Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Getting Blazed at Historical Monument 157

When touring the US the weird, magical space of HM 157 has been the Los Angeles home of The Druid Underground Film Festival, the big back yard sprawling with mismatched furniture situated between two outdoor campers and a giant mansion the easy-going backdrop for frolicking strangers and friends. Built back in 1886, the house, Historical Monument #157 on the California Landmark list and located in the Lincoln Heights section of Los Angeles was home to murderer Horace P. Dibble, a real estate office and other typical SoCal enterprises. 

DUFF founder Billy Burgess pitches filmatic lunacy at HM157
My first time there was probably around 2007. After a day of getting twisted with my buddies down at the LA river we rode our bikes to where we had heard a "dance" was taking place. Not a “dance party” but a “dance”. Coming up on the big spooky white house we took a second to drink in the overgrown fauna and echoing music, locked up our bikes and got psyched. Following the trail to the back yard, a hardcore SQUARE DANCE was in full effect with more colored lights than an Italian horror movie. Folks were letting go in every direction, a weird paradise.

The first night the Druid Underground Film Fest held a screening at HM157 was the first time we pulled in over 100 audience members. We dedicated a lifetime achievement award to one of my favorite living filmmakers, Damon Packard, did a live interview with artist John Geary, drank and laughed. It was a great, celebratory night of cinema. 

HM157 crowd at the 7th Annual Druid Underground Film Fest
Although DUFF was established in LA and had exhibited all over the city, no other venue surpassed the kaleidoscopic mix of weirdos who gathered their energy there.

On Friday May 1st of this year, at 5:45 pm a fire broke out in a shed in the backyard. The blaze leveled the backyard airstream, an RV and damaged surrounding buildings. When Charon Nogues moved in in 2008, 3110 Broadway was a run down, overgrown dump that took years to turn around. But with the help of a tight group of artists, the stuffy old Victorian officially transformed into HM 157, emerging as a stomping ground for bands, lecturers and artists. I caught up with Charon online to discuss the crushing blow and possibilities of the future.

BURGESS: Who are the founders of the space?

CHARON: I am one of the 3 founders of HM157. Reid Maxwell is my co-founder. The third founder has been gone since 2009. My husband & I live in the HM157 attic.

Firefighters getting wet at HM157

BURGESS: What happened? How did the fire start?

CHARON: We're not sure how the fire started. But it happened in the work-shed area. The house is OK.

Two residents have lost everything. Luckily one was in San Francisco and his elderly cat was elsewhere. Josephine, who lived in the Airstream, salvaged her guitar & her ukelele, which were completely intact though the cases were busted open by a fireman’s axe.

BURGESS: What have some of the immediate struggles been for HM157?

CHARON: The scariest thing is the insurance assholes came by for our info, saying shit like, "you in big trouble!" The rude ass laundromat owner walked into our backyard last night with a thug & flashlights, saying things like; "We know what you were doing here" and "you had a grow lab over there"…
Charon Nogues rocking DUFF swag during HM157 restoration
BURGESS: What’s next?

CHARON: Well… We're taking it as an opportunity for a clean slate. My husband Gaston Nogues had moved into the attic with me in Sept, to help reimagine the whole aesthetic/functional dynamic of the space. Thus far it's been a slow evolution made of what ever is handy & affordable. At this stage we get to decide how to represent ourselves after we fix all the damage done to the neighboring properties. This time solar power in conjunction with an upgraded power system, faux bois outdoor seating, shade/weather structures, hospitality outfitting and a more efficient outdoor kitchen. And get building permits!

Check out the HM157 website for updates and find out how you can help get the space back on its feet:

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hell's Bells and Jail Cells: The John Geary Interview

John Geary's LIVE DEVIL
John Geary is an accomplished inventor, set designer, concert guitarist and multi-disciplinary artist whose work has exhibited all over the world but the first time I laid eyes on his work, Geary was dressed head-to-toe in a red devil costume with a hard-on running alongside the I-10 freeway in Santa Monica California pointing menacingly at cars with one hand, a pitchfork in the other. This work was called DEVIL ARREST (part of a larger work called LIVE DEVIL) and to celebrate it’s release as part of Volume 2 of The Druid Underground Film Festival’s “Best of” DVD we interview him about his career:

BURGESS: You documented your tour around the country making brief but energetic public appearances as Satan. The LA Times quoted you, writing that your project was a spoof on the sightings of Bigfoot, Elvis, etc., intended to make people "perceive they had seen the devil and then deal with it." Can you elaborate on your intentions and talk about your experiences on that project?

GEARY: I was riding my bike one day along the beach and I caught something out of the corner of my eye, on a nearby cliff. When I turned to look, it was gone. This started me thinking about giving other people the same experience. I wanted to insert something unusual into an average commute and then disappear without any explanation. I wanted to make people wonder if they really saw the devil.

Geary as the fallen angel
BURGESS: During your final performance you were arrested in the suit but thankfully you documented the entire incident on camera (via ground and air). So did they actually take you to a jail cell in your get-up and if so how long were you in there and what were onlookers/cops/inmates reaction?

GEARY: I was handcuffed and taken to the Santa Monica Police station. The police were pretty nice to me when they discovered I was an art student. I was put into a holding cell by myself with my suit on for a couple hours. When I was released, there was a news crew trying to interview me.

BURGESS: You made a series of postcards for the 2012 Venice Beach Biennial that are pretty funny. Can you talk about the importance of humor in your work?

One of Geary's 2012 Venice Beach Biennial postcards 
GEARY: I like to keep myself amused. I like when unexpected things occur which break reality, if only for a moment. The postcards were a way of combining my creative writing with my photos of sunsets. The result are these trippy postcards, which I think are fitting for Venice Beach.

BURGESS: You hold 2 US Patents for your inventions, what are they?

GEARY: When I was in grad school at UCLA, I had a knee injury, which required crutches. This was the first time in my life I needed crutches and I couldn’t believe how bad the design was, and how few options there were. I designed my own crutches and decided to patent them.

BURGESS: What artists have inspired you?

GEARY: Far too many to name. Lets say Marcel Duchamp, Leonardo da Vinci, Bruce Nauman, David Lynch, Jimi Hendrix….to name very few.

BURGESS: Tell me about the show you’re exhibiting right now in Los Angeles at C. Nichols Project.

GEARY: My current show is called “Black Dust”, and it’s a show of charcoal drawings of cute animals.

Geary with his charcoal drawings (photo by Jordan Schwartz)
BURGESS: What’s next?

GEARY: Furniture. The “Push Me -Push Ewe”!

Geary's Push Me -Push Ewe in full effect
For more John Geary check out:

Pick up DEVIL ARREST on the Best of The Druid Underground Film Fest Vol 2 DVD at the DUFF Store: