Thursday, June 25, 2009
NOISE! 2009 in NYC
I couldn’t find the Ontological Theater. It’s inside a church, St. Mark’s Church I think, up formaldehyde stairs, past pale yellow and green walls covered with detailed signs. At the top, there is a black box and seats dedicated to being.
Which of the masochistic critics, at the beginning of the video game’s rise in the 1980’s from cultural leaving to entertainment overlord, would (or did; if so, I’d like their names…for a list of some kind) have predicted that the sounds and life-modes of the gamers would one day come to influence, and even structure Avant-Garde music?
Here comes RADIO SHOCK! One man, a cheap guitar, a tiny amp, and a table covered with gadgetry. Everything bares the mark, sometimes subtly, other times full force, of day-glow duct tape. It’s one voice on one night: one performance under a single white light. I was reminded of a teenage boy alone in a basement, gaming his way to private glory, in part because Radio Shock actually plays a Nintendo Gameboy as an instrument, and also because it incites emotional memory in me. At one time, before my parents, determined to quell a bout of semi-psychotic behavior, took my Super Nintendo away, I was that very boy. I relished long nights, weekends, and even weeks compiling memories from the rapid changes in flickering lights. I learned I had to push through the frustration I felt at repetitive movement in order to see the screen that said I had succeeded. In some sense, Radio Shock is the embodiment of the aftershock. After I was done looking at being successful, I would inevitably grow even more frustrated that I had done so much for so little. Then I would play more video games, screaming, “This is BULLSHIT” in my head. And I was never very good at them. Radio Shock is like all of that: obsessive, squirming, alone, screaming bloody murder but not expecting to be heard. Imagine a sentient android child set adrift on a spacecraft headed for deep space by a fearful humanity trying desperately to protect itself from its own creation. Imagine that child sing-songing to itself for all eternity with no one to listen.
The only real qualifier for being a field operative in the Avant-Garde is that one’s art must incite in those partaking of it the feeling or memory of newness. There is nothing new about any of the compartments of Radio Shock. All of the instruments come from garage sales, all of the songs come from the existential clutter in the mind that causes one to periodically jerk out of early sleep and scream “SPACE;” it’s all basically punk rock. But what spunk! (author’s note: what’s punk? Get it?) It was simply impossible to take myself seriously when I caught myself thinking, the way one catches one’s dog vindictively masturbating with one’s favorite golf shoes – feelings of shock and awe and horror and total embarrassment – that I’d heard any of this before. Radio Shock is an insane set of variations on an insane theme, and no one knows exactly what or why that theme is, but we’re all sure it’s there and breathing heavily in the dark. I think I’ve heard it all before? Well take this, I! Have I ever heard anything before? I cannot have. For the sense of NEW surrounding Radio Shock is palpable as the one I can remember surrounding the listening to Melt Banana I did in my parents kitchen: equally cynical, and convinced of the superiority of the listen, not the art.
The New doesn’t reside in the Text; the New resides in the Textee, periodically in the Textor, and in the country on weekends. The Avant-Garde therefore must bare the stupid burden of continual self-definition, a very popular Catch-22. It is also in the unenviable position of making sense of all the stupid crap in the rest of our lives. Truly, it must be at least revelatory, if not mind-blowing, to some of you that the Nintendo Gameboy can be an instrument of Sense and Wonder and Joy. But without that crap, I think we would all experience some kind of transcendent, boundless spiritual unity. Nothing new about that. It’s where we come from and we have access to it whenever we want. Great Art is all about giving us that access. Avant-Garde art is about sneaking in the back door, knowing no one will see, and donating friendly or fiendly reminders that there’s a big, transcendent universe busily transcending in the great out and about of the Hodge Podge.
Hodge that Podge! And learn more about the rock of Radi0 Sc0ck at www.radioshock.org
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