The Sandler brothers have brought their “dysfunctional family theatre” to the streets of Toronto, emphasizing the awkward parallels between self and truth. Originally from Connecticut and now based in Brooklyn, Joshua and Zak have built a comfort with one another that is channeled through performance and installation, photography and theatrics, possessing a creativity that is boundless and raw.
Don’t Worry Mom features a series of photographs with quirky and directional captions along with video installations that elaborate on experiences and sentiment accumulated since their early years. The work also stems from turbulent times and in some pieces a fleeting lack of control.
(Josh) “I was taking Ritalin from the age of 6 and I spent many nights staring at my ceiling unable to sleep, with thoughts racing through my head. It was strange to be young (12-13) and have such tumultuous mental activity. I was really aware at that time that I was probably the only person I knew who was like this. It certainly shaped who I am today. I still think too much, but I am at peace with it and in fact it is a general condition of being that I depict in my video work all the time.“
(Zak) “My brother and I spent many years beating the crap out of each other, our fights were really brutal and I think that underlying desire to hurt one another lends itself to a real feeling of closeness and intimacy as adults because we’ve spent so much time tearing each other apart physically and psychologically.”
Don’t Worry Mom also stresses actualization through a means of awkward deliverance.
(J) “We have always been very honest about our emotions and have always been very drawn to absurdity as a kind of escape, before and after we became artists. Our artistic style is basically just a product of who we are, which is essentially adult-children (kids in their 30’s).”
There is a reactionary feeling with the exhibit in the sense that material prompts some gasps and gulps, intentionally. Meshing awkwardness with the formation of one’s ‘public meets private persona’ can surface unnerving yet invigorating content. The numerous (six in total) videos are also a focal point.
(J) “I think different people will have different reactions to the videos…..It might make them uncomfortable, but hopefully in a way that will make them consider the source of that uncomfortably.”
(Z) “I’m proud of the work, but suppose that the pieces where Josh and I are performing together (like the private island or baseballs) are closest to my heart and the most fun for me to produce because we’ve been ‘playing’ in this way for such a long time. There’s a lot of trust. “
The brothers have been working together for about fifteen years now gradually honing their collaborative efforts while coming from contrasting backgrounds.
(Z) “There’s generally a lot of thinking and strategy that goes into the process in part because there are two of us and our individual processes differ greatly. In fact, it can be very difficult to find a compromise at times. I come from a performance tradition, which informs my wanting to focus more on the nature and tone of the performance whereas Josh studied photo and video in graduate school, so I think he thinks about things more visually and conceptually.”
(J) “I would say the majority of my influences are outside of fine art and in general they are very ‘low-brow’. GG Allin would be a good example of one. Also, I have lately been inspired by Michael Haneke and in particular “Benny’s Video.” I was also really moved by the film “Dog Tooth”, which I saw recently. In general I think I take a lot of inspiration as an artist from the stupid things insecure and vain people say at parties and art events. Actually a lot of ideas I have had for videos have come from these situations.”
(Z) “I’m a huge fan of Italian theatre company, Societas Rafello Sanzio – they are a huge inspiration to me.“
To see more of Josh and Zak’s work visit www.joshandzak.com.
Check out their short film called The Evan Trilogy, about a manic depressive friend of the two, that covers topics such as suicide and prostitution.
Don’t Worry Mom runs until August 29th at 1172 Queen Street West[gallerywest]