Marc Horowitz, a self-described “maximalist,” has permeated American culture with his socially-oriented projects and playful enterprises. His work includes video, drawing, cultural experiments, and the dynamic use of networks like twitter and youtube. In 2004, while working as a photo assistant for Crate & Barrel, Horowitz wrote “Dinner w/ Marc 510-872-7326″ on a dry erase board that was included in their fall catalog. He received over 30,000 requests for dinner dates, and began driving around the country to dine with people. The National Dinner Tour garnered attention from numerous press outlets; Horowitz appeared on The Today Show and was named one of People Magazine‘s 50 Hottest Bachelors in June 2005.
In 2009, Horowitz embarked on The Marc Horowitz Signature Series, for which he signed his name on a map of the United States and drove that route, stopping at 19 towns along the way. He documented these adventures in short webisodes. In Nampa, Idaho, Horowitz established the first Anonymous Semi-Nudist Colony (complete with complimentary jean shorts and ski masks). In Battle Mountain, Nevada, he pitched an idea to local politicians that involved changing the name of the town to something less pugnacious, suggesting the gentler alternative “Tender Pie Hill.” Other notable projects include Google Maps Road Trip and Talkshow 247.
In December 2009, Horowitz participated in a panel discussion as part of Art Basel Miami Beach‘s Video Art Program, “Video Art and Mainstream Distribution,” curated by New York’s Creative Time. Short films from The Marc Horowitz Signature Series were shown prior to the discussion. DailyServing’s Rebekah Drysdale was able to ask him a few questions about his past projects and future pursuits during an interview conducted over Skype in December.
Rebekah Drysdale: At your discussion in Miami, you mentioned you studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute after leaving the business world. Do you think the tools you are using now, such as YouTube and Google maps, are the new media for this generation of artists?
Marc Horowitz: I think so. Painting and drawing will never die, obviously, but with the advent of the internet and the accessibility of video and broadcasting, I think that there is going to be such an insurgence of artists using these media.
RD: Your work engages the public, but seems very personal as well. What is the most influential encounter you have had in the making of your films?
MH: Omigod, there are so many of them!
RD: Can you pick one or two?
MH: The most memorable project is probably one you have never seen before. It was one I did while at the Art Institute, called Free Ideas. I went down to the corner of Market and Powell streets in San Francisco, where they turn the cable car. There are all kinds of tourists and homeless people there, the Seven Galaxies guy, preaching about the end of the world, religious people, preaching about God, and then there was me. I had two blank white sandwich boards that I made. I was handing out blank sheets of paper saying “free ideas.” People were confused. Most of the business people didn’t want to deal with me. One guy came up to me and said I was doing God’s work, for whatever reason. Several tourists thought that I was always there and wanted to have their pictures taken with me. Homeless people wanted me to write letters to their family members, so we would, and when we were done, they wouldn’t have their address. Kids wanted to have paper airplane throwing contests. I honestly think that project was what got me started in most everything I’m doing now.
RD: How did Free Ideas influence your later works?
MH: It was just taking such a simple idea as a blank sheet of paper and putting yourself out there in the world with that one element and then seeing what happens. I think that notion informed a lot of my projects after that. The Dinner Tour is the simple idea of dinner, at its least common denominator. Driving your signature across the United States is just a signature, something we use everyday. The Google Maps Road Trip was me and my friend wanting to take a simple road trip together, but not having the time or money, so we had to do it virtually.
RD: Tell me more about the experience and execution of the Google Maps Road Trip.
MH: The Google Maps Road Trip was a fascinating way of seeing America. It was also a really great way to get to know Peter (Baldes). In 2003, he e-mailed me saying I should have a blog. I had no idea who he was and why he was contacting me. Nevertheless, I immediately called him up because he put his phone number in the e-mail. We talked for a bit and he seemed nice enough, so we loosely kept in touch. I didn’t actually meet Peter in person until last year at a friend’s wedding. So all in all, we had only spent about twelve hours together in-real-life before we executed GMRT, and then we shared 40+ hours together “driving” across the country virtually. For me, it was like the Dinner Tour, except I got to know a single person, Peter, much more in depth.
The technical aspects of the project get a little complicated, but basically we left my house in LA and began driving together to Pete’s place in Richmond exclusively on Google Maps. For nine straight days, we “virtually drove” across the country by zooming in all the way on Google Maps and continuously pressing the Google Maps arrow keys eastward. We broadcast the entire experience live on googlemapsroadtrip.com. This meant that folks were able to not only see and hear us as we traveled, but also join us in a real-time chat room. Just think of it as an invitation for someone to hop in the backseat and ride along with us for part of the adventure.
RD: It sounds like your interaction with Peter during the Google Maps Road Trip was similar to what travel buddies may experience on a real cross country road trip. Do you think virtual travel will become more popular?
MH: Google Maps Road Trip is very lo-fi and basic. I would love to see it be implemented in schools. You could have an American fourth grade class travel around Europe, and (time zones permitting) they could travel with European students. They could go back and forth and talk about the things that are local to them. With the accessibility of Flickr photos, YouTube, and Panoramio (Google’s photo program), you can see all kinds of stuff you wouldn’t otherwise see. You can even bring up peoples’ live broadcasts while you are traveling. So, yeah I definitely think it is the start of something.
RD: In terms of your creative process, it seems that projects like The National Dinner Tour or the Marc Horowitz Signature Series would require much more planning than something live like the virtual road trip. Do you prefer to work with a plan or broadcast live?
MH: The Dinner Tour involved a serious amount of logistical planning more than anything else. Getting places on time, setting up dinner dates, etc. And I had no help. It was just a one man army. But that was a not-for-broadcast type of project. It was more experiential. Then I did the Signature Series, which was highly planned. A lot of it was written. We had to have all of the props, the locations secured, etc. It was a different way of working for me, but I really enjoyed it. Through all of the planning, there was still a lot of room for chance because we were doing the project in public, and in that way it felt very improvisational, like my previous works.
After that, I did Talkshow 247, where I broadcast myself live for three months, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week on talkshow247.com. This project about destroyed me. There was always a live audience chatting away, commenting on my every action. It made me feel like I constantly had to be entertaining an audience that wasn’t even physically there. I really just wanted to live my life, but it became addictive to look at the chat and see what the audience was saying, and then do things to make my life more exciting. I didn’t really like that. So, to answer the question, I would much rather do some more planned out projects in the future, like the Signature Series. That is the direction I want to head with these projects.
RD: What type of work do you show in galleries?
MH: I had some shows in Europe that were mostly drawings and sculptures because it is really hard to sell video art. It’s almost impossible. At some point, you have to make a product if you want to make a living as an artist, which is weird, you know? I did a show in Italy, called More Better. In it, I had made a drawing on how to make a helicopter out of a disassembled brick house and GMC truck. Really futile stuff, like a remote control bearskin rug. I made a suit of armor out of kids’ shin guards that is designed for people with a fear of sharp objects who are on a budget. Also included was The Tragedy Car Series, drawings of cars dedicated to terrible moments in history. For example, The Titanic Car. The drawings are interesting to me because I can really go way far out there, without actually having to execute these proposals. For a show I had at Nuke Gallery in Paris, I did a series called At Least You Don’t Have it This Bad. One of the drawings is a guy with circular saws for hands, and he’s trying to eat chicken McNuggets. That stuff is more fantasy-based. It’s really one big joke, they’re one liners. I like that.
RD: What are you working on now?
MH: I’m about to launch a new project called The Advice of Strangers. I’ve been working on it for about a year, but haven’t told anyone about it yet. Basically folks will be able to vote online on all my life decisions, small to large. Should I comfort the girl across from me who is crying? Do I tell my mom she should work out? Should I eat the noodle that fell on the floor that my roommate jokingly offered me? Should I start looking for a new place to live cause my landlord is an asshole? Do I move in with my girlfriend? Each decision will have a time constraint depending on the magnitude of the choice. And when the poll closes, I’ll post photo and/or video documentation of what happened as a result of the poll so people can see how their vote has effected my life.
The website for the project is www.theadviceofstrangers.com. If you are interested in participating, please check the site for the launch date.
RD: Your work certainly has a refreshingly witty appeal. Is there one last thing you would like DailyServing readers to know about you or your practice?
MH: A big component of my work is my blog, www.ineedtostopsoon.com. I am always posting fresh stuff there. Another thing that I am really into is Twitter. I’m so addicted to it. I’m using it as sort of a diary! You can follow me at www.twitter.com/marchorowitz.