As an artist newly interested in the digital video format, I have been exploring the works of artists both in analog film and digital video to better understand possibilities within the medium. Video art is a kind of tiny nest egg within the broader category of experimental cinema, though it is video art and visual music that I am generally most interested in. Video art has great crossover with conceptual art and performance art, as well as features of pop art and abstract art, among others, though I won’t be focusing on video art in a broader sense here. Visual music films include visual representations to go along with music (like squares, squiggles, flashing colors), as well as silent films with visuals that follow musical patterns. Utilizing video synthesizers, VJ-ing techniques, and software like Max are a few ways to experiment with and produce works within the realm of visual music.Here I have selected ten of my favorite short film and video pieces. The structure of some visual music pieces is not dissimilar to how I arranged my own mental picture about music while it was playing when I was a kid. Not everything here falls into the visual music category, but they share strong shape and color elements.
It may or may not be hyperbole to say that after I heard those opening words to “Dead Radio”, the first song on Teenage Snuff Film, there was no going back: my life isn’t over yet, it could be too early to say. It was a powerful moment though: subtle drums; a mournful violin; subterranean bass and, of course, that unmistakable guitar sound. Like Ennio Morricone soundtracking a teen drama directed by David Lynch. Or some equally trite metaphor: there’s simply nothing like it, and it’s a good job there’s no shortage of words as I recklessly waste them trying to describe the impact it had on me. I played the opening track a few times, then on to track two: Breakdown (and then…)
|Photo by Andrew J. Cosgriff|
I’m sharper than God in light
I am dangerous, I cut like the sharpest knife
I’m going nova, I hope I can hold her in”
I hate Talk Talk. I love These New Puritans, who always get compared to them, and I get the feeling I should like them but something about them just makes me see red. Mark Hollis’ quavering voice just reminds me of the choreographed “emotiveness” of a lot of today’s stadium indie groups who coincidentally like to namedrop Talk Talk. It’s not his fault and I’m sure he wouldn’t like me either. However, as songwriters they’re clearly excellent and Rowland’s version of “Life’s What You Make It” illustrates that. I refused to believe it at first but sure enough that prowling, sleazy bassline is present in the original amid the rolled up jacket sleeves and gated reverb snares. However, Howard’s braying guitar asides and sepulchral vocal lifts it into a whole other realm. Like Johnny Cash’s covers of NIN’s “Hurt” or Bonnie Prince Billy’s “I See a Darkness”, this recording takes a song recorded by an artist in their youth and alters it. Here, the title repeated throughout is the bitter statement of a man languishing on a waiting list for treatment for grave health problems of his own making through years of destroying his body, regretful but still sneering at the idea of preaching to anyone about how they should be living their life.
The last word on the subject, for now, is this documentary by Ghost Pictures where various people who loved and/or worked with Rowland eulogise him. The subject matter is tragic enough but it’s really hammered home by the endless procession of icons (Henry Rollins, Lydia Lunch, Nick Cave, etc.) looking absolutely shattered, struggling for words to describe the man’s talents. This is no hagiography, though: it looks that way at first, but in the second half his addictions are examined unsparingly. A boy who was, effectively, Rowland’s adopted son speaks movingly of his relationship with him in the early years of his life. Footage of him in the hospital at the end of his life contrasts with him onstage in The Birthday Party: a reverse chronology from a sad, broken presence to the force of nature grappling for the spotlight with Nick Cave. However it’s not all that clear cut: even at the end of his life he was a force to be reckoned with and knew how to command a stage, and even as a healthier young man his fragility was apparent and unconcealed. Even at the end, he left us wanting more.
Originally posted on the previous incarnation of Dennis Cooper’s Blog.
“Ball-jointed doll” is a descriptor that can be applied to any doll, past or present, made with balls inserted into the joint sockets for human-like movement. However, today the acronym BJD (sometimes ABJD) tends to refer to ball-jointed dolls produced in Asia, or those made in a similar style to such dolls. These dolls often function as heavily customizable art objects for rather than toys. BJDs come in a variety of styles – realistic, anime, anthropomorphic – and sizes, from a tiny 4 inches (12 cm) to 27.5 inches (70 cm) and up. Since they are handcrafted, BJDs can be expensive, ranging from $200 to $500 and more, even before including clothing, hair, and costs like custom face design (“face-ups”), which are occasionally available as add-ons from the company or can be purchased separately. Big-name BJD companies include Volks, SOOM, LUTS, DollZone, and Iple House.
My introduction to BJDs was through following a Tumblr user called puppet who has been sharing photos of a variety of dolls since 2008. Being a fan of the big-eyed Blythe is what originally had brought me to puppet’s site, but soon I was also intrigued by these other types of realistic-looking dolls that I had never seen anywhere before. It didn’t fully occur to me that there were male BJDs available as well as the female dolls I was used to seeing until browsing around last year and finding ~Deleted Dollshe*’s site, where the dolls look like male fashion models and are photographed well in very human poses and natural environments.
The idea of waify, ethereally pretty boy-dolls that I could customize to my liking really appealed to my own aesthetic viewpoint, the more that I thought about it. I thought back to how I had wished as a kid to have a guy doll that actually looked cute to me, that didn’t look like Barbie’s Ken. Before long, I was conducting research on the Den of Angels forums and saving up for a Dollshe BJD, making my purchase in June and, over the past few months, slowly assembling a wardrobe for “Raphael”, my Dollshe Hound. Now that I have my own, I appreciate ever-more the painstaking process that certain other BJD owners go through for their photo sessions and crafting just the doll they are seeking.
Here I have gathered 25 of my favorite male BJD pictures. There are some people, even within the hobby, that find certain dolls a little uncanny; I have chosen to deliberately emphasize this unsettling aspect with many of the photos I selected. There is quite a diverse range of looks for these dolls and a number of eerie looks and settings, along with the more conventionally attractive, represented. All photos are Creative Commons, linked and attributed to the source.
Originally posted on the previous incarnation of Dennis Cooper’s Blog.
You can view Musical References in Dennis Cooper’s Books over at Rate Your Music and listen to the corresponding Spotify playlist here. Following the text below I have also selected a few music-referencing passages from Cooper’s books and added music videos to supplement them. Horror Hospital Unplugged was particularly enjoyable to take a closer look at for this purpose, because there are many references tucked away that I missed on first, second, and even third passes through, from the integration of lyrics in the background of scenes, to the atmosphere of the record store and bedroom shelves packed with albums.
I am already an obsessive list-maker and, relatedly, a library tech — imagine my delight at finding the best-of lists tucked away at the back of Ugly Man! — so I desired to fill this perceived gap as soon as I found out that someone hadn’t done this already. But I also felt it important due to the reasons why his writing, as a whole, is important to me personally and how I came to read these books in the first place.
I found out about Dennis Cooper around 2009 through this list of Richey Edwards’ Favorite Books, where Frisk was listed. [Richey Edwards: a member of the Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers whose history was posted about here at DC’s in 2012] I had never heard of Cooper or this book before, and became intrigued. Shortly thereafter I read Frisk as an eBook and Closer as a check-out from my college library, without reading any summary or review beforehand – no clue what to expect. Afterward, I didn’t know whether I was supposed to be haunted or enthralled. Not until much later did I decide that it was perfectly okay to hold both in my head at the same time.
It is significant that I began reading Dennis Cooper’s books around the same time I was finally coming to terms with my gender and sexual identity. In short, I don’t identify as a man or a woman, but I do strongly identify with gay male sexuality. It occurred to me that the subject matter of many of these books reminded me of the content (rather than the writing style I lacked and still lack: the immaculate, enviable crispness of words Cooper often uses to great effect) of my own bizarre scribblings in my teenage years. Reading an author like Dennis Cooper has somehow made me more comfortable with my identification and creative modes of expression than more positive bastions of “hope” or “transformation”. This is likely not despite but because of the preponderance of devastatingly pretty boys in ethically problematic situations. So much of what “squicks” some people out about his books are exactly what has drawn me in, because I am somehow reminded of what both mixed me up and interested me about sexuality in my past and something that is at times uncomfortable to recognize that is still inside of myself. This is probably the reason why it took me about two years from reading Closer and Frisk to make the decision to go on to read more.
And here we come to music. It has not been unusual for me to follow an interest in a particular artist to their own influences and interests. This not only helps me better understand and appreciate the interest that I started with, but expands my own tastes. In the case of the Manic Street Preachers, getting into them greatly expanded my literary reference pool. Through Cooper I have, perhaps inevitably, circled back around to music again through my tracking of these references. Music has been long established as a lens that I can better understand the world through, especially in the realm of making sense of emotions. Dennis Cooper, through his use of music, makes it clear that it is not just a plot prop: he loves music himself, and so it isn’t surprising that it often plays a significant role in the world/s of his characters, including at times characters with music taste dissimilar to his own.
When I read Dennis Cooper, it doesn’t resonate at all with some sense of self-hatred or whatever else people who think his writing is invariably about “shock value” feel is there. For me personally, reading Dennis Cooper’s books challenge me to interrogate the concepts of chaos, beauty, masculinity, and lust, and on a more intimate side, there is a connection with my own sphere of self-identity and attraction. That he does not hesitate to integrate his kickass music taste when it is fitting to do so makes the journey through this dark landscape that much sweeter.
Continue reading Dennis Cooper’s Blog: Marilyn Roxie presents … The Music in Dennis Cooper’s Books