While we were visiting him in Brooklyn this summer, my friend and former bandmate, JP Olsen was keen to share his new multi-media project. Responding to a confrontational 40-year old performance art piece entitled You’ll Never See My Face In Kansas City by Chris Burden and hearing in the title of Burden’s work “a song…in search of a writer”, JP’s project turned out to be a lilting, roots rock 7″ vinyl split single with mutual friend Jerry DeCicca, an ambitious video diptych representing both songs and…a balaclava. You can read more about this cool enterprise’s genesis and revelation, and buy related products, pretty much right here.
But what if there were further responses? Responses that took ideas about the “competing desires for notoriety and privacy that mark our present cultural moment” suggested by Burden’s work into absurd and dystopian territory.
This is where I come in.
Spurred by my friends’ initiative, I conceived my own little multi-media project comprising a short science fiction story, an electronic ballad and a video. First, the story. Originally envisioned as a short, humorous New Yorker “Shouts and Murmurs”-style piece of shaggy doggerel, I found, like the man who tried to drink out of a spittoon, things just strung together and I couldn’t stop writing notes, going off on tangents. The storyline spiralled out of control and not only couldn’t I stop, the work becoming unwieldy, I couldn’t start. A solution presented itself with the notion of the old-time magazine serial: I could compose the story in bite sizes and publish in real-time à la Charles Dickens. The whole shebang could be continuity edited as I proceeded. And what better vehicle than Thrifty Vinyl? After all, the original vinyl was given to me for a none-thriftier zero dollars and zero cents.
So, I will challenge myself to turn pages of confused notes into a perverse but readable and entertaining satire; though in how many segments, who knows. I will continue with “normal” Thrifty V posting as well. Given their progeny/contingent status, the electronic ballad and video will necessarily follow. The story is called, “You’ll Never See My Face In Kansas City”.
YOU’LL NEVER SEE MY FACE IN KANSAS CITY
By 2089, “being a celebrity” was officially the world’s most dangerous job. The intense love, envy, hate or a combination of the three engendered by the well-known conspired to make stalking the full-time occupation for vast numbers of the New United State of America. As often as not, the results were lethal and the numbers of famous people were fast running out. The populous of the NUSA, dependent as it was on celebrity culture for its entertainment, its advertising and its governmental administration, began to weary of the severely depleted supply and the economy suffered accordingly. A radical solution was required.
Thirty years previous, America’s Civil War bicentenary celebrations had been hijacked by radicals who, correctly sensing a powerful marriage of unrest and inertia motivating the people, divided up the country along to racial and religious lines. American Jews and Muslims, who had worked together to orchestrate the new Civil War, made up the Eastern United States (EUS); white Mormons took the Midwestern United States (MUS) as prophesied by founding father, now cyborg president-for-life, Mitt Romney; black Protestant Baptists achieved a high standard of living in the Southern United States (SUS) by reintroducing slave labor in the form of compulsory full-time child employment; Latin-American Catholics, who despite huge numbers (their population was greater than all three other countries combined), had only wildfire and earthquake-ravaged California to call home. On account of the latter’s shabby performance in the new Civil War and their country’s designation, citizens of the Western United States (WUS) were known as “wussies”, yet considered themselves lucky since they were nearly called the Pacific United States.
Tace Greenaway, vice-president of the MUS, addressed the assembled US presidents and their executive committees at a conference in Kansas City, the capital of MUS. “We need a radical solution,” he began redundantly. “Fortunately, the near ubiquity of plastic surgery has given us a perfect way out.” He went on to outline a plan that would allow only celebrities to have “faces”, the rest of the population would have only facial orifices modelled on the masks from Pink Floyd The Wall.
There was understandable outcry from the assembled delegates.
“Celebrities will be bigger targets then ever!” shouted one amidst the rabble.
Greenaway waited for the officials to settle down. “I have thought of this little obstacle,” he calmly started. “These celebrity ‘faces’ will be detachable, allowing our celebrities to lead normal life when not busy entertaining, selling or governing.”
“But how could we sell such a plan to our people?” called someone else.
“A simple six-words interrogative. Who Wants To Be A Face?”
There was cacophony as the 90-strong group erupted in barely contained debate.
Finally, the SUS president, Jackie Jesson spoke up. “What is this bullshit?”
“A good question, Mr. Jesson, and one that deserves an answer,” replied Vice-President Greenaway. “This bullshit will be the greatest reality show our countries have ever known.”