Most artists cringe at the thought of their work getting bashed in, tossed around, and torn up. But for Nicholas Andersen and Julie Ho, the duo behind New York-based Confetti System, destruction is a highlight.
Hung high over the stage of a recent dance party for MoMA PS1’s Warm Up 2014 outdoor music series were two Confetti System piñatas, geometric focal points for sets by DJs like Norway-based Cashmere Cat. Amid the mayhem, organizers whacked both piñatas—but only one broke, sending a giant cloud of confetti through the breeze. The other piñata accidentally soared into the crowd, bouncing beach-ball style through the sea of drunken revelers. Sunlight refracted off the golden strips of metallic foil before the piñata was finally punctured, sending bursts of confetti into the sky.
“It was better than we could have ever planned,” says Andersen at Confetti System’s Brooklyn studio. The moderate space, located just off the Williamsburg Bridge, hints at an orderly chaos: plastic containers labeled “store bought fringe,” “misc trimmings,” and “rope/string/wire”; colorful stacks of paper with names like “island pink” and “paradise blue”; a tub of Elmer’s glue surrounded by tape and scissors; an open box of Band-Aids nearby.
Andersen and Ho transform these everyday materials by hand into experiential landscapes that are usually textural, occasionally shiny, and always fantastical. Since their inception in 2008, Confetti System has designed customized window displays for the opening of J.Crew’s international flagship store in London, embellished a sculpture of the New York Times “T” for the cover of the newspaper’s magazine, and provided confetti for Beyoncé’s “1+1” video. Other clients include Opening Ceremony, Mercedes-Benz, and The American Ballet Theatre.
For the Museum of Arts and Design’s inaugural biennial, which features 100 New York City makers (on view through October 12th), Confetti System installed two pieces that reflect their signature aesthetic. “Fringe Wall-Copper” features gold fringe assembled in textural flurries of amorphous shapes that wrap around the elevator doors. It is Confetti System’s take on a deconstructed piñata, transforming the museum’s typically staid lobby into something out of Warhol’s Factory. The adjacent wall holds “Catalogue 01,” a garden of pastel flowers constructed out of paper and fabric and punctuated with tassels of silver metallic foil. The sprawling pieces took two weeks and five pairs of extra hands to construct.
This floral display is the newest aesthetic direction for Confetti System and a nod to the artists’ upbringings. Ho, who was born in Taiwan and raised in Queens, recalls a youth surrounded by Asian temples and shops in Chinatown crammed with “special objects that get lost,” she says. “When we started, we realized we were both inspired by very simple objects, and we wanted to create our own versions of them.” Andersen, a graduate of Moanalua High School, was born and raised in Hawai‘i. Growing up in Honolulu, Andersen recalls visiting the Bishop Museum on school field trips and being fascinated by the display of Native Hawaiian crafts. While others kids rushed through, Andersen stopped to ponder the intricacies of the featherwork and the craftsmanship of the flower lei. He sees some of Confetti System’s work as extensions of this childhood allure, likening the stripping of metallic foil for their party tassels to the techniques employed for tī leaf skirts and comparing their leather and silk necklaces to Hawaiian lei.
The pair, who met through friends in New York City in 2001, instantly bonded over shared experiences growing up as Asian Americans in cultural melting pots. The idea for Confetti System arose after the two began hosting decorating parties and lei-making get-togethers. “Having that sort of similar cross-cultural mash-up of everything—everywhere you look there is another culture mixed with another context—and being able to relate to each other in that way was important,” says Andersen, who is half Filipino. “And that joins Hawai‘i and New York in a very special way that doesn’t happen everywhere in the world. It’s nice to have that reference for us to share.”