Saturday, May 14, 2011

Alive From Off Center

Bite & Smile from Marty Focazio on Vimeo.

Before Blogger blew up last week, we had a few comments on the "Star Hustler" post mentioning "Alive From Off Center". I wasn't able to find videos of the opening credits, but I do have a couple mp3s.

The original opening, by Laurie Anderson and David Byrne:

And a later version:

The thing about this show was they showed everything. Most of the funky art films I saw as a kid, I first saw there. I've collected what I can.


"What Do You Mean We?" was the first time we saw the Laurie Anderson "clone"; and, as a result, the duo hosted the show several times afterwards. I do recall that they introduced the next piece.

"The Street of Crocodiles" by the Brothers Quay. In the "Alive From Off Center" introduction, Anderson reads some of the story to her clone. The clone, upset that a chair might have some secret life, stands and moves the chair to the far corner of the room.

And no, they did not do the video for Tool's Sober. That was Adam Jones.

This was also how I found out about Jan Svankmajer and his short films. The Brothers Quay pay tribute to him in The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer. As it turns out, they didn't discover him until 1983, long after their own style had cemented.

Besides stop-motion, AFOC regularly featured classical animation. (Go here for the full piece, uploaded by the animator herself.)

Sometimes the show just got weird. Meredith Monk's "Book of Days" never went anywhere, yet still felt preachy. She's also the only performer I've ever walked out on. Granted, it was at intermission, but I couldn't take it anymore. I'm sure she's a fine artist, just not one I care for.

This piece is roughly 30 minutes long and I do have the patience for it. I'm happy to have found it.

Praise House - Teaser

JULIE DASH | Myspace Video

AFOC also featured a lot of dance performances. Whatever art was out there, they were going to show it. Any dance. Seriously.

"Codex" was one of the most brilliant things I had ever seen. This work might look a little familiar.

Again, a very weird show. I didn't know anything about Gertrude Stein back in 1987. The language is fascinating, and she plays with how it sounds more than what it means.

Shortly after this, I got into William S. Burroughs and Ezra Pound. While in high-school, I thought more about the sound of words and the feelings they invoked, rather than the simple meanings of things.

I do feel a slight embarrassment looking back on what we considered "a masterpiece of video art" back then.

By the same respect, I'm proud that there was a show like AFOC. Yeah, I know, it was on the middle of the night and you had to wait until "Dr. Who" was over before you got to see, but I taped them so I should share them with my family and friends.

There was something very exciting about dragging this thing out of the darkness.

I don't think there could be a show like AFOC now. Sure, there's "Independent Lens" on PBS, but it's not the same. You can look up anything online now and the cost of producing material like that has dropped so much, it's not as...special.

However, there was some truly wonderful things out there, and each one of those wonderful things should be shared and enjoyed by as many people as possible.

It's like how I used to tape "Dr. Demento" on Sunday nights back in the late 80s. Throughout the rest of the week, on the drive to and from school, we'd listen to those tapes I had made and sing along.

And that's really the thing I love about "Anime Hell" and what we do on this blog. We go out and find those wonderful things, or strange things, or even horrible things that taste like a stale Christmas. But we find them and we share them with you. "I found a shiny! Come see the shiny and enjoy it the way I did!"

That's what AFOC was for me, back in junior-high. It was this wonderful thing or a strange thing or even a horrible thing, but someone showed it to me. And I got to tape it and show it to others. I got to see something that no one else got to see (or, at least, relatively few people) and it wasn't prime-time and there were no commercials. Sometimes, it was art for art's sake; but, sometimes, it was a whole new world I had never imagined was out there.

And, I hope, we can do that for you.


Dr. Mila said...

I forgot how much that original theme reminded me of "The Get Along Gang".

Chris Sobieniak said...

Certainly had that "get with the 80's spirit" at play here!

God that Punch and Judy film scared me shitless as an 8 year old!

I also remember this little classic that wastes 30 minutes of your life perfectly...

And this is why we need to keep supporting PBS if we want to see more of this show up!

Unknown said...

Alive From Off Center really felt different from anything else that was on TV back then. The clips they showed were subversive and revolutionary. It showed the potential of what TV could be. MTV had suggested that you didn't need the standard formats that television lived by. TV didn't need to be about talk shows and sitcoms, but it didn't have to be bands lip syncing to songs, either.

True, Alive From Off Center was a bit too arty at times, but it even when it was it was showing something that you would never see on any other channel.

I wish they'd release this as a DVD box set.

Chris Sobieniak said...

I think these might've played on there too .

Dr. Mila said...

Yes, there was an episode with some of Wegman's B&W work. I think that same one had a CGI house with a woman blue-screened into it, talking about drudgery.

There was also an episode about Georges Méliès, and featured some modern interpretations of his work. I wish I could find it again!

Chris Sobieniak said...

I remember one episode (though from the later "Alive TV" series) where they had some stage play version of Punch & Judy that was shown with Carl Stalling music in the background that was mentioned to have came from the CD "The Carl Stalling Project", the first time I had heard of such a release of just the music from those Warner Bros. cartoons. It was quite unique to see it used in such an unusual way.