Interview: Dennis and Debbie Club
One of our top 10 shortlisted Sluice_screens films is The Strip by Dennis and Debbie Club. Charlie Levine finds out a little more about their inspiration and love of River Phoenix.
Charlie Levine: Can you introduce yourselves and a little about your practice?
Dennis and Debbie Club: At the heart of our practice is the assumption that our current reality is an anxiety-inducing, misery-producing and fundamentally unkind construct, made up from ideologies that are hollow, yet still somehow manage to keep us in the crushing hold of endless affirmation of its inherent logic. This is why we work digitally - we know the virtual is the medium in which fantasy, ideology and reality collide in the most horrifying and stunning of ways. We use 3D modelling software to either reconstruct already existing objects and places or create fictional ones, which we then animate and weave into a narrative with an original score resulting in videos that speak of alienation and cheerful nihilism.
CL: I love how you describe your work as being 'cheerful nihilism', can you remember the moment or action that triggered your way of thinking? When and how did you see the world as 'anxiety-inducing, misery-producing and fundamentally unkind construct'?
D&D: It is an accumulation of experiences really, rather than a singular event. A mixture of being disillusioned with the family unit, the deaths of early 90s idols, our culture’s substitution of the critic with relentlessly affirmative marketing departments, the lie of upward social mobility, the apocalyptic chase for legacy, all tightly consolidated with specific biographical events. This in combination with a distinct lack of agency – having no monetary, social or cultural weight – rightfully resulted at the point of existential nihilism. Once landed there though, it is a liberation. Exclaiming that there is no such thing as legacy for anyone is a celebratory act of levelling the field again. This is why we describe our version of nihilism as cheerful. It is a way of reclaiming agency in a structurally unkind society.
CL: In an aside you mentioned the death of River Phoenix, what and who inspires you?
D&D: It's not inspiration that drives us; we are far too bitter, alienated, desperate, socially envious and anxious for that to work. We are negative creeps. As such we are always attracted to all things broken, systems in a failure state and the losers. It's not about what is, but the potential of what has never been - celebrity death is a gateway to that, so is nihilism, and another big part of it is a defiant, nonsensical hope that things might turn out alright eventually. It is a mixture of Thomas Ligotti's horror, Don DeLillo's antagonism and Andy Kaufman's anarchism.
Dennis and Debbie Club is one of 10 shortlisted artists for the inaugural winner of the Sluice_screens prize. The Sluice_screens prize is a new award for a screen based artists and was organised by Sluice__ with Berlin based ascribe, an online organisation which promotes the correct credit and copyright for screen based artists. The Sluice_screens ↄc Prize is a new and innovative prize designed specifically for a new generation of artists who are working digitally with video, sound, and web. The competition was judged by Charlie Levine (Sluice__curator), Ali Hilmans(The Hospital Club curator) and Maria McConaghy (ascribe COO and curator). Over 200 artists entered and each work was judged anonymously on its merits.
The Strip is an audio-visual installation featuring looping CGI animations displayed over 3 screens.