Wednesday, March 27, 2019

MAY (D.A.P.) Modern Mystic: The Art of Hyman Bloom, rediscovery of a modern master

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Typewriter Underground's LA COMMEDIA, Tzara's DADA, D.U.M.B.'s egalitarian cry


Is this a put-on, precious satire, poetry, an infinite jest? Yes, as well as the first blast of  THE TYPEWRITER UNDERGROUND, a movement both radical and retro, reactionary and progressive, profound and silly--Marc Zegans, poet and spoken word artist, began this movement after publishing a collection of verse, The Underwater Typewriter. The Typewriter Underground was originally inspired by an abandoned subway, boarded up and forgotten. Zegans imagined galleries, performance in such a space. His movement has attracted a group of like-minded artists making film, music, spoken word events. It's become an alt art movement.

In the FIRST FOLIO he teams with Eric Edelman, a retro collage artist, to introduce fictional author, Swizzle Felt and his group of bohemian drop-outs, such as Edamame Phelps (his personal librarian), Clytaemnestra Litotes, Manicotti Delacorte, Quarantine Ellipsis and my favorite Hyacinth Coyote. Their voices celebrate "the tangible, the analogue, the ephemeral, the particular, the mechanical--original products of the word by hand."

Here are stanzas from The Danger Meditations

Living in the Underground entailed risk,
Typists inhabited the rough margins
of the urban social infrastructure
forming circles in abandoned job shops
transportation tunnels and sub-basements
the roofs of tenements and corner bars
in the lowest rent corners they could find.

And they did not want to draw attention
so they blended with the irreputable
the sketchy, the seamy, the broken, the louche
Making themselves targets for shakedowns and more.
The true inhabitants became feral,
Masters and mistresses of feline stealth
Yet, flooding, power-outages, trespass
Theft and casual violence were always near

And much of the conversation:
"Did you hear that Lysander's notes were took
And burned as kindling for a warming fire?"
"Three pigeon coups ravaged in the past week."
"Can't wear my transcription drag on the street."
"The dome of our library is showing cracks."

"There's a shortage of black market ribbons.
And spools are being hoarded by chop shops."

What is the point?  Consider the dire politics; the looming destruction of the planet as a human habitat, the emergence of  American branded fascism in the White House, art as a luxury commodity, people aspiring to become"brands". There is a tyranny of technology and disenchantment, as privacy diminishes. Suppose a group of activists secretly returned to typewriters and created a 21st century underground, where print (vs a throwaway print out) and meanings are resurrected as a radical private recreation. THE TYPEWRITER UNDERGROUND.

Alternative movements are, I believe, a necessary corrective for mainstream culture.  In 1912, during  WW1, in Zurich Tristan Tzara (poet, essayist, performance artist--and literary iconoclast) founded the DADA movement inspired by his contempt for bourgois values and traditional attitudes toward art. Tsara's manifestos and "Lampisteries"created with artist Picabia, led the way for surrealists. The question of what's real or of value was a corrective for their time and continues inours.

As a lover of art movements, in the spring of 1980, in the dawn of the Reagan era, and serious corporate commodification of art, I was involved with D.U.M.B. Magazine (Down Under Manhattan Bridge) an art-lit zine (only a debut issue) along with The Portable Lower East Side. D.U.M.B's founder Dan Freeman got commercially viable and valued artists, like Alex Katz and Red Grooms,  to contribute art to be shown alongside unknown artists and writers. Egalitarian art was a corrective for the oppressive emphasis on making salable name-brand art. It was about the work.

Most alt art movements are short-lived, a finger in the cultural dike. Dixon Place, originating from that alt burst in the 80s, is an outlier, a space that presents performance, theater, visual art, writing by knowns and unknowns--it's about the work. I cheer on The Typewriter Underground as they connect with like-minded artists, writers, performers nationwide. Today more than ever we need an alt underground, below the radar, avoiding commodification of art and people, the brave denizens of THE TYPEWRITER UNDERGROUND.

Swizzle Felt's Folio has a retro decorative feel, different from Tzara's bold graphic manifestos or the 80s zines. Could you say the retro style is decadent, like the symbolists-decadents of another alt cultural moment? Yes, except Edelman's collages conjure a steam punkish reality. Can it survive in this era of corporate domination, when tech giants move fast to co-opt brands?  Even Banksy's maneuvers have been co-opted, despite his vigilance.  Is the obviously retro Luddite