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Confessions Of An Art Fair Anarchist

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III ■ elcome to the Ann B Arbor Art Fair. Ifyou look closely , you will V V see that there is in fact a certain amount of Art involved. The problem here is the worshipping of salable commodities and the dominatlng presence of shysters. Money flows through Ann Arbor like shit through a tin horn, and everybody's trylng to get a piece. There's a creepy feeling that a bunch of people from out of town are using Ann Arbor to try and sell things to a bunch of other people from out of town. It's not a good feeling. Watching the event grow from benign to malignant, over the years many of us have developed some powerfulresentments. Formore than a decade I took to the streets every July, there to act out my angst in anarchie Art Attacks. Seeing men 's slacks on tables in the middle of State Street somehow drove me to excesses. Where is the Art? Make your own. The original Art Attack Assemblage, constructed in the mid1970s, consisted of a ten-foot pillar with a toaster nailed to the head of it. Wired to a shopping cartand drenched in cheap latex paint, this module carne across like some terrible battering ram from heil, and we did in fact ram dormitories with it. When the toaster began to suffer from repeated impact, more toasters were added, and soon there were several toasters juxtaposed. It was grand. There followed a series of furniture-oriented statements. I wore a hollowed armchair on my body, like a naked man in a barrel. Two coats of white paint, and it's Art. The tltle was neatly printed across the front of the chair frame: ARMCHAIR INTELLECTUAL. Then there was the couch, worn by three people. Th is took more coordination, with six legs in close quarters. The inscription read: The University of Michigan Does Not Exrfst. I guess we were confronta tional. In 1980 I nearly killed myself wearing a solid oakdresser. The insides of the drawers were removed, and my head protruded through a hole at the top. The full weight of the thing rode on my shoulders. Butit really was a smart piece, with NARCOTICSBUREAU printed neatly across the drawer fronts. I was proud to stagger around with such a pun, pinched nerves notwithstanding. Soon I began to dissect televtsions. A gutted console model fit nlcely around me, and thesereen was vacant except for the words: 1 984 Means Video In Every Room. Not everyone got the polnt George Orwell's nightmare novel was hauntlng me as '84 drew nearer. A smaller TV, carefully mutated Into a vldeohelmetcage, rode on my head and shoulders In 1983. By thls üme ld started carrylng a boom box In my arms, blasting the crowd wlth the hyper-expressive Free Jazz of Albert Ayler, Sam Rlvers and Ornette Coleman. It really worked! The mass of sweating bodies parted llke the Red Sea whentheyheard the saxophone squeal. The slogan for that year was: You Gotta Have Angst. Do you recall the scène in Orwells 1984 where the individual is being reprogrammed through terror? Finding that their prisoner has a morbid fear of rats, the interrogators afflx a cage of live rodents to his face, usingaspecial mask designed for Just such a task. Naturally I had to emulate this nasty little episode at the 1984 Art Fair. I had the TV on my head , wlth rubber rats peering out, and a cage of live rats was hung on hooks dlrectly in front of my face. Itwas cumbersome, yeteffective. They were nlce llttle rats. 1 took good care of them throughout the Fair, and then returned them to the pet store, where they were most likely fed to the boa constrlctor. The rats-ln-my-face routine was presen ted to an audience out in front of the Michigan Union, where WCBN FM and Eclipse Jazz used to set up a stage and provlde live music. This was very conyenient, as itgave me a chance to conduct the annual Search For Art. I'd stand onstage and direct everyone's attention to the Art Museum across the street, explaining that some Art had in fact been sighted wlthin the Art Museum itself. 1 would then go into the Lenny Bruce Prison Film schtick, my voice booming out over the sweltering throngs of shufflinghumanity: "Allright. Art! We know you're ín there! Stay in there, and you won't be bought!" It was at the 1984 Art Fair that I was arrested while emceeing for the Blue Front Persuaders , one of Ann Arbor's hottest jump bands. I granted them a sixty second encoré after a pólice offi - eer had ordered the music to cease. In essence I was arrested for violatlng a sound ordinance and not havlng my driver's license with me. Hands cuffed behind the back and everything, man. It was quite depressing, especially when I returned to the area after gettlng out of jail and found a fraternity rock band blasting loudly on the front porch of thelr University-owned house next door to the Union. I was arrested at 9 PM . They were wailing away at 11:30, no cops in sight. But I learned quite a bit in the holding tank underneath City (see ART FAIR ANARCHIST, pago 6) (front page One) Hall. After the cop gave up trying to flnd dope in my pockete, he answered my questions wlth a stralghtforward explanatlon of our city's transformation during the Art Fair. You see, this is hardly Ann Arbor at all during that week. The laws change, from sound ordinances to the restaurant owner's rights to serve people out of doors after a certain hour. We become Uke Paris during the Occupation-an open city. Different laws. It's true. I heard it from the Man. So you'd better'be careful out there. Some time ago, a local newspaper invented the legend that I personally had come up with the slogan IT ISNT ART AND IT ISNT FAIR. I do not know why one person needs to be singled out as the originator of a saying. If we must trace itback to a single individual, then maybe it was former WCBN DJ Steve Austin. But I don't think it came from one person at all. It didn't come from me, or from you. The people of Ann Arbor have been feeling that way for years, and some smart ones go to Lake Michigan during this Revenue Fair. Yes, revenue. Also Greed, Avarice and Sleaze. Considering what Gov. Engler has been doing to Artists, we need to provide them with some opportunities to make a living. The Art Fair has become so exclusive. You wouldn't believe how many worthy creative individuals have been rejected by the arbiters - it really isn't fair. The best way is to support Artists year-round, whenever possible. If for some reason you find yourself in the middle of the Art Fair this year, watch out for the Sleaze, beware of that oily character from Orlando. He doesn't give a damn about Ann Arbor, and there are better people who need your money. If by some happy miracle you flnd real Art by real Artists, lnvest if you can. But watch your step. This is a different city during the week of too many people in one place. It's only partially Art, and it isn't Fair.


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