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5 Things We Learned From the Haas Brothers

5 Things We Learned From the Haas Brothers

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Artists Nikolai & Simon Haas, featured in Citizens of Humanity's magazine, share their thoughts on drag, design, and why they're 'avidly anti-shame.'

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Pictured: Nikolai (left) and Simon Haas | Photo courtesy of Citizens of Humanity

Citizens of Humanity has launched its own editorial magazine, titled Humanity, and the latest issue features the Haas brothers, L.A.-based artists known for their playful and inventive installations. The fraternal twins -- Nikolai is straight, Simon is gay -- while serious about their work, like to keep things light. "You laugh immediately," says Simon, "And then you're already in a different headspace and you approach the piece from a different spot."

Yes, the duo has designed for Lady Gaga, and some of their animal-shaped furniture is adorned with golden testicles -- some of their pottery is more than suggestive of lady parts -- but they've also created interiors for the new Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles and collaborated with Versace. Currently on view at the R & Company gallery in New York City is the brother's Cool World exhibit. Among other things, it features an installation of their "Advocates for the Sexual Outsider," along with new "Accretion" ceramics, a series of paintings in handmade frames, and "Animal Party," the print they developed with Flavor Paper for the Wallpaper* Handmade exhibition. In their Humanity profile, they explain why their "Sex Room" isn't really about sex and why they were able to "escape Versace."

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"Cool World" exhibit at R & Company

On Simon coming out with a bang:

Simon Haas: "I sort of came out with a bang and I started dressing in drag. I knew I was going to get heckled. It's kind of the worst social position to put yourself in. But going through it, at the end of it, you're like, 'I'm not really afraid to do anything now.'"

On why Nikolai is less "fucked up":

Simon has a formal art education (from the Rhode Island School of Design), but Nikolai doesn't, and the reap the benefits of Simon's technical know-how and Nikolai's lack thereof. Simon says that Nikolai "has fewer fucked up problems" because he never went to art school. But Nikolai is quick to point out the benefits of Simon's schooling: "There are certain leaps that he can make because he's been taught that I can't."

On not wanting to share a hotel room:

Although, it's a symbiotic relationship, they don't live together, and no, they do not want to share a hotel room. A couple of times, the brothers even showed up to find one hotel room with two twin beds next to each other. "We're like, 'What the fuck!' " says Nikolai. "We're 29 years old!"

On why the "Sex Room" isn't about sex:
Nikolai Haas: "We were using sex as a tool to talk about the fact that we are very, very avidly anti-shame. Shame in general, to us, just doesn't really make any sense. It requires the participation or at least the perceived participation of somebody else. It's not an individual feeling that you would decide to have. It all has to do with imposition and it all has to do with trying to please somebody else, which is just bullshit."

On what Versace meant to them:

Simon Haas: "People were saying, 'That's gonna stop your career dead in the water,' They say, 'You'll never escape Versace.' " But ultimately, Simon and Nikolai ignored the naysayers and followed their own inner compass. Or as Nikolai puts it: "You're like, 'No, fuck it. I want to do this.' "

Read the entire interview here. The print version of the Humanity magazine will be available from January 15 at Browns, 10 Corso Como, Ace hotels, and Soho Houses.

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