Rivers of Dickheads (The Rise and Fall of Tommy Robinson and the English Defence League)


 
Last year, the British Islamist and all-round comedian Anjem Choudary (“Fox’s Favorite Muslim Radical”) popped up alongside three of four local Islamists in Walthamstow, East London to declare, before of a press audience pushing double figures, the instigation of Sharia law in the surrounding borough of Waltham Forest! This, to be sure, had as much meaning as would my declaring the legalization of methamphetamine in New York State, but a couple of tabloids duly trotted out the story all the same. Choudary laid it down in his usual disconcertingly suburban tones.

“This will mean this is an area where the Muslim community will not tolerate drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, usury, free mixing between the sexes – the fruits if you like of Western civilization. We want to run the area as a Sharia controlled zone and really to put the seeds down for an Islamic Emirate in the long term.”

A year on, I can testify (as a relatively hard-livin’ resident of Walthamstow) that the Islamic Emirate of Waltham Forest looks a fair old way off regardless of last year’s stunt, while the local Islamist movement remains more depressing than intimidating.

Take my local Internet café (please!) which has the following admonition on the wall: “PLEASE NO MORE LOOKING AT TERRORIST AND PORNOGRAPHY SITES. POLICE WILL BE CALLED IMMEDIATELY.” The impression is of a minority of “armchair Jihadists” –losers paying a pound an hour to haunt chat-rooms almost certainly observed by (and likely moderated and maintained by) Anglo-American intelligence agents.

Many–including many Islamists–consider Choudary himself to be an embarrassingly obvious British Intelligence Asset. You can see why. There’s something distinctly phony about him, while his associated groups (such as the snappily titled Islam4UK) seem solely focused on generating supremely banal controversy rather than advancing any sort of Islamic agenda.

For example, Choudary first acquired widespread notoriety when he led a small group in heckling soldiers’ coffins back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, this upset a lot of people, among them Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka “Tommy Robinson,” a seething Islamophobe from Luton, who decided, along with some like-minded berks, to surf the wave of public outrage and announce the formation of the EDL, or English Defence League, the self-styled “street protest movement,” predominantly consisting of angry rough white working class men–many of them former soccer hooligans–who up to very recently have regularly descended on various English towns by the coach-load to get pissed and chant about Mohammed being a pedophile (this is literally what they do).
 

 
Initially identifying “radical Islam” as the object of its drunken ire, the EDL has since expanded its scope to include Islam in general. (It’s like I always say, if you’re gonna pick a fight, pick one with a billion people.) Robinson–a surprisingly baby-faced monomaniac–explained the reason for this on Newsnight a couple of years back.

“I didn’t know anything about the Koran when this first started. I didn’t know wot left wing or right wing woz. I never even turned the computer on. I just knew things were seriously wrong.”

It ain’t every day someone admits founding a political movement in a state of total ignorance! Rest assured that Robinson’s computer has since remained very much on, and his prejudice blossomed into the full-blown Islamophobic ideology recognizable the world over. As such, Robinson publicly eschews many of the traditional hatreds of the British far right–gays, Jews, women–so as to concentrate entirely on Muslims…

Hence the intermittent presence of right wing Californian rabbi Nachum Shifren–“the surfing rabbi”–at various EDL outings. That the fundamentalist Shifren (no less a comedian, in his own way, than Anjem Choudary) advocates the stoning of gay people arguably complicates the EDL’s LGBT pretensions, but then the following extract from a Shifren EDL speech suggests there might be number of crossed wires here.

“I’ve a question for you today. Is there a man or a woman here–I want you to step forward if you are here–if there’s anybody here that wants to forever forgo reading Locke, Chaucer, Dickens or Goethe, can we hear from them now, because that’s what you’re gonna get if the Islamists take over!?!”

Got quite a small cheer, that–the likelihood of any of Shifren’s audience knuckling down to some Locke, Chaucer, Dickens or Goethe (or even knowing who they are) being pretty darn slim.
 

 
Tommy Robinson, of course, much better understands the EDL demographic, and began a recent speech with the following, more attuned opening gambit:  “At half four this morning, I was in a strip club in Slovenia…” (banging on, you suspect, about Muslims, while a bored blonde wriggled her ass in his crotch). ““I was at my mate’s stag weekend… I got a taxi from the airport.” Got a big cheer, that, the stag weekend representing a kind of hoodlum Hajj, the central pilgrimage of an inverse Islam.

It can seem that there is something antithetical about Islamic and British culture (the EDL’s version of it, anyway). Which is to say that the latter seems founded almost solely on what the former deems haram –“forbidden.” First of all, you’ve got booze… haram. Then you’ve got the fried breakfast, with its fifty-seven different uses for pig flesh… haram. Random naked women (whether in a strip club or the pages of a tabloid newspaper)… haram. The bookies… haram. The gram of sniff… haram. Headbutting your mate in jest… haram. Even soccer (according to many Sharia scholars I came across)… haram.

Might it not be credible that, beneath all the cant about clashing civilizations, beneath even the tacit aversion to anyone that isn’t bright pink, the EDL are motivated by a fear of having absolutely fuck all to do in the extremely unlikely eventuality of a Sharia UK? This, they must figure, is why Muslims pray five times a day. It kills time!

Anyway, obediently following Anjem Choudary’s breadcrumb trail of provocation, September saw the EDL undertake a day trip to the aforementioned “Islamic Emirate of Waltham Forest”… where they were told, by a very wide cross section of locals, to fuck off. In fact so many people turned out to deliver this message, that the whole demo was disrupted, the speeches were cancelled, and the entire “street protest” approach was thrown into contention among the EDL rank-and-file.
 

 
Adding to the fall-out was a campaign from Nick Griffin–leader of the British National Party and the traditional big kahuna of the British far right–accusing the EDL of being some kind of dastardly Zionist ploy (the presence of “the surfing rabbi” presumably giving the game away there). Robinson took to YouTube to brandish an assortment of mortgage arrears and unpaid bills, apparently at breaking point. “If I’ve got all this rich Zionist funding,” he shouted, “why’s my phone been cut off for two bloody weeks?”

Shortly after, and with a view to regaining the whole race-hate initiative, Robinson led a bunch of EDL goons in an attempt to occupy a mosque. Fortunately, the cops got wind of it and nipped that scheme in the bud, arresting over fifty potential participants. All were bailed apart from Robinson, who was remanded on a charge for having accessed the US with a fake passport in order to attend an anti-Islam conference hosted by the lovely Pamela Geller. Locked up and facing extradition to the US, Robinson can do little to prevent what looks like the final disintegration of his movement. Ah well, Tommy, at least you were indirectly responsible for the immortal “Muslamic Ray Guns” (see below).

And what of that old fraud Anjem Choudary? He’s got some pretty big fish to fry, let me tell you. Remember that young lady Malala Yousafzai, the fifteen-year-old shot by the Pakistani Taliban after she campaigned for education rights for girls? Well, never one to miss an opportunity to humiliate his supposed co-religionists, Choudary latest organization–Sharia4Pakistan–is reportedly holding a conference in Islamabad to call for her execution! Comedians, the lot of them…  
 

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
Cabinet of Curiosities: Steven Arnold, greatest American artist you’ve probably never heard of?
11.28.2012
03:06 pm

Topics:
Art
Queer

Tags:
Steven Arnold


 

My angels
Please don’t take me for granted – I’m a rare
Freak of nature and now is the time to appreciate
What I am saying to the Earth
Love, Steven Arnold
September 10, 1990

I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m someone who lives for outsider art and culture, and like the other contributors to Dangerous Minds, it’s fun for me, as that kind of extreme “infomaniac,” to be able to marquee for our readers in some way the various weird things that I know about, stumble across acidentally or that gets submitted to us. A big part of the enjoyment also comes from seeing what everyone else comes up with—I get it at just about the same time that you do—and the most fun of all is when I get to discover something that’s totally unknown to me that perhaps I should have known about, but didn’t.

I’m usually pretty hard to stump, but it’s the best thing ever, as far as I’m concerned, when that does happen. Like with the work of Steven Arnold. Prior to March of this year, I’d never heard of him. For a straight guy, I actually happen to know quite a bit about 20th century queer underground art films (Warhol, Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses, John Waters, Jean Genet, Kenneth Anger, Thundercrack, Andy Milligan, Black Lizard Jack Smith’s Beautiful Creatures and Normal Love, the Kuchar Brothers, Pink Narcissus, etc.—it’s not all that long of a list). But Steven Arnold? Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.

Steven Arnold, who died in 1994, is one of the greatest—albeit, admittedly rather unfairly obscure—avant garde photographic geniuses America has ever produced. First I stumbled across his 1971 cult movie Luminous Procuress—a jaw-dropping surrealist film praised by both Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol—on Vimeo (I was researching something on The Cockettes) and then I was positively stunned by what I saw on display at the exhaustive website about his work, The Steven Arnold Archive, maintained by Stephanie Farago (a wonderful artist in her own right).
 

 
Here’s a slightly abridged version of Arnold’s bio from the site:

Steven Arnold (1943–1994) was a California-based multi-media artist, spiritualist, gender bender, and protegee of Salvador Dali. His work consisted of drawings, paintings, rock and film posters, makeup design, costume design, set design, photography and film.

Steven also played an instrumental role in giving The Cockettes, the famed psychedelic San Francisco drag troupe, their first chance to perform on stage in exchange for free tickets to his “Nocturnal Dream Show” – which was among the first-ever Midnight Movie showcases. This launched The Cockettes into underground fame.

Early in his career, Steven also nurtured a prolific creative relationship with pioneer of the wearable art movement Kaisik Wong which lasted until Kaisik’s death in 1989. Their work together included the production and design of a play titled Dragonfly, and several tableaux vivant photography collaborations. Throughout his life, Steven’s eccentric modes of expression led him to the upper-crust of both coasts, including encounters, in some cases lifelong friendships, with the likes of Vogue’s Diana Vreeland, actress Ellen Burstyn, psychedelic explorer Timothy Leary, Jay Leno, The Cars, George Harrison, Blondie‘s Debbie Harry, Divine, and Warhol Superstar Holly Woodlawn.

Among Steven’s most notable early works is a rarely-seen film gem titled Luminous Procuress, starring Pandora and featuring The Cockettes, which was lauded by Salvador Dali, and Andy Warhol, among others. In fact, Dali was so impressed with the film, that he invited Steven, Pandora (Steven’s muse, and the film’s star), Kaisik Wong, and their entourage to help him open his Dali Theater-Museum in Figueres, Spain. Luminous Procuress was edited and scored by electronic music forefather Warner Jepson. The film continues to be screened worldwide, including showings at the Tate Modern, London, and CPH:DOX, Denmark. Steven’s films have been recently featured Museum of the Moving Image, the Tate Modern, London, and the List Visual Art Center Film Night at MIT.

Although his early film work garnered him much attention, Steven was best known for his exquisite, surreal, black & white tableau vivant photography produced from the old pretzel factory he called Zanzibar Studios in Los Angeles. His photography has been exhibited at the Tate Modern, London; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; among others. Steven Arnold’s works are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany; the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Cinematheque Francaise, Paris, France; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MoMA); the Oakland Museum of California; and the Cincinnati Art Museum. His works are in the private collections of: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ellen Burstyn, Cher, Salvador Dali, Goldie Hawn, Yves St. Laurent, Diana Vreeland, and many others. Steven published three books of photography during his lifetime: Reliquaries, with a foreword by Ellen Burstyn, Epiphanies, with afterword by James Leo Herlihy, and Angels of Night. Steven Arnold Stemmle Edition, a photographic retrospective, was published posthumously.

 

 
Steven Arnold’s work exists at a delicate intersection of Luis Buñuel, Ken Anger,The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 50’s Hollywood glamour photography, Pink Narcissus, Joel-Peter Witkin and Jack Smith. I’ve never seen anything else even remotely like it, although I can also see an influence Arnold’s work might have had on Rocky Schenk’s wonderfully artsy portraits and the highly-styled portraiture landscapes of Josef Astor.
 

 
Steven Arnold, in his own words:

“I interview myself all day long – Doesn’t everyone? Rant and rave about bliss, the creative process angels listening to higher message-appreciation of one’s gifts. The best way to elevate consciousness is to do the work with love. Love is sharing the message.”

 

 

“Art is revolution or it’s nothing.”

 

 
For more information on the life and work of Steven Arnold, visit The Steven Arnold Archive. I recommend downloading the PDF file of the proposed coffee table book on Arnold which you can find here.
 

 
A new exhibit, Steven Arnold: Cabinet of Curiosities, a retrospective of this groundbreaking yet under-recognized queer artist will be on display through January 12, 2013 at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, 626 North Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood. The exhibition celebrates Arnold’s radical imagination, presenting many of his tableaux vivant photographs alongside never before exhibited drawings, sketchbooks, paintings and original poster art. In conjunction with the exhibition, ONE will screen Arnold’s four films, including Luminous Procuress on the exhibit’s closing day, Saturday, January 12, 2013

Below, Luminous Procuress (you can purchase all of Arnold’s films on DVD and support The Steven Arnold Archive):
 

 
Arnold’s 1967 short, The Liberation of Mannique Mechanique:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
A brief primer on Black Power Christmas music

album cover
 
Turkey Day has passed us by, and it is officially the Christmas season. And, as the Pamplona of Black Friday reminded us, this means an onslaught of fevered consumerism, fetishizaton of commodities, conspicuous consumption, and all that other icky stuff that turns our red little stomachs stomachs. Exacerbating that nausea is the hallmark corniness of the holidays. “Peace on earth and goodwill towards men” can feel so cliched and forced when contrasted with the materialism of the spectacle. It’s easy to get a little contemptuous at Christmas.

It’s all reminiscent of George Orwell’s essay, “Why Socialists Don’t Believe in Fun.” A self-identified socialist, Orwell begins the piece with an anecdote on Lenin, who was, as the story goes, reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on his death bed. It’s said that communist revolutionary denounced the feel-good classic as full of “bourgeois sentimentality.” A fun guy, that one.

Orwell goes on to bemoan the kind of cynicism exhibited by Lenin and his ilk, noting that we dour anti-capitalists can’t seem to enjoy anything nostalgic or sentimental. I think anyone with much experience in radical circles has recognized the tendency. So in the interest of subverting our fuddy-duddy dispositions, allow me to show you one of my favorite Christmas music sub-genres: The Black Power Christmas Song.

Now, I’m not just talking about a Christmas song performed by a black artist, or even a Christmas song performed in a black genre. I am talking about a Christmas song that portrays Christmas itself as explicitly black. Let’s start with “The Be-Bop Santa Claus,” by Babs Gonzalez.

 
This 1957 update of T’was the Night Before Christmas starts out with the line, “T’was the black before Christmas.” Now Babs was a bebop pioneer and poet, and used to go by the name “Ricardo Gonzalez” in an attempt to get into hotels that discriminated against black people; that coy little line is an incredibly personal one. What follows is a perfect depiction of the Reaganite’s boogeyman, complete with suede shoes, Cadillacs, and Applejack; it’s fantastically subversive, unapologetic, and totally self-aware.
 
Of course, I can’t resist including the 1958 white hipster rip-off, “Beatnik’s Wish,” by Patsy Raye & the Beatniks.
 

 
It’s quite the (ahem) “homage.” Paging Norman Mailer…

If “The Be-Bop Santa Claus” alludes to urban poverty, James Brown’s “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto” leaves nothing to the imagination.

 

 
“Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud” was released as a two-part single in August of 1968. This song was released a few months later on James’ full-length, A Soulful Christmas, which was the first LP to feature “Say it Loud.” Meaning James Brown, already a floating signifier for the Black Power Movement, released “Say it Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud,” on a fucking Christmas album. Take that, Lenin! It acknowledges black poverty as a pressing matter of social justice in a seemingly incongruously celebratory song. Second, the song applies radical Black Power politics to something as traditional as Christmas. (If I could add a third, I’d also say that this is just a sick jam, but I digress.)

This one, however, is my absolute favorite.

 
Performed by Teddy Vann and his daughter, Akim, “Santa Claus is a Black Man” is arguably the most adorable product of Black Power. I mean look at that album cover! Look at her wee little Black Power fist! Listen to her sweet, spastic, bubbly little voice!

Not only can I not overemphasize the significance of radical children’s art being sung by an actual child (we so rarely give children the reigns, so to speak), “Santa Claus is a Black Man” is a brilliantly executed piece of kid-sized politics. You have a black child satirizing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” which was originally sung by Jimmy Boyd, arguably the whitest damn child in the world. And the hook is, “and he’s handsome, like my Daddy, too,” an joyous assertion of “Black is Beautiful.”

Interestingly, towards the end, Akim says, “I want to wish everybody Happy Kwanzaa.” When Kwanzaa was first introduced in 1966, founder and activist Maulana Karenga promoted the holiday as a way to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday, and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.” Much to Karenga’s surprise, African Americans were rarely willing to give up the holiday of the oppressor, and eventually Karenga softened his position to allow Kwanzaa to be celebrated alongside Christmas, though not before “Santa Claus is a Black Man” was released in 1973. In the grand scheme of things, people don’t really want to be sectarian when it comes to Santa Claus.

Of course, none of this music succeeds in making Christmas cool. Even though these are great, subversive little songs, they’re also rife with the exact sort of schlocky sentimentality we’ve come to expect from Christmas music. And why shouldn’t they be? What’s so bad about sentimental and schlocky, anyway? Does Wal-Mart win if we enjoy a little syrupy holiday cheer? Will a few tender moments soften our anti-capitalist resolve? These songs are all navigating a very old tradition in order to reflect the radical ideas, the radical ideas we hope will become our new traditions. They use Christmas to represent the underrepresented and condemn racism and poverty, and they do it all with a little bit of mawkish sincerity and delight.

This Christmas, let’s resist our inner-Lenins, and let’s wallow in a little sentimentality. Hey, it was good enough for James Brown.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Exclusive Premiere: Ships release new song ‘Places’

ships_simon_sorca
 
After a couple of years of “hanging out, sizing up, and rigorous sound/soul searching” musicians and artists Simon Cullen and Sorca McGrath have brought their talents together to form Ships, a collaborative synth project, which is winning considerable attention at home, in Ireland, and across the water.

Cullen is a former member of Les Bien, the core of Lasertom and The Blast Crew, and a pivotal member of the arts/music/film/video collective Synth Eastwood. McGrath is a singer/songwriter formerly with Palomine. Having established themselves as independent artists and performers, McGrath and Cullen brought their shared interest in Fleetwood Mac, Prince and Moloko (together with “honorary” member Cian Murphy of I Am The Cosmos), to create their upbeat, emotive and fruitful collaboration Ships. They have already released 2 singles, “You’re Gonna Feel It” (which was part of a release with I Am The Cosmos) and “Two Hearts”.

Now, here is Dangerous Minds’ exclusive premiere of Ships’ latest track “Places”.
 

 
Bonus tracks from Ships, after the jump…
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

I Am The Cosmos: Exclusive premiere of track ‘Lost Rhythm’


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Beautiful Fevered Dreams: The Art of Sig Waller

sig_waller_2002
 
When the artist Sig Waller was a child, she experienced intense fever hallucinations. It possibly explains something about her paintings, which are beautiful, brightly colored, fluid, dreamlike, visions of reality. I find her work addictive, and am drawn back, time and again to certain paintings - paintings which seem as if she has made real some fragment of my dreams.

Waller’s first major exhibition was in 1996, and since then she has exhibited her paintings across the world. Her work is fabulous, intense, politicized yet often darkly amusing. There is a great intelligence at work here, which can be seen in such varied series as: Dreamlands (1999-2001) a series of channel-hopping images taken form television; Hotel Romantica (2002), sensuous paintings based on a pack of nude playing cards, which was stowed away on the Apollo 12 spacecraft during its November 1969 voyage to the moon; All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (2011) a series of paintings examining different forms of protest; which ties in with Burning Desire (2102) a series of paintings based on mobile ‘phone photographs of the Tottenham riots in 2011.

Sig (originally “S.I.G.” or “Spectrum is Green” from Captain Scarlett and the Mysterions) Waller divides her time between Brighton and Berlin, and is about to start an artist’s residency in Italy. I contacted Sig to find out more about her life, her inspiration and her childhood.

Sig Waller: ‘I grew up mainly on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea, Wales. My parents were foreign intellectuals - my father an American historian who dressed like a tramp and my mother an obsessively Francophile, German psychologist. Our house had no TV or telephone; pop music was banned, as were cinema visits. The only contact my sister and I had with popular culture was via comic books and story cassettes sent from Germany. We spent a lot of time at our grandparent’s house in the Saarland and I grew up bi-lingual with my mother’s French-influenced regional dialect as my first language.

‘My mother was horrified by life in South Wales and tried to create her own “Little Germany” within the walls of our house. This resulted in me reading Gothic tales in old German script dressed in Bavarian costume while my classmates wore t-shirts and watched Top of the Pops.

‘When I was 8 there was a period when I experienced some quite intense fever hallucinations. At the same time, I had Hauff’s dark tales swirling around in my head and this came to form the root of my fascination with the macabre and the grotesque. Stories such as “The Tale of the Hacked-off Hand” or “The Tale of the Ghost Ship” are still with me today.

‘One of my most formative childhood experiences was that of alienation. If a kid is different, the other kids will point and I got used to being pointed at. Later things changed and my parents got hip, dragging us to experimental theater performances and art movies. I remember the day I told them I wanted a record and their dumbfounded reaction. Prior to this, I’d been secretly listening to music on a small transistor radio in bed. Surprisingly, my mother entered into the spirit of things and started buying Brian Eno records and taking us to the ICA. At around this time I began to dye my hair and decided that it was okay to be different.

‘When I was little I wanted to be a clown or an artist. I loved Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy and was fascinated by the idea of the circus but as I was also quiet and shy I must have decided that art was the better option. I spent hours studying reproductions of paintings and imagining my future life as an artist. I didn’t think I was very good at drawing but held onto my fantasy and at around age 13 something strange happened and suddenly I could draw. I then spent most of my adolescence listening to obscure music, drawing and nurturing my teenage melancholia.

‘My first truly artistic (and coincidentally also comic) act took place in the baby cot, where I – left unattended – picked up one of my baby-poos and using it as a colouring stick, expressively daubed at the bars of my confinement. This event has been recounted to me on many occasions, usually in the presence of a new boyfriend, so it must be true.

Paul Gallagher: Tell me about Art College?

Sig Waller: ‘I was barely 18 when I moved to London to study Art and Art History at Goldsmiths. Back then the art college was at the Millard building in Camberwell and that place had an incredible atmosphere. I remember one afternoon, a guy came into the bar with a pistol and yelled, ‘Everybody get their hands up,’ and everyone just ignored him, it was that kind of place. People were generally too busy polishing their egos to notice the guy with the gun.

‘I started going to warehouse and squat parties and halfway through my first year at college I began living in squats. I continued with this life for the next 7 years and this gave rise to my interest in protest and rebellion.

‘While at college I began to paint with oils and use elements of my clothing in my work. I would walk around with slogans pinned to my back and these would eventually make their way into my paintings. One of my jackets became part of a painting too – I wore some very strange outfits; I guess it was a kind of performance I was engaged in, though it was more organic than contrived.

‘After college, I stopped painting and started making hats and other fluffy rubbish and selling these through markets and designer shops. I also did a Photo / Video foundation course, worked on music videos and animation and wrote a few film scripts.’

Paul Gallagher: From college, you moved to berlin, why and what happened?

Sig Waller: ‘I’d been fascinated by Berlin for years, its new wave and industrial music scene excited me and so many things seemed to be happening there. I first went to Berlin in 1989, just after The Wall came down and was there over the New Year, which was an incredibly intense experience. In 1995 my friend Volker Sieben invited me to live in his run down studio complex in Brunnenstrasse in Berlin-Mitte, so I packed my bags and drove there with a car full of fake fur, which I was going to turn into stuff to sell.

‘In 1996, I moved into a place on Reinhardstrasse, which was a stone’s throw away from the Reichstag. A new project space called C4 opened round the corner and in early 1998 I curated Blut & Blumen (Blood and Flowers) there. This marked a turning point for me as I began to revisit my childhood dream of being an artist. Some months later, I had a solo show at the Tacheles and painted my first oil paintings in 10 years.

‘In late 1998 I moved back to Brunnenstrasse, which is where I painted my extensive Dreamlands TV-zapping series which I showed as part of the Z2000 Festival in Berlin and also in New York in 2001. The flat on Brunnenstrasse was documented in a book called Berlin Interiors: East meets West.’

Paul Gallagher: What inspires you?

Sig Waller: ‘Dark things inspire me. And things that make me laugh. I find the combination of dark and funny particularly inspirational but I am also interested in art history and cultural theory; junk and found materials; chance encounters; future studies and science fiction; fairy tales, horror and the paranormal; expressionist cinema, cult movies and television; and obviously books and the internet are an endless source of inspiration, as are conversations with artists and friends…

‘Some of my work may appear to be quite militant, this is because I find a lot of political issues quite infuriating, so in a way my work is also a form of personal anger management and these more radical pieces are an expression of some of that rage.

‘Right now I’m feeling inspired by needle-crafting grandmothers everywhere, by all the people who spend hours making stuff in their living rooms, by my son’s infallible sense of humor, by the encouragement of others and by the many great and wonderful artists I’ve stumbled across over the years whose time has yet to come.

‘I’m also still a fan of Kippenberger, his work resonates to this day and a lot of the art I’ve seen in the past 20 years is simply imitation Kippenberger.

Out of the exhibitions I’ve visited recently, I found the Deller show at the Hayward the most engaging. Art can be political, but on some level it should also be enjoyable.
 
sig_waller_on_the_road
 
More from Sig Waller’s life and art, after the jump…
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

S.I.G. Waller: ‘Our capacity for cruelty and suffering is timeless, as is our ability to look away’


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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