Frank performed “Wrapping/Rocking” as part of the “Masters of the Mind – San Francisco Performance Artists” weekend at the Art Department Gallery in Denver in 1987. Mark Pauline, of Survival Research Laboratories, performed on the second night.
Karen Briede’s Art Department Gallery was part of her work/living space where she also did hairdressing.
Below is the letter that Frank wrote to Cecilie, a local person who Karen had found to perform with Frank as part of his cast. This was the first time that Frank described “Wrapping/Rocking” in written form.
Frank Moore 1812 Bancroft Way Berkeley, CA 94703 (415)540-0907 April 13
Karen of the Art Department Gallery said you will be in my performance, Wrapping/Rocking, on May 8. I am glad to have you on board. She also said you had at least one other person to be a dancer. Because of changes in the piece, we need 2 to 3 additional nude dancers (that makes a total of 4 to 5 nude dancers plus you). Could you help Karen to get these?
I will get the times and dates out of the way, then get to the meat of the piece.
Linda and I get to Denver Tuesday afternoon the 5th. I want to get together with you and the dancers Wednesday and Thursday afternoons for 2-4 hours. On Friday, we will meet at the Gallery at 6 P.M. to put our body make-up on before the performance. Would you pass this information on to the dancers? Also, would you call us Tuesday night at the Art Department (303 892-0352) to confirm the rehearsals?
I am enclosing the poem which Linda will read over and over throughout the piece.
As the piece begins, I am lying on a mat. You are bending over me, rocking. Your nude body brushes over me in this dance to the live drums beating. Although our bodies are always in physical contact during this dance, our bodies will be only barely touching.
During this dance, the nude, body-painted dancers will greet each person at the door, will perform a ritual of kissing and washing of feet, give him Somala (a magical potion) and then will lead him to his special sitting spot on the floor near us.
When the last is seated, the dancers will lift each of us onto the lap of an audience member. There we wait as they replace the mat with my wheelchair. The dancers will then lift me into the chair and you onto my lap.
We start rocking together, moving together. We start making sounds together. The live music will respond to our sounds and movement. The dancers move slowly round us in a sensual ritual. Slides start being projected onto our nude bodies. Linda starts reading the poem.
Our movements, our rocking, and our sounds should cover the range of emotions of the poem … sometimes comforting and child-like, sometimes suffering and in pain … magical … sexual … insane … etc. But never linear, one emotion should not lead to another, but just flow out of us. In this way, our rocking and sounds will become a chant that will put the audience into a magical trance.
As the poem is being read over and over, the dancers will slowly create a web of ribbon, cellophane, toilet paper, and tin foil … ultimately connecting, wrapping, everyone up together.
The end will be us sitting nude in soft light in the remains of the web, talking with the audience. In rehearsals, we will not go through the entire piece. We will focus on getting comfortable with each other, and on exploring sounds and movements which we will use.
Hope I have given you the feeling of the piece and of what will be involved. If you have any questions, feel free to call me. Is there a number where we can reach you?
A proposal Frank sent to Yellow Springs Institute, January 1987:
RAPTURE – A SPASTIC BALLET
Can someone who cannot walk, or even stand, be the center of a modern ballet? Can someone who cannot speak sing an emotional opera that will pull the audience into his reality? Can someone make what is normally seen as physical limits become the gateway to erotic grace and beauty?
I am that someone.
“Rapture – A Spastic Ballet” will be a 90-minute live performance combining dance, poetry, pre-recorded electronic music, and live and pre-recorded singing/chanting.
During the days of preparation and rehearsal, I will teach my cast of two dancers and a chanter, my noise language … how to sing like babies, like madmen, beyond words to feelings, then create a soundtrack of over-dubbed musical sounds, performed solely by myself, and a non-verbal abstract chant/wailing, which will be based on my noise language. I will teach the dancers my spastic movements. With these movements, to this intense abstract soundtrack, we will create a complex dance. This dance will use lights as another medium of emotional language.
When the audience enters the theatre, I will be nude in my wheelchair, moving awkwardly, making noises. These noises slowly become singing to the soundtrack. The two dancers appear as images of myself … but they quickly become extensions of my body, picking me up out of my chair … lifting me into a freeing dance of swirling, rocking, rubbing, rolling, flying, swinging, laughing. Throughout the chanter will be reading my poetry over the soundtrack. At certain points, audience members will be invited to be actively involved in the dance … to hold me … to rock with me.
The end of this ballet of rapport will be a bright web of ribbon, cellophane, and tinfoil connecting me, the audience, and cast all together.
The kind of art in which I am interested is art that causes change, that heals, that threatens, that unites, that subverts, that destroys limits and breaks taboos. I am not interested in doing art that comforts, decorates, entertains. In my performances, in my workshops, and in my lectures, I am trying to go back to the time when art was the magical, irrational, non-logical channel of active impact … when art was not just an object of passive viewing. I focus on live direct art for this end.
When we trace art to its primal roots, it combines with science and religion to form the primitive mans’ occult tool to influence both the natural and the supernatural worlds. It involved both private and communal rituals with no audience except the gods and demons.
In my work, I try to create an environment in which the line between consciousness and the subconscious can be temporarily erased, where the power of taboos is released so that personal and social change can be magically induced. The artist in this intensely intimate work is a conductor focusing and guiding the ritual forces. This is an avant-garde art, a revolutionary art.
In this kind of art, my body gives me a definite advantage. It links me to the wounded healer, the deformed shaman. By combining this with performance tactics, I combine realities to create awake dreams.
Of course, my kind of art is not mass media, trendy or fashionable. It is just idealistic …. Definitely not a money-maker.
But I have always thought art should be a calling, not a career.
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!
After so-called feminists tried unsuccessfully to stop the booking of this show because they thought my art was somehow sexist, this show marked the transition from me singing to corny records [which I had been doing since THE OUTRAGEOUS BEAUTY REVUE broke up in the early eighties] to jamming. In fact, this could be considered the first CHEROTIC ALL STAR BAND. Barb Golden of THE WIG BAND opened up the night. Her sax player Toyoji had played with John Cage. I did backup vocals for her in her set. Then she played keyboard in my band with John Seabury of THE PSYCHOTIC PINEAPPLE [which formed after they saw my OUTRAGEOUS BEAUTY REVUE] on guitar. Before the show I tried to get Toyoji to play in my band. But he shyly declined. However in the middle of the glorious erotic chaos of the set, he crawled on the stage and got more and more uninhibited!
I think I have finally recovered from my tour of Southern California. As Paul McCarthy would say, it was amazing. It is one of the main projects I used my N.E.A. Grant for. It was a kind of thing I have dreamed about. But my dreams paled against the reality of it. Paul helped us arrange the performances in L.A., connecting us with Jack Marquette of Anti-Club and Robert Gero. But this was after months of soul debating on Paul’s part on what would be the best spaces for me.
It took months setting everything up for the trip. The trying to line up actors for the L.A. pieces. The pile of actors’ resumes melted to zero by the time we left on the trip. It was the same old story … the vulnerability, the avant-garde strangeness, and nudity proved too much for the straight actors to imagine doing. So I prepared myself to wing the performances, as I usually am forced to do.
Also just before our departure, we got a definite red tape NO from U.C. Irvine.
We arrived in L.A. to establish a beach head before going on to San Diego. We received a call from Robin McHeed. I met Robin months before as I was doing my Approach Art on Sproul Plaza at U.C. Berkeley. She will graduate this summer from U.C. Irvine. She is a stranger in a strange land at Irvine. Something clicked in Robin when I told her I was doing a tour in Southern California. It became her personal revolt against the rightist system to get this long-haired, red-helmeted, multi-colored, spastic elf with his giant portfolio of chocolate covered naked live art that the audience has a chance to play in. So when we ran into the red tape dead end, Robin turned into a one woman bulldozer. The call was informing us that she got a classroom in one day for the performance … basically she personally sponsored me. So we had an extra show on the road.
Next day, we traveled to Irvine. Robin was kind of disappointed when we rolled up in our big American car. She was expecting a Magic Bus full of wildly dressed artists. But she soon realized I was still that mischievous elf. We followed her around as she busted her buns making last minute contacts. I got more and more freaked out being on a campus which was consciously designed to discourage human contact and a sense of community … where students are identified by for which big company they will be working. I started to think no one would show up for the performance, not to mention participate, in this stronghold of the enemy. So in my mind, I started adapting “Random Gestures” so that if no one became involved, at least it would look like something was happening. To my surprise, there were students waiting outside the performance room when we arrived.
The windowless room became a dark cave with a light strobing. I lay on a table-altar surrounded by neatly dressed yuppies and young republicans. Gestures were randomly read out. Anyone could get on the table with me and do the gestures, and return to their seats when they did not want to do the gesture. At first, nobody did anything at all. But after fifteen minutes, a few timidly started doing the gestures in their seats. Slowly, one by one, people got on the table … especially after Robin broke the ice. It was a trip seeing these ultra-yuppies touching one another in intimate ways. They drank it up. The guy who I got to play music asked in the middle of the piece if he could stop playing music and join the table. Two male roommates found themselves doing things together like rubbing noses … and liking it. We had to push more tables together to make room for all the people. At one point, about 12 bodies piled onto me and slowly rocked … because they couldn’t quite let themselves rock on one another.
After the piece, Robin invited everyone to her house for chili. It gave me a good chance to hear in detail what people thought about the piece, but also to watch the effects of the piece on the people. When they first came out, they were still relating to one another, being high, being physical, being vulnerable. It took several hours for this noticeable change to wear off. It was like waking up from a dream … or coming down from a trip.
The next night, we were in a totally opposite scene than Irvine … the anti-club, the L.A. art/punk club. I was doing my CABARET OF CHAOS, which consisted of me singing along to taped message songs such as “Better Sit Down Kids”, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”, “I Am Woman”, etc. When the packed punk house saw this weird crip (me) sitting on the stage yelling into a mic to bad music, they started jeering at me, pulling at my feet, and in general tried to give me a hard time. I loved it. I started kicking their heads playfully, sang all the louder, and interacted with them. They started liking it almost in spite of themselves. They started clapping along, then singing along, then rocking along with me. Amazing. Hard-core punks got on stage to dress me in their spiked jewelry and even to give me a back rub while I sang. After 45 minutes of this, they demanded more. When I finally got off the stage, they crowded around me, touching my body.
I could never dream up this reality.
The letter Frank wrote to get the gig:
To Jack Marquette Anti-Club, Los Angeles
Paul McCarthy suggested I contact you about my doing a show at The Anti-Club when I am in Southern California in late January. I will be doing performances at U.C.L.A., with the help of Paul, and at U.C.S.D. for the performance art class of Eleanor Antin. But what I would do at your club would be very different from these other performances.
I would do a very silly and tacky musical revue which grew out of my Outrageous Beauty Revue which I did as the Saturday early show at S.F.’s Mabuhay Gardens for three years in the late 70’s. The show has wacky characters who murder songs from the 60’s. The show could be from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on your time requirements. I don’t know why, but the show is the most accessible thing I do.
I am enclosing the cover story that High Performance did on my work and the article about me that the editor of Metier wrote. They should give you the feel for what I do.
Paul told me that you manage Johanna Went. Ever since she and I performed on the same night at the Mabuhay many years ago, I have wanted to perform with her again … maybe I could open for her at your club.
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!
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
Fred Hatt was the second guest ever on Frank’s streaming internet show, Frank Moore’s Shaman’s Den, on August 31, 1998 on FAKE Radio. Fred is an artist, dancer, and photographer. During the show as they talked, Fred sketched a portrait of Frank.