Artist Brad Troemel On His Unusual Online Store, Taco Locks and Why Etsy Is His Generation's "Largest Art Market"

Rebecca Smeyne
"DORITOSLOCOS taco MASTER LOCKED shut (Key Sold Separately)." $35.00.

A few weeks ago, we featured a "Danny Brown wheatgrass hair plant" for sale on Etsy by artist Brad Troemel in the Morning Funnies. That item was funny, clever, cute, and reasonably decorative, but the 30+ other items in his store, while also clever, possess a more distinctly conceptual personality. (Gawker recently dubbed it "the Internet's Weirdest Etsy Store.") We asked Troemel, an instructor at NYU, to chat with us about the intellectual motives behind these objects and the language of his descriptions. Below, Tromel's entertainingly obtuse responses.

First things first, can we get a brief bio?  Age, background, current profession?

As a resident of suburban habitats since 1987, I've done extensive research inside a number of culdesacs ranging from White Oaks to Pinefield Terrace to Blackberry Hills to Oakhurst to Sugar Grove to Deerfield Crossings and back, etc. It was the architecture there that first educated me about functionally abusing adjectives, though we can all agree car names and human names probably helped in this process. After being taught English I began to research images --  my "practice" began somewhere around the age of 7, which is why I have one of the longest-running practices in the game today. Of course playing is better than practicing but there's different schools of thought about how to be part of "the game"; I'm at very least "in the kitchen" full time at the present moment. Through Napster I taught myself how to turn music I didn't create into pliable self portraits for Myspace profiles at a later age. These were valuable lessons I learned as a youth.

"ORGANIC PLANT and AIRFRESHENERS (never let a plant stop smelling pleasant) objects for sale to 9/11 conspiracy theorists only." $40.00.

Most of your pieces are made from components that are commonplace, mass-produced, cheap, or easily attainable, but they are combined in atypical ways. Can you comment on the significance of using these types of source materials, as well as the unusual juxtapositions?

I have to disagree with you on this one; when I buy the things that are being sold to me under the auspices of being superior versions of subcultures that I may or may not already be actively contributing to, I'm made aware that all of these forms of Canned Cannibalism are, in fact, superior. I know for a number of reasons, including the fact that Sahara Baby Rib American Apparel Boxer Briefs cost $14. Prior to being posted on Etsy I'm metaphorically buying large quantities of iron and platinum and then -- through alchemic processes that have both been invented by myself and taught to me - turning those metals into pure, unadulterated gold in the form of new products and associated concepts. For Paper Magazine I'm going to reveal a secret process that many have asked me for ages: How do I do it? What is the secret allows this constant stream of gold to be created? In my kitchen it's not the ingredients --  it's the pot I cook in. My favorite pot is Tumblr, it's the Sativa Kush of image sharing. If you have big enough of a pot things tend to make themselves because ingredients naturally gel- products long for each other. Products want to be married, and be gay married, and have civil partnerships, but most of all products want to have polyamorous relations.

1. Just get an old suitcase then buy and throw some superior products in it
2. Just give your purchases plenty of light through the photosynthesizing properties of your Canon EOS 60D's flash.
3. Just let their natural attractions flow, and after a week or so you should have dozens more products than you ever imagined. They fuck like bunnies and create huge litters of babies! It's my job to nurse these little babies into full grown adults. Etsy is that nursery.

"PERFECT chair decoration for two chairs very close together that no one can sit in SLIMJIM threaded through two pink SNOWBALLS coconut." $25.00.

You describe many of the objects in terms of their rarity: "competitively scarce," "unique," "irrefutably rare," "immeasurably valuable."  You seem to be critiquing the notion that something has added value (or in some cases derives its entire value) simply because the quantity is limited. You also seem to be lampooning a culture that loves unnecessary functional objects (half the things in my mother's kitchen come to mind), with items like the  "pineapple holder," "chair decoration for two chairs very close together that no one can sit in," and "plant air fresheners." Do you agree or disagree with that assessment?

The half life of language as attributable to physical objects, buildings, humans, and Snuggies, etc. is pretty long, but once the internet was invented it became much shorter. Tag clouds float around and away from the things they describe on that particular YouTube page, but there's probably more than one "Charlie Wilson, Life of the Party" video available anyway. I'm the type of guy who will visually charm you, the type who will hold you under a locally made umbrella while simultaneously "making it rain" via a tag cloud of my own making. Listen, I want to explore your desires and to create some new ones. You need these things, I need you, I need you to buy them, I have no idea what your face looks like, don't you want to come in my Etsy store? Sure you will. Don't cry, I should be the one who's crying. I don't know if anyone's out there! Of course you can come in here. I mean why not. Why don't you come in here, in my store? Why don't you come in here with me? Come on. :)

What If I buy one of the items with perishable components, such as the locked taco, or the Entourage cigar in a hot dog bun (with mustard).  Can you send one of your interns to replace the taco each day, like Darren Bader did for his "Images" exhibit at MoMA P.S. 1 (in which interns had to replace burritos, pizza, vegetables, and croissants in his installations on a daily basis)? Does the perishability make the items even more rare? Is something that no longer exists the most valuable item of all?  Or by not existing does it become worthless?

I take pride in providing some of the most significantly organic, inscrutably rare, and immeasurably valuable products on Etsy. There is often only a single example of the things I make. Sometimes I re-use the same components and try to find different combinations that may be even more locally made or ergonomic. So when one thing is purchased sometimes other auctions have to end because they all contained a common variable. When that happens there are technically 0 of those other products in existence. They're only ideas. Can you imagine how rare something is that doesn't even exist? I wish I could sell those products because they would be worth way more than the ones that do exist. I think they call that a "Catch 22".

"WHOLE foods organic Bun with ENTOURAGE pink vanilla candy cigar .. aw man but there's no mustard Sike yes there is you fun guys." $25.00.

Again, say I buy one of the perishable items, so the form inevitably changes, but then you become a famous artist whose work is collectable for large sums of money. Am I screwed, or do I own the rights to have one of our assistants recreate it and the right to exhibit its re-creation, and if so, to potentially sell these rights to a gallery or collector? Are the pieces sold as numbered series?

I'm currently involved in a large-scale legal battle that revolves around just these types of issues. Did you know that when you buy a taco it eventually will rot? It's like, it's ashamed of being itself or something so it turns into this ugly version of itself over time. At first I thought, "Oh whatever, this 2 month old taco I've been keeping in my closet is just going through growing pains, trying out uglier versions of itself just as any normal Goth would." But it never turned back into a taco! It got even worse until it was basically just a pool of crumbled beef mold. This enraged me, because I clearly bought "a taco" -- not a moldy pile. My anger over the false advertising of a certain taco company pales in comparison to what has been happening on TUMBLR. My god, every time I post something it's like there's a legion of people who just want to steal it and take it and write their own comments under it and post their own pictures next to it. When I put images on the internet THEY ARE MINE. Hear that guys? Mine! It's like Tumblr users want to turn MY PROPERTY into something else, they want to make my pristine tacos into moldy pools of goop that get spread everywhere. I've simply had enough, and I'm taking every taco vendor and every Tumblr user who reblogs me without my permission to court. It's just getting out of hand, Rebecca.

"LIVE STRONG yellow Hotdog, Pen, and Q-Tip HOLDER / The Exquisite Design You Trust & The Phenomenal Tastes You Grew Up With (Quite Limited)." $20.00.

Why do you choose to sell on Etsy, vs. through an art gallery or via an art exhibition?

Etsy is an effective means to an end. My primary goal is to Sell Sell Sell, and what better place than through my generation's largest art market? Things practically never sell in galleries, one thing here, another thing here. Gallery people get happy when they sell ONE painting in a month. I've sold, like, five things in a week on Etsy. That's not to say I'm against selling in galleries, I just have a strategy-driven mind about these things and want to sell in the most effective places possible. Some of the other places that you can sell things at include: an Urban Outfitters store, a museum gift shop, a cool clothing boutique, a bodega, and many more, etc.

Pee-Wee Herman posted your Locked Taco on his Facebook page recently -- do you think Pee-Wee "gets it"?

Pee-Wee Herman is a living legend and I was beyond flattered to receive an endorsement by him. It's fair to say Pee-Wee was a major influence on my decision to create a new line of highly hazardous children's toys.

What are your sales like? Aside from the Danny Brown wheatgrass hair plant, which I assume is popular, which objects are selling, and which aren't?

 Sales are great but could be better. I'll consider this project "in working order" when every thing I post sells in a matter of minutes. At that point I will only be making editions of one.

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