Monday, July 18, 2011

Jon Leon, Elizabeth Zoë Lindsey Drink Fanta, Content, 2011

It came in the mail, it was unexpected, it was a thin slice of a book, white with muted teal text and four circles with pong dashes. It came with a note (not to me personally) from the book’s author, Jon Leon in the form of a statement. I read the statement, it was interesting. I opened the book and inside there were black and white cropped photos, screen grabs, of Elizabeth (Berkley), Zoë (Lund), Lindsey (Lohan) Fanta (a carbonated sugary beverage) and a couple of other things. It didn’t stop time and space, but it did something. It is something that you look at and then it sort of seeps in and you are compelled to look at over and over again.

It has been a week or so since I received this unexpected book and it has stayed with me. Leon has stayed with me. The girls have stayed with me. These women are actresses of a certain type. Seen, used and a damaged by their roles as sex pots, they tier a few generations starting with Zoë Lund, who I was unfamiliar with, that stared in Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45 in 1981 (she was 19 or so) and also co-wrote and had a small part in Bad Lieutenant in 1991. She died of an over dose via cocaine at the age of 37. Her face recalls Anna Karina and Anne Hathaway but doped up and possibly just punched. Her face is different than today’s girls; it is darker with thicker eyebrows. Her face is not included as often as Elizabeth or Lindsey’s but its placement grounds the sequences giving the other images weight and mortal tragedy.

The 90s are represented by Elizabeth Berkley, specifically as her role as Nomi Malone in the 1995 movie, Showgirls. This movie scalded any remembrance of Jesse Spano of Saved By The Bell days which Berkley stared in from 1989-1993, at the age of 17. In her infamous role as this Vegas show girl, Berkley’s (then 23) performance bizarrely twisted pornography and network TV personas. In Leon’s book she is always Nomi. The money shot Leon uses most is when Berkley is licking the stripper pole, tongue out, hair curly, eyes come hither. This still is especially emphasized half way through the book where half page images become full page repetitions creating a double sided quad.

And then there is Lindsey Lohan. Oh Lindsey…The situation of Lindsey is just too much, too warped, too everything that is fucked up with everything that this is right now. All these things are too innumerable to go into here, but the fact that she is very hot and very messed up is exactly why she is in this book. Lohan is 25 years old, has been hoofing it since she was 12 and has been to more rehabs, courtrooms, and DJ booths than is ever necessary. In Leon’s book she is not playing a character but herself. Paparazzi shots made to look like movie vignettes. Her eyes are sad, her face photogenic beyond fairness. She starts the book and her company with Zoë and Elizabeth makes the book all very right now.

Lastly there is Fanta. The fourth element is visual respite, a nostalgic reference along with a few other inanimate images that effectively tunes the book in its first half.

So is this a book. It is, because its physicality says so, but it is something else too. Leon presents this as an art book and it is his “first book that is not writing.” In an interview in The Faster Times, Content’s creator James Copeland, says that Content is, “there to be a rectangular space that an individual impulse can occupy for 80 pages.” This idealization has been attempted by many others before, but here, with Leon, it is actually done. This feels like a poem, the way the images are registered onto the page, the consistency of the cropping and the cinematic mid-shift psychology. This is a flip book of a sad song you vaguely remember listening to while smoking a pack of cigarettes and masturbating in a dark humid room. This book appears to be easy but it isn’t. This book seems glib, but it isn’t. It is unnerving and smart as hell and it makes you want to have Leon ask you to walk into the ocean with him with all your clothes on or drink rum and cokes at a Latin bar. Leon’s statement that came with the book also makes Elizabeth Zoë Lindsey Drink Fanta a window into his fascinations. It speaks of his self determined dissolution within “the scene,” with poetry, with whatever idea it means to be the idea of him. Lines that stuck out to reflect this are, “But truly, it’s more interesting to be a poet who wants to be a banker, than to be a banker who wants to be a poet. I thought of all these ways I could out myself as a banker.” He also refers to Baudrillard’s Symbolic Exchange of Death:

There is fashion from the moment that a form is no longer produced according to its own determinations, but from the model itself- that is to say, that it is never produced, but always and immediately reproduced. The model itself has become the only system of reference.

Leon ends his statement with “I want everything touchable right now.” These words, this context isn’t the piece in itself, unlike the failings of some Conceptual Art, the book holds its own without the text, but the sharpness, the tightness of the way that Leon writes his poems, this statement, whatever else, transfers in this book without strain.

This is the first of Content’s quarterly series, I rarely link but you should go here, to get a copy. Also read Leon’s statement in full that came with this book,