The Exploratorium’s Ulrika Andersson invited us to “SECOND SKIN: Imaginative Designs in Digital & Analog Clothing”‘s opening night celebration, 4/25/08 7-11pm. This took place in one of San Francisco’s most beautiful buildings, left over from the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition, and designed around a small lake graced by trees, grass, and black swans. The guest list entrance is a hundred feet to the left of the main entrance, but it leads directly to the small movie theater run by an alumnae of the 70s Punk Rock Cultural Revolution, Liz Keim. We arrived at 8pm and as soon as we entered the large main room we saw SRL crew Ralf, Liisa Pine, Sean (?) and Joanne — a good start. Liisa wore foam “industrial” jewelry and Joanne sported a futuristic flight suit. Then a couple of spectacularly plumaged and masked women walked by, then more.
Slowly we walked through the exhibits through the main room and saw Louis, a member of the original Suicide Club now involved in www.lightnwire.com — “lightwire” for clothing. A man walked by wearing coveralls whose pockets were outlined in glowing lightwire — it was like watching a living animation. Another man walked by in a light-green suit made out of bubble-wrap! We paused at a booth and watched fuzzy-wuzzy animals come to life when an operator “petted” them with a magnetic steel bar. In a windowed room we spotted Xeni Jardin (NPR, Boing Boing) video-interviewing several people.
Upstairs a man in a loincloth sat in a seven-sided “jukebox” slowly eating chocolate biscuits. Judging by the program, we missed most of the performances and runways and demonstrations, but in various locations people were playing a theremin, marimbas, and trying out the Exploratorium’s interactive (and sometimes walk-through) exhibits. A couple glowing lightwire art bicycles wheeled by, along with local “indie” circus performers. Some couples were dressed retro-hippie in multiple layers of fabric and jewelry, complex and colorful. In DIY terms there was no difference between the runway and the audience walking about. This was people-watching (one of my favorite activities in cafes over the world) times powers of ten…
A ten-year-old girl was wearing a costume she made out of newspaper and colorful tape. A girl wore a large wing assembly made of playing cards. All kinds of exotic and unlikely materials were being re-purposed as costume with high-tech references. In the very back, high up, an aerial acrobatic kind of opera was being performed, in spectacular post-Goth, Solomon-and-Sheba draperies, mostly white with touches of black. Throughout the evening, the sky was the limit as far as neo-clothing concepts goes — I liked the concept of a video camera wire hat which not only added height but recorded everything you saw and heard — total recall might then be possible, as long as one didn’t run out of memory. Maybe someday, at birth there will be an SD card implanted into our heads with a memory sufficient to video-record our entire lifetime…
At 9:10 we drove to the San Francisco Film Festival’s Kabuki Theater to see the U.S. premiere of Dario Argento’s “Mother of Tears” — the last installment of his “Three Mothers” trilogy. At the head of the line was Jeffrey Friend and Tom Iwatsubo, whom we “joined.” Jeffrey had the U.S. edition of Maitland McDonagh’s “Broken Mirrors, Broken Minds” for Dario to autograph — sadly, neither he nor his daughter Asia Argento showed up for the festival — Asia was pregnant, and Dario had to accelerate filming on his next work, “Giallo,” when Adrien Brody suddenly became available. Jeffrey was also holding a beautiful vintage pulp copy of Cornell Woolrich’s (under the pseudonym of “William Irish”) “Dilemma of the Dead Lady.” Jeffrey’s favorite Cornell Woolrich books include all the “Black” series (“The Bride Wore Black,” “Rendezvous in Black,” etc), “The Phantom Lady,” “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” etc.
The announcer staged a poster giveaway, told us his favorite Argento film was “Phenomena,” and that tonight was probably the largest screen to show the film. Finally, the film opened, and contrary to rumors featured music by “Goblin” or at least Claudio Simonetti. Good. Also, Daria Nicolodi was in the film. Better. And Dario’s daughter, Asia Argento, was the star. Best. I’m partial to themes of family reunion, especially when the work produced is obviously exponentially better.
To begin with, the opening credits featured disturbing, provocative and gorgeous detailed close-ups of some of the most enigmatic paintings in history by the likes of Hieronymus Bosch and kin. The history of mankind is also the history of torture and so-called “pornography.” Probably Rome never looked more beautiful and spectacular than in this film. Argento has an eye for exceptional architecture and interior design — perhaps he himself is a closet architect — and his lighting and camerawork are legendary for both beauty and mystery, the key elements of a work of art. The film continually surprised us: by beautiful scenes and compositions; by sudden poetic violence; by all kinds of eroticism. The plot made total sense, contrary to certain “spoiler” reviews by bourgeois film critic hacks and horror-film fanboy publications. We had the impression of having seen a sensuously choreographed, overwhelmingly romantic and timeless classic exploring the Dark Side of love and power.
One of the true modern-day horror experiences is being caught in the press of a crowd, feeling suffocated and unable to easily escape, despite being in, say, an airport, or a complex new train station. This was captured — sunlit horror, perhaps? Some favorite moments involve the feeling of being watched intently by beautiful women. The best theme of all was, as usual, that of “empowerment” — the hero(ine) finds within herself the reserves to combat enemies and threats no matter what the situation, and transcend and escape with one’s life. Maybe you CAN be invisible if you just concentrate hard enough. Who knows? William Burroughs once pointed out a man who looked so ordinary — not worth a second glance — that he was actually overwhelmingly exceptional. Funny, after W. S. Burroughs died on August 2, 1997, I kept seeing on the streets of North Beach, from a distance, a man who looked almost exactly like him — gray suit and fedora and bony face — but shorter. Weird.
We went through the nightmare of clearing customs ourselves and finally got our PRANKS hardback (edition of 500) to our warehouse in a 20-foot Ryder dock-high truck — just try driving one to Oakland and back! (No radio on, please) If you liked that book and deem it worth re-reading for the remainder of your life, please order one from www.researchpubs.com
– V. Vale, your scribe and RE/Search founder (also, the founder of SEARCH & DESTROY a bit earlier).
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