In a landscape growing more polarized by the moment, young artists such as Ezekiel Binns and Juan Cardona carve out a space for those who seek unity before social distinction. Building a world from haptics and curiosity, Binns’s and Cardona’s combined vision with “Two Dogs and a Leash” is a shout into the IKEA age saying “let’s shake some shit up!”
Ezekiel Binns: I think we saw two dogs attached to a single leash at a restaurant when we were deciding this, and we were like let's run with that.
Juan Cardona: There's no real meaning behind it, it was more that we needed to come up with something. We liked the way it sounded and it just stuck.
MK: Sick, I'm a huge fan of not really putting a lot of thought into names – I feel like it changes the meaning of things. I did a thorough Google of “Two Dogs” to see if I could find any work. You have such a low internet footprint! I was wondering if you could talk about your work a little bit, stuff that you're doing, stuff that you like, etc.
JC: We both come from Miami and went to this art and design magnet high school, so we've always had this fixed interest in that. We actually haven't really put our work up online. That's something me and Ezekiel have always kind of butted heads about. Should we put our work up online? Are we ready for that? I think most of it has been us making work for ourselves and trying to find the moment to start branching out.
MK: The internet has become a weird vortex recently. Are there any art forms that either directly or indirectly shape the way you do things? Be it in any process of art making, living?
EB: Every time we make a new project, we try to do something that we haven't done before, so there's this large learning curve where we actually have to learn a new software or a new method of working in.
MK: Great! So you've been working together for about four to five years?
EB: Yeah, since I was a junior and Juan was a senior, and now we go to Cooper Union together.
JC: We're not in the art program at Cooper, we're actually in the architecture program but we don't necessarily segregate ourselves to just working in architecture. We're really interested in the fine line between architecture and art, or the point in even having a line there.
MK: Kind of a leading question, but if someone put a gun to your head and asked you to define that fine line you just mentioned, how would you define it as of now? Of course, it's an answer that's subject to change, but based on where you're at now, how would you define that?
EB: I'd probably have to take the bullet on that.
MK: I would too, honestly.
EB: I think the issue with architecture and design is that if you don't think about it with the same kind of intentions as art in terms of provocation, aesthetic, sensibility, all of that, you end up having lifeless design work.
MK: How do you imagine digital space in terms of architectural space? Especially using certain new softwares as modes of exploration, how do you imagine that, re-imagine that, what does that look like?
JC: Something we've been playing around with recently has been building landscapes using these digital softwares. It gets really technical in terms of how to simulate erosion and natural processes. How to take a design approach to build a landscape, but not limit it to just a landscape?
EB: Using what we've learned in architecture and the digital space, will allow us to address our narratives on a finer level rather than make a drawing of a building and stuff like that.
MK: How would you address the narrative of the piece you submitted for the BFA show with STP? In looking at it, I've blown it up, zoomed it in, and my only solid reaction is that it feels nostalgic without me being able to put my finger on it. How would you describe that piece?
EB: It (the work) was actually a proposal that we had drafted in response to a client in L.A. last year. It was during my year off while Juan was in school. We had to create some kind of communal Christian kibbutz idea of multiple pods that aggregate together, each with an individual function, with a kind of hillside topography. We went with that, and created that project.
JC: How do you take architectural representation and push it more towards a scenographic experience? In a way, even though this isn't really a painting, we've always called it that. If you zoom in close enough, you can actually see a figure entering a home, and what entering that home would be like, pushing the walls in together.
EB: That piece you were talking about is actually an idea for an ad, an architectural ad, for this proposal. You could imagine it being on a vertical billboard or something suggesting that this is an alternative way of living, a kind of utopic scenario.
MK: What does utopia look like if you were to make an image that also was an architectural building? Juan you referenced that building being able to be entered with your hands, something that's soft and malleable. What would that malleable concept of utopia look like to you?
JC: Something that a lot of designers that I've worked with consider is the haptic approach to designing; literally, how do these things feel in your hand? What does it feel like to hold that doorknob? What's the point of even having a doorknob? Why not redesign that part of the building with more intention? If you just say build a doorknob, you're going back to this thing that's been pre-established by someone else. If you think about doorknobs and doors, that's an intimate part of touching a building.
EB: It's the handshake of the building. We've been trying to create a typology for architecture that can be responsive to the body. I don't know if it would be utopic, but I think the idea about utopias is just to keep proposing as many new novel ideas as we can and see what the ramifications are on the human sphere. A lot of Juan's personal work used to have a lot to do with suburbs and suburbia. That's a great example of creating an architectural fiction, a utopia, and seeing behavior come out of that.
MK: I'm presently in the Inland Empire in Southern California. The house that I'm in is the exact same floor-plan as every other house that's in this tract. I would go into friend’s houses in the same neighborhood and know exactly where everything was because it was literally my house. That was a little utopian for me; I had that comfortability of entering other people's spaces that weren't necessarily my own because I had grown up in this exact same structure that they had.
JC: Something that's also really funny to think about is IKEA furniture. It's this thing - everywhere around the world you can enter someone's house and be like Oh, I have that same exact counter in my house. There's an international style that’s a direct product of capitalism and its ease, but it takes away from the uniqueness of everyone's home and you don't question it.
MK: I'm thinking of Fight Club where we go through Tyler Durden’s house and it's an IKEA catalogue copied and pasted into his home. His Brad Pitt-self literally blows up his house and everything in it? How would you situate your work in terms of blowing shit up - destroying that ready-made mentality?
EB: Shit, we just started working on our first kind of real, architectural project that could be built 1:1 somewhere. I think that's really the way to go - let's make a full-scale, livable architecture that we ourselves can be the lab rats for.
JC: How do you expose people to the diversity of things that there are available? The good thing about IKEA is that it’s cheap and accessible to anyone. I think there's a balance, IKEA isn't necessarily the devil of design. I think there's things to take away from it in terms of availability.
EB: Access for sure.
MK: I’m taking away almost a synesthetic adaptation of the work. In terms of just experiencing things and being alive and feeling, if you could force everyone on planet earth to experience one thing, what would it be?
EB: I would probably send everyone to outer space and have them all look down at this little planet and make sure everybody sees what we're working with here. There's this thing called the Overview Effect, which is something that astronauts experience when they go up and look down at the globe. They get some sort of profound sense of clarity about the kind of futility of all the world's micro-conflicts because of the borderlessness of it in space.
JC: I'd have to go with an alien invasion, something like that.
MK: What's that movie called, it has Tom Cruise in it and it's an end of the world movie? War of the Worlds.
EB: That used to give so many nightmares as a kid, the little snake-tooth things with the eyeballs.
MK: They would just suck you up in them, where do you go? Speaking of specificities and things, do you have any specific interests that define you? I know I like to watch live plastic surgery videos on YouTube.
JC: Recently, I've had this big interest in learning about motorsport, like racing cars. I like looking at cars in this way that's really intimate. It’s this whole object that you get to go inside of and put your hands on and allow it to take you anywhere.
EB: I've been super into viruses, neurology, and microorganisms recently. There's this YouTube channel called "Journey to the Microcosmos" and I'm on that every Monday just learning about these little guys.
MK: There’s this show called "Monsters Inside Me." It sounds like a bad porn name but it's peak entertainment.
EB: It's funny, in one of your sampler questions you sent, you were like “what don't you like,” and all I could think of were parasites in all sense of the word. Whether it's people, or the actual organisms.
MK: Is there any other fun stuff you want to chat about?
EB: Yeah, one question I had early on was like what was it about the piece that we submitted that caught your attention?
MK: Now that you mention it, I was thinking about parasites and fungi. That’s a fun fact that I learned earlier, that fungi take over and grow in a parasitic fashion. It’s like when you know you’ve seen one thing, and you have no resources to find out where you’ve seen it before. It can very much so feel like this mystery and lore that's wrapped up into this one architectural moment. It was that feeling of, feeling like it (the work) was speaking to me, but without any knowledge of the language or the time period the work was oriented in. It just made me feel some type of way, to put it blankly, and reminded me a lot of fungi and parasitic functions, and warmth at the same time.