Team Macho

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In 2004, a group of four Sheridan College illustration students and one OCAD (Ontario College of Art & Design) graphic designer joined creative forces to set up shop in a shared studio space. In this space, Team Macho began to create some of the most quirky, yet accomplished group art of this decade. Often confused as ‘hipsters’, Team Macho are actually not concerned with the latest trend on the street or consumed by popular culture today, rather they describe how pop culture images from their childhood have played a role in shaping the work they feel deeply compelled to create, today.

“If you were a fly on the wall in the studio when it was just the five of us, I don’t think you’d understand the conversation. And even if you got the words, you wouldn’t get the meaning. We speak in elaborate code.”

Format: How would you describe your aesthetic?
Team Macho: Non-sequential narrative is the one thing we’ve all agreed on for what we do. Telling stories that aren’t comic books. You know, that sequential narrative where it’s like, ‘here’s a story and some drawings to accompany it.’ Our work is about telling stories that haven’t been told before or are in the process of being written and have meaning to us. I think of them as folk tales from the studio, as a lot of inspiration for our work comes from misinterpreting what each other is saying in this big space.

Format: What helps shape the look or direction of your art?
Team Macho: We do this really hard, harder than anyone I know, and it’s hard to do this and work a full time job; so we starve a lot and get down to prison things like shivings, moral shivings! That’s a big part of it, you can do a lot of stupid shit in this space but you’re going to get called on it a thousand times more than is necessary just because that’s really good for generating a dynamic which then creates images and an aesthetic—the aesthetic of mutual brutality.

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Format: You all make art as a group and individually. What classifies Team Macho work?
Team Macho: Very literally you could say that Team Macho work is anything that’s been worked on by more than one of us. So it could look like anything; there are no real restrictions on what we draw. Our most recent collaborative work involved pickling a pair of shoes. It’s pretty diverse in terms of what it is, and it’s how it’s done that makes it Team Macho oriented.

Format: What are the greatest challenges you have had to overcome as a group?
Team Macho: Ego is definitely not an issue we’ve had to work with too much. There’s not a lot of ego clashing because we’re pretty straight forward. There was a lot of mutual masturbation going on in art school, too many people saying ‘oh I love what you do.’ How about saying ‘I don’t like what you do nor am I a 100% on what I do?’ We didn’t even like each other at first but we were already working together at school and saw we had the ability to criticize and almost have complete candour without attaching little bits of our souls to everything. We’re here to learn to draw and that’s it. You need to develop a critical edge. I like being able to be harsh with someone and saying, ‘ok, because I know what you’re saying is the truth, not because you’re just some dick head.’

Format: How has your work been received internationally?
Team Macho: Well here in Canada it’s been absolutely unbelievable: people have been so accepting and excited and also extremely mean, which is nice because it’s great to have both. Abroad it’s been really strange, in Spain they really like us and our website gets hits from all over. LA’s a funny one because they don’t have work like ours. They may have a lot of art that people think is alike but it doesn’t seem to come from drawing practice which is the case with our art. We’re practicing artists, not just saying that we draw and paint.

“We’ll never stop doing this, as proven by our signed blood oath. Team Macho are friends for life and our members are unchanging. No in and no out, and there will never be new members.”

Format: What international exhibitions have you participated in so far?
Team Macho: We had a show recently with an art collective called Sid Lee in Amsterdam. They’re an ad firm from Montreal who decided to have a cool art gallery in Amsterdam and we were their inaugural show. Giant Robot in San Francisco and LA has featured us and we’ve been part of two art conferences in Germany.

Format: Do you have any particular rituals when making art as a group?
Team Macho: I wish we could tell but that’s really private. There are so many; our ritual is what makes the art making go on. When it comes to the literal art making, there is probably almost no ritual because it’s spontaneous. Someone will be like, ‘I’m going to pick up an air brush I’ve never used before and try it.’ There is so much ritual and the art is a manifestation of the physical environment we live with. There are so many nick names, so many inside jokes, weird stories, and reference points. We didn’t know each other when we met but we have developed these elaborate myths keeping us together that we all abide by. If you were a fly on the wall in the studio when it was just the five of us, I don’t think you’d understand the conversation. And even if you got the words, you wouldn’t get the meaning. We speak in elaborate code.

Format: Do any Team Macho members have jobs outside of your artistic collective?
Team Macho: Jacob is the in-house graphic designer at the Soul Pepper Theatre Company and was just profiled in Design Lines Magazine. Stephen and Lauchie teach foundation drawing at OCAD, and we all have our own illustration clients and solo art.

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Format: Do Team Macho members draw or make art every day?
Team Macho: Yes. Some days are spent preparing canvases or wood panels, or cataloguing and archiving our work. It depends, but we’re always doing something that furthers the cause every single day. We’ve got over 1000 pieces now so storing them in an effective way that’s easily accessible is an ongoing challenge.

Format: What’s next for Team Macho?
Team Macho: Three of us have solo shows coming up at the Magic Pony Gallery and as a group our work is going to get bigger in scale. We’ll never stop doing this, as proven by our signed blood oath. Team Macho are friends for life and our members are unchanging, no in and no out, and there will never be new members.

More Info: www.teammacho.com.

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Melissa Bessey

Melissa Bessey

Melissa Bessey

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4 comments

  1. Great article but this art is weird, as in not that well done, if I didn’t know it was made by a group, I might think it was done by a grade school student. Cool concept though.

  2. Woah, Shakey J, I’d like to see the grade school you went to if your classmates were producing art like that. Whatever genius school it was, it didn’t seem to work on you, buddy!

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