Because my employers are enlightened 21st century animals, I am occasionally given the leeway to run interviews with artists whom I think are interesting. This week, I was bitter that Liquid Architecture (major Australian sound-art festival) is skipping Canberra this year, something to do with hugely expensive, no funding, etc etc. So in retaliation I contacted two Canberra sound artists to talk on the air.
The first was Reuben, aka Sevenen, local sound-maker and performer. As well as Sevenen, Reuben performs as Dead Baby Joke, with noise outfit Batfuck, as part of demented metal trio Inflatable Ingrid, with Nickamc, and is one of the unnamed collective of musicians / performers / visual artists / chefs I am currently collaborating with.
The second was Alistair Riddell, lecturer at the ACT Centre for New Media Art and a member of the now defunct sound art trio Hypersense, who blew my tiny mind a few years ago when I saw them creating music using VR-gloves. Anyway, it was two visuals to restore my faith in science-fiction.
Imagism was a short-lived assemblage of British and American poets in the early 20th century who tried to strip poetry back to what they thought was its essence: the image. ‘Objective – no slither; direct – no excessive use of adjectives; no metaphors that won’t permit examination.’ –Ezra Pound.
The movement kicked off in the early 1910s with the publication of some collections of work by the members of the movement. They were never really a particularly tight-knit group, and the effort faded after a few years, but some of the most beautiful writing I know comes out of that period. Two examples:
I’ve uploaded a grand swag of new material, all of it in tiny bite-sized chunks so as not to scare anyone away with inhuman expectations that you’ll read all of it. Or much of it. But you could burn my tiny little world down if you did me the honour of reading any of it.
I’ve added several new segments to vnampqir, the twisting and stumbling online incarnation of my 2004 script Vampire Play. The story now encompasses the Vampire Gang’s awesome ambush and Manson and Karen’s game of go.
When you have an attention span as short as I do, silent movies are the way and the life. back in the 20th century, people knew better than to make a movie more than an hour long (actually, that’s not true, but that last forty minutes of Metropolis is fast-forwardable). And the other joy, the primary joy, is that you can supply your own soundtrack. Now, I’m not a professional movie soundtracker (though clearly I should be) but my instincts for what music goes with what movie are impeccable. My best successes in the last few days:
German Expressionist cinema backed with fiery 1940’s bebop? Yes fuck yes! Dizzy Gillespie and Bird yelling SALT PEANUTS! SALT PEANUTS! while Dr Caligari is rousing the eery somnambulist just fucking kicks, really.
2. Man Ray’s Un Retour a la Raison (1921) backed with Bob Dylan’s It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry
Man Ray = 1920’s experimental surrealistic photographer, friend of Antonin Artaud and Anais Nin. The film is about two and a half minutes of pure analogue fuckery – messing with film strips to create gorgeous light and sound effects. Shots of nails fluttering and flickering backed with DON’T THE SUN LOOK GOOD GOING DOWN OVER THE SEA – AND DON’T MY GIRL LOOK FINE WHEN SHE’S COMING AFTER ME!
3. Salvador Dali & Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou (1928) backed with Maker’s Elephant Strut
Big mistake. Nasty surrealist imagery, including chopped up hands, the first ever rape scene put to film, and a woman’s eye getting slit by a razor, all to the saucy tune of a porn movie bassline and sexy moaning. I love sexy moaning, don’t get me wrong, but this just conjures up all the wrong associations.
AND THE ULTIMATE ABSOLUTE WINNER-
4. Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1923) backed with the Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray
Nanook is credited as the first ever documentary – it follows an eskimo tribe kayaking and hunting and trading and igloo building and it’s generally pretty fucking amazing. There is no doubt in my mind, though, that the absolute best music to harpoon walrus to is Sister Ray, a twenty minute fuzzed out heroin-laden masterpiece from 1968. Lou Reed singing that he was “Too busy sucking on my dingdong” and John Cale playing these warped screeching guitar passages while the whole tune just mushes into fuzz, and meanwhile Nanook and his buddies are skinning a walrus and eating it bloody and raw in the snow. In my whole life, nothing I’ve ever achieved matches up to my bringing together of these two simple items.
Last Friday (6th July), two of the masterminds behind Buzzing Productions presented a performance entitled A La Mad Nix at the C-Block Theatre.
la mad nix (Ali McGregor and Max Barker in bohemian productions’ Vampire Play, 2004)
Buzzing Productions was a Canberra collective of six movement and contact improvisers, which operated over 2005 and 2006 (which I were a member of). Alison McGregor and Max Barker were the worthy recipients of Canberra Youth Theatre‘s worthy Open House grant, which allowed them two weeks free access to the C-Block Theatre. The Mad Nix spent this time engaged in a variety of visual, musical and movement-based improvisations, leading to a twenty minute show which was more like being invited into the guts of a snake than watching a play. The space was broken up and the audience scattered throughout the room, which was decorated with scribbled chalked drawings and butchers’ paper. A La Mad Nix was a series of jagged and frantic scenes – stuttered recitations of poetry by Richard Wilbur and Robert Graves, desperate and stumbling movement pieces, rapid electronic drumbeats and feedback… The only moment of calm was Ali standing at a window repeating a line from Sei Shonagon’s Pillowbook while Max rhythmically raised and lowered the lights on her.
I was honoured that the Mad Nix used some of my words in the performance – an extract from a collection of short sketches I have written entitled Victory March. The piece they chose was called Jackie-O Motherfucker, named after an American band whose song Hello Mr Sky I was playing near constantly when I wrote it.
Joe Woodward is a Canberra writer, director and new media artist, and the man behind theatre company Shadowhouse PITS. In 2004 I was lucky enough to work with Joe on his production of Acting Artaud – a performance of Artaud’s 1925 play The Spurt of Blood, and his 1946 radio drama to have done with the judgment of God. Artaud gets a lot of praise in the theatre world that I’ve observed, and after performing in these plays, I’m not entirely sure how much of it he observes.
Apart from Spurt of Blood (the best 2 pages of theatre I have ever read), much of Artaud’s writing feels like standard surrealist imagery translated through the mind of someone battling a very serious mental illness – interesting and revealing, but not awe-inspiring. He reminds me of some of the crazed grafitti up around the city of Cancerra, in particular the masterful writings of Anthony Paul Lister (‘Thetans permanently possessed to kill! Lady Diana!). It’s engrossing, but there’s not much coherent philosophy behind it.
That said, I’m not an Artaud scholar, I’m just some chump that acted in a couple of his plays, so take everything I say with a caveat. But whether you like Artaud or not, you probably should check this out: Maldoror, written by the Comte de Lautreamont in 1868. Apparently this was a big influence on the Surrealist movement in the early 20th century. It was a big influence on me, because I’d never before encountered anyone as fantastically evil as Maldoror. Most especially, check out Stanza 13 where he has sex with a shark.
Returned from Queensland, a grand four day sweat of complex systems seminars, 5-star resort madness and the kind of weird creeping sensation that says I’m falling behind, way behind…
On the plus side, I took with me an mp3 player loaded with nothing but soundscapes. Field recordings of seal and penguin colonies, Indian train stations and spice markets, and Nurse With Wound‘s 2004 set of recordings from the islands of Lofoten, Norway. A combination of gorgeous and terrifying, and sandwiched amid the lot of it, a single song by Fred Smith – blue guitar.
Fred Smith is an Australian singer/songwriter who took off for Bougainville and the Solomon Islands in the late 90s on peace monitoring missions. While there he wrote and recorded a bundle of musics, including the aforementioned blue guitar: ‘a blues ballad set in a bar room in post-coup Honiara.’
these small Pacific towns start to look the same
missionaries, mercenaries, playing their little games
better bash them with a bible, or the butt of an SLR
so they say you lead the way, I’d rather play my blue guitar…
It’s available to download from Smith’s site – go to the albums sections and check out tracklisting.
Due to the vaguaries of what can only be described as MAGIC, myself and the other three soldiers of Bohemian Productions have wound up in the Gold Coast in a 5 star hotel entitled THE MARRIOTT RESORT with 2.5 acres of rock grottos and swimming pools and spas. We are here as part of the Australasian Complex ’07 Conference, the eighth in a series of complex systems conferences held in Australia and Japan. Bohemian’s show A Prisoner’s Dilemma is providing the social component of this conference, which is a fairly high-flying gig.
Last Friday we presented the show in Canberra at the CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems Laboratory, as part of their Friday seminar series. It was our first chance trying out some of the new material, including a re-tooled version of Abbot, the scene based around two groups of criminals bribing their way into a monastery. The performance seemed to go well, and the scientists (unsurprisingly) were one of the best audiences we’ve had in terms of game-playing.
Also on Saturday I gathered with seven other madmen, including two guitarists, a keyboardist, a bass player, a chef and a special effects guru, to embark upon a performance/music/delicious food project which will bear its ugly fruit this August and September. The collective has no name, but Nickamc has put some preliminary records of the event on his and Reuben’s myspace page, static.sound.silence. Dig.
I’ve planted a heap more gear in the scripts page. There is now:
Scraps and fragments of script and prose gathered under the loose heading of The North Sea. There are three short plays set up in the northernmost reaches of the North sea, where the humans are at war with heaven. The plays follow a small group of characters in the attempt to find a human soldier who has dropped out of heaven on to a distant iceberg. Not very polished but I’m very happy with it.
And most epically, I’ve finally begun the uploading of the Vampire Play script. The key reason behind getting this website was being able to build a huge web of interconnecting short scenes and alternate pathways through the brutal undead gang warfare that is Vampire Play. I’m not very far into it but I’m very happy.
Thank you for coming and reading this, whoever you are. Send I an email if you stumble across this site, let me know what is good and what is FAILED. Also if you have a request or wish to contribute to/borrow any of the material here, please feel free – just give me an email and I’m a happy cat.
Also: production shots from the 2005 Canberra Youth Theatre season of Hate Restaurants – dig –
While I’m transferring all the content from my old website to this new, slightly less cool looking WordPress site, all the scripts and stories are still online at the old site. Just be warned, I can’t be bothered linking to this new site from the old site, so if you follow either of these links, chances are I’ll never see you again.
Here for my prose writings and illustrated stories.