"Village Voice" - december 13, 1988

The Triumph of NEOISM

The Last of the Old-Fashioned Avant-Garde Makes Its Stand

by C. Carr

There at Chameleon Bar with the other beer drinkers, the neoists had assembled from across the universe--Baltimore, Berlin, Rivington Street. Maybe they numbered only 15 or 20. But they were hardcore--those who wanted to destroy the existing order, those willing to announce "give me freedom or kill me," those who might wear flaming bread loaves on their heads.

It was the first day of their Millionth Apartment Festival, otherwise known as the APT Festival, otherwise known as the Anathema Party Takeover. Onstage, two artists had amplified a baby with a little mike. Baby cries sounded over the bar din: neoist music. Waiting to address the narrow barroom was Monty Cantsin (real name: Istvan Kantor), founder of neoism, member of the Rivington School, and "self-appointed leader of the people of the Lower East Side."

Any definition of neoism simultaneously reveals and conceals, because that is the goal--to get where all mechanisms of logic are broken, control is impossible, the great confusion rules." Neoism dates from the late '70s--an ism that swallowed every modernist ism, then puked out the pieces. Jarry's pataphysics, Marinetti's manifestoes, Duchamp's readymades, Klein's leap, Warhol's 15 minutes, Beuys's alchemy, Maciunas's games--they're all floating in the neo soup now. Neoism is the last little gurgle of what we once called avant-garde. Or maybe it's nothing.


He turned the stage over to tENTATIVELY a. cONVENIENCE (Michael Tolson), who would introduce the videos. tENTATIVELY wore a suit made from dozens of zippers. A tattoo of a brain covered most of his shaved skull. He'd amplified the baby to get people's attention.

I felt a great nostalgia as the tapes began. In my fantsasy of the avant-garde I never knew, people all over downtown Manhattan watched things like Philosopher's Union Member (by Emma Elizabeth Downing) in their unfinished lofts. I rather liked this footage of a woman's mouth painted in black and white zebra stripes, the mouth ranting about the blood of the lamb, the search for meaning through vulnerability, and other philosophical hoohah.

Most of the tapes were tENTATIVELY's. For example, some quasiporn he'd run at a peepshow for two weeks before anyone noticed. (Vegetables having sex and goofy people in monster masks, spliced with real blow jobs.) Then a video of him boarding a London bus on all fours, wearing a dog mask, trying to ride free as a seeing eye dog. Most of the rest was tediously self-indulgent. During tENTATIVELY's taped document of every book and record he's ever owned, several drunken memebers of the Rivington School took the mike and began to chant the usual: "Fuck you! Die Yuppies!" I went home.


Back at Monty's apartment, neoist headquarters, Gordon W. Zealot was having dinner with Jack Smith, the forefather of Queer Theater, the auteur of Flaming Creatures. Smith turned his bony Sam Beckett head to us with a baffled scowl, but said nothing. He was wearing Gordon W.'s pearl necklace. Gordon W., I learned later, had been a Krishna monk in India for two years and currently lives in Toronto, where he works as a caterer. Other neoists drifted in, including tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, Stiletto, an avowed antineoist, and festival co-organizer Matty Jankowsky. In his studio lined with blood paintings, "Stop Misery!" posters, and other neo junk, Monty threw every iron he could find into a dairy case, preparing for the day's big event--the Flaming Steam Iron March into Tompkins Square.

I noticed that tENTATIVELY's brain tattoo was, in fact, meant to be 3-D, red lines right next to green lines. "You should be able to see it vibrate right in the middle," he directed as I looked through some 3-D glasses. And his zipper suit had been made by "midget undersea hermaprodites," he said--giving me, the media, a colorful quote. Furthermore, he hated The Village Voice and hoped I'd write something bad about him.



to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE movie-making "Press: Criticism, Interviews, Reviews" home-page

to the "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - Sprocket Scientist" home-page

to the "FLICKER" home-page for the alternative cinematic experience

to find out more about why the S.P.C.S.M.E.F. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sea Monkeys by Experimental Filmmakers) is so important

for A Mere Outline for One Aspect of a Book on Mystery Catalysts, Guerrilla Playfare, booed usic, Mad Scientist Didactions, Acts of As-Beenism, So-Called Whatevers, Psychopathfinding, Uncerts, Air Dressing, Practicing Promotextuality, Imp Activism, etc..

for info on tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's tape/CD publishing label: WIdémoUTH

to see an underdeveloped site re the N.A.A.M.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Multi-Colored Peoples)