BORIS + NATASCHA
The German duo showcase messages from the dead at Art Basel under the guise of the cartoon villains from 1960s cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Boris & Natascha produce bizarre and quirky artwork that often deals in the sombre issue of death, although they always manage to turn it into something exciting and humorous. Their cheeky Grave Rubbery (frottage onto gold paper) is their unique way of receiving messages in the form of anagrams from the dead famous. They manage to pull these pranks by keeping their identity hidden. These secret troublemakers teamed up back in 2003 and have quietly exhibited all over the world. This June, they are exhibiting new works-on-paper at Basel focused around the so-called technique of Grave Rubbery, after which the exhibition is named. The 45 one-off pieces consist of gold-scribed letters etched from the tombstones of famous dead people. Dazed Digital sat them down for a chat…
DD: What sparked the fascination with death you both have?
B+N: Death is not really as scary as the media makes it out to be. We’ve been dead many times.
DD: Do you consider yourselves to be the oracle/mediums? If so what other information have you received from beyond the graves of famous people?
B+N: Yes we do. All additional information can be found in a black envelope that is with our lawyer in Siberia, to be opened in the year 2525. If man is still alive.
DD: If somebody used Grave Rubbery on your grave, what do you think they would spell out?
B+N: We’d preferably disappear via a Tibetean Sky Burial, so there will be no tombstone to talk to. But feel free to talk to the vultures.
DD: Words Lie is what you scribed from Oscar Wilde’s grave, is their a hidden message there? What are your views on Oscar Wilde’s roller-coaster life story?
B+N: Oscar says to refer to his story ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’. Regarding his life: we are not here to judge the Dead. All the famous Dead that we have worked with have had a roller-coaster life.
DD: If you could scribe any famous dead persons grave who would it be? What do you think you would receive back?
B+N: Jesus, Hitler, Queen Mum. We never know beforehand what we will receive. It all happens there at the grave, feeling the magic resonance of the bones.
DD: Why have you chosen to fashion the artwork onto gold paper?
B+N: It was actually the advice of Vincent van Gogh. He said if he had used real gold in his paintings, things could have turned out differently for him: he may have sold a work in his lifetime and may then have felt better about himself and not gone out into the field and shot himself in the stomach. But these things are always easier in hindsight and we like to learn from the Dead.
DD: A few of your ‘missions’ have been interrupted, who caught you? and what were there reactions to your work?
B+N: The Wicked Witch of the East, a grumpy stout french lady and an Austrian guy with a bad haircut, screaming ‘Don’t touch the stones!!!’ Then we get thrown out of the graveyard, sometimes elegantly, sometimes brutally.
DD: 61,000 people visited Art Basel 40, its a great chance for huge exposure. What are you most excited about seeing and encountering during the 4 days?
B+N: The graveyards of course.
Sonita Dowd for DAZED DIGITAL London