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CIRCLE OF DAYZ vol.15 Michael Bühler-Rose

「CIRCLE OF DAYZ」 takes an in-depth look at people with strong ties to DAYZ and people who fascinate DAYZ. For the 15th installment, we interviewed Michael Bühler-Rose, an interdisciplinary artist based in New York City and Mysore, India. And in the spring of 2020 he began the “Boot Foundation”. We asked him about his background and his thoughts on this event.

―――Please tell us about yourself and this project in detail.

Michael Bühler-Rose:I am an artist with a practice based out of the Lower East Side of New York and Mysore, India. The Boot Foundation project began just before Covid. I had done 1 or 2 bootlegs previously, mostly for items I saw and personally wanted, but were not readily available. The first being a t-shirt based on the demo cover for the short-lived NYC hardcore band Side by Side. I think about 20 were produced, I based my version on a photo I saw in book and then later a better photo provided by an owner of the tee. I made a handful of them and mostly gave them to friends and sold a few to cover the production cost. As Covid hit I would see more and more artwork through the lens of possible merch that didn’t exist or was extremely rare and started putting things together mostly for myself and my circle of friends and then the project organically grew over the next 4 year. Now the project is twice monthly groups, often themed, as well as artist collaborations with people like Cali Dewitt, Jonathan Monk, Corey Presha and Joe Horner (Art as Chairs)

―――What do you think about bootleg culture?

Michael Bühler-Rose:It seems like bootleg culture in its best form comes from a place of love and fandom. It seems to be divided into two parts:
1. Re-printing older/possibly rare official issues of a band (for example) whether it is a record or merch. I think of this next to Walter Benjamin’s essay “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” and his concept of the “aura”. Benjamin lists types of “auras” connected to a work of art, often being connected to its exclusivity and singularity. A band t-shirt for the most part would be at odds with this idea, it is mass produced and for a period readily available to all. But, through time the item becomes rarified, and an aura grows with it. When someone sees it 20-30 years later it has an aura due to its current rate of exclusivity and rarity. The vintage market pounces on this item making its selling price 10X if not more the original price. The Bootleg reacts to this concept by reprinting and destroying the aura of the original by creating readily available reproductions at affordable prices, the shirts can be worn carefree as originallyintended without any focus on fragility etc.
2. Original work concepts or “mash-ups” of previously existing ideas not being bound by a particular era of an artist’s practice. A crude and beautiful example being a parking lot bootleg that combines album eras artworks and possibly original takes as well. I think often coming from the place of the fan the “bootlegger” can often come up with new and exciting concepts and of looking at an artist in ways not seen previously, as well as documenting lesser known or underdeveloped ideas, but crowd favorites. I often think this methodology encourages “merch” for movements and ideas that of course never went in that direction, whether it is a seminal art exhibition, like Robert Longo’s Men in Cities or the connection between Roland Barthes “Camera Lucida” and The Cure’s “Pictures of You”, a history of New York’s Tomkins Square Park or even as simple as the infamously failed Sisters of Mercy and Public Enemy tour that had no merch but to me seemed like such an important tour that came a year or two too early.

For me I think that in its purest form the bootleg comes from a place of intense desire. Whether it is a bootleg tee, or a Nike “unauthorized reproduction”, it is about the desire to have, without worrying about the original prestige/aura of authenticity, but rather just pure desire to participate in a dialogue. From this perspective it is a lot more punk rock to have a sneaker rep from the same Chinese factory the originals are made from than to pay thousands for a “grailed” original on the secondary market and never wear them.

―――The boundaries are becoming blurred with homages and sampling. For example, Supreme has collaborated with Louis Vuitton, and the boundaries between streetwear and luxury brands are disappearing. What do you think about the current situation?

Michael Bühler-Rose:It seems like unofficial/official lines blur often, almost always to the benefit of original artist. An example being bootleg tape culture and the Grateful Dead’s “tapers’ section” that started in 1985 and helped to connect the band’s fanbase through trade and appreciation of the variegation of the live experience. Of course, this sort of thing continued through the makeshift“Shakedown Street” marketplace full of all sorts of items, not the least of which were bootleg merch. Not to take anything away from the Dead musically, but I suspect this attitude only helped with the longevity and community culture of the band.Bootlegs have always increased originals aura and often given it new life, since the time of Dapper Dan in the 80s until now. I personally have a hard time distinguishing between streetwear brands and luxury brands these days, often both are playing off ideas of each other and in terms of price points sometimes a so-called streetwear brand is getting close to luxury prices and uses artificial shortages and unnecessarily higher prices as a marketing tool to position themselves to point of the same exclusivity that the luxury brands have. I always appreciate other brands like Pleasures, for example, who always make sure to keep their pricing accessible to everyone.

―――Another words I could guess It’s gonna a first time to visit to Japan.How would you expect Tokyo.Also having a pop up event with DAYZ.Do you have any expectation for the event?

Michael Bühler-Rose:This will be my first visit to Japan, although for as long as I can remember I have wanted to visit. Japan has always fascinated me in how, from what I have seen, subcultures have developedborrowing from different periods of time while simultaneously drawing from a specifically local aesthetics and are often one step ahead the USA in many ways stylistically. Of course, my art heroes are conceptual artists like On Kawara, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Yutaka Matsuzawa, Michio Horikawa, who also combine conceptual concerns with regional ideas, as well as James Lee Byars time in Japan. I have been fortunate enough to slowly developed a number of supporters of this project throughout Japan and look forward to this opportunity to meet some of them in person and other like-minded individuals and the conversations that will ensue. I look at this as a first step of many bootleg dialogues in Tokyo and appreciate the support of Dayz and Beat Café for the opportunity to start it.