My Own Private Guantanamo

Pranks, Power and Pop Culture

News

I’m this week’s guest on the Popcorn Mafia

March 10, 2009

Listen to me bloviate about the latest movies on this week’s episode of the Popcorn Mafia. Thanks to Gariana and Grae for having me.

Acknowledgements

March 7, 2009

oscars

I would like to thank the following individuals…

Billy Paoli for patient and tireless efforts to design and build the site.

David Coscia for amazing design work and for reading my mind.

Cristina Waltz for creative, practical and emotional support. (And for late night wheatpasting runs.)

Pauline Yu for being a patient and wise benefactress and an amazing friend.

Aaron Buckley for awesome ideas and design help with the American Apparel spoofs.

Tom Arnold for his generosity and support.

Diamondback Annie for being a fearless performer and collaborator, and for teaching me to pay attention to how things look.

Eric for filling various thankless roles requiring a tall, strong and intimidating man.

Eric Layer for collaborating on The Colin Farrell Sex Tape and for his method acting as a lamb.

Thomas Bates for being a creative dynamo and a classy bitch.

Violet Leonard for countless hours talking about art, sexuality and WordPress. And for being a kindred spirit. 

Paul Lamb for invaluable help with printing and all-around generosity.

Dominic Cramp for beta-testing and bro-jobs.

Erich & Ann for putting up with my crazy concepts and demanding schemes for nearly a decade. Congrats, you two!

Julien Nitzberg for encouraging me to stop the pity party and make art.

Friends and collaborators in SF, LA, Portland and elsewhere for being supportive and helping me get shit done!

A Potemkin Tour of My Own Private Guantanamo

GUANTANAMO-HEARINGS/HAMDAN

I’ve gotten some feedback that it would be a good idea to put some explanatory text on this blog, giving some background to the different projects on mattcornell.org. While I’m still loathe to write a proper artist statement, I do want to shed some light on the site content for those who are interested.

First some personal background. I have lived for most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area. From 2000-2004, I was involved with eXtreme Elvis, a relatively high profile and all consuming performance project. In 2004, I moved to Los Angeles for a fresh start and a new perspective. The projects on this site were all produced in LA between mid 2004 and the present. For a variety of reasons, nearly all of this work was made and distributed anonymously. I didn’t have a website, never sent a press release and barely promoted my t-shirts and posters. At the time, this seemed like a good idea. So-called “culturejamming” is most effective when it appears out of nowhere, with little explanation. And when your targets are rich, powerful or just plain litigious, it’s good to be a moving target. But in the last year or so, I realized that I wanted to make a home for all of this weird stuff I was creating. (And a little money for the posters and t-shirts couldn’t hurt either.) Mattcornell.org is an archive of these projects, and will be a landing spot for any future work I create.

With few exceptions, the point of these projects is to provoke debate, to irritate the powerful and to (hopefully) amuse and confound the spectator in the process. It’s left for you to judge whether I’ve accomplished that. Here is a rough guide to what you’ll find at My Own Private Guantanamo:

Uncle S&M- This character, like much of my work, debuted at San Francisco’s annual Folsom Street Fair. It started in 2005 as a collaboration with drag artist and burlesque performer Diamondback Annie. In addition to two appearances at Folsom Street Fair, we also produced a short video re-mix of the Colin Farrell Sex Tape, which you can download here (NSFW) and which can also be rented at Cinefile Video in Los Angeles. Among other things, the Uncle S&M project was created to explore the political contradictions of consensual sadomasochism, and to comment on the mainstreaming of torture under the Bush Administration.

Adult Baby Jesus- This character also debuted at the Folsom Street Fair in 2007, but had his proper birthday party in San Francisco’s Dolores Park last December. The performance was called “A Queer Nativity” and was also staged in Hollywood, at the Antebellum Gallery and in guerilla appearances along Hollywood Blvd. This piece was conceived as a direct response to the passage of Proposition 8 in California, and repurposed the nativity story and its characters to represent people within the queer community. The project also focuses on themes of motherhood, caretaking, the virgin/whore complex, willful martyrdom, the emotional landscape of masochism, the artifice of roleplay and the cycle of life that adult babies embody. (Oh yeah, and it was a great excuse to breastfeed in public.)

Obey- This series of posters, stickers and web-based images was created during the summer and fall of 2008 leading up to the election of Barack Obama. They were created to spoof the marketing of Barack Obama– specifically the commodification of hope and the messianic aura surrounding the candidate. Additionally, they were designed as a response to the work of “Hope” poster artist Shepard Fairey, and to probe the thorny issues of art vs. advertising, and appropriation vs. theft raised by his work.

Please Remember Me to the Gentle People of Lagos- It was 2005. I had a desk job at a consumer electronics company. I was bored. I was steeped in the language and codes of customer service. And I was plagued by Nigerian scam artists. This blog was created to document some of my favorite interactions with the scammers. I hope it is fun to read. It was certainly fun to write.

Marriage is for Fags- I made these T-shirts in 2004. The goal was to express a sentiment that could be embraced by gay marriage advocates and anti-assimilationist queers alike. The shirts make great wedding gifts.

Captivity- In Los Angeles, billboards are constantly vying for your attention, but none more aggressively than the notorious 2007 ad campaign for the horror movie Captivity. I’m not much of a photographer, but I did manage to snap one of the only available photos of the original banned billboard. When the marketers unleashed a less extreme, but seemingly ubiquitous series of posters, I became obsessed with photographing all of them. Some of the posters turned up in places where young children, particularly girls, were very likely to see them.

Vertically Integrated Culturejamming- When I came to LA in 2004, American Apparel enjoyed a reputation for being one of the most socially responsible companies on the planet– this despite emerging accounts of union busting and sexual harassment. Then, there were the pervasive ads which mixed political rhetoric with “amateur porn” aesthetics. Whatever the merits of its “sweatshop-free” manufacturing operation, the company’s image offered plenty of fodder for parody. These ad spoofs, created in 2005. were wheatpasted outside of American Apparel stores and circulated on the web. They were designed to critique American Apparel’s marketing, specifically its ideological content, and the way that certain ads functioned as sexual autobiography/trophies for company CEO Dov Charney.

Et Cetera- There’s not much here, but I’ll be filling it in with images I’ve found or created. “Was Mutual” miraculously appeared at a Hollywood branch of Washington Mutual mere days after the company was taken over by Chase Manhattan. I had also personally undergone a difficult breakup at the same time and the sudden appearance of this sentiment was uncanny and oddly poignant. As the new economic and personal realities have settled in, the sign now simply reads with resignation: “Was.” Is this an accident? Or is there a neon-savvy culturejammer haunting Vermont Street? If so, come forward.

Anyways, if you’ve read this far, I hope I haven’t taken all the fun and mystery out of the content on this site. Explore, enjoy and let me know what you think. I’ve been hiding for far too long.

Site Launched

March 3, 2009

missles