“Indispensable” is a series that asks the de Young’s Artists in Residence to describe a tool that’s essential to their work.
“I cut myself all the time. She never does.”
t.w.five, the de Young’s artists in residence for the month of September, don’t list their own names in their promotional materials or project description—in a picture on their website, their backs are turned, faces obscured. They’ve worked with cut vinyl for seven years, and they do, “…everything together in the work, like absolutely everything. There’s a synchronicity.”
But they differ when it comes to knives. The one from Sweden uses a shiny yellow model; the one from Brazil has a version that’s more utilitarian, as grey and boxy as a landline telephone. They express themselves with these knives, making big sweeping slices as they remove strips from the rolls of vinyl that lie on the gallery floor, or using them for the small, delicate cuts that mark out a subtle facial expression or the drape of a piece of clothing.
Their creative collaboration blurs the lines between them, but the one from Brazil prefers some distinction when it comes to her tools, carefully identifying hers with a system of secret marks. The one from Sweden then replicates these marks on her own tools, blurring those lines again. It’s also fun to mess with each other. “She adds marks to my tools just to piss me off.”
And then there’s the fact that one of them has lost her fingertips multiple times while the other one’s hands are unscarred. The one from Sweden thinks to herself as she lines up the cut: “Ruler there. Knife there. Fingers gone. OK, cut.” The one from Brazil is methodical also, but she might be more easily distracted. “I talk too much when I’m cutting.”
They point out that a knife is even included in the artwork they're making now: on the east wall of the gallery a little vinyl knife sits on a vinyl table top. But there’s only one knife in the picture. “Ah, I see you only included the yellow one. Interesting,” says the one from Brazil.