I was lucky enough to catch Agrifash/Toadball @ the RA on the 31st, and I'm glad I did, good work all! I must say it was the most interesting thing in the building, no amount of hot drug money could make dead work less dead. Men-in-red, you know I encourage poo in the prop toilets, nothing like poo to keep it real. Plus, poo has a good cost-to-dramatic-effect ratio.
I do hope that somehow, in the future, the original idea as it was meant to be, will find a way to be. But it should be interesting times over the next few years, with austerity measures all around, are we already seeing art production equivalents of shit on a shingle?
Speaking of which, I know a little Italian lady who's got the emotional pitch of a boom economy down.......remember how good it was? And the fashion! And then we all went tumbling down........Paul McCarthy, you shyster!
I am currently catching up on all the readings I should have read when I was 22, and here is a quote that struck me, re: my Agrifash pieces (and perhaps Agrifashionistas in general), it is Adorno in a letter he wrote to Benjamin in response to reading a draft of "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction":
[On "great art" versus populist cinema] - "Both bear the stigmata of capitalism, both contain elements of change....Both are torn halves of an integral freedom, to which however they do not add up. It would be romantic to sacrifice one to the other, either as the bourgeois romanticism of the conservation of personality and all that stuff, or as the anarchistic romanticism of blind confidence in the spontaneous power of the proletariat [insert other contemporary noun here] in the historical process - a proletariat which is itself a product of bourgeois society....The laughter of the audience at a cinema...is anything but good and revolutionary; instead it is full of the worst bourgeois sadism."
Oh, dark, isn't it? Is it possible to laugh without sadism? And though this is not what he means, it makes me think of the source of some laughter today (in the art world) as exactly the failed attempt to reunite the torn halves of high and low. And then, when laughter is inspired by failure, who is the victim of the sadism? Our poor little bourgeois selves?
And speaking of me.......a summary of my pieces!
1. The Brethren of the Stone: Iron Man - video
This is the sequel to Comfortably Numb, a video I finished in late 2006. It is the 2nd in a trilogy. In this installment, we see my main monk-heretic move to the big city. Alienation, on various fronts, ensues: between the other monks that have been "citified"; between him and the first woman he ever meets, the Iron Princess; and between him and Brutalist architecture. As much as Comfortably Numb was a gentle coming-of-age tale set in the forest, this one is another type of coming-of-age approximating the tenor and pace of the contemporary city: cartoonish and noir at once, cut with rapid clip architectural montage.
As with the last, it is also mainly a music video, centered on covers of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" as the motif of urban society.
In the first, a brass band plays it in a feeble battle with the nature demons, then the tune is picked up by the Iron Knight in a guitar solo laid over marching band, set in the Barbican roof conservatory. Nature has been safely contained in the concrete spaceship. In the second, Iron Man has been translated into Italian and rewritten as a late-era (think Verdi) aria for female voice. This is pitted against Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage" translated into Latin and written as a medieval plainchant for male voice. Male-female, country-city, medieval-industrialization, latin-italian, flesh-iron, acid-heavy metal. Who wins?
In the editing process at the moment.
2. Iron Man's Fear Parade - Saturday, March 15
Fear embodied in various (anti-)warrior camps (thanks Lula!): different genres of dance groups parading down from Arnold Circus to Hoxton Square. It was a simple call to dancers: to enact a state of fear. Let's see what they come up with. There are still a couple TBD's: will there be a live brass band to accompany the groups? Will there be banners declaring the "state of fear", or some type of title delineating the groups from each other? Will the figureheads, Iron Knight and Iron Princess, show up? Will I actually find cheerleaders in London?
My initial thought: a birdseye view of the urban street, during the day. Streams of people, each embodying fear consciously or unconsciously, towards real or imagined aggressors to their victimhood in perpetuity. It is quite a serious problem, here. The idea is to exaggerate it, and thus illuminate this dark situation. And of course for sh** and giggles........oh! The bourgeois sadism!
This being an asstastically hungover day, I think it is a perfect time to recap events, mull over accomplishments of the past, euphemize and eulogize.....
THE GREAT IRON MAN SHOOT OF 2008
It was amazing in so many ways, among them its feeling of being an extended militaristic exercise in stamina and sustained self-worth. Working every day like a dog for gems of footage, knowing that Club Row just might look like deep dark outer space, if you. just. light. it. right.
All the while an unbelievable Michael, producer and assistant director, the hardest working man in the universe, materializing schedules, food, and manpower in force. And Peter, the best cinematographer a girl could ever hope for. And Helen, A Foundation assistant whose on-top-of-it-ness set my enfeebled brain to awe. And then the actors, especially Jan, my leading man! And! And!
So many wonderful people were drawn into this project, it was incredible......but uncanny. Will I have to pay back this cosmic generosity with a future catastrophe, to maintain the balance of good and evil in the universe?
A day-by-day blow:
Day 1, Tues, Jan 15:
Watched Spiderman 3 on the plane, a load of crock. Iron Man will beat the s**** out of Spidey. On arrival, start arranging things, check out Club Row and props, and then costume fitting with Chris Teckkam, a beautiful man from down the block who plays the Iron Knight. I almost wanted him to say "I am Iron Man" when he put on his metal helmet, but I think it would have made my heart shrivel with embarrassment for the corniness of (my) life.
Day 2, Wed, Jan 16:
Jan the leading man gets in town, and has nothing to do. But he is German, and therefore well self prepared with a guidebook. I go to check out the Barbican and Shoreditch House with Peter, Sam, and Michael. Sam apparently has an eye for power outlets.
The Barbican is a dis/topian 1970's urban dwelling compound, known for being a huge maze with no discernible exits and an (amazing, intact) Brutalist aesthetic throughout. Shoreditch House is a members-only club in a former warehouse, the artier sister of Soho House. Both seem to be simultaneously of this time and out of another, a 60's-70's design aesthetic that speaks to old ideals that have since been twisted out of shape, if they were ever present in an earnest or distortion-free form in the first place.
At night I do the costume trial for Iron Princess, who's nude except for a full body paint in silver, and metal wires (and little bottoms). Oh Andria Stirling, my Iron Princess! Such a trooper! Such a martyr, by the end of the shoot! I owe you big time, lady. And next time I'll bring an industrial power space heater.
Day 3, Thurs, Jan 17:
I leave Peter and Sam to their hungover outdoors shooting of montage material, to rehearse with Jan and Andria in the conference room at Rochelle School. The first few times I see him strangle her to death, I get the shivers. It's incredible to watch 2 attractive kids kill each other in a conference room. And of course, we go over their lines, with these music videos it truly sucks to have everything perfect, and then see........lips that don't match the words!
In the evening Michael, Maria and I go to record Pavilion Brass in a very old estate house. Pavilion Brass: I love your little horns! Cornets, I mean. Maria thought it was sexy watching Michael hold a mic behind Chris Hoepelman, the conductor. I'm not sure what she's talking about, but that's cool, Maria!
Day 4, Fri, Jan 18:
The first big shoot day. 14 hours. First we shoot Jan and Andria doing their duet in Club Row, and the poor girl's shivering in her body paint. Then we shoot with Jan up on a pedestal peeing fluorescent green "fruit" drink, and for the first ever time in one of my videos, a character speaks. And finally, Michael is generous enough to be a voice acting hand model for a series of shots (a faceless game show "announcer"), and I end up almost cutting off his finger with wire. DIscovery of the night: if Michael ever looks for a career plan B, he could easily fill Don LaFontaine's shoes: Mr. Ubiquitous Movie Trailer Voice.
Day 5, Sat, Jan 19:
So many shots, indoors, outdoors, lit brightly, almost pitch black, at Club Row, out through the yard, and into the Arnold Circus pavilion. 5 Nature demons, 10-piece brass band, 7 audience extras, and I learned how to use a conductor's baton! Yay! Jan brought some cute girls in from the cold, and I ate a baked potato! Yay! Neg karmic points for ignoring some nice neighborly questions up at the pavilion, boo.......
Day 6, Sun, Jan 20
What I wanted was the look of Madonna/Marilyn in Material Girl/Diamonds, men robots serving as physical props for the Iron Princess to visually cue, over and over, look at me. But of course, more abstract, more acrobatic, and funnier. Jan is well trained in such things, so after meeting with him in the morning to draft plans, I let him run the show. When the four party monk actors and Andria showed up for rehearsal at noon, Jan immediately makes them run around the club row building 5 times. We almost have a rebellion on our hands. But Jan is amazing, and soon he has them zipping through low-grade gymnastics like peanut butter comes after jelly.
And on the party monks: what a fine bunch of young men! That includes you, Edward of the shortpants. Then we shoot the green screen scene with the Iron Knight, and then......Shoreditch House at 10pm. Oh god! There until 7am. Everyone tuckered, go for a big fat English breakfast while Peter and Rose work on their sleeping-on-the-floor-sores. Then leading straight into......
Day 7, Mon, Jan 21
Mutiny on the HMS Barbi! Arrive at the Barbican at 10am, cut the shoot short due to an impending sense of physical, psychological, and emotional death. No one's killing me yet, but I'm sure they're thinking about it. It's for the love of art, guys! Okay, never mind, bedtime. Sleep for a few hours, then back at Shoreditch at 10pm, there till 7am again, and another English breakfast afterwards: this time I try the veg. Arteries be damned, I'll never do that again.
Day 8, Tues, Jan 22
Peter and Jan leave, and my heart is mourning, so I go shoot footage at the Lloyd's building, the chrome sheathed inside-out factory. I get momentarily stopped by a policeman, but he's nice and we talk about whether his hat actually keeps him warm (no). I also shoot closeups in Club Row, pretending to be the Iron Princess. I am tuckered, but still manage to get annoyed while in the bathtub, listening to a man on TV talk about the relationship between the Brit stifflip and being the very best businessmen in the world.
Day 9, Wed, Jan 23
Meet the Dancers. Lula shows up with black lipstick on, I love her already, we discuss the Barbican and perpetual night, and I download an Iron Maiden song at her request (Fear of the Dark). I'm very excited to see how this develops. Then: Chuckie, the sweetest young man in the world and director of an all-male hip hop group, who I tell several times that he can do whatever he wants. It's true Chuckie! Nexus Boyz Dominionz, you rockz, I trust youzzz! Then it's time to leave London.
All in all, an amazing experience, I feel as if I have climbed Mount Everest. However, I look now down the side of the mountain.......and oh! It's not over yet! Editing, yes editing, it reminds me of the sheer fact of life that to walk up a flight of stairs in stilettos is no problem, it's walking down that's the hard part. Watch me as I struggle down the mountain, I might snap a heel and chip some nails, sobbing the whole way........
PS - I'm saving concept-content on Iron Man for a day more in touch with sobriety. Soon, soon.......
To view Jen Liu's current show at Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, LA click here
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