NO LIFE: MARCH / APRIL 2022
PLUTO IS GOOFY’S PET
A stranger hit my vape and mentioned she needs a roommate to make rent, although she doesn’t really want one. She also said she isn’t sure if she “deserves” to live alone and noted how fucked up that is - to wonder if one deserves to live the way one wants. She has an out - her certainty in America’s imminent demise, a catastrophe so big it would dwarf every other problem, including her roommate worry. Her hope is that when the nation collapses she’ll be spared the trouble of finding a roommate. I think that’s overly optimistic. The rent would triple.
This confidence in collapse comes from high authority - the cosmos. Astrologers observe Pluto has returned to its same alignment as the Declaration of Independence signing. When Rome had its Pluto return their empire collapsed. I’d glimpsed the Pluto’s return routine a few weeks earlier viral on IG story. In that rendition the return was pinned to an exact date - 2/22/22. I screenshot it b/c its serene cloud background injected uncanny comfort into the text’s crackpot collapse projection.
Lucifer aka Kenneth Anger warns of astrology: if you want to use the occult for power in ordinary reality, you’d be better off working another invisible force - finance. Money and stars are both alive with energy we cannot control and laws of their own. Speculation in either is mysticism, a leap of faith that their alien vitality can be harnessed for a purpose. But money feels cheap with the universe on the balance, if there were any romance to it everyone would be billionaires, millionaires at least.
So why are stargazers recommending to ditch the dollar and dig crypto? And what’s that got to do with “collective power struggle?” The appeal of crowdsourced money capers is not the they guarantee wealth, but they propose there is access to wealth at all. If money flows relentlessly upward to the already rich, the definition of equality is reduced to easy cash, a rehash of the fantasy that America is democracy because anyone can make it big. To be fair, there might be something to a collective demand for free money.
And the horoscope’s apocalyptic tone is not far off from reality. The hegemony of the dollar is uncertain, banks warn of coming recession, politicians now straight up tell us to expect shortages of essentials and shocks unlike any we’ve experienced. What does a permanent state of emergency mean to the bulk of us who don’t have access to wealth that grants security let alone power?
The attitude that emerged in response to the 2008 crisis lionized hustle drudgery and cast monetization as identity. But the mandate to feel good about greed was over, now everyone was to do what they had to for survival, feel guilty, and repent for better values in cultural consumption. Perhaps this compromise has ended. Maybe we’ll atomize more and celebrate cruel corruption and petty opportunism. Or we’ll content ourselves with the effervescence of recognizing our private desires twisted on guru feeds. Of course, it’s possible we can invent a future that is less pathetic.
Crypto or spiritual influencer pyramid schemes may score from the proliferation of Pluto’s return tales, but the real beneficiary is the status quo. To be spun on stories of grandiose historical fates, promised riches, fate charted by constellations is to be spun on stories that cast forces no one can control as the protagonist. Forces that aren’t you, me, us. Yes, as the IG story says “you are never not creating reality,” but I fear we avoid both creation and reality when let the media we consume make up futures for us. And this casual abdication of our power to stars, money, attention traps feels sick, a manufactured powerlessness we’re all complicit in. How can anyone create reality without engaging it? But what else is there to do? What big story is there? Bitcoin or birth charts, which will be your preference when America falls? Is entertainment destiny?
Great flick considering the material. No one would hazard “man rants alone in woods” to be a compelling premise, even if that man is the Unabomber, a figure that’s haunted national consciousness for decades. The movie climaxes with Ted’s arrest and a text summary of his post-conviction life. He’s imprisoned at ADX Florence Supermax with other people you wouldn’t want over for tea, people who aren’t fun at Dave & Buster’s, people who threaten American power and aren’t polite about it - jihadists, spies, gang leaders, cartel henchmen, Mafia heavies.
At ADX Florence prisoners are locked in solitary 23 hours a day and receive one hour of solo outdoor time in a cage. It’s kind of a happy ending for Ted, he’s sentenced to be alone, which is what he wanted. Yet, according to Wikipedia, prison is the only place he’s managed to make any real friends - Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh & WTC 93 bomber Ramzi Yousef. Yikes.
As the credits roll, Ted spins in circles around his cage, kicks up dust, and observes a strange shift in bird behavior. Clouds fill the Colorado sky, a vortex of dust, bouncy basketball hail, and white phosphorous hot lightning that kisses the ground and cracks the earth, blows boulders to the heavens, knocks out the power. Flash, boom, Ted’s cage explodes, the debris knocks out his guard. The senile supervillain stumbles from his med stupor, his eyes widen, the guard’s key ring sparkles. Ted unlocks all the cells on the tier. Elderly state enemies moan and groan and make eye contact with each other for the first time in years while the dumbfounded screws panic, rush into their tactical looks, beg their illiterate supervisor for proper procedure.
El Chapo: “This is as close to parole as we’re gonna get!” The men grasp the gravity of the situation and mount a chaotic assault on the guards. The gang leaders seize weaponry. Ted and the jihadists secure rations and maps. Mafia and cartel fanatics, Catholic above all else, kidnap the prison priest. They rally in the yard and charge against the storm into the wilderness.
In the mountains they roll call. Notable fugitives include OG Mack, Larry Hoover, Tyler Bingham, & Luis Felipe, the founders of the Bloods, Gangster Disciples, Aryan Brotherhood, and Latin Kings respectively. James Marcello of the Chicago outfit and some of his goons, Simón Trinidad of the crypto-Maoist coke runners FARC, Al Qaeda’s Abu Hamza al-Masri and Khalfan Mohamed, and celebrity criminals Terry Nichols, Richard Reid, El Chapo, Ra Diggs, and Ted Kaczynski. Centuries of extremist experience between them and only one survivalist that’s up to serve as guide in the disaster ravaged landscape.
But Ted is old, disoriented, accustomed to three hand delivered Nutraloafs a day. While the combat trained argue the group should make speedy distance from the prison, an exhausted Ted leads the men into a cave to get out of the storm. They wander deep into the cave’s chambers, their jumpsuits get heavy with water, their body temperatures plummet. The fugitives freeze in this cave - a natural cryogenic preservation.
100 years later they thaw and seek vengeance on what remains of the country that locked them up.
A bold move for the franchise that assures Ted K. 2 will be the most talked about movie of 2023. All of America’s villains plus a kidnapped priest raise hell in the future? That’s entertainment.
Opioid Crisis Lookbook @ KGB
Stephanie LaCava read from her new book about a wealthy Francophile with an older lover that monitors her unnamed illness. It’s written in digressions and elliptical narrative devices, so hard to relay orally. The evening’s belly laughs were delivered by Patrick McGraw with a bit about a strip club custodian that suspects the owner doesn’t like him. The narrator gives a pretty informative review of the many gum varieties available at gas stations.
Juliana Huxtable gave a lot to chew on. She read a piece called “There Are Certain Facts That Cannot Be Disputed” from her Mucus in My Pineal Gland. In a galaxy brain unspool, she tries to place herself in grand timelines like the big bang, the emergence of life on earth, the rise and fall of civilizations. She vividly describes the illustrations that accompany articles on those topics in 1990’s software encyclopedias, but ultimately she finds more inspiring stories in “outsider academician” Geocities sites. Her psychedelic style casts our perception of history as a designer drug. She wonders who the designers are, marvels at how altering the drugs makeup could create different effects, and takes the audience on the trip.
In her second piece, she embarks on a literal acid trip and is warned not to interact with animals because of unpredictable “vibe exchanges.” She ends up in a den of Texan bros, who cheer the sex scenes on a Planet Earth DVD. Their perception that animals fuck without courtship, care, or consent is frightening and she wonders about the biomorphic kinship men have with predator animals. As a man who photographs the scantily clad under the IG handle @sofuckinganimal, I wonder about this too. That handle came from a conversation with a woman who described the entire enterprise of men with cameras as “so fucking animal” and we laughed while I changed my profile and I hadn’t thought very critically about it until now. Anyways, where was Yung Nihilist?
Alexa West’s Pumpjack @ PPOW
The first time I saw choreography by Alexa West she had three dancers sit on a blowup couch and deflate with it for 15 minutes. I do not know how else to describe it or how to talk about dance at all, but I admire the whims of iron on display that night. Pumpjack was like Lord of the Rings by comparison. It featured simultaneous solos, duos, conga lines, tightly regimented lurches toward the audience. I felt I was watching a disciplined unit break down and try to figure out why or how or where they were at exactly. The mise en scene was less “Allen Kaprow with an Amazon Prime account” and more rural pop: a primary color gun range target, an inexplicable bright red pulley system, powder blue oil barrels. A particularly moving section came near the finale when two dancers perched like gargoyles on a barrel and came into a tense embrace. As they released they turned their heads darting suspicious stares around the room. A weather report played. Hm. The show ran for three nights and since then Alexa’s co-founded a new space in Williamsburg called Pageant.
Uncensored NY X NPCC @ Baby’s Alright
A stacked reading / screening / music / pop up shop / boozy brunch event featuring almost two dozen participants. NPCC & Uncensored promote themselves as alternatives to the knee jerk navel gazing of woke culture and as heirs to the bad taste mayhem of yesteryear’s transgressive film / lit circles. NPCC embraces trollspeak and aestheticizes the incoherence of polarizing internet ideologies, while Uncensored is on the search for a coherent critique of cancel culture. They seem like different beasts and maybe strange bedfellows, but they spring from a mutual intuition that breaking out of suffocating echo chambers might be a messy affair.
Uncensored appears earnest. They’re associated with Clementine Morrigan, who runs an Instagram that points out contradictions in cancel culture. In the latest issue of the Anarchist Review of Books, they make a case that the social exile of cancellation holds diminishing sway on institutional figures, betrays non-hierarchical conflict resolution, and does not give offenders a clear path to redemption. Uncensored’s mission states everyone has a right to a community and that they are willing to host cancelled artists at their near monthly live events. Further, they state that culture is dead, that extreme individualism makes the conditions for culture impossible, and that moralism holds artists hostage, renders them incapable of using expression to create communities of personal transformation.
A browse for NPCC’s culture war positions leads to shadows in an funhouse mirror of reactions to reactions to reactions. A recent Buzzfeed (seriously) piece gives a rundown on the fun, funding, and tragedy of their film festival last year. Since NPCC’s very young and promising instigator died and that article dropped, it’s unclear who’s behind the show. Considering that Peter Thiel’s most memorable interaction with NYC fringe media found him shitcan an entire newsroom for their free speech, its dubious those involved are principled First Amendment thumpers. Maybe there’s some swept in the mix, who knows? Is lack of transparency an effective marketing technique? When the lights turn on and the cockroaches scatter what’s there? That festival screened some cool stuff that didn’t have anything to do with bolstering Silicon Valley oligarchs or their frothing authoritarian paranoia, but those films might be even more visible without the baggage. If yr out to offend and only offend know that conservatives are easier targets than liberals and they get riled up over way stupider grievances. Case in point, Thiel’s litigiousness. The trolls missed a great opportunity to loop the Hulk Hogan sex tape for three days.
So that’s the hype. My anxiety in attending this event is that I’d walk into unthinking parrots of right wing talking points, flatfooted shock fetishists, paper tigers, etc. I stopped by for an hour and here’s what I encountered. Seashell Coker and CJ Christine read satirical pieces. One reader delivered a shaken up account of being the near victim of a drive-by shooting. Another described an accidental overdose, possibly a suicide attempt, in emotionally raw verite - straining gallows humor from EMT interactions and the trials of explaining what happened to friends. A third described the arbitrary regulation of cigarettes in foster homes. The flow was energetic, clunky, and cathartic and the audience was packed, but patient.
For all the anti-woke sentiment in the promo, the only evidence of far right flirtation were some audience members in fleece vests. The readers I saw were processing experiences of poverty, violence, addiction, and despair, experiences that lead people to behave in ways that aren’t of their own volition and aren’t easily understood by moral or representational pigeonholing. They are experiences that demand attention to contingency, empathy for personalities caught in fucked situations, and an effort to examine the cultural conditions that make that so hard to talk about. It’s probably impossible online - where people posture righteousness or aspirational wealth or retreat into the comforts of food and pets and sex and irony and regurgitated opinions. I think sprawling face to face open forums may be a way out of that impasse.
Quickie book launch @ Honey’s
Quickie is Lily Lady’s new volume of photos and poems. I wish I’d had cash on me and/or wasn’t banned from Venmo because the book looks fantastic from what I read at the bar. Icy inventories of tacky stuff, uncanny encounters, overwhelming emotions refined to abrupt details and shuffled into compact, surprising chains of association. Plus a remarkable collection of dead animal on sidewalk photos. The publisher Dream Boy Book Club has a trailer on IG where Lily reads one of the poems on Omegle and that’s worth checking out for a lesson in comedic timing. For this event they read a story about an inheritance, a suitcase, and a transformation into a type of man that haunts Los Angeles. Whitney Mallett recounted an erotic encounter between two activists at The Women’s March that is interrupted by a laundry list of 2017’s trending topics. Definitely one for the time capsule.
Slic, Swordes, and Griff Spex @ the Broadway
Why do shows start on time? I missed this because I showed up at 10:30. These three do woozy, charismatic mutant pop with an ear for unpredictable club rhythms and off the wall synthetic textures. There’s a tendency to tack acts like this on an experimental bill to make a show endurable or an indie bill to make a show interesting, so having all three share a lineup is niche and necessary. I did catch the tail end of Griff’s set and affirm he’s an incredible performer. He cycled through high BPM collages and led sweaty call and response chants, riding dense echoes into Alan Vega abandon. He has a new album this month. Slic says it’s the last time they’ll play at the Broadway b/c their pay to play structure is in bad faith toward artists. Neat. Can someone book this again, start the show at 11, and give them a significant chunk of the door?
Actors @ the Roxy
Actor/director Peter Vack pins his career failures on his white/straight/cis identity and decides to transition for publicity. He makes no secret he’s transitioning exclusively for publicity and commits to his masquerade through memes, fake hate crimes, outrage at micro-aggressions in auditions. While he reaps cynical rewards exploiting the ambiguities of gender-as-performance, his sister Betsey laments her own lack of success as an artist/actor. She gets pregnant for attention and documents her home life. Fame hunger banality, unsatisfying post-pregnancy sex, and the baby talk babble of coupledom are all rendered in brutal detail. I won’t spoil, but even when these two meet consequences they’re too self-obsessed to notice.
Actors is revolted by its characters and the characters are revolted by each other. Jokes are targeted at their expense and at the expense of transphobes, but I don’t think the movie makes light of transgender struggles despite the characters ignorance. The siblings are driven by overwhelming insecurity that they believe can only be resolved by infamy and the movie runs their cringe into narcissist abyss. The plotting is tight and the performances beyond committed. This is the first feature length Betsey Brown has written, directed, and starred in. Between Actors, Assholes and The Scary of Sixty-First, she’s the livewire queen of no budget psychodrama.
Horoscope, Leila Bordreuil, Syanide, Kyle Flanagan at Chaos
Chaos Computer is a waterfront TAZ whose bric-a-brac energy will tickle heads from the golden era of fly by night DIY venues. CC’s proximity to condo-with-a-view construction certainly dramatizes the situation that forces musicians to pop up in an interminable whack a mole with developers. Hopefully its formation will inspire another era of slapdash romance with sound in guerrilla zones.
I was lucky enough to miss only half the bill. Leila Bordreuil took full advantage of the venue’s stacked sound system with waves of dense cello drone. The room resonated with bass fuzz, drawing a trance that disintegrated with visceral motion controlled feedback moves. Horoscope played in collaboration with poet Allyson Joan Erwin, who makes gorgeous cyanotype prints. She chanted “love is failure” and created a light show in a trashcan while Rene Nunez mangled tape loops, brought synth whizzes into rhythmic focus, and sprawled out into menacing neon noir beat montage. He tuned his kick drums for maximum gut punch dread and sculpted the spectral percussive party clatter into unusual shapes. Horoscope is a singular entry into an elusive genre that’s probably my favorite, 808’s + concussion.
I don’t know. This month I haven’t had much patience for art. Some of it might be burnout, some of it might be that the churn em out and sell em wet ethos doesn’t reward patience so why bother to let it in yr head? But I also miss impatient amateurish shit that is decidedly not destined to rot in storage units. Art school dropout sensory overload nonsense. Not masterpieces, but adventures of the “had to be there” variety. A wall of circuit bent Furbies or whatever. A bit of bonehead wild to balance out how overdetermined most stuff feels.
Not boneheaded, but definitely on the side of sensual stimuli, is renegade geoengineer Mimi Park’s Dawning: dust, seeds, Coplees at Lubov. A serene landscape of sprouts is planted across the third floor gallery complete with buzzing inhabitants made from toothbrushes and little motors. Part of it had started to turn brown by my visit, so it might all be rot now, but a failing environment provokes more focus. On stages of decay, on the tools necessary for proper maintenance, on weird little beings that hum and move and are easily stepped on. Maybe it’s green again. It’s pretty nice out.
Around the corner at No Gallery, Valentina Vaccarella’s Bless This Life brings infamous madams together for a lurid tea party. Portraits of Heidi Fleiss, Kristin Davis, and friends are blown up and printed on antique French linen. The images pulled from paparazzi shots are particularly striking. They magnify figures that are usually hidden in little black books or reduced to tiny newsprint into larger than life icons. True to the tabloid premise, Val had paranoia profiteer Roger Stone phone in promo. I’m unclear if he did so because the show featured a portrait of his gal pal Kristin or if it was a Cameo thing. It couldn’t have been Cameo, I mean 50 odd years in lobbying and he didn’t make good on a PPP loan scam? But I guess if he’s on the prowl for boots to lick they might as well be Val’s.
Maybe more culture vulture next month.