How do you know something is art? When it's in a gallery? Is a toilet seat in a gallery art? How about a web series about a toilet seat? Or a paragraph made entirely of questions?
Whole Day Down, the new, hilariously bizarre web series created by writer-actor Patrick Breen, whom you've seen in everything, and writer-producer-editor Tai Fauci (Palisades Pool Party), does not answer this question, but it does have fun with the fact that half the punch of art these days seems to be its fierce decree that IT IS ART even if everything about it seems to defy that definition.
Whole Day Down follows two doomed (and I mean satanically doomed) out-of-work actors: Willie, played by Willie Garson (White Collar, Sex & the City) and Patrick, played by Breen, who decide to try their hand curating art shows in an effort to make money and make a difference. Breen's pregnant wife, Nadine (Elisa Donovan) bribes her inappropriately over-devoted daddy to give them the gallery space one day a week. And so begins the story of lovable losers, fascist art critics, unrequited love and the impending apocalypse.
Creators Fauci and Breen met through Fauci's father, Dan Fauci, who was the head of comedy development at Paramount for many years and also was Breen's mentor and teacher back in the 1980s. Breen remembers, “He was a big collector of art and I would tag along with him. He inspired me to pay attention.”
Thanks to her family's involvement in the industry, Tai began working behind the scenes in television at the age of 14. In 2006, she teamed up with writer-director Jack Monroe to found Wit's End Films, which produced her teen soap web series Palisades Pool Party and now Whole Day Down, among other features and new-media projects. Fauci's father actually plays the gallery owner Mr. G on the show, while her sister Francesca plays Franny, the satanic receptionist.
“Patrick and Willie join the great history of loser characters,” explains Breen. “Like Homer Simpson, they just cannot ever catch a break. Every episode we ask, 'What should the art in this episode be? How does it injure or kill them? And how do they ruin the show?' They are fated to fail.”
Whole Day Down's style could be described as Mulholland Dr. meets Arrested Development meets The Exorcist. With nonlinear, self-reflexive storylines, recurring supernatural imagery and random gingerbread costumes, each episode plays out more like an art installation piece in a gallery than a web series. Rather than being confusing, this creates a fascinating tapestry of story and symbolism that can be watched again and again, with new storylines and themes coming to light each time.
The human drama, including Willie's love for Nadine, Patrick's closeted homosexuality and Nadine carrying Willie's child, ensures that we are still captivated by the characters' struggle and care about them despite, and perhaps because of, the artistic chaos.
In real life, Fauci and Breen are both avid art enthusiasts and collectors. During our interview, they burst into excited dissertations on Weegee, Marina Abramović and other artists they love.
Sometimes the fake artists featured on the show are inspired by artists the creators are passionate about, such as Abramović, and sometimes they carry out Fauci and Breen's own artistic imaginings. “We try to come up with art shows that could possibly happen,” Breen explains, “like the guy in episode three who goes to nuclear disaster sites and collects ashes and makes dinner plates. You could do that! It's conceptual performance art — the art is in the process as well as the piece.”
The show's twitter feed @WholeDayDown, run by Fauci, is full of links to the work of current artists' whom the cast and crew admire. “When I find something I respond to, I want to share it,” Fauci explains. “We are celebrating art at the same time we're lampooning. We love art and it's our responsibility to share it when creating a show about it.”
Follow the adventures of Willie and Patrick as they discover and destroy art at Wholedaydown.tv or on the ad-free indie film portal TheWatchbox.com. The episode posted today, entitled “The Artist Is Taking You With Him,” is a nod to Abramović's exhibit “The Artist Is Present.”