"Art World" [a Chinese arts magazine] - february, 2004


[tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE note: My Chinese pianist friend, Xiaoxing Geng, generously translated the Chinese into English for me. Much, or most, of this article was taken off-line from English & (mis)translated into Chinese. As such, eg, my given name, "Michael Tolson", became the name of one of my main collaborators, "Michael Pestel". Since most of my writing involves extremely complex use of English, even an expert translator would've had a very difficult time with it. Xiaoxing didn't translate all of it back into English again. She, eg, never figured out what the text under "12+" says {not shown here in this imageless on-line version} & she didn't retranslate by "poem" {actually a short book entitled "Telepathy Receptivity Training" that's only excerpted from in part in the article}. As such, I present the correct original text of my "poem" - but w/o its correct fonts & accompanying images. I also insert [bracketed] corrections & a slight rewriting of Xiaoxing's translation wch is also [bracketed].]


T.A C., An Experimentalist in Cinematography Who is not Interested in Films



[author: Zhu Hai Jian; translating and sorting out: Jiang Wan Wei; images: Dao Chang]


blood after washing


i put german cars into the pencil


she's such a cheerful little fleaklist


she's afraid the heel is fallin' off her liver


& no more trout r clotheless no more


i felt as if i had a dead arm 4 tired


i'm down on the luck, blue on the pilgrimage, & best r u 2day


they're all flash skiing sun bulbs


much eyes meet much jar


yeah, i'm really curious about whether the girl, 20 $s old, can run the barn


because i lived in the same house, 40 yrs, underwater


with the eaten lion

here the beef froth awaits

where u sit


rabbittt of fever, groat of stone


the shiny oil cartel


jam & the bell fries


because the phone was ringing such a long time

i thought it was a byntax synco or something


here's an interesting suggestion that i hadn't thought of,

if the suggestion box is put in the moon will be looped behind his letter


chili in the neighborhood & move ellen primitive


if you're gonna get up early today,

i'm gonna fly right down to that ice pile

& get me a cup of ice


they say not to move your legs under any circumstances


blinkey modeling


men without surface


going nowhere to the total


stadium protein adaptors


judy is glimpy


i can't see washing my hands in cake


the ox cart is ill


no, i've got a physical goal, what can i do here on the scream as i work?


i'm gonna do it in the fall in jello sandwork


you could turn out a magnetic shaving over there


mechanicals vase statuee bart this


the highest blackmailer gets his gums gummed


heaven: death


ping pong:





This is one of Pestel's [Tolson's] poems, or a part of his proses. It is now not very clear what a real poem ought to be, for it has been a while since one was stirred by such short verses. Though those who don't know how to write a poem haven't indeed written anything, they are nevertheless surprised by the unfamiliar combination of Pestel's [Tolson's] verses. This is a poem by an experimentalist in cinematography. Although I can't find the direct relationship between the images and the film maker, I can still recognize the similar elements between the images and his understanding and his interpretion of the images. We can feel the subtle attraction of Pestel's [Tolson's] body and mind--his variety, uncertainty, caprice, jokes--through which there are still a lot more things hidden and unknown. Maybe for many things the attraction comes from their unpredictability, inscrutability and their ambiguity. Perhaps it is all these that cause you to speculate their possibilities, pay attention to their essence, to look for the unexpected, the delights and their answers. When you first see his films, you feel they are not as stimulating and satisfying as his words. The images are even more difficult to understand. You have to look hard for the climax. You have to accept his new point of views about images, leaving behind your conventional expectations, because for most of the time the images violently stimulate your visual senses and your ear walls. It is impossible for one to penetrate them completely, however, if one wants to understand them better, one need to know them and their maker from many different angles.


Name or Definition

"Tentative and Convenience" ["tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE"] is a name of an American experimental film making place [NO! It's either the 'master' set name for a group of id ntities or the name of a person or the answer to the question: "What's your name?"]. If it is translated into Chinese, it means "Convenience and Experimentalistic." [NO!] "T&C" is founded in early 1975 [I chose that name for myself then] in the city of Baltimore of Maryland State in America. Since then the founder has used the name of this place [NO!] instead of his real name ['real' name being a highly questionable concept] Michael Pestel [Tolson]. He was 21 years old that year. From then on, people started to call him Tent. Many people have already forgotten that his real name is Michael, even he seems [to] have done so, only remembers it when he uses his passport. Except for [Other than] "T&C,' he has also used other pen names, such as 'Party teen on Couch #2, Tango [tANGO, aLPHA cHARLIE], Ratical [RATical], E.G. Head, Tim Ore' and etc. Pestel [Tolson] is a kind of a man of his own legend. His definition of himself is as numerous as his pen names, including "Experimental Cinematographer [Sprocket Scientist?], Crazy Scientist [Mad Scientist], Composer [d composer], Sonority Thinker [Sound Thinker], Thought Collector, Vulgar Classicist [Low Classicist], Productive Writer [Homonymphonemiac?], Hard Disc DJ [H.D.J], Innovator of Psychology [Psychopathfinder], Universal Ph.D. [no idea where this one came from], Crazy Nudist [no idea where this one came from either - unless the author just threw it in as reponse to seeing my film "Funny Farm Summit Meeting"], Practical Text Writer of Advertisement [Practicing PromoTextual?], Air Cosmetician [Air Dresser]." He is also a sensitive social activist. He is the representative of National Association for the Advancement of Multi-Colored People [they apparently didn't understand this to be a take-off on the N.A.A.M.C.P.]; he is also a leader of an organization called "Talented Scout for Offactories Organized [I'm the talent scout for "Olfactories Organized"]," also takes part in "Postal Interaction Underground Participant." [Postal Interaction Network - Underground Participant: PIN-UP]

Pestel [Tolson] has made more than 230 experimental films, can be called a productive experimental cinematographer. San Francisco Experimental Cinema [The San Francisco Cinematheque] is one of the most important places to show experimental films. It has put on a number of shows of those films in the past 30 years, but with only a few special issues [printed matter publications], but there is one on Pestel [Tolson]. This is an honor, also an approval of Pestel's [Tolson's] work. Despite of all these, he insists that he is not interested in film itself. He is more willing to use film making like an assisting tool at a lecture. During one interview, this creator of numerous mischieves [mischiefs] explained that film making is only one of the means of his being a "Crazy Scientist [Mad Scientist]," and he refuses to accept people using "artist" in front of his name.



Pestel [Tolson] was born in Baltimore, MD. Before he started his own work on experimental film making, he worked at several multi-media places such as the "Wolff," serving as a gentle projectionist and as an aid to different exhibitions [NO! I started filmmaking in 1974; I've never worked at a "multi-media place" (in its usual sense) but I have worked at the "Andy Warhol Museum" since 1996 (the presumed source here of "Wolff") as a projectionist & have worked on propos building & as an exhibit installer/deinstaller for multiple businesses & museums since 1989]. Although he has many plans that are impossible in terms of earning him any profits, he doesn't want to be like a broker who draws money from one place to the other. He wishes to break people's normal pattern of thinking, like those cliches, and the so called common knowledge, by using his creative inspirations.

Pestel [Tolson] and his good friend and cooperator [collaborator - someone I haven't worked w/ since 1997], John Berndt, are the poineers in working at the multi-media field and experimental cinematography [John is a pioneer in neither & has little to do w/ "experimental cinematography"]. They've enjoyed a good relationship for a long time [we can barely stand each other]. The work they like the most [NOT] is "Philosopher's Union Members Mouthpieces" done in 1987 [ongoing since 1988 but mostly made in that year]. In September 1977, Pestel [Tolson] directed and put on his representative action piece "Audience and Reading" [an audience participation reading NOT titled "Audience and Reading"] for the "Cold Talk" show [the "Apathy Project" - NOT a show] in Baltimore, during which he also discussed many topics including concerning the meaning of the text and people's reception of them [NOT].

Starting from the sixties(?) [Xiaoxing apparently was unsure whether they wrote "sixities" or not - I was ages 7 to 16 in the '60s so this was probably obviously not what was meant], Pestel [Tolson] became more productive and expanded himself to more different areas. This is a decade when his career is at its peak [I assume they mean the '80s here - whether my "career" has ever even existed, let alone ever had a "peak" is highly questionable]. With the fast economical development in the eighties, there arose more and more social conflicts and controversies, as a result, he established more and more social organizations, shot more and more films and got involved in more and more shows [the logic here is definitely the author's & not mine!]. Pestel [Tolson] is an artist who is extremely sensitive to politics and of great concern for his society and its environment. In many of his works, he deeply mocked at the consciousness of the mass and tyranny in politics. He expressed his concerns on the destruction of environment in his works, he also walks on to the street to protest against nuclear weapons [I think this is a reference to the "3 Mile Island" vaudeo I co-made &, therefore, shd more appropriately read "nuclear power" - either way, I protest against much, MUCH more than this], and his activities in the streets can be viewed as a real action piece itself.



Two of Pestel's [Tolson's] collage films have brought him the opportunity to be seen on "Cinema Kitchen" on TV ["FILM KITCHEN" - a monthly screening series in Pittsburgh wch may also be presented on cable TV - but I've never been a part of that (as far as I 'know') - I have been a part of the screening series 4 times as of 2004 w/ many more than just 2 "collage films" - AND I wdn't call most (or maybe even ANY) of my movies "collage"s], that is a monthly series which introduces [not only] local films and short video programs. This series has also put on his film "Blocking Our View Homage and Cheese Sandwich" ["The 'Official' John Lennon's Erection As Blocking Our View Homage & Cheese Sandwich"] and later his well received short piece of 1976, "You'll Love Pittsburgh." [NOT! This latter was a Pittsburgh promotional film that may've been screened on the same program w/ something of mine but I didn't make it.]

In the year of 1978, Pestel [Tolson] chose 20 subjects [the main 20 art objects I'd made] among those he has worked on and made them into thirteen 50-inch over 8 mm films [thirteen 50 FOOT SUPER-8mm films]. Later he discarded all these subjects [the art objects were then given away to friends], cutting the film into single frames and distributed [distributing] them to different places around the world [this is my "Mike Film" project being described]. Through editing and self distribution, he made people accept those films on an informal basis [WHAT?!]. He recalls:"I have a friend going to Russia. When he arrived at a prostitute's home, he thought the woman is a KGB, for she tried to get information from my friend. So he distributed these films around her flat, hoping that the KGB would pick them up and study them." [That's the somewhat skewed story of a distribution of Mike Film by John Berndt] This is what Pestel [Tolson] wants to do, by using normal [?!] channel, through different media, give people a chance to have their own way of thinking. "I always hope to create an imagined society, within which people care for each other and live happily." [no idea what this is suppoed to be a quote from!] In 1979, Pestel [Tolson] shot his famous film called "3 Mile Island." [actually, I did none of the shooting on this - it was made collaboratively by a group called "B.O.M.B." (Baltimore Oblivion Marching Band)]

"T&C" got into trouble [NOT!] when he was shooting a scene about looking into a garage from the garage [NOT!] window of his place. John Len[n]on and his wife xxxx (a Japanese name that I don't know how to translate) [the preceding isXiaoxing's note - presumably, the name is "Yoko Ono"] have already done a similar one like this [the Lennon & Ono film referred to here is "Erection" - a time-lapse super-8 film made of a skyscraper being built. My "Official John Lennon's Erection As Blocking Our View Homage & Cheese Sandwich" involves footage of a garage being built but is far, FAR more complex than any movie Lennon or Ono ever made.]. After thinking about it, Pestel [Tolson] realized that "one shouldn't worry if the same thing has been done before." [WELL.. that's an extreme oversimplification of one tiny aspect of what my film references but I won't go into a longer explanation here] In "Sprocket Scientist" [this is, presumably, a reference to a Pittsburgh City Paper interview I gave] he said the same thing: "It is worth doing it, because I want to do it." Pestel [Tolson] also did various satirical films to expand his creativity. For instance his "Citizen Kane and Michael Snow" [we're still on "The 'Official'..Sandwich" here but the author doesn't seem to understand that..] ["Citizen Kane"] is a famous American political film while Snow himself is one of the most talented Canadian cinematographer who is also a prominent interpreter in the multi-media field.

The film Pestel [Tolson] likes the most [who knows where this delusion came from..] is "Philosopher's Union Members Mouthpieces." [this is a series of short vaudeos & they're minor works to me] It illustrated a simple idea, giving a special angle for the audience to know the world of its hero [?]. In the film, narration and entertainment happen together [?]. With the use of a very basic camera or film equipment, the theme of the entire film was shown through the eyes of a woman [I deduce that the author is writing about "Philosopher's Union Member's Mouthpiece: Emma Elizabeth Downing" which s/he may not realize is just one of 72+ Mouthpieces]. Pestel [Tolson] also tried and created his own special effects. For example, because of the problem of the camera, there is a white line through a 200-inch [foot] long film [back to the "Official"..Sandwich" again]. He didn't throw it away or shoot it again, but on the contrary, he scratched a line on the rest of the film to create an effect similar to waterfall [close but no cigar]. "During shooting, you try to create something new, even to make use of your mistakes. This can very possibly add a kind of special effect to your story." [Again, I'm not sure where this 'quote' came from but it cd be a distortion of a text that constitutes part of the soundtrack to the "Official..Sandwich".]

Pestel [Tolson] added mimic pornographical elements in "Balling Tim Ore is Best!" while in the 198(6?)9 [actually 1988] "You Haven't Heard the Record, You Haven't Read the Book, Now You Don't See the Movie!" he condensed the music he has listened to, the books he has read and the art he has appreciated through the years into 30 clashing single frames [27&1/2 minutes of all single-frame shooting & dissolves], whereas the over-8mm [super-8] film "Subtitles" is a quite comical piece, whose content is his arbitrary criticism on the uncut "Z" rated movies he copied from TV [NOT! Some versions of "Subtitles" use some made-for-home-use super-8 & regular-8 versions of made-for-theater-release movies].



Pestel's [Tolson's] captivation doesn't just lie in his art in experimental cinematography, but also his way of thinking and his philosophy.

He represents a kind of Avant Garde [or is it a mean of Avant Garde?] in America. Of course his thinking and work also attract some Asian people [keep those Asian people coming!]. He drew [I DIDN'T DRAW THEM - I'm sure they had no idea who I was!] a great number of students when he talked at Kuala Lumpur University in Malaysia [actually the National Art Gallery of Malaysia]. You will be surprised when you read his mottoes, including "When money is God, the poor becomes the offering piece ["When MONEY is GOD, the POOR are HUMAN SACRIFICES"], "Kill the norm before it kills you ["Kill Normality Before It Kills You!"], "It is a waste to ask why [this one's particularly distorted: I assume they're attempting to translate: "Before You Decide Against Biting the Hand That Feeds You, Ask Why It Has So Much Food in the First Place"]," & etc. The most known among these is "What is just what ["Anything is Anything"?]." You can call him a lunatic [You can but it wd probably be a dead giveaway that you're pretty fucking stupid.]. Many people ask him if he feels he is crazy, he says, "Maybe." [NOT!] But he thinks he is more subject to committing a crime [another pretty twisted misunderstanding here]. In most societies, mental criminals [the "criminally insane"] are an accepted concept. People regard crime as bad, lunatics are as terrible. People associate these two easily. But Pestel [Tolson] is more willing to see the law as neurotic [definitely NOT my word choice], for it makes people unable to question the authorities, gives them no other choice but obedience. For example, during the Nazi Germany, a citizen would have handed in a Jew to the government, because he accepted the law of suppression and annihilation. Pestel [Tolson] says his criminal tendency [criminal sanity] is at least normal [NOT!]. He realizes that the law doesn't necessarily represent the boundary of morality. In defense of his own moral standard, Pestel [Tolson] is apt to take the risk of breaking the law. "If you don't have money to live in a house, you should go and occupy one. Perhaps this is against the law, but it is a better choice than having no money, no work, therefore living in the streets." [again, this is probably taken from an interview that was printed w/ me in the Pittsburgh City Paper] So one can see there is a tendency of anarchism in him [more than a tendency!].



Pestel's [Tolson's] tattoos have made him even more different from the rest. He has tattoos on many parts of his body, such as on his back, arm, legs and also his eyes [one eyebrow]. He has three very special tattoo designs: one is a three dimensional bosom [brain!] on his head, the other is an image of two joint bones on the chest, and the last is a cloud of glittering dust [a glow-in-the-dark dust mite] on the leg. All these tattoos [none of them actually] are in memory of his establishment [of] and being elected [I'm the only member] as the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Multi-Colored People. Of course he also enjoys the fantasy these tattoos bring, just as he says that he can't live without imagination [what?!]. Pestel [Tolson] sees his tattoos as a gradual change in his skin color [the splotch tattoos specifically address this & they ARE N.A.A.M.C.P. related]. The reason for his liking of different skin colors is because he sees what troubles people about racism is more serious than it is imagined. He thinks skin color shouldn't be the cause of disharmony in the world. He hopes through his own changing of colors on parts of his skin can express his protest against the nonsense or foolishness of racism. He likes the technique that can change people's skin colors and the National Association for the Advancement of Multi-Colored People strives for peaceful living among different races. [I think the whole 'concept' of "race" is a royal pain-in-the-ass] His tattoo is also connected to his art works. After Pestel [Tolson] finished the tattoo on his head of the three dimensional bosom [brain], he went to live in nudity [NOT] with a woman in a house in the countryside. He recorded their daily life with a camera, like conversing, eating, drinking coffee and etc [NOT! This seems to be a confusion of the making of "Seriousness is Death", my 1st masked nudists movie (1982), with my living at the Funny Farm in Canada (1994-95) where I made another masked nudist movie called "Funny Farm Summit Meeting"]. He wishes to record a life of a most natural and primitive kind [NOT!]. Being nude might not be real [WHAT?!], but it must have to do with the most primitive living and is most close to nature.


Despite [?] of the oddity, craziness, sharpness, harshness and nervousness in his character, Pestel [Tolson] wishes to become a part of nature [how can I avoid it?]. All this is just like his work: illogical [?] but profound, not beautiful ["Beauty is in..] but brings freshness to the eyes [..the eyes of the beholder."].


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