Wednesday, October 11, 2006

tENTATIVELY a CONVENIENCE @ Film Kitchen

Yesterday was the second Tuesday of the month, and that means Film Kitchen at Melwood Filmmakers has once again come and gone. This film series presents local and regional filmmakers and encourages submissions in both video and film. Last night the featured creator was local artist "tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE". (Because of the unwieldly pseudonym, he'll be referred to as "tac" for our purposes.)

Born in Baltimore, "tac" is a performance artist, author, and political activist. He has been associated with the Church of the SubGenius, and indeed was the co-director of their third annual convention. Some of his self-descriptions include "psychopathfinder", "practicing promotextual", "sexorcist" and "homonymphomaniac". He has operated under aliases including, but not limited to, "Luther Blisset", "Monty Cantsin", "Karen Eliot" and "anonymous". To judge from his appearance, "tac" has entered middle age... He cultivates a shabby-chic, "Bozo the Clown"-on-casual-day look. It is clear that he is comfortable on-stage.

Last night, "tac" kicked off the program by reading from his new book compilation entitled "Footnotes". The introduction describes how he attributed descriptions for himself and his friend in their high school year book. These consisted of words chosen almost randomly from whatever books were available in their English class, and attached into non-sequiter strings. He proceeded to deconstruct the descriptions, and reconstruct their meanings word-by-word. I found this a bit forced, yet mildly amusing. There were lots of asides as he read, and he remarked that he was afraid of losing his audience. I had to grab a couple of smoke breaks, but I did find him entertaining, and I wanted to see what else he had for us.

Ultimately, people were there for the films. The bulk of his presentation consisted of the 34-minute-long documentary, "B.T.O.U.C.", in which "tac" revisits his younger anarchic days. He and a few friends used to climb down into the Baltimore Subway tunnels, spray-paint the walls, and have parties. The denouement of club activities occurred when "tac" discovered two decapitated dogs along the underground tracks, strung them up by their hindquarters, stuck glowsticks in their anuses, and lit them on fire. This was all in the service of some anti-copyright ritual in response to a tongue-in-cheek Gary Panter comicbook. "tac" capped off the performance by getting naked and swinging the carcasses against his head. Fortuitously, the scene was reported to the police, and "tac" was arrested by the transit cops.

The fallout from his antics was a whole lot of press, which "tac" seemed to revel in. He was convicted on trespassing and other minor crimes, and received a year of probation and a $20 fine for his efforts. But he seemed to gain a lot of respect among Church of the Subgenius members.

"tac" also showed us an excerpt of a party he orchestrated wherein every participant was limited to using a single word throughout the event. He made a 12-minute documentation of the night, and had it presented to a room full of art students. They were asked by their professor to write response papers. They did not know that their reactions would be passed on to the artist. He was initially taken aback by their hostility, but he recovered by using them in a book, along with his commentary on the students' papers. He read us selections from the resulting title- "Reactionary Muddle America". "tac" pulls no punches in assailing the close-mindedness and presumptions of the students.

It seemed to me that "tac" might have been able to anticipate the reception he received from the students. His absurdist, dada-inflected works seem meant to provoke defensive reactions. That's not to say that they can't be enjoyed- but certainly they require a certain lack of formalist expectations. Even within the theatre last night, their was significant attrition. I would estimate that about a third of the audience slipped out. Having noted that fact, I must say that I consider "tac" a local asset. His pranks may not all pan out, but they seem consistently compelling nonetheless. Along with a hint of disgust he reserves for the mainstream arts consumer, he doles out a heaping helping of humor, a bit of self-deprecation, and a rabid appetite for playing with language. I'll be looking forward to his next project.

2 Comments:

Anonymous marc said...

dave,
i've heard some people refer to him as "tent"...

5:18 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Yeah,

I considered using that, but "tac" was shorter, and somehow seemed more balanced.

7:38 PM  

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