Unfortunately I still have no idea what this actually is


(Hi Shinsuke. Will this image and song sound like the music in the video? Thank you, you are a genius!)

Kris Weston asked me to design some vinyl art for a very interesting record etching process he wanted to use for some fund-raising dub plates, as outlined in these links (1, 2, 3). I some some old, amazing christian eschatological insanity I found while cleaning up my Grandmother’s attic early last year, then Kris sent off some music files and the visual design to Shinsuke and Koji, who then etched some records and sent them to me. So I suppose these are one-of-a-kind “Thrash” demo LPs (milled into some heavy, very thick material that I don’t think is vinyl), one side of which plays music, the other plays intermittent sine wave beeps and glitches, as informed by the etched artwork.

The question remains: does the etching process allow for the music to be encoded in the grooves or not? Because after many, many language translation and email correspondence travails, Shinsuke himself said that the art side will sound like beeps when played, even though the articles made it seem that the etching is a non destructive process, i.e., that the result is playable art. Shinsuke wrote:

絵が描かれるための音の変化は音楽としての変化にくらべより大きな変化です。スクラッチの時のフェーダーの激しい動き以 上の音のオンオフが必要です。


However! After running the app, I feel like there is still some misunderstanding… there is clearly an option to use an audio file instead of a sine wave, and the app asks to save a file when it has been run… AND the audio file is slightly corrupted from the version that was input, meaning that at least something is happening  (Unfortunately, even if this redeeming fact turned out to be true, any audible corruption is a deal killer for Kris). So which is it… can the artwork side of the vinyl play music or not? We may not ever find out, because Shinsuke has already been so extremely generous with his time and resources, and since we got to be cringing every time we had another untranslatable question for him… we just don’t want to bother him anymore about it.


Dale Cooper & Dictaphones LP arrived today!

P10201801 P10201811

Very privileged to have my art used as the cover for a brilliant album by Dale Cooper and the Dictophones.

Mary Tapogna sold the original of this painting years ago to someone she hasn’t seen since; the subject is very long-time close friend ‘Vati. Out of all the pieces I’ve ever painted, only twice have I ever used a source photo that I myself didn’t take… and this happens to be one of them– so I really feel like I can’t take too much credit for it since it’s essentially a dead copy of an amazing photo by Vati’s brother Kris Locke.

Chris Marker, Sans Soleil, 1982

A Chris Marker photograph from the Paris Metro

Perhaps a central figure in my small, exclusive pantheon of household gods is Chris Marker, whom no one, I think, should characterize only as “French filmmaker” as is usually done. For me, his Stendhal syndrome inducing film essay Sans Soleil has more in common with The Sagrada Família than with any mere film known to me– its insightfulness, erudition, effortless, uninhibited subjectivist intellectual arabesque, free of pretension, is astounding and overwhelming (for some people apparently, it also takes 144 years to finish). Monique and I hosted a humble Marker film festival at Manette a few years ago, but contemplating this film in particular I find myself falling into a kind of consciousness I only ever experience when waking from the rarest, most disturbing dreams, where, I believe, certain inhibitory faculties of my brain are not online… I’m a different person completely without the cognitive filters of waking life standing guard, thinking and feeling what is normally not possible for me to feel, surveying a vast, hostile existential terrain in all directions.

To others, Sans Soleil is a travelogue.  In any case it is a heavy vessel of zeitgeist– the film grain and stock, the confluent imagery of early 1980s Japan, the washes of characteristically dissonant FM synthesis. 1982 now seems very faint– I was only around 8 years old then– this now long-distant realization of futurism (this is an idea desperate for a Markerian neologism) is like an autumnal chill. In the culture of we-who-think-we-understand-a-little-of-Marker’s-work, though we can never be very sure of it, there is a half-joke that he is a time-traveler….

There is a system of synchronicity around Marker. In one of my favorite parts of the film, the protagonist “writes” the narrator that the wild german shepherds frolicking on the beaches of the Cape Verdean Isle of Sal seemed to him to be unusually active… only later does he hear a BBC radio broadcast speaking of this being the first time in 60 years that the Year of the Dog meets the element of water.

(I doubt anyone reading this far will need reminding that something doesn’t have to be “true” to be interesting.)

In the few months before I left Memphis in early 2002, as I was trying to discover as much about Marker as I could, having not seen any of his other work, I began to be included myself in this system of synchronicity. I played much of Sans Soleil on my WEVL radio show Gray December, and looked everywhere I could to find films I hadn’t seen– I found La Joli Mai at the library on VHS tape– but one day I went into an independent video store called Black Lodge to see if I could find the supposedly important film, La Jetée. I walked in and asked one of the two men standing there about it. They looked at each other in disbelief… the store did not have a copy I was told… but a friend of his had been there only five minutes before to loan the store a copy… and he was still holding it…! If this had been a film like Star Wars that he was holding, or a contemporary Hollywood box-office hit, this would not be difficult to imagine. But La Jetée?

But something more wonderful than even this happened not long after. Perhaps a week or two before coming to Portland, Judy, station manager at WEVL in Memphis, forwarded an email to me that was sent by a first time listener to my show, poet and electronic music composer Eric Tessier. We talked a bit about music via email and decided to meet at a restaurant called La Montagne… a former art student and friend tended bar there (search for “Elizabeth S.”). Eric ordered cranberry juice with some difficulty… then we talked about music and film, his wife Michelle being a professor of French New Wave film-making– so I brought up Chris Marker and probably spoke about Sans Soleil much like I have thus far in this post, speaking in particular of the film in a musical context because of my intense feelings for the Isao Tomita soundtrack and audio by Antoine Bonfanti. It was a shock to meet someone who understood what I was talking about. And that was the last time I have ever seen Eric.

A few months later I had been in Portland for some time… he wrote me he had returned to La Montagne one night and overheard French being spoken at a nearby table– so he introduced himself and fell into discussion with these travelers: they were filmmakers in town making the documentary By the Ways: A Journey with William Eggleston…. Eric was in fact that very night conversing with Antoine Bonfanti’s son Francis!

(Warning— Spoiler regarding the picture above: Take it from a portrait painter… don’t you think her eyes look crossed? They aren’t… but it’s an illusion one can’t un-see.)