Book Reviews for the December issue of Vice:
I Want to Remember You Like This Forever
Ever sat in a toilet at the bar half cut with your jeans around your ankles hovering just over the gross piss, shit and semen soaked ivory letting lunch go and in the middle of it all had your eye caught by something scrawled on the wall that is so good that you loose all concentration and end up plonking right down in the bowl and almost ass-printing turd-pile central? Yeah me too. Thanks to this little zine though that will never happen again. Just take this out with you and have a read before you go then shut your eyes, concentrate and every amazing toilet wall scribbling ever will be imprinted on your retinas. It also comes with a piece of medium weight bog roll so if you were too gone to check that was all set before commencing operations it is handy for the clean up too.
1-800-Mice Issue 1
I remember picking up ‘Carrot For Girls’ a while back, which was my first encounter with Mathew Thurber. That was a great, big inky tabloid thing that was surreal with an innocence that allowed it to endear rather than heckle bile in your stomach like a Mighty Boosh re-run on BBC3. Anyway, 1-800-Mice is, I guess, Thurbers new regular outlet for things like twisted, weird, talking horses called Mr Colostomy and a kamikaze vampire called Distinguished Death as well as mock-profound statements like: “a tree is an explosion in slow motion”. Reading for too long can be perilous because you begin to loose touch and think that you are an extra in Thurber’s imaginary world of melting Itchy & Scratchy faces. I wonder if he stole the name from Megamix’s night at the Old Blue Last?
As well as being the name of a great punk band from Brighton ‘Abandon Ship’ is the title of this neat and subtly moving collection of photos taken by Dave Schubert over the course of a week in New York City. It has all the stuff you’d expect: some tramps begging in squalor, a bunch of people loosing it in a bar, some kids bombing a wall, Dash Snow (who also provides an introduction) smoking Marlboro Reds in a bath full of Polaroid’s. You know how it goes. Next to these expecteds though are stark images of squirrels on empty sidewalks and lonely stars and stripes drooping at half-mast. It might all means something. Like a representation of the loneliness that lies at the heart of a thriving social conurbation. Or they might just be good photos. Either way it is cheap, well presented zine with great stuff inside. These things can’t cost a tonne to print up. Come on photo guys, why aren’t you all on this kind of thing?
Initially I was so into this but now I am totally creeped out. At first glance it basically appears to be a little arts and crafts book that if you gave it to your 7 year old step-sister would cause her to drop the latest Nintendogs or whatever and commence gluing herself together with Copydex attempting to make cute little cats and monkeys out of loo roll and old socks. Amazing! Christmas present dialled, now you can spend the rest of the day drinking cut-price ‘festive’ double shots of Red Bull & vodka in Weatherspoons instead of braving Oxford Street again. However. On closer inspection the book takes on seriously sinister overtones. Whichever ‘cute doll’ you are making gives you instructions from the page like: “The face is the life of a doll, so be serious when you make it!!!”. It’s almost like they are willing you to create more of them and their blank, staring faces are straight out of Children Of The Corn. The last page is a massive army of the fuckers lined up eyeballing you ready for world domination after having been bought to life by innocent seven year olds ignorant of the apocalypses they have wrought. Christ, thinking about it is giving me shivers.
I have never properly encountered or engaged with Peter Sutherland’s work before despite being aware of him. Does this make me an idiot? On this showing: yes. A massive, ignorant, know-nothing idiot who needs to get back to the whole paying-attention-to-shit game. This book is INCERDIBLE. If you only buy one photo book in 2008 get this. It is worth it for the centrepiece doubletruck alone. The premise is simple: Sutherland shoots and follows some deer around where they hang out. He shoots them in the forest, he shoots them in the stream, he shoots them nosing around in the human world and looking cute and confused and he shoots them in packs at night so all you can see are loads of pairs of eyes gleaming in the darkness at you like a Le Mans grid coming to rape your village and murder your wife. He also takes pictures of what the deer can see every day: beautiful, sparkling sunrises, dewy, virginal spiders webs and mighty, soaring ferns. The portrait of a dead, skinned deer near the end made me choke worse than the first time I saw E.T. Deer are my new favourite animals. I want to be a deer. Thank you Peter Sutherland.
Woah. Now this is something really different. If you thought Clapham Common was a bit fruity on a Friday night even a mini-bus load of Gary Glitters would fail to elevate it to even within a solar system of the same league as the Shinjuku, Yoyogi and Ayoama parks in Tokyo in the early 70’s. Yoshiyuki captures in unsettlingly soft-focus duotone the furtive groping of both hetero and homosexual strangers as they get down on a Friday night. The bite your bottom lip in weirded outness part is not so much the exhibitionist fucking but the phalanx of voyeurs that surround each encounter. Add to that the fact that there is a guy snapping with film the people mentally snapping the people cavorting in the middle of a public park and it all just seems too much to be true. But it is. Wow.
Recording The Truth In Iran
More war, more death, more death, more plague, more famine. It must seem like we are overly obsessed with the photojournalism of war. Well, we are. Not only because the images rendered are often mind-blowingly getthefuckouttahere in terms of making you stop and think “woah, humans actually do this shit to other humans?” but also because of our intense and deep respect for photographers who continually place their lives and safety at risk telling the stories they believe must be told. In those terms Kaveh Golestan is a hero amongst heroes. His entire life and career was dedicated to documenting life in his homeland of Iran until it was cut short by a landmine. Golestan’s stark black and white images leave him a legacy worthy of his life hard lived.
How can a book that is just transcriptions of a series of lectures that took place in the sound workshop of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Kitakyushu be one of the funniest, most interesting and insightful things we’ve read in a million months of Sundays? Well its mainly down to a lineup that would make anyone who has an even vaguely passing interest in dudes who hide behind lots of machines and make weird noises grow a massive stiff one on sight. You get Russell Haswell jumping from discussions about the nature of creating music using Xenakis’s UPIC machine (which makes sonic representations of drawings) to anecdotes about playing in support of Societal Death Slaughter in London squats as well as William Bennet confessing an obsessive typo-compulsion. Oh, and there is a free CD of unreleased work which you will not find anywhere else. Buy.
Made In The UK: The Music Of Attitude 1977-1983
Yawn. Another book about the British punk movement. 1977, year zero, kill all hippies, Mick Jones’s funny teeth blah, blah, blah. Seriously, has any single period in music that produced so few genuinely great bands ever been so obsessed over? Anyone who thinks that the Sex Pistols are a better band than P.I.L. is an idiot and you should probably stop being friends with them right now. However, the Pistols are of course a more important band. And therein lies the worth of this collection of handsome portraits and shots by Janette Beckman who was so there that she must have had one of those little machines that allowed her to flip flop back and forth through the space/time continuum like the guy from Quantum Leap. Beckman captures more than the sweaty, drooling, idiot-Vicious glares and stares and by immersing her work in the dances and days that people actually lived in England all those decades ago places you in a moment in time that makes all the huffing puffing rhetoric of importance finally begin to make sense.
Pierre Crocquet De Rosemand
Sometimes it’s nice to be shocked into action by a demonstration of you own ignorance. Like when you are sitting in the pub and everyone starts talking about some old film that is obviously a standard reference-point and you cluelessly nod your head along and hope that no one calls you with your faker-pants on. Then you run home, Google every living fact you can find and panic buy the remastered, directors cut, 4-disc special edition and hide your shame forever beneath purchased pride. Well, until this book came along I was totally unaware of what life was like in a rural South Africa. Turns out is pretty out there and mostly filled with super wrinkly, limbless old people who drink their morning tea next to severed pigs heads on the kitchen table and now I want to go and check it out.