Only thing "Corrosive" About the Death of Stalin is Your Review by Andrew Gelwick

When I saw a scathing review of Armando Iannucci's latest film "Death of Stalin" on Artforum I knew I hit gold. This was one of my favorite films of the year and I feel that Howard Hampton's review is hypocritical at best. Hampton's thesis; "This crew of vile ideologues and heartless Communist party hacks jostles for position and power in the foreground while catastrophic historical events flap in the distance like blood-soaked banners and show-trial balloons" has him place this film as apolitical and apologetic of the Soviet Regime. He even compares this film with Veep, saying, "But equating deadly purges and police-state torture with the foul-tongued squabbling and figurative backstabbing of endearingly misanthropic TV characters hardly does justice to the level of injustice, state violence, and atrocity Stalin and his associates specialized in". What about the level of injustice, state violence, and atrocity that our own nation engages in? Is Veep not as reprehensible as this film when it refuses to acknowledge the cost of American Hegemony and instead exclusively focuses on the bullshit? Theres a plot point in a recent season of Veep that creates a joke out of the "Me Too" movement by having a male character be sexually assaulted by an older male figure and the punchline is that the assaulted character looks vaguely like the female previously assaulted. He later goes on to accept his rapist's support in a political campaign. Hampton ends his review by hyper focusing on the difference between a historical text on the death of Stalin and the film's portrayal, saying; "Thus we are left stuck in Sitcom-istan, snug as a bourgeois bedbug in a comforter, wondering: Where have all the millions upon millions of corpses gone?" Jesus fucking christ Hampton thats pretty heavy. 

Hampton in this review touches on the genius of Death of Stalin while failing to recognize it. The film's adoption of Veep and the countless other political, comedy shows that now dot the television landscape for the Communist party shows the similarities between the two. It forces you to look at these shows like you do with Death of Stalin. Yes Death of Stalin is incredibly funny but its also incredibly disturbing and in part its the similarities between 1950s Russia and the current U.S. I think Hampton had a mirror placed infront of his face and he didn't like what he saw. 

 

Kill Your Heroes by Andrew Gelwick

I recently realized that there was a specific catalyst for my journey into collage; Just Kids by Patti Smith. I read this the same summer I was grounded for 3 months and the contrast between my sequestered suburban, 2010s life and the nitty gritty of 1960s and 70s NYC was invigorating. I found the relationship between Patti and Robert fascinating and wanted to capture all the themes they were exploring in my work. I remember alot of the art the two of them would make in their early 20s was a direct response to their upbringing and these ideas infiltrated my early work. While I didn't exactly relate to Patti and Robert, I wanted to.

But then I saw this video from the 1970s. Now I like the later part of this interview when Patti talks about the Doors, breaking on through to the other side, and how thats essentially life on earth. But Patti says alot of cringey shit at the beginning of this interview and her attitude here, compared to later in her life, I think is a perfect example of how systems use "rebellion" to institute control. 

 

Carl Panzaram

Carl Panzaram (°1995, Denver, United States) makes conceptual artworks and mixed media artworks. By taking daily life as subject matter while commenting on the everyday aesthetic of middle class values, Panzaram considers making art a craft which is executed using clear formal rules and which should always refer to social reality.

His conceptual artworks are notable for their perfect finish and tactile nature. This is of great importance and bears witness to great craftsmanship. By questioning the concept of movement, he finds that movement reveals an inherent awkwardness, a humour that echoes our own vulnerabilities. The artist also considers movement as a metaphor for the ever-seeking man who experiences a continuous loss.

His works isolate the movements of humans and/or objects. By doing so, new sequences are created which reveal an inseparable relationship between motion and sound. By focusing on techniques and materials, he often creates work using creative game tactics, but these are never permissive. Play is a serious matter: during the game, different rules apply than in everyday life and even everyday objects undergo transubstantiation.

His works are characterised by the use of everyday objects in an atmosphere of middleclass mentality in which recognition plays an important role. Carl Panzaram currently lives and works in DC.

Inspirations by Andrew Gelwick

Culture or Nature?

Don't listen to the binary demon! Why are these opposites? No but I'm very interested in my personal relationship with nature as well as the greater cultural one. Being from Privelegedville, Colorado I've camped in some interesting places that I've since realized aren't universal experiences. I also just love flowers and succulents. 

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Production or consumption?

I chase the feeling of "production" with my art; it chills me out when I feel that I didn't "waste" time or materials and making art is an easy way to do so. I think that my stencil collage process is somewhat indicative of this since all I need to do is remix one image with another. 

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  • Sobriety or being high?

I've been known to smoke some reefer every now and again and this relates to my first answer; I like feeling productive, arts easy to do, and being high is just that much better. I also like to make art in the morning with 2-3 cups of coffee and finally while I'm at work in the museum. These three different situations each have their own associated result, while at the museum I often just cut things out or make small stencil collages at home is where I often do most of my assembly. 

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Liberty Valance with the Pumped up Kicks by Andrew Gelwick

I don't think we're a gun obsessed culture; I think we're a killer obsessed culture. The golden age of serial killers from the 1940s to the 1990s corresponds with the golden age of Westerns and the cowboy archetype is venerated not only for his ability to kill but for his social abilities. Usually country songs about cowboys are straight forward; The Ballad of Liberty Valance is a country song all about Liberty Valance and culminates in his death. I wanted to highlight this song at first because while it glorifies the antihero it also is honest in his death and doesn't go as far as Pumped Up Kicks. PUK, which came out almost 70 years after BLV, goes further by portraying the main character, a school shooter, not as an anti- but a full blown hero. WIth BLV, the subject and the content song are intertwined and there's even gunshots that correspond with the song's story. PUK has the same narrative tone as Valance but the songs "content" as an airy, indie pop song with a crooning chorus is the direct opposite of mass murder. The music video wisely is a tour video and not a narrative debacle but here we see juxtapositions of joyous performance against the mass murder subject.

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Cults and Hero Worship Part Deux by Andrew Gelwick

Sooooo no joke I wrote my whole article, somehow got logged out with the window still open, refreshed and everything I wrote was deleted. Here we go again. 

Analogous: 

Did you ever get into something a little too much? And now, looking back, you kinda cringe? Or did you look up to someone and now they're gross. I now find Joseph Campbell gross, but in high school he was my guy. The dude took all of the world's religions and reduced them to simple narrative structures and archetypes. One such structure is the "Hero" and one such archetype is "The Hero's Journey". This is the basic blockbuster narrative think a Star Wars or Transformers. Campbell was disciple of Jung and what's interesting is the utilitarian bent he applied through his analysis of religions; not only do these structures and archetypes exist but they directly affect their societies. Modern day fetishization of "THJ" since the invention of the blockbuster and the study of Campbell in countless film and literary schools I believe is subconsciously affecting our society. However in his macro-reduction some many subtleties are lost that I now find his macro analysis too derivative. Its almost as if Campbell stumbled upon powerful narrative structures that can directly influence the human subconscious ( or collective unconsciousness).

 

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Contrarian:
Have you heard of the Rajneeshpuram? They were a Indian cult that migrated to the U.S (after becoming a major tourist/"holy" site for American hippies) in the early 1970s and took over a small Oregon town named "Antelope". Their downfall started after they poisoned various salad bars in the 1980s with salmonella.This was a last ditch effort as authorities had  started to circle the movement. Their failure in murder was only out of pure ineptness but what I find interesting is their lack of prominence in the true crime field. This was the time for cults, starting with Manson but you have Jonestown, Waco, Heavens Gate, and so many others. I want to learn more about them and see if the cultural narrative differences found in Jonestown is also present with this group. The video below is a fantastic detailing of the events and I think its necessary when the imagry is so similar to what we see in late stage cults (like North Korea baybe).  

Jonestown and Cultural Narratives by Andrew Gelwick

I listen to podcasts more than I listen to music. Who needs friends when ya got verbal xanax. Anyways I was listening to Last Podcast on the Left's 300th episode and this wasn't the first time I learned about Jonestown but it was the best contextualized story I've heard yet. When I first learned about Jonestown it was presented as cautionary tale against religious cults and their inevitable result, often said in the same breath as Waco and Heavens Gate. Jim Jones was atheist and an annoying one at that. Perhaps this is the most insidious aspect and the most overlooked, something that changes Jones from a religious extremist to a mass murderer; he used these peoples religious beliefs as a tool for further power. Another aspect of Jones I hadn't realized was the good he did.

Essentially Jones was a hyper liberal pastor and his efforts to desegregate Indianna in the 1950s and his continued and radial support for the civil rights movement until his church relocated in the early 1970s needs to be acknowledged. His radical Maoist and socialist leanings too need to be acknowledged. Frequently Jones would rail against what he termed the Christian "Sky God" and by the end Jonestown was a bizarre mix of different religious ceremonies and ideas trying to support Jones' own version of socialism. 

I wanted to talk about this because Jim Jones acts as a intersection of a variety of ideas that interest me. The idea of conspiracy and narrative; a biracial, socialist, cultish colony in South America with extensive ties to the United States was radical for the time and the "religious cult" story that is presented today I believe supports American hegemony. They killed a senator, the first murder of a US senator I think atleast in a very long time. The idea of Hero Worship and its eventual, apocalyptic outcome is on display in this story as well and the current cultural narrative of Jonestown also supports this. 

Finally Jonestown gave us the term "Drinking the Kool Aid" for someone who blindly follows a leader even to their doom. I think this is so offensive to those lost that day (over 900 people) and their affected families, who had members pack up and leave the US within a week, often never hearing from them again. Most of the victims that day were found with needle marks or gunshot wounds because they refused to drink the kool aid. I just wanted to also mention that