The Artists Sticking It to San Francisco — With Tape

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A scrap of blue painter’s tape sticks to the bottom of my boots as I walk across the cement floor.

“Is this trash?” I ask.

“No!” Pernilla Andersson laughs. “It’s how we measure.”

Before there was ever a “we,” Andersson and Paula Perreira were loners. The Bay Area artistic duo first crossed paths in the Master of Fine Arts program at San Jose State University. At the time, Perreira, a Brazilian photographer, was creating under the moniker “t.w.” and preferred to wait until after hours to use the studio in silence. Andersson, a Swedish painter, answered to “five” and refused to collaborate with other artists. “I said I would never work with anyone,” Andersson says. “Before t.w.five was something, it was never a thought in my mind.”

In 2009, on a trip to New York with their university, Perreira’s camera broke. Andersson, having a camera of her own, offered to share with Perreira. Together, behind the lens, the duo adjusted their focus. “That was the first time we worked together,” Andersson says. “We haven’t stopped since.”

Today known as t.w.five, the artists have a new signature medium: adhesive-backed vinyl tape. Each piece carefully interweaves hand-cut strips that in turn create installations as large as 44 feet — hence the tape-peppered floor. Gracing a number of local and international galleries, such as the Bay Area’s Luggage Store Gallery and Luna Rienne Gallery, and Babel Gallery in Norway, the duo most recently took over the de Young Museum in San Francisco for a highly sought-after residency.

Both foreigners, they not only share a studio but also a vision of using art to foster inclusion. Touching upon subjects such as diversity, technology, exploration and cultural displacement, their art has layers of meanings. “We like to say we do art that is easy to understand,” Perreira explains. “It’s not just for people who study art. We like to do art that people with no education behind them can look at it and understand it.”

But this vision doesn’t just sprawl across walls; it fuels the entire creation process. As each strip is placed, the artists rotate — scrunching their faces in speculation, touching each strip to ensure they both have equal involvement in every creation. “She picks up where I left off, so we both touch,” Perreira says. “It’s essential we both touch the work. It’s really important to us.”

The future for t.w.five is bright. Both literally, as I stare at electric rolls of vinyl scattered on their desk, and figuratively, with prospects of more internationally commissioned installations. But when asked what their pinnacle of success looks like, they lock eyes and laugh. Because to them, finding each other feels like the optimal nirvana.

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