Thursday, April 4, 2013

Vegas that don't change

            I’ve long wanted to take an art shit with the Vegas I remember as the centerpiece.  I’ve had an impulse to go back on one of my visits and take pictures of all the nothing places I remember.  The real home I had in there.  In all the years I lived in Las Vegas it never seemed like I lived in LAS VEGAS.  LAS VEGAS was a million miles away from my life pretty much the whole time I lived there.

            There are still a few places in that town which haven’t changed at all over the years and chances are good they’ll never change at this point, except maybe in degradation as the sands eventually envelop the town.  You know the spots I mean if you live there.  It’s a filthy city.  The daylight has always been the enemy of that town in more ways than one.  It’s a tribute to the graveyard shift lifestyle since no one has to see the shit because everyone gets up at noon anyways.  At least I did.  When I look back on my time there it seems like I cut mornings out of my schedule for over a decade once high school was done.  Another tradition that my Vegas citizenship gave me.  My inability to sleep before 2am. 

            That place is becoming more and more a distant memory that I’ve really started to cherish in a masochistic way.  Mornings in Las Vegas.  The shivering winter mornings, and the blistering Summer ones.  Dusty, barely holding on grass in the bone dry schoolyard.  Playing football in 110˚ sunshine.  All day.  The chicken wire and stucco houses, the roach infested apartment buildings, the parking garages which reappeared in my dreams for years.  Piles of huge rocks.  The broken glass and gun shells everywhere.   Apocalyptic playgrounds.  We’d burn the shit to ground.  That’s what the environment is for in Vegas.  There’s just so much of it.  Or at least there was.  Now I’m a little hard pressed to find the vacant lots or long expanses of desert within the valley.  I found out if you go to the east side there’s still a few pockets here and there.
            I lived in Vegas for over 20 years so it’ll always be under my skin.  I’ll never be able to wash that dirt off.  Visits to the city have been infrequent and mixed over the years but every time I return I feel like I never even lived there at all.  Which doesn’t surprise me.  When I lived there I wasn’t really there.  Shit I’m barely here right now.      

            But I consider myself lucky for experiencing all the shit I did while living there.  I got away with a lot and somehow managed to survive relatively intact.  It feels like no one should be able to escape that place alive but I’m just feeding into Vegas own myth saying shit like that.  Or maybe it’s just that I’m still wondering why I’ve lived so long myself.  Tearing yourself to pieces was always the favorite pastime of the Vegas people and it’s a tradition I’m still trying to crawl out from under.    

            The things I’m most obsessed with are things that don’t exist anymore in that town and in the world at large.  That’s probably why history has become such an obsession of late.  And maybe these are the things that don’t exist in myself anymore?  Innocence.  Youth.  Destruction for destructions sake at a moments notice.  Easy answers.  Deep shit.  The small time hustle.  Ok maybe I still got the connection to the small time hustle.
            Anyway, I was in Vegas in January and I wanted to make some progress on an art idea with what little time I had, which ended up being a few hours.  I hoped to find those things in my mind which were still out there in the real world to photograph and remember.  It was a chance to photograph my memories of the places that are still around.  The real places I touched one time, the places which used to brush up against me.  I went out knowing I would never have the time or patience to find Old Ladies Cave, Hell Town, Mr. Wuji’s house, the fucked up ditches we vandalized, or the dozens of other rat’s nests that filled my brain, I decided to just fucking drive and stop to take photos at whatever was fucking cool.  Go art!

            I’ve always been straight up east side.  So I gravitated East of Eastern stopping here and there.  After a while it got to be too much trouble so I opted to videotape my ride.  These short videos are the result.  There’s not much effort that went into filming this but there was some time taken in the editing process.  Maybe this is just an exercise to keep my mind occupied.  I don’t know.  I think it’s cool so fuck you.

            I’m not trying to impose glamour on a subject that’s obviously lacking, nor am I trying to be ironic.  This was an active attempt to make memories “real” if capturing images digitally from a moving vehicle can make things any more “real.”  Twenty years from now maybe these vids will be memories for some but I wonder if much can change in these neighborhoods which haven’t changed much in thirty years time or more.    

            It’s not my intention to make some social/economic/political statement here.  It’s too easy read this as such and so to me that’s boring.  It’s impossible not to divorce those thoughts from your head if you contrast this with the usual images that come to mind when we collectively envision LAS VEGAS.  Instead I hope that I’m helping to open up a world that has been tucked away even though it’s in plain sight.  I hope this video will help to reintroduce viewers and creators to the beauty of the ordinary.  How’s that for being fucking profound.         
            The editing isn’t too complicated but some will find it annoying.  Jump cuts abound, as well as manipulation of the time and space.  I’m going for a combination of reality and trickery that plays into the unreliable nature of memories.  It’s also an homage to the hundreds of films shot in Las Vegas where the geography is completely out of whack.  

            I’m sure a lot of people come to this blog with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and I’ve certainly played into that.  This is probably the most blatant wax of nostalgia I’ve done so far here on the blog but there’s still time for me to do more cliché observations and inane arts fuckoffs.   Instead I’ll rationalize that I see this as an exercise in making a history where there isn’t one.   Another cute tradition of Vegas that makes me laugh to keep from puking. 

       There’s no final destination in these videos so for me the road going nowhere is dripping with anxiety.  It would be easy to say there’s nowhere to go in the middle of nowhere.  But if you’ve spent anytime in Vegas you’ll believe you been somewhere special.  And you’re right.  There’s no pace like it in the whole fucking world.  There’s no place like Tokyo either.  No place like Tecumseh, Missouri.  No place like Kabul.  Or y’know shit like that.  I know it’s hard not to but don’t get a swelled head Vegas.

            Since I’ve spent a little bit of time on this short project I can make the observation that this video was maybe an attempt to follow the long bus route we took going from Quanna Mcall 6th grade center back to the far east side.  Now I wish I’d continued going down Carey Avenue to see that school as it is today.  Also City View park.  Damn!  I wonder if that Star Trek spaceship is still there.  Jesus fuck that park was ghetto.    

            A soundtrack would be distracting and pointless.  Yay for fucking art.  Feel free to download this art below.

Download All six files below:
Vegas that don't change •2•