Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nov 18th - Pain of Love

Here are two videos based on my music and directed by William Kelly (See William's essay Sticking). These songs were the last I wrote and recorded in New York. William wrote the script and Margret Whalen dances and acts, while I am more or less myself except in the one scene depicting some domestic violence. Like all my videos not lost, these were also shot in super 8. Both were edited on video and William did some color correction's and small re-edits. The original tapes have deteriorated over the past 20 years, but I hope you still enjoy the feel and look of New York at that particular time, when MTV was all color, lights and glitter.



Saturday, April 12, 2008

what is Rock & Roll?

Rock’n Roll is
Expressing the times


didn’t care to explain – you were either with or not – last chance to shock – no difference between entertainer and entertained – tribes – pagan – music as pied piper – free stores – medicine – real feelings – not conditioned – a point in time that can never be erased from the history of the world – freedom – music is a complete ocean.

“To understand why the electric guitar became symbolic for a generation you have to pick one up, hold it, plug it into a Marshall stack and play a chord. Then you know.”
Pete Townsend

“The E-chord is just bright red” David Bowie

from History of Rock & Roll Warner Brother's 5 disc dvd set

Sticking by William Kelly

still from video Pain of Love live at CBGB's

As the East Village art scene rode in on the last wave of late seventies Lower East Side Punk, artists flocked to the area with the promise of cheap rents and artistic community. Economic necessity served not only as a catalyst of the movement’s beginning but drove its development in the form of the Do-It-Yourself (“DIY”) ethos. Living, creating, exhibiting and sharing were all informed by minimal means. No longer an excuse to wait for the corporate cultural gatekeepers to allow you to make and show your art, painters painted on street walls, exhibited in apartments and tiny store fronts, musicians recorded on 4 track cassette machines, pressed and distributed their own records; writers and poets published in cut-up photocopied magazines, filmmakers shot with Super-8 cameras and showed their films on the nearest white wall. This shared aesthetic--and indeed ethic--extended to all the arts and helped to re-alize that promise of a vibrant artistic community.

still from video Nov 18th

At one time over 50 galleries functioned in an area of little more than a dozen blocks. It became the norm to see on just about any night of the week crowds with drinks and cigarettes spilling out onto the streets at openings. (A freelance writer friend went for two years without spending any money on food and booze by attending gallery openings.) Add the many bars and clubs which often exhibited (and sold) art besides showcasing music, performance and films, a breakdown of traditional barriers among exhibition spaces became inevitable. But the walls between the art forms themselves blurred as well. Painters, dancers, filmmakers, photographers, poets and of course musicians couldn’t help but influ-ence each other by living, working and exhibiting in such a concentrated (if not the same) space. Whatever one’s take on this short lived neo-expressionist movement -- Positive or negative? An influ-ence on art itself or on the business of art?-- doesn’t change the fact that the East village art scene has had an impact far out of proportion to its relatively short life span and small size. Nov 18th

When I first met Dieter Runge in September 1987, this scene was still in its heyday but not for much longer. In less than a year the Tompkins Square Park riot would occur--the event most of us saw as the beginning of the end. The occasion for my meeting Dieter arose from a suggestion by a mutual friend, Steven Wren, that I might be able to help with a stalled music video project. I edited the footage which became the Step Into the Fire music video and commenced a fruitful working collaboration, and a lasting friendship.

As I got to know Dieter, I realized he was a bit of a character who seemed to know practically everyone in the East Village while just about everyone in the East Village seemed to know him. And why not? He had a great story people loved to hear: arrival on a $99 Freddie Laker one way flight as an illegal immigrant, wanting to experience first hand the mecca of punk music--the lower east side; living in a flop house near Times Square while learning English by watching television all hours of the day; then, making it downtown to St Mark’s place, living in the old Electric Circus building and working in Trash and Vaudeville, a celebrated used clothing store; and, of course, playing rock’n’roll.

Margret Whaley in Pain of Love

Many, myself included, found so appealing in Dieter an openness, a willingness to try something, al-most anything, whether an idea or a technique. For a time he worked at the perfect meeting place, Banditos, a small Mexican restaurant on Second Ave whose lethal margaritas made it one of the chief brain-cell-killer centers for musicians and artists, a perfect location to meet people. He must have in-troduced hundreds of area denizens to each other resulting in other artistic endeavors and friendships. Small wonder then, his album, East of Eden, contains some of the best musicians of the East Village community.

Dieter has always been something of an obsessive. I got my first glimpse of this when he showed me 365 photos of himself which he took over the course of one year--one photo each day. I was stunned as much by the simplicity of the idea as by its audacity and the discipline it required. Until that moment I’d always associated Dieter exclusively with music. This was the beginning of my awareness of his vis-ual acuity. It wasn’t long after that that he was asking me about shooting and editing film. The next thing I knew, he made an impressionist bike messenger film he cut to his song, Mystik Mood.

William Kelly directing Nov 18th

Of the many the paths within Dieter’s life’s way one of the most important and long lasting is Tai Chi. I’ll never forget one winter evening in 1990 when he dragged me to a studio on Broadway south of Ca-nal street to a Tai Chi class taught by a lovely woman named Jennette. It would leave an indelible im-pression; a year later I began studying another marital art and still study after 17 years. Credit, or blame, Dieter for that one. One of the chief tenets of Tai Chi is “sticking,” wherein you stick to your opponent. Dieter is great at “sticking.” If, as the saying goes, your greatest opponent is yourself, then Dieter has stuck to that opponent and pushed himself forward to develop and grow in so many ways--music, martial arts, big wave windsurfing, and the visual arts. Combining patience and perseverance, two more key tenets of martial arts, with an antithetical East Village orientation makes for a unique synthesis in Dieter.

Margret and Donald Kelly shooting Nov 18 on the Lower East Side. Looks Just like Dresden 45.

During what now seems a rather short period, Dieter and I collaborated on two more music videos, Pain of Love and November 18th. Since then I’ve been involved in other collaborations, but working with Dieter on those two videos was one of the best creative collaborations I’ve had in terms of the work and the human interaction. Despite the no-budget conditions, we used whatever we had and managed in these videos to capture something of the time, and to express a bit of our take on the world. Although not exactly typical of the era’s in-your-face-neo-expressionism, the DIY spirit informs every frame of these videos.

That Dieter developed into such a superb visual artist later in life than most is a testament to his patience and perseverance as well as an inspiration to us all to understand it’s never too late to learn something new, and to not give up. Dieter Runge not only survived, he moves on and thrives. And now, with the aptly titled, Festival of Patience, he continues building community with new collaborators, reuniting with old friends and creative partners in the good fight to move forward. We celebrate that patience. And sticking.

-William Kelly

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

stages of my life

“I was thrown into this world by chance – now I gotta stick around,” are the opening lines of Just Like Dresden 45, the first song I wrote, recorded in 1979 with the New York Niggers, and published in form of a 7’ vinyl recording of 1 000 black records in a white sleeve. The unnecessary bombing of Dresden February 13th 1945 commemorated in the title of my first record, now reapers as a painting in my upcoming thesis show. To drive the point home I am re-pressing the record, this time with a cover. Why Dresden, why the New York Niggers? Why now? We are still at war, we seem to have less freedom of expression now, and culturally we are moving backwards as much as forward. A life is anything but linear.
I was actually conceived during the Berlin Blockade, life was hard in postwar Berlin and my mother flew out in one of the US supply planes pregnant with me, while my father walked through the, then called, Sowjet Zone, which later became the DDR.

Since I remember having an opinion I felt disconnected to Hannover, where I grew up. I always loved Berlin. Since my grandmother and aunt remained, I visited often. I got to witness the building of the wall during my summer vacation in 61 and spent time there during the 60’s and 70’s, when Hannover often felt too small and the antiauthoritarian movement in Berlin was setting the standards of rebellion. Of course we also squatted in Hannover, formed independent bookstores, youth centers, communes, and studied the Franfurter Schule at the University.
When the mid seventies got too depressing in Germany and activists working for social change were threatened by ‘Berufsverbote’, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0094-033X(197624)7<105:priwg>2.0.CO;2-Z
punk rock saved my life and I joined one of the early German punk rock bands called Rotz Kotz.

I had grown up with the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, American Blues and Soul, and played first washboard and then drums in bands as early as 1964. Still Germany was too uptight and I needed “to get out of this place, and if it’s the last thing I ever do (The Animals).” So, my roommates and I first hung out in Paris to celebrate the tenth anniversary of May 68 (Ca plane pour moi/Plastic Bertrant). Then I hitch hiked to London. Less than 24 hrs of no sleep later, I passed out on a $99 Freddy Laker Airlines flight to JFK.
I needed to explore the home of William Burroughs, the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City, no clue that I would be playing there a few months later, and that I would meet, hang out and even record with some of my heroes. After barely making it through customs and immigration I crashed in Hollis Hotel on 8th Ave and 48th St. For $ 10 a night it was no surprise, that I was the only white person. “hey white boy what are you doing uptown?(VU)”

A couple of weeks later I ran out of money and got kicked out of Hollis Hotel. Fortunately, I had met a group of black musicians who lived in a loft on Greenwich and Canal Streets. They put me up and soon I not only lived with them, but also played in the band. Elliot Harris and Leo Faison, two friends from upstate NY, had founded the New York Niggers. The name was inspired by the New York Dolls and the Patti Smith song R&R Nigger, as well as by the conscious detournement http://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/index.html of the oppressive element in the usage of the word. Patti Smith had inspired me tremendously a few years earlier, when a friend had brought back her first album Horses from a trip to the US in 1976. I thought, this is exactly the music that I’ve been trying to make.

NYN played lots of gigs, and went through various personal changes, and management. We practiced every night and called our music high energy decadent Rock & Roll. We also realized that America wasn’t ready for our name, and in the spring of 1980 the band desolved partly since my developing songwriting didn’t meet the approval of Leo Faison.
I went trough a difficult time, all the while working at Trash & Vaudeville on St Marks Place, moving around, writing songs and creating short-lived bands and projects. At my lowest point I started yoga and a year later meditation, qi gong and eventually taiji, which I study and practice to this day.
1984 was a big breakthrough year for me. I was getting up at 5:30 every morning, practiced taiji for a few hours, then ate breakfast, played guitar, all before going to work. I started the band East of Eden as the lone singer/songwriter. The band played regularly and recorded the majority of songs for an album that same year.

I continued writing, recording and making videos. When a friend took me out to Long Island Sound and introduced me to windsurfing. I rediscovered my love for the water moved to the Virgin Islands (VI), to avoid the winter (1988/89). After 10 years living in the concrete jungle it was time for a change. In the VI I immersed myself in windsurfing, racing and building experimental equipment. My last job in NY had been bike messenger, and had made a short movie about. I had also been hit a few times and realized that the longer I would ride the more likely I would be another victim lying on the concrete.
After two years in the VI, and a year after hurricane Hugo, I got a job offer teaching water exercise on the North Shore of Oahu. It was an easy choice; the job fell through though, once I arrived. I studied and taught taiji (still), windsurfing and kite surfing. Spending every day in or around the water and riding the winter-swells on the North Shore, was another dream lived.
Yet, I felt intellectually and creatively under-stimulated. For two years I took a few classes at Windward Community College and was back in school full time in the fall of 1999, eventually graduating with BA’s in psychology and art at the University of Hawaii Manoa in 2003.
Now I hope to finish my MFA in the painting program. Yet, much of my artistic practice has moved beyond the canvas. In the fall of 2006 I started a band (3rd floor), to become part of my thesis. With the Festival of Patience I am revisiting the stages of my life and am trying to make sense of what my past means now, and to engage with people, to affect the world positively, one breath at a time.

left: documenta closing ceremony 1977

I was born on the 8.8. at 8:08 according to my mother. Here are some stages in 8.

1948 - Berlin Blockade
1958 - Rock around the clock
1968 - Riots across the globe
1978-88 - The East Village
1998 - Taiji Windsurfing kite surfing back to school
2008 - art?

Viny releases

New York Niggers - Just Like Dresden 45, 1979 NYN records. NYC
East of Eden - Mystic Mood, 1985, Moon Records., NYC
Dieter Osten – East of Eden, 1986, Moon Records. NYC

Videos: Step into the Fire, Mystic Mood, The Pain of Love, November 18th . New York 1986-88

Books: Ott/Skai (ed). Wir Waren Helden fuer einen Tag. Hamburg. Rowohlt.1983.

My Bands: (1963-2008)

The Lonely Beats,
The Scarecrows
Rotz Kotz,
New York Niggers,
Festival of Patience,
European Sons,
East of Eden,
Dieter Osten,
3rd floor.