A Brooklyn-based artist collective with a mission, unbag is planning to release its first arts publication this spring. I recently posed a few questions to unbag co-founder, artist and writer Andy Wentz.
Just what is unbag? When and how did it all begin?
unbag is an arts organization that runs an ongoing critique group, curates shows with partner galleries, and is now producing its first publication. We started out as a small group of friends who wanted to do group studio visits about two years ago. It was always about supporting the folks within our small community. And this ethos of supporting artists that are underrepresented and share similar values to ours has continued to inspire us to expand the organization.
What is the significance of its title? It’s rather bizarre!
We needed a channel to organize members of our little critique groups, so early on we created a Facebook group to host events and announcements. Our idea to create the Facebook group came before we even saw a need to come up with a name for the group. So we just put it as Un-Named Brooklyn Artist Group and for some reason the acronym unbag stuck. I think it made sense to us as a name because it is a clunky synonym to ‘unpack’ which is what we were doing during the critique group. We’ve since dropped the long form title and are just unbag now.
What prompted you to launch this particular project — a digital and print publication?
My friend, Aaron Cooper, and I were organizing the unbag critique group and leading some panel discussions at an experimental space called Sleep Center in Chinatown. We started meeting a ton of artists from all over the world through these events, and that’s when we started to get the idea to have a project space of our own. But we weren’t interested in a brick and mortar gallery, and we thought that an interesting alternative would be to host artist projects online and in print. We realized early on that what we were doing wasn’t going to be a journal or a magazine in the traditional sense — but rather something more malleable that would conform to the types of projects that our contributors are interested in sharing.
Who is your audience? Are their any particular groups you are targeting?
We are definitely targeting people in the art world, but folks who don’t take it too seriously. We’re not aspiring to be the next Art in America or anything like that. We hope to reach people who are interested in art, culture and political practice from artists who don’t necessarily already have a platform to share their work. We also hope that our readers are people who would become future contributors and join in the unbag community.
How did you decide what to feature in Issue #1?
We started with an open call for projects that use trickery as a strategy in their artistic production. We were definitely thinking of artists like Sophie Calle and Jill Magid when we came up with the idea for the theme. These artists are subversive and obsessive, and their motivations are not always clear to the viewer. Along with the open call, we also reached out to some artists and writers who, we thought, could contribute great projects because they already had a more subversive practice. We ended up getting about a hundred submissions and finally narrowed it down to thirteen projects that we thought fit the theme and worked well together as a group.
When will your premier issue be officially released?
The project will officially be released in May, and we will be hosting a launch event at Quimby’s in Williamsburg. Stay tuned for an official date for that event.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in producing this first issue?
We’ve had to completely build everything from the ground up for this. So that means marketing, design, printing, fundraising, and more. All of these aspects have been a challenge. But we’re banking on the first issue being the most difficult to produce, and that in the future — with all these structures in place — it will be more about just finding the right contributors to feature. So we’re looking forward to the next issue for those reasons.
Interview by Lois Stavsky & all photos of images courtesy Andy Wentz
1. Haleigh Nickerson
2. Manuel Arturo Abreu
3. Peter Rostovsky
4. Loney Abrams & Johnny Stanish