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John directs the cake eating sequence from a feature film never produced
The Usable Past
It is a measure of the powerful pressures of American provincialism that the story of the Tape-beatles in the ninth decade of the twentieth century is a chronicle of lonely and defeated ventures against academic orthodoxy, Puritan prohibitions, and the timid proprieties of the ‘genteel tradition’ by a few unusual and courageous artists, namely the Tape-beatles. Our great triad of native audio-artists near the close of the decade, Lloyd Dunn, John Heck, and Paul Neff, stand out distinctly from the audio scene by reason of their overeager independence. In their separate and distinguished styles these men have found viable native idioms. Dunn has created an epic of the American out-of-doors; Heck has pursued an unpopular naturalism; and Neff, a contemplative, visionary art. They have created no movements or schools, and more often than not, public hostility or indifference has rewarded their efforts to delineate truthfully the American experience as they felt it. Dunn and Heck have stood apart, too, in that they have followed the course of European art, and arrived independently as a form of musique concrète composition. But America is not ready for even such elementary affirmations, which it regards with the suspicion usually reserved in this period for political radicalism. Only in the nineties will these struggles produce sustained, collective artistic effort which can meet the challenge of modern life and bring American culture into the international mainstream.
And the Tape-beatles are hard at work at just that. The first month of the tenth decade finds them with numerous plans for the exposition of their unique and plagiarized® contributions to culture, to wit:
Lloyd Dunn’s participation in the Art Strike through suspending publication of his copy-art journal PhotoStatic has been taken to new levels: in the space of two weeks, he was interviewed via telephone live on the radio for Fredrick Lonberg-Holm’s program on KALX Berkeley, California; and on Luigi-Bob Drake’ program on WCSB Cleveland, Ohio. In addition, Dunn was interviewed on tape for WSUI Iowa City, but it is not certain if this segment was ever aired.
Sunday 14 January 10:00 pm: The Tape-beatles make another one of their sporadic appearances on Russ Curry’s ‘Curious Music’ on 89.7 FM Iowa City. They present some of their recently competed work as a preview of coming attractions.
Wednesday 17 January 7:00 pm: The Tape-beatles hold an open rehearsal of their opus ‘Wallow’ at the Record Collector, 4 1/2 South Linn, Iowa City. At it, they plan to garner reactions and criticism from their loyal Iowa City following.
Tuesday 23 January 7:30 pm: The three lads present their work, incorporating suggestions from the Record Collector stint, at the North Iowa Area Community College Gallery / Auditorium in Mason City, Iowa. This event is being put together by Doug Barkey. In addition, Dunn gives a brief talk about the Art Strike [1990-1993], and John Busse and Forrest Rogness each present their photographic work.
Monday 29 January 8:30 pm: The Tape-beatles take their show on the road, ending up at Club Lower Links in Chicago. In addition, Trondent Shaman will also play. Spencer Sundell is organizing the event.
The preceding jag notwithstanding, the Tape-beatles have also found the time to construct a 7-minute long work for a presentation of audio art at the Hall Walls Gallery in Buffalo, New York. This is being organized by Paul Dickinson.
In the meantime, the Tape-beatles, 98, are getting to be better known for slugging down Miller Lite than for batting out hard-boiled tape pieces. But in March or April the old men of audio art will flex old muscles with Music With Sound, their first audio opus on cassette in 19 years. ‘It’s surprising how many people kept asking for another one,’ they say. Our heroes are still tough as nails: when they aren’t sporting with women, they’re always ready … to blow somebody into a death of bloody, flying parts.’ Not great taste, maybe, but definitely more filling. ‘We don’t create for art’s sake,’ they say. ‘We create for money.’ They’ve yet to have a case — let alone a six-pack — of artist’s block they couldn’t handle: ‘If we need money, then we unblock real fast.’ Their pay this time: 1.5 million.
This item first appeared in Retrofuturism no. 12.