Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day

Only two more interviews before the 'anthropology' stage of my audio documentary project Fakeways: Manhattan Folk is completed. And already I have eight (count 'em!) orders for the disk.

It may not be setting any sales records, but I think this record is providing a valuable service. People in small towns are ordering it, and, despite what anyone may say about the internet making hub and periphery indistinguishable, you can't beat being in a big, culturally rich city like New York. You can't beat the exhilaration of finding like-minded people who are going out every night, making art, seeking adventure.

I am, like, totally on the scene. I am out every night at something exciting. Last night it was an outrageously playful Electronic Music Festival at a charmingly shabby Polish social club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (That's one of Melting Men to the left, by the way, Athens Georgia cousins of my friend the 8 Track Gorilla.)

Tonight there's an art opening on West 26th Street. At the weekend it was a web art installation by a group calling themselves Fakeshop (more symmetries in that name). Then a brilliantly arch superheroine called Mono Trona at Gavin Brown's Gallery, and being accosted mid-interview with Harmony Korine's musical collaborator Brian Degraw by a cute Korean girl asking 'Are you here to pick up chicks or dicks?' before bopping with the Fischerspooner posse at a party in the garment district. Then Monday it was a new club at the Chinatown end of the Manhattan Bridge, with video art from Artificial TV being projected big on the walls. And so on and so on.

Manhattan Folk: Coming To Town (Beep Beep)!

I've interviewed all the scenesters (their pictures adorn this page) and if this giddy social whirl is generating any interesting ideas (I think it is) you'll hear them on the Manhattan Folk disk. The interviews are all down on hard disk, and some sort of shape is emerging in the various accounts of the scene and its art. What I seem to be discovering is a style I'd call Electro-Epic. Not only are many of Ford Wright's and Mono Trona's songs about epic characters -- supermen, evil beings -- but Casey Spooner from Fischerspooner started, quite unprompted, talking during his interview about Brecht's theory of theatre (how naturalism, so well-adapted for film and TV, is not for the theatre, which must make bigger, more engaging gestures).

All these people went to art school (mostly in Chicago, for some reason) and have a post-Beck sense of irony. (In fact Bobby Conn, the Jimi Tenor of Chicago, seems to be a key influence. Check out his Rise Up album.) But they are also children of the 1980s, with its own ludicrous sense of the Epic. Ronald Reagan's Star Wars initiative, the Michael Jackson Scream video (when I met Jeff Koons recently at a Vanessa Beecroft event aboard the USS Intrepid, moored in the Hudson River, he told me his shiny aluminum rabbit was used in that, but that three meetings with Jackson had been cancelled due to 'throat problems'), Meatloaf, mullets, swords and sorcery, Sigue Sigue Sputnik... it's all back, haunting the work of these febrile, friendly and sincere 21st Century jokers.

Announcing Superheroes

I had a brainwave. I thought, why not make a compilation of these (mostly unsigned) New York art school bands, the same way Brian Eno did when he compiled the No New York collection, the record which launched Arto Lindsay and other noise artists in the late 70s? Or the way Stiff Records made the Akron Ohio compilation, which brought a whole slew of odd, art-schooly bands to the world's attention.

I got up early this morning and proposed the idea to Iain McNay at Cherry Red (Analog Baroque's parent label) and he rubberstamped it. We have only $100 to give each band for their contribution, so I may not get everyone I want. So far, my wish list would be at least one track each from:

Mono Trona
International Fiction
Family Of God
Melted Men
Sweet Thunder

We've chalked in a release date on Analog Baroque for September. The record will be called Superheroes.

Fakeways: Myths and Songs Of Momalia

Not content to make me a curator, New York is also giving me the opportunity to be an artist. I'm delighted to announce my first ever one man art show! Unbelievable though it may seem, I've been offered a month to do whatever I like in a new Chelsea art gallery, the LFL Gallery on West 26th Street, New York. The show, which opens on October 12th, will be called Fakeways: Myths and Songs Of Momalia.

My idea for the show is this. I will come every day to the gallery, and be there Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 6pm. The gallery will be transformed into an exotic space suggesting a primitive world (Mongolia, the Arctic, Papua New Guinea), or at least an anthropological diorama in a poorly-informed and somewhat shabby museum (maybe one of those cranky private museums like the Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA). At one end of the gallery there will be an igloo or a tent. Next to that, some video and audio equipment. Beyond that, a New Age-type store, selling cellophane-wrapped ethnic products. The ground will be strewn with leaves, and sound effects of unidentified exotic beasts will fill the air.

Every day I will be there, telling folk tales into a video camera. It'll be a bit like Scheherezade, the thousand and one nights. I'll have to come up with new folk tales all the time. My tales, though, will only contain very distant memories of actual folk literature (the Myths and Legends Of Mount Hagen, for example, a brilliant collection of folk tales from New Guinea I read years ago). In fact, in the manner of British-Asian comedy programme Goodness Gracious Me, the tales will mix Western capitalist imagery with 'primitive' myths. So Dumbo and Ganesh will be blended, Pokemon will merge with the god of the sun, and Superman will morph into Hermes. It will all be horribly confused, and fiendishly fake. The Exxon tiger will stalk the jungle, and the shaman will chant the name IBM as he performs his magic. Before your very eyes you will see totemic tribal fetish transformed into commodity fetish.

My improvised folk tales will be sold on videos which will cost $200. Each one will be unique. (This is something I think Sean Landers used to do.) Anyone coming into the gallery will get included in the tale I'm telling that day, and details about their appearance, their concerns, their fantasy, their lives will be written into the mythology of Momalia. (Paul Noble's intricately-rendered private world of Nobson is a precedent here, perhaps.)

You will also be able to have a song written about you, and to buy a rather bad piece of junkstore folk art painted by me (likely to feature Pac Men as ancestor spirits and Ganguro Girls as Amazon goddesses). I also hope to record parts of the new Momus album (codenamed Fake Folk, slated for release early 2001) right there in the gallery. I rather like the idea of having a sort of shamanic analyst's couch there, and getting people to sing their sexual fantasies (come on, this is New York, they love having their hearts on their sleeves!) directly onto my backing tracks. It could sound like that 'Psychopathia Sexualis' rock opera I wanted to do (someone told me last night that some composer has already made a musical piece based on Krafft-Ebbing, damn! You just can't keep a good idea down in New York!)

If you'd told the 18 year-old me that one day I would have my own art show in New York, I think I would have fainted clean away. Life is sweet, dreams come true. We can all be superheroes.

Lawrence / Feuer / LaMontagne Gallery
531 West 26th Street, 4th Floor
New York NY 10001
Phone: 212 631 7700
Fax: 212 631 7705

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