Publisher: Possible Books Dokument Press
Publication date: 2018
Canvas rating: *****
It’s hard to pin down the type of work that Brad Downey creates – a mix of performance, installation, and painting that is often presented in public and recorded on video. Though born in the US, the artist has been living in Europe since 2004 and most of his interventions take place in cities there. Slapstick Formalism is a title he has used to describe his oeuvre, and this book represents the first time his work (spanning 20 years) has been cataloged. It not only contains documentation of his creations, but also interviews and contributions that help provide readers with a better sense of his practice. In his conversation with Marc Wellman for example, we gain insight into his training, his thoughts on categorizing his work as post-internet art, and his relationship with social media.
He has taken on society’s smartphone obsession in the series Stolen Passwords, candid photographs of straphangers on their phones with their lock codes superimposed on the image. The impact of his more performative public interventions is at times hard to translate via a series of images, though readers can still appreciate how transgressive his concepts can be. Time and again, we see Downey challenging our perceptions of public space, shaking us out of routines and reveries to comprehend our surroundings and society in a new way. His earlier work Broken Bike Lane, wherein he reconfigures Berlin bike lanes using tape, exemplifies this. Armed with an idea and everyday material, Downey is able to disrupt and transform a daily experience in public space.