"Cinematograph - A Journal of Film and Media Art" - volume 3
Like [Peter] Rose, tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE has an iconoclastic, anti-institutional bent. In an interview conducted by Scott Stark, this Church of the SubGenius member and perpetrator of mischievous acts explains that film is just one of many vehicles for his "mad scientist didactions". t.a.c. asserts that he has no interest in making films per se; rather, he uses film as a visual aid in lecture situations. t.a.c.'s attempts to transcend conventional patterns of conceptualization and interpretation encompass the necessity of evading the label of "artist" as another stereotypical categorization.
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE Interview
by Scott Stark
Stark: What do you call what you do?
tac: I call myself a mad scientist/d composer/sound thinker/thought collector/as been & I associate myself w/ a variety of groups such as the Church of the SubGenius, the neoist cultural conspiracy, the ShiMo Underground, the International Stop Continental Drift Society, the Krononautic Organism, Olfactories Organized, the nuclear brain physics surgery school, pregroperativism, etc.
S: For the purposes of this discussion, which of those are relevant?
t: All of them are relevant. Some are less relevant than others. My most recent presentations I call mad scientist didactions but they cd also be called acts of as beenism. They're mad scientist didactions insofar as the emphasis is not on drama or charisma as much as it is on the presentation of information possibly relevant to the undermining of reality maintenance traps through perverse humor.
S: What is a reality maintenance trap?
t: Anything that gets in the way of living in accordance w/ the imagination - particularly uninspiring tasks performed to support existence fo existence's sake wch rob 1 of irreplaceable (or, at least, unreplaced) time.
S: You don't consider yourself a fim artist? A media artist?
t: Not primarily, no. Only my subset Tim Ore is an artist. I think that the use of film & vaudio - as I call it - is secondary to my main thrust. Film & vaudio have been useful tools but I'm not a filmmaker or vaudioist for their own sakes.
S: You seem to have a certain preoccupation with film & video.
t: Yeah. I use them a lot but more as audio-visual aids to these quasi-perverse lecture situations. As you pointed out you were half satisfied w/ the video/vaudio tape(s) when you 1st witnessed them & you said something to the effect that my presence fleshed it out.
S: It put it in a context.
t: Context is very important to me - particularly my emphasis on the context of mad scientism, etc. is very important. I don't want people to misunderstand my intentions to be primarily aesthetic - for example. The aesthetics are very secondary & they are generally used as a means for luring different types of people into a willingness to absorb the information.
S: Because people are used to looking at films & video. They know how to respond to them.
t: It's a matter of using a variety of languages. People respond to different types of films & videos in different ways - obviously. I think that some of my films are filmmakers' films. They're technically & visually seductive in various ways. Some are just very crude jokes. I use the form to seduce people into paying attention rather than putting the emphasis on the form because I think that the form is an end all & be all type of thing.
S: You think it is or isn't?
t: I think it isn't. I think the context as a definer & focuser is important. But no particular context is important independent of its function. They're just useful tools for framing things.
S: One thing that strikes me about your work is the sort of connection to the real world. That you are out there really doing things, & I wonder if you even need to have some kind of showcase exhibition situation?
t: I want to make contact w/ people - that's the main thing.
S: For example, your underground party...
t: The inauguration of the Bal Tim Ore Underground Club - the New Yr's Eve party. It was important to be able to lure the truck drivers down into the train tunnel - for example. It was important to suck them out of their workaday world & into an Alice in Wonderland kind of situation so it wd leave a permanent impression on their mind(s) - so it wd make life more surreal for them. That's 1 of the main ways that I like making contact w/ people. This whole tour - this 6 Fingers Crossed Country T.Ore/Tour has been a very straightforward presentation of information wch isn't necessarily my primary interest. I like taking people by surprise - putting them in situations that don't even seem to fit into their reality at all & then leaving them feeling like they're not even sure that it really happened. That's a somewhat ideal situation.
S: Is that a reality trap?
t: It's a double negative as not a positive loophole - as I would call it. It's an exception as a pataphysical exception to the laws of everyday living that people take for granted to the extent that they're generally not even aware of doing so.
S: Do you feel that happens in the exhibition situation? I would think people usually come there expecting something unusual.
t: No, I don't think it generally does happen in an exhibition situation. I think you can feed nuggets to people & they are willing to be fed. That's 1 of the "good" things about the exhibition situation but it's difficult to surprise people in a truly profound way. Or it's impossible or it's not impossible but it's not intrinsic to the situation. I have little or no interest in exhibition. Except in the case of something like the peep show film: Balling Tim Ore is Best. That's a perfect example of what I like about exhibitions or exhibitionism because it's using a situation in wch people do have specific expectations & they go into it & the expectations are partially met & not met. They don't ever really have a clue as to why it's 1 way it's also the other way.
S: Do you feel like you're part of some kind of scene? Do you want to be?
t: Yeah, I'm definitely a part of - especially the neoist cultural conspiracy & the Church of the SunGenius - but also perhaps what the discordians might call: Operation Mindfuck - wch is "unconnected" acts of mischief wch constantly "cause" the cogs that grind people into mindless automatons to lose their teeth. To me that's a very important project - if only for my own survival. I certainly perceive society as being a juggernaut that destroys individuality & imagination for the most part. Or, at least, I've had a great deal of experience of that particular side of society - & I think there are quite a few fanatical individuals who constantly disrupt that system in highly imaginative ways w/ out the system even necessarily knowing what's happening at all (or, rather, w/out its guardians "knowing"). In "fact": I think it's "because" of these scattered & rare individuals that - I shdn't say "because" "because" I don't believe in "cause & effect" (strictly speaking) - or, at least, I'd like to replace that concept w/ something that I'd consider to be more accurate in terms of non-linear time & things just "happening" - I think that somehow or other these people are instrumental in keeping life as open-ended as it is. There are actually a lot of people who do this. Some people do it more consciously than others - the more conscious they are: the more rare they are.
S: Do you see any value in art movements?
t: Yes & no. I wouldn't attach much importance to participating in any & I scrupulously reject calling anything that I'm involved w/ an art movement even though some people perceive them to be so.
S: But in terms of what you were just talking about.
t: As far as being able to disrupt the mind deadening aspects of society? I think that sometimes they can contribute to it as much as a lot of other things can (the mind deadingness) but there's nothing intrinsic to art movements per se wch effects this 1 way or the other. Art movements can be true zeitgeists of creativity or they can be yet another stupid con designed to suck money from the easily duped.
S: But can they contribute to that disruption, or is the system too closed for that to happen?
t: That closure can be 1 of the main problems. Some people who are the most financially successful at using art movements to purvey critical viewpoints are the people who move w/in particular circles wch are insulated to the extent that they don't have much impact on the segments of society that are the most deadened by the major competitors.
S: Most people are unable to see that kind of stuff.
t: And if they do see it it's framed so that they can write it off. 1 of the reasons why I hate the art context is that, as I've pointed out before to other people, it seems that art history has developed in such a way that at 1 time it was important to say that anything is art. And then people began to accept that the idea that anything is art to the point that if something didn't fall into a comfortable category people could write it off as art & say: "oh, that's what it is & that's why I feel uncomfortable w/ it" & that's it - be done w/ it. Whereas -
S: If you're not sure -
t: If you're not sure it's art there's alot more power because then people can't oversimplify it in such a ready-made way. They can't put their stereotyping blinders on quite so easily. Even if they try they get a sort of double vision kind of experience where they've got their stereotypical blinders (prejudicial mindset) superimposed over something & the 2 are out of sync so that it almost makes reality waver a little bit & become more mirage like.
S: Has Baltimore adjusted to you? Do they know what to expect from you?
t: It varies. I do a lot of different things. I think partially I'm infamous. I think partially people who like infamy like me. People who hate infamy, wch is, I suppose, by definition most people, don't like me & the institutions, fortunately, will have little to do w/ me. They've basically banned most connections w/ me - for a while I got alot of press coverage & I think that at the time that I did get the press coverage it was very effective in creating the kind of reality turned into mirage effect that I find desirable but now the press won't have anything to do w/ what I do at all.
S: There's a danger of what you were talking about - recognizing what you do as art. As you get to be better known people begin to expect things from you.
t: Yes - but fortunately people don't always overly label me as an artist - I think, at least, in the press. I've actually had people write articles about me in connection w/ wch they didn't interview me at all & still referred to me as a mad scientist. There was 1 headline wch I really liked wch read something like: "Mad Scientist Michael Meets the Court Today". I was very proud of that 1 since ordinarily 1 has to be very emphatic about telling reporters "this is what I am, not what you think I am" because reporters have a very strong tendency to approach a situation w/ a particular prejudice as to what they think the situation is & then try to force the people into saying what reinforces their prejudice. For example, when I was in Chicago at the Haymarket Centennial there were alot of reporters hanging around trying to talk to the anarchists to get the anarchists to define anarchy in the way that the reporters perceived it as being. The reporters had basically no intelligent concept of anarchy at all. Their idea of anarchy was: start riots, throw bombs, kill the pigs - & basically nothing else. And the anarchists were completely different from that. They were so different from that that the reporters wd say: "Well, what's a slogan?" & I'd say: "NO MORE PUNCHING BAG CLOWNS!" & they wdn't even write it down because to them it wasn't a "left-wing" slogan. A "left-wing" slogan to them is: "KILL THE PIGS!" but few people (if any) were saying: "KILL THE PIGS!" since that wasn't what was on people's minds at all..... - the reporters wd get very frustrated. They wd say: "You're not ansering our questions" & we wd say: "We are answering your questions, but you're refusing to listen to the answers."
S: How do you occupy your time? How do you finance what you do?
t: Well, that's varied alot over the yrs. Most recently, over the past yr, I've done construction work, worked in a used bookstore, edited porno films. In the past I've been a research volunteer & guinea pig for hospitals. 1 of my favorite ways of earning money is what I call being a professional asshole - wch was being a simulated patient for rectal-genital exams at Johns Hopkins Hospital where they wd pay me $15- per simulated examination where people wd stick their fingers up my ass & check me for hernias. Unfortunately, I didn't get to make that into a profession..... - & I've sold drugs - but I'm not very good at that because I'm not enough of a capitalist. Every once in a while I'll sell films or vaudios or audio tapes & I'll get a little money for presenting things publicly. Of course, at the moment , the money that I'm living on is the money that I made through the generosity of the San Francisco Cinematheque.
S: It's not that generous, is it?
t: In comparison to what I usually get paid, yeah. This was the 9th mad scientist didaction that I've presented on this tour & the average pay that I got in all the other cities was about $10-.
S: Has money been sufficient for you to keep doing it? Are you sort of on the edge of doing what you can?
t: If I were dependent on money like most people are I might as well give up - since much of my emphasis is anti-money (at least money not based on rare ideas) & pro-barter &, therefore, not the sort of thing that's likely to receive monetary support..... - it's partially thru the extreme generosity of friends that I've actually survived.
S: I'm wondering how much of your work is affected by your financial situation. If someone handed you $10,000 & said go to town, would that change your approach?
t: It wd probably just make it easier for me to pull off 1 of the biggest scams I'd be likely to attempt. Sure, obviously what I do is affected by my almost total lack of money. All of the things that I present were done extremely cheaply. Even filmmakers who say they have no budget have higher budgets than I have generally. I'm constantly amazed & disgusted at how inefficiently & wastefully most people (even friends) do things whilst taking for granted the "abundance". In a sense, if 1 isn't making more out of what already existed out of what 1 is making it w/ then 1 isn't being creative.
S: Yet you manage to put out quite a large volume of stuff.
t: Yes, I've made films that are 2 hrs long that exist in 15 or so different versions that I've spent, maybe $500- to $600- on. I've even heard an anarchist say: "Oh, there's absolutely no way you can possibly make a half hour black & white sound film for less than $10,000-." I made a 17&1/2 minute color sound film for $1,000- - wch is the most expensive film I've made so far - twice as expensive as my most expensive previous film - & it was made collaboratively so it only cost me a 3rd of that.
S: You also mentioned that you were interested in pirate broadcasting. How would that work?
t: Well, there are various things that can be done. 1 of the most low budget things wd be to get - you cd even use a CB radio w/ some kind of amplifier on it - wch is illegal but the FCC doesn't really enforce these things very much anymore because CB radios are so widely used in such casual manner. People are constantly violating the regulations regarding the strength of signal & the content broadcasted - wch are actually fairly strict. But if you were slick enough about it you could audio broadcast w/ CB radio & overide people's tv signals when, for example, the president is on talking & make your own improvised political speech to go along with the mouthing of the president. In wch case, for once, an alternative version of reality that's perhaps less based on professional misinformationcould make its way onto tv - at least the propaganda wd be decentralized. Otherwise, I was explaining to you the thing about having channel 3 broadcasters that can be linked to video players in order to put their signal out over the air over a radius of 1 to 3 blocks at its least powerful. These are called: Single Channel AGC Amplifiers for UHF, VHF, & FM - the Gneral Instrument models being: JHPM, THPM, 7UHPM - &, w/ the right connections, these can be purchased in approximately the $300- range - w/ discretion in purchasing advised. There are booster amplifiers that can make the range much larger but, of course, more money starts to get involved. Ideally, what you cd do is you cd get this equipment - I do have access to it - you cd put it all in a recreational vehicle or a van w/ the appropriate power supply - it's all fairly portable - you cd drive to a neighborhood & discreetly park, you cd broadcast for an hr or 2 hrs, so that anybody who is clicking the tv channels might find something on channel 3 at this point & watch it for awhile, & before they cd even complain to the FCC if they were inclined to complain or even had any idea that there was something to complain about, you cd drive away & the FCC wd never be able to track you down. At least not through what is probably their usual tracking system.. - You'd be more likely to be caught for looking suspicious to the police.. 1 of my favorite plans is to park w/ the equipment in front of a store w/ wall-to-wall tvs, to get a group of people to discreetly go in & turn all of the tvs to channel 3 & then to broadcast our material into their store - maybe even go in & film it.. I've been told that a much larger broadcast radius can be fairly simply attained by bouncing a signal off of a satellite. Anyone who's interested in trying this shd simply consult whatever friend of theirs is the best w/ electronics if they aren't themselves. I'd like to get reports & suggestions from such like folks sent to me.
S: What would you like to do if you had access?
t: I'd probably do things like park in a neighborhood for 2 or 3 hrs w/ a bag over my head & a camera pointed at me - w/ eyeholes cut in the bag - & read from something like: "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" or just put alot of emphasis on counteracting the mass media manipulation of people w/ particular types of images, etc.. Plus, just have it be uncensored. Put alot of material on that wd never be permitted on otherwise. I mean, when people think of uncensored, they think of things like lots of sex, but that's not necessarily what I'm talking about. I'm talking about political things. For me, an excellent example of what I'm talking about is the time when I was invited to do a radio show & I said: "OK, I'll do it" & I made a half hour long tape wch was just recordings of all of the jingles for each of the radio stations that I cd get on my radio. In other words, all of the station identifications, w/ silence in between. I took this tape to the radio station to play it, thinking that what wd happen is that if people tried to tune into the station to listen to the show knowing that I was scheduled to be on, they wd either get silence or they wd get the station ID for another station & they wd think they had the wrong station &, therefore, they wd be tuning to other stations trying to find it. The idea behind that was to get people to participate in the process of making their own sound by using the radio as an instrument - wch is obviously something that's been done alot but is not something people wd think of doing when they were trying to tune in. So it's a subversive act. But there was alot of publicity for my doing that show that day & the station was in a big panic because they were afraid of what I was going to do.
S: Did they know what the tape was?
t: No - so when I showed up they had this emergency meeting, they consulted their lawyer, etc., etc. - they said: "Let's hear the tape." Again, what their drearily unimaginative & bureaucratic minds expected was "obscenity". - And, to me, their station Ids are a form of obscenity - but not to them. They thought something like: oh this guy. We know what he's all about. He's going to bring a tape & it's going to be things like: 'Fuck the Pigs!' & 'Kill Everybody!' - all this totally stupid cliche stuff. They were screaming at me: "Let's hear the tape!" - so I let them hear it & they listened to it & they were saying: "What is this? Is this the tape? Is there something on the other side? What's going on here?" - They cdn't believe, for 1 thing, that I had done something so taboo as to put silences in there - really very few people since Marinette of the Italian Futurists have even used silence in any interesting way on the radio - if at all - because, of course, it detracts from Business As Usual. They "can't" have the listeners tuning into the station & have "nothing" there because they'll tune to another station right away. So, their lawyer said: "Oh yes, it's definitely a violation of FCC regulations - it's misleading the public.." etc.. & they banned the show.. - what irony! almost all (if not all) mass media "misleads" the public - they just objected to me No Business As Usual approach. That's an example of censorship that people aren't generally aware of. That's a very formal conceptual kind of thing.
S: In most of the interviews I've been asking people if they feel a kinship with film as a specific medium, which I don't think you do.
t: No - I'm really more interested in the molecular restructuring of existence.
S: Video seems closer to that than film anyway.
t: Yeah? Maybe that's why I like something like Videodrome as far as pop movies go. In that people become addicted to a particular type of video wcg totally changes their reality so that they start so-called hallucinating a reality that's determined by the video tapes.
t: I'm very interested in the inclination in physics towards demonstrating more & more that physical reality is totally determined by thought, that there is so much space in between bits of matter that are incomprehensible to physicists that cohere in a particular way, etc. I think that the more we start developing coherent theories about that, the more we will find ourselves able to manipulate the physical "reality" that gets in our way. So that's really what I'm interested in. I'm interested particularly in trying to make manifest the idea of anything is anything.
Scott Stark is a word processor, underwriter and artist from the Midwest. He was the co-editor of Cinematograph, volume 2, and is on the Board of Directors for the San Francisco Cinematheque.
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