O.B. De Alessi’s Theme of Sadness

One of the finest and most consistently impeccable art imprints that I can think of – KIDDIEPUNK – celebrates its tenth year of existence this year. The last decade has seen the label – which started life in Melbourne, Australia but is now based in Paris, France – build up a solid and darkly rich catalogue of zines, films, and records.

To celebrate its Decennial, Kiddiepunk is releasing a series of limited edition zines created by different artists of various practices. The first is by O.B. De Alessi.

Theme of Sadness is a collection of drawings by De Alessi that channel the seemingly inherent sadness attached to youth. Mysterious children stare out from the pages of the zine with expressions that appear to range from haunted to contempt. The kids cry, dance and scowl. They are very beautiful and they are very sad. Theme of Sadness fits in perfectly with the unique Kiddiepunk family.

I spoke with O.B. Alessi about the Theme of Sadness.

OK, so it’d be great if you could start off by talking a little about the genesis of Theme of Sadness. Where did the idea start?

One day I started making a small drawing of a girl dressed as a fairy. I wasn’t really thinking of a series then, it was just a single drawing and I was interested in the expression of her face more than anything else.
But then I showed it to Michael (who runs Kiddiepunk) and he liked it very much and I think he had already asked me to make a zine for Kiddiepunk. So I decided to draw more of these characters and make a series.
And, thinking of it as a series, the whole thing immediately acquired a more solid aspect in my head, it became like a little world in itself.

A lot of your work seems to focus around youth, teenagers and children. Is there anything specific that draws your imagination to this?

Yes, the protagonists of my work are very often children and teenagers because my work is very much about playing and dreaming. I am very much interested in ideas that are still in a state of potential, that have not yet been fully developed and in the conflict between an idea and the translation of that idea into the real world.

There are other qualities to childhood and teen-age that I’m drawn to, such as the rawness of its feelings, the lack of compromises related to lack of experience, the belief in magic and fantasy and a tragic view of life, mostly during adolesence, that I believe to be very Romantic (as in Romanticism, the cultural movement).

My work is very often about expressing ones feelings or desires through the use of some sort of icon. I think children and teenagers do this better than anybody else, so sometimes I just like to watch and learn.

Similarly, I remember talking to you in person once about our shared interest in/enthusiasm for Black Metal music. It’d be great if you could talk a little bit about your interest in the iconography that is present in that particular scene and – again – what it is that draws you to use some of that in your work.

I never really listened to Black Metal as a kid, I was more into Goth back then and I guess Black Metal seemed way too ‘masculine’ for my taste, a world that I was never that interested in (even when being interested in maleness I was always exploring areas where masculinity was kind of androgynous).

I started listening to Black Metal more recently as a continuation of listening to classical music. That did the trick for me, because I found out that of all types of contemporary music, Black Metal seems to be the one that most resembles classical music, in its grandness, in its pathos and in its use of recognizable iconography.

Since classical music is my favourite music, I was very excited by this discovery.

This also led me to draw connections between the use of extreme stereotypes (like “Evil” in a pure form) in Black Metal and their choice in representing such stereotypes, which is very theatrical and simple – Evil is ugly and scary – and a similar use of stereotypes in, say, opera and ballet.

In addition, Black Metal, with its music and visuals but also with its recurrent subjects like the power of the ancestors or the power or Nature, often summons something very archetypal and timeless, that instantly makes me think of some grand sound like Wagner’s.

I was wondering if in your imagination the various scenes that you’ve created in Theme of Sadness have stories attached them or if they are just one-off images that occurred to you?

The single drawings in Theme of Sadness don’t really have a story attached to them; I would say they are more of a mood, like I had very clearly in mind what kind of mood the character I was drawing was in.
Even all the drawings as a series are not attached to a specific story or narrative. I did try to find a narrative, something that could have happened to them or something that was about to happen, and sure I did find many possible solutions, but none of them seemed relevant enough to make it more explicit.

I was more interested in suggesting a general mood and I’d be very happy if people who see the zine created their own stories around it.

If it’s ok to talk about it without ruining the surprise … what is the music on the CD that accompanies? When I listened to it, it felt somewhat familiar but I couldn’t place it. How does this tie in to the zine? Do you listen to music when you work? If so, what kind of stuff? But yeah, if you’d rather keep the CD as a mystery then I can live with that and understand!

Ok, I’ll tell you just because the zine is sold out! Ready? The music on the CD accompanying the zine is a track taken from the soundtrack of the film The Neverending Story by Wolfgang Petersen.
Well it’s kind of hard to say how it ties to the zine to be honest… not because I don’t know, I know very well, but it’s one of those things that are a bit hard to explain for me, especially with that film and its soundtrack. Perhaps it’s me that’s extremely tied-in to it. I think at the time when I was making Theme of Sadness I was listening to that soundtrack a lot, or I had it in mind a lot, or both. And so for me it tied in kind of naturally, as if what I was drawing were partly made of that music, if it makes sense. There isn’t really any obvious rational reason, I’m afraid.

With Theme of Sadness being released as one of several other zines to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Kiddiepunk, it seems relevant to ask you about Kiddiepunk itself. Can you remember your first introduction and impressions of Kiddiepunk? What was the first Kiddiepunk release that you came into contact with?

I came across Kiddiepunk first on DC’s (Dennis Cooper’s blog). I thought that all the work released looked very beautiful and carefully designed. I remember it also being kind of haunting, so I guess my first impression was that I was looking at something that was both very appealing and somehow haunting.

I remember I saved on my desktop an image from Aspen Michael Taylor’s film Untitled (# 3) possibly even before knowing exactly who or what Kiddiepunk was all about, just because I thought it was so beautiful.

To continue an earlier theme that I posted about on Transductions: I was lucky enough to see your stunning contributions to the recent Weaklings exhibition in London. Could you talk a little bit about your experience at the show and you felt it went?

My experience of performing at the show was great. I was nervous the days prior to the opening as there were a few technical things that had to be fixed and also because, as is often the case when I do a performance, I do things that I’m not entirely sure I am capable of doing (this time I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep my balance). But the actual performing time felt very good, as always it made a huge difference, if not all the difference to have an audience, and in the end it was a lot of fun too.

The nerve-wracking and tiring part of performing is always paid back when the performance is actually taking place, it’s extremely thrilling and fun for me to be there doing what I do.

What projects are you currently working on?

Since the show in London I’ve been quite busy applying for shows and prizes and I haven’t had much time to focus on new projects. I was invited to exhibit at the Recollets (the residency in Paris where I’m currently living) as part of a photography festival in October. I also have in mind to publish a book about the fictional character I created, Oscar Scar, and his blog. I will probably do that soon with Kiddiepunk.

At the moment though, I have to say the main project I’m working on is my wedding.

TM x

The Weaklings opening night @ Five Years, London

Following on from this and this, here are some photographs I snapped on the opening night of The Weaklings exhibition.

Artwork by Bill Hsu, C.L. Martin, Alex Rose, OB De Alessi, Michael Salerno, Esther Planas, Marc Hulson, Emma Wolf Deraze, Joel Westendorf, Jonathan Mayhew, Steven Purtill, Math Tinder, Jared Pappas-Kelley, Daniel Portland, Kier Cooke Sandvik, JW Veldhoen

Artist Jonathan Mayhew

The sound of Esther Planas

The view of London from the Five Years Gallery

Artist Michael Salerno

Writer Paul Curran

Artist Emma Wolf Deraze, musician Nick Hudson, journalist Joe Nockles

Artist Marc Hulson, writer Dennis Cooper

Artist Michael Salerno, artist O.B. De Alessi

Dennis Cooper talks The Weaklings

If you look just south of this blog post then you’ll see the information of an imminent London exhibition called The Weaklings, curated by novelist Dennis Cooper. Scroll down the page to check out the gallery information or click here.

The Weaklings sees Cooper in a role that he has taken on regularly and inspiringly countless times in the past – that of helping to uncover, expose and champion new artists whose work has yet to be seen by a larger audience.

Alongside writing some of the most devastating, beautiful and vital literature of the last few decades, Dennis Cooper has constantly been an aid and supporter of new experimental artists and their work. From personal experience, having been lucky enough to hear this support and advice at various points over the last few years, I can vouch how much Cooper’s words of encouragement can mean to a young artist: a fucking lot.

What he started with Little Caesar magazine in the late 1970s (in which he published work by then unknown and new writers like Tim Dlugos, Amy Gerstler and Eileen Myles), Cooper continued with the events that he organized as director of programming at the Beyond Baroque series in California in the early 1980s. Since then he has released new novels by the likes of Travis Jeppessen, Mark Gluth and Lonely Christopher via his Little House on the Bowery imprint and on his blog he sign posts those hungry for new culture – noise bands, avant-garde filmmakers, you name it – nearly every day of the week.

The vast community of artists (from virtually every practice you can think of) that has swelled at Cooper’s site since it began in May 2005, is one many fascinating elements that makes DC’s the unique online art space that it is. In January 2007 Dennis pulled together some of the writers from this dynamic and fluid community to form the Userlands anthology. Now, with The Weaklings, Cooper is shining a light on the visual artists who frequent his blog.

I had a quick talk with Dennis via Skype before he makes the trip from his home in Paris over to London to oversee the exhibition.


The Weaklings is the first art show that you’ve curated in quite a while … How did it come about? You talked on the blog about having a “secret project” a few times …

Yeah I think it’s the first since 2004, gosh, yeah, since 2004 or 2005. Marc Hulson actually suggested it. For a really long time I’d been talking about how I’d like to do a visual art equivalent of Userlands, and at some point Marc said “well you could do it at Five Years if you wanted to”. I think maybe a year or so went by and he said “well there’s this slot if you want to take it and do it …”.

So then I had to go and think of the visual artists on the blog, and write to people. And when I had the opportunity I said to people “show me your stuff” and I got to pick the work, but in some cases they were still making the work. So in some ways until I actually get in the gallery on Wednesday and lay everything on the floor I don’t actually know what the show is going to be like. It’ll be fun to figure out a way to make everything work together.

I was going to ask if you’d noticed any particular themes that run through the work?

No, I’ve haven’t really thought of it, I’ve just been concentrating on picking the coolest thing from each person. The only thing I did do was try to make it so it wasn’t all photography, or it wasn’t all drawings. I was mostly just trying to balance it all out. The cool thing is that there is some sculpture for the floor by Alex Rose, and there’s something on computer and there’s video and as far as I know there’ll be two performances at the opening.

When you’ve curated something, what do you see your role as? On opening night, for example?

I dunno … Maybe I’ll introduce the performers if they need it. Other than that I’ll mostly just stand round in an incredibly stressed out state and have inadequately short conversations with billion people. I hate openings, because it’s always so rushed and there’s always a load of people and people I haven’t seen in forever and you don’t have anytime to talk to people properly. I’ll probably drink some wine and try to relax. Other than that, the work is on the wall.

I went to see Scott Treleaven at an opening for a group show that he was in last year and I remember thinking how weird it must have been for him to have to speak to so many people. If you’re involved with a show, the opening comes with this weird social pressure attached to it or something …

Yeah, well my thing would be to find someone and go outside and smoke cigarettes and talk for two hours, but at openings you can’t do that. I mean, the blog is perfect because I can take the time to talk to every single person individually, but with openings you end up feeling rushed. But it will be totally fun.

Yeah, I’m looking forward to it a lot. How’s everything else in life right now?

It’s really busy. Giselle and I are probably going to be co-curating this huge festival at the Centre Pompidou in February, which is really awesome but it’s a massive amount of work to figure out because we’re negotiating with them and proposing, but it could be incredible. We’re organizing this whole thing, so there’s music nights, and we might have Them (a recently revived theatre collaboration with Ishmael Houston-Jones and Chris Cochrane) performed and this huge installation and an art show and lectures, so it’s really great but it’s stressful because we have to get it all together … and so between all that and early book stuff (promotion for Cooper’s forthcoming novel The Marbled Swarm) it’s pretty crazy, plus we’re trying to work on this other theatre piece. It’s all great but I’m a bit stressed out (laughs).

The Weaklings @ Five Years Gallery, London

If you’re able to be near London at some point in the next few weeks I strongly urge you to make it to this exhibition. There are so many great artists involved with this show that it’s guaranteed to be worth your visit. For more information visit the Five Years website. I’ll be there on opening night, so say hello if you’re gonna be there.

Not because I want you

A photograph of Lindsay Lohan at night. It looks like she’s leaving a restaurant with friends. There’s a girl with long brown hair in the background, her face just out of shot. Lindsay’s hair is long and blonde. She’s dressed all in black – black leather jacket, black top, black jeans, black bag, big black sunglasses. She’s holding a set of car keys. The caption says that the girl in the background is Ali Lohan.

:A photograph of Lindsay Lohan outside what I guess might be a nightclub. She’s standing in front of a plain grey wall next to a big chubby guy with a slightly greasy forehead. He looks a little reminiscent of Jack Osbourne when he was a teenager and on The Osbournes. Lindsay looks tanned, her hair is bleached. She’s wearing blue eyeliner.

:A photograph of a boy with a tattooed neck and a sweatshirt with a Nintendo logo on it laughing in front of a hazy city sunset.

:The words EPIC FAIL written in bitmap.

:A picture of the band Crystal Castles.

:A photograph of Lindsay Lohan at what might be a charity event. The photograph is from the waist up and it looks like she’s wearing a beige jumper, although it might be a dress. She has “natural look” makeup on and it looks like she may have had some Botox injections. She’s standing in front of a white backdrop with various logos on which aren’t clear. It looks like one says THE CREATIVE FOUNDATION. There are blue and red stars on another logo which might say the words “Stars” and “Families” in it.

:A photograph of Lindsay Lohan walking into what looks like a multi-storey car park at night. She’s wearing big black sunglasses and a white shirt that is buttoned up about half way; underneath that she’s wearing a white top or bra. She’s carrying a black handbag. The black bag is held under her left arm and her right arm is holding the front of it.

:A .gif of the old MTV logo from the 80s, with changing colours.

:The next photograph is from the same set taken in the multi-story car park. It’s a full body shot. Lindsay’s wearing white jeans and silver shoes.

:Some tarot cards.

:A picture of a Vans skate shoe.

:A photograph of a model walking down a catwalk wearing a pink off-the-shoulder dress, carrying a pink clutch and wearing red or orange shoes. The model’s hair is held back tightly. There’s a straight pink line running down the catwalk and up the back wall that its adjoined to. The caption says that the clothes that the model is wearing in the photo are from a collection designed by Estrella Archs and Lindsay Lohan, and that the photographs were shot at the Ungaro Spring 2010 Prete-A-Porter Show.

:A stylised photo of cup of Starbucks coffee next to a Krispy Kreme donut tray.

:A sunset.

:Capital letters that read: MESSAGES PLEASE?

:A girl with lots of red lipstick, in an oversized grey sweatshirt with a picture of Mickey Mouse on it, leaning towards the camera and pulling an expression that is meant to be half cute/half sexy and is/isn’t depending on whoever looks at it.

:A photograph of a Japanese woman with orangey/blonde hair. Someone has edited a rectangle of crass purple/orange/blue/green spectrum style graphics that keep changing, and put it across the picture so that it blocks out her eyes.

:A close-up photograph of some pink Prozac tablets.

:A photograph of a model walking down a catwalk wearing a pink skirt, black bra and short black jacket. The pink skirt starts at just above the model’s navel and ends at her thighs. The model is wearing red lipstick and her hair is tied back. The caption says that the clothes that the model is wearing in the photo are from a collection designed by Estrella Archs and Lindsay Lohan, and that the photographs were shot at the Ungaro Spring 2010 Prete-A-Porter Show.

:A $100 note with a black and white photo of Nicki Mina pasted over where the president’s head usually is.

:A photograph of Estrella Archs and Lindsay Lohan walking down the catwalk at the end of their Ungaro Spring 2010 Prete-A-Porter Show. Estrella Archs has long dark hair and is wearing what looks like a black strapless dress, a black jacket and black shoes. Lindsay Lohan’s hair is blonde and she’s wearing a white off-the-shoulder dress and red shoes.

:A close-up photograph of Lindsay Lohan. Her hair is very light blonde and it doesn’t look like she’s wearing much makeup apart from mascara. She’s smiling. The caption says that it was taken in Singapore on 24/9/09.

:A picture of Tyler, The Creator holding a skateboard.

:A photorealist painting of a wolf and a waterfall that would look at home on a modern t shirt or on a shitty painting you might find in a shitty hippy shop.

:Tiny writing in italic red lettering that says: you give me goosebumps.

:A photo of a teenage boy with a floppy fringe pretending to be scared of and cower away from a life-size model of one of the ghosts from Pacman.

:A photograph of Lindsay Lohan leaning against a white table which has a bottle and empty glasses lined up in front of it. Lindsay is wearing a black top, a white cardigan and a flowery skirt. Behind the table is a backdrop that says F1 ROCKS, SINGAPORE. The caption says that the photograph was taken in Singapore on 24/9/09.

:Two teenage punks with heavily tattooed torsos, fucking, in black and white.

:Three inverted crosses.

:A photograph of Lindsay Lohan arriving somewhere in the daytime. In the background there’s a car with blacked windows that I presume she has just got out of. The door of the car is open. Lindsay is wearing black sunglasses, a black hat and a black/dark grey dress that is quite short and has tassles. He legs look tanned and she looks like she’s nervous or in a hurry. You can make out a little bit of a large man standing next to her who looks like he might be a minder/bodyguard or someone along those lines.

:The words: DESTROY WHAT DESTROYS YOU superimposed onto some clouds.

:A photograph of Lindsay Lohan crossing a road in the daytime. She’s walking towards where the photograph is being taken from and her left hand is on her head like she’s pulling her hair out of her face. It looks windy. She’s wearing orange tinted sunglasses and her hair has been straightened. She’s got a gold necklace on the hangs down over her chest. She’s got a white dress on. In the background there’s a white wooden house, a white picket fence and a green tree. It looks like summer.

:An animated .gif of Bill Cosby. Someone has edited it together so it looks like he’s mouthing the words: DIE, CUNT.

:A photograph of Lindsay Lohan that looks like it was taken to promote the white jacket that she’s wearing. She’s standing side on and she’s holding the collar of the jacket and her mouth is a little open. She’s pouting a little and you can see her teeth.

:A shot from Beetlejuice, when Geena Davis’s character has transformed herself into a monster by stretching out her mouth and putting her eyes on her tongue.

:A photo of a cherry blossom tree.

:A black and white photograph of Lindsay Lohan taken in a bar. She’s wearing a black dress and looking at the camera. The bar looks like a dive. It looks dirty. There’s a guy in a flannel shirt sitting with his back to Lindsay. Lindsay is sitting with friends. They’re wearing expensive looking but “dressed down” style clothes but don’t look like they’ve been partying. If think the photograph is an advertisement for something.

Current listening

Jim O’Rourke & Christoph Heemann – Plastic Palace People Vol 1

Bone Awl – Meaningless Leaning Mess

Loren Connors – St. Vincent’s Newsboy Home

Belong – Common Era

Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

Locrian – The Crystal World

anything anymore anywhere issue 4

Anymore Anything Anywhere is an excellent literary magazine from Edinburgh. It is edited by Colin Herd and Reuben Sutton and they have just reached issue number 4. The new issue (winter 2010-11) features an excellent range of words from Francis Crot, nick-e melville, Justin Katko, Posie Rider, Jacq Kelly, Iain Morrison, jim ferguson, Tony Leuzzi, Michael Farrell, Richard Barrett, J L Williams, S J Fowler, RODNEY RELAX, Rosa van Hensbergen, Pete McConville, Richie McCaffery and Greg Thomas, and I’m totally thrilled and honoured that three of my own poems have been slotted in amongst such a fascinating mix of writers. Rather than wax endlessly about why you should buy the new copy (and previous issues) of Anything Anymore Anywhere (which I could and which you should), I asked Colin Herd a few questions about the magazine.

When and why did AAA begin?

Thanks for this Thomas! The magazine was set up in the final year of my undergraduate degree, so four years ago now. We’ve put out four issues so far, though three have been in the last two years. The first issue was basically a selection of work by my writer and artist friends, stuffed into a brown envelope, with a big black-marker X on the front cover. In one sense I think I set it up purely and simply as a tool to connect with writers whose work I admire. I also felt a gap in the U.K. scene (though I think it’s probably been better filled by other journals since than it has by a-a-a) for a magazine that would put out exciting and formally challenging poetry, that would publish bold and experimental stuff alongside more lyric or narrative stuff. I don’t feel that division (between formally innovative work and conventional work or whatever) very strongly in my reading habits or the kinds of poetry I enjoy and I don’t think an exclusive or divisive attitude does much good, nor do I have any literary agenda per se, so I wanted the magazine to be as varied as possible, presenting interesting work of all stripes (and spots, and stars). I am also keen to include fiction in every issue, because I read a lot of fiction and in some ways fiction informs my own poetry as much as poetry does.

Were there any other literary journals from the past or present that were of inspiration during the inception of AAA?

That’s such an interesting question, and I hadn’t really thought about it before now. I’m a bit of a collecting-nut for old poetry magazines. I’m not sure which ones influenced “aaa” but here’s a list of some of my favourites: the endlessly inventive and experimental Poor.Old.Tired.Horse, which Ian Hamilton Finlay edited and which explored concrete poetry, visual poetry and minimalist poetry in its gloriously eccentric and whimsically ascetic pages. This, which Robert Grenier and Barrett Watten edited in the 70s and which has these amazing cover-drawings by Grenier’s young at the time daughter Amy. One of the things I love about the print poetry journal as a form, and a principal reason why I collect old ones, is that they contain forgotten poets, unheard-of figures who maybe only published a few poems then moved on to other things. Looking back through This 1 this evening, I’m struck particularly by the work of two poets I don’t know anything about: Marcia Lawther and Laura Knecht. Here’s a bit of Knecht’s poem:

the field
throws itself
yellow into the air
and is this season’s
yellow panic

And I can’t find a mention of her in any other publication- such a sweet kind of frustration! Another favourite of mine is the stupendously-titled “ZZZZ”, edited by Kenward Elmslie. I’m not sure how many issues there were, but the one I have from 1975 is full to bursting with fabulous things like comic letters from Bill Berkson and Frank O’Hara, prose extracts from “What’s for Dinner?” by James Schuyler, and great poems by Tony Towle, Harry Matthews, Laura Chester, Ray Johnson, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Kathleen Fraser, John Koethe, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Pat Nolan, Clark Coolidge, Nikos Stangos and Thomas Meyer. What a line-up(!), plus, the cover’s by Joe Brainard and there’s additional doodles by Ray Johnson. It’s really a great magazine. Soup edited by Steve Abbott and Little Caesar by Dennis Cooper are two other legendary journals that totally deserve that status. I’m still working out a-a-a’s form, and I hope I’m sort of allowing it to develop and change, hopefully influenced in one way or another by these fantastic journals. I imagine myself still putting out (sporadic, invariably delayed issues) in my 80s- I hope so.

You’ve also put on some events and readings to celebrate the magazine – have you got anymore planned or coming up soon?

Thanks for asking about these Thomas. They have been really fun events, two so far, the first in December and the second in January. The idea behind the events was to have visiting writers read alongside Edinburgh-based or roughly Edinburgh-based poets. The first event was scheduled to feature Tom Raworth reading with visual/found poet nick-e melville, Joseph Walton and Posie Rider. Unfortunately it was at the height of the bad weather and Raworth couldn’t make it, but on the plus side, the Cambridge-based writer Justin Katko was up in Edinburgh and he stepped in. The second event featured a host of Edinburgh-based writers (too many perhaps… a bit of over-zealous programming on my part) reading alongside the wonderful poet Andrea Brady. I do hope to reignite the series soon, possibly moving to a new venue. Details will be posted on the website and the blog: http://www.anythinganymoreanywhere.co.uk & http://anything-anymore-anywhere.blogspot.com

And for extra information about Colin’s stunning new book too ok click here.