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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?

Wednesday, Aug 7 2002
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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.)

Perhaps the most ambitious Sliv & Dulet proposal in the works involves a grant application for a large event at the new Crissy Field Center, which would be (as their application puts it) "an exciting and ridiculous re-enactment of the major historical developments of the Crissy Field site."

The program, which would last all day, includes something called "rip and build," an interpretation of the Spanish establishment of the Presidio in which the object is to kick double-ply garbage bags until they rip, and then carry their contents across a finish line. In another event, the Gold Rush would be interpreted as a stationary bike race.

As silly as the event sounds, the center's staff members say they're intrigued.

"I personally love it," says Sue King, one of the planning directors at the center. "It's a way to make the center accessible to people who wouldn't normally come to a national park ... somebody other than, you know, tree-hugging white people from the headlands."

That's great for Crissy Field. But what's in it for Brumit and Horowitz?

"I saw that the Popeil brothers were one of the 25 people who changed the way people think about food," Horowitz says. "I'd love for us to go down as some of the people who changed the way people think about art."

"I think where we're coming from, there's more layers than just shits and giggles," Brumit adds. "But, you know, most of our work is either totally ridiculous or absurd. But if we can make people laugh, maybe they'll stick around, because the average time somebody looks at a painting is 12 seconds, and we can hook them for longer than that."


Even in foggy July, when no one in his right mind would visit San Francisco, the cars full of tourists back up at the top of Lombard Street's Russian Hill peak on a Sunday evening.

About The Author

Jeremy Mullman

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