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Wild Audio

Bados Earthling was a street art performance artist, not a busker but guerrilla theatre performer interacting with the public in Melbourne’s laneways. Bados made himself into a cartoon complete with a handheld chalkboard speech balloon. He is a fun character, friendly and approachable. Bados claims that he is from the future but time travel appears only to have confused him and has provided him with no insights. Bados’s naïve interaction with contemporary culture provides a mirror, or rather, a blank blackboard.  He has been on my radar for 3 years, in 2010 he was collaborating with street sculptor Nick Ilton. I’ve never managed to see an actual performance, relying only online videos and still photos.

Then Bados Earthling announced that he was starting a band – “something like TISM”. Bados later denied this: “Its funny TISM never really entered our minds until after our first gig @ CoCoa Jackson. They never really influenced any of my art in the past. Including the development of Bados Earthling & performance graffiti. I’ve never owned a Tism C.D. or record and never saw them in concert. Until recently when I bought a box set with a C.D. and 2 DVD’s. It was out of curiosity. I do like them though I guess you can say we will be Tismish.”

Everyone claims to know someone in TISM (This Is Serious Mum) – as all the members are masked, it is an unchallengeable claim. There was always chaos accompanying a TISM gig, it would be late, the audience would be hassled and then both chaos and music would erupt on stage. TISM describes itself as “part Dada, part-paramilitary, part-comic” and the identities of Ron Hitler-Barassi and Humphrey B. Flaubert, fit into the tradition of Rrose Selavy and Monty Cantsin.

And this is where Bados Earthling comes back into the story now with a band – the Wild Audio Society with WaDe on keyboards, Bados and Songstress X on vocals. The gothic steampunk style of WaDe improves his claims to be a time traveller but from a different time from Bados. The Wild Audio Society was officially founded in March 2012 (there must be some time travel involved).

I still haven’t got to a gig by Bados Earthling and the Wild Audio Society but I have experienced them online. Ever keen to follow the popular meme the Wild Audio Society sing about “Where’s the Banksy?” and “Free Pussy Riot”. The Wild Audio Society’s electronic rock of “Free Pussy Riot” sounds like a parody of Liabach.

Bados says “my own influences came out of Dada, Devo on the concept behind Bados, not musically, street art and comedians I have done a little stand-up over the years & fringe type comedy.”

The other band that I should mention in this mix-post is Curse Ov Dialect with their politically conscious rap with ethnomusicological sources and a hip-hop base. Curse Ov Dialect’s performances are over the top and chaotic artistic events that make TISM look like a private school variety show.

I have neglected examining Melbourne’s music in this blog, believing that it was better covered elsewhere and forgetting the importance of music to post-modern avant-garde art in general. I had been in that scene decades ago and wanted to maintain the focus of Black Mark on the visual arts but occasionally you have to make diversions.


The Velvet Underground film

After about twenty minutes into the film parts of the audience started to walk out. Either the camera work had got to them or it was clear to them that the Velvets weren’t about to break into a chorus of Sweet Jane. What did these people expect from an Andy Warhol film? Hadn’t they heard The Velvet Underground playing Sister Ray? People continued to walk out throughout the film. I was chilled in the front row with TC, tranced out with the droning electric guitars that seemed to have more in common with the dust and scratches on the film than the black and white images of Nico or Lou Reed.

The Velvet Underground and Nico: a Symphony of Sound was filmed at the Factory in January 1966. Even though music video clips had not been invented yet this 67min film features many of what have now become clichés of music videos, including the use of rapid zooming and panning in time with the music. Even the plot for a music video is remarkably familiar: band is playing live and the cops turn up. One NYC police officer suddenly appears in shot, smiles at the camera and turns the music down. The band plays for a bit more – “that’s still too loud” says a voice off camera. The cops talk to Andy and Gerard Malanga, his studio assistant, And the band packs up.

Eventually the camera runs out of film, end of film. Although the camera remains in a fixed position throughout the film and there is only one shot. It appears that Andy, or who ever was behind the camera (because Andy is in front of the camera at the end), was endlessly playing with the camera rather than doing what Andy Warhol was famous for a static shot with no pans or zooms. If only they had done a fixed shot the film would have been a lot better.

The Velvet Underground and Nico: a Symphony of Sound was part of a series of films by Andy Warhol showing at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). I went with my old friend TC who played guitar in a garage band with me. We are both fans of the Velvets; we used to play cover versions of Sweet Jane and Venus in Furs. Later I played in a Velvet Underground cover band, Edie Sedgwick’s Overdose with Ron Rude. Although, we were both fans of the Velvets, neither TC nor myself had seen the film nor heard the music. This was a rare screening of the film. Except for footage from their revival tour I have never before seen The Velvet Underground playing. I have seen a few still images from this film but never the moving picture.

Although I had never heard the “symphony of sound” before the music was not unfamiliar. It was not unlike Sister Ray but without any vocals and an hour long – something like the performances that the Velvets would later do in the afternoons of Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Mo Tucker’s ever steady drumming was holding the droning sound of guitars and electric viola together. At one stage John Cage appeared to play some amplified long steel springs with a table knife but it was difficult to see what he was doing as the camera was mostly on Nico (tambourine) or her 3-year old son, Ari (maraca).

Sound Work

21:100:100 is an exhibition at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces of  “100 sound works by 100 artists from the 21st Century” curated by Alexie Glass, Emily Cormack, Marco Fusinato and Oren Ambarchi. The opening of the exhibition on the first hot Saturday night of the summer was well attended. And unlike other gallery openings where talking and drinking are the main priority there was a lot attention paid to the art. Most of the crowd was listening to the works on the 100 headphones.

But why was this exhibition on at a “contemporary art space” rather than a music venue? When John Cage raised the consciousness of music composition from theory to philosophy by asking not how to compose music but what is music? Music became part of contemporary art.

This is does not describes the music that sprang from asking the question – what is music. 21:100:100 is an excellent survey of the range of musical directions in contemporary art that have developed since John Cage expanded our understanding of music. 21:100:100 includes works that range from hi-tech to lo-fi. From pure electronic, to samples, to ambient soundscapes. Music from arty rock bands like Chicks on Speed and Sonic Youth. From extreme music genres like ‘sludge metal”, “free jazz” and “free folk”. Music played on unique and invented instruments, like 50 foot long wires or glass harmoniums. Music from performance art, including the soundtrack from Christian Marclay. 2000, 14 minute video, “Guitar Drag but the video is much better. From around the world the curators have not left an acoustic record unturned to put together this out-standing exhibition.

100 didactic panels along with the 100 headphones were carefully arranged the ultraviolet lit gallery space. The didactic panels were all clear and well written – a major achievement in itself for the curators.

Although the exhibition title says “artists from the 21st Century” this does include artists, like Melbourne’s Philip Brophy or the American industrial musician Z’ev, who were making music long before the 21st Century. Brophy’s “Fluorescent” is one of the most pop, fun and catchy pieces in the exhibition.

While writing this review I was listing to X-X section (Extreme XCD 010) Various Artists on the Extreme label. At least one of these artists on this compilation, Merzbow, was in the exhibition but there could have been more. Extreme is a Melbourne label that distributes many extreme musicians.

Poetic Terrorism

From Arthur Rimbaud to Samima Malik poetry has aspired to terrorism. Samima Malik is the ‘the lyrical terrorist’, convicted of “possessing records likely to be useful to terrorists” in the UK in 2007. Visual artists from the Berlin Dadaists to George Bolster’s, Art Terrorist exhibition at House Gallery, (London, 2001) have attempted psychological warfare.

Hakim Bey, the theoretician of poetic terrorism writes in T.A.Z – the temporary autonomous zone, ontological anarchy, poetic terrorism, (Automedia, 1991): “The audience reaction or aesthetic-shock produced by Poetic-Terrorism ought to be at least as strong as the emotion of terror – powerful disgust, sexual arousal, superstitious awe, sudden intuitive breakthrough, dada-esque angst”.

Along with what could be dismissed as mere art there has been direct action by poetic terrorists. In 1986 the Australian Cultural Terrorists kidnapping Picasso’s Weeping Woman from the NGV and issued demands to the Minister of Police and the Arts, Race Matthews. How To Make Trouble And Influence People (Political Hooligan Publications, Sydney, 1996) is a wonderful little publication documenting “Australian pranks, hoaxes and political mischief making” in a random order. It reproduces many fly-posters, altered billboards and leaflets created by these pranksters.

Poetic terrorism is isometric cultural warfare. The culture jammers, nihilists and associated Dadaists are attempting to blow up mass consumer culture. Poetic terrorists are similar to militant terrorists in many ways both feel isolated and ignored. Except, unlike the militants, poetic terrorists do not have an exaggerated belief in the effectiveness of violence. Instead, poetic terrorists have an exaggerated belief in the effectiveness of art and poetry. “Like charging a regiment of tanks with a defective slingshot.” Wm. Burroughs writes about John Heartfield’s anti-Nazi photomontages. Burroughs, himself advocated the use of tape recorders and cutups as a weapon of psychological warfare in The Invisible Generation (1966).

Taoist Jihad is a group of poetic terrorists, musicians and culture jammers. I met members of the group when I was involved with Clan Analogue in the late 1990s. I liked their choice of samples from Bollywood and Hollywood. And I enjoyed their crazy political actions as they always included a sense of fun and danger. I witnessed their black magic action against President Soharto in 1998. The burning an official photograph went very badly as the cardboard smoldered and the black candles kept on going out in the wind but it worked.

I remained in touch with some members of Taoist Jihad. Others have vanished completely. DJ Phatwah maintains that “many of the group went into hiding late in 2001” the truth is that they just denied membership, cut communications and got full-time jobs. The members of Taoist Jihad didn’t intend to become musicians or artists, nor have they become full time artists, their work was the late adolescent creative out bursts of university students. My role has been to facilitate communications from the group and help organize their upcoming exhibition at Brunswick Arts.

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