Last night, the toy world’s brush with cable television acclaim abruptly ended as Work of Art‘s judges sent our Sucklord packing. But as the @Sucklord lights up today’s twitterverse, it’s evident that Morgan Phillips has achieved something more useful than a reality TV show trophy.
You can’t beat support from your girlfriend, props from Ricky Gervais and validation from toy legend and expert on winning, Frank Kozik: “Sucks about Sucklord…but on the upside he already IS a real artist with an actual ‘unique body of work’. The rest of those people are disposable in the long run and will never create any ‘real’ work.”
On that note, without further ado, here’s the final Work of ArtSUCKtalk. Our conversation occurred this morning, and it spans episodes 4, 5 and 6, or in The Sucklord’s words: The Trilogy. (By the way, episode 0 is here, episode 1 is here, and episode 2 is here, and episode 3 is here. Collect them all!)
JB: Hey, how are you?
THE SUCKLORD: A lot better than I expected to be at this point. I thought I was gonna be wanting to kill myself, but I actually feel great. The memory of the elimination was so much more traumatic than what actually wound up coming across. Maybe it’s just amazing editing or the fact that so much of it was going on only in my head. At the end of the day, I made a pretty lame piece of art work. But I didn’t go out like a bitch, so in that regard, at least it’s OK. I definitely deserved to go home.
JB: Well I’ve gotta squeeze a lot of inquisition into a little bit of time, so I’m gonna have to short you on the condolences. But I will say that you made Work of Art for me, and I don’t know if I’ll go out of my way to watch the show anymore.
THE SUCKLORD: That’s very kind of you. I’ve heard that sentiment before, but I’m gonna watch just to see what happens to my compatriots. It’s kind of good that I’m off the show because I was a distraction. I wasn’t producing good work. I was hogging way too much camera time. It’s time to let some other people shine now. I said what I had to say.
JB: Well it did seem like on more than a couple challenges, you made work that you weren’t invested in. I think, watching it at home, people were probably thinking: ‘there’s a good prize at stake, is he even trying’?
THE SUCKLORD: Yeah, I was trying. It was just weird because I kept forgetting that I was in a competition. I really liked everybody else there. It was fun doing those challenges and hanging out with the other people and bouncing ideas around. I kept forgetting that these are my competitors and that I should be trying to beat them instead of making friends with them. I was just using the experience to try new things. That New York Times challenge, I’ve never struggled that much in my life to make a piece of art work. I mean, I was dead by then.
I actually lost the game in episode 4 when I let Jerry Saltz take the Star Wars away. That’s really when I failed utterly. I should have told him, even at the expense of losing right then and there, that Star Wars is an important part of the personalities and the belief systems and the aesthetic universes of the people in our generation. And it absolutely has a place in fine art. But instead, I gave in because I had my own doubts too. I’ve always asked myself that question: What if I didn’t borrow so much from Star Wars? What would I do? And I was weakened and I was demoralized and I agreed with him that I was gonna try to do something different. And right then and there was when I lost the game.
There’s much more ahead. Click through for the grand finale of SUCKtalk!
JB: I tend to agree with what you’re saying. I want to ask you about that Saltz critique in episode 4. With the tree piece, Saltz called you out for using other people’s work and not having your own world. Here’s your opportunity to explain how using other people’s work (so to speak) can also be your own work and your own world.
THE SUCKLORD: Well, there’s the old cliche: there’s nothing new under the sun. Everything is borrowed from something else. Star Wars, and I’m gonna stick to this, is my touchstone. It’s the beginning of my whole creative process. And everything in Star Wars is borrowed: it’s borrowed from cowboy films and The Seven Samurai and all of mythology. I’m even now watching Squadron 633, and the whole Death Star trench scene was lifted from this old World War 2 movie. It’s really just the synthesis and reapplication of these things. And that’s what I do.
Understandably, there’s been times when I’ve been less successful at transforming and appropriating things, but hey, whether you like it or not, that’s what I do, and even shit I come up with that’s completely original and doesn’t have a direct reference to Star Wars is still influenced by Star Wars. It can’t not be. It’s hardwired in my brain. And if Jerry Saltz doesn’t dig it, what that says to me is that he’s just dated himself. He’s put himself on the other side of the generational divide. He can go and look at his abstract logic or whatever the fuck he likes and God bless the guy, but now I don’t have to listen to him anymore.
JB: Fair enough. Did you get anything useful out of the critiques?
THE SUCKLORD: For the most part, no. Jerry Saltz gave me less than nothing. OK he didn’t like my work, fine. But I can’t walk away with one single thing that he said that I can apply to my work now. Bill Powers, of all fucking people, gave me that word “transformational,” which at the time I didn’t quite understand what it meant, but now I think I do. The idea of transformation for an artist who does appropriation in his work is a useful tool. Also, China Chow: she’s a nice person. She kind of comes across like a cold bitch on TV, but she’s really nice and a supportive person. I would definitely continue to be friends with her.
JB: That’s awesome. Will you be selling the Jerkbag figure you dropped on Flickr last night?
THE SUCKLORD: No, I don’t think I’m gonna be selling that. I didn’t make that many of them, and I don’t know if it’s transformational enough, like I don’t know if jacking the logo from the show creates an issue. I mean I haven’t heard anything, but I’m gonna be a little cautious about that til I know what’s up. There are a few I might give away as gifts.
JB: Well Overstock.com is selling your work. What’s that like?
THE SUCKLORD: I don’t get any of that money. I think it’s funny that it’s on such a ragtag site. Instead of “important art dot com” it’s on a Job Lots site. All my work belongs there anyway, so fuck ’em. If they want to buy it, good luck.
JB: We had talked in the beginning about how you were going to represent the toy art community, if at all. Looking back at what aired, and what we all saw, how do you think you did?
THE SUCKLORD: I failed. I completely failed. I didn’t really make anything great, even by my own standards, which tend to be fairly low. I don’t know if it made toy artists look viable. That Gandalf piece was fucking horrible. I didn’t do anything that I felt proud of, and I didn’t do anything that the so-called art world is going to embrace. So I don’t know if I succeeded on that level.
But, I would posit and twist the meaning around to say that the toy art world does not need those fucking people. The toy art world does not need to be co-opted by the so-called contemporary art world. DesignerCon [recap] this week was fucking amazing. We discussed this at the Suckathon [video]: the democracy of the toy world is so refreshing compared to the elitist model of the contemporary art world. At DesignerCon, we had fun, we’re drinking, we’re talking shit, we’re playing with toys. Whereas I don’t want to stand in a big empty white box with a bunch of chin-scratchers like Jerry Saltz spouting these thesis statements about whatever the fuck you’re looking at. We don’t need that shit. In that way, I think it was a success that I got them off our backs. Do you agree with that? Or am I just twisting it around to make myself look better than I really am?
JB: Well, I guess where I disagree with what you’re saying is that it seems like our community can’t handle any kind of critique, whether it’s Jerry Saltz level hard-ass critique, which is very rare, or even just a basic critique. I mean, what’s going on there? I honestly find it kind of frustrating and see that attitude as a real obstacle to growth.
THE SUCKLORD: I agree with you, and we’ve talked about this before, and how you were really the first person to position yourself as a more reliable critic who was actually willing to criticize. I definitely think that our scene could use that as long as the voices of criticism are coming from our world and not an outside voice. Like if Jerry Saltz went to DesignerCon, I don’t know what the hell he’d think. He might condemn the whole thing, and if that’s really the yard stick that we’re measuring our success by, then we’re fucked. A guy like you who really loves toys and gets what it’s about: you’re allowed to criticize. You’re articulate, you know what you’re talking about, and you’re not a dick about it.
JB: Thanks dude!
THE SUCKLORD: I definitely think we could use it. It just needs to come from within, not outside.
JB: What are three things you learned from Work of Art?
THE SUCKLORD: Um, that I’m good on TV, that Star Wars is forever, and stick to your fucking guns, asshole. Don’t try to change because some douchebag doesn’t like you.
JB: Alright. Flipping the question around: what are three things you think maybe you taught other people, whether it’s your fellow contestants or people watching the show at home?
THE SUCKLORD: I’m not sure. I’m gonna sound un-humble if I answer the question, but I’ll try.
JB: How could YOU sound un-humble?
THE SUCKLORD: Don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t be afraid to fail and if you fail, make sure you say a line from Star Wars before you go away.
JB: I was told by a friend that you called into the Andy Cohen show the other day and put him on the spot about doing another show. Can you explain what happened?
THE SUCKLORD: I was able to arrange a phone-in. I called in, and he made me the Mazel of the Week, which I think was pretty good. I guess I was on the air for 45 seconds, and I took the opportunity to plug the China Chow figure and just put it out there that I might be interested in doing more television in the future. What comes of that, I don’t know.
A lot of people have criticized Work of Art and the people who go on it as somehow debasing fine art, and I completely disagree. I think it’s just another venue and a medium that a skilled artist can use to create something interesting. If a guy like Andy Warhol were living today, he’d be all over that shit. It’s exposure. The next show, if I ever do it, is gonna be about me and what I do. Why would I not want that? It would be amazing. TV fucking rules, and there’s no reason to hate on it.
JB: If you were cast on another reality show in which the theme was just to be yourself and cameras would follow you, and you could choose two of your Work of Art compatriots to join you on the show (also based on being themselves), who would you pick?
THE SUCKLORD: Probably Tewz and um, maybe Kymia. She’s expressed an interest in messing around with the toy world, and she’s been working as a waitress. She does a lot of sculptural things, and I think her style would apply in the toy world. I think more artists who are struggling to find a way in the structure of the contemporary art world should look to the business model of the toy world, for the reasons we just said. It’s more democratic, and you can do it yourself. You can actually make a living at it without waiting for some stupid fucking art critic or some douchebag gallerist to give you the nod of approval. In the toy world, you put your stuff out there, and it’s a market-driven economy. If people like what you do, you make it so they can buy it, and you take their money and pay your bills and buy more supplies and do it again. And if people don’t like what you do, well then try it again, keep pushing it. I think for any artist who wants to figure out how to make a living at what they do, they should look at what we do in our world and think of being an artist not as this elitist thing but more like a blue collar job. You know, you get up everyday and you go to work with your hands and you make something and you do your own invoicing at the end of the day. I think a lot of people could learn something from that.
JB: I’m about to run out of time, so I’m gonna ask you three quick questions.
THE SUCKLORD: Speed round!
JB: Yeah speed round! OK, here we go. So by leaving the show on episode 6, you’ve essentially just left a group of pretty cute, artistic, penis-obsessed [see episode 6] girls with a gay performance artist and a guy who talks like Sling Blade. Who would lez out first?
THE SUCKLORD: Right. Wait what was the question?
JB: For the record, let it be noted that I am not repeating this question because of its importance. Who would lez out first?
THE SUCKLORD: Oh, I dunno, that’s up to them to figure out what’s gonna happen. I need to go back and put my girlfriend back together because I really hurt her doing this thing. My chief concern right now is making sure she’s OK. She didn’t enjoy my little theatrics with those other girls up there. And as fun as it was to talk all that shit, I really don’t give a fuck about those girls anymore than anyone else did on that show, and I really need to get back and put my girl back together because I fucked up.
JB: Yeah right on. I mean I don’t really know her, but…
THE SUCKLORD: You’ve been twittering with her.
JB: Yeah I’m gonna interview her! Is that OK with you, dude?
THE SUCKLORD: Yes, that’s absolutely fine, and she can say whatever the fuck she needs to say.
JB: Awesome. OK, on that note, second question: is Lola as obnoxious a person as she appears to be on TV or is it just the editing, and why does your girlfriend want to kill her?
THE SUCKLORD: Well, she was nice to me, and that’s all there is to it. Most of the obnoxious things you heard from her were in her own little private interviews, and I didn’t hear any of that shit. She’s being hated on Twitter right now, and that’s for her to deal with I guess. My girlfriend hates her because she stepped to her man, and her man encouraged it like a douchebag who got carried away. Lola’s gonna live out her shit, and I can’t get involved with that anymore.
JB: OK in episode 4, which we didn’t really get to talk about unfortunately, Dusty said that you probably haven’t really changed at all since age eight. So other than the circumcision we discussed in SUCKtalk #2, how have you changed?
THE SUCKLORD: I just got a little tougher. I’m the same person. I have the same interests. I got better at presenting myself to the world. I was able to construct a pretty awesome suit of armor that goes around that little sensitive Star Wars fan you saw at the end. I was able to manufacture a pretty rock solid ego that took six episodes to destroy. I haven’t really changed; I’ve just augmented, if you will.
Thankfully I’m not afraid to go out of the house and go back out on the streets. I really thought that failing at street art would have been the end of my career. I mean that piece sucked. I know that. It should have been a Suckadelic piece. I should have represented for street art a little better. But it is what it is.
JB: What happened there then, really?
THE SUCKLORD: I was dead tired. I was run ragged. I’d been on the bottom so many times, and I sort of lost my moorings. I wasn’t at full power. My armor was removed. My ego was destroyed. And the ego is what makes the good artwork, not the sensitive person inside. I got paired up with somebody, and I’m not trying to blame her, that I didn’t really have much in common with, and I guess my strategy was to find some commonality that we could work from, and it wasn’t really enough to give the judges what they wanted. They wanted something subversive, something outrageous and Suckadelic, but I was in no position to produce that because I was just too busy trying not to fall asleep. And I would posit to you this: the piece I made was actually absurdly subversive for the fact that it wasn’t subversive. If a bunch of art douchebags are expecting subversion and you don’t give it to them, then you’re truly subversive. How’s that for mental acrobatics?
JB: I’ll definitely check that out. In closing, what can we expect from The Sucklord in the coming months?
THE SUCKLORD: More winning. Constant, unrelenting winning. And Suckadelic volume on 11. And no more of that sentimental bullshit you saw on the show. It’s gonna be back to vintage Sucklord all the way.