A Child's Guide to Good & Evil
video-collage / painting-screen
video Brendan Majewski
screens Nicholas Brooks, Graham Caldwell, Gardar Eide Einarsson,
James Foster, Jacob Kassay, Amy O'Neill, Steven Parrino,
David Ratcliff, Jim Jim Train
July 14 - August 12
open thursday - sunday
summer night hours 7pm - 10pm
Take What You Need and Leave the Rest
Matt: Welcome back to 120 Minutes. I'm Matt Pinhead, and we're here tonight with Speck Brown and Brendan Majewski of the band Orphan. We're going to be watching clips from some of their amazing videos, most of which are from their new album, Decaffeinated Lovers.
Speck: Decapitated Lovers.
Brendan: What are we even doing here?
S: Weren't we supposed to be on "Indie Outing," with Janeane Garofalo? The show where they out all the indie rockers? Like the Butthole Surfers and the Pixies.
B: I thought we were scheduled to be on "Unplugged." Weren't they going to film us when we turned off our amps and left the stage?
Matt: So Speck, tell me, who makes the videos? Do you work on them together?
S: They're all Brendan. They come from the perversity and anguish of his sick little mind. Of course I say that with the greatest love and respect.
B: They're completely autobiographical, except for the fact that they're never referencing my own life, or anything that ever happened to me. The names—and the crimes—have been changed to protect the guilty.
Matt: What do you mean by that?
B: They're guilty ... of being innocent.
Matt: The first one we watched was "Tarantula Downforce." Let's see if I can remember even part of what we saw ... a house engulfed in flames, a burning pentagram, two kids happily running hand-in-hand off the edge of a cliff, a girl playing with a switchblade, another with a sign that says MYSELF, which she slices through with a pair of scissors. There are girls shooting rifles, Uzis, and handguns—some real babes, I might add. All of this plays out against 8-and-a-half very ominous minutes. The music is really beautiful, but also full of dread. It's pretty intense.
S: It's actually one of the less disturbing ones he's made.
B: You didn't mention the girl who's running on the beach at sunset, or the dancers from the '50s stag films, or the little kid in a bubble bath with her dolly. It's not all horrible. There's some humor. The dog running around with the skull hood over its head.
S: And the images fit the music perfectly.
B: Most music videos either suck or blow.
S: Our videos do neither. They don't illustrate the lyrics.
Matt: Words are for the birds?
B: I don't even know the words. Most of the time I'm just screaming or howling. Certain emotions can't be put into words, and if they can, maybe they shouldn't be sung. I admire people who can do that, who are able to express themselves honestly, like Elliott Smith. Too bad about him, right.
Matt: So in the videos you aren't trying to find visuals that tell the story?
B: It's more like the song becomes the soundtrack to this collage of images. Even if the song comes first, and then the video comes after, it could also be the other way around.
S: Most bands don't think that way, but then most videos aren't made by someone who's intimately involved in creating the songs. These videos are really part of who Brendan is, as an artist.
B: Just don't call them art.
Matt: What about montage in experimental Russian films, like those of Vertov? Or the films that Bruce Conner made in the '60s from found footage, intricately spliced together and looped. I see some definite parallels to what you're doing. Art is a reflection of the world, and the way that there's a relentless barrage of images in your videos, along with the volatile topics they address, seems to visualize the kind of forces we're all up against. The energy of the music mirrors this as well. It can be highly agitated and propulsive, spiraling around like some sort of vortex, dark and inescapable.
B: I can't disagree with what you're saying, and everyone's entitled to their opinion, but I must have lost you somewhere in that black hole.
Matt: I recently caught a couple of more traditional videos for your songs, that are obviously narrative in their structure.
S: We did collaborate on two of the videos. Nick Brooks did "Soda Depressing," and Michael Nirenberg directed "Fetus In Fetu." Both are really great actually. The last one is an extended torture scene.
B: Among other things, a power drill goes through my skull, and appropriately, for a song titled "Fetus In Fetu," it's in the hands of a woman who's very pregnant.
Matt: Childhood is something you come back to over and over in this work, a passage from childhood to awkward adolescence, you might say. In the video for "Mister Sensitive," you've got gangs of kids playing at being zombies.
B: They're not pretending.
S: Brendan loves zombie films. We haven't figured out why.
Matt: Well, zombies are generally misunderstood. We may see them as monsters, but they're not. The humans are more monstrous. Zombies are, as someone smarter than me once said, the return of the repressed. They aren't the way they are by choice. The story of the zombie is an allegory of society and its breakdown.
B: You're reading too much into this. Or not enough.
Matt: The next one we have cued up is "Big Black Hog." How would you describe this one? What's it about?
B: It's about four minutes long.
S: Actually, it's filled with all sorts of helpful make-up hints for Goth teens.
Matt: Like spitting up blood?
B: What goes around comes around.
Matt: At the beginning of the video there's a girl cramming her face with food. I thought you might be commenting on bulimia or anorexia.
B: Any political readings of our videos should be purged.
Matt: But I sense a message there. A social conscience at work?
S: An anti-social conscience.
Matt: There's nothing political? Not even when you have clips from security cameras showing the killers from Columbine, and the footage they filmed of themselves? What about the video for "Well Fed Fuck," which has a very anti-military, anti-Big Brother, anti-rat race vibe. And despite all the violence in these videos, they seem to be referencing it to put forth how the society pits people against one another—kids, peer groups, people in the workplace. How it dehumanizes or annihilates them. Mass production, mass destruction ...
B: That video was made for a cover of a Born Against song. You have to be against something, and a lot of what goes on in the world is basically anti-human, so you choose your targets and take aim. That's not necessarily political. You're only ever saying: This is how things are. And it's not always a pretty picture.
S: You can look at the videos as these little documentary films. It's all real.
Matt: And the footage is stolen from Youtube.
B: Borrowed and put to another ruse. I mean, use.
S: It's all raw material.
Matt: That's a very post-appropriation, sampling, recycling attitude.
B: [rolling his eyes] Whatever you say.
Matt: How about: take what you need and leave the rest.
B: [with a wink] That's more like it.
as overheard by BN