Monday, October 26, 2009

Alice Underground (Espirit D'Escalier)

Her blog before she died in New York, was called Wit of the Staircase.


http://theresalduncan.typepad.com/

The title derives from the French espirit d'escalier...the perfect witty response one thinks up after the conversation is over.

from her blog

Her lover and soul mate of 12 years, before he died, had exhibited at Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and in three Whitney Museum Biennials.

He designed Beck's album cover for Sea of Change.
His paint strokes looked like graphics.

His work was exhibited posthumously at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Together, they were the IT couple of New York's Lowest East Side. They socialized with the likes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Giovanni Ribisi and Emily Watson. They hung out at the Bowery Hotel, the Beatrice Inn and Bungalow 8.

They moved from their New York Broome Street apartment to a bungalow in Los Angeles where she had a two picture deal with Fox Searchlight and directed a pilot for Oxygen. They then returned to New York where she took her life.

They were described as "alarmingly brilliant."

"They were like two parts of the same person — very, very bonded," said one New York writer. "You could talk to them about the history of electricity or politics. Both were really scholarly in a pop sense."

They returned to New York where he wanted to speak “freely” to “exceptional people” and launch their work.


“They were remarkable people,” said a former director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “I can’t think of one without the other. It was flattering to be in their presence. You felt good that they liked you.”

He was 35, she was 40, in the last year of their lives.

They lived in St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, a special place in New York history. Sam Shepherd produced his first plays here. Martha Graham and Isadora Duncan danced here. Allen Ginsberg and WH Auden read poetry here. Andy Warhol hung out here. Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet was once on St. Mark's arts committee. Frank Lloyd Wright drew plans for two towers at St. Mark's.

In the courtyard, she and he would often have discourse to change the frontier of what we understood. They drank Manhattans with Pastor Frank Morales. "They were a dynamic force, and I'm sure their brilliance circulated between them symbiotically," said one notable art gallery curator.

note the grass



Their 3 bedroom apartment was in the rectory of St. Mark's.

Frank Morales pays a visit to rectory. He's often considered a leader of New York's squatter's movement in the 1980s and 1990s.

He collaborated with her 40-minute animation called The History of Glamour, shown at the prestigious Whitney Museum Year 2000, biennial exhibition.

"The History of Glamour is a semi-autobiographical satire about the rise of a young female indie-rock musician....it’s a cautionary tale about the emptiness of fame and the corrupting influence of ambition."

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/video/2008/historyofglamour_video200801

She was a notable blogger, aspiring screenwriter, and critically acclaimed pioneering game designer. Her blogs sometimes chronicled discontinued perfumes and Kate Moss. She was dubbed "Silicon Alley’s dream girl” by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and People. "Her confidence was contagious. It was `punk.'" ~ Vanity Fair.

She could do no wrong until the end.

In Hollywood, no one gets to be Warhol, not even Warhol. “She seemed a bit na├»ve about Hollywood,” said Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren (whom Blake had been working on a portrait of when he died). “She went in hoping people would listen to her, but in Hollywood you’re the one who has to listen.”

~ Vanity Fair

After returning to New York, she was working on her chef d'oeuvre - her life's cornerstone work - when she killed herself on July 10. It was called Alice Underground.


He was a graphic designer for Rockstar Games. He found her lying prone, by a suicide note, pills and a champagne glass. He had eaten a late lunch at 3pm with her that day. No one ever saw them fight. Her note said, "I love all of you." He was inconsolable. Up to 10 people took shifts for one week on suicide watch. He was "blanketed." Then on July 17, a day before her funeral, he took a train to Brooklyn en route to see a friend. Instead, he went to Rockaway Beach - a place where New Yorkers go surfing in the Atlantic Ocean - where his mother was born.



"American Ruins" - from his video Wincester

He took off all his clothes, folded them neatly, leaving his wallet and a note behind. He walked into the sea. A woman saw him and called 911. A fishing boat picked him out of the water in Jersey five days later. Before this he had purchased a flight to Germany.

In the note, he wrote, he wanted to be with her.


an actress anonymously left this in my notebook before she left a boutique bar celebrating the wrap of her tv series

His memorial was held on her birthday - October 26. Coincidentally, today (two years ago).

Her genius, her masterpiece, will never be seen, with all of its sophisticated visual style. It is Alice Underground.

"It would have revealed the real depth of her talent," said one producer.

So many things in life we don't see.

* * *

His digital paintings married animation, film and computer art.

He was the iPhone paint brush before there even was one. "You could experience a video as you would a painting. It's poetic, abstract, very rich work," said one curator.

"His first solo shows, in New York and Los Angeles in 1999, blew everybody away." ~ Vanity Fair

“I think I have invented a new, more poetic kind of pop art that blends elements of pop and noir.”



* * *
Her dream ended with Beck. From this point onward, no one knows what really happened. She claimed Beck originally agreed to be in Alice Underground - a film about a rock star kidnapped by two girls. Then the Church of Scientology, she believed, asked him not to participate, and conspired to crush its prospects in Hollywood. Her screenplay was well-received by Fox Searchlight, then Paramount, and then shelved. They believed they were being harassed and followed by Scientologists in Los Angeles. It's partly why they moved to New York. The internet has been rife with theories on how two wildly successful and popular artists were driven to suicide.

I often wonder if they saw St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery as an artist sanctuary or more so, a safe harbor from persecution. In the end, the demons got to her. And he lost his true love here.

Before she died, she referenced Kafka in a July 5 blog: “When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me and what do I know of yours?”

He found her shortly after 7pm and police cars arrived 10 minutes later, at St. Mark's north entrance.


* * *
Their apartment overlooked a beautiful garden but is also allegedly haunted by Harry Houdini and Edgar Allan Poe. Today the church is 210 years old, on the exact spot where a Dutch man buried below previously erected a family chapel in 1660. Six generations of his family are buried here. She helped organized a July 3 fundraiser, successfully generating $12,000 to repair St. Mark's facade, a week before she died. Oddly, she didn't invite Frank Morales and the couple didn't show up.

The rectory overlooking the garden

1795 cornerstone

In some sad tragic irony, author Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) is working on a screenplay for director Gus Van Zandt about them. Her life and his life have been approved for a movie posthumously.

* * *

I stayed away from St. Mark's that year - waiting for a sign. In the village, i was reading a book called The Mole People. People started stopping me to say they had read the book too.

Then one December night, an actress from Law&Order sat next to me at a music cafe and said she had read it too. A playright said, he had written a play about mole people. I asked him, "what's it called?"

He replied, "Alice Underground."

No shit, i replied.

This most recent trip, i sponsored an Artist who went about town separately. On Tuesday, he told me, "I found this really neat open mike. It's in an underground theater. A lot of talented people perform."

I then asked him, what's it called. He replied, "St. Mark's."

He actually went somewhere down the street near the church. On Tuesdays, at Under St. Mark's Theater (94 St. Mark's Place), there's a 100-person underground theater for Penny's Open Mike.

It's underground, but I wonder if I can find Alice?

http://pennysopenmic.com

Penny's Open Mike - on night of Obama's election win


* * *

Nearby at the church...
"The Poetry Project burns like red hot coal in New York's snow."

-Allen Ginsberg

Founded in 1966, the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, via three weekly readings and performances, has seen hundreds of poets, writers and performers, including Allen Ginsberg, Alice Walker, John Cage, Sam Shepard, Patti Smith, Yoko Ono, and Michael Ondaatje. It is staffed completely by poets.

I don't know too much about Danspace Project - a reputable dance initiative...but it's here too. You can't go wrong if Martha and Isadora were here.

* * *
St. Marks - 131 East 10th (@ 2nd Avenue)

Two days ago, i explained some of the old history of New Amsterdam to a man visiting from Amsterdam. New York was first Dutch, then British, then American. He asked if i knew of a place that had a sculpture of a famous Dutch man inside a New York building. He had seen it before. I didn't know the answer. Tonight i find out, it is here at St. Mark's in 1660, Peter Stuyvesant built a chapel on land he bought in 1651. He is still buried beneath.



* * *

Many stories have been written of delusions and paranoia that talents like they--like we--can face. I don't know how to end this other than to say, You can't get better, if you think you are worse or better than you actually are.

PS this blog, if truly an esprit d'escalier, was designed to get you to perform...

"The answer you cannot make, the pattern you cannot complete, till afterwards it suddenly comes to you...when it is too late." ~ Theresa Duncan on espirit d'escalier.

1 comment:

X said...

Wrote about Penny's Open Mic here (a night of risk):

http://xthespot.blogspot.com/2010/11/there-are-days-i-never-forget-this-is.html