Spring 2013 updates

1.My new project “The Salesman,” which I made in collaboration with Cleveland local celebrity and eccentric furniture salesman Marc Brown (aka Marc Norton) is on display at the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art. Full photo and video documentation coming soon. For now, check out this page. Or watch some of his commericals online.

2. Recent screenings of my videos:
-Bonnarroo (yes, this happened, ask Peter Burr for more details)
-Personal Best event series at Outpost in Ridgewood
-“From The Cloud” at Magic Lantern Theater, Providence, RI

3. I’m going on tour in October as a part of this tour and then again in November. Please get in touch with me if you want me to come  to your town!

4. On this tour, if everything goes according to plan, Extreme Animals will have a VHS release of our new videos–released by Thunder Zone Entertainment! Here are some excerpts to get you excited:

Mabson Enterprises, Mish Mash Mush and The Dark Arts

My Review of “Now That’s What I Call Mabson, Vol. 7″ (of which I am a contributor):

A few days ago Kyle Mabson released his 7th compilation of “remixes” or “covers” or “versions” of top 40 hits to bandcamp. He calls for entries using social media tools and people he knows or doesn’t know submit tracks. He accepts every submission he gets and the song order is determined by the order he receives the submissions. My band, extreme animals, contributed a track. I have been wanting to write about these compilations for a while because they really make me think, so here goes:

In the year 2000 I moved to Boston, MA. There was a CD-R compilation series that was being produced in Providence, RI at the time called “Mish Mash Mush” (later called “Real Slow Radio”). I liked these compilations because of the mystery surrounding them. The artist’s names were mostly completely unknown to me and everyone else in the world. They were long and challenging releases, usually lasting about 74 minutes each. Every cd-r had a crazy new list of artists I knew I would probably never hear from again, because artists were changing their names for every new release–it seemed un-trackable and chaotic. . . . the music came out of nowhere and disappeared as quickly as it came . . . Being anonymous and cryptic was not a publicity stunt done by artists to get people to pay more attention to them, but was a fact of life for all of us, that was embraced and amplified through our art. . . It should also be asserted that this was when I lived in the shadows of Forced Exposure (where challenging, lengthy and impenetrable releases were the norm). We had all just heard Jandek for the first time. . .

Anyway, fast forward to 2012 when Mabson started this series. Despite the radical shifts that have occurred since 2000 in musical interests, popular culture and media distribution, there are some similarities between Mabson’s releases and the “Mish Mash Mush” series, and this is what makes these compilations stand out to me. They seem to offer an alternative to the “if it’s not something I have already heard of/from a reputably curated online destination/immediately mind-blowing, then I will close the tab” mentality that dominates media consumption on phones and laptops.

The idea of “going viral” while in some ways is a productive model, is just as problematic. This is why I call internet art “the dark arts.” My take on the “dark arts” will have to wait for another time, but in relation to this little blog post what I am talking about is an acceptance by many artists today that self-promotion (and often self-glorification) is an undeniable part of being an artist. And that the ultimate goal of self-promotion would be to get “as big as possible” while still maintaining integrity–for financial reasons as well as to fulfill some kind of conceptual pop art dream . . . I rarely hear it questioned that artists should want to reach as many people as possible with their output, and that they should produce consistent quality content that is easy to google, blog and re-blog. This is a critique/questioning of myself as much as it is a critique/questioning of my peers.

I’m thinking about how the way artists use the internet has at times added a challenge to cut-throat capitalism, but that just as much their use of the web has also re-invented cut-throat capitalism in perhaps even more insidious ways. I have mixed feelings about competition and ambition but in general I do not like things to become so unanimous that they become unquestioned. . . It’s challenging for me because I feel like as soon as I started thinking about self-promotion, technology and culture had changed around me to re-affirm this as an almost omni-present reality. As my creative models moved out of child-hood into a teenage narcissism, so did the internet . . . It is probably impossible to sort out the chicken from the egg with issues like these but somehow it feels good to write them down.

The spirit I see within Mabson’s compilations updates the things I found exciting about “Mish Mash Mush” to the concerns of 2013. These tracks and the compilations in general are too unwieldy, inconsistent, amature-ish and confusing to fit into all the supposed models of affirmation the “glossy” web thrives on. This is not to say they can’t be written about–I’m doing it now, there have been at least a couple of other reviews. I’m just saying they don’t fit the mold of the “successful” 2013 online release as it has been defined by boutique culture blogs. This is not an easy to digest, hyper-curated package of cutting edge, expertly produced tracks which helps to define a particular cultural moment.

I guess in summary what I am trying to say is just that to me it is really important to remember that blog-ability doesn’t create value. The value I get from Mabson’s compilations is not about it’s ability to “reach” people. It’s an experience of 2013 chaos, troll-humor, and confusion within a digital landscape that is desperately trying to organize itself, to filter out “the noise” or “the waste”. I have always been inspired by waste, trash, or the discarded, and will continue to seek it out, whatever that means. Even if it gets harder and harder to find as we try our hardest to “clean up” the web . . .


My thoughts on these 2 videos and what it means or doesn’t mean:

Dis Magazine phrases this discussion in a way I like: “Who wore it best?” The issue is not about authenticity, originality, or even any sense of linear time. From my very limited understanding of the fashion world, styles change hands so quickly it is ludicrous to discuss who “thought of it” first, but simply who did it best, at that moment, on that day, at that party. Other reactions online seem to be using words or phrases that do not make sense in 2012. Words like “stealing”, “ripped off”, or “commodified”. This may seem like an obvious fact but I guess it needs to be said again: it is an impossibility for a subcultural style to be “owned”. Sub-culture exists when gazed at by mass-culture. The only way to ensure that your aesthetic is not going to become used by others is to never share it with anyone. Another approach is to protect your aesthetic with physical violence (see: gang colors). Otherwise, once you allow your presence to be seen, it can be consumed.

From my limited understanding of the visual tropes that made up the reference points to these 2 recent videos, there has been a lot of this same imagery floating around in web/real-world crossover communities for at least the past 2 years. But we need to remember that the sharing of these aesthetic ideas usually happens on “free” and relatively public web 2.0-style sharing sites: dump.fm, tumblr, twitter, etc. You have to sign in and you can get kicked off but for the most part everyone with a computer or smart phone is invited. These sites need to be semi-public because a part of the game is to float an image up to the cloud and to see how far it travels. . . If you do not want your image to travel somewhere far away, do not release it to the cloud.

If these images begin to represent more than this to you, if these images start to cluster together into a set of inter-related ideas that begin to form a kind of futuristic “belief system” that you can inhabit, it should be noted that this is not a very protected belief system. It is however a very fluid belief system. This kind of self-image-making-as-belief-system is a form of user-generated-youth-branding that uses corporate web2.0 technologies to re-appropriate the notion of “sub-culture” that historically died in the 90s . . . These creative strategies work with what for many of us are outdated fantasies of outsider-ism: when a disconnected and lost youth from the middle of nowhere has no access or sense of perspective on what “is cool” and decides out of the blue to “go goth.” Today, net-art/tumblr/twitter scenes are hyper-connected. The alienation they feel today is because of being too connected. Playing with these different forms of alienation is what makes their output so exciting. Like a lot of good art, the work is predicated on a lie and plays with that lie–like a magician. When Zombelle tweets “swagger-jackers” there is more to the story-her project is itself a swagger-jacking project. Unless I really misunderstand, isn’t seapunk an intentionally awkward swagger-jacking of corporate california extreme sports surfer, underwater video game levels, lawnmower-man cyber utopia/dystopia, and teen rebellion (to name a few of the references)? It was probably literally first imagined in an office as a coprorate-hired creative team tried to figure out who the new evil gang should be to fight the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Manufactured-sub-culture-as-enacted-sub-culture . . . dealing with the kind of top-down ad campaigns that makes use believe in slurpies and rollerblades. We are talking about very sophisticated understandings of marketing and their power on consciousness and forms of social rebellion, which are enacted by kids in subconscious, intuitive and ephemeral ways through their highly curated selection of clothing, images, and word-play.

When an artist with a different kind of power hires art directors and deadlines approach, things get interesting. Culture begins to move at a frantic pace, and eats its own shit. If we remove the notion of authenticity, originality, or a “beginning point” from the conversation, the difference between the visuals behind Rhianna on SNL and the visuals on tumblr blogs is thus predominantly a difference in an understanding of cultural time. Images are consumed and re-consumed and then consumed again. It is going to happen. I do not know the art directors behind these 2 videos (at least I think I don’t) but my impression is that someone was inspired in their own way (either by money, the creative spark, or both) to riff off of things they had seen in other contexts. To the informed/privileged viewer, perhaps what they made looks like a mutated, or “backwards” version of something they saw in a different context. But to claim that we, all of us, are not a part of this mutation process ourselves is the kind of lie that is unproductive, different than the creative, productive lie I mentioned before. We have to embrace mutation in all it’s forms if we embrace it at all. From net kids giving new meaning to the emptiness of commercial space, to art directors getting it wrong but thus getting it right. This is an exciting cycle that is also painful, like life. Given the reality of the internet as a major player in the youth culture manufacturing machine, where everything happens in plain view for all of us to see all the time, to deny that this kind of thing is going to happen and that it is going to happen in disgustingly faster and faster ways, seems a little naive, not in a good way. All tru seapunks know how to ride the wave. PLUR :)