at Chicago Filmmakers
Reviewed by C. J. Laity
(This review was first published in Letter eX back in August, 1992.)
Filmmakers is packed on Saturday, May 30, 1992, the last late show in Loofah Method's month-long run. Out of all the venues that they have performed in, it is best suited for their spectacular collage of media. With Kurt Heintz behind a black cubicle controlling the video sights, David Guzman controlling the lights, Spencer Sundell controlling the quality of the sound, and Mark Messing among others controlling the keyboards, percussion instruments and turntable, the group launches off as the audience eats popcorn.
The Loofah Method has a style of holding down a theme and scrubbing the dead skin off it to expose the raw, sometimes gruesome nerves beneath. Our wits are left exposed like Julia's raw muscles in Clive Barker's movie Hellraiser II. After such a scrubbing, we must look at our gory selves in the mirror and ask ourselves why did the head of the Screen Actors Guild and the head of the CIA control the 1980s.
Relax . . . You're Soaking In It.
Tonight's presentation is a full-blown Cindy Salach / George Bush slugfest, beginning with an extended metaphor. With Cindy as Kim, the air-headed blonde talk-show host, and Mark as Guy, her smiling partner, the national news' talking heads are scrubbed with video images, canned laughter and Mr. Science, who boils a frog, "raising the heat so very gradually that Mr. Frog won't know until it's too late," suggesting this method was used by the media on the poor people in Los Angeles.
Through tonight's show, music is used as a mood setter, beginning with waves of insect sounding radio static hinting at human voices pre-show, preparing our nerves for the quick and drastic mood swings Relax . . . You're Soaking In It has to offer. Carnival music plays during the frog-boiling. The bright camera turns to the audience, finding and projecting Betty, the popcorn-eating, teeth-picking person who describes how she has used the instrument of her present projection to catch her husband in the act of peeping on a neighbor. The sound of dramatic music sets the mood, as Guy tells the story of a dog-hating man converted into video worship by his own appearance on national news. The music then becomes acid house, livening the mood, as Kim and Guy dance to "Media Says," a Simon Says parody scrubbing the dead skin off the media's coverage of the Rodney King verdict, homelessness, Clarence Thomas, the "Great" Chicago Flood and the all but ignored oil tragedy in Kuwait. The most striking image is a comparison of the bombing of Baghdad to the firework speckled castle of the Wonderful World of Disney.
Furthermore, the mood is set by Middle Eastern music, as Cindy, clothed in white, dances around an uncorked Jeannie bottle. With the help of a black microphone affixed to her head, she soaks us in her voice, reciting a poem to "lipless" George Bush. An oil fire charges out of the bottle and a green computerized George Bush head appears and speaks like "Clutch Cargo on valium." He declares, "America has won the cold war," and he compares his tactics for saving the failing economy with the naked aggression of one of the causes of its failure, Operation Desert Storm. At one point Cindy's shadow covers Bush's lips so we cannot read them. The music suddenly takes on an awkward transition, turning pop. Cindy performs an entertaining cover of "I might like you better if we slept together."
Cindy seeks the help of her therapist, a computer program, which is limited to such responses as: "That's interesting; why the uncertain tone; is it important to you; what does that suggest to you; what does that mean to you; do you feel strongly about it; sex" and "I see." A statement made about talking shifts to a statement about life in the computer era. The computer's voice deepens, the sound of it inspiring goosebumps. "Can I hurt you?" Cindy asks.
Besides more amazing musical tricks, more video wizardry follows. There is a man's face on one video monitor and a woman's on another. The two argue about sex and childbirth. "Stay out of my monitor and my womb," the woman yells, as the man leaps at her. A big video image of a doctor and his sexy assistant, who are mixing a slimy, test tube concoction, is projected between the monitors. The man and woman seemingly watch a phallic microscope. This time, burlesque music adds to the humorous mood. Phone-line sounds scrub close to the nerves, as a big, pink telephone drops. An activist solicits participation in an abortion debate. Rather than finding the common ground she is searching for, she swings the phone like a baby in her arms. The video image of a woman's body as a roadmap leads into video documentation of two children crossing a busy, city street. This image is scarred by the pink shadow of the phone's cord. The cast freezes from hostility to statue-like poses: individual's mouths are silenced by their fists, death poses and finally peace.
Cindy, dressed in a conservative black skirt, recites a poem, the best argument for freedom of choice that I have ever heard. To slow, jazzy mood music, she recites:
This is my heart
. . .if I have a choice to make
I count on it to tell me the truth
. . .it is only bound by the laws of my soul
. . . it cannot be overturned.
As she recites, a white video silhouette is filled with colorful planets and starry images, shades of blue, fire.
After a break, the Loofah band returns with a medley of some of their most recent hits, including "Vogue with the War Dead." Quotes from the Ollie North hearings are sampled to industrial music in this morbid parody of the Madonna song. The samples include "punch the button delete; you know where the shredder is" and "did I get 'em all?" Cindy, in a uniform, salutes to bloody, dancing skeletons splashed over the images of mothers holding photos of their dead children. In this musical scrub, Cindy is on stage as well as superimposed over the images.
Next, we are smooth-talked from nauseatingly wicked performance art into the relaxed celebration of poetry. "Beautiful Woman" is a poem only surpassed in its quality by "Memory," by the same author. The lights are on Cindy Salach, who is in a black T-shirt and black tights. The mood music this time sounds like it should accompany an elephant convoy led by Peter Gabriel. The music includes a memorable saxophone, playing like the rain in Cindy's poem. She pours water into a crystal bowl from a crystal pitcher. She splashes the water on her face. During "memory," the lights go out and the music turns experimental, like the sounds of water dripping and chains rattling on an old, hollow boat. The sounds help set the mood again, during a poem dedicated to Grandma Angelina Salach, which is moody enough to accomplish tears a cappella. It is performed behind spherical red bulbs of light. Developer is poured over a large sheet of photo paper and the image on it appears. Tonight, Cindy decides to expose the second photo paper with smears from her hands. "Starting anything is almost unfair," she says, as the death of Angelina is symbolized by the ruining of the photo process with white light.
Next, an accordianist and a bassist play a song in the classic Loofah style, as Cindy, in a white suit, dances in front of projected patterns. Other patterns are projected onto her body, including the word "inn (smiley face) cent." This can be classified in terms of the Loofah's self-invented video choreography. During tonight's final pong, "Afterbirth (the nature of nature)," the audience is pulled into the music with words in the program. A church organ plays.
This is not a clean place.
There are not drawers to fit everything.
Sometimes the rubbage piles up so high it is taller than me.
It could be a forest.
An odor of things fertilizing,
things make each other grow
Not too generous or even polite
...nothing is done out of spite."
The cast relaxes and has fun with a sloppy, intoxicated sing-a-long. The water is boiling.
--C. J. Laity, 1992
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