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Archive: Tributes

Very sad to hear that the great American underground filmmaker and video artist George Kuchar passed away on September 6.

There’s lots of information available about him online, but I wanted to share an abridged version of an essay I wrote on Kuchar’s video diaries from the 1980s and 1990s for my MA thesis in film and video studies at York University, Toronto (finished 2004). Kuchar’s unique worldview was totally foundational to my appreciation of queer moving images, and he will be sorely missed.

All of his videos are available through Video Data Bank, and his films through Canyon Cinema and others. RIP, George.

Truth Wrapped in Trash and Vice Versa

George Kuchar found poetry in the gap between American life and Hollywood, between our painful, banal, shame-laced lives and the promises of beauty, success and fame offered by our cinematic mythmakers. Kuchar’s practice offers a model of a transformative way of seeing others with an empathy based on a shared sense of failure and shame. Through his cinematic gaze, Kuchar democratized glamour and imagemaking while creating an affecting persona from artifice and trash.

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Rumi Missabu (picture above by Christelle de Castro) is one of the few surviving members of San Francisco’s gender-bending performance groupe The Cockettes. Fans of the troupe will know her especially from her hilarious performance as the “rebellious elevator girl” Maxine in the legendary Cockette movie “Elevator Girls in Bondage” from 1972 (picture (c) David Wise) – the film was re-released on DVD two years ago and can be ordered directly from Rumi by sending an email to cocketterumi@gmail.com ($27.95 incl. shipping/handling).

Today the Oakland based artist owns a huge archive of the group’s work and aside from her job as the official Cockettes archivist is still a very active performer: In 2009 she has been starring in the successful stage production “Pearls over Shang-Hai” at the Hypnodrome Theatre, San Francisco, in which she played the “Madame Gin Sling” (see video below by Ben Wa). She has also recently appeared in couple of independent movies such as “The Glitter Emergency” by Paul Festa, “Uncle Bob” by Robert Oppel and the Cockettes documentary “Children of the Cockettes” by Ben Wa.

Rumis most current project is the video to “Interior”, the new single by NYC duo Mirror Mirror (new album “Interior” due August 16), which is another proof that she is still an exciting performer.

In an interview with Opening Ceremony which was published on their website just a few days ago, Rumi has also announced that she will be touring New York this October, supported by artists such as Jean Franco and French singer François Chaignaud. The interview also features a couple of really nice pictures of the artist from the last few years, so go check it out.

It was Andy Warhol, who introduced Grace Jones and Keith Haring in the mid-eighties. Haring managed to engange Jones as a living canvass for some of his “tribal” style body paintings like the one he had done in collaboration with dancer Bill T. Jones and which ironically played with ideas of “the primitive” (you find an interesting comment on Jones’ play with race / gender stereotypes through Harings paintings on the Postcolonial Studies website of the English Department at Emory University, Atlanta). The paintings were presented and eternalized in different contexts like a legendary photo shoot with Robert Mapplethorpe (1984)…

… at one of Jones’ performances at the Paradise Garage (1985) …

… her appearance in the film “Vamp” (1986) ….

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Peter Hujar was born 1934 in Trenton, New Jersey and later moved to Manhattan, where he died of AIDS in 1987 (you can see the appartment he lived in in Ira Sachs’ film “Last Adress” I posted below). His first book “Portraits in Life and Death” came with an introduction by Susan Sontag and was published in 1976 – it was also the only book by him ever published. Hujar was the one-time partner and mentor of artist David Wojnarowicz, below see a couple of portrait pictures he shot of him (a few of them are NSFW). Like most of Hujar’s pictures, they were shot in black and white. His estate is represented by Matthew Marks Gallery.

David Wojnarowicz, 1981

The Moroccan Bride, 1987

Daniel Schoock Sucking Toe, 1981

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This record is the perfect Hipster item: Garçons are the follow-up project of a French new wave group called “Marie et les Garçons” which was produced by John Cale. In 1979, after drummer Marie had quit the band, the rest of the guys started a disco project in collaboration with Michael Zilkha and Michel Esteban, the founders of the New-York-based post-punk/no-wave record label ZE Records. The awesome result of this collaboration was the mini-album “Divorces”, which got kind of forgotten in the following years and isn’t available anymore (except for the two YouTube uploads below). The only place on the internet I could find the complete record to is a semi-legal MP3 shop called vinylmp3.net which sells ripped versions of rare records (cheap, but the quality is rather moderate).
Via Gilles.

I just watched the pilot of a new Sundance channel show called “Be Good Johnny Weir” and I loved it. It tells the story of a 11-year-old boy from Pennsylvania who completely falls in love with figure skating after seing figure skating star Oksana Baiul win an Olympic gold medal 1994 and who himself after a lot of ups and downs  finally becomes one of best figure skaters in the world. BGJW shows that Weir is not the typical figure skating professional that has been trained to win since his childhood. He has made the decision to become a professional himself and it’s really interesting to see how hard he sometimes struggles with this decision, especially because he seems to be way too clever and reflected for this whole business. For all of you who can’t watch the show (legally): here are some of my favourite Weir moments so far.

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Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and her wife Lady Jaye were one of  the few pandrogynist couples in the world, actually they are sort of the inventor of what is called Pandrogeny. As a (male) singer and musician of the British band Throbbing Gristle as well as the founder of Psychic TV Genesis has always been interested in the transformations of the body and the possibilities these transformations can open up in terms of rethinking gender identity and finding new concepts of what love means. Genesis and Lady Jaye perceived their love as so strong that the both of them were just parts of one shared entity, a “pandrogynist” person called “Breyer P-Orridge”. This is why through several surgeries they started to change their bodies in a way that they would more and more resemble each other. Sadly Lady Jay Breyer P-Orridge died of a heart failure in 2007, but recently several film projects have been released that in different ways deal with the couple’s relationship – one of them is Jake’s Yuzna’s awesome film “Open” that won a special Teddy award at this year’s Berlinale (click here for the Berlinale info sheet), another second one is a documentary called “The Ballade Of Lady Jay” by filmmaker Marie Losier (trailer below) who also shot the brilliant great video to “Have Mercy” by Psychic TV. More about Genesis P-Orridge and the concept of Pandrogeny on her website. Jake Yuzna will soon be part II of the CATCH FIRE interviews series – as soon as I have completely transcripted the interview. I also posted a clip of another documentary about the couple produced by Metropolis Web TV.

UPDATE 03/13/10: Seems like Marie Losier hasn’t finished her film yet. On Genesis’ site she’s letting people know that she’s searching for both and editor and a sound engineer and asks for donations to finish the movie.

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“Cruising” by William Friedkin from 1980 surely is one of the controversial movies about gay culture and subculture ever and I agree with the gay activists of that time like William A. Percy that the way the movie shows homosexuality as a “destructive force” makes it pretty problematic. On the other hand the movie has got it’s really strong moments when the camera follows a disturbed and at the same time facinated Al Pachino (who plays a cop in search of a serial killer) into the clubs and darkrooms of the New York leather and SM scene – places Friedkin himself visited for three months to get an impression of what’s going on there and asked the people there to take part in the movie. As scholars like D.A. Miller point out in these moments the movie works like a field study and especially gay sex in a way it has never been shown in a Hollywood movie before and after it. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. Here’s the trailer:

Die Tödliche Doris was a German experimental post punk era art/performance/music group founded by the Westberliners Wolfgang Müller, Käthe Kruse and Nikolas Untermöhlen in 1981. The group existed in different formations until 1987 and was part of the so-called “Geniale Dilletanten” movement (“ingenious amateurs”?) which emergend from the punk scene and it’s do-it-youself-idea as well as the developing new wave scene. It played with pop-band clichees, the ideas of rock and authenticity and gender conventions, trying not to built a constant image of itself. Founder Wolfgang Müller still works as an artist and an expert for islandic arts and everyday culture. If you write a polite Email to root@die-toedliche-doris.de he will return you an Email with links to the complete back catalogue of DTD.

Via Queer Geeks.

I actually heard of this artist/film director the first time yesterday when a friend of mine told me about plans for a Smith-conference in Berlin in automn. I hope I’m not the only person here who’s not familiar with this guy who some people even call the most influencial US artist of the last fifty years. This is what I know now: Smith is a pioneer of the (queer) underground cinema and of performance art, combining early Hollywood/ B-Movie-kitsch and Orientalism with his own campy and abstract style. But I don’t wanna bore you with boring second-hand information, so I’ll just post you a link to UbuWeb here were you’ll find an article about Mr. Smith and three of his movies – his most famous one is “Flaming Creatures” from 1963. I also posted a youtube-trailer for a documentation about him. Thanks, Tim.

It’s one of these movies you saw once and always told yourself that you should see it but you never did because it is kind of exhausting. But I think it’s worth it. It was released 1982 as one of the last one of the so-called “Midnight Movies” (non-mainstream movies that were shown in US-cinemas in the nighttime). Last week director Slava Tsukerman’s new movie “Perestroika” was released in the US. But I must admit that it looks kind of boring.