The Habsburgs formed the collaborative art duo (Andrew Spackman and Craig Barber) during installation of the group show, ‘Unruly Objects’, in April 2011. The show investigated the deliberate and contradictory potential of the unruly art object, as set within an institutional context and gallery.
The failure of the show to live up to this expectation stimulated future work as the Habsburgs, where more elaborate methods were employed to test and subvert established boundaries of ‘art disciplines’ and traditional exhibition formats. Key was the adoption of an art persona that employed playful, evasive, contradictory and buffoonish processes in order to create a more direct critical assault on institutional mechanisms and gallery and audience expectations.
The ‘How to Paint’ exhibition at the MAC (2013) located a loosely connected set of video works in a threshold space, between gallery and public thoroughfare. Although recognisable formal qualities of painting were explored in the work, the use of deadpan and slapstick humour deliberately undermined these conventions. The Habsburgs follow a tradition of using humour within art as can be seen in the work of Harrison and Wood, Fischli and Weiss, Bedwryn Willams and Paul Mccarthy, as well as art movements such as Dada, Fluxus and the Situationists.
During the exhibition, the Habsburgs gave an artist talk about the work, again subverting expectation by presenting this as a 20 minute scripted performance, where audience members were given speaking parts that questioned the artist and made assumptions about the work.
List of Exhibitions
26 January – 17 March 2013. The Habsburgs – How to Paint – Midland Arts Centre – Birmingham –
15 March 2013 – Performance by the Habsburgs Script – How to Paint.
28 April 2011 – 20 May - Unruly Objects – LGP – Coventry -
July 2016 - Alter Egos and Discplinary Sidesteps - Message Journal -
April 2017 - "In Alernative Facts" - live performance at Hull City of Culture
"In Alternative Facts, the Habsburgs perform a musical piece using toilet bowls, which they have made into instruments that resemble Alphorns. They have written a score for the performance using images of 76 noses, 74 of which belong to the most powerful people in the world as per American business publication Forbes (plus another 2 ‘wildcard’ noses). The score plays upon an Olympic chess game between Frank James Marshall and Marcel Duchamp which ended in a draw and comprised 76 moves."Celebrating the dual anniversaries of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (100 years) and Armitage Shanks (200 years) in 2017; the year that Hull is City of Culture.