Idiocy Inc.

Jon Brumit and Marc Horowitz have made it their business to be the best-known art idiots in San Francisco.

So ... y'wanna ride a Big Wheel down Lombard?

So he did what a lot of young businessmen seeking easy money did at the height of the boom: He took a Silicon Valley tech job. As was par for the period, the company's absurdly generous benefits included paying for all the art books he could read and even some classes at Foothill College, where he studied painting.

Eventually, a Foothill professor, impressed with Horowitz's talent, made some contacts, and Marc received a scholarship to the San Francisco Art Institute, where he also landed a student residency at the dump. At the same time, Horowitz founded Your Local Gallery at a 6,500-foot warehouse on a rough stretch of 18th Street in Oakland. There, he attracted some critical notice for pieces that were dedicated to behavioral quirks.

One exhibition vaguely solicited "notes" from artists: The piece wound up consisting of everything from musical notes drawn on napkins to an entire refrigerator -- complete with magnet-attached notes. Another exhibit was "The One-Minute Show," in which 30 artists were given one minute to display pieces. The show, a pointed spoof on the self-important mingling typically associated with art gallery openings, drew notice in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Oakland Tribune, as well as a few smaller local arts periodicals.

Horowitz (left) and Brumit ride Big Wheels down 
Lombard Street.
Paolo Vescia
Horowitz (left) and Brumit ride Big Wheels down Lombard Street.
IRS employee Scott Mazzola, accepting Horowitz's 
invitation, rides a stationary bike counter to Haight 
Street traffic.
Paolo Vescia
IRS employee Scott Mazzola, accepting Horowitz's invitation, rides a stationary bike counter to Haight Street traffic.

One of the presenters at that show was Brumit, who by that point had already begun collaborating with Horowitz. The title of Brumit's piece, Shining a Bright Light on a Broken Object, was, as the Tribune noted, "pretty explanatory."

The next press notice for Horowitz and Brumit came in the form of a standard announcement in the San Francisco Daily Journal: A business license had been granted for Sliv & Dulet Enterprises.


Sliv & Dulet Enterprises is, as Horowitz puts it, "artists posing as businesspeople posing as artists."

To hear the pair tell it, the brand functions as an umbrella for all the absurd projects the two artists can concoct. But watching them in action, it's obvious the "business" serves another purpose: It gives two highly eccentric, creative, and attention-starved souls an excuse to stay constantly in touch.

"I was just so pleased for Marc and I to have found each other," Brumit says. "We're just so compatible. I mean, if I could find somebody like him to play music with, I'd probably just explode."

That compatibility is fully apparent during the company's "research and development" sessions, which take place at the eclectic Last Laugh coffee shop in Noe Valley, the site of Horowitz's day job.

Today's research session is a busy one. As Hank Williams blares from a CD player, the two kindred spirits work on editing a personal highlight video, which they hope will help them lobby for a grant that will allow them to put on a new event: the "Garbage Games." But that will come later; today, they need to prepare for the Haight Street performance and brainstorm ideas for other projects.

"Creative Counseling and Time Trials" is a last-minute selection. Just a few days ago, Brumit and Horowitz -- as Sliv and Dulet -- were set to masquerade on Twin Peaks or at Ocean Beach as the "Bay Area Fog Fighting Association." This endeavor would have involved a portable generator and industrial-strength fans, to accomplish the "useful service" of fog removal.

But that's been discarded in favor of the counseling event. So they must work quickly, and therefore independently: Brumit is putting together the greatest-hits video on a friend's laptop; Horowitz draws "ideas" onto muffin bags and Post-it notes, announcing them randomly every few moments. (Some of these bizarre notions become "products" offered up on slivanddulet.com.)

On the computer, Brumit watches a tightly framed video image of his face getting hit by a tennis ball thrown from a serving machine over and over again. He finds footage of a tennis ball nailing his face particularly squarely, and runs it back and forth in slow motion, so it appears the ball is hitting him over and over. "I just wanted to know for myself," Brumit says, "that I don't need the drum to take it in the face."

Horowitz is still hard at work generating ideas.

"How about a flame-retardant chicken?" he says, drawing a laugh from Brumit.

Eventually, the two get a coherent dialogue going, throwing around ideas that run from the impossibly absurd (picking an apartment building at random, replacing all the doors with Plexiglas, and calling it a living museum) to a number of more manageable tasks-in-absurdity.

One example of the latter is "The Urban Mammal-Watching Institute," which would involve setting up national park-style trailhead signs describing different types of San Franciscans in busy neighborhoods (say, in the Financial District at rush hour). Then, Brumit and Horowitz would equip themselves with binoculars and venture through the area, as if on safari. The trailhead signs would, of course, visibly sport the Sliv & Dulet logo.

"We're gonna do that," Brumit says, "but there's some serious prop building to do first."

Next month, the pair will also host a "Duct Tape Festival" in Oakland, which will feature works of art and clothing in which duct tape is the primary element. "Originally we wanted to carpet [the outside of] a building, and have 'Neighborhood Cat Day,' so cats could climb up the side of the building," Brumit says. "We were going to use duct tape to attach the carpet, but then we sort of downsized to 'The Carpet and Duct Tape Festival,' and eventually we settled on just duct tape." (The event will feature a duct tape pageant that displays clothes made from, at a minimum, 60 percent duct tape, and an exhibit of items repaired with duct tape.)

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