Destroy All Monsters: Niagara’s femme fatale pop art paintings

Niagara during an early Destroy All Monsters show
I’m never quite sure how familiar folks outside the midwest are with Destroy All Monsters, but if you haven’t given them a listen yet, I highly suggest you do. There are no “real” albums, but in 1994 Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore released everything they recorded on a three-disc set called 1974-1976. Unfortunately, the Detroit punk outfit is most often mentioned in passing, usually as a reference to a more famous band; guitarist Ron Asheton of The Stooges and bassist Michael Davis of the MC5 were also members of Destroy All Monsters. The late Mike Kelley did his time in the band as well. Jim Shaw, too. Destroy All Monsters were an art/rock supergroup of sorts, albeit an awfully obscure one.

But not only did they produce some really interesting music, DAM boasted one of the great punk frontwomen in Niagara, who still performs in various projects. The only Punk Magazine centerfold besides Debbie Harry, Niagara has an incredibly compelling, raw presence, and she’s a total fox. It makes perfect sense that her paintings depict beautiful, brazen, dangerous women. In a 2010 interview, she said her work was a response to “women in art being treated like still life,” going on to say, “I wanted them to start saying what they are thinking, I wanted to see that mix of beauty and hardness in incredibly caustic women. And there is humor, you can see the humor.”

Niagara’s first exhibit was in 1996, with the fabulously misandrist title, “All Men Are Cremated Equal.” While her noir femme fatales are her most popular work, her most recent stuff evokes more of a “dreamy, druggy ladies in absinthe ads” kind of vibe. Still, the super-saturated colors, campy, menacing femininity, and an old school sign-painter’s instincts give Niagara’s canvases the same exciting and distinctive edge she brings to the stage.
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost
11:42 am
‘Detective City Angel’: A short film by Alessandro Cima

Of his latest film, Detective City Angel, director Alessandro Cima says:

‘I think if you show this film to one thousand people, two will finish it. One of those will hate it. The other one won’t understand a damn bit of it. It’s too long and most people just won’t put up with it.’

A harsh and unfair summation from such a talented and original film-maker.

I like Alessandro Cima’s work, for it demands the full attention and response of its audience - it’s not enough to watch, Cima wants you to think about what you’re watching and question it. Dangerous film-making in these days of empty CGI spectacle and the worn words of scripts edited by focus group.

Films should be dangerous, and as Orson Welles once said:

‘A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.’

Which is a fair description of Cima’s vision.

Even so, he’s correct. Detective City Angel will not be to everyone’s taste - why should it? It’s a dream film that crosses genres, and plays with identity and authorship. it also hints at Goddard, Anger, Polanski, and Jarman, but is very much Cima’s film, in his own distinct style. Alessandro explained some of the ideas behind Detective City Angel to Dangerous Minds:

‘It’s a dream noir about Los Angeles and the unconscious creative mind which has several parts in conflict at all times. That conflict is deadly and life-affirming at the same time. The detective is perhaps an imaginary threat of failure, inertia or the eventual exposure of an artist’s feelings of fraudulence. The city is both muse and death dealer. Its outward mask presents sexuality and beauty which conceal a vicious survival of the fittest. The angel is seemingly innocent and always threatened with extinction. Its creative spirit is neurotic but ultimately pure. I try to balance all of these and keep them in some sort of pleasurable conflict.’

What was your intention in making it?

‘To make something totally mystifying. I wanted to mix genres in several ways. To mix the fundamental viewpoint of noir with documentary, abstract film, and narrative film, without any concern for reproducing the look and technique of noir. To make abstraction that collapses into a narrative, which sort of has the effect of making the viewer forget having seen the abstract part. I’m not sure if that works. It’s sort of like having a dream and not remembering what it was later in the day. I see no reason why experimental film should not mix freely with narrative film. In addition, I wanted to use the tendency toward secret identities in the world of street art and pull that into the crime genre. I think it’s a perfect fit and presents enormous possibilities for crime films.’

What drew you to the subject?

‘I’ve been somewhat involved with the art world and felt that the concealing of identity was in itself an interesting artwork. I was also intrigued by the surprisingly deep and wonderful history of Los Angeles. Noir and the crime film are the best available forms for representing L.A.

‘I make films in a rather dream-like state. I allow my thoughts to wander and actually spend time following false leads. I tend to operate in a general mode of playing with identity. No one is ever who they seem to be or think they are. The layering of image, sound and meaning demands that a viewer watch with extremely focused attention - a demand which is nearly impossible for a web viewer to fulfill. The film is a secret revealing itself very gradually and with many false impressions. It incorporates images that are both invented and real but it doesn’t want you to know which is which. Layering unrelated things, if done with seriousness, creates new meanings and propels a film in a direction that is not entirely under the director’s control. If something happens with layered images on any given day that suggests a new course for the film, then I take the new course. I use a few black & white found footage clips in this one to punch up certain noir/crime aspects.’

Previously on Dangerous Minds

Alessandro Cima’s ‘Glass Boulevard’


Posted by Paul Gallagher
07:31 pm