Purple Magazine
— F/W 2007 issue 8

Dash Snow

interview OLIVIER ZAHM 
introduction JEFF RIAN
self-portrait DASH SNOW with his father

 

Dash Snow’s journey from the life of a furtive underground tagger to the upper-eschelon of New York galleries was uncalculated but no accident. The madness of a runaway’s life distilled down to art.

It’s not yet an art movement, but it is a seismic rumbling in the Manhattan art underground. It emanates from the studios of Ryan McGinley, Dan Colen, and Dash Snow, three artists who form the core of a whirlwind of interest. McGinley, primarily a photographer, and Colen, a sculptor and collage-maker, are the more aboveground of the three. McGinley, now 29, was the youngest artist ever to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum. One of the sculptures of 28-year old Colen sold to the Saatchi collection for $500,000. Another sculpture shown at Deitch Projects, composed of a wall covered in collages and newspaper clippings, was titled Secrets and Cymbals, Smoke and Scissors (My Friend Dash’s Wall in the Future) (2006). Snow, at 25, is the most elusive and enigmatic, but his show at the Rivington Arms gallery, on Joey Ramone Place in Manhattan, was packed with onlookers. To find Snow, people first have to find McGinley or Colen. Of course, this makes the mysterious Mr. Snow even more attractive to an art world currently mad for youthful expressionism … and expressionism it is.

Adrift on his own since the age of 13, Snow at one point became a New York street tagger. He chronicled his wayward life and its curiosities using a Polaroid camera, whose emissions he has saved but not archived. Yet some of Snow’s work, including clippings from The New York Post on which he ejaculated, and at times covered in glitter, began to emerge in selected bursts, at the insistence of others, in art exhibitions that included anti-propaganda collages (like Colen’s wall sculpture). But Snow is resistant to the privileged term artist, even though his lifestyle is loaded with solipsistic nonutilitarian matter — the material record of self-abandonment — that attracts attention. He doesn’t seem to consider the aesthetics of artistic distance, like, say, Oscar Wilde. He’s more like Jean Genet than Nan Goldin or Larry Clark, and projects a life, not an image. He is what he “images” and imagines.

What is revealed is not artistic accident, but artistic consistency: images conceived with intention, but not the intention of a windy theorist. This generation may indeed be telling a former generation of pretentious art fops, in their comfortable lofts with their highfalutin philosophy, to go fuck themselves. These three artists are in fact artful masturbators, splattering their cum on the face of their art. Think of Vito Acconci, hidden under a ramp, jerking-off on the floor, seducing visitors with raw, but comfortably unseen creative spew (Seedbed, 1972, Sonnabend Gallery). Snow and his friends are neither artistic anthropologists with cameras nor critics of consumption. They aren’t trying to break into the art world in order to break it up. Their distrust of the world — especially Snow’s — makes them different.

Peter Schjeldahl, a former Village Voice art critic from Acconci’s generation, once wrote that art movements, in New York anyway, begin in bars where artists meet artists, which leads to them looking at each other’s work, to making connections to galleries, and to their creating a new industry, such as conceptual art. For those who remember, a few decades later, at the dawn of the millennium, a group of students called Art Club 2000 enacted their art as advertising. Snow, McGinley, and Colen are a walled-in tribe, and Snow its crazy shaman, performing and chronicling his life, which the world sees as art. This he must accept. Harbored in his pictures and collages are seemingly practical fears — vestiges of Bosch warning the sinners, and of the violent aesthetics of Caravaggio, chopping off heads for leering crowds. Snow gives us sex and fashion, blood and drugs, anti-establishment politics and personal estrangement. What we might glean from Snow’s art is different from the aesthetic abandonment of the Dadaists, the anti-materialism of the Beats, or even the raging forgetfulness of rock and roll. He brings us further off the pedestal of art than did Rodin, whose Burghers of Calais stand on the floor at our height, and closer to the self-sacrifice of Calais’ actual Burgher’s — who, as old men during the Hundred Year’s War in 1837, half-naked with nooses around their necks, sacrificed themselves for their town.

Snow embodies self-abandonment in the face of the unknown, the unpredictable, and the untrustworthy. He reveals, expressly and expressively, the power of violent self-denial. He reacts to a world in which meaning is valued materialistically, but paradoxically, where prices rise quickly f­or such radical self-revelation. He will surely profit. But the underlying message is foreboding.

Baudelaire wrote of the importance of artistic sacrifice. Snow isn’t sacrificing himself. He’s telling the world to fuck off. His seeming daring is a counterpoint to the world’s false optimism. His art is fearlessly, if impractically, idealistic.

 

OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s great to see you so in love with each other! Tell me how you met.
DASH SNOW — That’s a good story. But then there’s three sides to every story: the truth, the man’s version, and the woman’s version. Consider the man’s version. We were at this party. I’m with some friends. I don’t know how I got there. She was going out with another man at the time. Not quite as manly as myself, however! [Laughs] That was a joke. So, she was with a man, but I didn’t know it. She was wearing this really foxy, tight black dress. You know the scene in The Godfather — not that I like The Godfather or the Mafia — but remember when he kills the cop and has to go to Sicily? He’s walking around with his bodyguard. He sees this woman — this great woman — and the bodyguard says something like, “It looks like you just got hit by a thunderbolt.” It was sort of like that. But she wasn’t into me. She wasn’t having it.
JADE — That’s not true!
DASH SNOW — So I went up to her. I’m not normally so blunt about it, but I looked at her and I said, I’m not leaving this party without kissing your mouth. I am not leaving here without a kiss. But she wouldn’t do it.
JADE — Well, the guy I was dating was ten feet away. I was trying to have some respect.
DASH SNOW — But you wanted to.
JADE — Yes, I did.
DASH SNOW — I didn’t see her for a year after that party. Then we met again. But I thought she was beyond my reach, that I wasn’t clean enough — mentally or physically. I had my hair in two braids, and one of them had come out, all fucked up, and she said, “What’s up with your style, man?” [Laughs] So I suggested we get together and she could teach me how to braid, and I could teach her something else. [Laughs] But when we finally got together and made love, after me thinking about her for so long, it was the most magical thing in the world. We slept together for a week just touching and kissing before we actually made love.
JADE — Before I got pregnant!

OLIVIER ZAHM — So it’s good to have long hair!
DASH SNOW — Actually, I want to get rid of the hair and the beard. I’m so over it. But I’m making a portrait book. I want to have a wig made of my hair, and a fake beard made from my beard, and have all the people I shoot wear them for their portraits. The last photo might be a girl with cancer, bald from chemotherapy, wearing the wig. Then I’ll give the wig to her, so she won’t have to buy one herself. They’re so expensive. Beards are flavor-savers, though. Eat pussy and you can still smell it later.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is this the first time you’ve fallen in love?
DASH SNOW — No, I’ve been in love before. But I’m definitely content now. I’m happy.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Tell me about your collaboration. Besides your baby, I mean! Do you work together?
DASH SNOW — We’re always collaborating. It’s about being together all the time. Living with her. Other than being inspired, we’re together in this. It sounds stupid, but my friend Aron says we’re “never not working!” Like it’s a joke. I would never work a real job, but I feel like my life is a job. I walk down the street, and I’m working. In this room, even if we were not talking, even if you guys were both asleep, I’d be awake, thinking, working. Always thinking. Always working.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Does being in love interfere with your work? I mean does it change your way of working?
DASH SNOW — You mean from a negative state of mind to a more positive one?

OLIVIER ZAHM — Yes, something like that.
DASH SNOW — Not really. My mindset doesn’t really ever change. But I’m definitely happier. She’s a trooper. She puts up with me, which takes a lot of patience!

OLIVIER ZAHM — I can imagine.
JADE — But when you’re this in love, it’s effortless. Whatever problems there are aren’t big problems. Just part of what it is.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Part of the story.
DASH SNOW — Yes. Once I bought her some beautiful stones, and I buried them in the ground. I told her there was treasure buried there, and she’d have to dig it up.
JADE — It was beautiful, the image of my dirty hands holding these beautiful stones.
DASH SNOW — Treasure for my pirate. But she’s my treasure. All I really care about is this super beautiful girl here next to me, and art. That’s it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Are you American or French, Jade?
DASH SNOW — Another good story. She was born in Paris. The first thing she drank when she was born was champagne! Her father owned a big nightclub in Paris called The Malibu. The Stones used to go there. But you tell the story, Jade. I love this!
JADE — My father had the club in 1973, I guess. It’s New Year’s Eve, and my mother is super pregnant. Just at the stroke of midnight she’s on the dance floor with a glass of champagne. Three minutes after Happy New Year! she felt me coming, like right away. I guess I wanted to party, too. On the way to the hospital her friends had to push their way through people on the streets to get by. Everybody was partying. Anyway, I was born a couple of hours later, and they gave me champagne.

No title, 2006/07 collage

OLIVIER ZAHM — First baby of the year, maybe?
JADE — I was the second baby born in Paris in 1974. A boy was born before me.
DASH SNOW — And now I got a baby in my baby!

OLIVIER ZAHM — Your baby is a girl, right? I have a girl named Asia. Are you particularly attracted to French women, Dash?
DASH SNOW — Well, you asked me if I’d ever been in love before. I would have liked to have said, no, never, but I was completely in love with Agathe. I still am in love with her, in the best way. She’s my right arm. She’s a pirate like me. I love her, and I’ll always love her, but in a totally different way. I don’t know if I have a thing for French women. But you see one and you just want to bite your hand off. They both just happen to be French. That’s a good answer, no?
JADE — Yeah!
DASH SNOW — It’s just what it is. Let me turn on this light over here. This is great. I’m really comfortable with you. Sometimes these things can be so formal. But, we’re on the same page.

OLIVIER ZAHM — That’s the way we prefer it at Purple…. This room is really small.
DASH SNOW — We were in another room before that was much more romantic.
JADE — It had a bathtub in the middle.
DASH SNOW — It was all red. Shiny red. Hooker red. Red vinyl boots red. Black trim and a white ceiling. Beautiful.

OLIVIER ZAHM — I’m interested in your tattoos, Dash, because they’re beautiful, and beautiful tattoos are so rare.
DASH SNOW — Yeah, people do tend to get the same ones. My theme is sort of anti-superpower. This one is of Ted Kazinsky. You know who he is? They called him the Unibomber — university plus bomber. It’s a tattoo of the FBI’s Most Wanted sketch of him. He was their number one most wanted man for more than fifteen years. But he didn’t look like this at all, so it’s really a tattoo of nobody. I read his book and his manifesto, and a few other books about him. He was a boy math genius. Sixteen years old and already in graduate school at Harvard. When he was teaching about technology at Harvard, the CIA was doing mind-control tests on students. Some of the students he taught eventually worked building weapons of mass destruction. He became anti-technology. He based his life on Thoreau’s Walden, and built a cabin in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming. No telephone. He had his own garden. Herbs and tomatoes. He would fertilize it with his own shit. Really crazy. He’d been a teacher, making a lot of money —a successful career. But he threw it all away, and went on a destructive path. He sent bombs in the mail to professors who were teaching technology. Personally, I don’t agree with murder — unless it’s the right guy! You know what my next tattoo will be? The Richard Prince skull. I’d like him to draw it on me, and then have a tattoo shop fill it in. He’s the best. Really one of the artists I have the most respect for. I love Daido Moriyama, too. So fucking good.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Daido did some beautiful books.
DASH SNOW — They call him the stray dog. You know the book Remix? The photo of the hooker he chased down an alleyway? Amazing. If you ever think you’re good at taking pictures, all you have to do is take a look at Larry Clark’s Tulsa or Teenage Lust, and you’ll realize there’s someone out there who is so much better. You’re going to love this song. Remember the movie The Silence of the Lambs?

OLIVIER ZAHM — Sure I do.
DASH SNOW — Remember when he puts his dick in between his legs and he’s all dolled up, all made up, and he looks in the mirror and he says, “I’d fuck me, I’d fuck me hard.” This is the song playing in the background when he does that.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Who’s the band?
DASH SNOW — They’re called Q Lazarus. Super good. So creepy.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You really put your whole life into your work, Dash.
DASH SNOW — I feel like such a dick saying my work is my life, but if I wasn’t living, I wouldn’t be working, and if I wasn’t working, I wouldn’t be living. Creating keeps me alive. Some live it, some love it. I really don’t know if people like what I do or not. I really don’t fucking care. But some people really love it. Some people hate it. I’m still working on it. On myself, that is. But I can’t believe this. I first spoke to you at my first solo show, the one with all my photos.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Yes, that’s right.
DASH SNOW — Not that many people saw that show. It was the first time I tried to edit it all down. All the photos I’d taken since I was sixteen years old, narrowed down to 83 blowups. Really fucking dark. But it was an honest portrayal of what was going on. Some of the photos by themselves would have been sexy; some would have been fun; some of them were really so fucking dark. I just wanted to put it all together. I had never really shown those photos to anyone. I took pictures and made work for a long time before I showed anyone. I would only show my friends. You get too fucked up taking photos, sometimes. And afterwards you don’t remember what happened. But you have the photos. You have the moment. You have the memories.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You only shoot film, right? Never digital.
DASH SNOW — No, never digital.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Polaroid or film?
DASH SNOW — Polaroid and film. It goes back to why I have this tattoo. I don’t like technology at all. When I take pictures I only include technology that’s important. Lighters are OK — and dildos! Even this TV: I want to put a scarf on top of it. I don’t like the screen. You go to a really nice old bar and there’s a big fucking TV, and you find yourself with your mouth open watching the stupid fucking screen, when you should be looking at the woman you want to make love to in the bathroom, and fucking have a good time. It’s like some hick on his porch, with that glowing blue light, one of those bug killer lamps. If you’re watching TV, you’re like the bug. You need the blue light, but the blue light kills you.

OLIVIER ZAHM — But I thought your generation never watches TV.
DASH SNOW — No, my generation watches too much TV. I don’t consider myself a part of it. They’ve embraced corporations and technology to such a degree that it’s destroyed music. I mean, there’s still good music happening out there, but it’s not on the fucking TV or on the radio. All my favorite things — movements or music — are all anti-establishment. But now, rock and roll, if you could even call it that, or rap, or all this other shit, all they talk about is making money. They don’t care about putting out their own shit. It’s all about embracing this world.

OLIVIER ZAHM — With the new technology, it’s so easy to make music, and to put it on MySpace. DASH SNOW — That’s cool, but at the same time, there’s a record of every single thing you type in on a computer. I might be paranoid, but the Bush administration has admitted it about the surveillance. Homeland security. I don’t know how many million people are being researched, patrolled. I don’t agree with this. I’d much prefer to remain anonymous.
JADE — It’s just another form of control.
DASH SNOW — It scares me. It really does.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Maybe because you’ve been in trouble with the police you’re more aware of this.
DASH SNOW — Yeah, it’s true, and I wish I’d never been in trouble. But even if I hadn’t been, I would still be wary of just how much they pay attention. It really freaks me out.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It seems like many people of your generation have had trouble with the police. Pete Dogherty, for example.
DASH SNOW — He’s been in trouble for drugs and stuff, right?

OLIVIER ZAHM — Nonstop.
DASH SNOW — But if you’re so famous, and you’re in the tabloids, and you’ve been caught a hundred times for drugs, let your friends hold your drugs! [Laughs] Come on! Like Robert Downey Jr, the actor. He’s amazing. He was caught with drugs, over and over. He went to jail for it. He would be in a hotel room, and the police would raid it. Anonymous tip, they’d say. But nobody tipped the police. They would just say, Robert Downey’s in there so if we go there we’ll probably find drugs. I don’t compare myself to these people, but they need to be more careful. So do I. [Laughs] Don’t we all.

No title, presented at “The End of Living…The Beginning of Survival” at C.F.A., Berlin

OLIVIER ZAHM — Yes, but it’s also a sign of the times that the police are harassing people. If you just want to lead your own life, and you feel really free …
DASH SNOW — You deal with the consequences. I feel it’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’ve been in so many horrible situations. Jails and things. Which I don’t care to delve into, but so many times I’ve sat for days and days thinking, fuck, when am I going to get out of here? It’s the worst thing ever. I’m really restless. Not good at sitting in a small space. I’d be like, I gotta get outta here, I gotta get outta here. I’d be freaking out. But now looking back — and I hope that it’s way back — I wouldn’t trade a second of it. Not to say that it builds your character. I’m not a better man because of it. I’m not even a man. I’m a boy. All these situations suck. But I learned a few things. Good or bad — whether they were painful or not — I wouldn’t trade them.

OLIVIER ZAHM — We’re in a very conservative period. We’re controlled everywhere we turn.
DASH SNOW — It’s insane. America is out of control. It’s so intense. I was driving cross-country last year with my friend Dan Colen. We were at a truck stop, and it was like something out of the sixties. We’re in the middle of nowhere and I have a long hair and a beard, a T-shirt and some tattoos. Some guy says, you fucking long hairs! Like the rednecks beating up Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider. It was really scary energy. Freaked me out. If they only knew me, they would know I’m the most loving person. People have such a preconceived notions of others, and how they are. You can’t judge a book by its cover…. No, America is beyond a police state now. It’s outrageous. The last time I was arrested in New York was on Thanksgiving Day, a few years ago. I didn’t have turkey! Now I don’t celebrate any holidays other than Halloween.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You don’t celebrate holidays?
DASH SNOW — All the rich people in New York leave for the summer, and we then have the city to ourselves. Only there are a lot of people you don’t see because they have to go see their families. But the pirate Agathe Snow is the best. She always has an orphans’ dinner at Christmas and Thanksgiving for everyone who doesn’t go to their families, or have a family to go to. Agathe cooks and it’s perfect. That’s your family. I never really had anyone supporting me, familywise. I was a runaway for a long time. Running away, getting arrested, juvenile detention — all that shit. So I had to find a team. Find my own family, which eventually happened, with Agathe and these kids. A team of people that became family. They say blood is thicker than water, but sometimes it’s not. Or maybe it’s wine that’s thicker than blood! Let’s just turn water into wine! I’m working on it! Speaking of that, we went to Notre Dame today and I took a photograph. A woman was upset about it. She started yelling at me — in English. Don’t know how she knew I spoke English. The confession booth looked like an airport interrogation room. It’s glass. Modern. It’s so fucking weird. You can see the person confessing when you walk by. It’s fucked up. But fuck them for being in there and telling their stories. Something I’ll never do! Keep that shit to yourself! Anyway, getting back to trouble, I was basically homeless for half of a year, after I got out the juvenile detention center in Georgia. I was there for 28 months. After six months you’re allowed to have a call from your family. But I refused to accept their calls, and I was punished for it. Manual labor. Digging holes and filling them back in. After 16 months you’re allowed a family visit, but I refused that, too. Eventually, my father did visit me. It’s the only thing I really feel guilty about. I love my father. But I stole his wallet! It had 80 bucks in it that I used to escape back to New York. I lived in the projects in the south Bronx for about three weeks. I was 14 years old….

OLIVIER ZAHM — When you were in jail, were you thinking about art? About becoming an artist?
DASH SNOW — I didn’t want to be anything. I just wanted to escape. Like The Count of Monte Cristo. I wanted to destroy everything. Like Gigi Allen says, if there was a wall in front of me, I wanted to smash it. If there was a person in front of me, I wanted to smash him. I was so angry at everything. I had a completely different mindset. Being abused and locked up. Every night before you go to bed they make you take all your clothes off, pick your balls up, bend over, open your ass cheeks, open your mouth. They put you through all this shit. The walls of the rooms are painted bright yellow or shades of dark, weird, greenish grey, like in psychiatric hospitals. The colors of the wall aren’t bright red or black. They’re yellow. Another way to control you. It didn’t work, apparently. I bet if I’d made some pieces back then, they’d have been really good. But, you weren’t allowed to make art in these places. You know the movie Full Metal Jacket? Remember the part where the GIs wrap soap in a towel and beat the shit out of another GI? There was this one guy where I was once, who was sort of older than everyone else. You’re only considered a minor until you’re 18, but this guy was over 18. He was in there for raping his mother. I kid you not. He was a real awkward guy with pimples. I didn’t take part in it, but over fifty kids went into his room one night and beat the living shit out of him. Like in the movie. Really fucked up kids. Just insane. But maybe Jean Genet would never have written Lady of the Flowers if he hadn’t gone through stuff like that. I would have loved to meet him. He’s one of my favorite writers.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So you started a diary with pictures. Like collages?
DASH SNOW — I took pictures for a long time before I showed anybody them. A lot of polaroids. Sometimes collages. I have boxes and boxes of them in my house. At the time, I was leading an illegal life. Stealing drugs for money. All this shit. Not making any sort of legitimate money and not living very well. A lot of people were saying I should show these pictures, that I could sell them. But it really felt like an impure gesture to submit them to the world. My work wasn’t for everyone. It was just for the people around me. Too pure of a moment. But, maybe I wouldn’t have met you if I hadn’t shown those things. So I’m happy about it in general. However, there are a lot of the things I feel iffy about. Like maybe people don’t really need to see this, or know this. I mean, I’m not ashamed of anything. I don’t care what people see. But I just feel like a lot of pictures I have are for me, and of pure moments that don’t need to be watered down.

OLIVIER ZAHM — But your friends convinced you to show some of your pictures.
DASH SNOW — Yeah. There’s still a lot that no one has seen, or ever will see.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s a bit like Terry Richardson. When he started to take pictures, they were just of his friends at school. He didn’t want to show them but finally, ten years ago, Aron convinced him he should.
DASH SNOW — I saw his show at Legend. It was amazing. But, as for myself, I wasn’t trying to make art in any way. I was just trying to hold it together, generally bummed out about life. So, why not look through a shoebox of pictures? Maybe it’ll cheer you up, or maybe not. In any case, I have these moments and I have these people. It’s a selfish, reassuring sort of thing.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You love Leonard Cohen. I’m really happy to hear that. But most 20-year-old kids today don’t know anything about him.
DASH SNOW — [Sings: We’re both ugly but we have the music. I love handsome men, but for you, I’ll make an exception.] It was about his affair with Janis Joplin, I think. She was giving him head at the edge of the bed. And she raises her fist and says we are ugly but at least we have the music. I love that old Persuasions song, too. “There’s a thin line between love and hate.”

OLIVIER ZAHM — I thought Leonard Cohen was dead for young people.
DASH SNOW — No, I think he’s been appropriated. I feel like his music is so relevant right now. We need more pure things now. Like romance. I really respect him. I know that he really puts a lot of effort into it. Sometimes he takes a year or two to write a song. Like a true poet.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Will Oldham is a bit like that.
DASH SNOW — Will Oldham is great. I don’t know much of his stuff. But the stuff he did as Bonnie Prince Billy, and Superwolf, with Matt Sweeney, is really good. I met him once. I don’t introduce myself to people, but when you listen to someone’s voice all the time, you feel like you know them. But you don’t want to be like, hey man, I feel like I know you. I don’t do that. But I was DJ-ing at this benefit for Downtown for Democracy. I was playing a song and Will Oldham came in. We didn’t know each other, but he asked me what song I was playing. He’d never heard it before. It was one of my favorite songs. It was cool because I wanted to say hello to him, and I wasn’t going to say hello to him, and then he said hello to me.

OLIVIER ZAHM — I always wanted to do an interview with him. He collaborated with Purple a couple of times. One time I sent him a questionnaire with 15 questions and he only answered two of them, in a sort of a nasty way. I was a bit upset and didn’t print it. He was very upset about that, and said don’t ask me for interviews anymore if you don’t print the answers, or something like that. But then I saw him a few times when he played in Paris. We spoke and he was OK. I think it would be interesting to interview him. I think of him as the spiritual son of Leonard Cohen.
DASH SNOW — For some reason I don’t have them together in my head. But they are similar.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Because he explored the dark side of love too, which is a really beautiful side of it.
DASH SNOW — That’d be a good title: Exploring The Dark Side of Love. I’ve explored that before. Been there. The road less traveled. jade — In Leonard Cohen’s music you can sense the labor he put into the words. The poetry. A lot of searching went into those words.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Personal experience that speaks to everyone in a very direct way.
JADE — But it’s not so spontaneous.
DASH SNOW — No, I think it’s very premeditated, and that he really works at it. Sometimes I listen to one of his records over and over for a week when I’m working on something. Right now I’m reading Shaky, a biography of Neil Young. It’s really good. I think he’s on Leonard Cohen’s level. Leonard has probably been around for longer than Neil, but I have the utmost respect for Neil Young. He also made movies.
JADE — Yeah, one of them came out this year. It’s called…
DASH SNOW — Gold? Not Heart of Gold? Something Gold. It’s him playing country music. It was cool, but not my favorite. There are a few films that show the old stuff. They’re the best. In Jim Jarmusch’s Year of the Horse, there’s some old footage from the seventies when he had really long hair. Super cool. I don’t know if he’s on dope all the time or he’s drunk, but he’s like 20 years old, really handsome, and really skinny. He had these features. He had polio when he was a child and he never gained the weight back, or something. There’s one scene I love him in. The band is in a hotel room and a waiter wheels in a cart of food that has a bouquet of paper flowers on it, and Neil Young keeps lighting it on fire with a candle flame. The band keeps trying to put it out, but he keeps relighting it. It’s just really sweet. Neil howls at the moon. When there’s a full moon and it’s ghoul’s night out, and I need a drink, I do too! His work is sacred, and the world needs sacred works. There’s so much bullshit around. So much advertising. It’s all so impure, and plastic, and fake. But Neil Young goes into a mine, digs deep, and comes back with diamonds. I need to hear that. [Sings with Jade: Ain’t got nothing at all. Ain’t got nothing at all….] Gram Parsons made some special songs too. Make you cry, they’re so beautiful. Did you see Robert Frank’s Cocksucker Blues, the film about The Stone’s Exile On Main Street tour in 1972? The Stones tried to ban it. There’s everything in there. Roadies shooting up. People having sex on an airplane. Keith Richards throwing a television off a balcony, laughing like a young boy! It’s really old and grainy, and black and white, but really fucking good. Let’s make each other a list of our favorite songs and movies and trade. My favorite book right now is You Can’t Win by Jack Black. Not the actor. Best outlaw book ever. Burroughs wrote the introduction. It was his favorite book, too.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What did you do today with Jade?
DASH SNOW — We went to buy Serge Gainsbourg Repetto shoes today, but they were closed. We want them in white, black, and blue. All of them! Five of each pair! You can’t get them in America. I have almost all his records. I love his stuff, even though I don’t speak French. I know what he’s saying just by hearing it. My grandmother is French. Super fucking cool. She asked me how I can I love this music when I don’t understand the words. Then she’d translate the dirtiest words for me!

OLIVIER ZAHM — Yes, Serge was the best of the French performers.
DASH SNOW — I saw the video of him telling Whitney Houston that he wanted to fuck her. Oh, my God. She’s like, “What?!” I was like that when I met Jade!

OLIVIER ZAHM — So how do you feel about New York these days? So many people wanted to leave after September 11, and now it seems like they all want to come back.
DASH SNOW — Yeah, and now they want to raise my rent! But I never complained about New York. I knew people who died in the attack. I was there that day. It did change New York, for the better and for the worse. But if it scared you off, you shouldn’t have been there in the first place. I love loving New York, and I hate hating it. It’s in my blood. Born and raised there. But it’s the worst place to be if you’re not happy. So, leave for a week, come back, see the skyline, and you’re happy again. It’s a thin line between love and hate. [Laughs] New York is a separate nation from America. I declare that I’m a New Yorker, not an American. But New York is becoming more and more like America. Taller, uglier, shinier buildings. I’ve seen the city change so much. But hopefully, the more rules they’ll make, the stronger we’ll get. olivier zahm — I love the sense of community among New York artists. It’s beautiful. You’re really friends. dash snow — It’s my family. It’s getting smaller, though, because of the rent situation. But I do feed off of the energy of the community. I see my friends’ work, and I get excited. Being around other creative people is inspiring.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You call some of your pieces situations.
DASH SNOW — People were saying that I do sculptures, but I’m not the guy in a beret, chiseling away at a piece of marble, making his masterpiece. I can’t do that. I prefer to call them situations. They’re stories. Sometimes the story is more important than the visuals. Trying to preserve a moment. Like A Means to an End, the table I did with all the fucked up stuff on it, the empty bags of coke and dope, and needles and diamond rings and all kinds of stuff. I was living on Avenue C in this really fucked up house. When I moved out it took eleven days to clean it up, and this is all the stuff we found. I wanted to keep some things, like a lighter that was a gift, and then I couldn’t edit it down at all. So I ended up showing all of it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — How did you come up with the idea of using your own sperm in your collages?
DASH SNOW — I was working on Fuck the Police. I know it’s not the most original title. Been said a million times before, but it needs to be said even more often — and acted upon more often, for that matter. Everyday I’d buy the bullshit trashy New York tabloids like The Daily News or The New York Post. On the front page it’s always Paris Hilton driving drunk. But the police detective running the child porn ring is a tiny article way back on page ten. Corrupt police, raping and killing. Hit men for the mafia. Selling drugs. Fucked up things. Every single policeman is fucking corrupt. For years I saved all these disturbing articles. Got it down to about fifty of them. So one day I’m jerking off, and one of the cop’s photo was sitting there, and I thought, “Fuck this guy, why not come on him?” It was really split-second. You know? Why not come on this asshole’s face? So, then when I started framing these photos I started coming on the glass. I don’t know if you’ve ever come on glass before, but it kind of dries and then flakes off. Better to have it on the paper. I did about fifty framed ones, until I realized that if you shake it, it just comes off. So I had to wash all the glass and re-come on all of the fifty paper articles. Lot of work. For about three years I collected articles about Saddam Hussein. Crazy headlines. I came on every single one of them. Looking at his face could kind of kill the mood sometimes. Then Agathe gave me a big tub of glitter. I’d cover the wet cum in glitter. The Berlin show had twenty of those in it. All different colors of glitter. I really liked it. We’re making a book of that show right now — 250 pieces. Eight months of work, locked up by myself, working for days. The party for that show was great. Really fun. A lot of people showed up. I even sang a little. The only way I can deal with my singing voice is if I’ve had a lot of drinks!

OLIVIER ZAHM — I love the fact that you give things away. How would you feel if you saw something you’d given someone show up at an auction?
DASH SNOW — Well, I wouldn’t give that person anything again. And I probably wouldn’t call them for a while. But yeah, sometimes I don’t want to sell my work at all. Rather give it away to a friend. None of my work is ever going to sell in an art fair. I hate those things. They’re like trade shows. It’s like going to a Home Depot and buying lumber. I left the last one I was at feeling so hollow, so unromantic. Drains any kind of love out of it. Leonard Cohen and Serge would not approve. Art isn’t for people with yachts and mansions. It isn’t a hobby for fucking billionaires. It’s for people who are struggling. Real people.

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[Table of contents]

F/W 2007 issue 8

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