This show is not a retrospective, rather a small selection by Steven of two memorable BLF “Improvements” with beautiful photos by A. Leo Nash and Nicole Rosenthal. We’ll be sharing the gallery with Anthony Discenza, Jacqueline Gordon, Victor Moscoso and psychedelic poster artist Robert Fried. The opening is this Saturday the 12th of July, 2014. I won’t be there – I’m off on a UE trip to the Midwest. Other BLF Ops may be in attendance. Steven is planning a closing party for August 16th which I will be attending – I’ll be missing Lynyrd Skynyrd to be at this closing party, a sacrifice I had to make, so I hope you will drop what you’re doing and stop on by too.
The BLF finally retired a few years ago after a 35 year run. It had been a lot of fun, but the thrill was gone. Addressing later generations in a book foreword, Shepard Fairey said (to paraphrase a bit): “Check out the BLF, they’ve been hacking billboards since before you were born!” And that was years ago.
Then, a few years later, I was inadvertently outed by my pal, rocker Anton Newcomb and, unlike Banksy, no one seemed to notice or much care. Ow! Then I outed long time copywriting partner and retired BLF propagandist Stuart Mangrum “_____ DeCoverly”. Bruised egos crave company…. Well, I had to remind myself, it was a heckadventure and, after any number of close calls, we remained unscathed, un-injured (35 years and not one single work place accident!) and with the exception of the initial Suicide Club improvement in 1977, un-captured. We had stayed incognito, using silly nom de guerres, sporting masks, dyed hair, funny glasses and the like, for decades. We kidnapped journalists, shocking and amusing them enough that they wrote about our exploits with humor and energy without being too critical.
By the end of the new millenniums first decade, the new generation of BLF Ops had moved on to the serious pursuits of middle age. Many passed thru the organization over the years, most were fellow pranksters in Cacophony and the earlier Suicide Club. Co-founder Irving Glikk (David T. Warren, co-founder of the Suicide Club and early ignitor of the silly wooden figure now worshipped on the Black Rock Desert each year) passed away in 2010 at seventy-one. Dave was one of the great inspirations in my life. He was the “Spirit of Chaos” in the Suicide Club. Once in the late 70’s as I was just embarking on a lengthy solo cross-country hitch-hiking adventure, Dave with somber mien, gave me a giant rubber thumb declaring: “Here kid, you’ll need this on the road!”
The BLF was a primary creative outlet for me for many years, but all things come to pass. I’ve settled into other pursuits in recent times, becoming more interested in and energized by slipping back into small group UE adventures, restoring the ridiculous and sublime giant DogHeads that I somehow have become responsible for, and knocking off the occasional book event for our history of the Cacophony Society with co-author (and past BLF Art Director) Carrie Galbraith “Ethyl Ketone”.
Former BLF operative Conrad Hoc “Scott Beale” our first webmaster, got us online initially, and way back in the 90’s convinced me of the importance of the digital realm as a means of archiving and preserving work done in meat space. Milton will probably link this blog post to the official BLF website <billboardliberation.com> and we’ll call it a day with the exception of any future gallery, academic, historical or law enforcement interest (the statute of limitations is closing fast, fellas..)
This is the first of 2 posts that will serve, for the time being, as my digital “closing the book” on the BLF. In the next post before the closing party at Wolfe Fine Arts, I will out and tip the hat to everyone I can recall that passed through the group from 1977 til we closed shop in 2010. If you are a past operative, please drop me a line and let me know if I may use your “real” name in my next post. I will also include many more photos of “improvements” made by BLF over the years with short anecdotes about the actions.
In 2007 three Slovenian citizens, a performance artist, a theater director and an artist joined the ruling Conservative Party: The SDS. Later that year they all changed their names to Janez Jansa which “co-incidentally” was the name of the the leader of SDS and the right leaning Prime Minister of Slovenia. They all three went about their lives as Janez Jansa, collectively gaining quite a bit of media and public attention in Slovenia and eventually world-wide.
Being artists, the three newly minted Janez’ pondered the meaning of their deliberate appellation re-designation, and eventually were inspired to co-create a very interesting movie staring: Janez Jansa, Janez Jansa, Janez Jansa and Janez Jansa. This movie is an in-depth and compelling exploration of the old adage: “what’s in a name?” Dozens of people, many sharing the same name and virtually nothing else, are interviewed about how they believe their names have affected their lives since birth. You will be surprised to find out what the filmmakers learn about names and what they have to do with the named.
I had the good fortune to see this movie while I was presenting my book Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society at The Influencers Festival in Barcelona last November. I also met Janez Jansa! (the performance artist, not the Prime Minister..)
I was compelled to ponder my name and how it was almost a separate entity, while being perhaps the most obvious expression of who I am to the world at large. Admittedly, being named John Law (a pejorative meaning police in the central states) at birth and growing up primarily in the Mid-West insured many “A Boy Named Sue” moments in my young life. Even so, watching this movie will get you thinking about just what YOUR name has meant to you and your development, opportunities and accomplishments over the course of your life. I highly recommend seeing it.
Screening of My Name is Janez Jansa at:
more screenings: http://www.mynameisjanezjansa.com/?page_id=156