What was the last thing you saw, read, heard, felt or did that made you go ‘holy shit’?
Watching Rick Perry on the Republican debate. Everything that came out of his mouth was horrific.
What was the last thing that made you go ‘holy shit’ in a good way?
My daughter continuously does things that amaze me.
Tell me about Love Awareness. Actually I want to make that a bit more specific: ‘Love Awareness’ sounds hopeful. It seems to fit in with what we have been talking about. Does it, for you?
Yes, I would agree with that. It is hopeful. Originally, it was just a name for the FUCT blog but has developed into something more, it seems to have taken on a life of its own. We began receiving emails about (and accusing us of) being a cult and so forth. That is where the inspiration for “The Doctrine” viral commercials stemmed from. We decided to make The LAPG come to life via film. I still need to film the third and final clip. It ties the first two together.
I think it’s interesting how, at the moment, people in creative fields but also more consumer-based ones are taking it upon themselves to send messages out to people that there is still hope. In a way, it’s consumerism being turned on its head – it’s like using marketing to get alternative viewpoints and ‘the truth’ out there. Is that another way that FUCT is evolving?
FUCT has always been an honest brand. We do not have a board of directors or shareholders to report to. FUCT has always been subversive counter culture in the purest form. It’s not an act we take on because it’s trendy to be nihilistic for a season. What we put forth is what we are. FUCT has very deep roots in various subcultures.
What is the future of FUCT?
The future of FUCT is strong. We have always been on the path of revolution / anti-government / anti-big business, therefore consumers want to support our brand. They feel like it matters, and can sense the legitimacy in what we create. It is very communal in that sense. We are bringing on board some really creative kids from up north to shake things up even more. The things they are doing are reminiscent of what FUCT is currently doing. Very DIY group of kids. Also, we are in the process of compiling and releasing a FUCT book, spanning the existence of the brand.
After everything you’ve done, if you had one message, what would it be?
Jail the Feds, Free the Heads.