DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt



Images from "Glossolalia + Katharsis", 1989, multimedia show produced by Fred Hatt

The tradition of the wild party for New Years probably has something to do with the idea of catharsis, an explosive releasing of pent-up emotion through acting out.  We want to exhaust the frustration, regrets and resentments of the ending year by burning off the lingering energy to awaken to a fresh new day.  Of course in real life it doesn’t work, and waking up to a hangover in no way feels like a clean beginning.  But perhaps an artistic experience can give a taste of liberating paroxysm.  In this spirit I present this little two minute primal scream made twenty years ago.

Excerpts from Glossolalia + Katharsis from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

There’s a good story behind the making of this film.  One of my housemates at the time, Mike Montgomery (now known as the lounge singer Monty Banks) was planning a tour of the Fringe Theater Festivals in Canada with Buck Duke’s Wild Sex Show, a potpourri of dirty jokes, puppets, magic tricks and R&B music with audience participation.  To attract media attention, Mike planned to stage public confrontations between his character, Buck Duke, a profane cowboy mountebank, and a pompous European artiste named Lorean Dauphine, who would be portrayed in the faux showdowns by different actors hired in each Fringe Festival city.

Mike felt Lorean Dauphine needed his own show, and approached me about producing a multimedia extravaganza that could be presented in the festivals as Dauphine’s work.  I would have just two weeks to complete an hour-long show that could be shown without my having to tour with it.  I suppose I should have been offended that Mike thought of presenting my work as the oeuvre of a pretentious twit, but I thought it was an interesting production challenge and decided to take it as an opportunity to make something experimental.  Mike suggested basing the work on themes from Georges Bataille’s Erotism:  Death and Sensuality.

I put together a slide show with 280 images photographed from my own collection of art books:  depictions of heroism, death and horror, eroticism and enlightenment from many cultures.  The slides were ordered according to a classical hindu theory of Rasas, the gamut of moods or flavors in the arts.

To record a sound track we threw a party where we taped musicians improvising, under the direction of my brother Frank.  I still have his notes for the different phases of the improvisation, which read, “Mirthful glee – righteous rage – sexual ecstasy – wailing & bemoaning – military pride – all falsetto – sustained chanting – percussive noises – tribal trance – everybody improvise poetry at the same time.”  Frank and I had been doing what we called Glossolalia – freely improvised group sounding, mostly vocal – for several years by that time, and for the recording Frank led a large and, I’m afraid, unruly group in this.

We threw another party that filmmaker Eve Heller filmed in 16mm, at which “without rehearsal or preconceived structure, vocal and physical taboos were lifted and the resulting chaos became the ground on which the collective unconscious of the performers could realize itself,” as explained in a statement I wrote for a showing of the piece.  One hour of film was shot, to be presented unedited.  Around this time, I had first experienced the shamanic work of California performance artist Frank Moore, and his influence may be seen in the performance party.

That’s me in the film, juggling sheets of silver mylar and carrying a woman in a slip on my back.  Frank is the guy with a mustache making magic hands at the beginning, and Mike is seen in a wheelchair.  Party like it’s 1989!

The film, slide show, and sound track were created separately, to be exhibited simultaneously, with correspondences occurring only by chance.  The show was presented in New York and at the various Canadian Fringe Festivals.  One reviewer wrote, “Definitely in the running as the worst Fringe show of the year, this combines slides and experimental film in a way that goes beyond baffling. . . redefines self indulgence.”  I figure it’s always good when you can redefine something, and if the critic thought it was so awful I suppose it met Mike’s requirement to represent the work of fictional Lorean Dauphine.  April Panzer, director of TuCCA, the Tulsa Center for Contemporary Art, where the show was also presented, described it as “A cloud of chaos out of which periodically drop gems of insight.”

I felt there was a lot of good stuff in the piece, especially the slide show, but it was a bit long at an hour, so the following year I made this much shorter distillation of a few moments from it, and present it to you now as your cathartic New Years’ party.  All the best to you in 2010.

On my Vimeo page you can see the full credits for the film and music.

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