Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who the fuck is Robert Goetz?

Tonight Robert Goetz is ringleading the hanging of the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational, a one-night show and silent auction that will be held 6-10 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 21 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary (3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood).

This year's invitational is devoted to K. Curtis Lyle's poem about 9/11, Nailed Seraphim. In addition to being head honcho installator (a job he also performs by day at Laumeier Sculpture Park), Robert contributed two pieces to to the show: Fourth Question and Marijuana (Smiley Travis), which appear in that order, above, and sport opening bids of $150 and $60, respectively.

The game of a Poetry Scores art invitational is that the pieces must respond to the poem and take their titles from verbatim scraps of language from the poem. Fourth Question - which lovingly embraces the raw, profane humor in Nailed Seraphim - is taken from a list of questions about our (anti-?)hero, Mortice Juwan Menifee:


First question:
How did Mortice Juwan Menifee manage
To run down eighty six flights of stairs
In less than seven minutes (six minutes and two seconds)
And escape the collapse of tower number one
Of the World Trade Center?

Second question:
How was it that nobody above the fiftieth floor
Survived, but him?

Third question: Was he really on the eighty sixth floor?

Fourth question: Who the fuck is Mortice Juwan Menifee?


The creamy, sparkly, psychedelic photograph of cannabis flowers in situ takes its title from the prose parody of the mass media that inhabits the sarcastic heart of the poem:


The Washington Toast got it first. Crack investigative reporters Bobby Woodchuck and Larry Burnside scooped the New York Rhymes
With this headline:
‘Lone Survivor of Upper Tower Revealed to Have Checkered Past’
Mortice Juwan Menifee, the lone survivor of the upper floors of Tower Number One of The World Trade Center, has a record of minor convictions in his past. It was revealed that Mr. Menifee had been arrested in high school for possession of less than a gram of marijuana. Although Mr. Menifee performed three hundred hours of community service and under a plea agreement his record was expunged, this crack in the so-called hero of Tower Number One’s armor might lead to the discovery of more significant problems in his past.


The subtitle - obviously a bastardization of a somewhat glib television host who aggravated a lot of us on election night - comes from the very next movement of that prose section:


Next came a black reporter from S. A. N. N. (The Sorry Ass News Network)
Smiley Travis, who had somehow tracked down and then gotten and old girl friend of Mortice’s to talk about the time he had thrown a McDonald’s wrapper in her face at a drunken post prom party.


In addition to his solo work, as it were, Robert forms half of the performance art duo Nosey Parker. Much of their recent work has taken the form of multimedia lectures that I'd be tempted to call "mock lectures," except they are offered with deadly earnestness (whether or not there is a live horse in the room, dropping dung) and unbeatably professional production values. They reflect genuine scholarship and provide actual, bankable knowledge. So I am going to call them bona fide lectures.

I can see the aspects of Robert's mind that goes into those Nosey Parker pieces at work when he chooses this part of Curtis' diverse, polyphonic poem to riff off of. This is one master manipulator of media enjoying the manipulations of another master manipulator of media and having his own distinctive fun with it.

Robert is also a gifted songwriter with a pleasant tenor singing voice. I was privileged to play in a version of the band Three Fried Men with him, until Hunter (our drummer) had the bad taste of killing himself. Goetz is almost ridiculously prolific as a songster, so I hesitate to say what his latest songwriting project is, but the most recent project he shared with me is a cycle of songs about hate. They are such lovely, lovely songs about hate.

Robert said Fourth Question includes in its materials a working television set. At the opening tomorrow night, audio will be playing on a videotape on the TV. Curtis has heard Goetz's songs of hate and probably would appreciate hearing them at the show, but with Goetz, one never knows. He may have a song cycle already crafted from Curtis' poem - he might be half the way home on a future poetry score to it - and that may be what we hear tomorrow when we confront Fourth Question.

Hope so.

The invitational is a free, one-night event, from 6-10 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 21 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, 3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood. In addition to the free art, free food and free Schlafly beer, the show will feature Curtis performing his poem, backed by Baba Mike Nelson, David A.N. Jackson and Christopher Y. Voelker. The art will be on sale as a silent auction, all sales concluded tomorrow night, cash, check or charge.

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