|RE/SEARCH Newsletter #27, December 2003|
|HERE’S THE NEWS FROM SAN FRANCISCO….
**Dear Friends: Please note that our email address has changed to:
1. RE/Search at The LAB: The PRANKS! FESTIVAL
Fifteen years after it first hit shelves, PRANKS! remains one of the most important and relevant books ever to emerge from RE/Search’s outr� publishing house. In today’s current surreal political landscape, a well-executed prank can do much more than yelling theater in a crowded fire! In that spirit, RE/Search and The Lab present The Pranks! Festival.
The Pranks! Festival will celebrate ten Bay Area artists who appeared in PRANKS! Through art exhibits, panel discussions, and chaotic socialization, we will fete the fearless Situationist spirit that San Francisco’s pranksters embody. This is a rare opportunity to engage with prankster pioneers Mark Pauline of Survival Research Laboratories (SRL), Monte Cazazza, Bruce Conner, Paul Mavrides, Mark McCloud, Mal Sharpe (yes, of Coyle & Sharpe), Fluxus anti-artist Robert Delford Brown, John Trubee, tattoo guru Don Ed Hardy and Jello Biafra (tent.). These and other RE/Search luminaries, such as photographer Charles Gatewood, will autograph copies of PRANKS! and offer their rare CDs, art, posters, videos, and other wares for sale. Their artworks and products, along with titles from the RE/Search backlist, make great Christmas gifts while supporting San Francisco’s counterculture community.
The Pranks! Festival exhibition will feature large images by Survival Research Laboratories, Billboard Liberation Front “improvements,” and numerous artworks by participants. Also promised is a special holiday surprise from Survival Research Laboratories.
The evening will begin with a 6:00 PM Pranks! panel discussion moderated by Mal Sharpe, and a ouija board ritual summoning the Ghosts of Pranksters Past, conducted by the mysterious Madame Clairvoyant. A roving video team will capture your tales of pranks past and ideas for future pranks (for possible inclusion in a future RE/Search book, Pranks Vol.2). For your yuletide entertainment, we’ll also be joined by the S.F. Cacophony Society Santa Clauses in full mufti. And that’s just the beginning–everyone who has ever appeared in a RE/Search book is also invited to attend, adding to the mystery of what may occur…
Admission includes a $5 discount coupon good toward the purchase of a PRANKS! book. And if you buy a book, you get in free!
FROM S.F. CHRONICLE, 11-20-03:
ALSO THAT WEEKEND AT THE LAB
Our friend David Pescovitz rewrote the above, making it a lot snappier!
2. SURVIVAL RESEARCH LABORATORIES, Las Vegas, Feb 7, 2004
Those of us who live in the Bay Area are fortunate in that we’re occasionally able to experience, firsthand and in the flesh, a Survival Research Laboratories event. A live SRL performance offers so much more than a video/film ever can, including any Virtual Reality invention of the future. Although–I personally would like to see an Imax film of an SRL event…even then, multiple viewings would be necessary.
Attending a live SRL show is tantamount to participating in a huge, amazing “crash test” which challenges the legal and physical limits of one’s own vision, hearing, and sense of smell–not to mention one’s philosophical framework. Earplugs are supplied free at the door for a good reason–they are absolutely essential. Experienced SRL crew members use expensive shooting-range hearing protector headsets which can be quickly removed and placed around the neck. Safety glasses wouldn’t be a bad idea, either, and waterproof clothing could prove useful indeed.
The implications of just one SRL performance and its iconography could easily fill an artist’s monograph–not surprising, considering that an SRL show consists of the creative output of some fifty artists working together, co-operating (in the original sense of the word) to produce a disturbing, amazing, full-fledged, multi-centered “art” experience … one which raises myriad questions, and probes the taboos, aesthetics and laws which circumscribe [read: imprison] our daily lives. All this without a taint of academicism, elitism or intellectualism–the shows are actually very funny, that is, if your sense of humor is black.
Experiencing a blazing, thunderous SRL show in full fireworks amidst sulphurous fumes reminds us anew how tepid our daily lives (or rather, what passes for them) have become. It’s as if our eyes had become accustomed to only “tasteful, muted” shades of teal, beige, moss, and caramel–and had forgotten that violent reds and deep satanic blacks once existed (and still do).
Upon arriving at 5 PM (Nov. 12, 2003) at the U.C. Berkeley Art Museum, a Bauhaus-like concrete assemblage of superimposed blockhouses and overhanging balconies next to high-rise dormitories, trees, and residences, we noticed large trucks and a crane parked outside. Because of severely limited viewing area, this particular SRL show was dubbed “secret” and for tactical reasons limited to friends of the 50-member “crew,” who were each allowed a mere two guests each. Apparently this SRL show had been arranged for the private viewing of an international conference of about 100 art curators from around the world.
Once through the gate, we were exhorted to go to a certain balcony and stay out of the way. The performance area, a klieg-lit courtyard outside the museum, was crowded with SRL performance machines and generators. Really, this was an extremely confined space for an SRL show–which means that those lucky enough to experience it were also placed in dangerous proximity to the happenings. The constant growlings and rumblings of metal-insect machines being tested were pseudo-soothed by mawkish symphonic tides of sonic valium–Yanni was being played at full volume! Dialectical pre-show music.
SRL shows usually feature puzzling thematic or iconographic imagery, which sometimes gets destroyed. Tonight, beautiful high-resolution photographic blow-ups displayed a dwarf in boxing gear (Was he the handsome star of The Station Agent?), a man crouched inside a dog-carrier, a classic Charles Manson-esque hippie flexing his muscles while two women “wrestled” in the background, and a shaven-headed SM-clad man sporting semi-erect male plumage. Dominating the plaza was a gigantic cyclops wearing a loincloth, hoisted high in the air. About 15 feet above the ground, a statue of Jesus Christ with His arm raised in benediction hung horizontally from a monorail-like wire stretching across the courtyard. This plaster “Super-Hippie” had been blessed with a bicycle attached to his back, like some kind of Duchampian prosthetic update.
Shortly after we arrived, the crew of men and women, mostly dressed in jumpsuits, gathered for a final meeting (and burritos and chips) under the shade of a small grove of trees covered by huge strips of silver foil. Each machine had its own group of “handlers” (or is it the other way around?), and crew members were exhorted to perform their own quality control checks–e.g., “Make sure you’ve got a full tank of gas!” We also overheard remarks like, “This is the best food we’ve ever had!” Artists, like an army, need food to perform, and if anything in the Bay Area resembles an army of revolutionaries, this would be it. Explosives, incendiary devices, remote-control detonators, motion-sensing devices … the kinds of diabolical knowledge Vietnam Vets utilized in full combat, are here turned toward…the Creation of Art.
The SRL set was short–just 20 minutes. We recalled how some of our best memories in history were a mere 20 minutes long: seeing the Ramones in August 1976 at The Savoy, and the Damned at the Mabuhay, March ’77. Because of the proximity to the machines and the confined architecture of the limited viewing spaces, this particular performance seemed the most dangerous we’ve ever seen…yet no curators were harmed in the performance of this art. It must be noted that whether intentionally or not, it was the curators–the target audience privileged with the best viewing balcony in the museum–who were drenched with a literal explosion of water (yes, some expensive blonde coiffures collapsed into skullcaps), and shortly thereafter were engulfed in a sweeping 30-foot-tall upswept wave of flame, generated by the Flame Tornado (created by Kevin Binkert). These flames whirled around in a circle faster than we’ve ever seen before, and in a Marinetti/Futurist way could only be described as “beautiful.” We were reminded of those “fountains” in New York City’s Wall Street which shoot water horizontally across blocks of stone at 60 (or is it 100) miles per hour.
We could go on and on about the amazing (and beautifully designed) Tesla Coil, the Flippy Box (a personal favorite, for minimalist reasons), the various machine/animal/personalities such as Violet Blue’s Air Launcher, the Hovercraft, the Inchworm, the Running Machine and the Big Arm (all identified on the srl.org website) with their posturing, bluffing, challenging and withdrawing; the awesome power of the Shockwave Cannon or V1 in action; the physical effects of explosions and dazzling light-rays on one’s nervous system… A good art show raises questions–the better the art, the more the questions–and we found ourselves speculating as to whether machines can express emotions, how much one’s physical body affects one’s personality and outlook … indeed, for a while it seemed that all the possible speculations regarding the realm of the interaction between the physical and the conceptual were in front of us, just beyond our reach. While we fancy ourselves capable of limitless imaginings in our minds, nevertheless the truth is that our own physical limitations can impose themselves on our theorizings in subtle and sometimes invisible ways.
The “Sculptural”Iconography Which Must Be Destroyed included a very large and cute brown (teddy) bear, apparently smoking a large spliff; the aforementioned Cyclops (reminiscent of those wonderful Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies of the Sixties, but sporting an enormous penis and balls, once the loincloth had been ripped down); and the aforementioned Jesus Christ of the Bicycle (aka Super-Hippie)–perhaps if a large crowd had been present, that lone bicycle would have replicated itself into 5000 Provo-like bicycles for all, like the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
Suddenly the show ended–to the keening sound of fire engines which had just pulled up (they were quickly sent back)–and a huge wave of applause, cheers and whistles burst forth from the audience. A complicated mess remained to be cleaned up–obviously, this was the true test of character and commitment: to stay or not to stay (and help clean up). We couldn’t help but think that not only had we experienced art which tested the legal and physical limits of our eyes, ears, noses, and the conceptualizing machines in our brains–i.e., Are we closer to total liberation of the mind and body yet?–but, that we had also gotten a glimpse of a more liberated society of the future, in action, now. A society of artists. A society without hierarchy. Where members act with the goal of mutual aid and personal responsibility. Where artists express uncensored, focused, complex personal creativity while co-operating with other sympatico independence-loving artists of all genders and backgrounds. Great Art is always ahead of its time, isn’t it? The Best Art, as Dubuffet once said, never calls itself art.
Postscript: We couldn’t help but recall that first public Survival Research Laboratories show, on a sunny afternoon in 1979, at Alex’s Service Station in North Beach, San Francisco, at the corner of Columbus and Filbert Streets adjacent to Washington Square Park. This premiere machine performance, when Mark Pauline first staged his “art attack” on the Oil Crisis (which still exists, with the current Bush Administration), featured a conveyer belt-run machine chewing up and spitting out dead pigeons dressed as tiny Arabs, to the soundtrack of noise plus the Cure’s “Killing an Arab.” (The U.S. government is still killing Arabs, right?, under the guise of “liberating” them.)
This 1979 show seemed to have been totally organized and executed by one artist–one person’s vision, undiluted–which must have meant hundreds of solitary hours of conceptualizing and executing the performance, from the oversize black-and-white posters and images on a roll of paper, to the scavenging for materials and the welding and assembling of the machine creatures themselves. The memory of that solitary performance to a crowd of less than thirty people, almost 25 years ago, (with no video or photography) stood in poignant contrast to the bustling November 2003 performance in which fifty-odd people worked in hyperactive harmony in the midst of explosions, smoke and chaos, criss-crossing and streaking through the courtyard on urgent “art” missions, and with nobody killed, despite the rocket blasts and deadly projectile fire. Art after all is theater, not reality.
It is a rare, amazing thing that one person’s vision can continue to develop for 25 years to date, and along the way magnetize some of the best people on the planet (so far, we’ve met Karen Marcelo, Scott Beale, John Law, Eddie Codel, Brian __, Kevin, and That Accordion Guy) into being collaborators, cohorts and even spin-offs. Particularly since this is not done for the profit motive. Today the “Laboratories” part of the SRL name has come true; SRL is definitely a complicated collaborative enterprise.
Having not seen the television shows and whatever else may be out there, we have no comment on the watered-down corporate ripoffs televised under titles like “Robot Wars,” which never pay a royalty nor give a credit to the originator, the archetype maker, of violent machine-performance art: Mark Pauline. (Unless this itself is a comment…)
P.P.S.: By the way, Survival Research Laboratories is doing a show in Las Vegas February 7, 2004. Details on www.srl.org.
Addendum: Silke Tudor wrote a witty article about this show in the San Francisco Weekly, Nov 19-25,2003 issue. She quoted Mark Pauline as saying, “I still couldn’t do a show like this in San Francisco without getting arrested. But people can’t usually get shows in their own town, anyway.”
3. FERLINGHETTI: “We Need a New Movement!”
“Matt Gonzalez is the only one who actually speaks the truth,” Lawrence said. “Everyone else is just lying…There’s a lot of words we have to get rid of; that we can’t use anymore–they’re too outdated now: communism, anarchism, Trotskyism…We need a New Movement!” I suggested it be a verb, not a noun or an “ism”… “We need to capitalize on all the energy that was raised by Gonzalez running for mayor. A lot of young people campaigned for him because he was the first politician who ever interested them–well, he wasn’t a politician; he was telling the way things really were, and are.”
Lawrence was happy that the advance copies of his new color 9×12″ book of paintings (see citylights.com for exact title), had just come in from China’s Spectrum Press: “They got the colors right. They did a great job. And, they have a local representative.” Elaine Katzenberg noted that she had to work with the representative to get the paper right; finally, they nailed it. Lawrence’s gallery, the George Krevsky Gallery, helped co-publish the book; at the end of January 2004 they will host an exhibition of all the color paintings in the book. “Our first printer, Colorcraft, refused to print it because there’s nudity in it. Apparently their major client is a Christian rightwing publisher, and Colorcraft was afraid they would lose him, so after seeing the layout, they declined the job.” There are definitely some “erotic” paintings in the new book.
There was a basket with pieces of paper bearing the employees’ names, and everyone had to pull out a piece of paper and exchange gifts. Lawrence drew the name of artist/City Lights employee Scott Davis, and gave him a blue dashiki-cap (?) that Allen Ginsberg had given him back in 1972 (?) after a trip to India, and Scott gave Lawrence a January 2004 50th Anniversary issue of Playboy magazine, which came in a bag with five condoms. “For some time now all my girlfriends have been too old to get pregnant,” Lawrence observed (he’s now 84). “I’ve been in bed the last three days; I hurt my back moving around these big 8-foot paintings in my studio.”
Brandon, organizer of the S.F. Punk Rock Bicycle Tour and a member of the S.F. Bicycle Coalition, came up and invited me to go on theHeaven and Hell Bicycle Tour, which will hit architectural landmarks like The Church of Satan‘s California Street headquarters (now defunct),People’s Temple, the Church of the Process headquarters, and other noir/kitsch once-holy power spots. Brandon said he would provide a special rickshaw for me to ride in, and Lawrence said, “No, you should ride a bicycle! I do; I ride from my house on Francisco Street around the Embarcadero to the Java House; it takes about an hour to make the round trip. There aren’t many hills on that route. You can get a good bike for about $200; I got a good bike, a Trek, for $225.” Lawrence said he still goes to the Embarcadero YMCA and works on the exercise machines, but mainly swims: “They have a great pool on the second floor.” I vowed to get a bike, but this time I intended to get a folding bicicyle that will fit in a car. Lawrence said, “That’s why I got a truck. Also, I need a truck to hold my big paintings.” I recalled that Lawrence had an older truck which had been stolen; fortunately it had been covered by theft insurance which effectively paid for a nearly brand-new truck. Well, if you park a truck in Hunters’ Point regularly (near Lawrence’s art studio), you’d better expect it to be stolen…the moral of the story being: always get theft coverage (which is cheap) on an old vehicle…
I asked Lawrence how he felt about giving readings and he agreed that it’s necessary to develop a professional microphone technique: “With the new advanced microphones they have nowadays, it’s really easy to sound good.” He added, “Did you see the movie The Last Waltz? Toward the end I read a poem. Actually, there were a bunch of poets who read poems there, but most of them had such poor microphone technique that the sound dropped in and out, and they couldn’t use any of their footage in the film. I think Michael McClure was the only one who also knew how to use a microphone…A lot of people don’t know how they sound when they speak in public. I listen to interviews on NPR and–just the other day I heard this man being interviewed on KPFA and I counted the number of times he said “Y’know…” and it was at least fifty times! Or, they say a lot of “Like…” or “Man…”
Lawrence was leafing through a couple guidebooks to Mexico: “Last time this year, before Christmas, I was in Oaxaca. I’m going to go to Oaxaca again this year in February (2004). That’s one of the only places in Mexico that’s not spoiled by tourism; there aren’t any high-rise hotels.” Lawrence said that over the years he had been all over Mexico, and Oaxaca is his favorite place now, although he seemed interested when I told him I had visited a small seacoast town named San Pancho three times, where on Saturday nights the entire community (seemingly) gathered for a showing of B movies projected from the back of a flatbed truck onto a whitewashed wall. He said, “That’s what the movie Cinema Paradiso is about–you should see it!”
I asked Lawrence what he had been reading lately and he sighed, “I’ve got about ten books going. I’m trying to get through them… I asked him about the Jacques Barzun book, From Dawn to Decadence: “That must be 800 pages long; did you actually read it straight through from cover to cover?” and he said, “I dipped through that one–I was using it to look for quotations I could use in a poem I was writing. He was teaching at Columbia University and I attended classes he taught back in the Thirties; I didn’t pay to attend them; I audited them, which was free. That book came out about three years ago; I think he’s still alive.”
I asked Lawrence what he drank and he responded in the negative when I asked, “Any hard stuff–Whiskey, Scotch, Vodka?” “No, I drink mostly a little red wine–look, the Coppola Family just gave me two bottles of wine in a box for Christmas; a special vintage from their winery in Napa. Oh, and I drink Zambucca (sp?) after a meal; it’s an aperitif. I don’t drink champagne; after two glasses I always get a headache.” (By now it was near midnight, and champagne was being offered all around.)
I asked Lawrence how old his grandchildren were and he said, “Leonardo is six and Millie (dtr; sp?) is three and a half. Lorenzo” [Lawrence’s son] “won’t live in the city; he feels he belongs in the country. Whereas I like being in the city. Although, when I get too decrepit, I might move to the country…but not now. Not for many years…”
Again, I certainly hope I’m in this good of a shape when, to paraphrase a Beatles’ song, I’m 84…
4. HOW TO SUCCEED AS AN ARTIST! Bruno Richard shows us one way…
It seems that all people can be divided into two categories: artists, and everybody else. So what is an artist? In a capitalist society, the simplest definition is “anyone who does something creative without the profit motive.” We must also cite Duchamp’s observation, “Mystery is the essential element of a work of art.” And the incursion of “performance art” has made everything you do, including doing your dishes, potentially “art.”
In our last newsletter we tackled the issue of “fame and how to get it.” In the spirit of the ever-shrinking economic times (every day, more and more money gets drawn to fewer and fewer people), we now cite the disgruntled chestnut, “Fame–who needs it?!”
During the last 35+ years our Parisian friend Bruno Richard has literally produced over 100,000 drawings, many of which he has self-published in limited-edition books (what other people would call artists’ books; he himself disdains the term). We met Bruno in 1978 when he showed up and worked–hard–on Search & Destroy. At the time he was working as a ticket-taker for the French Railway. Shortly thereafter he got a job in an ad agency, and since then his day job has been working in the advertising business, which pays well.
During the past decades, Bruno awakens between 4-6 AM and draws until 8 AM. His surplus income is used to produce self-published books of his drawings and writings (as well as to support a son, now grown, and pay the mortgate on two small apartments four blocks from the Beaubourg, off the Rue St. Denis, street of prostitutes a la nuit). By now Bruno has self-published over a hundred books–no corporate publisher, or grant money, needed. All of them are “edgy” or “challenging” and none have been censored by anybody. Each book is part of an edition of a few hundred or far less, yet in the absence of international fame, can still be acquired by anybody enterprising enough to find Bruno. You can have the satisfaction of owing a truly rare item from France, for, say, the price of something throwaway–like a few weeks’ purchase of the daily local newspaper.
5. The World is Controlled by Corporate Marketing Campaigns…
We were attracted right away by the back cover blurb: “The top men in advertising? They’ve already started the Third World War.”… (That sounds like J.G. Ballard, doesn’t it?) “Scathing, violent, tragic and hilarious, this expose of advertising and universal consumerism by one of the most caustic authors of his generation makes 9.99 pounds a truly unforgettable read.” For once, the hype matches the actual content.
The book’s frontispiece features a great quotation from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World: “There is, of course, no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the old. Government by clubs and firing squads, by artificial famine, mass imprisonment and mass deportation, is not merely inhumane (nobody cares about that nowadays); it is demonstrably inefficient–and in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses asnd their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and school-teachers.”
The next quotation is “We are afflicted/By the desires they have inflicted upon us.” (Alain Souchon, “Foule sentimentale,” 1993
and from Charles Bukowski: “Capitalism has survived communism. Now it only remains for it to consume itself.”
and lastly from Rainer Werner Fassbinder: “What we cannot change, we should at least describe.”
The book begins with “…I’m an advertising executive…I’m the guy who sells you shit. Who makes you dream of things you’ll never have. The sky’s always blue, the girls are never ugly, perfect happiness touched up on Photoshop…Immaculate images, in-yer-face music. When, after painstaking saving, you manage to buy the car of your dreams (the one I shot in my last campaign), I will already have made it look out of date. I’m three trends ahead, and I make sure you’re always frustrated. Glamour is a country that no one ever gets to. I intoxicate you with new things, and the advantage with the new is that it never stays new for long. There are always new new things to make the last lot look old. I want to make you drool–that’s my vocation. No one in my profession actually wants you to be happy, because happy people don’t spend. Your suffering boosts sales. In our own jargon we call this the “post-purchase downer.”… In order to create a need, I have to arouse jealousy, pain and dissatisfaction: they are my weapons. And my target–is you.”
Beigbeder identifies and gives a name to various stages of the process of persuasion leading to consumption, noting that “Rebellion is all part of the game…Advertising has chosen a low profile, the soft touch, the art of persuasion, to reduce humanity to slavery. We’re living in the first system in which man is dominated by something against which even the concept of freedom is utterly powerless. Quite the opposite, in fact, it’s banking on freedom; freedom is its greatest find…The system has achieved its goal: even disobedience has become a form of obedience.”
If you don’t by now “get” why we’re so enthusiastic about this book, then… The book ends with a listing of “million dollar” advertising phrases like “Just Do It.” This book covers, from a situationist slant, the most highly-funded “control process” (thanks to W.S. Burroughs for the term) in the history of the world. It’s also very funny; a friend of ours sat down on our sofa and read it straight through in four hours! Oddly enough, the book was somewhat rewritten for a British audience, with British locations replacing the original French ones.
6. NYC Fluxus Anti-Artist ROBERT DELFORD BROWN to appear at our PRANKS! FESTIVAL, Sat Dec 6, 6-11PM at The Lab We first featured ROBERT DELFORD in our PRANKS! book, and regarded him as one of the most groundbreaking artists alive. ROBERT DELFORD BROWN is now 73 years old!
Why should you care about/be interested in ROBERT DELFORD BROWN?
7. What We’re Reading, Seeing, Listening To…
Recently we were graced by a visit from Andrea Reider, a Los Angeles book designer who gave us the thought that every “good” book needs to be read twice, immediately: “You can’t possibly get everything in one reading. The first time through you’re just following the plot, barely grasping the outline; the second time through, you see what you missed and you start appreciating the nuances and the beauty of the language. In fact, one’s Top Twenty books deserve to be re-read every few years.” (We had thought that about movies, but had never extended the thought to books. Until now. Yes, what are our Top Twenty books and Top Twenty movies of all time? Seemingly that would change at least every year.
Some of the very earliest books we read as children were: Great Dialogues of Plato; The Book of Knowledge (children’s encyclopedia set)–we especially liked the photorealist illustrations of Christians being thrown to the lions. Those About to Die and The Beast by Daniel P. Mannix.Huckleberry Finn. Wisdom magazine. The Great Books of the Western World, including the amusingly-coined Syntopicon. Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky, as well as The Brothers Karamazov. The Complete Short Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. These were all favorites before, roughly, the 10th Grade. (By the 5th Grade, most children can read “grown-up” material.)
These days our Top Twenty Books would still include Jean Dubuffet’s Asphyxiating Culture, Breton’s Nadja and Manifestoes of Surrealism,Dialogues with Duchamp (and anything about or by Duchamp), Baudrillard’s America, all books about or by Andy Warhol, anything to do with Dada, Surrealism, Situationism and their precursors, anthing to do with William S. Burroughs or J.G. Ballard or Luis Bunuel or Andre Breton, and anything to do with Slavoj Zizek, Derrida, or Lacan, whom we can’t really read, but still feel that “there’s something there.” That is to say, we prefer to borrow books by the last three authors, and we also have a hard time finding quotable quotes from them. Whereas Burroughs or Ballard — chockfull of quotes!
But we’ve also developed a ferocious appetite for selected “escapist” literature in the mystery genre. Numero uno is Andrea Camilleri, with his unrivaled sense of humor and lust for life. Second is Michael Dibdin, who can write some amazing sentences–especially liked is his Cosi Fani Tutti. (We like the Throbbing Gristle musician of that name, too.) Third is Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall (deceased, so no more from them). Then, in no particular order, come Donna Leon, Arthur Upfield, Thomas Perry, Henning Mankell, Nicolas Freeling, and authors writing under the pseudonyms (we don’t know if those are “real” names) of Bruno Rossi, Frank Scarpetta, and Peter McCurtin. Discover these authors at your peril; at the very least balance them out once in a while with more intellectually demanding fare!
J.G. Ballard’s Millennium People is out (try abebooks.com) and of course we highly recommend it–at age 73, the master sage of our age (especially since W.S. Burroughs is no longer with us) is still ahead of his time and more relevant than ever. Sex, violence, virtual reality, gated communities, racism, sexploitation–Ballard’s unblinking gaze contemplates the future implications of everything and discerns the deeper (and often ominous) implications barely concealed beneath the gleaming surfaces. Here are some quotations:
“The only frightening people I met were the police and television reporters. The police were morose and unpredictable, paranoid about any challenge to their authority. The television reporters were little more than agents provocateurs, forever trying to propel the peaceful protests into violent action…”
“Learn the rules, and you can get away with anything…”
“Today’s tourist goes nowhere…All the upgrades in existence lead to the same airports and resort hotels, the same pina colada bullshit. The tourists smile at their tans and their shiny teeth and think they’re happy. But the suntans hide who they really are–salary slaves, with heads full of American rubbish. Travel is the last fantasy the 20th Century left us, the delusion that going somewhere helps you reinvent yourself…There’s nowhere to go. The planet is full.”
“Look at the world around you…What do you see? An endless theme park, with everything turned into entertainment. Science, politics, education–they’re so many fairground rides. Sadly, people are happy to buy their tickets and climb aboard.”
“The 20th Century lingers on. It shapes everything we do, the way we think. There’s scarcely a good thing you can say for it. Genocidal wars, half the world destitute,the other half sleepwalking through its own brain-death. We bought its trashy dreams and now we can’t wake up. All these hypermarkets and gated communities…There’s one thing about this trash society. The middle classes like it.”
“People like going to airports…They like the long-term car parks, the check-ins, the duty-frees, showing their passports. They can pretend they’re someone else.”
“The Internet is our confession box.”
“Anyone earning less than ($450,000) a year scarcely counts.”
“We believe in progress and the power of reason, but are haunted by the darker sides of human nature. We’re obsessed by sex, but fear the sexual imagination and have to be protected by huge taboos. We believe in equality but hate the underclass. We fear our bodies and, above all, we fear death. We’re an accident of nature, but we think we’re at the center of the universe. We’re a few steps from oblivion, but we hope we’re somehow immortal…”
“The attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 was a brave attempt to free America from the 20th Century.”
“Breaking the law is a huge challenge for professionals…”
“Death, violence–is that how you see God?”
Again, the above quotations are from J.G. Ballard‘s new novel, Millennium People. It is heartening to think that one can possibly remain radical and relevant until one’s final, dying breath (or as Luis Bunuel put it, one’s last sigh). BTW, Bunuel’s autobiography remains one of our favorites of all time, as is his book of conversations.
Sofia Coppola‘s Lost in Translation might seem to be an out-of-character film choice for this eNewsletter, but … we found ourselves in Annapolis, Maryland, and that was playing in a local strip mall. Dutifully we put on our wool overcoats and drove to the theater, and for the next 100 minutes found ourselves laughing almost every single minute at something in the film, whether it be an acting performance or a weird comedy act on TV playing in the background. Japan holds up such a funhouse mirror to American pop culture; it reinterprets it one better in an inexplicable, baffling way. And the linguistic barriers…automatic slapstick comedy in real life.
This film captured the over-the-top, high-rise neon jungle that is Tokyo’s Shinjuku district better than any other movie we’ve seen…the photography is beautiful, gorgeous, clear and detailed, and there are performances which are just classic improvisations. Bill Murray’s karaoke versions of songs are far better than the originals, as they are less “slick” and more “raw.” Who cares if there’s no “plot”? The film was hilarious from start to finish–this is extremely rare, these days–and at the end people in the audience actually applauded, for good reason. We left with a fresh disrespect for professional film “reviewers” who must be incapable of unfettered, unconflicted enjoyment. Oh, and the film is filled with lush, sexy images almost as throwaway inclusions…eye candy, but swallowed with a grin. We definitely recommend it to be seen on a BIG SCREEN…it will never be as good on a small television monitor. It’s just like taking a trip to Tokyo; maybe even better, because chances are **you** can’t afford to stay in that expensive hotel with the swimming pool…
Christopher Coppola, whose recent film BLOODHEAD played the Toronto Film Festival in September, has an interesting website,www.PlasterCity.com. Particularly notable in the “archives” are the “Audblogs” (Audio blogs). For a small fee you can use your cellphone on the road (or, use your home phone) to call in brief anecdotes, thoughts, reports, whatever, to a certain phone number and magically they appear almost instantly on your website for others to hear. Is this widely known? …BTW, we are also soliciting any magazine articles, any leads, any information at all, on the composer EDEN AHBEZ, who wrote “Nature Boy”…
STEVEN GRAY‘s website, telepoetic.com is recommended: it has hundreds of photos of San Francisco anti-war protest marches, shots of the Folsom Street fair, Halloween in the Castro, etc. You may be in one of his photos! Steven has captured some of the best handmade signs with unique slogans, some of which are very thought-provoking and funny.
A FEW MORE RECOMMENDATIONS: () WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS’ NAKED LUNCH, JUNKY — both books now out in “restored” editions containing text hitherto censored. Now that’s an idea for a fun evening: comparing side-by-side your old copy of Naked Lunch with this new release! We keep out on the table the massive book of William Burroughs’ Collected Interviews (MIT Press) too, and dip into it whenever possible for inspiration that helps keep us on track. Available at www.citylights.com.
() THE BOOK OF JOE ($50) by Joe Coleman, who 3 weeks ago was in San Francisco with his wife Whitney Ward for a book signing at THERAPY, San Francisco’s answer to Los Angeles’s Soap Plant/Wacko on Hollywood Blvd. THERAPY, on Valencia St near 16th St, was also selling RE/Search books, thanks to Wayne the owner. Joe was chatting with Spain Rodriquez and Ron Turner from Last Gasp, and showed us a photo from The Book of Joe which proved that Joe got to conduct a real-life autopsy on a visit to Hungary…apparently, if you pay the money, you can have that experience. Yet another reason to visit Eastern Europe…
() Michael Moore’s Dude, Where’s My Country? Robert Delford Brown was kind enough to send us a copy of this, and Marian Wallace immediately devoured it, declaring, “Everybody should read this book!” It’s not only full of damning documentation of the treasonous deeds of the Bush Gang, but is also very funny. NYC’s Emily Armstrong and Pat Ivers were in town just last weekend showing their classic 1975-1980 punk documentaries (“Nightclubbing“) at the Yerba Buena, and they highly recommended Al Franken’s Lies, and the Lying Liars… (sic) book. They were extremely clear and lucid about the early history of punk, especially in the Q and A sessions after each showing. In typical punk fashion, they had to “borrow” video equipment to shoot with from the public access TV channel they worked for…everybody they knew helped them out in one way or another. Zero budget D.I.Y. filmmaking.
() Last Friday night BRIAN ENO was in town giving a “free” lecture under the sponsorship of an exciting-sounding Think Tank project, titled The Long Now; our new friend Adrienne tried to attend but it was overpopulated. She reported, however, that a DVD of the event is forthcoming. So, give a lecture, keep the price sliding scale so a truly interesting cross-section will show up, video it and then produce a DVD–not a bad strategy… If for nothing else, Eno will go down in history for his deck of cards, Oblique Strategies–very useful for when you’re stymied trying to solve a creative problem, regardless of medium. We don’t know why millions of copies haven’t been sold; we ourselves would certainly like to get hold of a deck! If anyone knows where to get one, please write us: firstname.lastname@example.org
() Marshall McLuhan: Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. (1965) We finally found a copy (after all these years) and started reading it and it is ‘way ahead of its time! McLuhan must be one of the most prophetic writers of the 20th century; wish we’d read this book decades ago. BTW, if you can find it, the Playboy interview with McLuhan is a classic and much easier to read than most of his other books.
() Suzi Gablik: Has Modernism Failed? This book came out in 1984 and we just found a copy, and again, wish we’d found it when it first came out. Here are some quotes just found, right now, at random: “Careers depend more and more on advertising, promotion, and good public relations.” “One of the things about American art is that you have to be part of a movement to become well known.” “The old values of individuality, indispensability, and spontaneity are replaced by new ones, based on obedience, dispensability, specialization, planning, and paternalism. The goal is security: to be part of the big powerful machine, to be protected by it, and to feel strong in the symbiotic connection with it.In the case of artists, these values are hostile to all that we know about the nature of creativity.”
Why is it that our favorite art is by “Outsider Artists”? (Plus, Hieronymous Bosch.)
More than ever, it’s necessary to support independent publishers and stores. Amazon is convenient, but it’s even better when, say, small publishers like us get the full 100% benefit of your largesse…So, please order direct from us. If you order 4 or more books, write email@example.com for your special discount, mentioning this newsletter.
8. WRITING ABOUT US AND OUR BOOKS
“…I have read practically all your issues since the early 80s, when I used to purchase them from Subterranean Records (together with a few records�from various obscure bands from the Bay Area which have long since vanished).�In the mid to late 80s, me and a good friend of mine even attempted to publish an alternative magazine on obscure Brazilian films, using ‘Incredibly Strange Films’ as reference. But Rio being the provincial little�town that it is, with all the high-brow critics turning their�faces away, the project never got anywhere.
Last Gasp recently published a four-color paperbound 9×12 artbook, Recent Litter from the Firehouse Kustom Rockart Company: Chuck Sperry and Ron Donovan, featuring a lengthy interview by V. Vale. The artwork is sexy and incendiary. Chuck and Ron have a lot to say about the function of art in a corporate world, and how anarchist collectives in Italy may give us a glimpse of A Better Tomorrow… Order from us direct: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will reply with total price including shipping, depending on where you are.
FORTEAN TIMES printed the “best” review yet of our Modern Pagans book: “Highly recommended by a hardcore atheist.” “Many of the people in this book are up-front anarchists. And their sense of commitment in terms of living their beliefs puts many more traditional anarchists to shame…I find this book presents something of a challenge…So many of the personal stories are empowering and uplifting that it is very tempting to think that maybe there’s something to all this…” Commercial: Modern Pagans may be ordered: email@example.com.
9. The RE/Search Mission Statement
Founded (really) by V. Vale in 1977, RE/Search Publications was inspired by the Punk Rock Cultural Revolution. Vale’s first publication was “Search & Destroy,” produced by a kind of punk rock collective. RE/Search (a pun on Search & Destroy) seeks to exalt “D-I-Y” (Do It Yourself), to work against hierarchy and the status quo, and to demystify the “Control Process” that thwarts our creativity and exercise of freedom. RE/Search is engaged in a long-term cultural remapping toward the chimeric goal of “total liberation of the mind and body.” We also aim to bring you the “best” out of the information overload engulfing us. Our roots are Black Humor, Dada, Surrealism, Situationism, Outsider Art, and The Eternal Underground, including The Occult. Our direct mentors are William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Philip Lamantia, plus everybody we’ve interviewed! Please feel free to contribute to this project–and say how you wish to be credited.
December 2003 RE/Search eNewsletter written by V. Vale.
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