Matthew Breen and Buddy J. Finowicz

Buddy J. Finowicz (1944 - 2009 R.I.P) was a cult writer who divided literary critics. A Vietnam vet whose writing was as experimental as his drug use; Finowicz was the epitome of the hard working, hard living American novelist. He is also entirely fictional; a creation of Matthew Breen, an artist living and working in East London.
  A few weeks ago I went to Matt's studio to speak to him about Finowicz's place in American counter culture. Matt showed me some of Finowicz's books while we drank two incredibly strong cups of coffee, and I helped myself to an unreasonable amount of biscuits...


ashortdescriptionofmypoo: How did you come up with the idea for Buddy?

Matthew Breen: About a year ago, my work wasn't going well, I had no real idea of what I was doing. I had just read Pulp, by Charles Bukowski, which he wrote very soon before he died. It's this weird, hard boiled crime fiction pastiche. It's a real piss take of people like Micky Spillane and Dashiell Hammett. The main character is an idiot private eye, called Nick Belane, which is an obvious play on Micky Spillane. It's just so crazy and badly written - like all of Bukowski is, but brilliant and post-modern and referential. So I finished reading it and thought maybe I'd try and write one!
  I wrote this twenty page short story called, 'Mary Lou in the Alien Desert', a sort of perverse Alice in Wonderland. I re-read it the other day and it is total crap. I came up with a pseudonym for the writer of the story, which was Buddy J. Finowicz, gave him a bit of a back story, and suddenly realised that he was far more interesting than the story I had written.
What I was putting together was an amalgamation of various writers, or artists behaviour. So you've got the typical things of... well he is just an absolute shit really. He's got a bad relationship with alcohol and drugs, he's a misogynist etc. I wanted to make him really American, so I made him a Vietnam veteran. He is from Texas, a real redneck, but he has these delusions of grandeur, he really believes he is an artist. So the whole thing is that he's caught in this limbo land between art and pop. He thinks his writing is changing the world!

asdomp: So is he set in a particular time period?

MB: Mescaline Rain was written soon after he returned from Vietnam in 1968, so he was very young when he wrote that. He died as soon as I created him, if that makes sense, so he died in April 2009 at the age 65. I didn't give him a 'big' death, what killed him off in the end was his lifestyle; his smoking and drinking.
  But this is all real in a sense of what an artist could be, like Jackson Pollock. Pollock was a cowboy from Wyoming, that was his persona. When he first hit New York he would wear denim and a Stetson hat; it was part of his mid-west persona. Buddy is a rough neck, like Pollock, with this very American, protestant work ethic.

asdomp: He seems like a trashy writer, but maybe one with a certain level of ironic cool attached to him; almost exactly the sort of writer that would inspire contemporary art to be made about him!

MB: Well, he never had a hard back book published! It's all trash...
  There is a kind of currency of knowledge in art. I've been reading No Brow, by John Seabrook about the breakdown of high and low culture – basically from Warhol onwards. You can trade in this knowledge. In order to form our identity, we collect all these found things - out in culture. We dig them out and put our name on them, or we put them there as our mascot. They are how we identify ourselves.
  I like the idea of inserting Buddy in to all that. I've got this new piece I'm doing for Artvehicle. I've made a dictionary definition for 'Finowiczian', because I was thinking about terms like, 'Borgesian', or 'Tarantinoesque', these weird words. Once something become part of the language it can become part of the cultural currency.

asdomp: What about the faked element, are you hiding the fact that you have invented him?

MB: Sometimes when people ask about him, I play along with it and pretend that he is real. Or I say that he is just someone I'm really interested in; which isn't really a lie... apart from the fact that he is absolutely fabricated!
  An important part of it is putting reality in to his story. His relationship with the world involves real people. I'm making a poster for a movie adaptation of one of his books, starring Dennis Hopper and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
  I have been weighing up the idea of whether to do things just to flesh him out, like setting up the online fan club etc. But I think I want everything to have a purpose; it needs to make a point about something, rather than just be arbitrary. I'm avoiding a museum thing, I'm trying to get away from that archive idea. All the things I present are second hand; supposedly mass produced and easy to obtain.

The deceitful impulse is definitely there. I always think of Borges' Ficciones, especially the re-written Quixote. Borges presents his invented authors as reality – out there as a proposition, it very much could be part of the world. I'm dealing with specifics like dates and names and events; certain things happened at certain times - real things. Almost as soon as I invented the name, the story became autonomous. The trick is communicating it effectively.

Part of the work is the viewer's realisation that Buddy isn't real. As soon as you realise something is fabricated you imbue it with meaning, it suddenly exists in a very different way. It can be an exhilarating change of perspective; to realise that you aren't looking at an incidental piece of trash but something created by someone.


You can read more about Buddy J. Finowicz here and here.