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April 19, 1990 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-04-19

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ARTS

The Michigan Doily
Alternative

Thursday, April 19, 1990
presses on at DIA

Page 5

Documentarist Wiseman
reveals the unseen

by Greg Baise
IF you had been in the Detroit area
in the Fall of 1971, you would have
been one of a hundred people who,
after laying down their $10 for sub-
scription services, would have re-
cieved a packet in the mail bearing a
bison logo that would soon become
familiar.
That logo is the symbol for the
Alternative Press, a Michigan-based
publishing endeavor operated by Ken
Mikolowoski, Lecturer in Creative
Writing at the Residential College,
and his wife Ann, a professional
artist. Art Poetry Melodrama: 20
Years of the Alternative Press,
shown through May 6 at the Detroit
Institute of Arts, shows all of the
poetry broadsheets, postcards and
original artwork created by both lo-
cal and national poets and artists that
the Mikolowskis have been printing
and distributing throughout the past
20 years. Ken says, "The Alternative
Press is just Ann and I. We set the
type, we do the printing, we do the
distribution, we lick the stamps, we
sweep the floor. We're the entire Al-
ternative Press."
The Mikolowskis bought their
printing press in 1969 for $125.
They taught themselves how to use
it and began to print the work of

their friends in the Detroit cultural
community, people such as Faye
Kicknosway, John Sinclair and Don-
ald "Snec" McCaig. Along with
these local poets, writers of national
stature were featured, like Allen
Ginsberg, Ted Berrigan and Robert
Creeley. "One of the reasons you
start a press is so you can publish
you and your friends' work, because
you believe in their work," Ken said.
"So I started the Press to publish my
friends' work. Those were my
friends, the people that I was close
to."
One theme which dominates the
aesthetics of the Alternative Press is
the incorporation of poetry and art
into everyday life. Mikolowski sees
his efforts with the press as working
against the fact that people don't
usually read poetry. He explains,
"When we started the press one of
our ideas was to make poetry func-
tional. We never wanted to do a
magazine. We particularly wanted to
do a single poem format of broad-
sides, postcards, bookmarks and
bumper stickers. Something that
would be useful. And if we made it
look attractive and put it on nice pa-
per and put some art with it and then
gave it to someone, maybe they
wouldn't ignore it."
Ken said he and his wife wanted
to make poetry financially as well as

aesthetically accessible. Early print-
ings were given away for free at both
local and out-of-state bookstores.
The materials were also distributed
by hand to pedestrians in downtown
Detroit.
The Alternative Press started do-
ing subscription mailing after that.
At first the mailings were seasonal,
until an envelope labeled "Fall ?
1972" appeared in subscribers' mail-

Ken Mikolowski
boxes during the summer of 1974.
Now they are doing an annual mail-
ing. The DIA exhibit displays the
contents of all 16 issues.
Besides all the poetry broadsides
and aphoristic bookmarks (like Deb-
orah Richardson's black on black
"Death means never having to say
you're sorry"), examples of each of
the Press' "multiple originals" are

shown. A multiple original is cre-
ated by an artist or a poet, who is
given 500 cards with which to work.
The artist then transforms each card
into a unique work of art: a mixed
media composition, a neo-Dada col-
lage, a poem. Then one of the 500 is
put into the mailing. As Robert
Creeley so poignantly put it on one
of his upcoming multiple original
poems, "One/ To a customer."
The first original multiples were
actually multiple originals, in that
they were all the same. Dayton
Spence, a Detroit artist, contributed
500 Wounded Teabags, all alike, to
Issue number 3. Faye Kicknosway, a
Detroit poet who now teaches at the
University of Hawaii, has just fin-
ished her third set of 500 handwritten
poems, all different.
The next issue of the Alternative
Press will feature Robert Creeley's
set of 500 poems, as well as Kic-
knosway's set. Also, during the last
day of the exhibition, Robert Cree-
ley will read from his work at the
DIA through the LINES poetry pro-
gram. Ken commented on the poet's
dedication to the uniqueness of the
project: "He kept no copies. He
hand-wrote, signed and numbered all
of these poems, and the only copy of
that poem that exists is on that
postcard." One item on the immedi-
ate alternative agenda: the
Mikolowskis plan to print a Cree-
ley poem for distribution during the
final day of the exhibit, in conjunc-
tion with the reading.
The art and the poetry are obvi-
ous in the exhibition. But where is
the melodrama of the exhibit's title?
"It's the overall tone of our press,"
explains Ken. "The accent is on the
melodrama: 'When will the next is-
sue be out?' 'How are we going to
pay for this?' 'How are we going to
buy paper?' Who knows? We're go-
ing to survive. We do it somehow."
ART POETRY MELODRAMA is
being shown at the DIA through
May 6. Admission to the exhibit is
free. The reading on May 6, with
Robert Creeley and Victor Ilernan-
dez Cruz, is $3.

THE documentary film has re-
ceived a lot of attention recently,
most of it due to the brouhaha sur-
rounding Roger and Me. But to
what extent was that film a true
documentary, with the emphasis on
document? Michael Moore made
his own biases about his subject
not simply evident, but a focal part
of the film: he is a crusader with a
camera on his shoulder.
Meanwhile, Frederick Wiseman
has been quietly making documen-
taries over the past couple of
decades, getting into legal disputes
along the way but always main-
taining the position of the voyeur.
His films do-have messages, indeed
strong ones, but they are there for
the viewer to extract from the
footage.
His most recent project, the six-
hour Near Death, is having its
Midwest premiere at the Michigan
Theater this Sunday. The New
York Times' Janet Maslin wrote of
the film, "Those who see it will be
irrevocably altered by the experi-
ence." Wiseman says he tried to
remain "totally" non-intrusive in
his filming of terminally ill pa-
tients, their families and doctors in
Boston's Beth Israel Hospital, an
approach he says he implemented
"just by hanging around" his sub-
jects. "In the case of Near Death, I
shot 80 hours of film over a period
of six weeks. I don't have any idea
what the structure is going to be in

by Alyssa Katz

advance and I work out the struc-
ture in the editing. No lights are
used and the equipment is all hand-
held." He adds, "It very rare that
anybody objects or looks into the
camera."
Wiseman has what might be

termed a minimalist method. His
films comprise nothing more than
the shots he has selected and then
edited together straightforwardly; he
never uses any narration or dub-
bing. His notorious Titicut Follies
(1967), which will be shown
tonight by Hill Street Cinema,
takes a similarly intense and un-
abashed (though shorter) look at
conditions in a mental hospital in
Massachusetts. We see naked men
thrown into cold solitary cells, the
hostility of the caretakers toward
their wards, the nasal force-feeding
of an unresponsive patient, the
burial of a resident with only hos-
See WISEMAN, page 8

Rifle Sport does its thing well
by Rob Flaggert

RUTHLESS Records recording
artists and Minneapolis' premier
loud boys Rifle Sport scope down
Club Heidelberg tonight for an all-
out noise strafe with local toup6e
rockers Wig. Dragging their eclectic
butts across the country, these mid-
western big guns promise anything
but a settling night down at 215
North Main.
Formed in 1987, Rifle Sport
have carved themselves so deeply
into their niche that they seem un-
able to climb out, which really isn't
so surprising for a band that has
been together for so long. Not like
they'd want or need to. Voiceman J.
Christopher fronts the noisecrafters,
using his voice as yet another loud
instrument. The result is not so
rmuch-singing as shrieking, with an
aggressiveness on the level of John
Brannon's (Laughing Hyenas),
though certainly not as intense. The
rest is within that undefinably un-
comfortable area between The Birth-
day Party and Soul Asylum - more
musical than Butthole Surfers, but
with the same staying power and
magneticism; less cohesive than
Bitch Magnet, but wielding the same
cutting Mission of Burma guitar and
blasting cap drums.

Guitarist Gerard Boissy gets it
done live, cranking up the amps and
kicking out the jams (though he
seems a bit stifled in the studio).
Drummer Todd Trainer and bassist
Pete "Flour" Conway are the back-
bone of the band, their blood and
guts rhythm literally setting the
stage upon which Christopher and
Boissy play, sometimes ferociously
and always confrontationally. Musi-
cally these two are nothing if not
prolific. Both play in the Chicago-
based, amphetamined "dancey" band
Breaking Circus, and Flour has re-
cently released a second solo album.
Most widely known for their
stomp cross-country after the first
long-player White Made in France
- actually their third slab from

Steve Albini's Ruthless label -
these four gunners from the heart of
our itchy-fingered bible belt have re-
cently pressed their second album,
Live at the 7th St. Entry. White
shows all of this band's innovation
and talent, but carries little of its
power. Live, on the other hand,
nails them down at their best. En-
ergy runneth over, brimming about
this searing vinyl like some sort of
demonic aura. It certainly does, as
Byron Coley once noted, make "you
wonder why they bothered blowin'
dough in the studio" when they
could be blowin' ear drums and amps
on stage.
RIFLE SPORT plays tonight at 9
p.m. at Club Heidelberg, with WIG
opening.

I.

Today's Weather
If you're reading this in the
morning, it's sunny, windy and
heading for the mid-60s. If you're a
late starter you've missed the sun
and are just in time for tonight's
rain.

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