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Top ten.

1 I first encountered HEINRICH DUBEL'S SCIENCE OF THE ERRATIC at East Berlin's nightclub cum gallery space Berlin/Tokyo. Dubel's impressively aberrant exhibition of swastika and pornographic graffiti from around the globe - which included a photograph of a taco stand in Mexico with two swastikas neatly painted beside the Coca-Cola logos - was the fruit of his latest research on popular myth, tabloid news, occultism, UFO sightings, and conspiracy theory. Examining the "erratic" in everyday life, Dubel wrestles disturbing truths out of "odd, psychogeo-graphic eruptions."

2 LUTHER BLISSET is the Art Phantom of the '90s spokenword scene, but I've seen him - well, almost (he was wearing a burlap bag over his head and a noose around his neck). He appeared recently at Maria am Ostbahnhof, a popular Berlin nightspot that used to be a post office. Against a soundscape of glam, house, and punk samples, Blisset thrashed wildly though the crowd, shouting poems and revolutionary slogans of the Russian Futurist Vladimir Mayakovski, enthralling and scaring the shit out of everyone - and breaking his arm in the process.

3 EVERYONE AND NO ONE, BY MARK JACOBSON (VILLARD, 1997) When this book first appeared, it was largely ignored, but it is nevertheless the only novel of genuine comic genius I've come across in years. It's a story about a face - not any face but the face. Hollywood mega-star Taylor Powell lives through a plane crash and realizes that, as the sole survivor, he has the chance to reinvent himself - so he goes in search of a mysterious plastic surgeon, who gives him a new visage: the face of "everyone and no one."

4 DEAD ALIVE (AKA BRAIN DEAD) (dir. Peter Jackson, 1994) is a hilarious, entrails-spewing assault on modern Western civilization. Book-ended by allusions to the original King Kong and (Hitchcock's) Psycho, Dead Alive references the gamut of schlock horror films, from Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) to Joe Dante's more mainstream Gremlins (1984). And under all of its comic, fish-in-a-blender gore is the tale of a dysfunctional white-trash family, capped off with some old-fashioned Marxist class struggle. At the end of his film, in a stroke of pure genius, Jackson turns into a coke-snorting Sigmund Freud and reinterprets King Kong as a twisted Oedipal fantasy.

5 SUN RA: THE SINGLES (EVIDENCE, 1996) Nasty, hip-grinding, chitlins-circuit singles direct from the cosmos. The funk is so deep, you can smell it. This collection of jukebox 45s should've landed Sun Ra's fat Saturnian ass on American Bandstand!

6 Most of the art showing these days is as uninspired as the drab business wear of the interior decorators who "curate" these exhibitions. But two exceptions spring vividly to mind: ROBERT WlLLIAMS's metaphysical biker art at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery (Dec. 1997-Jan. 1998) and MIKE COCKRILL's brilliantly sardonic "The Baby Doll Clown Killers" series at Kim Foster Gallery (Mar. 1997). What parent wouldn't be proud to hang one of Cockrill's canvases in the playroom?

7 SAVAS Many young Turks in Germany look to the experience of black Americans for insight. They've studied Malcolm X and the Black Panthers and invented their own slang - all of which leads, naturally, to German Turkish hip-hop, a spoken music as raw, vital, and politically conscious as anything by Public Enemy. Currently, Turco-Teutonic hip-hop is in its gangsta phase, and Berlin's acknowledged champ is Savas, a skillful rapper who can throw down in a number of languages, including English. Savas takes the German perception of young Turks as demons and blows it up to grotesquely comic proportions.

8 Here's a clever fashion idea: Berlin-based artist Mark Brandenburg's CAMOUFLAGE FOR TOURISTS, two-piece jumpers with pullover face mask, worn for the purpose of blending in with the native population (comes in white, black, red, yellow, and brown).

9 ANSWER ME! Fed up with the hypocrisy and self-censorship in mainstream commercial journalism, Jim Goad and his wife, Debbie, published the first issue of Answer Me! in 1991. It was stark, irreverent, and abrasive, achieving a level of satiric savagery unseen in this country since the Nixon era. After four issues, due to legal turmoil, financial crisis, and illness, Answer Me! folded. But it's still my favorite 'zine.

10 UNCLE THOM CORN'S INNERCITY COTTON PATCH!!! wasn't included in the Whitney's 1994 "Black Male" show, nor can it be seen in SoHo or Chelsea. Viewable by appointment only (212-529-4667), the cotton patch grows in a flower box resting on the window ledge outside Corn's Lower East Side apartment, only a few floors above the gunfire and drug dealing on the street. Here the artist tends to his cotton with loving attention, ridding it of boll weevils and other fabled critters of southern slave lore. "What do you plan to do with your cotton when it has reached maturity?" a visitor once asked. "Pick it!" Thom snapped. "What else is a black man in America supposed to do with cotton? Knit sweaters?"

Darius James, the author of Negrophobia (St. Martin's, 1992) and That's Blaxploitation!: Roots of the Baadasssss 'Tude (St. Martin's, 1995), currently resides in Berlin, where he is a foreign correspondent for Code: The Style Magazine for Men of Color. At work on his second novel, The Last American Nigger, Mr. James is also preparing a project on disinformation technology for Expo 2000, which will be held in Hannover, Germany, next year.
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Author:James, Darius
Publication:Artforum International
Date:Feb 1, 1999
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