Love. (comix via Beth Dean)
We’re doing 2 screenings of The Institute this month, as a homecoming from our stellar festival run! Join us and celebrate, with filmmaker discussion afterward.
7pm Tuesday May 28 @ The New Parkway, Oakland CA
7pm Wednesday May 29 @ A Secret Mission District Location, San Francisco, CA
How to get a pair of tix? Hype the movie up and let us know how much you need to be there! We’ll make it happen. See you there!
Went on a capital field trip yesterday with Myth Wrangler Haley Who to visit the Stanford D. School’s class on Redesigning Theater. Crucible luminary Michale Sturtz invited us down to make a presentation, and we got a chance to glimpse the next generation of creative makers at work and play. Then back to the Easty-Bay for clandestine cuisine and creative conception. A fine day in all. Next stop; the hidden world of Port Costa.
The PUNK PLANET Interview with Jeff Hull
by Aaron Shuman, at Mosswood Park 2002
Nonchalance is the name of an irregular army of guerrilla artists who have blanketed the streets of Oakland, California in defense of “original Oakland charm”, and Jeff Hull is the person around whom this loose collective coalesced. Hull first expressed his interest in preserving the cultural legacy of his hometown with a sticker design that took the city’s official oak tree logo and extended it’s roots, in much the same way that Oakland - one of the country’s most ethnically diverse city’s , as well as hosting one of the highest concentrations of artists - has historically extended it’s arms to migrants who can’t settle anywhere else in the Bay Area.
As his “Oaklandish” sticker became ubiquitous (and regularly bitten by other crews), Hull’s project grew in size and concept, from the Oaklandish Poster Campaign to the Oakland Love Retrospective slideshow, projecting icons from Oakland’s celebrated and criminal pasts on the sides of landmark buildings. By doing art in the streets Hull met like minded individuals to roll with, such as Kemrexx and Ref@ 1 of the Bay Area Aerosol Heritage Society, whose slideshow documentary of Bay Area graffiti, called “The Legendary Eightees,” is a hit at Nonchalance’s regular Liberation Drive-In screenings.
The range of projects emerging under the Nonchalance umbrella defeats any simplistic effort to define what Nonchalance is, but all it’s work - from the zines of Sean & Katie Aaberg, through the pirate radio, metallurgy, and photo-fuckery of Geoff St. John and the Vulcan Studios posse, to the underground arts calendar assembled by Leah Roderman - shares the dirt hustle and street moxie that define Oakland and its underground scenes.
Nonchalance events are for people who don’t like their art or their history simple, or sold to them in slick marketing campaigns, and the growth of Nonchalance - in the shadow of the city’s official 150th anniversary celebrations - suggests a dissatisfaction with the booster culture of civic uplift that prevailed during the dot.com years, and a sense of the possibilities when people connect their virtual worlds with their civic ones.
Where does your interest in public space come from?
I’ve been made aware through doing this work exactly how interested in public space I am, and how far back that goes. At first I wasn’t really thinking about the social controls over public space - I wasn’t even aware of it until I tried to do art there. I was more commenting on commercialism in culture and in our space, like the fact that the only messaging that exists in public space seems to be commercial messaging. I was trying to cover that up with cultural messaging: the Oaklandish Poster Campaign. It was also commenting on how rapidly the Bay Area was changing, and how if you’re gonna move to Oakland, or if you’re gonna develop in Oakland, just please have some knowledge of the legacy that exists here.
But when I started getting out there and trying to put the posters up, they would just be removed the very next day, or painted over with gray paint. I had been very conscious of where I was putting them up. I wasn’t gonna do them in any residential areas; I would only do it in what I called “negative urban space” - unused or underutilized space. If a store had a “For Lease” sign in its window for over a year, that’s negative urban space to me and I’m gonna put a poster up there. If it’s an underpass of a freeway with no residents or businesses there, that’s negative urban space to me, and I’m gonna use it. But even in those spaces, it would get painted over the very next day. It must be the most effective department in City Hall because they’re on it! [snaps fingers].
I realized that it’s not that there’s no art around in public because people aren’t interested in doing it, there’s no spontaneous artwork in public because it’s not allowed. It’s covered up. Realizing that compelled me to do something where people could actually get together and see something besides a billboard in public space, which led to the Oakland History slideshows and the Liberation Drive-In.
It was only through my involvement in artwork that I even became aware that public space was so controlled, and it became somewhat political at that point. Before it wasn’t totally politically motivated, in fact I wasn’t even very politically aware at that time.
How did Nonchalance get started?
Nonchalance was a domain name that I owned which I had totally other plans for. The term “divine nonchalance” or a “nonchalant” were words I came up with in the early 90’s. The people we were hanging out with were immensely talented but absolutely hapless, like they had no management of their own day-to-day lives; because of just how off-the-hook they were, spontaneous or loaded or whatever. We’d say, “they’re a nonchalant”. Like they’d just step forward into this space and the scafolding comes right into place under their feet. That’s nonchalance; you’re just stumbling through life.
That’s where we started using the word, and then I had the domain name. During the dot.com thing I was gonna do this sexy little website, but I ended up quitting doing any web stuff, and went back to graduate art school. I ended up dropping out after one semester. I quit! That’s really when Nonchalance was born. I was like, “I’m gonna buy a projector; I’m gonna do this myself instead of doing it within a program.” That was the birth of Nonchalance as an art project or a collective.
How does Nonchalance operate exactly? Is it a collective, or is it a project you’re the director of?
It’s changing. Before, it was just kinda whimsical me with the support of a lot of friends. Now we all got together and were like, “let’s do this collectively. Let’s take things to the next level, whatever that level is”. And so all these people are representing Nonchalance, and Nonchalance is representing them. Before it was just a spirit: we were all doing stuff in the same spirit. And now everybody can do whatever it is they want to do, but there’s an effort to do more collaborative works and to consolidate our identities under the the umbrella of the Nonchalance project. It’s not like we have any official or unofficial members. It’s still a loose affiliation of artists who have been somewhat anonymous up to this point. If it became too official it wouldn’t be Nonchalant. But in the future, we’re gonna investigate getting non-profit status and grants and try to get rewarded for the work we’re doing. It’s not about being underground or being legit, it’s just about how can we make this self-propelling? How can we keep doing it?
The website says Oaklandish is dedicated to “original Oakland charm”. How do you define “original Oakland charm”?
I realized that nostalgia was the biggest thing when I came here to Mosswood Playground; I could smell it. I was one of these little kids out here: I have a scar on the back of my head from trying to do a cherry drop on the monkey bars that are no longer over there. Oakland will never be the same, and I will never be the same person I was back then. Oakland’s changed, I’ve changed, and I’m motivated by this great sense of the past - about my own childhood, about an Oakland that once was.
Although we’re kind of critical of the Jerry Brown years or the dot.com influence and all those things, it’s also with a sense of irony; we know that the city is changing and it has to change, we know that we’re changing and that we have to change, and that I can’t go back to the Berkeley Square and listen to the Freaky Executives anymore. But we can celebrate the things that affected our identity. It was through living in other places that I realized how much Oakland had created my identity.
And that’s where the word “Oaklandish” comes from. It asks what are these things that are very specific to this area and this climate and this poulation? There are very specific things that I can go back and say, that’s why I’m this way! That’s why I smoke weed, or that’s why I give my male friends hugs, or that’s why I nod to people in the street. I went to LA, and I went to Chicago, and nobody wanted to give me a hug! Or in those places I couldn’t take for granted that somebody was gonna be slightly radical. And I realized that stuff was the Oakland in me - that was Oaklandish. These oak trees; the climate; this Mediterranean city; the mellow vibe. This is Original Oakland charm.
When I moved back to Oakland, it was changing really fast. I was like, “Oh my god, my hometown!” I wanted to protect it. So part of the motivation was to remind people that Oakland sucked for a long time. In 2000 people in San Francisco just started saying “Oh, we love Oakland! Oakland’s really pretty, and what great property values!’ And it’s like, oh now you like Oakland! It’s been the armpit of the Bay Area for the last 50 years, and then suddenly, everybody wants to move here. So that’s why the images of the things that scared people away from Oakland - things like the Hell’s Angels and the foot that was found in Lake Merritt - show up in the slideshow and the poster campaign. It’s like: hey, remember when Oakland sucked? Remember when it had this huge stigma? Remember when you were scared to come here?
I chose eleven figures for the poster series that represented different aspects of Oakland’s history - people that have helped not only shape the identity of the city but have had a broader influence that helped mold either American or global popular culture in a certain way. Whether it’s Julia Morgan the architect, Isadora Duncan the dancer, Larry Graham the bassist, Bruce Lee, or Dream the graffiti artist, each of these people had an influence on the identity of Oakland but also culture outside of Oakland. And that’s definitely true for the Black Panthers and the Hell’s Angels too.
But when you see them out of context - when you see them as posters on the street - it’s like unanswered questions. I’ve watched people looking at the posters, going “Who is that? What is that?” And then somebody else will start to tell a story and an actual dialogue begins.
I feel compelled to warn you, my friends, that all web content related to Games of Nonchalance will soon be removed. Please enjoy it (or save it) while you can. All toward the greater good…
Yes, the Institute Documentary is in that 1.35% of films accepted into Slam Dance International Film Festival (technically harder than getting into Sundance). We’ll be in Park City, Utah for the festivities, glad-handing with industry sorts. I can also say that some of the biggest companies in Cinema have requested preview screeners for their consideration. Stay tuned for a new interactive web site (with game-like components), and an announcement about the future of the funk.
By the way, whatever silence you may be hearing about our new project is just the quiet before the storm.
World Premiere Today!! We're making a scene!!
7x7 On Location; The Institute
Anonymous asked: Is it really true that Octavio Coleman Esquire will appear at the Oct. 11 film?
Yes. It is true.
We are pleased to announce that at The Institute public premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival there will be an exclusive appearance by our Messiah, the Supreme & Unsurpassed Octavio Coleman Esquire, in flesh and spirit. All Recondite Family Members are especially welcomed. This too; one member of the audience will be selected by Coleman Esq. for initiation into the Latitude Society (at his discretion). Truly a once in a life time opportunity. Come one and all to celebrate divine nonchalance with us, and help bring attention to this incredible film.
GET TICKETS HERE!
(Appearance to be at Thursday October 11 screening only)
Probably the most comprehensive account of the Games of Nonchalance offered yet, with all of it’s side hatches, mini episodes, and dreams within dreams. Told by a player and prominent community member who chose to pull on every thread available, revealing the truth about divine nonchalance. Ladies & Gents, I give you the Cardhouse Account. http://cardhouse.com/where/
Really nice to be included in this list of San Francisco’s most infamous alternative communities, with the Bohemian Blub and the Peoples Temple!
“To the dark horses with the spirit to look up and see, a recondite family awaits.” With this mystical promise—or perhaps sinister threat—that begins the gleefully unclassifiable The Institute, viewers are invited to enter a strange alternate-reality game in which the rules keep changing and the players cannot be trusted. Ostensibly an investigation into the Jejune Institute, a decades-old San Francisco–based underground organization dedicated to socio-reengineering and the deliberately hazy concept of divine nonchalance, this ingenious whatsit is at once a wonderfully strange mystery yarn, a satire of Werner Erhard–era self-actualization movements and a celebration of only-in-NorCal counterculture mania. In his feature debut, Bay Area filmmaker Spencer McCall blends fact and fiction, incorporating found footage, comic-strip panels, clever motion graphics and a dizzily dislocating sense of straight-faced obfuscation within his fascinating exposé. Adventurous viewers will delight in this Pynchonesque fantasia on secret gaming subsectors, human force fields, rainbow-haired improvisationalists and utopian dreamers (real people or actors, you decide).
Get tix here: http://prod3.agileticketing.net/websales/pages/info.aspx?evtinfo=41782~abd343d4-8a7b-4bcf-85f6-7bbcdc551e25&epguid=d4b70ab8-d449-43be-821c-7e19af4304cf
Not exactly a movie review or preview, per se. An odd piece. Read it for yourself.
I awoke, face in the carpet, my personal affects strewn across his Battery Park apartment floor. He stood in the hallway, a blurry silhouette… “I believe this is what you came for”. It was the Evolution Griller VHS cassette, a compilation of work by The RAMMELLZEE.
This was the culmination of a multi-year quest on my part. I had first contacted RAMM via the Gothic Futurism website in 2000. During this time I was producing the Oaklandish Liberation Drive-In (an outdoor pirate video screening in then under-utilized urban spaces, which proved to spearhead a global movement of similar underground events). I needed a copy of the “Alpha’s Bet”, a short animated clip that demonstrated RAMM:ELL:ZEE’s arcane visual/linguistic code, an abstract hip-hop proclamation of the beginning of the end (of the beginning) of times. To me this was an audio-visual artifact that laid the foundation for an entire methodology of modern expressionism, and I desperately needed to share it with West Coast audiences.
Who was the RAMM:ELL:ZEE? For those unaware; You can look to his work as a pioneering NYC graffiti artist in the 70’s and 80’s, who later went on to international gallery prominence with his bizarre canvases, revealing layers of numeric / linguistic significance. As a visual artist he later brought graffiti styles into the 3rd dimension with his Letter Racers and other sculptural work. You could look to his endeavors as an MC, featured in the seminal movie WildStyle, or influential 12” single Beat Bop (produced by Jean Michel Basquiat) or his later LP “The Bi-Conicals of the RAMMELLZEE”. There, too, was his presence as a performance artist conjuring a cast of sci-fi street characters, all represented by himself adorned in elaborate costumes assembled from garbage collected from years of scavenging. These voices were most compelling to me, as they expressed a universe of Demi-Gods ever ready in metaphysical battle stance, prepared to wage war for supremacy within the network of symbols. But to truly comprehend the RAMM:ELL:ZEE you would need to decipher his lengthy manuscripts, such as the Iconic Treatise on Iconoclast Panzerizm, which provided great teachings for me in the ancient subjects of coding & encryption, numero-linguistics, initiation, monasticism, and the syntax of weaponry to sculpt consciousness.
In abstruse language via e-mail he demanded $300 for the 3 minute video segment, an amount that at the time was simply beyond my means. But later, when I was in New York on a kind of pilgrimage to characters surviving the post-punk era, he agreed to a meeting. On the phone he gave me his address, and I came directly in a cab from the West Village.
“Bobby Peru!” I heard his voice call to me from down the hall of his apartment building, where he stood in B-Boy stance, and where I was simply disoriented. “Do you like vodka or rum?”, he asked in throaty intonation. “Vodka”, I answered, finding my stride as I followed him quickly to the local market where he procured a fifth. As we entered his apartment, he paused and said “Careful of the fumes”.
I sat beside him on the couch as he worked on a medium sized sculpture, fussing over the position of a small detail on the arm. The television set blared chaotic white noise, while Metallica’s black album blasted from the stereo. We traded Q&A about each others work… “you’ve done your research”, he said, perusing the pages of the Oakslander Lakeside Gazette vol I & II, written by Sean Aaberg and myself. I lit up a jaint from the satchel procured earlier from Ricky Powell in the village, and we were off and running. I suggested he was “intentionally underexposed” and he nodded, wild eyed, “Exactly! Exactly!”. We compared wedding rings and talked about our families. “You drink good!” he exclaimed as he refilled my pint glass of vodka and ice. All the while, as he tweaked his sculpture, he rubbed bits of glue into the carpet beneath us. I didn’t quite grasp it at the time, but now I understand this was his bent… huffing as he worked, absorbing the fumes of the very cement he utilized in his creations. There were moments when I was a simple fan-boy, embarrassing myself with the ignorance of my questions, and other moments when we seemed to be just friends rocking out to metal, acting out the lyrics, and supremely tripping off the small universe around us.
It snuck up on me, and I found myself passed out. I remember awaking periodically, with him too, unconscious, on the couch. I rose, unbalanced, gathering my things… he offered me the cassette, surprisingly he remembered the reason I’d contacted him those years before. I sloppily accepted, tossing the VHS tape in my bag, then making my way stumbling to the streets, eventually finding a cab. The world rotated around me, and I could barely speak the address to my hotel. You know when a New York cabbie asks, “Are you o.k.?”, that you’re in a sorry state. When I made it back to the Rivington, Angela said that she had never seen anyone so disoriented, which, for me is really saying a lot.
Over the next few months I periodically corresponded with RAMM, whom I since acknowledged with his given birth name. I sent care packages with bits & pieces, artifacts; small plastic anatomical models, the media speakeasy video, obscure figurines and the like, which I imagined him utilizing in his sculptures.
Then one day, around 2005, I received a phone call. “Hi Jeff, it’s Carmella. You know that cassette that RAMM gave you? That was the only copy… can you please send us a version?”. I knew then that RAMM was a true Nonchalant… he had freely given away the only copy of a video cassette documenting years of his inspired creations.
However underexposed and still misunderstood, I wanted to write this story down as a tribute to the primary creative influence in my life & work. Besides conceptually being legions beyond other artists of his era, the RAMM:ELL:ZEE was a gracious man. Long live the Equation.