An excerpt from the show featuring Linda Mac and Mikee LaBash with hosts Chuck Gregory and Ava Bird … starts @ 36:26
Listen to the complete show here:
Linda: What we’ve always experienced, working with Frank, that censorship was such a huge part of what we were always dealing with. Because of putting out that thing of us all being connected and not focused on the limits but rather the connectedness of people and finding ways to make people more viscerally aware of it. And we found that censorship was always, always … we were always dealing with it and we always took it on. And most of the time won!
Chuck: There’s a certain power. Once you say something and it’s out there in the ether somewhere … in the internet or the group consciousness or whatever it is, somehow people start to hear it and censorship just doesn’t work!
Linda: Yes, exactly! Exactly! Frank always used to talk about it as planting seeds. You plant seeds just by putting stuff out there and connecting with people and that’s more powerful than any of the forces from the power.
Ava: I just wanted to add in too, just so Chuck and Tina and the listeners understand some of the work that Frank Moore did. He would host events and have people really jump outside their comfort zones. Share poetry and ask people questions and have people dance together that might not have known each other. And people connecting together in kind of fun and interesting ways. Almost like a live art project.
Linda: Yeah, Frank was mostly known as a performance artist, even though he did all this other stuff. And he was really good at creating environments. Like the last two years of his life, the thing that Ava is talking about, we did a monthly performance in Oakland. It would run three hours each month. People could pay if they wanted to, but there was no charge at the door. And Frank would just talk to people. Everybody would be sitting around the room. We had it all … we had art all over the walls and all sorts of things. It was a strong environment. He changed the name of the series … one of its names was “The Uncomfortable Zones of Fun”. He came up with that because in these performances he had modules of rituals that he would be able to pull out, so a lot of the time he’d just be asking people “what do you do?”, “what are you interested in?” and talk with the person and see what that got going. And a lot of times he’d run into people saying something like, “well that’s outside my comfort zone”, as if that should be a limit. And so Frank called the series “The Uncomfortable Zones of Fun” with the idea of that once you cross that line everything opens up. And all of a sudden there’s unlimited possibilities of what life can be. So a lot of times in Frank’s performances it involved nudity, if people wanted to … it was an environment where you could take your clothes off. And he used that as the thing that broke down barriers between people. Because you’re sitting in a room where people don’t have their clothes on, everything changes. People look at each other … they feel different. And there is a lot more possible because all of a sudden sitting around in clothes seems silly. So that’s what Ava is talking about. That was really the thing that Frank was really, really good at. At creating that environment.
Mikee: You felt safe to be free like that too. That was something that he was so masterful at was creating an environment where everyone just suddenly felt safe! Where people would say “I never felt this close to a bunch of strangers like I have in this performance.” That was a very common reaction.
Linda: Some people would talk about the level of intimacy they felt in the room. And it would bring up those feelings of how isolated they feel in their normal life, and why can’t life be like the way this room feels. So that would be the way that Frank saw planting seeds … that people have an experience of the possibilities between us, with us all. And the idea would be that people carry that with them outside when they go back to their day-to-day life.
Chuck: Well, I love that!
Poet: That’s profound.
Ava: Talk about planting the seeds in people … where even if just say, one or two or five people came and showed up, you would see the fliers … I lived in Oakland and Berkeley at the time, that’s how I met Frank and Linda and Mikee. I had gone to his performances and had read about the ones he had done in the past. He’d been doing it since the seventies. In Berkeley, he also had a TV channel … talk about free speech and censorship. He got a show on the local cable access TV channel.
Linda: It’s still going too, Ava! It plays four times a week. And that was one of the censorship fights, because at some point the City Council … because there was a lot of nudity and eroticism in the show, it didn’t censor. It played after 10 p.m. which is supposedly when adult shows are, where as long as you’re not doing pornography, you can do what you want to do. And we took advantage of that and the City Council decided they didn’t want Frank’s show on so they tried to pass a law that would change the adult time to 2 a.m., which, of course, nobody’s watching. And we fought them! We fought them and the ACLU got interested and said that they would back us. And we would show up at the City Council meetings and we would all say things. And in the end, they never did anything. They never changed it. It just disappeared. And the show is still playing with no censorship.
Chuck: I love that! Very good.
Linda: So it is possible.
Ava: You have to fight for your rights, or they disappear. I wish it wasn’t like that, but it is. You really have to be looking out for your rights and protect them. If you don’t, they’ll be gone. And it starts at that local level. Those little things. These are our communities and our stations, and we have to take responsibility for it. We take our freedoms for granted and maybe assume they can’t take them away, but they’re always trying!
Linda: And our experience has been, since Frank passed in 2013, that like first … Frank had this Vimeo channel that had hundreds and hundreds of videos and a huge audience where people would, all over the world, would set their clocks to watch our live performances. We’d put them up the next day. And a whole community was created. And over the years they would try to take videos down. They would take videos down. And Frank would protest. He’d write to them and explain to them the context of his work. Like, yes there is nudity, yes there is erotic play, but this is the context of my work. And they would apologize and put the video back up! And then, at some point down the line, the people stopped being willing to talk with us. Because after Frank passed away, Mikee and I still did the same thing, and they always put it back up and apologized. And then there was a point where the people weren’t people anymore. They were kind of like smiley faced, thank you so much but your video is down and there is nothing you can do. And that seemed to start a trend. Then Frank’s whole Vimeo collection was taken down.
Linda: Just to get rid of him! Because he also had a group called the Eroart Group that had a huge following. And he would encourage people who make videos that he called eroart, which is taking erotic, physical video and art that people always want to throw in the pornography place because there is no other place to put it. He called it eroart and he encouraged people to submit their videos. So there was a huge community of people that were creating videos because they knew that they had this Eroart Group that had a very … it was one of the biggest groups on Vimeo by the time they kicked us off. So we kind of felt that that was part of what they wanted to get rid of … that whole thing. And our experience has been, you know, Ava was talking about censorship, our experience has been that marked a point where more and more and more censorship, it just kept expanding and less and less people were acknowledging it as censorship and acknowledging that there was a fight to fight. People just got quiet at a certain point. That’s our experience.
Chuck: Was there a particular point where you noticed this change happening?
Linda: The Vimeo thing happened when?
Mikee: It wasn’t that long ago.
Linda: It was after 2018.
Mikee: Alex Jones and Julian Assange.
Linda: People were cheering on that it is OK to take somebody down just because they don’t like them! And we were thinking, what about the idea that people have freedom of speech?! What about that?!
Linda: And less and less people were willing to acknowledge that there was something not right about just taking people off like that.
Mikee: It was slowly building, but taking Trump off of social media, the president of a country. It seemed so out there that they could do that, but everybody was cheering it on, going along with it. It seemed like it just snowballed from there. Now all of the COVID doctors have gotten the boot.
Linda: All the stuff that happened around COVID and all of the censorship. All of a sudden are people not only not acknowledging that there is censorship going on, but they’re mad at you for pointing it out!
Linda: So it’s snowballed to where it’s flipped into some other weird place where censorship is something that you’re not allowed to talk about.
Chuck: Yeah, I’ve noticed the same phenomenon, especially on social media and just in general. There is an amazing isolation of the media from reality! They say what they’re allowed to say, what they’re supposed to say and that’s it!
Linda: Yep! And way back in the 1980s Frank started talking to artists, in this case, about fragmentation. He said, watch out, because you have the “powers” that are just lurking there and you give them an opening when you start … like at that point it was like “gay” vs “feminists” or “this” vs “that” … where people were blaming each other and fighting each other … he said we’re all on the same side.
Linda: Don’t let yourself be fragmented from each other. Because you are going to open the door for “the power” to come in and fragment all of us. And really, his words have totally come true! As we all know. (Laughs)
Ava: It’s one of the big tactics that they use to divide and conquer. And it’s effective! Look at how people fall right into it. They fall into the traps. And you’re the freak! It’s you that’s the freak! It’s you that’s the problem! They make it seem like you are doing something wrong. Just what people went through. Frank was one of the early warriors of online free speech and it’s gotten so out of control. Of course, they’re going to do that! Like, it’s no longer surprising. Like you said, the President of the United States got deleted! That shows you they have more power than the president. That’s the message, and that’s scary!
Chuck and others: Yeah!
Ends @ 52:10