Pieces Left at the Scene of the Accident.
The whole event seemed rather clumsily assembled and ghoulish like some Halloween prank gone mad. Unlike the "hell-driving" displays at Northolt the year before, where Helen Remmington and I had first intimately concluded our fluid mixture of fissure and fixture amidst road debris and parked cars. This now seemed by comparison, rather tawdry, w/an assortment of unfamiliar fringe characters, hippie mechanics, art students from Essex, street dealers, and media technicians w/their powdered cafe groupies.
We felt strangely out of place, seated so high up on the splintering bleacher stands. Watching the sun set through dust and haze that continuously cascaded down from the high speed overpass above. Occasionally, brief flashes of white light let me know that Vaughan was somewhere nearby, toting his assortment of cameras and photographic toys. My eyes nervously scanned the periphery for his familiar silhouette, but settling, instead, on the oil smeared actor being loaded into the drivers compartment of the modified 53 Buick Regal sedan parked in what passed for a racing pit in this low budget display. Through the layers of face paint and rigging I recognized the stunt driver, Seagrave, from the old studio days. Head cocked in an apparent daze, cranium partially shaved, his familiar gray coveralls peaking out from under oversized cuffed denim jeans and plaid flannel shirt.
Tonight’s re-enactment would be the collision death of the American painter Jackson Pollack and his young lover Ruth along with a friend who according to published reports, instigated Jackson’s drunken rage death crash. A final performance of gesture and improvisation employing blood, semen, and alcohol in a collision with gravity and force splayed upon a bonnet of rusting chrome, enameled steel, and space aged plastic dials and cranks. Each, embedding themselves through the flesh into the muscle, causing uncontrollable spasms and rippling tics of neurological release. A filigree web of human sinew and body fluids that somehow mocked Pollack’s painted vision of layered, near accidental, psychosis. Forever loaning a macabre patina to the massive spattered canvases that hang in the modern air conditioned corporate mausoleums. They’re layers of peeling, flaking, rotting, materials keeping dozens of newly minted art conservators momentarily off the dole.
In what passed as seconds, we were crowded, if that’s possible, into Vaughan’s dusty Lincoln, amidst the smell of chemical fire retardant, burning tires, hashish cigarettes, and drug store colognes, as, Vaughan, scarred face frozen in lost resolve, nervously revved the huge engine, penis erect, engulfing the scene in noxious fumes, and forcing our dramatic escape through the crowd. Speeding along Western avenue, dash mounted police receiver blaring the latest codified collisions and confrontations, we pulsed a yellow rhythm from the halogen gas lanterns mounted along the sides of the roadway. Seated beside Vaughan was Seagrave’s wife Vera, neurotically adjusting all the mirrors to maximize visual range, while Seagrave lay briused and bleeding across Helen’s lap forcing her exposed thighs to part revealing to me her own scars and surgical mutations. Her left foot raised high across my knees and awkwardly lodged against the rear arm rest behind Vaughan’s left shoulder.
As we raced along airport perimeter roads, Seagrave occasionally sputtering and gurgling a mixture of technical jargon and scripted lines from past re-enactment’s, I could feel every bump, swerve, and crevice in the roadways surface as translated by Helen’s tight grip on the shaft of my penis beneath the corduroy crotch of my slacks. With a sharp turn, causing the rear of the Lincoln to shift, heave, and fishtail, Vaughan precisely and violently steered us through the narrow chain link entry to Seagrave’s industrial compound, breaking the mechanized trance induced by the drive.
We stumbling enmasse into the crude living quarters behind the main office, and were greeted in the darkness, by Gabrielle, who lit several of cigarettes and rapidly passed them amongst the group. A bottle of schnapps also appeared, which Seagrave looking more ghostly than ever, consumed animatedly in large gulps before collapsing in a corner, blood and mascara matting his hair and streaking across his brow. Urine soaking the front of his torn trousers, he now truly resembled the cliched artist/icon he’s want to be, spinning out of control, self destructing like some poet primadonna, consumed by his own reflection. Just as my eyes began to adjust to the televisions dim light radiating through the thick smoke, faintly illuminating the figures of the three women seated silently on the vinyl divan. I could feel Vaughans powerful hands gripping the collar of my bomber jacket both gently massaging and firmly directing me down a darkened hall toward the infrared studio in the back.
"Ballard, I’ve got some things you ought to see.” "Past the trays, developers, and photographic enlargers that vaguely resembled the medical equipment that occupied my life in the physical recovery ward some six months earlier. All these lenses, lab coats, and rubber gloves, the tools of examination, observation, caused my mind to reel slightly.
"I got these from a friend in the States.”," Vaughan said, thrusting a tattered cardboard carton covered in airmail receipts marked MEDIA BURN in my direction. I tentatively sat, hunched on a stool near the photo lightbox and began slowly rifling through it. There must of been a thousand individual items. Assorted photographs, amateur snapshots, promotional 8x10’s, film stills, grainy vidcaps, newspaper clippings and magazine photocopies, all documenting this one event held in some barricaded generic auto lot outside a public arena on the green edge of some unidentifiable metropolis.
At first glance, I assumed this to be another of Seagrave’s celebrity death crash reenactments until I noticed the peculiarities of the car and setting. Vaughan was literally breathing down my neck, his leg propped up on my stool, hand nervously tapping my shoulder. His eyes, distant and strangely unfocused. The car was a bulky older American chrome grilled model partially modified as if for some grade B futuristic science fiction adventure. The entire passenger compartment had been gutted and replaced with a 2 seat sport car configuration featuring alternately, both clear and opaque aeronautic visor domes. Mounted on the dashboard between the two seats was a small black and white video monitor.
A single Monofin, nearly half the size of the entire vehicle, rose behind what was now more a cockpit than a drivers compartment containing in it’s uppermost section, a fixed video camera feeding information to the interior control panel. Like the Pollack event earlier in the evening, these pictures were populated by the scruffy radicals and costume addicts who frequent the hashish cafes, artist flop houses, and discotheques. "Vaughan? Who are these people?"
As if returning from some far removed sexual fantasy, Vaughan stubbed his cigarette on the linoleum and running his right index finger slowly across the deepening scar below his lower lip mumbled. "They’re from California. Some marginal Art as Theater cult called ANT FARM. I think we can work with them on the series. Open things up.”"
Still more pictures of faceless men in tinted helmets and flight suits. American flags and artists dressed as government agents providing shallow political satire for the disenfranchised crowd gathered along the Day-Glo plastic pylons at the scene. I knew there had to be more. My total trust in Vaughans instincts was now being tested. I thought back on the hundreds of hours we’d spent driving the high speed ramps and turnpikes together in search of some unspoken release.
At the bottom of the box, appeared a mass produced color postcard of the speeding Artcar crashing through a pyramid bank of burning televisions stacked like children’s building blocks. An assembled history of the cathode ray transformed by glass and textured plastics, laminates and hardwood inlays suggesting an unrelated range of western styles: American colonial, French provincial, Danish modern, Japanese futuristic. Receivers and transmitters ablaze in some ritual pyre while their picture tubes wait to explode and shatter sending glass and industrial gasses into the atmosphere. Artist, devil, madman, pervert. A practice run for the final creative gesture between flesh and machine.
Time had almost stopped, when Vaughan jerked back unexpectedly, revealing Helen, quietly standing in the doorway, silently observing . "Could you give me a lift back to the carport at the clinic?" She asked.
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Last modified Aug 10, 2000