TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT September 2009

TOP TEN

Joshua Kit Clayton

Joshua Kit Clayton is an artist, musician, and computer programmer based in San Francisco. He produces dance music for post-rave casualties both on his own and in the band Pigeon Funk, and is responsible for the development of Jitter, a video and 3-D-graphics programming language.

  1. THE LEARNING ANNEX

    From Tantric-orgasm workshops to Master P’s program for “generational wealth” to neuro-linguistic programming taught by a Zen Catholic priest–slash–real estate entrepreneur, the Learning Annex offers an endless supply of curiosities and contradictions mining our collective alienation. Before they became online-only last year, the “classes” from this marketing system posing as an ad hoc school for adults also generated a fabulously awkward theatrical space. Still, those in search of uncomfortable social experiences can seek out the low-priced introductory workshops organized independently by instructors in various success industries. And perhaps Telic Arts Exchange’s Public School and other similar pedagogy-as-art projects can help take up the slack.

  2. GET RID OF YOURSELF, 2003

    Bernadette Corporation’s exciting and confounding video essay looks at the role of performativity in the Genoa G-8 summit riots of 2001. It seems to simultaneously support and critique contemporary anarchist political action and the longing for engagement that inspires it, but this is further muddied as Chloë Sevigny fumbles around a kitchen trying to learn a script of statements by the protesters. In light of such juxtapositions (and from my perch nearly a decade after the video’s making), I find myself wondering which of the many participants’ multiple levels of performance feels most authentic, despite the impossibility that any of them could claim that term for themselves.


    Bernadette Corporation, Get Rid of Yourself, 2003. (Excerpt)

  3. MASTER WAN KO YEE’S YUN SCULPTURE

    Full appreciation of Master Wan Ko Yee’s “Amazing Achievements in the Form of World-Class Treasures” requires a visit to the Hua Zang Si Buddhist temple in San Francisco, where you will be guided through the Dharma King’s expansive oeuvre, spanning twenty-one disciplines including calligraphy, literature, herbal medicine, glass painting—and, most important, his own creation, Yun sculpture. These curious objects are reminiscent of Lynda Benglis’s work in cast polyurethane and latex, but taken to a psychedelic extraterrestrial dimension that “surpasses the natural world and its beauty.”

  4. THE HILL CUMORAH PAGEANT

    This extravagant theater production takes place every summer in Palmyra, New York, where the prophet Joseph Smith discovered the golden plates that make up the Book of Mormon. Free and open to the public, it dramatizes the highlights of Mormon history with a cast of around 650 people, a ten-tier stage, and blockbuster special effects. I particularly enjoyed my conversations with the costumed actors preceding the performance. They let me know that I was an outsider in a way that didn’t make me feel like a jerk for being there. Also of note to science-fiction fans: The current script was written by Orson Scott Card of Ender’s Game fame.

    *Cast of the Hill Cumorah Pageant, Palmyra, NY, July 13, 2007.* Cast of the Hill Cumorah Pageant, Palmyra, NY, July 13, 2007.
  5. MICHEL DE CERTEAU, THE PRACTICE OF EVERYDAY LIFE (1980)

    Few theoretical texts I have read embody an optimistic view of humanity despite competing and conflicting forces of domination. Articulating the differences between the primary modes in which cultural institutions and producers operate and those in which the people perceived to be subject to such agents do, The Practice of Everyday Life encourages us to reevaluate both the world around us and, as the title so clearly suggests, the way we live our lives. It proposes lightweight and makeshift tactics to resistively navigate institutionalized contexts and, for those of us explicitly engaged in institutionalized forms of cultural production, makes for a poignant reminder of the complexity of our endeavors.

  6. GEORGE AND MIKE KUCHAR, REFLECTIONS FROM A CINEMATIC CESSPOOL (1997)

    The Kuchar brothers are brilliant filmmakers, celebrated in cult-movie and fine-art circles for their twisted mix of Hollywood pulp, film diaries, and low-budget special effects. This book provides the unfiltered backstory to their cinematic lives and prescriptions for aspiring young filmmakers, told in a wry, alliterative voice that could only be Kuchar. For those who would love to take George’s whirlwind class in firsthand Kucharity at the San Francisco Art Institute but are trapped in the shackles of societal obligation, this book is an essential reader to accompany the fifty-plus years of their amazing work.

    *George and Mike Kuchar, New York, ca. 1965.* Photo: Courtesy George and Mike Kuchar. George and Mike Kuchar, New York, ca. 1965. Photo: Courtesy George and Mike Kuchar.
  7. SUBLIME FREQUENCIES

    An independent record label and platform for international music, sound, and video, Sublime Frequencies provides an American outlet for cultural elements that otherwise wouldn’t penetrate this deep into the heart of Empire, while recognizing the problems of cultural extraction that accompany any such enterprise. Run by Alan Bishop (of the Sun City Girls) and Hisham Mayet, the label releases contemporary work and reissues albums and field recordings from around the world. Some of my personal favorites are Omar Souleyman’s Highway to Hassake (Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria), Princess Nicotine’s Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar, and Radio Pyongyang: Commie Funk and Agit Pop from the Hermit Kingdom.

    *Omar Souleyman,  Ras Al Ain, Syria, 2008.* Photo: Mark Gergis. Omar Souleyman, Ras Al Ain, Syria, 2008. Photo: Mark Gergis.
  8. BENJAMIN PIEKUT, “HENRY FLYNT IN NEW YORK,” 2008

    Hosted on the website Vimeo, music historian Piekut’s several-hour video series of Henry Flynt visiting his old haunting grounds in New York’s avant-garde and Marxist communities is a charmingly caustic account of the polymath’s experiences with a comfortably unedited feel. As well as sharing anecdotes and gossip that don’t often make it into the official history of this period, Flynt makes a point of talking about what was important to him about these communities and how they shaped his formation as a musician, artist, and thinker.

  9. GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK, UTAH

    A fantastical landscape of fungal/phallic sedimentary structures unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. Compared with some of the more famous and gargantuan natural monuments of Utah, these structures are closer to a human scale, and far less frequented. You can walk among this forest of goblins almost without being confronted by anyone but these otherworldly rust-colored peers. At dawn and dusk the light is golden, and you don’t have to scramble for the difficult-to-find shade.

    *Goblin Valley State Park, UT, 2008.* Photo: Joshua Kit Clayton. Goblin Valley State Park, UT, 2008. Photo: Joshua Kit Clayton.
  10. INDIGO CHILDREN

    I’m not sure what exactly is happening, but it seems like every other week there’s a dramatic news story involving unlikely feats by children: superhuman teenagers who survive a lightning strike; a kid who gets hit by a meteorite, which bounces off his hand and buries itself deep in the soil; a sixteen-year-old who discovers miraculous plastic-eating bacteria. Perhaps Nancy Ann Tappe’s theory of uncannily gifted “Indigo children” has more merit than I’d assumed. I can only hope that when these more evolved, attention deficit disorder–affected beings ascend to power they are generous to their humble human predecessors.