cold dark homeless
clogged with ice fears,
my only friend
is the wind
chilling my bones
into a cynical loneliness.
Herding my sheep,
looking in windows
of unattainable desires,
looking at presents
I don’t have anyone to give them to,
looking into the past
soft colored warm homes
that are no longer mine.
Everyone has left,
everyone is gone.
Even the sun has left
long before the manger.
And the sun
will not come back
This is the season
of dark depression
and fragile suicide.
I can always bum up
the plastic hope and faith
at 7 Eleven
it is my wonderful life
in the video store’s window.
But instead I wrap myself in a jaded pretense of dry ice isolation of not caring, and drinking the stale but warm wine of regrets.
of new hope
has always been hidden within
the long cold
clinging to our tribal warmth
as our only protection
into the scary
we always have been blind
to the evergreen
hope of life.
It has always been
the first time
and easy hope
have gone away.
So we always think
they will never
The evergreen hope
has been hidden
in the womb
of the humble
and in children’s dreams.
The forces of greys
have always overheard
of the hidden hope…
have always searched
to pervert it
into human isolation…
to kill it
for all time.
But the forces of power
the hidden human hope
in the baby’s cradle.
goes on a desperate killing,
the old world up……
we huddle together
in the silent night
upon the hill,
in our tribal body warmth.
the holy woman,
the medicine man
have always shifted
our attention away
from the dark
have always shifted
to the guiding light
of new birth…
in the stars,
then in the roaring
all human feelings
and still later
into that corny
with bright colors
Into this fire we have always gone, hearing the drumming of our innocent heart beating in a slow excitement, meeting again our love of life. We curl up with our love and wait for warm spring to arrive… as hope grows into knowing.
Here is what Frank wrote for Vimeo about this series of videos:
Today we put up the first in the series of private performances I did in the early eighties. I now am calling these NONFILMS. These were also the raw footage of my films EROTIC PLAY and THE NUDE CAVE. I told the people we were filming I was doing a film. So I made films! But basically I was bringing back the concept of NONFILM which I played with in the early seventies and now videoing these private performances.
Ever since college days, I had been writing nonsense scripts dealing with nudity and nonsexual eroticism. Also during my college days, I read such books as Toward a Poor Theatre and The Theatre and its Double. But it was not until I and my communal family took a very intense film‑making course in Santa Fe in 1972 that I was able to put my weird ideas into performance.
We made films of rolling nude down a hill, smearing bodies with baby food, nursing by a sexy woman. But when the film course was over, I did not have money to make films. I could not see putting my energy into getting money to make films, could not see putting up with the compromises and outside control involved in an artistic context requiring big bucks. For me, the act of breaking a taboo is what is magical, what effects change…not someone seeing it in a film.
This not having money, this not wanting to be controlled and limited by money, was what sealed me into a performance life.
So I started looking for a way to work with people. I wanted to see people nude, and touch them, and to create an intensity between us.
I had been painting oils for years, painting with a brush strapped to my forehead, painting nudes from magazine photos. One day, a rich woman asked me to paint a nude of her. My wife set me and my paints up in the fancy living room as the woman undressed. On that day I realized how art can give people permission to do what normally is forbidden. It gives a frame that switches realities from the narrow normal reality to the freeing altered reality of controlled folly. If you go up to a stranger on the street and ask him to show his body to you, you will be lucky if he just walks away and does not hit you. But if you sincerely (and sincerity is a key) ask him to model for a painting or be in a video that involves nudity, there is a high chance he will do it because you are offering him a key to a new, different, and temporary reality.
This began my street series. I sat on the center plaza, “selling newspapers”. But selling papers was only a context. The context for me was an excuse for watching people, talking to people who had the slowness and the insightful curiosity to stop and talk…a way for me to ask them to model for me. These special people were my real targets for my street pieces. They saw past the mask of the cripple. The masses used the mask of the cripple to relieve their guilt, to reinforce their fragile superiority of being “normal”, to make themselves feel better by throwing money (up to $20 a throw) at the less fortunate at whom they would not even look. The third type of person was made up of the poor and the kids who gave money as a pure spiritual act. When the special person stopped to talk, a crowd gathered around to listen. Money fell on my board while I was asking the special person to model.
The newspaper selling quickly fell away. All I had to do was sit there on the sidewalk, being available to talk. It did not matter that I dressed fancy, or had a sign saying “I don’t want money; I want you”. The money kept falling. But I did discover that there are special spots and special ways of sitting which attract people. Sit at a slightly different angle, or on a spot a few feet away from the special spot and you become invisible.
I have done these street performances across the country. I have gotten tickets to the Joffrey, filled a couple of workshops, got my cameraman for one of my films, all from the street pieces. I almost caused a riot in front of Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City, N.J. The crowd did not take kindly to the casino guards trying to push me away because I was taking Caesar’s money.
I painted a lot of the special people from the street performances. I noticed the changes in the people when they took off their clothes; how they relaxed, how they started talking on a deeper level about important personal things. After I got a taste of direct inter‑personal acting out of erotic dreams, painting became too static. I began a series of private performances called Nonfilms. I asked the special people from the street performances to come to my home, into my study which was my first cave. Within this cave, cut off from the normal reality, we created scenes which no camera would shoot, nobody would see. Although I had played with my friends before in nonsexual eroticism, this was the first time I tried to use “sexual” acts in a nonsexual art form. I was surprised with the power that this released. Because of these scenes, the people started talking about their lives during these sessions and said it helped their other relationships. Not one person minded that there was no film. These nonfilms were the base for my career in relationship counseling.
I first noticed the nonlinear effects of private performance in these secret rituals. People whom I approached on the street came to me weeks after the nonfilm, the person usually reported changes in his life, in his relationships, in how people were towards him…all of which amazed him (and me too) because he hadn’t told anyone that he had done the ritual. Part of the change in how people related to him can be explained linearly by the change in the person emotionally and even physically caused by the performance. But this does not explain how things “just happened” to him, things that were improbable, things that we both linked to the ritual.
Here is a selection of stills from some of the videos:
1981. Written by Frank. Directed by Frank and Greg Rickman. Edited by Frank at CCAC in Oakland, California.
FAIRYTALES CAN COME TRUE is my first movie and most ‘normal’. Saying ‘first movie’ is misleading. I had been reading HOW TO (write scripts, direct, edit film, etc) books along with books on radical theater (I read all kinds of stuff) when I was a teenager, and wrote scripts that always had a role for me. But I was mainly a political radical back then [among other things]. But in the early seventies I wormed [I am good at worming!] into an intensive in-depth film course in Santa Fe. It was mainly for anthropologists to learn how to make 16mm field films! I pop up in the strangest places! But after the five month, five days a week, six hour a day course, I didn’t have money to make film [and couldn’t cut film, had to wait until video!]. So I went into performance art. In the late seventies in San Francisco I was doing THE OUTRAGEOUS BEAUTY REVUE for three years at The Mabuhay gardens, a punk club. An independent producer approached me and offered to do a feature film based on the O.B.R. which I would come up with, star in, and direct [my directing was my primary condition of doing the film]. So I wrote a treatment. We spent a year doing the Hollywood thing, working with screen writers, going to Los Angeles to cast it, flying the actress up to rehearse, etc. But when the producer came back from Florida with the backer’s money, he informed me I couldn’t direct! So I walked!
So I came up with a totally different story, when I was panhandling in San Francisco I found a guy with a super eight camera and did FAIRYTALES for about $300! Then I enrolled in the San Francisco art institute Master’s program in large part to transfer the film on to video so I could edit it myself.
I thought I was making a rough draft to show backers to get money to make the real movie. But it was picked up by a Special Ed distributor because it was the first film about how to develop a full relationship….rather than a boring explicit how to sex film. It was sexy, funny, dealing with real issues that everybody deals with but many crips think are special crip issues…and it was made by a crip! Crips loved it. But the film wasn’t selling. It turned out that the people who buy those films weren’t crips…but hospital administrators and the like, and parents of crips, etc….people, with the best intentions, but also with vested interest in keeping crips not functional. They felt the movie gave people “false hopes” (an interesting concept)! It didn’t matter to them that most of the people in the cast were in such relationships. “Well, that is a fluke…not real life!”
Once there was a guy in a psychology class at which I was lecturing. After the class, he invited me to do something at the adult drama class he was doing at the C.P. Center (really a daycare warehouse). He warned me that they rarely respond. So Linda and I went there to show FAIRYTALES. When we got there, most of them were sitting there in a fog, heads bent. But my being with Linda started a low-level buzz! Then during the 30-minute film, they went through an amazing transformation. They sat up and got excited. And after the film, they wanted to talk. THESE PEOPLE RARELY TALKED! But that day they were saying things like: “my sister does not want me to date. She doesn’t want me to get hurt. But I want to risk it!” The teacher was excited about the breakthrough. He actually thought he was hired to make breakthroughs! He wanted me to come back. But a few days later he called me and told me the director of the center had banned me from the center because the crips had been harder to control because they had a whiff of possible freedom…the whiff labeled “false hopes”!
I think this captures the true dynamics of such institutions…but also of our society as a whole. Breakthroughs to new possibilities, freedom, human connection, etc. are relatively easy (surprisingly) to induce by art, etc. But such breakthroughs are threatening to the control of the powers…and hence censorship of all forms! Btw, the director of the center was himself a crip…and had been in my community/theater group.
2001. Frank wrote:
Filmed in the mid-80s, edited in 2001. The reason for the gap of over fifteen years between the shooting and the editing was that I was waiting for the technology for me to edit at home on my computer so that I could do special effects.
FEISTO was screened at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival in 2002 in New York and Los Angeles.
Awarded “BEST OF FESTIVAL – FEATURE”, Berkeley Film & Video Festival.
Out of Isolation
1989. Starring Frank Moore and Linda Sibio. Written and directed by Frank. Edited by Rourke Smith.
“Honorable Mention Award, Feature Length Video”—East Bay Video Festival
1983. Frank wrote:
I edited EROTIC PLAY with two remotes taped on a table before me using my head pointer. What we do when we have no money and when we are ahead of the technology! We just made videos and put them in our closet. And now the same videos are being watched by people all over the world on THE FRANK MOORE CHANNEL [even on their television]! Thank God we didn’t care whether people would ever see the stuff. We just did them to do them! And now we have a shit load of content!
1984. Edited by Frank with the same method as EROTIC PLAY.
The Nude Cave
1984. Also edited with the same method as EROTIC PLAY.
In this [The Nude Cave] I mined the same footage as I mined for my EROTIC PLAY. But in this I created a long surreal abstract erotic collage by slowing down and speeding up the footage. I also did the sound track by playing a couple of synthesizers with my head pointer. I laid down three tracks by playing to the visuals. Because of the primitive nature of the equipment, I couldn’t hear the previous layers when I was playing the next track. Oh, yes, I hadn’t played /composed music before!
The Outrageous Beauty Revue
1998. Frank edited this by watching the footage from a VCR on our TV and having Linda write down stop and start points for each segment. He then typed up a list of the segments in the order he wanted them to appear. He also created the title screens on the computer with Paint Shop Pro. Mikee then put the film together in (the very first version of) Final Cut Pro following Frank’s edit points and sequence instructions.
1992. Edited by Frank at the East Bay Media Center in Berkeley.
“2nd Place – Documentary”—East Bay Video Festival
The Outrageous Horror Show
1992. Also edited at the East Bay Media Center in Berkeley.
On Wednesday August 21, 2019, Vimeo abruptly terminated Frank’s account for violating their “guidelines”.
Frank had over 700 videos in his account that we have been uploading on a weekly basis for over eight years. His videos had over 33 million plays on Vimeo.com.
It will take us a while to get them all back up at a new place … but they will slowly start appearing on the site again as we upload them to their new home!
The other casualty of Frank’s account being terminated is the Vimeo group that Frank created called Nude Performance Art Dance and Video – EROART. This was one of the largest groups on Vimeo with over 14,000 members. It was part of the collateral damage of Vimeo terminating Frank’s account.
This is an excerpt from the conversation between Christian Lunch (aka Xtian) and Frank on Frank Moore’s Shaman’s Den, December 9, 2001, right after the Fuck The War Ball at the underground punk club, Burnt Ramen in Richmond, California. Xtian performed with the Cherotic All-Stars that night. He was also at that time the sound guy at the Stork Club in Oakland.
Xtian: Well, I think the wonderful thing about eroplay, when you see it live is that, if you’ve never seen anything like that before, it’s like, hey, it’s a bunch of dancing girls … or, it’s a bunch of chicks, wow. This is cool, man. Let’s watch this! And the thing about it is there’s also that … um … it’s like it’s generating an erotic energy, but it’s being channeled towards something really powerful, like I said before. That’s the thing that makes it unusual. And it would shock a club owner but it turns the stage into performing, into a ceremonial space which is … I suppose the club people would be upset if you’re turning their club into a church. Maybe that’s what they are bugged about.
Frank: I am sneaky. It looks like rock.
Frank wrote this about the Fuck The War Ball performance:
Well, this was the period when I was producing a lot of music shows at the infamous illegal underground punk club BURNT RAMEN. This was the last two acts of a very long show. Traditionally my band closed the shows. Also, traditionally I cherry picked musicians from the other bands of the night to be in my band. But this show the musicians kept leaving during the show [the club was in the most dangerous neighborhood]. So at this point when I was the next act, I had no band except for Xtian [aka Christian Lunch] and a flock of nude women. So in the middle of Extreme Elvis’ set [which I consider one of the top five performances of ALL rock ‘n’ roll history!], I asked Elvis if I could borrow his band. So our two sets melted together! Btw, we performed in what normally passed for the GREEN ROOM there because that was where E literally pitched his tent!
Frank’s announcement for his performance at DADAFEST 2003:
THE SHAMAN’S SHELTER FROM THE STORM DADAFEST, July 11 & 12, 2003 Somarts Gallery, S.F.
For this year’s DADAFEST, I’m doing the longest continuous performance I have attempted since the 48-hour DYING IS SEXY in Toronto in 1999.
From midnight Friday July 11 to midnight Saturday…within the madness that is DADAFEST…I will be in THE SHAMAN’S SHELTER FROM THE STORM, giving out magical mantras and secret gestures, doing pantanic rituals, conducting deep core music, going into trances of controlled folly, etc…all to give people WHO DARE TO COME IN magical ways to survive the upcoming TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF “CIVILIZATION”! bring your bodies, musical instruments, voices, and desires to jam with me for an hour or 2, or to spend the night with me, or to just peek in, or totally lose time itself!
THE SHAMAN’S SHELTER FROM THE STORM will be somewhere in THE SOMARTS GALLERY, 934 Brannan. s.f.
Frank wrote this after the performance:
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Well, we here are recovering from this weekend’s DADAFEST. It was quite amazing. It was much closer to the true spirit of dada than ever before. Katy and Blue took risks and by most accounts we were getting within the cave, most of the artists [and most of the audience] rose to the higher level. I can’t judge because I was in the cave for most of the 24 hours. But that was the buzz and the vibe of it. But the fact that they went outside of the socially acceptable time frame lost them press coverage and the Beach Blanket Babylon crowd. But to the dada credit of Katy and Blue…and almost everyone else…this wasn’t seen as a negative, but getting back to the dada roots. If they do it again, they now will have a good base. Just on the level of the sheer work and organizing of doing a 24-hour event that created a large and relaxed community of artists, it was quite an impressive undertaking that worked!
For this year’s DADAFEST, I did the longest continuous performance I have attempted since the 48-hour DYING IS SEXY in Toronto in 1999. We made an intimate cave out of a great portable 10×10 gazebo and the LaBash backdrops. When needed, Mikee and Linda would go out people hunting, coming back with willing victims. I lost my band that would have been outside the cave for the whole 24 hours, attracting people and would have provided just one more continuous thread to the piece. But as it was, these people hunting expeditions were rare because there was a person in the cave…if not a wild scene/happening…most of the time.
We had this sign on the cave:
Enter THE SHAMAN’S SHELTER FROM THE STORM, inside the shaman is giving out magical mantras and secret gestures, healing by touch, talking beyond frames, doing pantanic rituals, conducting deep core music, going into trances of controlled folly, loving, listening, laughing…all to give people WHO DARE TO COME IN magical ways to survive the upcoming TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF “CIVILIZATION”!
When someone came in, I asked him to read one of my poems/writings of his choosing. This became a powerful ritual because people chose things that spoke right to them, reading whole new dimensions into the poem than were there before. This ritual reminded me of tarot readings or casting the I-Ching. At times, these readings developed a community spirit that exploded pure raw dada chaos out-of-control magic…especially when the FLUFFGRRL crowd held court in the cave.
Then I asked the person to do a random gesture/act, drawn from a magical bag. These acts range from “easy” to explicitly intimate. If the people were a couple, I asked them to do a gesture together, and together with me. Most did these rituals.
Musicians kept dropping in to jam for a while. Friday night Dr. Oblivious, Nate Scott, Fluff Grrl’s Bob and Pervertidora Records’ Chris [A.K.A. GOD] jammed. Then Bob and Chris segued us into a twisted Cheech and Chong flick, in a failed search for more beer, and a match for the only joint, dropping Bob’s burnt hair all over my cave as Kaosmic Kitty showed us her nazi clit as she and I rubbed thighs as Bob sucked my cock as Chris informed us he is having a breakdown because he is off his meds as Bob obsessed on Linda’s hairy bush and the lame dada going on outside as dawn broke. There was no lame dada inside the cave!
I took a break from the cave to take part in THE CULT LEADER CONTEST. Among my disciples were Katy, Fluff Grrl’s Bob, and Michael Peppe. What can I say? I simply was the only real cult leader there!
Kirsten arrived Saturday afternoon after traveling since the wee hours across the country. We started a 5-hour pantanic dance as Linda and Mikee kept the cave within the ritual reality, which was a challenge because that was when a lot of people came through, each reading my writings extremely deeply to the dance…when Peppe and Andy Poisoner with Ronnie played music…when the Fluff Grrl crew with Joanna camped out in the cave.
The pantanic dance was extremely physically challenging, requiring a committed focus over hours to melt everything down to an explicit, slow, small, human, warm intimacy that was generated between Kirsten and my skin through dancing/rubbing. At one point, about 3 hours into the dance, it was necessary to take everyone out of cave and limit it to people coming in for the first time. At another point in the dance, it seemed to be extremely difficult for people to stay in the cave to observe the dance. This was because they were, through the dance, directly experiencing unlimited intimacy [which is quite different than sex]…and they found themselves in the state of pure dada…and they ran…but carried with them the virus of new possibilities. A DADA SUCCESS!
you foolish idiot!
You want to make
You want to cure
and all other impractical
How to condemn the human species
Look… the game of evolution is change by experimentation.
We freaks are the experimenters
the name of the game
is flexibly adapting
risking into the unknown newness
of uncontrolled future
we misfits have always been the adapters,
I’m not wasting my time
talking to you about magic and such
just about evolution
if you don’t need us crips,
if you don’t need us no more…
our advice is
don’t breathe deep
in your air-tight coffin
and move very slowly
in your thin-skinned world
of ever increasing fragility
Frank Moore is The Erotic Greeter at the Pow!Pow!Pow! arts festival 2010 Viracocha, San Francisco, California Saturday, October 16, 2010
Here is what Frank wrote about this performance:
Monday, October 18, 2010
We didn’t really know for sure if we were going to THE POW! POW! POW! until we got into the van to go to it! That was because of my trach and PEG tube. But performances need risk! It turned out I was up to it! But we had looked up the nearest hospital just in case!
The question of did I have a plant at the performance will never be answered. But if I had, here are my directions to her:
I’m performing Saturday [if my health allows] as THE EROTIC GREETER. I will be in the lobby with a sign EXPLORE THE EROTIC GREETER DEEPLY BY TOUCH. Would you be my erotic plant, going under my robes to rub me erotically magical arousing? This would be when the audience is coming into the theater. The rubbing is the magical focus of the piece… Small, intimate, explicit, practically unseen. In the seventies I had a big padded box into which before a performance i got into with someone to play nude with. The lid was closed before the audience came in. So they didn’t know what was happening in the box. But the erotic focused fun inside the box totally affected the performance outside of the box.
Well, there was erotic rubbing. But not the needed focused sustain turning on to generate a core mass. This can’t be done with people in a long term relationship like Linda and I because of the comfort factor [which we used in the jams]. But in this kind of performance what generates the erotic core mass that sucks everything deeper is erotic exploring breaking through risk into sustained focused arousal. That didn’t happen. The closest was Marz.
But other factors kicked in, making it a powerful demanding performance. Joyful intimacy tends to call attention to what is happening or not happening.
And my conversation with Guillermo Gomez Pena was the cherry on the top! Never know who you are influencing!
Here is the transcript of the conversation with Guillermo Gomez Pena:
Then Guillermo Gomez Pena and the black woman in black face came over. They kneeled in front of Frank and looked at him.
Frank said to Guillermo, “I like your “Defense of Performance Art”. I found it online.”
Guillermo said to Frank that if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t exist.
Then followed a deep and intense conversation that was very moving.
Frank asked “How so?”
Guillermo: You opened the door.
Frank: What door?
Guillermo: The door to freedom and the door to a different kind of beauty.
Frank: I am honored. I am recovering. (Linda explains that Frank was in the hospital over the summer, six weeks in intensive care.)
Guillermo: Thousands of people were beating with your heart.
Frank: I got emails while I was in the hospital that kicked my ass!
(Guillermo asks if he can kiss Frank. Frank says yes, and Guillermo sits next to him on a bench, and kisses him on the side of the head and cheek, very long and soft.)
Frank: We should get together to talk. We should do a performance together.
Guillermo: From the time I moved to L.A., I was a young, angry, immigrant rebel. I never missed one of your performances.
Frank: I am that old? (smiling big)
Guillermo: Well, I am only a couple months younger than you. But spiritually much younger.
“The Erotic Greeter”, Hopkins St., Berkeley Part of Maggie Lawson’s “Small Pieces of your Truth” Monday, April 04, 2011
Just got back from doing my part of Maggie Lawson’s performance, small pieces of your truth [see below for her directions]. I picked the option PUBLIC GIFT. The free service of my part was being available to be touched and physically explored as THE EROTIC GREETER. I had a sign to that effect as I sat outside the shops on Hopkins Street for about ninety minutes. It was a great day to be sitting outside! I don’t know if I used any skills from my Master degrees in psychology and in performance /video [I don’t believe I got any skills from those days]. I did similar performances long before grad school!
Anyway, I sat in the shade and engaged with people as they passed by as Linda about ten yards away documented it with photos and video. Most people just passed me, working hard on NOT looking at me. Of course little kids looked and pointed. Some people said “hi, Frank,” knowing me from my Berkeley community public access cable show. And one of my favorite singers, Shelley Doty, with her son stopped to talk. And a guy pulled up and got out of his car to talk. He said a few weeks ago he was building a fence for a guy and the guy told him about me. So he wanted to meet me. So…!
A fun day!
Here are Maggie’s directions:
Congratulations! You’ve become part of the chosen few to play Small Pieces of Your Truth for its first time, in real time.
If you accept this challenge choose ONE of the activities below and do it BEFORE April 9.
On April 9 we’ll meet at Pueblo Nuevo Gallery from 2-4:30 pm (Pueblo Nuevo Gallery, 1828 San Pablo Ave, Suite 1, Berkeley, CA) and keep playing together. There’s no right or wrong way to play. Creatively interpret the instructions and on Saturday come and meet the rest of the group, a truly inspiring group of artists and creatives.
Public Gift Set up a table in a public space and offer a service for free that uses some skill you specifically received through your formal education thus far. If and when people stop, ask and record why each person stopped to use your service. N.B. Don’t worry if no one stops to use the service this is interesting information too. Take photos of the table and/or people that stop to use the service with a caption under each person’s photo of why they stopped to use your service and/or a caption under the table photo of why or why not you were able to attract people to your table.
Scrapbook Collect any materials in your life that either make reference to the highest level of formal education you have received or are things/work/references that are available to you because of your education level. Using the paper and supplies of your choice create 2-3 “scrapbook pages” of these materials (search scrapbook examples under Google images for inspiration or guidance).
Pligrimage 1. a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion. 2. any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage.
Identify a time and place in your life when you had the most intense experience of learning. Now, create a real or virtual way to return to the place where this occurred. For example, this might include finding the people you were with on the internet, going to a place that represents that place near your current residence, or if possible, returning to this place. Leave something in the place you choose that pays homage to this moment. Answer this Question: How does your most intense experience of learning similar or different from your most important experience in the formal education system? Record how you paid homage with a text or photo and write out the answer to the question.
I hope to play with you all on Saturday! Feel free to email or call me with questions.
In Appreciation, Maggie
—– Maggie Lawson Artist Arts and Community Education Director Eye to Eye: art, travel, activism
Published in New Observations, Issue No. 101 (May/June 1994) Copy Culture, and many other publications.
This will be personal. But the personal level is the key to understanding the cultural, artistic, and political movement which is taking back technology into the personal control of anyone who has something to say, something to create. It is personal technology, anarchistic technology. It is not like cable T.V. which we were told ten years ago would liberate the person by giving him intimate and direct information and communication channels…but which today is simply more channels for the money types who have always controlled the communication flowing through mass media…just more monopolized channels for passive entertainment, selling, and manipulation of information and of reality. The only exception to this is the local access channels which are kept in the closet and are always in danger of being axed by the cable company. These access channels are a part of the personal technology.
Personal technology is basically a slip up of what I have called elsewhere “the combine plot”. I took the term “combine” from the Ken Kesey novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The combine plot is a hidden dynamic system of power, control, and interest that keeps the tools of creation and of effective change out of the hands of the common people. This keeps the people powerless, keeping the power within an elite. The tools of effective change have been kept out of the hands of the common people by false rituals of education, money, and bulky expensive equipment which took a cult knowledge to operate. Added to this maze of creative blocks were the false myths about talent and the acceptable quality levels needed to reach people, acceptable quality levels below which people are trained to not watch or listen.
All of this is too abstract and philosophical. In this article, I will try to pull these issues down into the real world by using my own artistic experiences as a context. But it is important to realize at the beginning that personal technology, anarchistic technology is still technology. All technology has hidden, built-in links to the established order of isolation and fragmentation. These links can frustrate attempts to use technology to subvert the established reality. Only by being always aware of these links to isolation and fragmentation inherent in all technology, can technology be safely used as a tool of cultural subversion. This fact again banged me over the head when I was talking to a successful musician who didn’t understand why all performers do not stop touring, considering the pollution caused by traveling…and do what he does, which is do everything through telecommunications. I just said you can not touch through phones, computers, videos…and even through writing. To restore humanity to our culture by using technology, we must know and admit the limitations of that technology.
All technology is a double-edged sword. This includes the very first communication technology…writing/reading. We usually think of the invention of writing as extremely liberating. And in so many ways it was. But in so many other ways it confined humanity. For one thing, it placed a fixed linear frame of thinking within the human brain much more than spoken language had done. Moreover, writing/reading created a very exclusive elite for most of the known human history. Before writing, everyone knew the tribal language…everyone knew how to paint, sing, dance. Information flowed both between people and within time to the future through this tribal accessible language both of spoken word and of art. If information did not flow through this tribal channel, that information was lost. All of this changed when writing was invented. Now there was a channel that was not accessible to everyone, a channel that did not easily lose information. Those who could access this channel had power. Because of this, for most of recorded history, the skill of reading/writing was monopolized by the ruling elite to maintain its power. This was true even after a larger minority gained limited access to the flowing channel of writing. One of the ways the elite maintained its control was by withdrawing the important ideas…dangerous ideas…both sacred and profane, away from the common people, withdrawing the dangerous ideas into a dead language such as Latin or Greek. Only the members of the elite who went through the rituals of education of the established order (be it religious, political, and/or class) could read or speak this dead language of power. There was another channel of flowing information which was folk art, folk music, and folk words, be it written or spoken. This folk channel was accessible to everyone. It was a dynamic, interactive channel of communication. But the full force of this folk channel was always kept in check by the elite channel with the myth that anything which comes through the folk channel was not worthy or important because it did not come from the hidden knowledge.
This control by the elite did not start to break down until the printing press became cost-accessible to the members of the common people. This opened to the common people a communication channel which was not rooted in physical time…that is, you write something and someone within another time, another place reads exactly what you thought. This is the real force which was unlocked by the printing press, and not the ability to reach mass amounts of people. Without the printing press being to a large degree accessible to the forces of change, the American and French Revolutions may not have happened.
But the elite quickly developed strategies to limit access for the common people to this printing channel. The elite spread the myth that to be really effective, a writer had to go through the rituals of the educational system, and then be blessed by being recognized by the publishing factory, which became increasingly massive and impersonal. Self-publishing was labeled “vanity press”. The presses that offered this service were seen as cons, as scams. Writers who used this service were thought of as untalented fools who got conned. The individual who believed in this myth of the power of the corporate media system to bestow access to communications, and to bestow validity through acceptance, was frozen out of any real position for subversive change.
All of this is an historical background on which I can talk about the issues of personal technology, anarchistic technology in the context of cultural subversion.
I started out in the late ’60s writing for underground papers as a political columnist…sneaking into the mimeograph room at school to run off a hundred copies under the protection of a friendly teacher. Of course, the teacher always, as well as us, got into hot water…and the access to the mimeograph machine was closed. No access, no underground paper. There was not any question about our buying our own mimeograph machine…no money.
But it took only a year or so for the underground press to move from the mimeograph stage into being run off at offset print shops. The underground press had its roots going back through the radical press of the ’20s and ’30s and in the poetry press. The kind of person who put out these papers poured all their personal money into it, then hoped by selling ads, selling papers, by magic, the paper would stay afloat. There was rarely any question of making money on it. But when your nest egg, your dead aunt’s money, ads, sales, or whatever was supporting your rag ran out, that paper of visions died. But there was always a new paper being born to fill the empty space.
There was a rejection of the old standards of quality of both form and content which had kept the common people from creating. As a result of this rejection, a new way of looking at art, politics, and life was thus created. The underground press became so effective that by the early ’70s there were over 700 of these papers and an underground press network. It became so effective that the F.B.I. targeted the underground press for destruction by a covert war. By using the fact that the underground papers rarely had direct access to a printing press, and by using the organization which developed around the underground press, the F.B.I. and the rest of the combine could bring the underground press into control, into the fold.
Around this time, I rejected politics as a means for effective subversive change, and began looking towards art and magic for an effective channel. I took a film-making course, learning the technical rituals of 16mm. 16mm was then the home movie technology. But when I did the technological rituals of lighting, shooting, splicing, etc., they took me away from the actual magic of doing. Hidden within these technological rituals are deadening roadblocks to direct personal creative communications. Roadblocks can be gotten around. But why bother when there are direct alternative routes?
After the film course, I still had no money to make films. One road would have been to put my time and energy into getting money or a position to make films. But I always have mistrusted the myth of changing the system from within. It never works. Once you compromised, modified, changed, distorted both yourself and your message to get the media channel, why bother sending the message? The system myth is a major vacuum that sucks creative power away from people by putting vast amounts of time between the person and the act of creation. Whether the myth is of waiting to get enough money, education, or power before you create, the effect is the same…waiting for Godot.
For these reasons, I created a no/low tech form of live performance which did not need money, theater space, sets, stage lighting, approval, or a particular audience size. This no/low tech form is vital to work which is culturally subversive by expanding the concept of sexuality and reality beyond the frame of taboos.
For me as a no/low tech artist, the personal technology, anarchistic technology is a very important dimension. I first realized this when I was trying to get established in N.Y.C. in the early ’70s. I could not find out about art events until after the fact when I read about them in THE VILLAGE VOICE. So I couldn’t go to them. So I couldn’t meet people with whom I could have gotten something going. One reason for this was there was very little flyering. In N.Y.C., organized crime has a monopoly on putting up posters. I did not realize how much no flyering isolated people until I moved to Berkeley where on every telephone pole, there were 10, 20, 30 flyers. Anyone who has an event, a group, a cause, something to say, can go to a xerox place, run off hundreds, or even thousands of flyers and staple them up all over town. This direct two-way form of the press plugged me immediately into the community where I could do my work.
We have to start seeing flyering, be it on telephone poles or on computer bulletin boards, as a form of personal press, and as such is protected under the freedom of press. Big Brother comes in many forms from the mafia to government (down to the anti-flyer laws as part of a city’s “beautification” campaign) to corporations such as A.T.&T. and Blockbuster Videos.
Just recently I saw the power of this direct personal press. For years I have not been able to be booked in the “alternative” performance galleries in the Bay Area for various reasons…so I put 500 “too controversial for the Bay Area” flyers up asking for leads to spaces in which to perform. From the very first flyer we put up came three good leads into the true alternative art scene. Moreover, the flyer directly exposed the true condition of the established “alternative” art world.
This direct exposing is one of the strengths of the personal technology, anarchistic technology in the context of cultural subversion. Be it a camcorder capturing police brutality or a xerox zine publishing radical heretofore unpublishable material, the effect is to decentralize power, putting it into the personal level. I noticed this again last year when Senator Jesse Helms targeted me for investigation for my art. With only one exception, no one from the regular press contacted me to get my reaction or story. Some of the art magazines printed my open letter to Helms and my article on censorship. But I reached a wide national audience when THE SPIRITUAL REVOLUTIONARY (TSR), a newsletter zine by S/R PRESS, printed both. While TSR has a small readership, other zines reprinted my two pieces from TSR, without my permission but without editing. Then still other zines reprinted the material from those zines. The effect of this anarchistic grapevine of xerox zines is I had exposure to a wide national audience which was made up of small subcultures.
The combine recognizes the uncontrollable force represented by the direct personal communications through the anarchistic technology. The combine is trying to put this genie back in the bottle. The easiest, and the most obvious way to do this is to censor the physical channels…be it phone lines, the mail, or T.V./radio waves.
But there are hidden means by which the combine can thwart the direct personal use of technology. One of these is making equipment such as computers, obsolete every six months, not for any real functional improvement, but for progress. The effect of habitual upgrading is not only that we keep having to buy new soft/hardware, but it also creates a false mystery around the computer very much like the dead language of Latin did in the Dark Ages.
But the best way for the combine to curb the use of personal technology is by the standards of “professional quality”.
When I xerox-published by first two books, I did not run into this wall of “professional quality”. This is because I sold them directly, personally at my performances, as well as by the mail through a review in BOX OF WATER.
But when S/R PRESS xerox-published by book, CHEROTIC MAGIC, we took it, along with my zine THE CHEROTIC rEVOLUTIONARY, around to bookstores. The reason why a lot of the bookstores gave for not carrying the book was not the written or the visual contents of the book, but that it had a spiral binding, rather than a regular binding. Having a regular binding would boost the cost out of the realm of personal level and into the traditional publishing with its concerns of mass sales. Kyle Griffith is fond of saying that if the book’s format is too revolutionary for a bookstore, then the content is also…so it would serve no purpose for us to try to package it differently. I must quickly add that there are quite a few bookstores that are not locked into buying solely from a distributor, that will carry personal xerox-published books and zines. Moreover, there are bookstores devoted to personal xerox publications…for example, METROPOPHOBOBIA in, of all places, Phoenix! These outlets for personal publications will multiply in the coming years.
I have dealt with the barriers of format and technology to personal direct human involvement in every medium I have tried. A lot of people have assumed this was because I was poor, did not know how to get grants, did not know how to use technology, or did not know how to use the system. In reality, even if I had tons of money, I would still use the same no/low tech, because that is the best way to take back the creative force from the combine…back into the hands of anyone with a creative urge…or, for that matter, a destructive urge.
Since we are communicating on the personal level, you can send feedback, inquiries, or whatever to me at:
Frank Moore P.O. Box 11445 Berkeley, CA 94712 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org