This article was originally published in the apparently defunct, waywordwell website. Some correspondence between myself and Sara Weis and Arturo Cubacub the filmmaker artists behind the film seemed to have been in the works to be published at the also now defunct GetUnderground webzine. I will be republishing the waywordwell article today. I also just today learn that Arturo died December of 2018. He was an amazing artist and innovator who took the time to correspond me in great deal. As I said, I had planned to publish some quotes and snippets from correspondence and an editor was on track to do so but said magazine no longer exists so I will be reprinting here at some time once I’ve had time to process Arturo’s death. A man who I spent maybe an hour with on the phone and just a couple dozen or more pages of correspondence but just his taking his time and taking me seriously made quite a difference at that time. He will be missed and the art world suffers with his loss.
Do the forced labor bop
It started as a harmless Youtube search. Because I can’t get enough of my fix of Japanese bossa nova, I decided to do a search for Shibuya-kei, a Japanese musical movement epitomized by bands like Flipper’s Guitar, Pizzicato 5 and Fantastic Plastic Machine. I see this clip for a “mini-epic,” entitled B-17. It’s a trailer for a short film inspired by Shibuya-kei and manga. This, I thought, has got to be dreadfully awesome, or painfully terrible.
Turns out it was dreadful, painful and terrible. Most of all, though, it was awesome. It’s the story of Silly White Girl AKA Sarah Weis, who spends her days making pro-war polo shirts and being a sex slave locked in a sub-sub-sub-basement of the White House. Major Orwellian overtones and black comedy in the vein of Brautigan and Vonnegut combine with disturbing scenes of the life of a girl who wakes up to find herself trapped and under constant surveillance in a dungeon/pleasure den.
It’s kind of a musical, in that there are two scenes that are as much music video montage and story and the soundtrack, performed on moog and theremin, was written and performed by Sarah Weis and Arturo Cubacub.
Arturo films and directs the piece based on a performance piece by Sarah. Arturo, internationally acclaimed for his award winning films, directs the piece which is based on 19 year old Sarah’s performance piece.
I would give a synopsis, but according to Sarah and Arturo, the air of mystery is too important. Suffice it to say, in all but the last scene, Sarah is the only human actor. Other parts are played by, according to the credits the Man(nequin). The film is disturbing, disorienting and makes me want to join Amnesty International. It’s humorous in a very dark way, but after reading news about detainees being stripped of dignity and tortured, I can’t laugh too hard. The film conceptualizes the madness of post-9/11 America. It envisions a world where no one is safe from our protectors who already have the right to surveillance, phone taps and other civil rights breaches.
The entire film is available on Youtube.com and can be found at http://www.youtube.com/bseventeen. Check out the trailers and start at episode one if you want it to make any sense. Don’t miss chapters like “The brand of the free,” or “I heart the war on terrorism.” I contacted the creators and gave them my impression. I said they made John Waters and David Lynch look like Walt Disney and Norman Rockwell. Arturo jokingly replied that their aim was to “make Walt Disney and Norman Rockwell look like Joseph Thorak and Leni Riefenstahl.” Copies of the dvd are for sale at http://b-seventeen.com.