Adrian Dannatt
Tea Person

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As Tea Person in the Department of Global Nostalgia things are not always as easy as they should be. The demands of the clientele sometimes being fiendishly wearisome and my own legs weary of the trolley.

I have been pondering on my varied clients and their often outrageously difficult positions and have come to the conclusion that I would most like to speak of my only favourites amongst this wildly diverse group, namely "The Three."

Most people in the contemporary art world are blissfully unaware even of the existence of The Three, which is just as they would wish it. With their first ever public exhibition coming up this December at the Percy-Miller Gallery in that supposedly fashionable area of London, Bermondsey, the situation is unlikely to change. What or who are The Three?

Three female fashion models of the same age and similar looks, who live together at a secret address (rumored to be in Brooklyn, rumored to be in Marseilles), dress in a similar manner and reveal NOTHING about themselves. Despite my occasional meetings with them I still do not know their individual names, let alone where they live or what they actually do. They are "Conceptual Artists," or so others claim for them. They themselves refuse to say anything about their intentions, aims, interests or activities.

The Three have mastered a Garboesque mystique by seeming to avoid a cult of the personality while fostering it. They are quite invisible! And certainly they are silent, their only gestures being ambiguously negative. I once invited them for cocktails in Paris.

They rang my doorbell at 9 rue St.Romain, to say that " They had come to say they could not come," and then they left. "Dans la grande sphère médiatique qui nous englobe, tout est à moitié fictif, tout n'est qu'apparence." Quipped one of them (they do look very similar sometimes) whilst waving adieu.

What The Three have made clear is that to be an artist is to invent an artist and that the only way to subvert the mass media is via the mass media. For artworks themselves are internally related to the interpretations that define them and there are as many interpretations of The Three as there are actual artworks. Which is to say, none.

For following their credo that more art should be about doing nothing, they admit that the world is full of objects, more or less interesting; they do not wish to add any more. They prefer, simply, to state the existence of things in terms of time and/or place. " Our sole recourse: to renounce not only the fruit of action, but action itself, to make a rule of non-production." To be an artist is to have your life stand as a satire on your art and The Three are happy to be the brunt of as many misinterpretations and hostile jeers as they can gather together in one gallery.

Art is anything you can get away with and The Three have managed to get away with doing NOTHING. They have been called frauds, they have been accused to mendacity and hoaxes. But just doing a hoax is not the total performance. It's not the end of the piece or the objective. What's more important, and more difficult to do, is to get the media to come back to allow them to say why and what it means. It's more difficult than to get them to initially fall for it.

As fashion models whose images appear in the worldwide glossy press the secret work of The Three relies on the fact that although magazines have no value as art, they are subject to some of the same conditions and pitfalls. No matter how ridiculous, absurd, insane or illogical something is, if it achieves a certain identity as a spectacle, the media has to deal with it. The media have no choice. They're hamstrung by their own needs, to the extent that they're like a puppet in the face of such events.

The interventions and self-inventions of The Three are perhaps motivated by a somewhat weary impatience toward the press and media's seemingly willful exploitation of themselves. The rise of models has less to do with the fashion industry, whose business has slumped since the 80s, than with the potent blend of cultural preoccupations they embody: youth, beauty and, perhaps most of all, media exposure. Models are perfectly suited to a culture obsessed with fame for its own sake. Appearing in the media is their job - their images are their stock in trade. They are famous for being famous.

The Three actively cultivate and extend this paradox of the fashion business, their art work being no more than "Test Pictures" - meaning that both model and photographer work for free. Their art is dependent on the financial logic of the fashion system, the way a modeling agency advances money for the many expenses incurred in the development process...laser prints for the model's book, multiple copies of each magazine she appears in.

The Three exist ONLY through the mass-multi-media and yet still refuse to say who they are or what their aim might be. I consider them some of the most famous women in the world, but also amongst the most mysterious. That's why they are a success. They are very secret - they give nothing away. And that¹s their biggest asset. You never really know them.

The sort of photographic and appropriation procedures that promise an effacement of the authorial self are invariably recouped through other media of publicity and critical attention, so that the daring gestures can always be linked to a well-known individual. The sheer efficiency of these moves, the way that an artist's minimal interventions can garner substantial attention and rewards, inspire fascinated admiration for the unique creative personality behind them. The less self-expression has been valued, the more the self of the artist has come to loom over the work.

To put it bluntly, as one of The Three once said to me, but categorically refused to be later quoted on; "The content of this exhibition is publicity."