Fastwürms Donky@Ninja@Witch: A Living Retrospective
by Philip Monk
The Art Gallery of York University, Toronto, ON, Canada, 2011
112 pp., llus. col., b/w. $24.00
Reviewed by Rob Harle
This book will cast a wonderful spell on your imagination. It is a combination of documentation, catalogue and critical discussion of the living retrospective exhibition at the AGYU (Art Gallery of York University) by the zany artistic combo, Dai Skuse and Kim Kozzi, á la Fastwürms. “The AGYU steals, but only with good will and the best of intentions. And it only steals from the best. Mimicking artists’ strategies, the AGYU is already in on the anti-establishment game. Our collaboration with Fastwürms to produce DONKY@NINJA@WITCH was a highly unusual venture: a hybrid interspecies exchange, so to speak, that contaminated both the institution and the anti-establishment” (p. 25).
Fastwürms was founded in 1979 and is the “cultural project, trademark, and joint authorship of Kim Kozzi and Dai Skuse”. This entity is “a rare ‘avatar artist’, crafted by joint authorship”. It is about “multidisciplinary, multimedia artworks that integrate time-based, performance, and visual art in the context of immersive installations, social exchange and event architecture principles” (p. 108).
The book is full of colour illustrations and photos and has an Introduction by curator Philip Monk, a love letter, a poem (an appropriation of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues), a list of works shown in the exhibition and three essays, as follows. Learning To Be Donky by Emelie Chhangur; Props To The Fairy People by Jon Davies; Nature In The Network by Sally McKay. The essays are an essential attribute of the book as the whole thing is a little parochial, in that Fastwürms is very much a Toronto based artists’ group. Sure they have exhibited outside Canada, but this show and many of their colleagues referred to, are part of the Toronto art scene.
It is a credit to the AGYU and contributors to the book that an outsider, and one from the Antipodes, can gain a good understanding and appreciation of this duo’s radical, DIY artwork! They unite “every creature, scrap of cultural detritus, and social scene into one harmonious and hedonistic union. The arena for their aesthetic alchemy is subcultural style – working class, youth, stoner, witch, goth, queer, cat-fancier, pirate, country, anarchist; all filtered through pop-mediation, camp adoration/irony, and an amateur’s loving hand” (p. 47).
The Würms love animals for their own sake, especially cats, but then these feline creatures have a long connection with witches, which of course is a fundamental aspect of Skuse and Kozzi’s art and life. They cast spells wherever they go, in whatever materials are at hand. Their ethical system, or personal manifesto “which brings together the most radical and compelling elements of witch and queer cultures is, the witches code of, “do what you will, harm unto none” (p.47).
An entertaining, inspiring and radical book about a pair of entertaining, inspiring and radical artists.