1 – HEAD TRIP PUBLIC SCREENING (June 21st North Beach SF)
2 – ONLINE MOVIE RELEASE (late June 2023)
3 – DOGS IN GG PARK (October 2022 – September 2023) (new audio art QRS codes on Dogs in GG Park in June!)
here is the Telegraph Hill Dwellers press release:
HEAD TRIP PUBLIC SCREENING:
SAVOY TIVLOI 1434 GRANT AVE SF
WEDNESDAY JUNE 21ST 7PM
Head Trip is a full length documentary film featuring the Doggie Diner Dogheads on a cross country trip to New York City during “Shock and Awe” 2003. The idea was to spread good cheer cross-country during a tough time. As you will see in the film there was some success. The tour and film were made in collusion with San Francisco’s own punk rock bicycle club Cyclecide with support from Laughing Squid & Christina Harbridge.
Please watch this short trailer for the movie to be found in this wonderful article on the cross country road trip that inspired to movie: https://laughingsquid.com/head-trip-a-doggie-diner-dog-head-cross-country-documentary/We will be re-premiering the full film at Savoy Tivoli on Grant Street in North Beach on Wednesday, June 21st as part of the premier event Films With Friends. Look for the lone 10 foot tall Doggie Diner Head parked out front. The film is a part of a new series sponsored by THOSE GUYS PRESENTS. Brainchild of noted prankster/cineaste/film collector Rob Schmitt, this exciting new series will be taking place in various locations in the BEST NEIGHBORHOOD IN SAN FRANCISCO, NORTH BEACH monthly through the Summer/Fall. more information to come.
ONLINE MOVIE RELEASE:
The film was recently spruced up by Suicide Club/Cacophony and Burning Man stalwart filmmaker/composer Steve Mobia using the original mini-dv tape and it looks better than ever! Head Trip has never lived on line ever with the exception of a short trailer on Youtube and various news articles about the road trip and film premier in 2008. Head Trip will be released on SF Cacophony Society Youtube page sometime to be announced after the June 21st public screening.
DOGS IN GG PARK:
SOME MORE DOG INFO (STUFF ABOUT HEAD TRIP, the movie) :
Starting back in 2003 my friend Flecher Fleurdujon & I made a feature movie about a journey spanning the breadth of America accompanied by three 10 foot tall 300lb chef’s hat & bowtie adorned dachshund heads and a crew of punk rock bicycle clowns called Cyclecide Bike Rodeo. Completed in 2009, the movie was in a couple of film festivals, played at The Roxie in SF for a week & at two showing of almost 500 folks at Rythmix Cultural Works in Alameda CA. The movie played a few more times, but that was it. It has never been online in all the intervening years.
Well before we embarked on our road trip/movie shoot, the giant grinning heads had been the official mascots of The Cacophony Society and The First Church of the Last Laugh. They were recognized all about the SF Bay Area from their tenure as totemic representatives of a local fast food franchise and our contribution to the Doggie Diner legacy was to deconstructed the former commercial icons and facilitate their “re-christening” as disembodied former commercial icons. By the time we started our film project, we had been hauling the three fiberglas objects all around to various non-commercial, often non-profit, nonsensical events as well as City events and parades of various stripes for years.
I met Flecher Fleurdujon when he was 7 or 8 years old back in 1977. Over the succeeding years Flech evolved into an accomplished musician, band leader and videographer. Loving fruitful collaborative work as I do, I had imagined a project where I could work with my friend. “Flech” was the son of my Suicide Club friend Mary Grauberger. I lived a few blocks from Mary with my roommate (another Mary) Mary Friedman and her kids Ben and Nellie. Flech was the same age, and the three of them were in the Suicide Club as the kid contingent. These three and a few other youngsters routinely accompanied their elders into sewers, abandoned factories and the occasional embarrassing foray into “street theater”. Flech was a great kid filled with energy and creativity.
Some years earlier Mary had inspired two stoner friends with a yearly solstice beach art event she organized starting in the late 70’s where she invited her hippie friends to meet her at Baker Beach, bringing musical instruments, food & art. Oh, she encouraged her peeps to burn some of the art. These two fellows went on to start the first Burning Man also at Baker Beach in 1986
During the early Suicide Club adventures, I carried an eight year old Flech on my back into some pretty sketch environments… 12 years or so later, Flech was my assistant at the second Desert Site Works event at Trego Springs on the Black Rock Desert. Already established as operations guy for the ever growing desert bacchanal, my duties at the annual Burning Man event included transportation, set up & clean up. For the liminal Desert Site Works I assumed the same responsibilities . For the preliminary set up, I desperately needed a helper and asked Mary G if I could conscript Flech.
He and I loaded a 24′ Ryder box truck with a ton of stuff. drove to the proverbial middle of nowhere and dumped all the stuff into a pile next to Trego spring. I had many errands to run and left 17 year old Flech to hold down the site, handing him a Remington Wingmaster Pump action 12ga. shotgun “just in case”.
Ten years later I was sitting in $teven Ra$pa’s lovely apartment on Rincon Hill along with Scott Beale, Helena “Noona” Sullivan, and a half dozen other local event folks and we were planning a Laughing Squid hosted and underwritten NYC event to take place at CBGB’s 313 Art Gallery (affiliated with & next door to the infamous punk club) that would showcase a roster of our SF and NYC underground performers and characters. The session was lively and productive. Then, out of the blue, Noona shouted: “HEY! John! we HAVE TO BRING THE DOGS!!” – like that was a good idea… I literally cringed and shrunk back in my comfy chair, shouting loudly and to the derisive laughter of my associates: “no, No, NO, NO!!!” because I KNEW just how much really dirty heavy work, planning and $ that such a feat would require……. To make a long story short, we made it happen and you can see the results in our movie Head Trip…
I hope that you enjoy the feature movie that Flecher and I made with the help of a cast and crew of hundreds, showcasing The Doggie Diner Dog Heads as they traversed the great American continent to New York City falling into many improbable and serentypical adventures along the way
Thanks to Scott Beale and Laughing Squid for helping produce the original cross country trip the movie is based upon and later help producing and exhibiting the movie on screens in California, NYC & Florida in 2009 & 2010. Thanks to my ex-wife Christina Harbridge for her support during the making of the movie and special thanks also to Cyclecide Bike Rodeo for wrangling the whole shebang and all the heavy lifting…
Please come to this presentation at
The Oakland Museum on:
November 17 at 2 PM.
This presentation will reveal much of the secret and hidden history of early Burning Man. For various reasons the protean and liminal collaborative event Desert Siteworks has been lost to the larger Burning Man history. Envisioned by founder William Binzen as a sister event to BM, Desert Siteworks provided much of the core philosophy for the later massively popular desert event.
We will be showing an excerpt from William Binzen‘s uncompleted film Waking Dream which beautifully represents the 1992, 93 and 94 Desert Sitework events.
After, William Binzen and John Law will be interviewed by author and historian Erik Davis.
“An Unintelligible Passionate Yearning Drove Them Out Into The Desert”
by John Law Co-founder of the Burning Man Festival and Co-editor, Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society. quote by T.E. Lawrence.
There are four separate, yet in some ways related concepts, organizations or philosophies that were integral to the birth and growth of the Burning Man Festival and the attendant subcultures spreading around the world that have been influenced by this ever more popular event.
The first harbinger of things to come was a San Francisco-based movement comprised of pranksters and regular folk known as the Cacophony Society. Cacophony came out of an earlier underground and mysterious secret organization co-founded by a forgotten visionary named Gary Warne and ominously titled the San Francisco Suicide Club. Cacophony was an experiment in urban exploration, street art, pranking, psychogeography and any other odd pursuits members might imagine. Cacophony started in the mid-80s. It spread around the country with the assistance of the burgeoning Internet and thrived into the late ‘90s.
The radical idea that “every member was a creator of their own reality” agreeing to “put their worldly affairs in order” and to “live each day as though it were your last” was at the heart of Cacophony. Another crucial Cacophony philosophy was contained in the simple phrase: “You may already be a member.”
The second crucial idea that ensured BM’s existence was the simple yet profound concept of “The Zone” pioneered by Cacophonist Carrie Galbraith. Taken from her interest in the films of Andre Tarkovsky and novels of Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, The Zone concept was that a person or group could enter into both a physical and a metaphysical space separate from daily “normal” existence, where literally anything could happen. The first Burning Man on the Black Rock Desert was sponsored and organized by Cacophony and listed as an event in its monthly newsletter, Rough Draft, titled “Bad Day at Black Rock, Cacophony Zone Trip #4.”
The third primary influence was a written philosophy collected in a book called TAZ, Temporary Autonomous Zone by Hakim Bey, an East Coast philosopher. Bey (or Peter Lamborn Wilson as he was also known) devised a very compelling theory of creative freedom and anarchistic collaboration that required participants to find a physical space far away from the cloying, civilization-engendered mechanisms of control. They would bring with them everything they needed, and for a period of time do whatever they wanted with absolutely no rules, regulations, laws, or other examples of social, political, economic control, or any other aspect of human oppression. They would then pack up and leave quickly before being noticed (and consequently, mandatorily crushed by the institutions of humankind), only to regroup in total freedom at a later unannounced time in another secret place.
The fourth influence, structurally and critically the most important with regard to the eventual style and look as well as the growing culture of Burning Man, was, without a doubt, William Binzen’s Desert Siteworks series of art ritual events at desert hot springs.
DSW made an audacious leap and conjoined the seemingly disparate disciplines of large format, multiple exposure art photography with an ongoing, massive scale, multiple-artist-created series of separate yet subtly connected land art installations. In 1992 Binzen recruited Cacophony to assist with his first DSW at Black Rock Springs in an extremely remote corner of the already extremely remote Black Rock Desert. With a crew of about 20 people, mostly Cacophonists, this amazingly beautiful and wild environment was transformed into an ongoing live human performance/land art installation, ultimately captured by Binzen’s large format cameras.
The following year, again with the assistance of Cacophony, Binzen partnered with Judy West, an artist and arts administrator, to produce an ambitious large scale event/art installation/ritual/life experience at another remote Nevada desert hot springs location. West had her office and home at Project Artaud, an artist live-work mecca in San Francisco. Through her contacts there, and by combing the San Francisco Open Studios weekends, Binzen and West recruited a number of accomplished professional artists, performers and makers to participate in DSW’s second year. This group of exceptional creators combined with the much looser, amateur, yet outrageous sensibilities of Cacophony proved to be very influential on the burgeoning Burning Man aesthetic and culture. Nothing anywhere remotely as ambitious or involved as the Trego Springs DSW project at Summer Solstice, 1993 had yet been attempted at Burning Man.
Approximately 100 artists and pranksters living together, occupying large scale physical space they fashioned themselves by hand and imagination, manifesting elaborate rituals while adorned with singular habiliments of their own creation was the order of the moment.
The organic costume creations and tribal cohabitation rituals of the performance troupe Dream Circus inspired generations of “burner fashion” and much of the now commonplace social rituals at the massive, mainstream event. The giant, mud-skinned, steel mesh fire lingam created by the princely, mercurial Pepe Ozan and the attendant wildly primordial and deeply affecting dance ritual evolved into Pepe’s yearly operas, the most powerful and influential collaborative art installations to take place at Burning Man for the next ten years. Pepe’s massive, complex operas predated and inspired David Best’s temples and dozens of future large scale BM collaborations.
The Cacophony custom of “leave no trace” and culture of encouraging extreme and intense, collaborative “real world” experience was a perfect complement to Binzen’s ideas and the aesthetic sensibilities of the other DSW artists. These protean creative eruptions were adopted whole cloth by the nascent and rapidly expanding Burning Man culture.
Binzen’s writings and carefully, lovingly designed philosophies thoroughly informed the “life as art” and “radical self expression and inclusion” concepts that lie at the heart of early Burning Man and continue today as rubric for the corporation that controls the festival and as a self-evident truth for so many who still participate in BM and have taken this essence out into their lives and into the world.
And then there are the photographs.
William Binzen’s images of Burning Man are the most complex and lovingly conjured of the literally millions of photographs of this highly photogenic event. His wizardly captures and preservation of the fantastical tableaus of Desert Siteworks created by a group of artists and pranksters in the desert over the course of only three years in a distant and magical past, are surely some of the most singular images you will ever see.
DANCING ON THE EDGE OF THE VOID
By William L. Fox Director, Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art
Deserts are places that attract artists because they offer a relatively blank slate upon which to work, spaces where time and the elements tend to erase previous traces of human presence. You can create an ephemeral installation or event again and again at the same spot in a desert and it’s always new. Michael Heizer found that out when he created his Nine Nevada Depressions across a 520-mile expanse of the state in 1968; within one or two years, no trace of the works remained at Jean Dry Lake outside Las Vegas, or the Black Rock and Smoke Creek deserts north of Reno.
A playa, which means “beach” in Spanish, is the ultimate desert palimpsest, the intermittent lakes that form on their salty or alkaline surfaces during the wet seasons eroding away footprints, tire tracks, and other evidence of human passage. Playas in California, Utah, and Nevada have hosted everything from automobile and fashion shoots to land speed trials and giant croquet games. And they’ve hosted art projects from Jean Tinguely’s “Study for an End of the World,
No. 2,” when he blew up junk sculptures with dynamite in 1962, to Lita Albuquerque’s celestially oriented pigment dispersal drawings. The most famous of all contemporary artistic endeavors on a playa is, of course, Burning Man. But the festival started on another kind of beach entirely before moving to the Black Rock in 1990, and it wasn’t an event that featured much art. Both the relocation and the focus on art came about in part because of William Binzen.
Binzen, a photographer who now lives in rural Marin County, California, moved from the East Coast in 1974 to earn an MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in the mid-1970s. Burning Man famously began in 1986 when Larry Harvey hosted a Labor Day bonfire on Baker Beach in San Francisco. When the police in 1990 denied permission to the 350 participants to burn the 30-foot tall wooden figure, Binzen, along with John Law and Kevin Evans from the San Francisco Cacophony Society, convinced Burning Man co-founder Harvey to move the burn to the Black Rock playa for the Cacophony Zone Trip #4 over Labor Day weekend. They called it “Bad Day at Black Rock.” Binzen knew that local ceramicist John Bogard and friends had played giant croquet there during the summer using pickup trucks as mallets, and believed that Harvey could bring his burn out to the desert without being bothered by law enforcement. 1990 was the first year that Binzen attended the event, but by 1992 he was directing his own project on the Black Rock, Desert Siteworks, a summer solstice celebration held annually before Burning Man. He ran his event for three years, each one held at a different hot springs along the eastern edge of the playa. Desert Siteworks was based on site-specific performances and installations, its 15-20 “artist-instigators” and co-collaborators engaging in ritual role-playing, meditative exercises, and group art projects. In the second and third years they were aided by up to 70-80 others in loosely formed artisans’ guilds. This was an early iteration of the “intentional community,” which later became a basic tenet of Burning Man.
Binzen talked 2-3 times a week at length with Larry Harvey during these years. Binzen’s aesthetic had arisen in part from his reading of the 1979 Rosalind Kraus essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” and her understanding of the importance of the ephemeral in art. His explanatory diagrams for Desert Siteworks are modeled directly on the schematics she published in this essay. Other artists important to his practice included Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, and Mary Miss, and Binzen sent Harvey a series of “Desert Tracts” about his thoughts regarding their ideas, his own artistic practice, and ideas for Burning Man, including the establishment of an art program on the playa. Binzen’s formation of a self-intentional performance community was based on using temporary site-specific artworks for personal transformation, and the habitats he developed (shade structures and desert yurts among them) were important to both the character and physical design the Burning Man community would later adopt. Binzen brought his architectonic sculpture, “Desert House,” to the playa in 1992, where it served as the predecessor of Center Camp. A proposal he sketched for Harvey (on two paper napkins while sitting at Harvey’s kitchen table) on how to lay out the event influenced its current design. An exhibition and series of events and performances featuring both Burning Man and Desert Siteworks, including an installation of Binzen’s desert architecture, was held in San Francisco’s SOMAR Gallery in 1994. Binzen began photographing Burning Man in 1990, when he was the only professional photographer there, and he continued to do so annually through 2010. His photographs include 8×10, medium-format and 35mm film from the early years as well as later digital imagery. All were then painstakingly re-imagined in Photoshop using the tenets of color theory, and sometimes included composited paintings made with aqueous media on glass. His intent was to make magical realist images that communicated a deeper reality about the feeling and spirit of the event. Binzen likewise created singular images to accompany his Desert Siteworks project from 1992-1994. A few of his Burning Man photos have been previously exhibited, but this is the first time the Desert Siteworks images have been viewed publicly. Binzen’s photographs overall, from his work at Desert Siteworks and Burning Man to the panoramic commissions he creates for various clients (some of which are related to the desert events) are less documentations of a place and time than precisely calibrated artifacts construed from them. Even images that at first glance seem the most straightforward of the works, such as the Desert House at Black Rock Springs from 1992, feature carefully arranged tableau with figures balanced throughout the scene, and colors enhanced afterwards to provide contrast and unity along the spectrum. The result is that the photographs imply a dreamlike narrative, and serve as vivid reminders of the enduring power exercised by the early 20th-century art movements of Dada and Surrealism. In this case of the photographs of the Desert House, the images also demonstrate how Binzen’s ideas infiltrated Burning Man. Dada sought to inject chaos and irrationality into art, a reaction to the bourgeois mindset that appeared complicit with the horrors of World War I. Surrealism embraced this idea, seeking to create new states of awareness by making unexpected and illogical juxtapositions among objects and actions. Dada and surrealistic art practices were brought to the West Coast by artists fleeing Nazism and WWII, people such as Man Ray and Max Ernst, which in turn helped give rise to San Francisco’s Suicide Club and Cacophony Society, two organizations that from the very beginning have profoundly shaped the philosophy and workings of Burning Man. Binzen brought those sensibilities to the desert, as well, when he created his interactive, intentional performance communities.
The three Desert Siteworks projects were explorations through performance, architecture and art of the necessities for boundaries and discipline to survive, and even thrive, in an unfamiliar and hostile environment. The inevitable tension between trying to survive and make art at the same time was a method through which people could understand more clearly their relationships to self, to others, and to the environment. Binzen’s photographs—which are few in number because of the amount of work it takes to assemble such artifacts—at their base not only document not only the physical presence of Siteworks in the desert, but also, by virtue of the artist’s degree of manipulation, make manifest how Dada and Surrealism infused the Suicide Club, Cacophony Society, Desert Siteworks, and Burning Man.
Dada and surrealist performances and artworks use randomness and chance in a deliberate fashion, and at heart Binzen’s layered images present us with the essential paradox posed b these earlier art movements: how to create enough order to survive long enough so that we can walk up to the edge of and even into chaos, and then return. There is no successful career as a human without personally experiencing this paradox, and Binzen has given us both a concrete example of how to do so, as well as documents of the process, which is one of the more extraordinary contemporary accomplishments to arise from the Black Rock Desert.
Any playas, but especially the large ones such as the Bonneville Salt Flats and Black Rock Desert, are situations as well as sites, spaces where navigational clues are few, and a sense of scale almost nonexistent. The cognitive impairment experienced while on a playa, even on the edge of one, creates enough mental and emotional freedom for artworks to be transformational, whether in the intimate theatre of one’s own mind, or at the level of an arena, the pop-up city. In a fine analog, Binzen has created images where both the subject matter being photographed and the deployment of photographic technology are perfectly staged to capture the spirit of transformation—and to be pictures that are the agents of change itself.