Tokyo Damage Report

WEIRD ART INSTALLATIONS

PART ONE

So I’m back in the tiny, dark, low-ceilinged nightclub where the audience sits cross-legged on the floor. I go here sometimes in dreams…this time it’s to watch what’s been billed as a ‘Nervous Energy Group.’ It just looks like some mop-haired, over-intellectual, college-rock nimrods, and I wonder what the hell I’m doing here. They’re not amazing but they are impressively fast and distorted for college rock, with lots of little drum perrididdles and appropriately nervous extra notes jiggling along.

Then the drummer, being nervously high-strung, notices that the snare on his drum isn’t exactly right, and so he keeps playing with one hand and feet, and attempts to flip the drum over and tighten the snare with a screwdriver all with his other hand while still keeping time. But it’s too hard, so he just stops playing, at which point the other guys start playing hell of soft, as if this was supposed to happen at this point in the song. The drummer has curly hair over grown long over his eyes and ears.

They’re singing some kind of ironic song about punk rock, and how you need to keep it real, even though they’re not remotely punk sounding. And even though they’re obviously mocking punk conformity, people in the audience start getting really hyped and taking it totally seriously somehow, and going: "Yeah, we should keep it real!!! I can’t believe I’ve been slipping all this time! I should be more proud! We need to clean up all the posers and hippies that we’ve allowed to infiltrate the scene!!" I mean I can’t hear the individual words, but the vibe is crystal clear. And this dude Mike from art school, this very tall, druggy, ‘industrial’ type guy gets up and just drags these longhaired hippy guys outside the building, into the parking lot. Not only can you hear the sound of violence over the now-quiet band, but the sounds are totally, inappropriately cartoony.
In disgust I walk out the hall into the lobby, which is higher-ceilinged and fairly bright. There’s a sheet tacked to one wall. One of the hippies, with very Christ-looking long brown hair and full beard, is totally covered in his own blood from his brutal beating by Mike, but somehow I understand that not only does the hippy have a god complex, but he’s had this sheet up for quite some time now, because he hoped to use it as a shroud of Turin in the event that he got martyred. It’s an awkward moment as I walk up to him, because he’s about to start smearing his blood on the shroud, and he’s got this desperate, but beatific look in his eyes. I want to help him but yet I feel like I’m just in the way, that he wants to be martyred after all. I pat him on the back in what’s supposed to be a reassuring manner but blood is pooled on his back so thickly that my hand actually goes in a puddle and splashes, scattering drops everywhere. He starts rubbing himself on the shroud but it’s just not the same as the original crucifixion… it’s in this low-budget art gallery on a cheap Sears sheet and nobody but me is even watching, and he’s not even dead. I’m still nauseous though, and suddenly it occurs to me that if my friend Freud were here, he would have had fun beating up the hippies too.

PART TWO (later that same dream…)
The setting: A sparse but elegant, well-lit, high-ceilinged room maybe 100 feet by 40 feet. Almost like an art gallery. I’m not in the dream, but I’m watching a woman in the room. She’s my age, with wavy brown hair almost touching her shoulders, in a long white gown. She’s on a ladder, installing some expensive, ambiguously home-entertainment-related components on a shelf which is above a doorway. The equipment is so high-tech you can’t tell what it does (vcr, dvd, cds, whatever). There are no visible buttons or knobs. It’s a bright white, rectangular box with two smaller cream boxes on wires; edges slightly blunted.

Grimacing, she finishes wiring it up and gets off the ladder and turns to face the large room, and gapes in horror at this much huger (8’x5’x5′) electronic appliance which has materialized somehow in the room/gallery right behind her. This appliance is also a bright matte white cube with blunt corners but it has a person-sized translucent plastic door on one side. It’s apparently some kind of super hi-fi, Sharper Image shower, and her mother is inside. The ‘shower’ cubicle is directly in front of the daughter, and her mom calls out over the shower noise, "Oh, Darling, there you are!! See what else Mommy picked up!" in this horrendously blithe, affectedly upper-class accent. The daughter turns back to the shelf she just installed and is further horrified to see that the doorway, shelf, ambiguous hi-fi appliance and all have disappeared, to be replaced with a very low shelf with yet another set of even more expensive, ambiguous components: these are twin white boxes roughly 9 inches on a side, but the facets are convoluted with inch-wide ridges and troughs, almost like the Styrofoam packing units that function as ‘bookends’ for rectangular objects when you box them. She shouts, with what seems inappropriate loudness: "Mother!!!! What have you done now!!!" The mom, still hidden within the cubicle, chirps "Oh, Mommy can’t talk now, she’s in her new electro-static shower!!" She’s using such a mock-childish, self-centered, affected voice you can see what the daughter has had to contend with for years and thus why she’s yelling at her mom.
The daughter shrieks, "Aw, hell no!! You’re going to come out of that shower right now and talk to me or I’m going to throw your new purchases out the window!" and opens up a hitherto concealed window, revealing that the room is part of a skyscraper, hundreds of feet in the air. The daughter is hoisting the components, when the mother finally busts out of the shower, agitated, saying "Dear, dear, what is it?" and the daughter, almost too exasperated for words, says "What the hell–I finally installed your damn doohickeys, YOUR doohickeys that you couldn’t be bothered to install in the first place, and it took me hours to learn how to make the damn things work, and no sooner do I get done than you, having totally forgotten about it, go out and buy some new CRAP which we can’t even fucking afford!!" To which the mother makes this amazingly facile comment to the effect of, "But Darling, they’re a matching pair; they’re a SANDWICH!! Ha, ha ha." and goes back in the shower, and the daughter storms off. The camera pans back to the empty shelf, and I’m greatly relieved to find she hucked the appliances.

Then the camera cuts to the girl in her own bathroom; cheaper and more sensible than Mother’s ‘electro-static shower’, but still kind of disturbing in that she, like her mother, needs to go to the bathroom in times of stress. Now I’m actually present in the room, and she’s venting to me, this monumental tirade that just builds and builds, about her mom’s irresponsibility: "That fucking bitch, she’s always buying all this infinite crap!! I’m the daughter, how come I’m the one that has to worry about the finances…and I’m the one that has to balance the books, and I’m the one that has to go hiking around with a broken toe cus we can’t afford proper medical care, while she keeps on spending money as if we were still rich?!?!?!"

Then, as the tirade seamlessly continues, the location somehow shifts to another space. This new space is very odd and, in a subtle way, unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before. It seems to be an outdoor park, but it’s got A) incredibly severe, precise rectangular edges and B) absolutely nothing on the horizon outside of the rectangle to give any distance or perspective. Therefore I can’t tell if we’re outdoors or inside some impossibly high-ceilinged room, or on top of a skyscraper so high that there’s no other buildings on the horizon. There’s plenty of grass and tall trees, and we’re walking through while she’s yelling. As we walk, we pass, about 10 yards away on the other side of a clearing, a very bizarre tree. About 10 feet up it starts to bend. It bends so far over, there’s a metal mesh tube installed around the trunk, attached to thick cables that disappear up into the sky, that seem to be keeping the tree from falling over. What’s even odder is that instead of branching out with the tree’s branches, the metal mesh tube contracts to a point about 30 feet from the base, thus cutting off the tree inside. But a second, trapezoid tube starts where the first tube leaves off, and this one– even though it’s not physically connected to the first tree, somehow still has part of the main tree continuing to grow in it. This mesh trapezoid is also suspended from cables reaching up into the sky. And after that, there’s a half dozen more such trapezoids. Whatever peculiar force is keeping the disembodied tree trunk growing in the second trapezoid seems to taper off about the fourth one, and after that, it’s a bunch of empty mesh trapezoids that are nothing but sculpture. The path of the overall line of trapezoids seems to be a gently waving line.

Anyway, the daughter’s tirade begins to incorporate this tree in relation to her mother: "That bitch, I’d like to see her try to save one thing!! All her precious charitable causes… I’d like to take her away from the money, (and with no money, the men would soon leave too, believe you me!) take away the money and see how much ‘saving’ she could do. Not all the money, I’d be content to just leave her, say, ten grand a year, and see how fast the ‘charitable’ bitch squanders it all on herself! I’d love to watch her try to save just one god damn thing! Yeah! Let’s see her save that damn tree over there! That would work! Hahah. How she’d struggle, and I’d just laugh. Bitch!!" And I say "Well, what about your art? You have to think about what you’re going to do if you’re not going to devote all your energy to taking care of your mom. You should try spending that energy on your art."

And I turn around and point to this other, even huger sculpture that’s been behind us the whole time. As the ‘camera’ turns around, the perspective shifts suddenly but subtly. By which I mean not much happens visually other than a 180 degree turn, but mentally it’s like space OPENS UP, and there’s this huge expansive feeling, instead of looking at this tree 40 feet away, or at the raging girl next to me, I’m suddenly looking miles away, into this bright blue sky, and I realize I AM on top of a impossibly high skyscraper roof a block wide, and it’s as if the rear ‘wall’ of this imaginary ‘room’ I’m in has suddenly been pushed back 50 miles. It’s wonderful. The actual sculpture I’m looking at is analogous to the tree sculpture: a series of objects suspended on infinitely long cables hung from the sky, running parallel to the trapezoids but in the other direction, and continuing off the roof in that direction as far as my eye can see. But instead of metal mesh trapezoids, it’s these giant 40 foot long nails that are hung in several gracefully arcing rows. But the daughter just sniffs "It’s terrible, it’s no good, I’m gonna give up."

But before I can contradict her, all the nails morph into F-16 swing-wing fighter planes, recontextualizing the rectangular park as a sort of aircraft carrier they’re all taking off from,…then I realize that the fuselages of the F-16 fighter planes are made of giant replicas of those cheesy, disposable cameras; the kind that are mostly green and red cardboard with a little lens and viewfinder sticking out. In this case, wings and cockpits have been added to the camera/fuselage in the manner of the old Tasters’ Choice commercials. One of the ‘planes’ has yet to ‘take off’ meaning I can walk up to it on the edge of the ‘park’ and look through the viewfinder, which, although sculpture, is still perfectly functional. I can see details of the fighter planes miles away. Specifically I see that their texture is Stucco.

I say, "Good God, No, this work is amazing! It’s wonderful!! Nobody else is doing work like this!! It’s not stupid, it’s totally profound…" And I’m about to tell her the amazingly profound insight that the art gives me when this deep deep , James Earl Jones voice comes out of nowhere, louder than God, saying "I’M GOING TO PUSH THIS BUTTON, AND THEN I’M GOING TO PUSH THIS BUTTON, YES, AND IF I DON’T HIT THE RIGHT BUTTON IT’S JUST GOING TO GET LATER AND LATER…." Which sounds like the kind of silly-yet-epiphanic non sequitur that dreams are made of, but in this case it was a real guy on the radio, (which I’d left on as I went to sleep, after it had stopped transmitting)… in context, his comments meant that he was trying to start broadcasting for the day and couldn’t find the right buttons to start. But he did, clearly.

 

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