It’s a Saturday night and outside it’s starting to rain, by the time I get up the stairs I find Stuart Braunstein, curator and one of the principal instigators of Collective Hardware wildly surveying the scene in front of him. Not wild as in a wild dog way but more consumed and devoutly involved as if he were commissioned to find the holy Grail. Standing there my eyes slowly adapting to the the larger than life persona that makes up Stuart Braunstein I keenly watch as he points this way, mentions that artist, leads me to the floor where Basquiat and Warhol paintings are hanging until he mercilessly drags me up to another floor where I am finally standing next to a ouija board that he can’t stop admiring. Even though he insists it can tell you about your future and past my gut feeling is that the man standing in front of me, as maniacal, delirious, brilliant and out of breath is, for all intensive purposes the collective future of the newest and probably most important vanguard that has essentially arrived in America in years.
For those of you who have wondered who or what Collective Hardware is since it first started appearing on the scene earlier this year it’s an entity that really can’t be appreciated until one sits in the think tank sessions that I suddenly and currently find myself sitting in. To most people and admittedly even to us when Collective first showed up it appeared as if it were just another hang out scene for glamorous ironic types who were cooler than thou and when they felt like it put on shows and parties to tease you about your miserable existence. Yet that suddenly all changed during the summer as we started covering some of the artists that the collective was beginning to showcase and it was there when we realized that was going on was way beyond what appeared on the surface. Way beyond…
As I sit there facing Stuart, the rain blasting on the window pane I am suddenly introduced to Sarabeth Stroller a wildly energetic completely charismatic beauty who intoxicates all with her presence and vernacular. Where Stuart sits dead in the center, she sits to his right, forever taking phone calls (even at 11pm) and lighting one cigarette after another, occasionally motioning to Stuart in a language that only the two can understand.
Stuart drags deeply and to be honest is in complete thought.
“Who are we? I tell you we don’t really like to answer that question. We’re not what so many people think we are. Actually I think what we are is something that we are only now fully coming to grips with. If I had to describe ourselves I’d say we are a vertical ensemble of artists, performers, theorists, task makers that are aesthetically intertwined for the collective benefit of the collective good. I know you are not going to believe this,” he says the smoke billowing towards heaven, “but there’s absolutely no ego here. It’s a place, a refuge for all to come in and create and enlighten and that I think is what truly fascinates us.” He stops to think for a second, “assuming of course that you can ‘hang’ with us.”