In 1980 Angus MacLise, the American, composer, poet, occultist, calligrapher, and drummer for the Velvet Underground, left a suitcase full of his diverse works with the musician La Monte Young. Now, more than 30 years later, curators Johan Kugelberg and Will Swofford Cameron present the contents of this rare time capsule at an exhibition, Dreamweapon, at the Boo-Hooray gallery in New York and online at boo-hooray.com. Ahead of the opening and online launch Kugelberg and Cameron explain why the work of MacLise is “overdue for a retrospective” and tell the story of the journey of this incredible relic.
Dazed Digital: Why do you think Angus MacLise is such an important figure deserving of a dedicated exhibition of his work?
Johan Kugelberg: He is a human link-document. As a historian, I am constantly fascinated when I come across documents that provide irrefutable evidence of connections between artists, musicians, writers etc. Angus is that in human form: His work in music, in poetry and in art is truly important. People need to see his work. He is overdue for a retrospective, and the Boo-Hooray crew are proud to make that happen.
DD: How did you hear about the time-vault suitcase and how did you acquire it for the exhibition?
Will Cameron: In 1999, Tim Barnes, Ira Cohen, Sheldon Rochlin and Tom Lax released some of Angus' music for the first time on the label Stilt breeze / quakebasket, which allowed access to information and the ability to experience Angus' music for the first time in a public venue. In 2001, I contacted Ira Cohen to interview him and he continued over the years to encourage me that there was a lot of poetic and artistic value to Angus' legacy, and that the work must be done, so he introduced me to Hetty MacLise in 2006. Subsequently, I began a dialogue with Ira Cohen and Hetty to see if there were ways to locate Angus's works for exhibition and publication opportunities.
One day, I heard from Hetty that she would like me to contact La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, whom I was close with having studied music with them in the past. Hetty let me know that she had organized a suitcase full of Angus' works in 1980 which was left with La Monte for safekeeping, and that she knew if I were to receive it that the goals we were hoping to achieve could be realized.
DD: What’s in it?
Will Cameron: It's all amazing stuff: poetry manuscript, one-of-a-kind artists' books, calligraphy, drawings, paintings, letters, and photographs. The core of the exhibit derives from this suitcase, with the supplementary addition of material from private collections.
Johan Kugelberg: Do you think such finds as this might not be possible say 40 years from now as people create, store, and share all there content digitally, it seems a shame there is such a lack of physical evidence if it now and may not be a record in the future. I am always proud to wave my luddite flag proudly, as is the entire Boo-Hooray crew notwithstanding the prowess in digital technology of some. I think the digital life is yet another example of how transitional technology is in our era. A plethora of flawed products and concepts bounce over us like fleas, all imploring us to buy them and discard what we bought last month due to its built in obsolescence.
I foresee more and more people rejecting the digital life as they discover how the faux-creativity of Facebook doesn't end up as emotionally rewarding not to mention the lessons that the recent slew of disasters and social unrest hints at: That what is on the screen isn't real, that when the plug and the socket disengage there is nothing on the screen and that the instant online communication that leads to social unrest is based on mass-hysterics and does not result in sustainable social change. Also do remember that the lion share of people alive right now will live and die without ever having made a phone call.
Dreamweapon: The Art and Life of Angus MacLise (1938 – 1979), curated by Johan Kugelberg and Will Swofford Cameron; 521 W23rd Street, New York; Opening Party, May 10th, 6pm to 9pm. Art Exhibition - May 10 - May 29. Sound Installation, 265 Canal Street, Suite 601, New York. Film Night at the Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, New York, May 12th at 8 PM.