American Fantasy Classics is a team of four individuals – Brittany Ellenz, Liza Pflughoft, Alec Regan, and Oliver Sweet – who collaborate with contemporary artists on projects as diverse as building sculptural installations from digital patterns, curating group shows, and delivering personalized floral invitations. The collaborative nature of the project effectively complicates the singularity of “author” and challenges the transparency of “fabricator.” I sat down with Regan to talk about the mystique, attitude, and aesthetics of American Fantasy Classics.
Stephen Strupp: I want to ask you about the name “American Fantasy Classics” but I don’t want to ruin the mystery.
Alec Regan: Well, that is the best part about it right? That it seems really specific but it’s also kind of mysterious? It’s crafted to be exactly what it is. Seriously, Oliver and I took six months to carefully craft that name. We came up with a few different names, added little bits to it, took little bits off, and finally settled on that.
It’s supposed to evoke references to all that pulp fiction and Dungeons and Dragons kind of world, boyhood… these different worlds of craft-oriented stuff and science fiction. I think science fiction is a big proto for AFC even if it doesn’t show up a ton in the work. And also there’s these sort of driving ideas that seem to be important to AFC that may not necessarily show up in the work but it’s part of an attitude that we think about a lot. It also has to do with a lot of what we are attracted to coming from Oliver’s taste and choices.
SS: Is the attitude something you guys talk about?
AR: Yeah, it definitely is. Once you move away from following a commercial gallery model you realize you get to inject some of your own style into the project. We don’t have to be neutral like a gallery tends to have to be. But since there’s four people then you say, “OK, should we keep it consistent?” – because each of us have our own personal style. I know my personal work and Brittany’s personal work is a lot different than what we are trying to do as a group. So we had to pick and define a few things. A lot of the aesthetic we use is sort of coming off the end of a style that Oliver has used quite a bit. He has this tape label called Talisman Tapes and also something else called Technosnake Tapes, which is much more mysterious, and I think a lot of the visual stuff that goes with that sort of started us on a train of thought that AFC picks up on.
SS: Would you say the project is mysterious to the four of you even as participants?
AR: I wouldn’t use the word ‘mysterious.’ I like that it can look that way to other people and hope that it does a lot times. For us I wouldn’t say it’s mysterious, it’s more like we are really open for it to go in whatever direction it ends up going, and a lot of time that it’s going to depend on who we work with. We are keeping it wide open, really nebulous, so that it can take whatever shape it happens to need to take. I think a great example of that is when we worked with Paul Druecke delivering flowers and acted as sort of agents of him and made these faux flower delivery uniforms that were also American Fantasy Classics uniforms. That’s a great example of us being open to letting the project go wherever it can go and also Paul being really observant about the project. That was Paul’s idea and it made so much sense and was valuable to both of our separate projects as well as the project we collaborated on. It helped define what the group can be, helped open that up. Because once you start delivering flowers in fake uniforms you start to realize there’s not a lot that you couldn’t do.
So for us it’s not a mystery, because a mystery kind of suggests that there is an answer that’s just obscured for you, whereas we are right at the edge of it constantly looking out, exploring what it could be.
American Fantasy Classics will be featured from February 11th through March 3rd in MIAD’s “New Exchanges: Evolving Visual Ideas and Forms” exhibition.