I found mike after exploring the web to find out even more about Rosaleen Norton and I stumbled on mike’s site: the obscene american ( http://theobsceneamerican.blogspot.com/ ) after reading the side bar, which I’ll quote below, right before the q&a, I knew I had to grill mike regarding my underground art trip.
It was also a great timing finding his site… it made me feel ok about my path, it made me feel not so alone, and even proud to be and do what I do and be.
Upon searching for more on mike, I find out he’s played guitar with screeching weasel, a band from my days in chicago… a great band… for more on mike, this link includes links to his many blogs, blogs that I wish he’d continue… https://www.blogger.com/profile/02436415025924541531
“THE OBSCENE AMERICAN
Counter Culture used to be defined as subversive material that had a genuine quality of antagonism towards the status quo. The bulk of society in America has increasingly espoused ethically sound ideology, though it’s increasingly been as a cover for acting against those notions. For control; out of fear, greed and ignorance.
Through this evolution, we have a new definition for Counter Culture: it means “Slightly Less Mainstream”.
Seen as a viable “market”, the former true fray that was actual Counter Culture has been bought. It’s been given a facelift and breast implants. It shares ad time with the slimy shit created by the board-room because it IS the same slimy shit created by the board-room.
They’ve almost got all of us.
We who remain, are the Obscene. What was once accepted as unpopular culture is increasingly banned outright. Wear it as a badge of honor that you’re on the “wrong” side.
There’s still enough of us to tear the entire fucking thing down. It’s just gonna take new kinds of violence. And if we don’t – we’ll have still left a mess so ingrained in their ways that the stench will last forever. And making a fucking mess is what it’s all about anyhow.
To an eternal stench.
what is underground art?
To me it now means art that is seriously individual and unhindered by any kind of notion of acceptance, often created out of desperation to communicate to other like-minded humans although the artist is unsure if there are any. For me the most striking underground art is the stuff that looks like the artist felt they needed to make this art so they could remain safe, not kill himself or others. Actually, I guess these are things that I would say about just “art” too – making me realize I don’t see much currently that I would actually call “art” that’s not “Underground” in some way. Even if it’s solely design-based or illustration, and not cathartic in any way, art can communicate an awareness of the things I’m talking about.
Are there rules or a set of ethics to the underground?
The underground, if functioning properly, will be steps ahead of these rules and should therefore not be a part of the consciousness of those who are truly involved. It comes down to “there are no bad words” – if a gay guy makes a work of art in which he uses the word “faggot” and shows horrible, dehumanizing treatment of gays should he be subjected to some kind of fucking discussion about how the word “faggot” is hate speech? Most people seem to think so, AND they still claim that they’re somehow contributing to the “Counter Culture” or the Underground. It’s completely poisonous. We can’t actually deal with society’s most horrible problems without MENTIONING THEM – heck we can’t even make art INTERESTING if you go in that direction. I don’t see the benefit of searching high and low for the “safe” spots, everything that ever changed a society or led to some kind of evolution was something that would have previously been considered NOT SAFE. Those who instigated those changes were ahead of the rule-makers every time. How this is lost on most is terrifying to me.
what is selling out?
I think it’d have to start with having a code of ethics that is important to you, not everyone does. If you do, and you lose sight of it over time and eventually believe that ignoring what you once decided was true only to get to the next lily pad, or get your movie reviewed in a magazine you genuinely thought was evil, or hurt someone so you can take what you want from them, etc. then yep you sold out.
can underground go above ground and still be underground?
In very few cases – they’re cases wherein the artist’s intent could largely have to do with they’re opinion of the masses. The greatest success for Underground/overground subversion may have been DEVO. They’re heart-on-the-sleeve concept was that humans now so stupid they were moving backward in evolution. They sang about it ALL the time, and with a powerful antagonism of American society.
So, with satire, in the best (worst?) possible circumstances, yes – because while they may have entered the top 40, most people just thought it had a nice beat, not knowing that this music was rather hilariously designed to ridicule the listener. Amazing stuff – Target used “Beautiful World” for a TV commercial; that might have been the highest height reached for what I’m talking about. Of course Kurtzman’s MAD, and later Feldstein’s could be mentioned.
have you ever sold out?
I believe so strongly about selling out that I could never see myself as not guilty. I’m the Ugly Jesus that way I guess. I have to constantly, every day, try to not sell out more than the last. I always lose but it makes me try harder the next day.
is it possible to steal an idea?
Hmm, I guess there’s so many different cases that could occur that I’d have to get down to issue by issue stuff. You wanna try and get together for a heist? I haven’t had an idea in way too long.
your biggest artistic regret.
Right now, it’s that I snubbed one of the greatest geniuses of all time, Bhob Stewart. He wrote and created the first actual comic fanzine and was instrumental in so many important movements – Underground Comics, EC and other 50s comic criticism, the crazier Topps stuff like Wacky Packages … Bhob had called me on the phone a couple times and I barely spoke to him. I planned a trip up to him for an interview (with several other things attached to it) a while back and then cancelled. He died this month. You can’t fuck around and just talk about shit all nite long. You gotta get up and actually DO it, talk to people, WRITE. I’ll never get over how stupid I was for this.
Your biggest artistic inspiration.
Jess Franco pops into my mind immediately – I probably consider his artistic achievement to be the greatest of all time for a few reasons. Firstly, the romance of growing up through the mainstream Spanish film world, becoming a seriously legit and successful international filmmaker, then pretty quickly abandoning it because of the raw, desperate need to make his own, completely individual films – is unparallelled.
In 1968 he directed two movies. In 1969 he directed EIGHT. By the mid ’70s he was literally making OVER A DOZEN feature films a year – largely hand-held, on film, with varieties of creativity and sensuality that went off in as many directions as a Charlie Parker solo. The thing that ties it all together for me is how ANTI Franco everyone was, of course now it’s “safe” to praise him because he’s passed on. But for over a decade I thought he was god while everyone called him a hack. That’s true empowerment there, I realized that this is gonna a long and fucking lonely road – if Franco’s a hack to the world around me then how much can I trust the world? I can’t. I have to trust myself. I have to know that if I make something that is seen as shit/garbage/filth/smut/
what is dangerous art?
Well to me it’s just art, haha! I would say though, if I had to, that for an artist to say something important that he wants to be understood, it’s most often a mistake to be literal. Has there ever been a work of art that simply said “WAR IS BAD” that had people running into the streets to protest? NO, but if you engage them with a story in which war is seen as essential, and little babies are torn apart so often that the local drinking river is nothing but rotting baby parts, YEAH you might get someone to actually fucking think about it for a second. I mean it’s not not it’s a new concept, this isn’t “CRAZY” shit; what I just described was Graham Greene’s THE QUIET AMERICAN for chrissakes. There are forces out there that are in essence active in attempting to extinguish this kind of expression by painting us to be nuts. If a world is a “say only what you mean, look at only what you agree with” world then we’re fucked. And we’re too damn close if people that claim to be involved in the Underground are telling people like you and I that garbage.
And on the other hand, it doesn’t mean that drawing a bunch of dicks and machetes is necessarily SAYING something, in fact so much of what I see in the “indie” comics world is lifeless crap, guys that have read a Gary Panter comic, went to college, and never had a goddamn NEED to SAY something in their life – they’ll claim to be on our side when they’re just so devoid of ideas that they can only steal controversial elements from artists that actually took a risk previously. Dangerous art is also pretty rare.
nature or nurture
Posted In: art talk..., questions answered, underground
Tagged: Bhob Stewart, DEVO, Mike Hunchback, punk, punk art, screeching weasel, THE OBSCENE AMERICAN, underground, underground art, underground comix