Monthly Archives: January 2012

Bricolage and the Open Toolbox of Culture

This brief bipartite sojourn is a story about the peculiar nature of one of the most commonplace (yet subversive) forms of visual culture and artistic production: collage. It goes without saying that it’s a common tool amongst the creative literacy of artists / designers / illustrators / musicians / writers, however when one drills a bit deeper, it appears that this very human form of artistic representation and production has more to it than meets the eye. The first part is specific art-historical snapshots (as a bit of background) before arriving at the heart of the matter.

Part 1: Bricolage: Assemblage and Collage

In the case of Dadaist artists and poets, the protagonists were a mere handful of people committed to the same umbrella purpose of protesting against the mass carnage of the first world war – by exposing society’s moral decay as a form of political radicalism. Dada was essentially a movement that was anti-art, as it attempted to reduce the process of creating art to the primacy of spontaneous activity or stream of consciousness thought in order to mock or ridicule as an assault on established conventions in society.

Instead of just deploring the war, the Dadaists took an ideological stand. Theirs was an assault on the complacency of their audience, an introduction of chaos into a life in which mass slaughter was being carefully undertaken by warring nations. The movement was founded in 1916 in Zurich, a neutral city in the middle of a war-torn Europe, by a group of exiles from countries on both sides of the conflict. Some were draft dodgers; most were pacifists; all found refuge on Swiss soil and were outraged by the slaughter-taking place on all sides. The centerpiece for all this artistic activity was called the Cabaret Voltaire, which was founded by Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings.

Dadameise

Some two months later, under circumstances about which the participants themselves have never agreed, the name “Dada” was chosen for the movement, which was growing out of the cabaret’s activities. The most popular version of the story is that the word was picked at random by Richard Huelsenbeck from a French-German dictionary after sticking a knife into it[1]. This assault on logic by Huelsenbeck was to typify the chaotic process in which the artists used to create their work. As Tristan Tzara had revealed, the word ‘Dada’ has various meanings across a number of different languages; it’s most common usage derived from French, which is a child’s name for a hobbyhorse.

It would be hard for us to find much that was overtly political in the early Dada performances and publications, but from the beginning the movement dedicated itself to attacking the bourgeois cultural values of the time, which its members believed had led to the world war. The tools for this attack, radical at the time, are familiar to us all as the most basic concepts of the modern arts, which are: chance, collage, abstraction, audience confrontation, eclectic typography, sound and visual poetry and simultaneity. This was attempted through experimenting with automatism, modern technology, anarchism, oriental philosophy, Freudian psychoanalysis, Jungian psychoanalysis, eroticism, Marxist dialectics, (investigations into truths of philosophy by systematic reasoning) as well as many other approaches. Essentially Tristan Tzara’s ambitions were nihilistic in nature, as they involved the abolition of all traditions. Some would argue that he was utopian in his beliefs, as he may have thought that all of these efforts ‘may wipe the slate’ clean so to speak, as a form of political liberation.

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Turkish Mockbusters from the 80’s!

I was first introduced to the genre of Turkish blockbuster spin-off movies by a French friend – a mustachioed punk rocker who worked as a blacksmith in Southern France.  He also displayed a penchant for good humor and bad taste. To be precise, doom-metal and sludge-core which he deemed to be the heaviest and slowest music around; his aunt’s extreme chilli sauce which he treated like a dangerous explosive weapon (“just one drop will do, and no more”); and of course C-grade and exploitation movies from the the Philippines, Turkey and everywhere in-between.  This guy was not a man of half measures, and his passions were many.  On one of our occasional swap-meets of strange music and stranger films he gave me a copy of Turkish Star Wars and warned: “It’s so bad it’s good!”  He is also a man that does not lie.

This was my awakening to the world of Turkish films and sequels bent on riding the wave of popular 80’s Hollywood films. Turkish Star Wars (otherwise known as The Man Who Saves the World) crudely moves between original scenes of the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star, before cutting to low budget shots of desert monsters in cardboard suits and tin foil alien-bots fighting what can only be assumed as Turkish-styled Jedi.   To accompany the blatant use of the Indiana Jones soundtrack is a ridiculous plot that confuses the ‘hard-to-understand’ with ‘makes-no-sense-whatsoever’.

Turkish Superman’s low budget and god-awful special effects transform the hero in to a pervy strongman who prefers to go it on foot more than fly (to cut costs of course).  The fight scenes render him more like a stone cold Terminator than an agile superhero.  The film’s plot ends up featuring more kidnappings, henchmen, and suspense than you would otherwise expect.  It’s a story where the villain makes that painful mistake of setting up a trap for the hero, revealing his plans, and then not sticking around to make sure he is successfully exterminated.  With this in mind it would only make good sense to use that spy vs spy tune off the James Bond soundtrack.

Years later I am still making my way through the psychedelic world of these foreign fakes and movie mash ups.  The range is extensive.  The content hilarious.  Recommended for summer mooching. These films are a friendly reminder that the world is not so boring and that strange and colorful things can emerge out of every circumstance.

If you don’t know where to start, I’ve made some recommendations for you to begin your journey.

 

Turkish Star Wars (The Man Who Saves the World)
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7069307816427160377

 

Turkish Superman

 

Turkish Rambo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMnSX4lmbdk

 

Turkish Star Trek

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7185067049150068960

 

Turkish Exorcist

 

 

 

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