Ooze bites the hand that feeds it! Ooze came one step closer to its formidable goal of total media domination this past fall when it was included in an exhibit called alt.youth.media at New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art. Could this really be a sign of recognition by the digerati and the art-world elite or just another hoodwink?
Trusty Mark Scarola and I were deputized as East Coast Correspondents and dispatched by Ooze International Headquarters to attend their prestigious art opening in New York’s infamous Soho. Getting our lazy asses there involved a flurry of e-mail and much FedExing of tickets, info, and promotional Ooze T-shirts (buy yours today, or suffer the humiliation of going without).
The entire block of Broadway in front of the museum (a misnomer at best: the space isn’t much bigger than the sweatshop loft Mark and I call home) was bustling with “alt.youths” as far as the eye could see. Yessirree bub, it looked like someone was lumping the malcontents at Ooze in with lots and lots of teenagers who took punk rock and hipster threads VERY seriously. It felt a lot like going to a high school art club meeting.
Feeling sufficiently smug, Mark and I donned our Ooze shirts, got the disposable camera ready, and elbowed through the pubescent crowd at the door. It took a little bit of doe-eyed doubletalk to get our friend, world-famous wine critic Tom Maresca, inside with us since the invite was not so much an announcement as much as a means of Gestapo-like crowd control. Eventually, we were allowed to enter, squeeze past the gift counter, and plunge into the midst of this hullabaloo of teen self-expression. (“I wasn’t expecting this to be such a scene!” said the ever succinct Simon Spelling, an editor of exhibit-sponsor Metrobeat.)
My first observation: damn loud and damn crowded. I tried to start slow, so I stopped to look at the blown-up photos of kids in their rooms and read the pithy, Wired-esque blurbs about the exhibit’s aim to showcase the work of a generation thoroughly schooled in media blah blah blah blah blah. I slapped some of my own stickers up over the tags and other stickers covering the whole wall and got on with it.
The inside of the exhibit was a lot like craft day show-and-tell at the average summer camp. Half the room was devoted to zines pinned up on the wall and strewn across a bunch of counters. A nicely equipped “Do It Yourself” area sat in another corner where they encouraged people to play with copiers, rubber stamps, markers, glue sticks, and old magazines and make their very own zines right there on the spot! You only needed to read through the stuff other people had done for about ten minutes to be reminded that some people don’t really lighten up until they grow up a little. I haven’t seen so much gratuitous, angst-ridden manifestos since . . . well . . . since I was about sixteen. Naturally, the gents and I felt compelled to dive into the fray and produce our own punky, subversive, politically-charged zine right their on the spot so we wouldn’t be denied our own shot at uninhibited self-expression! Let’s just say that the long-awaited third issue of Rumpus Room is a little skimpy, but it’s a blistering satire of other zines, and it’s now in the collection of a museum in a major East Coast city. Or at least in its prestigious dumpster.
I had to search pretty hard through the amateur video area and the music sampling studio before I finally found the terminals for the big multimedia section in the back. Well, the verdict was in: The Web may be Big Business in the press, but the alt.youth.artworld thought it only rated two tiny monitors in a far, shadowy corner. Each terminal “featured” about 20 websites, so I felt Ooze needed a break. We hoarded the computer from time to time and forced innocent strangers to watch Ooze on screen while Mark and I took pictures of each other as a cheap publicity stunt.
As soon as we finished the free fancy sodas (no wine at an art opening?!) and tired of hob-nobbing with the teen zine scenesters, we beat a hasty retreat. Those t-shirts definitely work, though: we got funny looks all night long from people who couldn’t quite decide if the baby with the fork in its head was valid self-expression of a just a joke in poor taste. Score one for our side.
[Originally published in September 1996 for Ooze.]