Eli Elliott released a small slew of varying Absurdist works in May, ranging from movements in nature to nostalgic environments to his now and then autobiographical dry humor monologue pieces taken from real life circumstance and/or situation.
SPRINGS IN MY STEP FOR THE BEE’S OF ST. BURG experiments with slow motion and distorted rhythm while photographing movement in a way that is somewhat mesmerizing, and the totality of it all together, somewhat absurd.
RUNNIN’ DOWN A DREAM is an observational (and/or anthropological?) piece capturing the absurdity of a scene; the nostalgic cover band music from 30 plus years ago still being celebrated, the lost souls brown bag harboring about and the stereotypical American party time environment during a period where the media environment speaks of the bad only going to get worse. For best quality change the viewer quality to that of “720p”.
MY ART OPENING tells the tale of a failed art gallery opening, created by our filmmaker and apparent artist (drawing/sculpting), Eli. It’s one of his “experimental autobiographical” pieces which he creates now and then, and it is rather humorous in both the delivery and the actual event, or non-event. Change the player to “720p” for the preferred viewing.
Underground filmmaker Nick Zedd was a friend of Taylor Mead and featured him in some of his own films and video projects such as ECSTASY IN ENTROPY and ELECTRA ELF.
Nick provides an excellent and honest recollection on Taylor, thoughts on his passing, and related thoughts on the current societal clusterfuck in relation to art, and the world in general. Special thanks to Nick for permission to post his interesting insight obit on Mead here on AVA.
I met Taylor Mead in 1989 when we both acted together in a science fiction movie shot in the Hall of Science at the World’s Fair Grounds in Queens. I’d seen his acting in the seventies when I moved to NYC and saw Nude Restaurant, Lonesome Cowboys, Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man and The Flower Thief.
Taylor was a free spirit on film, exuding a peculiar elastic quality that was all his own…He had a languid goofiness that cut through pretension, an ability to hold your attention by virtue of an unexpected quality.
I used to run into him in bars on the Lower East Side where he always got free drinks. He would never want to talk to any female companion I might be with, but would converse about the Warhol years and other subjects. I was surprised at how politically conservative he was, defending the insane lunacy of the Cheney Bush junta’s wars of aggression which drained our economy and jump-started a new era of repression and naked imperialism that will no doubt result in the fall of the US empire and untold misery for millions of innocent people. Taylor’s political opinions seemed to have been inflicted upon him by the Fox News Terror Network, a source of malignant propaganda directed at misinformed old people too lazy to turn off their TVs. It was unfortunate that this barrage of poison had infected Taylor’s thinking, but politics had little to do with our shared lifestyles as underground outsiders and Taylor’s memories were feeble so there were no hard feelings when we’d meet.
Once we walked downtown from an event in Times Square, stopping on 6th Ave so he could leer at bodybuilders in a gym on 17th street. Later we headed to Bowery Bar, where his presence produced a Parting of the Red Sea and afforded us entry into a snooty, vile watering-hole for young urban professionals immersed in a particularly repellant form of toxic narcissism that inexplicably enthralled Taylor. As muscle bound Ken Dolls reached around Taylor to grab their brewskies while engaging in besotted mating rituals with assembly-line Barbie Dolls exuding a noxious inbred plasticity, I asked Taylor if this was his idea of “fun.”
“These are MY people!” he exclaimed. “You need to get out of the Lower East Side, Nick.”
“But THIS IS THE LOWER EAST SIDE, TAYLOR!” I replied.
In 1999, I directed Taylor in ECSTASY IN ENTROPY, wherein he gave a brilliant performance as a leering pervert in a lap dancing joint, shot in a place called Art Space (rumored to have once been a whorehouse) briefly the hottest experimental autonomous zone in NYC. After a year and a half of community board and police harrassment, the groundbreaking performance space was padlocked forever, another victim of unrestrained government fascism, killed by a vicious vendetta of busybodies with too much power on their hands. Half a block away, heroin dealers continued to peddle their wares on the sidewalk, ignored by the cops and community board nitwits who were terrified of the existence of real art in the LES.
Taylor would yearly appear at the Poetry Marathon at St. Marx Church, delivering rambling oratorios accompanied by a shabby cassette player; self-indulgent exercises in embarrassing egomania which seemed to enthrall the less discriminating sentimentalists in attendance.
Taylor hosted an equally self-indulgent stint at the now defunct Bowery Poetry Club, where on Friday evenings at 6 or 7 he’d fumble with his tape deck onstage and listen to himself talk while two bartenders rolled their eyes and waited for customers to show up. A few hours later, the place would be filled with pitiful amateur rappers boasting of their sexual prowess and animal machismo to an ugly crowd of clueless cretins who failed to tip the bartenders (who hated them.) By then Taylor was probably onto his fourth bar, filling up with free drinks before climbing 4 flights of stairs to his filthy apartment.
In 2005 I directed Taylor in the origin episode of ELECTRA ELF where he played Jennifer Swallows’ grandfather, shot in Taylor’s filthy one room apartment on Ludlow Street where he’d lived since 1979. Crawling with roaches and filled with trash and old paintings, this hovel was his final home in NYC until his greedy and disgusting landlord decided to embark upon a campaign of harrassment designed to drive Taylor crazy or kill him. Taylor stubbornly refused to be moved while the construction crews demolished the interior of his building until he ended up in the hospital and decided to accept a large sum of money to leave. A few weeks later he was dead, having escaped to live with a niece somewhere in the Midwest.
Such is the way authentic artists are now treated by the city of New York, forced to flee in terror by troglodyte landlords and hordes of yuppie scum, poisoning every inch of “prime real estate” in an orgy of predatory capitalism; a degrading devolution of life based on “profits,” “the bottom line” and creating a playground for rich, spoiled brats with nothing to offer.
Taylor Mead was a living embodiment of freedom and slack…and therefore had to be wiped out…but his legacy lives on in our memories and in the movies, writing and art he left behind, if anybody still cares.
-Written by Nick Zedd.
Nick Zedd’s facebook page featuring his paintings, musings and more is here.
“Taylor Mead is a performance poet, painter underground film star, comedic actor, astral clown, whimsical beatnik, refugee from old money, a true pop prince and the real son of Andy Warhol. Featured in over 100 films including many Warhol films, Mr. Mead is unequaled as the insouciant pop enigma who has seen everything and done it all.” – Penny Arcade
Taylor Mead passes on after a lifetime of art, much of which spent in the absurdist vein. Though his passing ends on a bitter note, the throngs of life/culture/societal clusterfuck having weighed down heavy during his last months. The same old song and dance it seems, gentrification and the trials and tribs of dealing with a system hellbent on getting rid of the old, and making way for the profit, damned the laws, screw the ethics… That story regarding Taylor’s recent struggles is written about here, wherein friend and photographer Clayton Patterson remarks about Taylor’s ongoing housing situation, “It’s going to kill him.”
An agreement apparently was reached in the last few weeks, but…
But it’s a sad tale, more than a few angles to ponder on art, the continual for profit growth paradigm in culture, and the end game to it all.
Put those absurdities aside and instead celebrate the experimental absurdity that was able to make some continual noise while alive, the “astral clown” as quoted above, Taylor Mead.
Joey heard Charles climb the creaky stairs, the opening of the bolted door and saw his daddy enter his room palming a head of wet lettuce. Charles was dressed in tan Dockers and a yellow golf shirt that read CromNet across his left breast. His blond hair was neatly trimmed and his face clean-shaven.
“You are going to eat this,” Charles said holding up the head of lettuce.
“I don’t like lettuce,” Joey replied.
“Get in your goddamned highchair!”
Scared, Joey scrambled off his red racecar bed and squeezed himself into the metal highchair.
“I work goddamn hard at the Internet company to get food to feed you and goddamn if you’re not going to eat your vegetables.”
Charles had removed Joey from school a year ago when he was thirteen. Thirteen was the age a student was legally allowed to halt their studies.
Joey had said it a million times before and he said it again now:
“If Mommy was here she wouldn’t make me eat my vegetables and if she was here, I probably would.”
Charles lifted an inquisitive brow. “Has mommy been trying to send you telepathic messages from heaven again? Did you rip the tinfoil?”
“Yes, and she said I didn’t have to eat my vegetables, but I didn’t rip the tinfoil.”
“I call bullshit, Joey,” Charles said, inspecting the floor-to-ceiling tinfoil. “Because I know for a fact that tinfoil keeps out all telepathic transmissions and I don’t see any holes or tears.”
Joey, wearing his silk pajamas with white trim, stared at Charles from his highchair with pert lips, his blue eyes offering nothing.
“You have an I.Q. of 80. You’re practically a retard staring at me with your dumb eyes. You know that?”
“Yes. I know, Daddy.”
Charles walked over and told Joey to open his mouth. Joey tightened his lips. Charles squished his mouth open and pressed the head of lettuce against it.
“Bite. I work hard at the Internet company to buy this food and I want you to eat your goddamned vegetables. Now take a bite. If you don’t, you’re going to die, Joey. You’re going to die of malnutrition.”
Joey batted the head of lettuce away. It came to rest near an empty glass container of chocolate milk next to his racecar bed.
“I need to go poopie,” Joey said.
Charles sighed. “Fine. Take your poopie and then you’re eating the lettuce.”
“Okay, Daddy,” Joey said.
Joey hopped off his highchair and entered his tiny bathroom. Charles had taken off the lock, but Joey shut the door, lowered his bottoms and sat down on a white urine-stained toilet.
He grunted and squeezed and heard a plop. He got up and looked at a nearly perfectly round ball of poop with a small crevice. Joey wished more would come. His stomach hurt, but he was glad to get some out. He had awful gas and pangs of constipation.
He flushed the toilet without wiping and opened the door.
“Did you wash your hands?” Charles asked.
“I forgot, Dad.”
“Goddamnit.” Charles grabbed him by the nap of his neck, twisted on the water, rubbed blue soap over his hands and put them under the stream and then toweled them off.
“You’re bad, Joey. Nothing but a tack in my ass. A dozen tacks in my ass.”
“I don’t mean to be tacks in your ass, Daddy.”
“Well, you are. Same routine every day.”
“Yesterday it was radishes and I had gone poopie earlier.”
“It doesn’t matter the type of vegetable, Joey. You won’t eat them is the point.”
It was true, he wouldn’t eat his vegetables and his daddy had kept him locked in his room as punishment until he would. After mommy died and the fat cops had taken the neighbor away, Joey couldn’t eat his vegetables. He once loved them, because his mommy had a garden teeming with all sorts of vegetables, and she loved them. Her garden was her passion and he associated eating vegetables with his love for his mommy. However, when the neighbor man ‘violated her love flower and put her to sleep in the garden’ as daddy put it, he couldn’t eat them. Never would he eat them. Vegetables equaled emotional pain.
“I will never eat my vegetables, Daddy.” Joey said with finality.
Charles eyes shrunk into a glare and he angrily chewed his bottom lip. He then lifted Joey off his feet and tossed him on the racecar bed. He quickly grabbed the head of lettuce, squeezed open Joey’s mouth, and twisted the ball of lettuce side to side. Joey’s face turned red as he began to wheeze and choke. Daddy then punched his left leg. Daddy had yelled every day and tried force feeding Joey, but this was the first time he had struck him. Joey reached back and tore away a section of tin foil which did nothing but enrage his father further.
“I told you never to mess with the tinfoil. Never!” He grated the head of lettuce deeper into his mouth and jabbed his ribs repeatedly. Joey finally slapped the lettuce away. He spit out remnants, regained his breath and said Mommy had just telepathically communicated that he didn’t have to eat his vegetables ever. Even though it had never been fully explained to him, Joey understood that telepathic communication were messages silently spoken from mind to mind. His daddy had always believed in some strange things Mommy used to tell him. It was harmless she had said. Silly distractions to keep him not so bitter about his underpaid and undervalued job at CromNet — the Internet company.
“Mommy also said you should let me leave my room.”
Charles stood up, hands on his hips and stared at Joey with fire. Joey was going to do more than leave his room, Charles thought. This had gone on nearly two months and this day, it would end. He no longer cared if Joey was only thirteen and it was his parental obligation to keep him until eighteen. He grabbed Joey’s ankles and pulled him from the bedroom, down the carpeted stairs, through the living room and down the concrete steps outside the house and into the yard.
Joey stood up, felt the back of his head and saw blood on his fingers.
“That hurt, Daddy!”
“You are no longer my son. Go!”
“But I don’t have any shoes.”
Without sitting, Charles pulled off his leather shoes and threw them at Joey who sat down on the grass in front of their two-story brick house and put them on. They were many sizes too big.
“You just go now,” Charles said.
Joey stood and shrugged. “Okay, Daddy. Can I keep in touch with you telepathically?”
“You can try whatever you want, but I’m going to tinfoil the entire house.”
“What happens if you’re at work?” Joey asked. “The Internet company won’t let you tinfoil your office.”
“You’re a smartass. The worst smartass I ever knew. Get off my property!”
“Okay. Bye, Dad,” Joey said.
Joey turned and walked away. He would walk the many miles to the river and swim in his underwear, he thought. Swimming was something he and his mommy once liked to do when he was much littler and she was alive; however, he promised himself as he walked down a sidewalk in his over-sized leather shoes, he would never eat another vegetable never, ever even if it meant he became malnourished and died.
Kelly Broich is the author of the novel PRECIOUS. He is also the author of the video below.
The Ann Arbor film festival, the largest and longest running experimental/avant garde film fest, now in its 51st run, has been underway this past week. Filmmaker Jon Jost is in town, by chance, and gives his thoughts on the event, the selected films, and the current so called “Avant Garde” in general. In ’89 Jost won the Ann Arbor “Best of Fest” award with his experimental essay film “Plain Talk and Common Sense (uncommon senses)”
His summation, so far, is in line with the atmosphere I had expected: a nostalgia ridden regurgitation, with nothing really new, experimental, or avant garde.
Of a program made up of eleven films, each running from 2 to 30 minutes, I have to say there wasn’t one which I would call “experimental” or “avant garde” in any meaningful sense. Each was either an exhausted re-run of films I have seen 100 times (pixillated this, smashed and mashed filmic detritus as “style,” or run-of-the-mill animation, usually a bit on the messy side.)
As I mentioned elsewhere, their denial of digital (DV) works from the onset (late 90’s) began to cement their standing as no longer a relevant event for showcasing new cinema in the experimental and avant vein. They would eventually come around in 2003 with accepting digital, but not having understood the sped up digital environment and it’s future effects, they would find themselves 5 years behind the times, missing out on previous DV videomakers who were now morphing into HD experimenters, all the while ignoring the need to re-define just what “experimental” meant in present terms. Instead, satisfying the dominating nostalgia factor seemed to be of most importance. It seems the new works championed were re-hashed nostalgia factor films, playing up the usual “film leader” intro’s, scratches – now more purposefully placed, and other re-hash techniques. Nostalgia’s a bitch to break.
Jost mentions elements of the above and reveals that the majority present at the Ann Arbor fest, are not the young and the new, but the old entering the familiar museum. Instead of the young experiencing a breeding ground for current cinematic experiments, on a level to inspire/aspire to, works of such which flutter all around various corners of the internets, they are left to await the high horse nostalgia curtain to fall, so the welcoming aboard of a redefining of avant garde in the digital environment can, finally, take place.
On the one year anniversary of artist Mike Kelley’s departure, an hour and a half interview from 2004 has now been uploaded by AVA’s own Eli Elliott (who also filmed the piece; interview was by Gerry Fialka). As previously mentioned, the tape recently re-surfaced a month ago.
Mike Kelley worked in various mediums using various materials. From drawings to found object assemblage to performance video art. He drew on American culture, popular image and icon, politics, perversion, and more. Kelley also wrote books and performed experimental music. He started doing art in the 70’s, eventually becoming a heavyweight in the art world. In 2012, at age 57, he decided to call it quits, and killed himself.
The interview is an interesting look for those who are Mike Kelley fans, as well as others who had always been curious about Kelley and his work, his motivations, thoughts, etc.
What we also get is a good glimpse at Kelley’s character; the slightly nervous, hopped up, pissed off, and eerily emotional “boo-hoo” mannerisms. All of which can perhaps be a smattering of crumbs which help digest at least a little understanding on his choice to end his life one year ago.
Somewhere towards the very end of this interview Kelley breaks down, tears swell up seemingly out of nowhere, his voice heavily cracks; an instantaneous breakdown. I think this speaks of perhaps susceptibility to reaching such sudden emotional lows, which may have been the ground for going through with the action of ending it all.
A thought to be lost video interview of the late artist Mike Kelley was recently uncovered by Los Angeles artist Steve Craig.
Eli Elliott who had shot the interview, curated back in 2004 by Gerry Fialka, had been scouring his storage lockers for the past year after Mike’s death, for the tape. Elliott had actually left the tape with Craig years prior, and on a recent return to L.A. it was uncovered.
The full interview will be uploaded here on Absurdist Video Art on February 1st, 2013.
In the meantime Elliott has uploaded some nice nuggets of Kelley talking frankly about art and the avant garde. These brief pieces reveal some strong emotion and passion for what Mike was doing, as well as frustrations about the way the world was turning.
Recently a collaboration took place between two Absurdist Video Artists, Kelly Broich the ringleader of COLLLAPSE productions, and Eli Elliott who’s been traveling around via greyhound bus . He recently made his second visit to Collapse Studios in Boise, Idaho. The last time, a few years ago, a number of shorts were shot, and a feature film was rumored to have been completed (yet never released).
This time around a series of improvisational pieces were performed, filmed and edited.
The “Eli E and Kelly B Sessions” proved to maintain, if not improve upon, the oddity, absurdity, and bizarro visual imagery of their cinematic collaboration history.
Here are the completed sessions:
“You Can’t But We Can” is a sequel of sorts to an earlier performance between Eli E and Kelly B called INCHWORM . This time around “the band” expands a bit while the sounds improve.
Kelly B brings back his character JIMMY for this brief trigger piece. Eli plays Jimmy’s pink colored seizure.
The two turn to brutally subjecting the viewer with an 11 minute aurora of audio “sound healing”. Theta Brain Wave Therapy.
Kelly B. performs a shop-vac solo:
Apparently, Eli E. underwent a “screen test” for an upcoming production slated for 2013.
Some avant garde penis enlargement commercials were also filmed, but were quickly banned from YouTube and 5 other video sharing websites.