08 Feb Art, Politics, Family
Cake Sleepyhead from rumur on Vimeo.
I have a lot going on right now. I’m trying to juggle promoting old films, and newer films, restoring older films and records, and presenting semi-old films, while at the same time trying to start new ones. I’m also trying to deal with some photo stuff, some travel, and being a parent. Due to this somewhat overwhelming division of focus I took a walk this morning to clear my head before sitting down to work. As I walked I was thinking about art and its relative relevance. I was asking myself why “Half-Cocked” is important and trying to figure out how to articulate that. Connected to that was thoughts about why the re-issue of my band’s records matters- and what it all means to me. On some level, 25 years removed from having made that work I was thinking about what it meant then – and who it meant it to- as well as what it means now and for whom it might be meaningful. The thing about art is that the best art helps us to escape from the present while at the same time gives us the distance to be more present- to understand what’s going on with a bit more perspective. In some sense both the band and the film are a bit insular, part and parcel of a scene that turned it’s back on the larger culture. Neither really wanted the world to embrace them, and they got their wish. At the same time, both were neither nor. Sleepyhead wasn’t a punk band, and we weren’t a pop band, nor were we a pop punk band. We weren’t all that transgressive, but we weren’t all that straight either. The same is true of “Half-Cocked”. While we loved “Over the Edge” and wanted to make a “teen riot film” in some ways it’s as much John Hughes as it is anything else. Like most of our work it’s a little to tame for the underground to fully embrace, and just off enough for the straights to dismiss as weird.
In Paste magazine yesterday they premiered a stream of a song from Communist Love Songs. In the blurb it mentioned that we were largely a forgotten band- This is true- especially so as we were pre-internet and the label that released our records disappeared so we are not on digital platforms. While we were part of a community of bands and artists our work never got out in a big way. To counteract our invisibility I started to make thrown together videos a few years ago. These are not official sleepyhead videos– they are just my way of making the music shareable. I didn’t overthink them- I just tried to grab up materials at hand and let things flow.
Honestly, I don’t believe I sat down and even listened to the lyrics of the song when I made a video for “Cake” from our 1994 album Starduster (one of the ones being re-issued). While I heard them at the time, like all art, they have a different meaning now as time has passed. For this video I grabbed four sets of images- my daughters interacting on a couch, trucks on a highway overpass in Seattle that felt like they were straight out of Richard Scary’s Busytown, video from a shoot I did at the Starn bros studio for a show of their work in Italy, and footage from Occupy which was going on when I made this video. I didn’t think about how the images related to the words but instead how they related to each other. To me it’s interesting to how they relate to what I was thinking about this morning before I looked for a video to post.
When I thought about the relevance of “Half-Cocked” this morning I thought about myself at the time that we made it. I worked crappy jobs in order to afford to play in a band. Music was everything to me. As a photographer I documented the world I was a part of and it had great meaning to me- if not to the larger world. Then we made the film we wanted to capture that energy. The film didn’t resonate with film people at the time but it was a surreal experience to show it in rock clubs for the community it was a part of. Even in that world it wasn’t fully embraced. A lot of people found it boring and pretentious. I think it was a bit hard for the people in it as well; to see oneself projected as a simulation, a kind of facsimile, somewhere between document and actor, is going to be difficult. When someone else makes images of us we lose control in some sense.
The question I had this morning was “does this work even matter when there is so much chaos going on in the world?” This was partly a function of thinking about the screening coming up, and my efforts to let people know about it. We have so much noise in our worlds right now. As a nearly 50-year-old parent, I barely leave the house. Much of the time I hear about things after they’ve happened or simply miss them because I have to make dinner for kids or pick them up for play practice. The same is true for the nearly 50-year-old audience for this film. Frankly, I’ve been having some difficulty getting up the energy to work recently. I wake up with all kind of ideas of things that feel necessary to put down and by the time I get in front of the computer, the thing that felt pressing starts to feel pointless. In that sense, whacking out words about art I was involved with 25 years ago starts to feel like some form of narcissist masochism. No one really cared the right, why should they care now. Except, I cared then, and I do care now. I just feel a bit silly about it. Shouldn’t I be in the capital filming the poor people’s campaign….. except I did do that, and I made a film about it, and it’s pretty hard to get people to give a shit. #truth – It is important to look back at this work and think about what it says about then- and what it says about now- and what it says about what we care about. Art is important. Politics are important. Family/community is important. Find a balance between the three is essential
When I watched the video this morning I was struck by how I had mashed up the innocence of youth with the profound reality of what Occupy represented to me. The footage used is simple, just documentation, not action. That is juxtaposed with the seemingly benign and beautiful organization of commerce in action in Seattle, and the chaos of the Starn’s big bamboo (and the other kind of art commerce that it represents). Then there’s the lyrics, which illustrate how our internal conflicts manifest themselves through stilted communication and mixed messages. The way these images clash together, dovetailed with how my thoughts about art and life were banging together this morning. Politics, Art, Family- trying to find the balance every damn day. I do know that “Half-Cocked” matters, as does the sleepyhead work. It mattered to me then, giving my life a sense of purpose, and it matters to me now. I believe that it also matters to others, and for that I am grateful.