PRINT February 2011


Guyton\Walker, Untitled, 2009, paint, Formica table, digital ink-jet print on drywall, digital ink-jet print on paint cans. Installation view, Baltimore Museum of Art, 2010. Photo: Mitro Hood.


KELLEY WALKER: It’s almost not a collaboration; it’s like impersonation. We are able to impersonate this character and we can take turns. We can come and go. I think one thing about Guyton\Walker that’s never quite been understood is that sometimes we’re equally engaged in the work and at other times we’re at different distances from it.

WADE GUYTON: We have very different attention spans at different times.

KW: Because we also have our separate, individual careers.

WG: After our recent show at the Baltimore Museum of Art—which was the first time we showed works that had been exhibited elsewhere—you said that we killed Guyton\Walker. But I thought it was more like we started taking our meds. It was all a bit more cooperative with the museum and the viewer than usual.

KW: Well, I think there were ideas we were relying on that were no longer useful, and that was evident. But we are still developing a vocabulary; a consistency arises that continues to be productive for us.

WG: I think it naturally evolved that way. We didn’t know where things were going. We started with a shared tool—the scanner. Then we incorporated different processes and materials. And what happened was this phenomenon of things cannibalizing themselves: The painting becomes a can, the can becomes a sheet of drywall, the drywall becomes a table, and if you make tables you need to make glassware. It’s spastic. Anytime we start making things, some unexpected idea from left field comes in—like the candles we made in Bologna in 2008. What’s interesting is that these strange aspects emerge that may have been edited out by an individual.

KW: Technology edits, too. Software like Photoshop is geared to isolate you. It’s meant for individuals. But the process of working together allows us to introduce differences into this system. Much of the time we don’t agree. The other person is not into it and we stop; or we may go ahead with an idea and that person might become more interested, or maybe not. When working alone, I have noticed that the computer always seems to agree.

WG: We need to design a way that we can both be Photoshopping at the same time on the same file! But right now you’ll work on a file and I’ll work on a file, and we’ll send them back and forth—and then someone else has to put them together. So there are many opportunities for mistakes to happen—

KW: What’s funny is, you or I will do something, not save the file, and then tell the other person to reproduce it for whatever reason. I’ll have a printout and try to figure out what the hell you did and how to go about retracing your steps. That happens quite often, actually. And when I can’t figure it out, you have to come back and say, Oh, you’re an idiot—

WG: Or we give up and it just becomes something else entirely.

That’s the thing. I’m not so loose with my own work. Somehow the collaboration really allows all of that contingency to become a part of it. And even if it causes a problem, some other solution comes along to take care of it, which of course creates other problems. The way it grows and moves around is totally fascinating to me, too, because its shape is indeterminate.

And yet the work has an identity. It may be problematic or clumsy and full of failures, but we’ve actively kept it alive. It’s a pain in the ass, but it is simultaneously a relief. And I learn from it all the time. It’s weird to feel ownership but then also feel as if you’re separate from it—that it’s alien.

KW: Hate it.

WG: Hate it and love it.

Guyton\Walker are based in New York.