338. RiverCubeology #5 (Reprise)

- Chatham College Lawn, Pittsburgh, us@

- Thursday, February 12, 2004, 3 - 4PM

- See entry 335 for an intro to my participation in Bob Johnson's "Rivercubes Project". This was an outgrowth of the "Tireless" Project which was meant to scoop up tires from Pittsburgh rivers. Of the perhaps 4 Rivercubes (compacted river detritus sculptures) that had been on the Chatham campus grounds, all but 1 had been removed to be placed back near the point of the origin of where Bob had found their materials. Michael Pestel (see entries 204, 205, 208, 211, 247, 248, 250, 251, 252, 278, 317, 329, 330, 333, & 335), 5 members of his "Soundscapes: Nature, Music and Silence" class, & Bob & I gathered around the last of the Rivercubes on the campus to give it a sending-off party of sorts since it was to be removed later that day. 4 bells & an agogo were inserted into it to be struck. Fragments of a small piece of dry ice were inserted into it & a sprayer of water was shot at the pieces to make them smoke. Brightly colored Jello mix was combined w/ the snow that was around & dumped from buckets onto the sculpture. Marshmellows were added. The sculpture was struck with sticks & metal. Thin metal printing plates were used as thunder sheets. A drill with a metal polishing end on it was used to abrade whatever it came into contact with - including the plates & the marshmellows. Additional percussion was the ladder that supported an overhead camera shooting the cube & the buckets that'd held the jello slush. One of the students, Morgan, vocalised into a plastic tube inserted into the sculpture. I made frequent use of a chain. Michael experimented with a camera technique that he's been developing that involves using a small mouth sound-maker to provide sound effects that accompany camera movement. I audio recorded it using binaural microphones & a mini-disc recorder - highlighting the resultant perspective by moving around the event.

- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

 

339. Harps & Angles (new duet version)

- Brew House, Pittsburgh, us@

- Friday, March 26, 2004

- See entries 329, 330 & 333. This was the 1st time I ever applied for funding & received it. A whopping $400 from which was subtracted $150 for expenses. I had edited an approximately 30 minute 'performance' version of the vaudeo documentary that my collaborator & I had made of the original installation & the related 'performances' & other uses of it. Only 2 of the piano tables were installed for this & instead of having surveillance cameras mounted over them we used 2 mini-dv camcorders. The tables were facing each other in front of an audience seated on bleachers. The mixed together image from their 2 cameras was projected behind them to the left on a screen. We began by having the prepared tape projected onto the right side of the screen with its soundtrack audible. This played for several minutes & then my collaborator, Who is Like God? (Pestel), & I entered from the audience rear & assumed our positions at the piano harps. WiLG?(P) was wearing somewhat ordinary clothes but had spiked his hair with blue gel which was also covering most of his visible skin. I was wearing the brightly colored turkey feather covered outfit that I'd made for the Harps & Angles Quartet 3 described in 333. The vaudeo sound was potted down for the remainder. We played the harps by rubbing glass bricks along the strings producing an eerie & dense high-pitched resonance & then gradually switched to other methods of sounding the strings & other objects that we were using. As usual, WiLG?(P) & I occasionally coordinated our movements so that special visuals would result in the superimposition projection. After 20 minutes or so of this, I switched to playing samples of the Harps & Angles Quartet 2. As such, I left the overhead shot. This left WiLG?(P) to dominate the performative element which he did wonderfully with such touchs as playing small whistle-like instruments with his nose while climbing about on his piano-harp table top. Near the end the Videonics video mixer that we were using to combine the overhead images was set to its demo mode so that it could quickly cyle thru its selection of wipes to make the left projection more spectacular. Then WiLG?(P) & I wound up 2 fake birds in cages that then 'sang' & we climbed onto the tables in a precomposed manner. When the vaudeo ended I turned off the mixer so that both images stopped around the same time & the whole shebang ended.

- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

 

340. Bad Influence

- Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), Barcelona, Spain

- Friday, April 2, 2004

- I was invited to be part of dina's "Influencers" festival along with several other individuals & groups whose work I have been interested in & respected at some point or another. The theme theoretically uniting us was "Culture Jamming & Hactivism". So far so good. At the same time, there was to be a similar festival in Berlin that I was also scheduled to be part of via teleconference. Maybe someday I'll write the full story of what a disaster this was but for now you're stuck with this.

[Ok, it's almost 5 yrs later & I've decided to finally try to update this extremely neglected record of my 'performative' activites - partially b/c the yr 2008 was so exceptional. Alas, I must start w/ "influencers" if I'm to start where the neglect began.]

To make a long story 'short': I was excited about this festival. The person who I was interacting w/ in connection w/ the festival was therefore inundated w/ emails about what I wanted to do. I developed 3 pieces especially in Spanish for this. Translators were to be part of "influencers" - (v)audience members cd wear headphones that provided English-to-Spanish live translation & Spanish-to-English live translation. So far so good. I explained that my text wd be too fast for a translator & therefore provided some text to be given to the translator in advance so that s/he'd be prepared & wd have something to read from. By the time I got to Barcelona, the text had never made it to the translator. Sure enuf, when it came time, the translator sd something to the effect of: "I can't translate this, it's too complicated & fast - I shd've had a text to read from." Right.

A soundcheck was needed for myself & my coperformer of the nite. When, by a miracle of persistance, we actually got some miniscule cooperation from the tech staff at the museum, I got them to provide me w/ a cord & then? they disappeared. I acted as the soundman for my coperformer's soundcheck. Oh well. I mean, we only flew several thousand miles to get there - I can see why the sound crew cdn't be bothered.

Most of the presentations were just laptop lectures - sound byte presentations. Even though their content was politically radical, the form was like a business presentation. One fellow's work, wch I really do very much like, was recently published in a skater's magazine (in full color) surrounded by ads. Once upon a time that wd've been immediately recognized as cooptation. Oh well.

I had an hr & a half to perform. Instead of short samples, I screened full pieces. One of them was the complete 16 minute "Balling Tim Ore Is Best" - the fake peep show movie that I comade w/ Dick Hertz under the name of Tim Ore. It has raw lo-res sex in it. The somewhat large audience started leaving in droves. I'm sure my coperformer, scheduled to start after me, was nervous about whether anyone wd be left.

An hr & 10 minutes into my presentation, when I'd finally reached a part that I'd made especially for the festival (something w/ exacting Spanish subtitles), "Eva" (named partially after Eva Peron), one of the fest's co-organizers, asked me to stop - saying I'd gone over my limit. In fact, I still had 20 minutes to go. They didn't want to lose their audience. I was disgusted. I sped up part of it.

In the end, this whole festival was just another European art world thing: "hactivism" is just a trend to jump on the bandwagon of - as long as there's money & glamour to be had. To say that I was the most hated presenter in the fest wd be an understatement. Afterwards, I was interviewed by a Spanish tv arts program person. I told her that I do what I do instead of killing people.

There was alotof press for the "influencers". It was 'hip'. I was generally (or entirely?) left out of this press. As the woman that I was most attracted to in Barcelona (I hope you know who you are) explained: they didn't know what to do w/ me. Everyone else fit into a simple brain-dead category - such as "media activist" or "prankster". I was somebody who cdn't be reduced to whatever the latest simpleton-speak was. Is making a fake peep-show movie & then smuggling it into a real peep-show "media activism"? Or is it just PERVERTED? As I've been saying to more or less deaf ears for the last 40 yrs, if being called an artist means being reduced to palatable imbecility I'll opt for being a perverted criminal, no-thank-you-very-much.

Did I make any friends at this festival? Nope. Afterwards, I rc'vd bulk emails from Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping (who was also a participant) asking for money. Uh, yeah, dude, instead of shopping at the mall, I'll shop for Reverend Billy products. My experiences w/ the other folks weren't necessarily much better.

To make matters worse, even independent of how little cooperation I got from the festival go-between & all the other crap associated w/ this experience not gone into here, it was one the worst things I'VE ever presented. & I STILL haven't described it. Video of it can be accessed @:

<http://theinfluencers.org/en/tentatively/video/1>

- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

 

341. Panel Dummy Speak

- Allied Media Conference, Bowling Green, us@

- Saturday, June 19, 2004

- I was invited by Dara Greenwald of the Video Data Bank to be on a panel about video activism since I'm the editor & publisher of a series of vaudeos entitled "IMP ACTIVISM" about IMPish ACTIVISM that, hopefully, has some IMPACT. However, I didn't feel that I could afford to attend & didn't want to deal with the pragmatic difficulties so I decided to send a dummy in my stead. I used a grey full-body surgeon's suit that I had for the body & stuffed it with saved bags. The head was a beach-ball with a "thinking cap" on top of it: a cap with a picture of a brain & the word "think" written multiple times on its brim - since I have a brain tattoo on my head. The hands were rubber joke-shop severed right hands. I made a tape with a 1:19 intro as follows:

"My name's tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE. I edit & publish a series of videos called IMP ACTIVISM. I mostly distribute them by giving them away to people that I hope will screen them somewhere - even if only in their homes. These videos feature examples of IMPISH ACTIVISM that hopefully have some IMPACT. I'll keep my intro brief so that I can screen more short examples from the 1st 5 compilations. Perhaps the only clip presented that isn't self-explanatory is the one showing Adam Grossi jump-roping in front of the Software Engineering Institute on the Carnegie-Mellon University campus in Pittsburgh. Adam's a CMU student & he wanted to show the invisible force-field around this 'defense' contractor. Notice that he only managed to jump rope for about a minute before a security guard came out. The police followed quickly thereafter. All of these clips are ridiculously short & not very representative of the 9 hours of material published so far. Some of you may object to that. On the other hand, some of you may object to my being a dummy - or, as the ventriloquists say, a "figure". But look at the dummies & figureheads that claim to represent this & other nations. People take them seriously so why not me? Let's take a gander at the DVD."

My friend Merry Deth, who was planning to attend the conference, agreed to hold the dummy on her lap & to gesticulate its arms while this tape played. I'd made a short DVD that was then shown. This was to be followed by my saying on tape: "Feel free to ask me questions at any point." How closely this plan was adhered to I've been unable to learn. Apparently the audience was unwilling to ask the dummy questions but my prerecorded answers were played to them at the end:

#1. :12 You have to remember that I've reached the position where I'm at today by serving the interests of the people who've put me here. As such, like any other politician or similar person, I'll respond by evading your question.

#2. :02 Every little bit helps.

#3. :08 Let me respond to that with a question of my own. Who's more serious: the court jester, the king, or the farmer?

#4. :18 Basically I think that whether it's Vermin confusing presidential candidates or etta cetera & Will Rat for Iraq subverting a symbol or John Safran sowing seeds of self-questioning in corporate big-wigs, as long as tricksters keep playing, cracks will appear in the pseudo-monolith. Did that answer your question?

#5. :04 I'm sorry, that's too personal.

- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

 

342. Cell Wars

- Benefit for Steve Kurtz & Robert Ferrell, Quiet Storm, Pittsburgh, us@

- Saturday, September 25, 2004

- Parts of the following explanation of the cause that this was a benefit for are culled from various e-mails posted to the Critical Art Ensemble Defense list-serv:

Early morning of May 11, Steve Kurtz awoke to find his wife, Hope, dead of a cardiac arrest. Kurtz called 911. The police arrived and, after stumbling across test tubes and petri dishes Kurtz was using in a current artwork, called in the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Soon agents from the Task Force and FBI detained Kurtz, cordoned off the entire block around his house, and later impounded Kurtz's computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his wife's body for further analysis. The Buffalo Health Department condemned the house as a health risk.

Kurtz, a professor at SUNY Buffalo & member of the Critical Art Ensemble, was then accused of being a bioterrorist. Various other people associated with the CAE were then served subpoenas as was Autonomedia, the CAE's publisher. Critical Art Ensemble has very publicly and legally performed scientific processes to demystify them and make them accessible to audiences. "Free Range Grains," CAE's latest project, includes a mobile DNA extraction laboratory for testing food products for the presence of genetically modified organisms.

A grand jury convened June 15th to decide whether to prosecute the bioterrorism case. After it was apparently decided that such a case was groundless, the prosecution switched tactics & decided to pursue the prosecution of Kurtz & Robert Ferrell, head of the Department of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Public Health. The charges concern technicalities of how Ferrell helped Kurtz to obtain $256 worth of harmless bacteria for one of Kurtz's art projects. The accumulative possible sentence for these exaggerated charges is 20 years.

Even though the bioterrorism charges have been dropped, Autonomedia continued to be subpoenaed - raising the obvious criticism that the real purpose of the prosecutor & the Joint Terrorism Task Force is to create a test case for targetting dissent in the US & to justify already outrageous expenditures of tax-payers' money.

For my portion of the evening, I was planning to simply screen a short found educational film about how the body fights viruses & bacteria entitled "Cell Wars". In this, the protaganist, a boy, is shown entering his sister's knee wound where he is educated about, & helps with, her body's defense. The germs are also anthropomorhpized. It had been my intention to merely introduce the film by saying that the boy should be looked upon as Kurtz & the germs as his prosecutors & the enforcers of the so-called "Patriot Act", etc.. However, since the sound person wasn't there yet by the time I was ready to start & since, therefore, the original soundtrack couldn't be heard, I improvised an explanation throughout the film. This included the characterization of the woman playing a bacteria as being "Janet Reno &/or Madeleine Albright &/or the ghost of Margaret Thatcher or whatever" (or something like that) & the "phagocytes" as the pink bloc assisting Kurtz, etc, etc..

- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

 

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