Captain Tom

In a refreshingly candid interview, Tom Sachs talks with Adam Savage in his The Talking Room series. The celebrated American artist describes his journey from juvenile hacksaw to a ten-strong studio of talented assistants who work on his multi media sculptures and large-scale installations in New York. Sachs delves into his early childhood where his fascination for model making – and obsession for Barbie – originated with a story about his Father wanting a now-classic Nikon FM 2,
“… my Dad really wanted this camera, we talked about it enough that I went ahead and made one in school”.

Sachs anchors this memory of producing a copy of something his Father wanted as an important example of the expression of the ritual of consumption in his family – a precursor to Sachs’ extraordinary practice today and a ritual of brand-worship that has since manifested to extreme proportions since the artist’s youth.
Hermès Value Meal, 1997
Discussing theories of cargocultism and how 'it is embarrassing to be so consumerist', Savage references cardboard works such as Hermès Value Meal (1997) and Tiffany Glock (1995) that exemplify both the castigating and loving genetics of Sachs’ work. Sachs continues to introduce notions of the transformative power of an object and how by making a model of something one wants, soon possesses its very own identity by way of the story behind it. The result is a more powerful object than the original desired object will ever possess,
“… when you dedicate your entire life to it… through enough time and work the objects can become real and be imbued with enough power”. 
Tiffany Glock (Model 19), 1995
On his studio, Sachs names himself the 'captain' of a team armed with skills he doesn't have, namely patience. Working around a made-in-America ethos, studio Sachs follow a meticulous manual that has been visualised in Ten Bullets – a Wes Anderson-style collection of short films – that reveal fundamental studio principles, artists otherwise would not be so forthright to reveal. Savage takes colour as an example in which one film has been dedicated to; it documents the ‘finely sifted’ studio standard colours that are used across all works – Sachs continues,
“I didn’t ever want to fucking have to explain myself ever again… if I had more time or assets I'd keep (the colours) a secret… I just can't afford it, so that's why I wanted to be transparent so that everyone knows and if something get's fucked up you know how to fix it and we can move on and get the idea out".
Tom Sachs in Space Program, 2007
When Sachs talks about getting ideas out, he means it. His 2007 body of work Space Program was epic in both context and scale. While the artist’s final aesthetic is unashamedly craft-like, detail is paramount and this quickly becomes apparent in the extensive manner he describes his work from conception to materialisation; exploring the real and the replicate.

Amidst stories of lusting over a Mondrian, acid wash jeans, Duchamp's ready-mades and name-dropping Master T (Robert Farris Thompson), Buzz Aldrin, Frank Gehry and even Martha Stewart, Savage get’s deep with Sachs in a wise and surprising dialogue of the artist’s fascinating contemporary practice.

Watch Adam Savage interview Tom Sachs in The Talking Room below...

Visit tomsachs.org for more information on the artist's practice and latest exhibitions worldwide. 

Images courtesy of Tom Sachs