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Inventing the Underground.

I finally got around to see ‘Constant Quarry’ the Space show of photographs by Todd Seelie, a Brooklyn-based photographer who, in the words of the Space press release, has ‘inexhaustibly photographed the underground music, art, and momentous DIY counterculture that has saturated his borough and spread into other areas across the country.’

 

‘Inexhaustibly’ is correct. There are dozens of photographs filling the walls stacked one above the other. There are drunks, mosh pits, young people working on stuff, wrestling in the mud, playing music, floating on boats made of junk, making big assemblages of more junk, taking their clothes off, wearing t-shirts with nasty sayings on them, showing of their bandages, mattresses and and so forth.

 

Seelie is a remarkably good photographer, and has been able to pick up the telling detail in the scenes he has documented with such energy.

 I was stuck, though, on ‘momentous.’ That I didn’t see at all. In fact, except for the fact there were more people (and where aren’t there more people), it seemed a lot like 1967. I found myself getting more and more gloomy as a walked through the show, and the refrain that struck me as I left was “these kids think they’re inventing something.”

 

The current idea about the sixties was formed by The Grateful Dead and Woodstock, but in the East Village and lots of other places there was a very different 1960’s going on. The peace and love college kids weren’t really part of it, except for the sex. And some of the drugs.

OK, we didn’t have digital photography and video cameras, we had to scrimp together money for 16mm or use super-eight, there were fewer tattoos and no mosh pits. There were weird drugs (DMT) and weirder art events (Hermann Nitsch’s animal-guts performances). There were cheap tenements and the garbage strike in NYC, the Hell’s Angels owning a block on East 3rd St.

Of course we thought we were inventing it too, and probably had some crusty old farts grumbling ‘they think they’re inventing something momentous.’

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