David Bryne sits on a darkened stage holding a medical model of the human brain in one hand and a pen in the other. Piano music swells, he uses the pen to point at a place on the brain, and begins to sing a lecture, in a voice that is sharp and plain, like the suit he is wearing
“Here is a region of abundant details
Here is a region that is seldom used
Here is a region that continues living
Even when the other sections are removed”
It’s a showstopper of a moment, and the show has just started. David Byrne, in the entire creative life of David Byrne, has been a guy that is amazed by his experiences and shares them with the rest of us as clear and direct as he can. He is an effective artist because he is so deadpan about it. In the movie True Stories he appears on the screen and proceeds to describe what is plainly in our view “This building is cool, it’s a multi-purpose shape, a box” and it makes me laugh as hard as a Rodney Dangerfield punchline. It’s easy to think he’s being a comedian, letting us in on the joke while he’s working the crowd, which is how he takes our money while he is taking theirs. But David’s not here for the money, he is motivated by wondering and the wonder of it all. It’s not a gimmick but a deep well that he’s been pulling water out since the 70’s. And by my watch its 2018, and I’m watching him work, removing the water, carrying the water. It’s sparkling water, really refreshing.
Its amazing that it took me this long to see him perform. I’ve been making myself busy since 1984 when “Stop Making Sense” a concert film about the band Talking Heads was playing at the TLA Theater in Philadelphia. At the time I had two very good friends named Tom and Dave and the three of us were really really into Talking Heads. So when the film showed at the TLA, Tom and Dave went to the first Friday night screening. They ran up on me the following Monday morning raving not about the film, but the effect it had on the crowd. People were standing up and imitating David Byrne at different points of the film, they described an entire theater full of people facepalming themselves in communion with the onscreen David during “Once In A Lifetime”. Tom and Dave were beyond psyched, the TLA was screening the film for 7 weeks and they had the next 7 Friday nights planned out. This would be church for the freaks and geeks, Tom and Dave just needed to bring their main freaky geek to the service. For seven weeks they asked me to go, and I always was a definite yes on Monday and a vague maybe on Thursday. Friday would roll around and I would duck the call to meet up and on Monday morning the cycle would repeat, The first Monday they were angry at me, but by the fifth Monday Tom and Dave were so disappointed in me they stopped asking me to go, they just shook their non-talking heads. I can still feel the pain of letting them down. I thought at the time I wouldn’t go because I was horrified at being caught up in the fandom of the crowd, that I would see what a dork I was in the faces of the dorks around me. That made sense, I had literally run away from girls and drugs at every turn like so many mirrors in the un-fun house of my teenage life. But what was happening in me avoiding seeing David Byrne and Stop Making Sense was something molecular. David Byrne had inspired me to be a creator. So every Friday night, rather than imitate a film, I wrote graffiti and starred in my own movie. Good Art makes artists. If David Byrne has made a hundred songs he’s made a hundred thousand artists. True story. True Stories.
When I moved to New York in 1994 I knew it was a matter of time before I’d meet him and as if on cue, one day he walked down Sullivan Street with his wife. I was bursting at the seams ready to smother him in hugs, but he saw me from half a block away and for that half-a-block gave me a stern, slow shake of the head as if to say “Not today, guy.” I immediately understood in New York all the stars are on the ground, but its their shine to give, not mine to take.
So David met my artwork first, and didn’t see a giddy stan ready to fan out, but the deadpan stare of my art looking at him the way his art looked at me with a deadpan stare years before. There’s a familiar worldview that I inherited (stole) from him, but deeper than that, it resonated with me for a particular purpose. We are all switches, waiting to be flipped, waiting for the moment we are engaged and that moment sets in motion the events that will lead to the moment we engage others. It is the gene replication of inspiration. It can be profound as a chord and as stupid as a meme but when art connects with you are immediately connected to this larger organism, like water finding water. Under all the rocks and stones of our seperate lives, there is the water that connects us. We are inspired and dig wells of our own and in digging we inspire others. So way back when, I was made to make this work that is wry and naive and optimistic and cynical in equal amounts. David dumped all these blocks on my floor back in 1984. I just used them to build a wall and painted on it.
So you see any ideas of mine you like, take them, they are already yours. Same as it ever was.
I painted an advertisement for David’s American Utopia tour, and have made a small signed and numbered edition of prints based on the ad at our Forth Avenue Press in the basement of Espo’s Art World. They are 19×25 inches on 300 gram Coventry Rag paper. We pulled 50, 25 are perfect and $200 plus shipping. 25 have mistakes and mistakes cost extra. (I’ll draw extras on each of these) $300 plus shipping.
Also Nonesuch Records commissioned us to make a couple prints based on the ad artwork in celebration of the Record. These are two 12″x12″ prints that we also printed at Forth Avenue Press on 300 gram Coventry Rag paper. Its only $50 for both prints and they come in a stamped record sleeve with an MP3 download, record not included.
Thank you very much. Don’t miss David on this tour, it might be 34 more years before you catch up to yourself.