Saturday, October 22, 2016

Animatronic Hillary Child-bot Terrorizes Local Family!

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When I first heard a description of Jenn Berger’s new animatronic sculpture Hillary Clinton as a Child (2016) I laughed out loud. When I finally saw it, I was still amused, but also a little spooked, in the classic uncanny sense — that dissociative self-reflective identification that underlies our fascination with robots, automatons, and TV morning talk show hosts. This was a work of considerable psychological depth, in addition to it’s humor and topical currency.

As anyone who has been within earshot of me for more than a couple of minutes knows, I consider Firesign Theatre’s 1971 “comedy LP” I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus to be one of the greatest artworks of the 20th century. That complex fable centers around a near-future everyman who hacks into the OS of the Nixonesque Robo-POTUS and thereby brings about the collapse of the Matrix-like digital kenoma. And who’s not for that, right?

But Jenn Berger’s Hillarybot occupies a more ambiguous domain — for one thing, Hillary isn’t president yet. And although I’m sure there will be a plethora of selfies generated by the entity’s weekend residency at Monte Vista Projects (5442 Monte Vista St, Los Angeles, CA 90042; Saturday Oct. 22 from 5-9pm and Sunday Oct 23 from 1-5pm), this is a manifestation of Ms. Clinton that makes no promises, but peers out at us through a convoluted warp in time, conflating innocence and world-weary skepticism in singular multi-media narrative mashup.

“Combining half of a child size doll, drawing replacing the doll’s front, and video eyes sourced from the Benghazi hearing,” reads the PR in the Facebook announcement, “Hillary Clinton As A Child speaks to the construction of a larger than life identity over time. The mention of just the name Hillary Clinton brings an immediate response. From where do we form an opinion of our politicians? Based on a childhood photo of Hillary, HCAAC stands as a reminder of Hillary’s history, that she was not always the Hillary Clinton we think we know today.”

This is followed by a quote from Neil Postman’s prescient 1985 scree Amusing Ourselves To Death, in which he observes that “on television the politician does not so much offer the audience an image of [herself], as offer [herself] as an image of the audience.” So now I’m supposed to be a creepy robotic girl with shifty eyes? What’s the deal? I decided to track down the artist and get a few straight answers.

Less Art: So, where do you get all your crazy ideas?

Read the rest of L’il Hil Gives Me a Chill at LESS ART: the Blog!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Spiritual Revival: Marnie Weber Casts a Perverse Spell

The Day of Forevermore - photo by Rebecca Tull

“Try it again without the death metal voice, Doug!” I’m inside a bulky latex ram-horned devil mask, wearing a swanky maroon dinner jacket and cravat, tending bar for a coven of witches in a ruinous hut in a crumbling bohemian compound in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, and Lee Lynch is getting sarcastic. Five hours earlier I’d caught a ride with my bandmate, the sculptor Daniel Hawkins, up the winding precipitous incline to the Zorthian Ranch, a definitively unfinished art environment dating from the antebellum heyday of West Coast Assemblage. Daniel was multitasking various production duties on artist Marnie Weber’s first full-length feature film, for which I’d been recruited to do a cameo.

But Lee is directing the scene, and he doesn’t like my guttural “Exorcist” croak. The witches weigh in and we settle on something that sounds more like a cartoon bear to me — but tensions are already high, and these guys are the professionals, right? Besides, Marnie’s no stranger to cartoon bears. I can’t quite understand what set everyone on edge — something about the electricians not getting pizza? But there’s a definite schism between the CalArts film school alum — represented by Lee — and the movie industry tech guys that Marnie’s brought on board for “The Day of Forevermore.”

The film, which had its North American debut in September in Los Angeles, is Marnie’s 22nd, but her first to break the 80-minute barrier, and the first to take full advantage of the considerable resources that Hollywood has to offer. It is in some sense the culmination of a developmental cinematic arc that mirrors Marnie’s wider multimedia practice, as well as the history of film — not to mention the art world’s transformation in scale and spectacularity over the last couple of decades.

Marnie’s first films were made with handheld silent Super 8 cameras in the early ’90s. They were a direct outgrowth of her solo rock-theatrical performance art — itself a mutation of her involvement in the industrial diy milieu of postpunk Los Angeles with her first band, “Party Boys.” As subsequent movies grew more ambitious and sophisticated, they — in combination with her collages, sculptures, and installations — began to portray a coherent (if fantastical) mythological realm, populated by wounded animals, seedy hobo clowns, ghosts, goblins, tree spirits, possessed ventriloquist dummies and, yes, cartoon bears.

These neo-archetypal entities usually function as support characters to a strong central female lead, played by Marnie. For most of the last decade her character was consistent: the leader of a gaggle of starstruck adolescent ghosts dubbed the “Spirit Girls.” Dressed in identical nightgowns, long straight wigs, and chillingly blank porcelain-white masks (and incorporating the acting skills and instrumental chops of Dani Tull, Tanya Haden, and a cluster of other gifted musicians), the “Spirit Girls” became an actual rock band and developed a considerable cult following.

The “Spirit Girls’” exploits stretched over four loosely interwoven films, also manifesting in gallery exhibits, elaborate performances and “Forever Free” — an accomplished album informed as much by Marnie’s teen glam and prog influences as her postpunk roots. But as the aughts wound down, the band seemed to have dealt with that unfinished business which binds the departed to our shores—the eternally adolescent Spirit Girls had found rock-and-roll glory in the performative afterlife — and Marnie began casting about for a new perspective, and a new cast of characters.

In November 2010, she staged an exorcism of sorts. Under the auspices of West of Rome Public Art’s free-floating “Women in the City” series, Marnie organized a final “Spirit Girls” performance at the Altadena Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum. The audience was greeted by a procession of monsters, cemetery tours led by an ancient, addled gravedigger, and the debut of Marnie’s film “The Eternal Heart,” screened in the opulently appointed Gothic Mausoleum. Pointedly, the “Spirit Girls” did not appear in the film itself, but provided a live soundtrack, followed by a farewell romp through their greatest hits.

It was a spectacular event that is still spoken of as a high point in recent LA performance history. But overlooked by many of the opening night revelers was the fact that the Mausoleum was also hosting an exhibit of Marnie’s new collages — harkening back to the early cut-and-paste bodies of work from her first forays into the art world — in its unlikely and hard-to-find art gallery. “Eternity Forever” ended up being her last hometown solo show until her current outing at Gavlak Los Angeles, on view through November 5. But the venue proved serendipitous for a completely different reason—the show that was coming down while Marnie was installing hers...

Read the rest of Spiritual Revival: Marnie Weber Casts a Perverse Spell in Modern Painters or ATJ

Sunday, October 16, 2016

You need this special F Mask to hear them!

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"Hey brothers and sisters there's something new going down." F's long-awaited second full-length release -- a limited edition cassette entitled "FF" with Daniel Hawkins, Doug Harvey, and Marnie Weber, coming very soon. Keep watching the skies for launch!