Wild in the Streets
MOCA's first big show of 2009 is an indispensible retrospective of Dan Graham, the under-appreciated genius of conceptualism. Graham is possibly best known for an early work, Homes for America, a slideshow of New Jersey tract homes that predictably turns up in surveys of conceptualism. His full oeuvre is a lexicon of conceptual practice, spanning interests in architecture, suburbia, privacy, poetry, video, rock music, and stream of consciousness. The show's most unexpected twist must be Graham's designs for an opera based on the shagalicious 1968 film Wild in the Streets. Produced as a puppet musical (with video loops by Tony Oursler and Paul McCarthy and a score by Rodney Graham and Sonic Youth), it travelled to several venues in the U.S. and Europe under the title "Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty." (Pictured, at Walker Art Center, 2006.) LA Opera, are you looking for a recession-friendly production?
The original film, starring Richard Pryor, Shelley Winters, and Hal Holbrook (uh, plus a lot of young people), was a post-summer-of-love meditation on the ascendant youth culture. Tagline: "If you're thirty, you're through!" Max Frost (played by Christopher Jones, a painter/actor who said he had an affair with the Roman Polanski-impregnated Sharon Tate before her murder by the Manson family, and who turned down the role of Zed in Pulp Fiction) is a 24-year-old presidential candidate who doses the U.S. Congress with LSD to get them to lower the voting age to 14. Once he wins power, he leads "the most truly hedonistic society the world has ever known" and ships off the over-thirties to re-education camps.
Best line in the movie (in any movie?): Shelley Winters, as she's arrested for being "overage": "No, no, no, I'm young! I'm young! I'm VERY young! I'm VERY YOUNG!"
And genius?! Please!!! That is seeing the connection between supposedly disparate things, and showing the relationships, bringing as one what truly is. Nothing is spearate, only mans limited mind, where conceptualism is born and died. Our brains are limited, weak, filled with desires born of chemical and electric impluses, synapses firing randomly, always in the defense of the individual. And so false. Life is more, it is OUT there, not inward. Finding peace and oneness with the world is arts aim, defining who WE are, Exploring Nature, searching for that purpose in life and art known as god.
Conceptualism is self glorification, the individual over all, when it is but a tiny and weak thing. And at the heart of the current hubris which has laid us low once again, a collapse of our own creation, and arrogance. And so not Art.
art collegia delenda est
time to put aside childish things