NOT ART

February 20, 2009

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Abraham Werewolf (Danny Bischoff, Matt Hooks, Jack
McDonald, and Alberto Mendoza) does NOT ART

by

Rachel Shine

Oh, characters, you slay me.  Remember Zach Plague’s boring boring boring boring boring boring boring and how it used modern archetypes to deconstruct the art world?  Not dissimilarly, Abraham Werewolf and their production of “Not Art” play with the traditional roles of the boys-in-a-band structure and we come out laughing.
They originally wanted to put on Yasmina Reza’s “Art,” but Steppenwolf got there first, so rather than take up the long fight for the rights, they wrote their own piece inspired by the original.  And it’s quite clever.
Alright, I have to admit here that I’ve never seen or read the original play.  But the way Abraham Werewolf played with it went like this: Tony Bongos of the band D’Artagnan buys a painting from a “very fashionable” painter.  He unveils it to the singer of the band, Billy, who digs the painting, (“How much did you pay for this?” “$5,000”  “What a steal!”  “I know!”) but not the interpretive “prongo” (progressive bongo) rhythm Tony’s written to channel the painting’s energy.  Tony in turn shows the piece and his rhythm to the guitarist who totally digs both.  They think Billy is being a controlling so and so.  Egos collide when the guitarist is late for practice because, we come to find out, his pregnant fiancée is breaking off the wedding, which concerns him most sincerely because she’s making him late for band practice.  Once he finally arrives, bottle of whiskey in hand to be sure, the three of them go at it about fiancées, familial relations, maracas and bandmatedom.  At the precipice before they break up as a band and as friends, the guitarist gets a call from his newly exed fiancee and Tony and Billy take a quick time-out to recognize that this is not who they are.  They are friends, man.  You know what they need to solve this?  A scapegoat! And right then the guitarist returns with the information that the girl was never pregnant- she just got fat!  So they figure she’s part of the evil-doings that has torn them apart, (“I bought that painting to impress a girl!” “Everything I’ve ever done to was to impress a girl!”) and they start playing music: a well-harmonized, catchy tune that sends us off right and reunites them as a creative unit.  As soon as they’ve finished, Billy exclaims that he’s disappointed the mic wasn’t on, he wished they’d recorded it.  Just then the narrator re-enters to say, oh, but you have, and holds up a cd-r of the night’s music.  It’s for sale in the lobby, he explains.  The lobby? they repeat.  Yes, our narrator returns, they’ve seen the whole thing, as the house lights come up and the characters realize their silly drama has been witnessed.  And we all laugh and laugh. . .
Here’s the thing, though.  I went to Gorilla Tango last night to see the show, and it was their last of “Not Art.”  However, Abraham Werewolf will be back in the spring with a Grand Guignol-inspired production, which means late nineteenth to early twentieth century Parisian horror theater.  Oh, yeah.

Boring boring boring boring boring boring boring

Zach Plague

2008 Featherproof Press

by Rachel Shine

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Boring boring boring boring boring boring boring tries very hard not to live up to its namesake.  Using the tone and sophistication of a graphic novel similar to Brick, (the modern film noir film of high schoolers), Boring tells a labyrinthine tale of characters experimenting with power as dramatically as emperors chase conquests.  Plague employs identifying fonts and intricate graphics to comically draw the reader into the world of the University of Fine Arts and Academia but also into the world of the book itself.

What sets Boring apart from most novels on the shelf are the collages and elaborate illustrations which decorate the text.  Setting the tone of the book, they paint the characters almost as well as their actions.  The title written repeatedly over photographs, for example, handwritten pages, antique wallpaper, silhouettes, and the title written in playful textuality suggests the duality of individuality and sameness.  By showing the same identity (the word “boring”) in different clothes (each font), we are introduced to the ironies of individuality.  The word, after all, is boring, and what’s interesting about that?

Boring contains many such jokes and tongues thrust firmly into cheeks.  It is a play in which modern archetypes of students act out their power struggles: a punk named Punk who launches snot rockets, the spoiled Dean’s daughter that loves a meathead, her best friend who, in turn, loves the sleazy videographer; the videographer in turn  loves her and the art star–a disaffected narcissist whose work gives motivation to the story.  These colliding characters ultimately create a concordance of terms such as leaves, lonely, and the night, in order to fuel the book’s underlying meaning: a catalogue of art school kids and thier behavior.

Of them, we meet Ollister first, along with his love-no-more, Adelaide, and his rivalry with The Platypus.  Ollister is a former Uni-Arts student, a local hero, and a master manipulator eager to keep his budding lordship intact.  Adelaide is a Uni-Arts darling who is missing her ex-beau and a key bargaining chip.  The Platypus is the gothic puppet master of the art scene and thus the town.  To maintain this strong arm of power, however, he must have Ollister’s notebook of ideas which he believes Adelaide will lead him to.  To win her graces he offers her a show at the White Ball, the town’s biggest art show.  How can she resist?

Within such an accessible narrative, Boring takes available opportunities to teach without pontificating.  It proposes that art does not come from schools, but from a dialogue between independents.  It paints the art educational system as a motley crew of uncritical misfits and honors the power of those on the outside, the one who lives in the museum or the one that lives on the streets.  The plot is driven by the search for the gray papers, a journal of one character’s ideas.  It respects criticism and autonomy.  In the end the truth comes from the individuals who call their own shots.  That’s why chapters are called after the characters that participate in them.  That’s why Ollister is the hero.

That’s why the book is available with the variety it is.  If you don’t prefer a perfect bound book, try your ear at the audio book.  Or maybe you’d like the book in the poster version.  Or smaller? A downloadable mini-book is offered.  Or the ebook online.  You could try that.  Both the variety of the text and graphics and the multimedia approach bring attention to the format of the printed word.  As certainly as modernizing the time-honored tradition of the book-as-art invites the reader deeper into the reading of the text, it challenges the necessity of the bound hardcopy.  Perhaps a certain story is better told wheat-pasted to the side of a building or out of your back pocket on a hand-held electronic device.  Why is that?

posted by caroline picard

listen to Zach read from another burgeoning work here.

or visit  featherproof to see what else they are up to by going here.

The Parlor January 2009

January 6, 2009

ZACH DODSON

@

The Parlor

Tuesday, January 6, 2008

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Download the podcast at theparlorreads.com

Zach Dodson’s hybrid typo/graphic novel, boring boring boring boring boring boring boring, came out last year under the nom de plume Zach Plague. He has launched such experiments as Featherproof Books, Bleached Whale Design, and The Show N’ Tell Time Talk Show. His writing has appeared in The2ndHand, Opium, Take the Handle, and Proximity Magazine. His design has appeared in MAKE Magazine, Punk Planet, Resonance, Mule, and Bagazine. This morning, in his bedroom, he thought he saw a cat out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned to look there was nothing there. He doesn’t own a cat.

here are some pictures from tonight’s Parlor featuring Zach Dodson:

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–Young Joon

Questions Put to Zach Plague

December 31, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard; Zach is coming to read at the Parlor next week on January 6th. Here is an interview I found between him and the Pilcrow Lit Fest. You can find out more about them, and read some other great interviews with exciting young authors here. You can listen to previous readers at the parlor website, www.theparlorreads.com.

From the Pilcrow Lit Fest: Five With Zach Plague

“Five With…” asks five simple questions of someone involved with Pilcrow Lit Fest. For our next guest, please welcome Zach Plague.

1. What are you working on now?

I’m working on my debut novel, boring boring boring boring boring boring boring. It’s a hybrid typo/graphic novel, which means it’s heavy on the design end. I took my time writing and editing it, and the result is I kind of have to design in a panic. Beyond that I’m always working to promote the swell authors we put out on featherproof. This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record is our latest book, and it’s a YA novel, which is different for featherproof, so there are a lot of new outlets to explore.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

I like the schmoozing, the boozing, and the… perusing. Of good books.

to read the rest of this interview (and see his fancy photo-ma-graph)  go here….

Zach Dodson to read at The Parlor Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at 7pm

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Say hello to 2009 with Zach Dodson at The Parlor. Zach will read a piece called The 2043 Field Guide to Living Indoors – an excerpt from a novel which he hopes will be finished sometime in the next 34 years. Following his 30 minute reading, the author will take questions from the audience.


As always, the event will be recorded and published on-line for your repeated listening pleasure on iTunes and at www.theparlorreads.com

All readings take place at The Green Lantern 1511 N. Milwaukee Ave, 2nd Floor

(www.thegreenlantern.org)


For more information, please visit www.theparlorreads.com or contact theparlorreads@gmail.com

Zach Dodson’s hybrid typo/graphic novel, boring boring boring boring boring boring boring, came out last year under the nom de plume Zach Plague. He has launched such experiments as Featherproof Books, Bleached Whale Design, and The Show N’ Tell Time Talk Show. His writing has appeared in The2ndHand, Opium, Take the Handle, and Proximity Magazine. His design has appeared in MAKE Magazine, Punk Planet, Resonance, Mule, and Bagazine. This morning, in his bedroom, he thought he saw a cat out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned to look there was nothing there. He doesn’t own a cat.

The Parlor is a monthly reading series, hosted by Chicago’s Green Lantern and sponsored by Bad At Sports Podcast.

What’s Going Down Tomorrow

November 16, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard
Chicago Indy Publishers have thrown down the gauntlet
GREEN LANTERN vs FEATHERPRESS vs SWITCHBACK
Message about CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL WINTER BADMINTON LEAGUE

Winter Badmintoneers!

Time is nearly upon us, and I’m pumped up. Like a pair of Air Jordans, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, like the Volume. Pumped up to play some awesome Badminton in the stupid cold. They’re calling for a few snow showers on Sunday, so conditions should be ideal.

So. What do you need to bring? Nothing but game. And maybe some booze. We’ll have chili, and equipment for all.

Many have you have asked about the rules. Here they are.

1. Your team must have a name. And two people on it. We’ll provide a partner if yours stinks or is absent.
2. Your outfits must be co-ordinated in some way. You can wear logo-emblazened pink snowsuits, or just have your matching ray bans on. Any gesture of camaraderie is acceptable. Dress for the weather.
3. Shit-talking is allowed. No hitting people with racquets.
4. Play to 15, must serve to win a point, win by two, alternate service. This should cover the rest of the rules: http://www.badminton-information.com/rules-of-badminton.html When we want to get really persnickety we’ll refer to rules like these: http://www.worldbadminton.com/rules/ or whichever rule book supports our argument best.
5. A team shall forfeit at the first signs of frostbite.
6. Our yard is small and fraught with trees, power-lines, and sinkholes. No complaining. Keep in mind that this is an Xtreme sport.
7. We’ll have a sign up sheet. Your team will play 2 games in a row for each sign up. A win earns you 2 points, and a loss earns you 1. We’ll use these scores to seed the championship bracket at the end of the season. This will all be clear later. Promise.
8. Nobody has to do anything. Including playing badminton.

Any questions, or quibbles, let us know. The road to glory lays ahead…

Zach & Ally

posted by Caroline Picard

You all should come out! It looks like it’s going to be a pretty great line-up-

and it’s a fundraiser and it’s always great to come out and support- AND a bunch of these authors have read or are scheduled to read at The Parlor….so come on down, I say…

QUICKIES!
55 word extravaganza!
FUNdraiser

7:30pm

The Innertown Pub
1935 W Thomas
Chicago, IL

Kyle Beachy, Dave Snyder, Tobias Amidon Benglesdorf, Heidi McKye, Zach Plague, Colt Foutz, James Lower, Jessi Lee Gaylord, Amy Guth, Spencer Dew, Nicolette Bond, Maria Parrott, Jac Jemc, Lauren Pretnar, Ben Tanzer, Sam Reaves, JT Litchfield, Kevin Fink, Amira Hanafi, Lex Sonne, Geoffrey Forsyth, Melanie Datz, Laura Goldstein, Kate Harbaugh, Marissa Plumb, Chris Bower, Jon Fullmer, Steve Tartaglione (tar-taglee-oh-knee), Josh Amidan, Jonathan Messinger

NEXT

May 12, 2008

 

Many of my ideas about art, like most belief systems, come from my father, who, trafficking me down the stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway that lies between his house and my mother’s house once quoted Luciano Fabro to me, “Most artists are born warriors and die merchants”.  This phrase, at the tender age of 12 or 13 (an odd tendency of my father is not to vary his discourse according to the age of his listener) had a big effect on me. Under the common misguided impression of 13-year-olds that those who have just been born are good and those who are about to die bad, I vowed to always remain a warrior and never, against all odds, allow myself to be led down the evil path towards commerce and merchandising. 

 

 

11:05am.  April 25, 2008.  Chicago, Illinois, Merchandise Mart.  I am  bounding and dodging my way through NEXT and Artopolis spectators who seem hell bent on moving as slowly and as aimlessly as possible.  I’m late.  I flit about at the end of a long line emanating from the elevators, digging through a decomposing black backpack for my participants’ badge.  Finally, I find it amidst a wad of unidentifiable objects and pull it out just as the authoritative eye of the guard finds me.  On sight of my badge, she quickly waves me through.  The faces of those patiently bearing the line slide into a blur past me as I bypass them towards the elevator. 

 

 

Late afternoon.  April 16, 2008.  Check point.  Bethlehem.  Surrounding the West Bank is a wall made of wide, imposing concrete slabs.  At the base of the wall are piles of garbage and tangled, overgrown weeds.  All across the wall are spatterings of graffiti, “My sister did not through stones”, “Ctrl. Alt. Delete”, “I am not a terrorist”.  Anyone trying to get into or out of the West Bank is required to pass through a security check point in order to get from one side of the wall to another.  I hold my American passport in my sweaty hand. On sight of the dark blue vinyl covering, the little gold pressed lettering, the authoritative eye of the guard nods me through.  I exit through the iron turn grate, and stride out towards Israel, past a long line of some 50 Palestinians who must endure rigorous, never-ending interrogations, the degrading taunts of Israeli soldiers, and what they perceive to be an ongoing alienation from dominion over their own well-being.

 

 

What do these two experiences have to do with each other?  Well, besides some surface characteristics: the waiting, the long line, my possession in both cases of the sought-after passe-partout, the blur of faces as I speed by them, the delineation of privilege based on affiliation—not much, really.  One cannot really compare the experience of the Palestinians to the experience of art-fair goers.  Likewise, it would be a stretch to try to compare the battle between Palestinians and Israelis to the battle between artists and art buyers.  It would be insulting even to try.   

 

 

 

My father is a communist.  No, he’s a republican.  No, a communist.  No a republican.  (Did you know many Palestinians are communists?  I didn’t.)  He owns an El Camino, and keeps a picture of Mao on the dash-board.  He says, “I’m a member of the republican party because, what kind of left doesn’t believe in guns?”  He told me when I was a little girl, “It’s not the artists who decide what art is, it’s the art critics and the art buyers.”  They make the distinction between good and bad art and important and unimportant art by deciding how much it costs and by writing about it in well read magazines and art history text books. 

 

 

In the taxi on the way home from the airport after my flight from Israel and Palestine, my taxi driver asked me if I thought the Palestinians and the Israelis would stop fighting.  I told him I didn’t think that they would any time soon because they need each other.  They depend on each other to hate the other one.   The existence of Israel depends upon the exclusion of the Palestinians: if the Israelis let the Palestinians into Israel and it continued to remain a democracy, at the next election, Israel would become Palestine for the simple reason that there are more Palestinians than there are Jews.  For that reason, it is necessary for the Israelis that the Palestinians continue to bomb them so that they will have a reason to continue the segregation of the Palestinians.  And for the Palestinians, they depend on the Israelis for the impossible dream of Palestine—to be able to fight for something that is worth living for.  The Palestinians were offered a Palestine and they turned it down.  Because it is the dream they want and not the sad compromise of reality, and defeat. 

 

 

 

At NEXT.  I took off on my break from supervising The Green Lantern booth to have an experience of art.  After a few moments bumbling my way down carpeted aisle-ways and cubicled gallery samples, I came across “About a World” a video piece by Corinna Schnitt (Galerie Haus Schneider Uschi Kolb.  Karlslruhe).  In the piece, a dozen naked women lay scattered across a field, and a man in a suit approaches each of them respectively and attempts to enact an experience of intimacy.  With the first one he slowly lowers himself on top of her.  The second, he tries to spoon her.  It touches me.  This poor, lonely man in a suit, surrounded by sexy, naked women, none of whom will respond to his advances since they are all dead.  I couldn’t help but empathize with him, not only as a 21st Century, alienated, emotionally damaged human being, but also as a viewer of NEXT, trying systematically to get into bed with art that has been so packaged and so disseminated, like carcasses hanging in a meat market, that all my attempts at intimacy were proving futile.  You try fucking a dead girl in a field surrounded by 11 other dead girls.  I think something of the suit-man became infused into me in that dark room because I stumbled out of the space, blinking, dazed, feeling like I had lost some essential part of my subjectivity.  I have a vague recollection of floating several inches above the ground through Roots & Culture’s space.  Looking at Carmen Price’s pieces and then the giant yarn sculptures on the ground I became convinced that I had in fact started hallucinating, and that my soul was in fact becoming detached from my body.  I was wondering if someone had spiked the Grolsch. .  I remember saying to someone, “I can’t imagine a venue that is less conducive to having an experience of art”.  I passed by “Invisible Cargo” (Andrea Chung) and the smell of the spices began to infect me like a religious incantation.  I remembered the smell of those spices from somewhere… from somewhere…  but where?  Where was I?  Where am I?  My nose carried me, I passed through a room, my body almost perpendicular to the floor, my eyes transcending the barrier of material, my body invisible.  I was at the “Mexican Border” (Richard Mosse), unable suddenly to delineate between the inside and outside of the photo.  Do photos have an inside and an outside?  Do I?  Is metaphysical duality fungible?  Are national borders traspassable? Inside one of the photos, I found myself crouching on a patch of dried leaves, sundry items waffling sneakers I was not wearing, reading a passage out of The Wizard of Oz, “They continued down the Yellow Brick Road that led them to the edge of the River.  The Woodman said, ‘I will cut down some trees and make a raft.’ The scarecrow volunteered to push the raft across the river with the pole”.  It was then it occurred to me, not for the first time, that the divisions between time and space are conventional.  One hour is not contiguous with the next, space is imaginary, and the value of art is symbolic.  The art that was around me was reified, commodified, codified in system of exchange markets.  And how can art that pretends to interrogate the structures of systems of representation ever ignore its own translation into a monetary value, into a price?  What is the difference between the logic of how we conceive the value of art and the logic of how we conceive market value?  I did not see art hanging around me.  I saw goods.  Without warning or explanation, I found myself on the other side of the Merchandise Mart reading these words somewhere below the words, “The WEST FAMILY loans money”:  “The artists are working to re-represent reality, either through the building of a constructed reality, representations of reality in odd materials, scale-shifting, or the incorporation of one “reality” into another reality… the end image includes elements of the “real world””.   And with that, suddenly, I was in Jerusalem, in an image of the real world, lost in a haze of the Arab market.  Giant slabs of beef hung from the ceiling.  Long compartmentalized boxes filled with different colored spices, textiles, candies, baked goods, coffee, falafel…  I was looking for a poster I had seen the day before.  A retro style poster with an orange tint and a horizon-style drawing of mosques and other buildings with the slogon VISIT PALESTINE.  I couldn’t find it anywhere, I kept turning down odd alleys, the same cheesy bejeweled bracelets and ornately decorated backgammon boards around every corner. “Are you shopping?”  A man holding a small glass of mint tea called out to me.  “Hello my friend, come into my shop” another man, leaning upright next to a wall filled with dazzling, hanging earrings.  “Do you have a boyfriend?”  “Help me spell the word, sesame,” another man with a pencil and small pad of paper called out to me… “Special student discount” “Let me talk to you… just for a moment… just for a moment…”  I passed by a row of hanging paintings of assholes…  is my body for sale?  I idly wondered.  Who is art for?  What is art for?  Where is Palestine?  What is Palestine for?  Who is Palestine for?   The market spun around me in an unidentifiable rash of twirling, blurred colors.   I felt myself falling.  I don’t know what happened after that. 

 

 

 

When I came to, it was dark where I was.  I was alone.  There was sound but none of it distinct.  I felt a wall against my back.  My eyes fluttered open.  I was inside an installation booth, a video projected against the wall.  I must have passed out, I thought to myself.  The letters of four words were rearranging themselves supernaturally on the far wall—according to some system whose rules I did not understand.  I rubbed my eyes, and wrenched myself (not without difficulty) to my feet.  I squinted at the modulating letters, hopping and trading spaces in front of me.  It was a live action word scramble.  It took me a few moments before I realized the words were a piece by Lior Bar that was continuously spelling and unspelling the words, “Israeli Jewish White Male”.  

 

 

 

Eventually I succeeded in navigating myself back to The Green Lantern’s booth.  I honed in on it thanks to Featherproof Press’s poster-excerpt series of Zach Plague’s book, spelling the word BORING over and over again in giant letters.  Thank God for boring I thought to myself.  I stood there blinking as Caroline Picard, director of the The Green Lantern Gallery and Press tried to coax me back to reality.  “The question is,” I said, “Is art antithetical to shopping?”  “No,”  said Caroline. “That’s how you know it’s art,” said Zach.  “When it costs a lot.”  “Or,” said Mark Byrne (also from Featherproof) “When it’s free, but you can’t have it.”  

 

 

 

I remember my taxi driver, the same one who took me back from the airport from Israel asking me, “Do you believe they will ever find peace, the Israelis and the Palestinians”?  And I answered him, “Yes, of course I do.  I have to.”  

 

Lily