YES LIFE: May 2022
A DEN OF WELL FED LIONS
Astrologers staked April 30th’s black moon solar eclipse as primetime to kick off a new chapter, an usher of grand actualization, a game changer in life direction. One influencer said there’s no need to manifest before the eclipse, unspoken desires will become flesh and bone. Desires we might not even know we have will materialize. Sounds like a threat, like fears to be confirmed, suspicions realized, the line between anxiety and want obliterated. Could my indigestion be cancer as WebMD advises? Will the dice game outside my apartment get shot at while I check the mail? Is my cat an alien with cameras for eyes and a tail antenna that transmits my life to another dimension?
The night of the eclipse I went to a dinner in the Ridgewood sticks where the cityscape tapers into strip malls and the cars whip through quiet streets hostile to pedestrian life. I’ll call the host Daniel after the painting at the top of his stairwell. A crucifixion scene with “O King, live forever! Daniel 6:21” in a faux needlework font that recalls 19th century embroidery. Daniel says that to the King that sealed him in a cave with a lion, so the sentiment could be ironic. Or the painter was confused and thought Daniel, who lived centuries before Jesus, refers to Jesus, King of Jews, who’s execution is depicted. I don’t know scripture, but I do know this is trash.
COVID complications made for a late housewarming, Daniel has lived in his “new” place for almost a year. And he isn’t happy about it. There’s too much space and despite his bullshit job title he doesn’t make enough to fill his apartment with things, pets, or friends. Groceries are difficult. Plus, short the paranoia that comes from crammed city life, he finds himself creeped by creaks, echos, shadows. It doesn’t take much to send him swinging open closets and cabinets with a kitchen knife in one hand, 911 on speed dial in the other. He treats every sound as a provocation. A tap at the glass of his second floor window couldn’t have been a branch, had to be ladder, burglars geared up to grip his MacBook charger. More than once during a shower he’s heard a bump, taken the toilet lid, and marched naked around the house ready to brain an intruder.
Daniel fixates on the attic. There’s no ladder, so he can’t check it out, but he’s been told it’s three feet high and too decrepit for storage. He hears footsteps above him, moans that end with an abrupt hush. Daniel is certain someone is living up there. Someone that comes into his apartment while he’s at work and eats his food, watches his TV, runs up his heat. He imagines they could be a lonely widow, a scab covered methhead, an entire family - all with monstrous spinal conditions from low ceiling life.
Poltergeist, parasite, pest. Daniel has no idea, but he’s decided he does not want to evict them. Instead, he’s started to treat the squatter like a patient. He buys double groceries, extra soap, even tampons in the case the stranger menstruates. He talks with pride about this self-assigned role as caregiver and says outright it’s the only responsibility in his life that gives him genuine purpose. I press him a bit, if his imagination is so withered by routine he’s emptying his bank account to release him from invented fear. But Daniel insists. He wants to meet his stranger, ask them what else they need, deliver it to them, and say, “O King, live forever!”
David Wojnarowicz Dear Jean Pierre @ PPOW
You’d think the Wojnarowicz archives would be exhausted by now. It seems impossible anyone could create enough in a such a short life that necrophiles find more to dig up thirty odd years later. The way it goes is that a necrophile designer slaps David on the MET Gala red carpet or a necrophile Gossip Girl decides he’s a cute Halloween costume so the necrophiles at MIT unearth an audio diary and cash in. With so much dragged from the vaults it’s hard not to speculate if we’re witnessing grave robbery or if they’re delivering more because there really is so much more that demands to be seen. Dear Jean Pierre, an exhibition and future coffee table book of his personal letters begs the question, how cynical is the plunder of his private expression when the output he intended to be public is so rich? How many tourist traps claim to have the real bullet ridden car of Bonnie & Clyde?
Of course, we need David Wojnarowicz. And there’s always more to discover in him. On a recent browse of East Village Eye issues, I found in his contributions a real time chronicle of how a city, embattled by HIV/AIDS, surrendered its civic life to financial power and reoriented itself to meet the needs of market speculation over people. The insights of an on the ground reporter that turned grief into lucid systems analysis is invaluable to understanding where we’re at today. While the plague killed person after person and impersonal money usurped their place, Wojnarowicz glimpsed that future urban life may never again serve as the flash point for people who want to reinvent themselves and create alternative communities. This future he feared has come to pass and is about to get much worse. Cities are reduced to sarcophagi for capital and, with yet another rental crisis in the works, the unregulated interests of money are now so extreme that it is daring to believe people deserve homes and communities. The very thought brands one as anti-capitalist.
So, as much as we need David Wojnarowicz, what we really need now are people like him. Anarcho-beatniks out for beauty, connection, and dignity, dissidents that are unapologetic and unafraid to sound the alarm. Necrophile institutions despise alive people like that. They trot out dead rebels to satiate our need for living rebels and assert that people like Wojnarowicz are only historic relics, one of a kind icons, not avatars of a type of power we can find in ourselves. What redeems Dear Jean Pierre is that it traces how Wojnarowicz realized the qualities that cast him as not only a brave artist and writer, but a passionate leader in a moment of devastating crisis. Not to spoil, but his story does not start in an MFA crit.
Dear Jean Pierre collects three years of Wojnarowicz’s correspondence to Jean Pierre, who we do not learn much about. The two must’ve had a good time in France though, roughing up gaybashers outside Notre Dame, escaping to a country house, chatting about Wojnarowicz’s artistic ambitions. Art is the focus of every letter, whether Wojnarowicz is scoping shows, fretting about his own development, or snatching time to focus and make some. Wojnarowicz’s letter writing is obsessive, he updates Jean Pierre almost twice a week on his struggles to make sense of directions for his life, romantic desires, and creative drive. His voice is shockingly earnest, present, and never without shame, pretension, or projection. He’s working up the candor that would inform his art and make him a powerful activist later.
The curators staged mirrors under the letters to display the obverses, a trove of postcards from gallery shows Wojnarowicz attended along with his own drawings on diner menus, wrappers, any scrap he could get his hands on. His yearning to be accepted as an artist seems far fetched here, but everything he dreams about seems like a long shot. He schemes to attend college, gain French dual citizenship, find a job that stabilizes his life enough for full press into poetic responsibility. For the most part, he’s always out for jobs and that sucks and when he lands a job it invariably sucks too. Ditto apartments. And slow contact with gallerists. He does learn to seize small moments. Access to a Xerox machine at one gig nets reproductions of his poems, drawings, and collages, often of queer outlaws like Rimbaud, Genet, and Burroughs. He makes time for photo journeys to an abandoned pier that become painting treks and eventually those trips turn into a renegade arts retreat. He dances with people who want to start bands and finally joins one. And that’s it.
There’s no triumph at the end of these three years. The final letters are as hungry for security, encouragement, and opportunity as the first. Despite a legendary growth spurt, he’s still unanchored and unassured, waiting for life to start, for recognition to grant his efforts significance, for some permission to be given from on high for him to get cracking. These feelings are familiar to anyone who wants to be wild and creative, but feels caged because they have no idea how to survive. I think Wojnarowicz stumbled on a way out of that cage, though he might not have realized it because he was too busy practicing it - never shut the fuck up. Openness builds context, loudness attracts solidarity, and, when institutions fail to listen to the living, the exercise of volume will be necessary for art and survival alike.
Hare Krishna Kirtan @ Washington Sq. Park
CHAPTER 1: “MAYBE I SHOULD JOIN?"
It’s hard not to get sucked into Krishna jams. The swirl of hand percussion, harmonium drones, and flights of improvised melodies seduce passers-by to dance, invite smiles from swift walkers, and fascination from stoned sitters. Out of all the enlightenment hustlers that cram the park with tables of THC goodies, essential oils, and wellness pamphlets, the Hare Krishnas seem ahead of the pack, like they’re on to the real thing. When they heat up the chants exert a hypnotic power, the force of spiritual seekers unified in singular purpose - to sing out the dark age of Kali Yuga in devotion to Krishna and celebrate the nobler habits of humanity. It’s the sound of liberation from petty despair, want, and complaint. Joyful and transportive.
After an hour of tranced observation, I picked up some of their lit, but skipped on the cookies out of caution to urban legends their food is spiked with something that kills the sex drive. Flipping through the books, I realized everything I know about them is anecdotal. ISKCON made their stateside splash in the late 1960’s, gathering a flock of hippies fleeing disastrous counterculture experiments. They’d continue to grow from influxes of outsiders dissatisfied with subculture. In the 1990’s, enough punks joined that Krishnacore, a devotional take on hardcore, emerged in NYC. Anyone I’ve known with any knowledge or involvement about Krishna Consciousness came from punk, whether St. Marks beggars or clean cut straight edgers, it seems to cut a wide appeal. After one sweet, crusty layabout roommate of mine witnessed his best friend die, he bought a Krishna statue from a botanica and wept while streaming rips of old ISKCON cassettes for weeks. He was exposed to the religion while living in an Alphabet City squat and obviously found some hope, comfort, and light in it that he couldn’t find anywhere else. But he never converted.
What does put people over the edge to get with fringe religion? I knew an ex-Children of God member who was jumped in via “flirty fishing.” He met a hot adept outside a concert and after sex she invited him to road trip to the next town and the next and the next. After months under her bible thump and hump spell he returned home to find his cat dead, lease broken, scholarship revoked. His only clear life path was to join Children of God. When saying yes to Jesus is saying yes to ass the pool of potential brainwash is oceanic.
As far as I know, the Hare Krishnas never recruited this way. At least not as an official operation. I think they very well might be the most wholesome religious org. They dedicate themselves to praise, vegetarian diets, sobriety, and celibacy. They provide cheap meals and transcendent kirtans open for anyone to check out. I imagine that whoever joins must find that their theology answers burning questions, their ethics makes life more enjoyable, and the plunge into worship is the most positive decision they can make. If there’s no coercive tricks apparent in their membership drives, it’s probably because there’s always someone out there who needs them.
CHAPTER 2: “WHEN I SMOKE WEED, THE WEED SMOKES ME”
Dog Leather live in 2013 by Jane Pain Chardiet.
For a week after the WSP kirtan, my home listening centered on the stash of ISKCON cassettes my grief stricken friend turned me on to. Raucous and uplifting stuff. By coincidence, Griffin Pyn, a cult figure in noise/punk circles that quit music to join Hare Krishna, announced the release of his first album in five years with a project called Antimaterial Worlds on LA’s Lotus Tapes. I don’t have a cassette player, but to get out of the Hare Krishna haze, I revisited bootlegs of the old cassettes he’d put out under the monikers Sewn Leather and Skull Katalog.
I found a standout in Feel the Lock, uploaded by YouTuber named Rainwater Enema that mostly archives James Ferraro’s early incarnations. Superficially, Ferraro’s new age sprawl seems odd to pair with Pyn’s snotty beat assaults, but they came very much from the same zone. Like Ferraro, Pyn made lo-fi sound collages that worked hallucinatory paint huffer magic after a couple of minutes. Both presented their work with scattershot references to ancient religion, dirtbag partying, and pan-cultural cut-ups. And both had a penchant for booking national tours and showing up at only half the dates, sparking gossip about Megabus journeys gone romantic or catastrophic. While Ferraro hit some official culture pull with his MIDI experiments, Pyn racked up buzz with his explosive performances as part of Dog Leather.
Dog Leather was as beloved as a project like that can get. After lockdown, I noticed a refrain among Myrtle-Bway party people, “Dog Leather should reunite!” No joke, the sentiment was relayed enough there might as well have been a legit whisper campaign in the works. In reality it’s a sign that a certain set who loves crazy shows is aging and now can agree that only one act proved a universally adorable and truly wild experience. And if that act last performed a decade ago who’s to say otherwise? Exactly how unhinged they really were is lost in the fog of gutter fables and wasted mythos.
Dog Leather was Griffin’s duo with DJ Dog Dick and they played an amped version of the synth punk oddities record nerds would download from Mutant Sounds blog. A better description might be that they were a gritty take on the Dan Deacon strain of ecstatic electronics coming up from Baltimore around the same time. My take is: Adderall fueled nihilism over acid fried boom bap dusted in hideous clouds of reverb. Whatever the superlatives, they managed to make it a blast by putting their bratty rap and silly slogans in the spotlight. Their sets were a starter pistol to go bananas. Furniture was crowdsurfed, clothing ripped off, pipes burst. Like a page from Lexicon Devil come to life, a teleportation of punk before hardcore when it was all fruity temper tantrums. They got tagged as noise by default, but this was around the time stuff like Odd Future, Death Grips, and MIA’s Kala were huge, so crossover didn’t seem as far fetched then as it does now.
I remember Dog Leather had a third music video in the works with a gigantic fifty person crew shot on the 538 roof. They’d endeared themselves to an eclectic cross section of freaks, punks, train hoppers, art school dropouts, even some types that looked like they washed their clothes on occasion. And then Griffin split. I’m not sure I ever met him, but I think because we share a love of cracked out electronic music, lived similar responsibility-allergic lifestyles, and ran into some of the same people I’ve been privy to steady speculations and secondhand rumors about him ever since. Rumors that he renounced music and founded a Hare Krishna offshoot that huffs glue as tantric ritual; that he joined a model agency, but because of his tattoos only got gigs for a Travis Scott thing and a vegan restaurant chain in Colorado; that he’s perpetually wasted and lives in a boxcar; or that he’s totally cleaned up, works in a rehab in Idaho, runs 25 miles everyday, and is about to take a shot at celebrity marathons.
I never followed up on these because as much as I like Dog Leather, I like stories with loose endings even more. I think Griffin, who now goes by Gaura-jïvana dāsa, cuts an enigmatic figure, especially to those who never met him, because his persona never fit neatly into categories that are nebulous and marginal to begin with - punk, noiser, oogle, pretty boy party animal. That, for a spell, he exemplified DIY nomad excess lets people project their own narratives of cautionary self-destructive flameout or flamboyant spiritual redemption on him.
But I don’t know if that’s healthy for anyone, it misses that we can decide to live alternatives out of thoughtful rebellion against the hegemonic definitions of success that are pretty lousy. With that in mind I called Gaura-jï to talk about all this, Krishna Consciousness, his new project Antimaterial Worlds, and more.
WATCH OUT!: An Interview with Gaura-jïvana dāsa
Miles: How is LA?
Gaura-jï: Good. I’m in the outskirts, out in the Valley. It’s great.
M: How did you land there?
G: Oh man, I've been living here on and off since 2012, I just keep ending up back here. It's beyond my control. Practically, I ended up here because I was living in Colorado in my car from May to October of 2019 and I kept flip-flopping. I wanted to stay in Colorado because I was close with all the devotees there at the temple. But I have this intrinsic aversion towards paying rent, for a lot of reasons, that's a whole other tangent. But I was like I need to just be self-sufficient and I'm gonna live in my car through the winter in Colorado to prove that it can be done. There was a couple of blizzards where I was living in my car and I woke up half dead. I thought, Krishna gave me this car to live in so that I don't have to stay in one place. I can drive to San Diego. I had lived in LA in my car and that was gnarly and not that cool. It was cool for some reasons, but it was not cool for a lot of other reasons. I was like, I'll go to San Diego because it's chill there.
Long story short, on my way to San Diego I met somebody who told me that I should maybe get a room. That if I got a room, I could ground myself and get serious about the things that I'm passionate about. That's a paraphrase of what he said. I was like alright, whatever, man, I don't even know you. I went to San Diego, I applied at the health food store there. I called my friend to see if he knew of any spots. He was like you can move in here for $300 a month. And he's also vegan, he's also an ultra runner, and he's just badass. Rock climber, stoner, super chill stoner vegan friend of mine that I would run with sometimes. And I was like, Yeah, that's sick. We'll have our own little spot and we can go running and the kitchen is fully vegan, which is important to me. The fact it was $300, that's nothing.
M: So you’re paying rent now, but you have an aversion to it?
G: Yeah, well, there's this intrinsic thing within me. How can one person own the land and the sky and charge another person for that land and sky? I just think it's really the most disgusting sense of human entitlement. It’s bullshit. None of us own any of this. And someone creates property laws. You know Proudhon, the anarchist philosopher said property is theft. I take that to heart. There's this book called Sri Isopanisad that I'm very fond of that talks about it too. We all have our quota, it's all given to us on loan from God, we don't own anything. To charge people rent and force a huge part of the population to live on the streets, it's just unconscionable. It’s gross. Entitlement is what I'm crusading against at this point in my life. Within myself as well, obviously. I have to do the daily inventory about what am I taking for granted and not being appreciative of.
M: Do you come from an anarchist background and approach your spirituality from there or do these anarchist ideas come from your spirituality?
G: Both. When I was a teenager, I was reading Chomsky, Kropotkin, Proudhon. I was very into the Zapatistas. I still am, to some extent. I’m inspired by any proletarian movement where people are battling a greater evil that's compromising quality of life. Anarchism might be a very reductionist way of looking at it. There was a time in my life where I was like I'm gonna make Molotov cocktails and I'm gonna smash windows and be a part of the Black Bloc. That was when I was like 16, that was almost 20 years ago. So, that's within me somewhere down in there, but you couldn’t sum up my perspective by only speaking to that part.
M: I think anarchism is something that's open to a lot of perspectives, it’s where people get to the same conclusions in a lot of ways, I don't mean to use it in a reductionist way.
G: You're hitting on something that's definitely there, for sure.
M: Rent, though, is a huge issue. Rents are jacked up everywhere, people are sick from working to pay for the same thing over and over and over.
G: It’s getting worse for sure. When I was a kid, squatters rights, even though that was never a big thing in the States, I had an admiration for the punks in the UK and in Europe that were speaking to those issues. And it was something that I wanted to do. I wanted to be a squatter.
M: I’m interested in how this issue of figuring out how to live ties with your music. You make electronic music, which requires a lot of logistics, electricity for one, as well as time and space to focus on the equipment. How have you managed to keep making that kind of music while living a nomadic lifestyle?
G: I think because I'm not 100% set on specifically making electronic music. A lot of the time those are the tools that are available to me. When I was really in the thick of it, with Sewn Leather and Skull Katalog, I never ever had my own synth or drum machine. I had a four track, a digital four track that I would travel with, and a sampler. I would go to my friends, for instance, I had a friend in Austin that had a wall of modular synths. We would go in there and we would jam for hours and I would record all of it. Then I would take snippets and sample that and then I would use maybe an app on my phone or somebody else's drum machine or play drums at somebody's practice space over the snippet of the sample. It's kind of the other way around. The music is not electronic by intention. It's electronic because that is the easiest way to do it.
Even when I was doing Sewn Leather and I was using cassettes, people would be like oh, that's so gimmicky. Or that's really crazy that you're using cassettes, like why are you choosing to do that? And for me, it was never a choice. I had a cassette four track when I was a kid and that's what I learned to record on. You can mix down to a regular cassette deck from the thrift store that you buy for $13. It's just really malleable I feel. Being a nomad, it lends itself to that sort of expression, that creative style. I don't think I could have done it any other way. I always wanted to have a band, but I couldn't have a band because I was riding freight trains and hitchhiking and on tour.
M: You weren't gonna be arguing about who chips in what for a practice space and all the business of being in a band.
G: Yeah, it just wasn't practical. That was just the most practical way for me to do things and it still is that way, now that I'm settled more than I’ve ever been. It feels really good, I have a couple of bands, and that's cool.
M: Was the mutant beat electro-punk style that you developed only the result of not being able to be in bands? Did you find inspirations once you committed to electronic music?
G: Throbbing Gristle. So the first Influence was The Normal, their “Warm Leatherette / TVOD” 7 inch. Then Throbbing Gristle. I was really big into Crass and Zounds and the Mob and all the peace punk stuff from the same era as Throbbing Gristle. Rudimentary Peni. You can dance to a lot of that stuff. Zounds had songs with synthesizers in them. I guess those were the initial influences. Throbbing Gristle for sure, especially in 2005, was big for me. My bands at that point were the Germs, Throbbing Gristle, the Screamers, Screamers were big for me, and the Normal. I was super into “Warm Leatherette.”
M: A lot of British and LA bands. It’s strange that anarcho-punk from that era is dance-ier than you’d given the topics. Well, before the metal influence takes over.
G: I mean, even when the metal is there, Nausea has songs that I feel like you could like dance to, but that's just me, maybe.
M: So you have a new tape out now. I haven’t heard it, I don’t have a cassette or record player.
G: It's on Bandcamp.
M: What? I looked for a link and didn't find one anywhere.
M: How’d this cassette come about?
G: How did that come about? Wait, what is this interview for?
Pixelgrip, Patriarchy, 80s Baby @ Synthicide
A night of wholesome goth and puke in the urinals. Patriarchy is a shock-rock act from LA with one of the most impressive banners I’ve seen, their name in Beavis and Butthead scrawl over a giant upside down American flag. They’re fronted by a scantily clad rocker who sings about religion and sex over style hodgepodge - sludgy riffs, chugging riffs, Rocky Horror vamps - always with some dark synths. Whatever the subgenre hijinks, Patriarchy’s choruses swing for the anthemic with lyrics like “Drug you! Fuck you!” The overall effect reminds me of Mentors or Dwarves, bands that deliver aggressive raunch with hard to pin intentions. Are they satirical, subversive, into it, or wallowing in a matrix of sex-power-trauma-attention? Maybe all of the above, I couldn’t make out most of the words and apparently missed their wet t-shirt contest.
80s Baby is Neil Schwartz, the choreography endeavor of Neil Schwartz, or a collective centered around Neil Schwartz. A dozen-ish dancers vogued through whips and chains and 80’s music video scenarios to Stacy Q and New Order hits. The dancers switched up spectacular synchronized group work and strutting solos, cheering each other on from the sides of the stage. Their bliss infectious, their moves jawdropping, the crowd couldn’t contain themselves. The performance made the night feel like a movie and made movies feel cheap in comparison to reality. I wish coordinated teams of charismatic air thrusters would pull up every event, but I think the level of talent, vision, and dedication here is exceptionally rare.
Pixelgrip are a midwest band that harness the power of minimalist groove to play genre chameleon, coloring their four on the floor with bubbly Wax Trax throwback, booty bass grind, and post-punk dirge. Echo heavy vox build from witchy coos to assertive seduction, synths veer from minor key hooks to swathes of noise, all elements worked in devotion to hypnotic rhythms. Rhythms that take more inspiration from luxurious, dubby house than the pounding industrial that the group’s enthusiasm for fetishwear might suggest. Their setup features an interplay of live and electronic drum kits and every tune tightens their resolve to lather the dancefloor into hedonist frenzy. When they dig into a two note bassline and slow down, as on set highlight “Dancing on Your Grave,” a mood that pervades all their songs comes into focus. Horny, frustrated but determined, on the prowl for self-definition through indulgence in sensuality and fantasy. Hot.
Valise, Cosmic Mami & Devendra AI, Sigrid Lauren, Early Shinada @ Soloway
Multimedia party to celebrate Glass Water Light, an exhibition of beached glass collected by Maralie Armstrong-Rial (Humanbeast, Valise) from NY shoreline field recording trips. The pieces were lit to maximize trippy refractions, undulations that move like waves on the walls. In the back were black and white photos of Zoom recorders balanced precariously on rocks, mics pointed toward water, SD cards ready to be filled like glass vessels. I got sucked into the silent pageantry of music-making they capture. Sound is present in these images as a mystery, an unfinished alchemy of machine and journey to capture a bit of the Earth’s grandeur. The choice to print them on transparent paper hints at the unheard materiality of vibrations and suggests documentation in any media can never really complete a picture.
Sigrid Lauren kicked off performances with a headfirst dive into pavement only for the speaker to immediately fizzle out. No music, so she led the audience through a group movement exercise. We put our fingers in a cavity at the back of our skulls where we felt a muscle that flexes when our eyes move. Sigrid noted that vision, often under our conscious control, instructs even involuntary body movements in unconscious ways. With that thought, she directed crowd members in a wave that rolled person by person side to side. Her set was cool, but that night was freezing, so when she wrapped I went on a hunt for cheap sweaters with TikTok’s favorite binaural Juggalo artiste and missed the next set.
On return, Devendra AI & Cosmic Mami played a video game walkthrough about a quest to rewrite a parent’s DNA to remove cancer. The program asked bigger questions about how individuals conceive of themselves in relation to large populations, vast virtual space, and complex systems. They jammed on wigged out and anxious New Age and everything came together like a narratively streamlined James Ferraro. Valise closed out the night with a trip through her stash of ocean audio. She plunged glass shards into a container that was contact mic’d and fed through a heavy rig of psych FX, summoning reedy drones and sub-bass to resonate with the tides. A speedboat sputter pulled the meditation back into mundane reality and the set closed with gulls preparing for flight.
Evening chatter produced more questions than answers. Is the CIA responsible for increased ketamine production? Why do MFA’s behave like COINTELPRO agents? What is 50 Cent’s fav Roald Dahl book? And Floyd Mayweather’s? Here to answer none of these is dancer / choreographer / movement director Sigrid Lauren.
PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT: An Interview with Sigrid Lauren
Sigrid’s iPhone snap of a workshop this week.
Miles: What's this cavity in the skull where you can feel your eyes move?
Sigrid: First of all, I told you that via text, and now I don't remember. But we were feeling the muscles in the back of the skull respond to our eyes moving in the front.
M: You don’t have a very scientific anatomy spiel?
S: I don't remember it. It's related to the... I don’t know how to pronounce it. I'm pretty sure I didn't read about it in a book. It would be weird to read that in a book and immediately apply it. Did you catch that?
S: Siri got triggered and said “I didn’t catch that.” But yes, sensing these muscles was very powerful for me. I'm pretty sure it was a yoga teacher who taught me about it. To emphasize that a lot of people don't really pay attention to where they’re looking, going or how their head is positioned when they’re moving. Where your eyes go is where your body goes, where attention goes, energy flows. There's all these little catchy phrases that I love, they're very cringe, but they've helped and inspired me. Where attention goes, energy flows. What you're looking at, what you see, this is where the rest of the body goes, this is where your whole consciousness goes.
M: So what do we see? Where does our attention go?
S: Where do most people's attention go? To self-ruminating thoughts. Well, it varies, but I think if you were asking me that seriously right now and I were to answer it seriously, I think that currently attention is too often placed on obsessive celebrity culture and beauty standards, really superficial shit. Personally speaking, too.
M: How do you use the skull trick in classes or was that workshop performance at Soloway the first time you’ve tried it in a group?
S: No, I usually do that as one of the first things in my workshops. I’ve done it with you before! I used to call them Ignorant Gravity, but now I call it 'How to Throw a Body Away'. I usually do that first to make people conscious of where the eyes are looking, how something so subtle as a directional shift of the eyes changes the whole body. Everything is internally connected and maybe we know that, but we don't really really know and value the extent that is true. When people have injuries, they think the cause might be specific, like “Oh, I threw my arm out…" OK, Siri is popping up again. Say, there’s a pain in your hip, it might be related to your foot. Something entrenched by the way we hold our bodies, the habits, the everyday patterns. For many, our body molds into shapes that reflect our daily tasks, habits and lifestyle patterns.
Lux Aeterna @ Metrograph
Charlotte Gainsbourg is to be burned at the stake in a YSL ad directed by Beatrice Dalle, but Dalle has lost control of the production. Cast and crew are unfocused, financiers are pissed, starfuckers exhausted, everyone in descent to rock bottom freakout. After Gainsbourg gets word her daughter was mutilated by Christian child soldiers, shooting starts and the lighting guy really, really fucks up. Being a Gaspar Noe movie, plot isn’t the attraction, style is. Noe definitely delivers, cooking up a kaleidoscope of gore, glam, parallel plots, split screens, and montages of Dryer, Godard, Fassbinder. The finale is a spectacular noise set, assaulting the audience with a red, green, and blue strobe while oscillators hum and a crucified Gainsbourg writhes in wayfarers. Awesome. I wish there was more. By that I mean I wish he’d make something that’s as rewarding to reflect on as it is thrilling to watch. Lux Aeterna starts a lot of threads that go nowhere. The RGB strobe is the same colors as a digital projector test and, considering all the arthouse film references, you’d think this would be his grand statement on being a filmmaker in the digital age, but what’s the statement? He lampoons the backwards nastiness of witch-hunts and ends the movie with “thank god I’m an atheist” (to which one audience member said “thank god it’s over”), but why play misogynist religious extremism for fun then? Noe knows how to push a nerve while you’re in the theatre, but forgets a great movie pushes you when you think about it later too. I get it’s just an ad, so one can only expect so much, but it’s typical of him and why not? Why not make a great movie Gaspar?
To figure why that’s so hard, I asked Betsey Brown, the writer / director / star of Actors, a movie that is definitely hard to shake, to discuss the perils of meta-filmmaking.
I HAVE NO IDEA: An Interview with Betsey Brown
Betsey: Did you like the Gasper Noe movie?
Miles: Well, it was his YSL ad, not the other one that’s out. He has great editing ideas, cool actors, but I walked away with the same feeling as taking a gimmicky rollercoaster. I don't know. What are your thoughts about his stuff?
B: I’ve only seen two of them. Climax definitely felt like a rollercoaster, that's a really good way of putting it. I saw Love. I think that the unsimulated sex is cool and the threesome scene was great and all that, but it was a bit much. I wish I had seen it in 3D though, that would have been really dope.
M: I’ve never seen a movie in 3D.
B: Are you serious?
M: You should make a movie in 3D!
B: Oh my God. So, for a very brief moment I was obsessed with the 4DX experience, have you heard of this?
M: No, what's that?
B: It takes 3D to the next level. They put you in these rollercoaster movie seats and throughout the entire movie you're bouncing up and down, there's water spraying at you, you have an immersive experience in your seat. I saw… What was the recent NPC movie called? It was about an NPC who realized that he was an NPC.
M: No idea.
B: You have no idea because it's so, so mainstream and it was really stupid, but I had a great time because of the 4DX experience.
M: Well, I don't have anything against stuff that's mainstream, I just tend to get more caught up in media that's made by people that seem around or reachable or, like, peers. If I don’t keep track of mainstream stuff it isn’t because of a snob position. What would you do with 4DX? What would you do to us, Betsey?