Video Mutants: Guiding light - Page 2

Soaps-loving video artist Kalup Linzy will set you free
Kalup Linzy

When Crocker asks "What's your tea?" he might as well be wishing he were on a party line with a character from one of Linzy's videos.

More evocatively, the helium-high and macho-low voices of the characters in Linzy's videos are similar, though not of a piece, with the manic munchkin voices of the Day-Glo "streaming creatures" (to use the Jack Smith–inspired title of Wang's article) who cavort through videos by Trecartin; and like Trecartin's art, though again in a more casual manner, Linzy's has strong connections to club culture. In fact, Linzy's currently working on a project that, framed by original and dance versions of "Asshole," translates Taiwan's misadventures, as well as a scathingly funny cameo by Labisha, another Linzy alter ego, into songs.

"Basically, [the album] tells the story of someone sad at home who goes out to the bar and ends up getting laid by trade and wakes up the next day with a hangover," Linzy explains with a laugh. He drops hints about a couch-potato parody of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," adding that whenever he tells people he's making a video anthology for the album, they mistakenly "ask if it's going to be like R. Kelly."

Based on tracks such as "Melody Set Me Free," with its drag-ball life-as-an-awards-show lyric, and "SweetBerry Shuffle," with its baton passes between feisty female Labisha and depressive gay boy Taiwan, Linzy's debut album might be an American cousin of the amazing, unjustly obscure Dislocated Genius (Get Physical, 2006) by Chelonis R. Jones. There and on singles such as the fierce "Black Sabrina" (sample lyric: "Black Sabrina never pushes or shoves / She's a foot up your ass / She then questions why you walk so funny / And utters 'Punk bitch' under her rum-tinted breath"), Jones embraces and expresses a multitude of voices, transcending prejudicial diagnoses of schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. (You could also draw a line from a cover version of Klymaxx's "Cherries in the Snow" by veteran artist Vaginal Davis — like Jones, an American expat living in Germany — to "Asshole." Or, in return, from Linzy's videos to "Gossips," a scandalously hilarious YouTube excerpt from Davis's most recent show, Cheap Blacky.)

Betty Davis, Dorothy Moore, and Dionne Warwick are just three of the ladies of song who've provided Linzy with inspiration recently. Though some of his recent video projects — especially the offhandedly brilliant black-and-white linguistic mystery The Pursuit of Gay (Happiness) — have lampooned old Hollywood, lately he's been looking at '80s music videos when he isn't visualizing his music. "Back then the medium was new to [bands and video makers]," he says. "They were excited and it came across, even though some of the videos are cheesy." Today Linzy represents a new wave of audio and video excitement — hold the cheese. (Johnny Ray Huston)

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