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Archive for the ‘GIVEN’ Category

SHELFLIFE #28B: CARFIRE

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

THIS VEHICLE HAS BEEN SCHEDULED FOR REMOVAL. Looking over this book for the first time in a few years just now, I’m realizing that the cover has a replica of a sticker from the NYC Department of Sanitation Derelict Vehicle Removal Program adhered to an offset-printed detail of what looks to be a fried, black, car body-panel. The sticker’s filled out in ballpoint pen to mark my book’s place in the edition. John Furgason and John Ayala signed #18/100 at 9:57 on 11/21/03 and stamped the sticker, “000018”.

As a child growing up in New York, the ubiquity of carfires around the city was magical. My great grandmother lived and died on Houston & Sullivan. I don’t think she ever really spoke English–nor did she really need to–living in a neighborhood that was still then largely Italian. We’d often drive down to her apartment to grab and shuttle her over to the rest of my Mom’s family on Staten Island. That meant barreling down the FDR Drive to East Houston from the Upper East Side. East Houston was bewitching. Hookers, addicts, explosive graffiti, squeegee-amputees with piss in windex bottles and blood & shit-stained t-shirt rags soiling car windshields worse than they’d been pre-squooodge. That stretch was Lower-Manhattan’s funhouse. More than any of those other attractions, though…the carfires always got my little boner going. TV says, “Car catches fire. Car blows up.” It kind of works that way, but not really. It’s more like, “Car catches fire. Car burns and burns. Gas tank catches. Car catches more awesome fire.” There’s this incredible sigh of auxiliary flame, but there’s no real concussive force.

Carfires…East Houston, Harlem, the South Bronx I loved being stuck in traffic in any of those neighborhoods. There was always something burning. I’d just sit there in the backseat of the car, anxiously gnawing on the plastic and foam upholstery of our car’s door–hypnotized by whatever vehicle, barrel or building happened to be blazing at the moment. All of that makes Furgason and Ayala’s book particularly attractive.

If memory serves, I was given this book in 2004. It’s a pretty exceptional conceptual info-piece. Almost entirely composed of video stills from Furgason & Ayala’s film of the same title, CARFIRE‘s an impressionistic study of dynamic, incidental sculpture in the industrial landscape. Details, portraits and under-the-hood porn of freshly-torched autos litter the first-half of the book–each image or image sequence assigned a catalog number. The second-half of the book resolves the histories of the images. A primary appendix describes each of the previously-numbered vehicles by location, make/model, color and year. A second appendix marks the locations from Appendix A’s table on aerial maps. A final appendix is reserved for incidents sniped from a police scanner and witnessed mid-flame.

carfire book cover

SHELFLIFE #27B: X-GIRL CATALOG 1995

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

I promised more of these catalogs. Here’s another. Dorien, Carisa, Pumpkin and Chloe look incredible. Memories retrieved by leafing thru this look-book: drawing a tattoo for Dorien and taking her to get it inked before tattooing was legalized in NYC; having Chloe recklessly wheel me around Rita and Susan’s roof in a shopping cart while I filmed No Neck Blues Band on super-8; shooting Pumpkin at Guv’ner gigs; invading the X-Girl shop on Lafayette with two nude girls painted orange, wielding ray-guns and decorated by Phil Frost for an unreleased film that Phil and I made; all of Mike Mills’ great TG-170 posters wheatpasted atop much of lower-Manhattan; Kim’s then-omnipresent Bonjour bag; High-Octane.

Thurston also once told me about a Bad Brains video in which Carisa can be seen headbanging in the front row. I guess I’m recollecting that as well.

catalog jpgs:
part 1 | part 2

SHELFLIFE #26B: MY FIRST NOISE RECORDS

Friday, December 18th, 2009

I have every record anyone’s ever given me–EVERY RECORD. In fact–I rarely buy records, so nearly every record I own is an object of sentimentality. Santa brought me these three noise ragers on my third Christmas.

They were tucked into a Sesame Street 7″ case and were part of a suite of gifts that included my first turntable–also a product of the Children’s Television Workshop. I loved these records–always preferring them to my Disney Soundtracks, Hokey Pokey albums and holiday-specific superhero audiocomics. In the canon of children’s recordings, these noise records perhaps only eventually took a backseat to Frog & Toad and Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People’s Ears.

The fact that I loved them so was perplexing to my mom–who JUST. WANTED. A NORMAL. CHILD–a boy who’d sing along to normal music–communing with his peers thru song. Fate, however–rarely one to subscribe to the hopes and dreams of mothers–blessed her womb with a hellion who’d scream his entire life away in tongues of industry, zoology and appliances.

noises volume 1
noises volume 2
noises volume 3

SHELFLIFE #24B: DISMAY

Friday, September 11th, 2009

I’ve been pained for a few years now by how superficial and almost categorically devoid of experimentation and innovation fashion has recently become. Tonight was FNO09 here in New York. The only schwag I left the evening with was a concerned knot of dismay in my gut.

There have been unrepeatable moments in even the recent history of fashion where technology, crisis, artistic innovation or synaesthetic translation have stimulated sincere and radical excitement in designers. The explorations of cubists, constructivists and futurists; streamlined hyper-minimal simplicity; the spiritual, moral, urban and financial decay of the late 60’s thru the 80’s; the realization that one could selectively and individually abuse consumers thru conceptually arbitrary pricing; exclusivity-smashing situationist runway performances that exploited an unrehearsed city as a catwalk; the commodification of unfashionable concepts as unwearable couture; the palpable translation of sound into clothing that then fedback into clothing to inspire sound. Anyone with even a vague memory of or interest in fashion since the 30’s can almost instantly place any of the aforementioned moments.

Then we roll up onto days like today–days that do not bode well for the creative future of fashion. Dumbing down the love and the craft that once made your work so enviable in an effort to see it grace the racks of Target is not fashion. Hiring the most immediately delicious genre-DJ of the week to really pack ’em in is not fashion. The caché you built by the drugs you did with who and where is not fashion. The celebrity trunk your publicist crammed with the contents of your showroom– guaranteeing a few choice tabloid snaps–is not fashion. Your hip photographer and his Yashica T4 click, click, clicking away at those t-shirts, jeans and tights is not fashion. The artists who once defined couture and now acquiesce to playing mannequin are not fashion. Streetwear is no longer fashion. Workwear isn’t fashion until it’s produced by some newer, faster, more durable and nano-autonomous process.

Confusing mere clothing with fashion is just as backward as confusing design with art. Art and fashion are serious mantles to grab at–ones I don’t think I’ve ever really touched. While I’ve designed lots of things and made lots of stuff, I’m not certain that I’ve yet made any art and I’m pretty sure I’ve never generated any fashion.

Couture is fashion. Concept is fashion. Conscious and unconscious stumblings into and around the ludicrous and the sublime are fashion. It’s time to stop confusing style, marketing, reach, design, cred and practical utility with fashion. Fashion is a wardrobe of impractical dilemmas excavated in secret at great temporal, emotional or monetary cost that can only be made sense of by the caretaker of the wardrobe–be they the inventor or the consumer. I for one cannot wait until that’s in vogue again.

SHELFLIFE #23B: RICHARD KERN SCUMBAG SUPER-8s

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

In 1995, Simon Henwood/Purr Magazine pulled together a screening of Kern’s id-driven, 80’s super-8 films at the National Film Theater in the UK. Lydia Lunch and Kern presented. Purr generated a zine to commemorate the screening and plug their just-then-released “New York Girls” compendium of Richard’s celebrated hot-lit, cross-processed lower-east side pussy pics.

He’d always shot stills while cranking 50′ reels of super-8 out of his Canon 814XLS. This zine’s a love note to some of those. X is Y, Submit to Me, Fingered and Manhattan Love Suicides are all represented. Hell, there’s even a Marilyn Manson shot in the zine. Richard’s immortalized on the cover at the height of his junked-out oblivion. I once heard a story about the gun in that image. It involved children who’d thrown eggs.

richard kern scumbag super-8\'s

SHELFLIFE #21B: PHIL FROST MAIL ART

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

This was one of the best, most enigmatic pieces of mail unintended for opening that I’ve ever tried to open. When I explained to Phil that I’d tried to get at the contents, he laughed–adding, “you did? that’s funny. there’s nothing in there.” nothing except for glue. I’d given him a book on mail art and he in turn, in time, sent this my way.

phil frost mail art

SHELFLIFE #20B: COPY VOL.1

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Leah Singer’s film work has always been mind-blowing. Her live performances with analyzer projectors are some of the most phenomenal bits of visceral human interaction with technology that I’ve ever had the good fortune to see. I remember when she first started talking about her concept for COPY. I was excited to see how her relationship with media would translate from film to serial book art.

At the time, she had been working in the archives of the New York Post as they were migrating to digital storage. She’d found a treasure trove of inspiration in the ruby-lith film that had been used and then, apparently, stored after being exploited to create photo knockouts in the pages of the Post. Drawn to the mysterious abstractions presented by the disembodied ruby-liths, Leah started editing simple, abstract layouts from the forms. They were essentially silhouettes. I’ve always been suspicious that an art director working on Apple’s iPod silhouette campaign stole the premise from the several volumes of COPY that had been released before anyone ever associated a silhouette with an MP3 player. I still am. Ad agencies steal oodles from underground ephemera.

Here’s the cover and centerfold from Leah’s first release:

leah singer\'s COPY vol. 1