Saturday, August 23, 2008


I was wrong. For your reading pleasure, we now present this final post in the "Collisionworking" Series, in which Ian W. Hill offers some final thoughts on his month of performance at The Brick. As of this writing there is at least one performance left of all three shows, so we encourage you to avail yourself of the opportunity to see as many as possible!

Postscript: Final Thoughts/Influences (on Playing Ball)

One last little piece about influences . . .

In making Everything Must Go and its predecessor in the Invisible Republic series, That's What We're Here For (an american pageant), it occurred to me that they were a sum total of a line of thought that has been growing in me since childhood. A way of looking at the world that comes about from having entertainment that I loved - just 'cause it was entertaining to me - that on some level also encouraged a way of looking at the world through questioning eyes, and expressing that questioning in funny and satiric but still sometimes cutting and dark ways.

It's shown up most in EMG and TWWHF, but it's kinda there in everything I do, and now that it's become clearer to me, it's something to be focused on with more intent in future.

The Invisible Republic shows are dedicated to Harvey Kurtzman, Frank Zappa, and Ernie Kovacs, but beyond those shows, I've realized their influence more and more infects everything I do.

Kurtzman and Bill Gaines of the Mad comic book and magazine tended to downplay any notion that there was any true satiric or political content in what they did, but if pressed, they would say that if they had a message, it was basically, "Kids, don't believe what you're being told, because everyone's trying to sell you something." Which is maybe something kids should be hearing more of today.

Zappa's message was pretty much the same, though he was also a proud capitalist who enjoyed the "proper" use of advertising.

But he disliked the fakery that everyone is always told is "just part of the business, so just go along with it," resulting in things like what happens when The Mothers of Invention are told to "lip-sync" their new single on some 60s TV show:

And occasionally he could bring some of that influence to a pop culture arena:

Ernie Kovacs instilled in me a love for the inexplicably funny at a very young age (PBS ran a series of collections of his work around 1974-1975 or so), but besides things like the perfection of the Nairobi Trio . . .

He had an entire attitude that, even when selling something, made you aware of the process in an honest way while trying to entertain:

And his beautifully "off" metacommentary extended to his own credits:

I guess in the end, what I learned from these people is how to respond to the question, "Why don't you just play ball?" Which is with raised hackles and a determination to do what is right for the work, not for anybody else (which doesn't preclude selling the work, but just selling it honestly), and to focus on the little dark scurrying things that are going on behind the scenes of the big smiley faces al around us every day (but at the same time, to understand the enjoyment you can get from those big smiley faces).

Which brings me to three last videos, from the band Negativland, a group that's also been influential on me in a few ways, in terms of collage and commentary, the last few years. Here, they take on some aspects of pop culture and advertising and language in ways I've also been trying to use, in a stage context (and I quote liberally from a quote they use in the last piece in EMG).

Enjoy. But don't necessarily believe.

No comments: