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[Comments] (3) Jacob Berendes Interview, Part 1: Jacob Berendes. The very name strikes confusion into the hearts of readers of News You Can Bruise. Ever since his appearance in the first-ever NYCB entry, my readers have considered him a mythical figure. Not surprising, since his friends feel the same way about me. Now, in an exclusive interview, all will be revealed (on certain topics only).

In 2006, Jacob rented a storefront in his native Worcester, MA and started a junk shop/art installation called Happy Birthday Mike Leslie. I worked the store shortly after it opened to get a feel for this joining of art and commerce.

Other artists have started stores as art projects, but most of them sold lame crap or nothing at all. Happy Birthday Mike Leslie sold awesome clothes, records, and other secondhand goods, along with works by local artists and grade school kids, and Jacob's own homemade stuffed animals and chimeric action figures.

HBML's other advantage over other stores-as-art-statements is longetivity. Inferior art stores close once they've made their "point", but Jacob ran HBML for almost three years, longer than the lifespans of many businesses not intended as works of art. But on March 31st, Jake announced that HBML would be closing the following day. I was able to acquire an exclusive post-mortem interview with Jake, which I present here with capital letters restored. We talked about his plans for the future and about the business side of HBML. This is the first of a two-part interview that will be concluded whenever he emails me back with his answers to my nosy questions.

LDR: What are you going to do now that the junk shop is done?

JPB: Roughly, summer I'll be living in Providence, fall I'll be traveling around, winter I hope to be "somewhere warm". The traveling around will be in the guise of a slow snake oil tour, landing in a town with some handmade product and relevant artworks, and having a show at some sort of art space- a gallery or a weird store or something. I've been constructing a small network of these places, or at least keeping tabs on them. This is gearing up to a big one-man (or group) show i'm trying (fingers crossed) to put together in Philadelphia a year from now.

My project for the rest of the week is to clean out the store as much as I can, and try and sell the squid to raise money for a round trip ticket to Miami, where i'll hang out and do an art show with my friend Mike T.

Summer is setting up the tour and working on some new websites to try and make ad money so I don't have to all the way worry most of the time.

LDR: OK, it looks like you went on vacation and then shut the store down.

JPB: Yes, that is also true.

LDR: Did you plan this from the beginning or did you discover that you were having a really good time on vacation?

JPB: No, I was actually pretty bummed out on vacation, but for once I wasn't in crisis mode, so I could sort of step back and look at what I was doing and what I wanted to be doing.

LDR: From here it looks like you became something of a local institution in Worcester. How true is that and did it make you feel constrained or any other leading question?

JPB: "Local institution" has a bit of truth to it, but I didn't feel constrained at all, except that I had to put more time and energy into it over other projects.

LDR: I'm curious about the future of your storefront, and maybe the best way to find out is to see what happened to the other space in the building. I remember it was an abandoned hair salon or something. Did anyone else rent it? Did you scare anyone away?

JPB: That other side was rented out even when you were there, but the guy that rents it only uses it as an office space-- he comes in a few times a week and just makes phone calls, almost never when I'm there. pretty weird. He's still there.

LDR: How likely is it he's up to some kind of con or scam?

JPB: No, he's a coffee roaster and he has another space that he roasts at but it's too chaotic, and he can't work out of his house or he'll never get anything done.

LDR: How much was your rent?

JPB: Rent was $300 for a while, then in the past year it went to 350 and then 400.

LDR: Did you get people coming in from out of town who'd heard about HBML?

JPB: Yeah, all the time. Lots of folks from Providence, because I'd cross-post to the big Providence weirdos email list. but also Boston, western Mass. People came from farther (further?) away but not just for the store.

LDR: It's not unheard of for artists to open stores. A long time ago I mentioned to you that Marinetti opened and ran a Futurist restaurant. Damien Hirst also started a restaurant I believe. Actually I'm seeing a lot of restaurants in this list. Banksy put up an exhibit in a New York storefront but it wasn't a real store, you couldn't buy stuff. Do you know of any others?

JPB: The big "artist store project" was Claes Oldenberg's store, which I think was just called "The Store". It was a big inspiration, although he only ran with it two months I think. Sun Ra and his Arkestra ran a convenience store in Philadelphia in the 70s (I think). [According to Wikipedia, one of the band just happened to run a convenience store. -LR] There are a few musicians who opened up curated record stores, but that's different.


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Posted by Yatima at Mon Apr 06 2009 13:10

You are so adorable with your imaginary friend.

Posted by Evan at Thu Apr 09 2009 09:02



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