Reading (and Documentary) Response Five
Mary Jordan, Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis
1. Chapter 4: What are some of the reasons suggested for Smith’s obsession with Maria Montez? What are some of your responses to the clips from the Montez films (especially Cobra Woman)?
"Every Saturday he would go to the movies" and supposedly that is when he fell in love with Maria Montez. Agosto Machado says it is a rapture of remembrance of his childhood that made Maria an obsession. Nick Zedd believes it is an inside joke for gay people. Another says that Maria was the apotheosis of the drag queen likely because of her glamorous decor and the fact that she draws so much attention. Well the Maria Montez films seemed corny at best, very similar to whatever I would imagine Rose Hobart was like in film. She does have a look that is particularly beautiful and the film settings are as exotic as I imagined them, but her acting lacked any particular beauty on screen aside from its relevance to the period. But I can understand how such a huge star could become an object of obsession or desire to a child, because to him it was the loss of her idolization in the mainstream that made here something that he must hold on too.
2. Chapter 5: What were some attributes of the New York art community in the 1960s, and what was the relationship between the economics of the time and the materials that Smith incorporated in to his work and films? [How could Smith survive and make art if he was so poor in the city so big they named it twice?]
During the 50's when Jack grew up there was alot of conformity in America and a repression of blatant eroticism. Then in the 60's there was breaking point where all of this dissolved and dissipated into free expression. Artist were open and free to work on any project they wanted to with anyone they wanted to. Also, it was easy for artists to find space to do projects and rent was cheap, often around 30 dollars per month for spacious apartments. The New York art community was very unified at the time Jack Smith's filmmaking. His attempts to create Hollywood effects on a low budget actually assisted in the establishment of a new realm of counterculture. Many of the eclectic materials smith used for his films could be found in the dumpsters outside of the many department stores in NY. Part of what Smith's films unique was the fact that he displayed the things that Hollywood used alot of money to cover up. Using whatever was available Smith could make the films he wanted.
3. Chapter 6: What problems emerged after the obscenity charges against Flaming Creatures in the relationship between Jack Smith and Jonas Mekas? What metaphor emerged from the conflict between Smith and Mekas?
Well, according to Smith, Mekas began travelling with the film defying the police making the film into something that Jack Smith did not want it to be (basically a symbol for the underground struggle against censorship and Mekas). Mekas was making more wealth and fame from Smith's film than Smith did. Smith deeply resented Mekas for taking his film "with the position of defending it and yet essentially kicking it to death." Smith began calling Mekas names and Lobster was one of them. Lobsterism became a symbol for the exploitation, capitalism, being a scavenger, or taking everything for yourself. The lobster symbol apparently pops up alot in Smith's works.
4. Chapter 7: What is John Zorn’s argument about Normal Love? How does his argument relate to some of the changes in the New York art world in the 1960s that we discussed in class? What are some arguments made about the influence of Jack Smith on other filmmakers (besides Warhol)?
John Zorn says that the real show was the filming itself not the film. It ties in most with the idea of artmaking as an activity. John waters and Federico Fellini we influenced by Flaming Creatures and Jack Smith.
5. Chapter 8: What are some arguments made about the relationship between Jack Smith’s artistic practice and Andy Warhol’s artistic practice?
Basically I think the argument of the chapter is that Warhol basically copied Jack Smith and made multitudes of money making films the same way Jack was, only warhol Public Relations Warhol made the practic commercialized. Andy Warhol's Factory was supposedly based on Jack Smith's film settings. Warhol took many of Smith's actors and furthered their progression of underground superstars into the pop scene. Jack and Andy clashed whenever they worked together because Jack wanted complete control.
6. Chapter 9 and 10: In what ways did Jack Smith become “uncommercial film personified”? What is meant by the slogan, “no more masterpieces” and how did Smith resist commodification (or the production of art products)?
Jack found the aspect of commercial film as destroying the artists intentions. So Jacks concept became that his personal works of art would become his alone and that since it was never finished only he could exhibit the films doing everything needed to make the films a viable showing. He found a way to keep and share art with people without it becoming a sort of product available for ownership even to himself. The slogan "no more masterpieces" is meant to explain the concept of a work of art that is not a product at all or maybe it is the final decree against concept of high art. Smith never finished Normal Love so there would never be a finished product.
Daniel Belasco, "The Vanished Prodigy"
7. Name at least three important friends/relationships Barbara Rubin had in the world of art and music in the early 1960s.
Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Jonas Mekas, Allen Ginsberg and The Velvet Underground.
8. Briefly describe Rubin's production and exhibition practices for Christmas on Earth. Why does Belasco argue that Christmas on Earth cannot be reproduced electronically or in other forms?
Rubin would show the two reels of Christmas on Earth superimposed in unequal sizes and colorized randomly by the projectionist while the audience listens randomly whatever is on a Rock Radio station. Belasco argues that Christmas on Earth cannot be reproduced electronically or in other forms because it was the originality of each screening that became a part of the work. You could record a live screening of the film but even that wouldn't do justice to the films impact in true exhibition.
Toby Mussman’s review of The Chelsea Girls
9. How does Mussman compare and contrast Warhol’s work in The Chelsea Girls with the work of the following directors?