The first Kenneth Anger film I saw I think was Kustom Kar Kommandos. It was the first piece on a VHS compilation of his movies that my Satanic friend R. had. R. was a cousin of a kid I’d gone to elementary and middle school with, J., who one day I remember showing me a Polaroid of his other cousin having sex with a dog. We were on the smaller bus that went from the elementary school to my house, which was about a mile and a half. J. thought it was funny. I also first saw the word fuck written on that bus I think, though I didn’t say it out loud or know what it meant for another year.
Kustom Kar Kommandos was filmed in 1965 and was supposed to be the first of an eight part film about erotic teenagers and machines. Showing of this first section failed to help Anger get the money he needed to make the rest, so he gave up. Me and R. and another also Satanic kid, L., (I was not Satanic) watched the film that first time in the “play room” of my parents’ house, sitting all of us together on a futon. The play room was my first bedroom in the house but since my parents had built on, it now just kept all the old toys and games and other crap we never really used. By this point the room was basically storage. Today it still has several boxes full of junk I never unboxed after my loft got hit by the first tornado to land on downtown Atlanta, right on me.
KKK is unusual in Anger’s unusual filmography. It acquires more naturally iconic imagery and the shots are clean, with little lens leaking or pagan imagery for which he would become most known. Limbs appear mostly dismembered of their other to stroke and buff the hoods of their chrome and cherried out machines. Ass and crotch shots of in pale powder blue against the pink. “I want a dream lover so I don’t have to dream alone,” a woman is singing. One shot of the pink puffy rub rag being stroked up the middle of the black screen-filling hood rises to a window into a regal mouth, then a return to a side shot of the vulva-shaped posh red seats. The man appears inside the car, head aimed straight forward, jacks a rod. The music stops, the machine leaving. We see its engine close up, from above.
Watching this again for the first time in forever, I notice its influence on opening to Mulholland Drive, which, when I saw before R. in theaters, he got mad. He was very proprietorial about his obsession with Lynch, and thereby with Anger and Jodorowsky, which he claimed no one could like as much as him. He didn’t believe me when I said the opening credits to MD were unlike anything else in Lynch’s system, and that they’d surprised me. Now the precedent of the KKK (hmm) film and Anger in general seems looming, if one of many transparent layers laid into the film, between its soundtrack and stark colors and folding of several modes onto one thereby seemingly wholly singular source. The overlap could be incidental. Regardless, it occurred in my mind, and now, even more because I’m writing it down, will be there.
Later that year we would begin filming our other friend in the room, L., a superhuman in himself, as he interacted with various inert objects in manipulation of what he referred to as methods of gaining power. He would lift weights with his dick. I have a film of him pulling a 300 lb. man uphill with it, in public, for a local pop rock radio show stunt contest. The look on his face in the film is perhaps the only time I saw L. exerted beyond what he seemed able to control, as unto exploding, facially. And yet he did control it. L. brought the man he pulled quite far. The crowd was howling, staring at his elongated dick. Jock dudes, in sunlight, dickcheering. I think he would have won the contest had he not began speaking about Satanism in an interview on live broadcast, touching the upside down goat’s head over his heart. L. believed that if you performed acts that commanded awe or respect from those around you, you amassed power, which could then be used to higher ends. This could also come from manipulating benign objects, at least in coming to understand the power of your will. The penis pull, he told the MC, would bring him influence. The MC, suddenly awkwardly defending his Christianity on air, called L. “an American idiot.” L. still wanted to wait around to see if somehow he’d placed for prize money.
Another week some months later L. told me to put three pennies in an unused corner of an empty room in the basement I was living in. Every day or so, when it occurred to me, he said, I should go into the room and move the pennies. Move them a little, one or all of them, or do not move them at all. Do what came to me. Then leave the room. At night I slept in the room adjacent to the pennies.
As I did this, throughout the day, I would find myself thinking about the pennies. Thinking about how small ways I might have moved them and how those other movements might have affected something else outside the room. Attention to the air as more distinct. I would also, in association, think about the smaller elements of my surroundings. One night while running in the neighborhood in dark I noticed an arrow painted on the ground. I changed my path to run in the direction of the arrow, up a street inside the neighborhood I’d never been on. The houses here were not so far from mine. I began to smell something like rotting fruit. All of these dogs started barking, like tons of them. There was no one I could see outside. No one in the windows. I began to feel a certain kind of force. I felt something moving through me. I went home. I stopped fucking with the pennies.
I don’t know why I remember so vividly that section of that hour in the understanding I was beginning to take from the manipulation of the penny, but something in the casual exertion of influence over something benign struck something in me. The feeling I arrived at in the street that night as a result my burgeoning intuition might be one of the most vivid cataloged moments of my life. I still think about the pennies rather a lot. They come out a lot I think in my language even when I’m not thinking about them. This is the greatest thing about seeing or hearing anything, maybe. Oral/anal. What other things are pennies. There is more to the story, but that’s enough.
Influence is strange. Often the best way we can think of to explain the nature of an art object to another person is to compare to another creator. Often the creator the referral is compared to is a singular one, some kind of assembled creative body of various legs we can’t quite peg. The milestones are often the names because they feel unlike anything else, they seem to have no forebear. I always like to see those people then referring to their own influences and often finding no apparent connection from the outside. The synthesis is not a manner of imbibing, but one of association, sleeping beside the ideas room to room. What seems to come out, when influence is most successful, is not recognizable, or even intended, but simply the product of intense attention, the cells of self learning how to order and exert influence by imbibing others having done the same.
Outside influence in some ways can act as an outer shell to the kernel of the self imposing oneself over something inane. Any thing we put into a language is not something, even when we refer to it as Kevin, or assign it a particular setting or will. The more I have gotten away from intentionally trying to manipulate objects by design, and more by incidental will, the more power I felt in my own manners of creation. The more arbitrary, the more incidentally recursively influential as a feedback system, and I believe, as an object, in my life. On the toilet lately I’ve been reading John Cage’s Silence, a collection of his lectures and essays. “Dante is an incentive,” he says of Robert Rauschenberg’s influence in influencing him, “providing multiplicity, as useful as a chicken or a shirt.” There are the rings of hell and there are clothes. Both are layered. Both operate upon the body. Both go on regardless of how they are incorporated into what comes out of our makings of the mess.
Somewhere, at the crux point of all this, by logic, there must be an originating mode. A thing that can not have a forebear traced. For some people this is some god. Most of the writers I know, though, are atheists, or don’t speak about it. What is being tapped. What is the crux laid in the object. Where does the magick of the enchanting poem erupt. Is is blood. Is it machinic. Is it limbs or holes for fuck. Others would say something about human love. What is the center of your feeling. Why is it that the worst art seem to come out of direct worship or adulation, manifested. I can’t find the quote where Cage is saying he likes paintings that are all black as long as they are painted by Rauschenberg. There is a whole book of them.
This painting in its own way is a room. Rauschenberg also paints inside of rooms. I am in a room today with red curtains like the Black Lodge, which were not hung by me. I come to this room every day, it is not where I sleep. I am always feeling anywhere I am I need to leave. Where are you sitting when you are making. I imagine from outside you would appear bored, or in other modes, angry. I imagine few look pleasured or insane when creating.
Anger ends with the engine. Mulholland Drive the film ends with an unidentified woman whispering, “Silencio.” But like KKK, MD also had trouble getting funding. There was a pilot made, as it was intended originally to be a TV series, and when the show was not picked up, it was made into a film. You can find online the pilot Lynch showed producers trying to move forward. He, unlike Anger, went on to complete the film. Mulholland Drive the pilot ends with a shot not found in the film, a slow move into the creature behind Winkie’s, for many the most terrifying subject in the whole creation.
That we encounter closest the central terror in the aborted version of the film is layered in the film itself regardless, I believe. And there it begins and ends. Residue or spheres. Layered in the film, the films before and after, by Lynch, as well as any other film. IAs well as any hour or object encountered before it. Subsystems. In college I had a professor who insisted on a theory that all films could be found contained in Eyes Wide Shut, which I’ve always liked as an idea, though really the same could be claimed for any other film, all of them, ever, with just as much syntactical sense. Regardless of where you’ve been, the body is there on the chair or laying down to take the replicated image in. The body swells and continues swelling. The body exerts and is exerted upon. Overlording systems.
Other times we are creating in the face of the creator, alongside it or within? At some point Cage worked with Rauschenberg to make Automobile Tire Print, a work which bears solely Rauschenberg’s name on gallery cards, even if Cage is often mentioned in descriptions, and his presence is well documented, therefore known.
Cage: “I know he [Rauschenberg] put the paint on the tires. And he unrolled the paper on the city street. But which one of us drove the car?”
Rauschenberg: “He [Cage] was the printer, and the press.”
In the end both of these bodies are bodies. In the end their product does not look that different from my results of days reading Cage strung out all in one line. Mine is underground.
Today is oddly silent. For weeks last month I seemed to hear a slow whining, metal on metal, over every minute. There is too the sound we hear inside our head when we are eating, and how breath takes on sound often for sleeping. Some people do not require cars. What we are always in the process of making, whether it gets finished or who buys it, or how it comes out in remaking or never being made. Thinking less about the thinking and more about the arrows on the ground or the smells or just having hands and getting on with it, like eating lunch and later going to sit on the pot and hold a book.
After the pennies I started doing a workout program with L. He had devised a system where I would work out 10 minutes a session twice a week, at times he would randomly decide on and call me to prepare. I would take diet pills before he came over so that my heart was racing when the workout began. The workout was designed to lead me to exhaustion in 1 minute, so that the next 9 minutes were all work done in shock, forcing the muscles to demand themselves into something larger, based around a series of different kinds of pushups. I did this workout for 3 weeks. In 3 weeks I gained 10 pounds of muscle mass and lost 4 inches on my waist. I had already been thin. I almost fainted in a bookstore in Kentucky. I got very sick. After I got sick, I stopped doing the workout.
The last time I saw L. was in the parking lot of a QT. He saw me and pulled with his car blocking lanes of other cars coming and going. Smoke was pouring out of the windows. He said he’d been living in the woods. He had dreadlocks. He was laughing. He looked not tired but internally flooded. I haven’t seen him in a while since that.