Video Issue: Lubricating the Yubehole with Art Attack, video flyers, and the genius clubkid shorts of Tom Rubnitz
SUPER EGO Look at this fucking nightlife column! It's the Guardian's Video issue, so I thought I'd roam into the upload zone — lubricate the Yubehole, VIP the Vimeo, Flip the embed — and click-up a wee rundown of club developments on the streaming front.
While I may lament the omnipresence of distractive screens at most dance spots (we possess one of the oldest "video bars" in the world, Midnight Sun in the Castro — historical!), and I'm terrified of holograms (like the one of a geisha-like gamin over the bar at Infusion Lounge, who gives one a come-hither shimmer before, I think, tearing into a virtual ham hock), there are oodles of inventive digital doodling going down and golden nuggets of club history being dug up.
That inventiveness is taken to a whole other level at Art Attack, video surrealist III's night at Supperclub (www.supperclub.com ), every third Thursday of the month. There, the ingenious young eye-popper gathers some of the kookiest (and most talented) personalities on the scene to interactively perform with his cunning projections, painting the white walls of that upscale gawk-box with digital dreamscapes. Warbling drag queens step straight out of silent-movie scenarios, aerialists Tarzan through jungle lushness. It's a rad mind-melt, with fab DJ programming to boot, and one of my favorite stops to spot what the kids are really up to these days.
Out of the clubs and into the cloud: another recent bit-rate bonanza has been the emergence of video flyers. Although nothing, to my meatspace mind, can beat old-school hand-to-hand invite action, I'm all for less litter and more Twitter. Since most parties are announced via social networking sites, it only makes sense that flyers move beyond the static into new design dimensions.
Our very own Leo Herrera and his gaily forward Homochic posse (www.homochic.com ) have pioneered an especially moody, erotic, and impressionistic form — pairing just-released dancefloor hummers with titillating cinematic scenes that float from bathhouse to arthouse. No hooting gel-balls doing body shots off fake tits here. Not that there's everything wrong with that.
And lately I've been revisiting, enthralled, the incredible short-film work of Tom Rubnitz, clubkid bon vivant, musician, and recording angel to that incandescent slice of nightlife history: downtown Manhattan in the late 1980s. He passed away from AIDS in 1992 at age 36 (and really, as a youngish queer man watching any vids from that era, the question that unfortunately ghosts to the back of the mind is always "Are they dead?") — but his song and video for his own "Love is the Message" will forever sound and look like my February of 1989.
Rubnitz made the 1987 documentary Wigstock: The Movie about that wild dragsplosion and directed music videos for waterfall-coiffed John Sex, but it was his hyperreal shorts that guaranteed him a place in the YouTube pantheon. A few years ago, queer cult filmmaker Charles Atlas inherited Rubnitz's ancient reels, and gems like "Pickle Surprise" and "Strawberry Shortcut" — which meld inappropriate sound effects, jarring edits, extremely trashy processed foods, downtown's crème de la crème of the underground scene (including Lady Bunny, RuPaul, Billy Beyond, and Sister Dimension), and, at one memorably hilarious point, a church-chime version of Maurice's "This is Acid" — made their way online. You can watch Rubnitz's collected "Sexy, Wiggy, Desserty" works at www.vdb.org .
"Pickle Surprise" became an instant Internet hit, with hundreds of tributes posted, and has influenced a new gaggle of filmmakers and scenesters. (I was actually reminded of the short by fresh-faced DJ Pickle Surprise.) The fact that Rubnitz's V-hold overloads — you must watch "Made for TV," an epileptic channel-surf Armageddon that documents a young Ann Magnuson at the height of her freaky powers — didn't quite transfer intact to streaming digital format only adds to their hysterical impact. "I wanted to make things beautiful, funny, and positive — escapes that you could just get into and laugh through. I felt like good could triumph over evil," Rubnitz said at the time. He and his magic misfits now live on forever, pixilated pixies hawking Wonder bread and sandwich spread.