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Eye Art

eye, comprehensive artiste and aspiring synaesthete, has always bristled at the idea of drawing a distinction between his visual work and his sonic. Not only has he designed plenty of the Boredoms’s album covers (or guided their direction), he’s managed to make a small career showing and selling drawings and paintings. It’s worth talking about Eye’s art not simply because, like Paul McCartney, he makes it, but because it’s an extension of the same creative brain that propels the Boredoms.

As premise:

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Tawaraya Sotatsu, Fujin and Raijin (17th Century)

The guy on the left is Raijin, the Japanese god of thunder. And look, he’s surrounded by drums. Eye has described the influence of depictions of Raijin on his approach to the Boredoms. Sounds coupled with images; the power of nature. If you can’t actually hear the painting throbbing in the void, you can accept its intent.


Eye’s visual projections of the Boredoms and his own personal work has, unsurprisingly, changed with the band’s sound. And what was early Boredoms if not garbage, a series of violations against authority and taste?

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Raoul Hausmann, Dada Siegt (1920)
Christian Marclay, Record Without a Cover (1985)

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Eye collage
Onanie Bomb Meets the Sex Pistols (CD reissue)

Early Boredoms records were, in a sense, dada. They were an interruption of everyday life; cultural influences mashed together with a transformative abandon. It all makes sense on its own—typewriter, man, word—but the combination is just noise. dada is, though, just a serious grown-up form of brats straight fuckin’ around; Eye’s distillation of the dadaist spirit comes out in dick doodles—vandalize! your locker!—and punk logos. The effect isn’t quite the hefty political cynicism of dada, but a reanimation of nostalgia for the ease of pre-teen deviance and the thrill of scrawling on your notebook.

Of course, it’s also important to remember that there’s something symbolic about that endless logo-worship, as Stewart Voegtlin noted in his piece from earlier this week. These objects and images come to take on a semi-sacred meaning. Eye’s violence overlays one of the most hallowed objects in not only the rebel youth’s iconography, but the Boredoms’s—the record. Christian Marclay’s Record Without a Cover is a similar gesture, at once a defiling and enshrining. Because the record was sold without a sleeve, it would scratch constantly; Marclay, through passive violence, managed to turn a mass-produced piece of crap into a unique collector’s item. Eye’s collages are of a similar intent, trashed-out and writ small: this is my sticker, my notebook, my favorite band’s black bars—their hieroglyph. Punk rock accidentally grows an aura.

(An aside: in Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud described the MO of cartoons as “amplification through simplification.” This is a method that could be used to describe not only dada, but the Boredoms’s music, both early and later. Eye’s covers for Onanie Bomb [and the Soul Discharge CD reissue] depict alien cartoon characters; to re-animate the punk-rock totem, Onanie’s wears a B.O.R.E. T-shirt. He’s the archetypal punk rock fan—faceless and yet completely individual. The covers for Wow 2 and Chocolate Synthesizer use their own forms of “cartoons”—graffiti [verbal cartoon] and toys. They announce themselves loudly, dumbly, but not without innocence.)


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Barnett Newman, Adam (1951-2)
Morris Louis, Alpha Phi (1960-1)

As the Boredoms streamlined the chaos of their earlier albums and looked towards the clean, monolithic bliss of their more recent drum-circle-setup, their visual presentation followed. American painters in the late 40s and 50s—mostly men, mostly drunk, mostly working with a wildly inflated sense of importance—had started to make large-scale works designed to vault paintings from their neutered role as passive wall-hangings. One was supposed to perform surrender, to be completely within the colorfield and experience the painting as an environment (the Newman and Louis paintings above are both several feet high and across). Newman, in 1948, entitled an article “The Sublime Is Now.” Soon after, some of these notions were stretched; Pollock—no example needed, I’d guess—showed the potential for paint’s emotional violence by taking two steps away from the canvas and swinging his arms. Louis, a few years later, just poured. In Newman, one color absorbs; in the work of Morris Louis there’s an ease, a deliberate effort to encourage the naturalness of the paint, mirrored in his color scheme—simultaneously placid and vibrant, highlighting a crisp, white space of possibility.

Super Roots 7 (1998)
Super æ (1998)

Bam. Super Roots 7 was the band’s Krautrock jam; the middle track clocking in at over 20 minutes of loose, bright drum antics and an endlessly cycling riff. In a lot of ways, not unlike a Morris Louis painting or the cover of the record—shots of flowing color surrounded by calm. The cartoonish figure on Super Roots 7 takes on a more realistic form on Super æ; moreover, the primary attribute of the cover turns from color into shape. The meditative symmetry, the pyramidal structure—it’s when the band became more rigorous about the, well, religiosity of their sound. At the same time, there’s something oddly more hi-tech about the orderliness of it—possibly a reflection of Eye’s increasing reliance on digital manipulation and noise.

Of course, there’s also the fact that the limited edition cover for the record looks like a hieroglyph from the fucking future. The circle, originally present on Super Roots 7 but suggested as early as the hominid mugshots that graced the band’s earliest records, gets cleaned out, fully abstracted. Then, of course:

The insert from Vision Creation Newsun explodes the cover’s solar portrait and makes another kind of cartoon—a swirling, psychedelic doodle that incorporates cartoon’s motion lines, the tribal/punk tattoos of B.O.R.E., the environmental hugeness of the Super covers. Tidily, some kind of circle.

By: Mike Powell
Published on: 2006-10-27
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