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Archive for May, 2008

SHELFLIFE#12A: ALWAYS SEEMS TO MOVE SO SLOW

Friday, May 16th, 2008

I’ve mentioned before that I was asked to create and gather work from material in my archive for the upcoming Sensational Fix touring Sonic Youth exhibition. Something I’d been meaning to make for a long time, but never got around to–until last week–was an impressionistic audio/video collage about the making of Harmony Korine’s Sunday.

I shot 3 hours of material the day Harmony made the video. That was over 11 years ago, and re-visiting such old footage is difficult. Different equipment, shooting styles, subject-focus… I get this one thing I want to make–it’s done in my head–been done for years–ready to encode, burn and rip–but I jog thru the footage and the fragments I’ve edited in my memory don’t exist on the tapes. I experienced them, but never recorded them. Maybe I misremembered them over time.

So, a simple 8-minute edit becomes this painful exercise in compromising memory while trying to convey some sense of the experience to a viewer. All the while, I don’t really want to convey the experience–at all. I never really do. I just want to frustrate people, so I’m not so isolated in my perplexed recollection. This is why I’ll never be a real filmmaker.

I’ve got no stories to tell. I’ve just got this compulsion to document things and these thoughts I reflect on while I re-examine footage. I lack a fundamental interest in structure and basically want a viewer to vicariously experience my high blood pressure, confusion and angina more than anything else. Always Seems To Move So Slow is representative of that process–but somehow, the jarring sound edit, lack of anchors and surreal, sensual and sensational subject matter make a looming aneurysm slightly endearing.

Maybe I’ll stream it after the opening on June 17th. For now, I leave you with stills.

SHELFLIFE #11B: RITA PUPPETSHOW #1

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

These are stills from a video I shot for Rita during an Ecstatic Peace showcase one balmy evening at the Learning Alliance. Rita wrote the story and designed the puppets/sets. Susan Cianciolo designed the puppet clothing. Kim narrated. I’ll write more about this later. I’m a little hurried to finish up some other work.

SHELFLIFE #11A: PROTEST-RECORDS.COM

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Just after America decided that war was the answer to terrorism, Thurston sent me a tiny little jpeg–a thick black outline on aged, cream-colored newsprint surrounding a single word set in Gil Sans–“PROTEST.” He wanted to start a record label that sold nothing and acted solely as a curated platform to support dissent in the form of song. He put the word out that we were looking for tracks with which to build our downloadable mixes. The call exploded with molotov urgency in the pre-blogosphere web.

We bought the domain for protest-records.com. I drew a bunch of stencils that we would link to and I built up a quick and simple site. Thurston sifted through the submissions and together we made playlists. The site was a hit. People were writing protest music, listening to protest music, playing previously unknown artists’ work on the radio–it was nuts. All of the voices were congregating in these playlists and speaking to individual concerns with unique, personal vernaculars. For at least the total duration of the tracks available on the site, it felt like you could suspend your disbelief just long enough to garner a glimpse of hope just off of the crest of the shitstorm that would come breaking down upon us, in seemingly endless slow-motion, to this very second.

The problem with reviving dormant phenomena is that you soon come to realize why so many forms of expression are cyclical. Someone sent me a pretty simple email with a few questions about protest-records and dissent the other day. I wrote an honest, meandering reply.

Basically, this country deserves neither democracy nor freedom, cos we’re all just a bunch of agenda-driven whiners with no interest in bridging divides or sacrificing for the greater good. We’re hardly even interested in examining what exactly “the greater good” means. My reply to the email is below. I guess I put it out there as a sort of challenge. Who’s got what it takes to really bring America together to collectively tell our government what they’d damn-well better give us? Who’s got that Fred Hampton desire to walk on up to the front door of the Whitehouse and announce herself with, “This is a stick-up, motherfucker! We come fo’ what’s ours.” My guess is… nobody.

______________________________________________

It’s hard to say. It’s obvious that people are angry–I’m just not sure they really know why anymore. As attention spans wane and the number of potential social, political and economic irritants multiply, it’s difficult to say–with any degree of confidence–that people aren’t just jumping on the first annoyance they educate themselves about. 

I stopped updating the site a while ago because of that. It just felt like people were boarding another genre bandwagon–the lyrics were all getting samey. The music was multigenerationally xeroxed and beginning to lose the definition that artists like the fugs, Pete Seger, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Woody Guthrie, Neil Young, crass, the Dead Kennedys, Bodycount, Rage Against the Machine, fugazi, Bikini Kill, Kimya Dawson and so many others had brought to the table.   

I have a hard drive full of submissions. It’s just difficult for me to decide how to shape any sort of context from them. I need to make some playlists to share with Thurston and instigate some sort of dialogue about it. I’ve been meaning to for a while.

Though hardly a musician, my fundamental gripe is that what this country is selling as democracy–is not democracy. The system needs to be scrapped and re-built as it was envisioned during the American Revolution. We need a new revolutionary democracy. It’s easy to say that, but damn near impossible to do anything about it. The systems that exist to counter any sort of revolution have metastasized, mutated and bulked up to the degree where overthrowing them is more or less a pipe dream without the most remote of opportunities for success. The leadership, organization, focus and determination simply do not exist to do much of any consequence beyond the partisan, trite, laughable, polarizing and stereotypical “dissent” that United for Peace and Justice, ANSWER, moveon.org and worldcantwait have taken to endorsing.

Change is, and has always been, only possible through unity.

I’m not really getting any songs about that. Obama, Hillary, McCain–none of them will notably change a thing, yet I’m mailed advertune after advertune praising the empty rhetoric of someone or another. Politicians don’t want to end plutocracy and empower Americans with direct democracy–it’s simply not in their interests. War? OK. Go for it. Write another anti-war song. Maybe you’ll explore a concept that’s not yet been euthanized on that beltway track. Hegemony? Sing that tune. Maybe you’ll find an as of yet unplucked key. These songs have all been sung before. Dissent is healthy, but there’s a point at which the choir tires of the reverberation and wants to see a fucking miracle or burn the damn church down.

Or, as is the case in contemporary America, they just angrily acquiesce and watch as the preachers stand there, conducting in some imaginary and illegitimate semaphore–status quo in hand–dragging, shoving and shuffling the lot around but keeping it always on a tight leash, never out of reach. That pseudo-active state of stagnation has been the bureaucratic disaster that America buys and sells as democracy for as long as Americans have provided a market for it.

SHELF LIFE #10A: VISIONAIRE #34 SPREAD

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

I really don’t remember much about my time at college. I was at Boulder for Environmental Design. I swung by Cooper Union for Civil Engineering–walked out one day and decided to get a diploma from Parsons for design. At Parsons, I spent a lot of time absent from my classes. William Bevington was an incredible department Chair and gave me a lot of leeway to travel with clients, friends and collaborators while generating credits thru independent studies of my own design. I’m grateful for the freedom I had in school. I remember it fondly. One of the only other things I remember from my time at Parsons was the day Cecilia Dean came to hang out with one of my classes.

Zipped, pinned and coiffed to an immaculate T… this woman had class. She dropped by with a slideshow about VISIONAIRE. At some point in her discussion, she brought up heroin chic (it was 1995 or 6, after all). I told her she should do an issue of VISIONAIRE etched on the skin of a heroin sheep. She was not amused.

A few years later, I get this cryptic letter in a crimson envelope from VISIONAIRE. It references some work I’d done with Sonic Youth, includes a concept briefing about a Parisian future punctuated only by a finite palette of Pantone greys and includes an invitation to submit a project for inclusion in the Hedi Slimane edited VISIONAIRE 34. “Damn.” I thought aloud. “I guess she forgot about the sheep.”

I considered Paris. I imagined the future. I recollected the past. I spun my wheels on the palette of greys. I wrote an elegy for a grey Paris. It mourned the misinterpretation of the DNA of Jean Prouvé and pondered how digital chromosomes would look on a tactile, luminescence-free computer monitor as they scrolled on by–anonymously–lacking the context of a life’s work of sublime brilliance.

So, that’s what I drew–a single moment of scrolling, digital chromosomes. The thing was… the tactile display–that was important to me–as was this sound I created that went with the illustration. I tried to convince VISIONAIRE to let me use IC-chipcorders embeded in the spine of the edition to generate the sound I associated with my piece. They’d trigger as my spread was opened. Cecilia and Stephen seriously considered it. They even actually fought for it. Just in showing that sort of interest in preserving the context of concepts, they gained my undying respect. Ultimately, though–sound was not to be in Paris’ stark, grey future–so sad… No color. No sound. Pauvre Paris.

Anyway, VISIONAIRE *did* give me a 2-page, glossy, blind-embossed spread. I got my tactile terminal screen. It’s really hard to photograph the spread. It’s super-subtle, but the curves and angles are actually hyper-intricate. Below are a photo and an illustration of the same piece.

The coolest thing about the issue was that Hedi’s case for it mirrored my spread in a lot of ways. It was an awesome, injection-moulded contour map of vertebrae type of a thing set inside of powdercoated steel. I love that issue.

SHELF LIFE #10B: FAMA & FORTUNE FANZINE

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Kim and I were doing the Free Kitten video for Teenie Weenie Boppie. It was for a Kill Rock Stars VHS video comp. The video’s hilarious, but I’ll save it for another post. I was actually reminiscing about it last night while Monika and I were at a screening of Godard’s Breathless. The scene in Breathless–where Seberg interviews an artist for the Herald Tribune–there’s an off-handed homage to that in the Kitten vid. That scene had me thinking about the video. The video had me thinking about something Kim had given me after we submitted it to KRS. That something got me to searching and then finding led to this post.

So, Fama & Fortune Fanzine–it’s what Kim had given me a copy of shortly after we finished the Teenie Weenie Boppie video. I still have little idea as to what the hell it is. Kim and Mike Kelley put the zine together in 1991. The text is all in German. I haven’t the foggiest as to what any of it means. There are some great photos of tough, beautiful women woven amongst the interviews.  One of these days I’ll remember to ask someone for a translation–or at the very least, the Clif’s Notes.