Jack Goldstein // Interview

We caught up with Jack Goldstein who, apart from fronting Oxfordian psych-pop band Fixers, has recently been curating experimental/avant-garde musical art shows in Oxford; from John Cage inspired performances in the Ashmolean Museum, to “Total Art” in the Old Fire Station. Jack speaks about his upcoming show entitled ‘Gesamtkunstwerk Memetics’, which takes place on Saturday 27 July 2013 at the Old Fire Station, as well as what Fixers have up their sleeve for the year ahead.

Hi Jack, firstly, Gesamtkunstwerk Memetics. What’s in the name?

“I went to a retrospective of the works of Eileen Gray at The Pompidou Centre last year. Eileen Gray, was an designer , architect, and lacquer artist who pioneered modern architecture and design in the early 20th century. She was popular for about ten minutes in the twenties, with the Avant-gardist critics, and then fell into complete obscurity for the latter half of her life. I was reading about her at the time and it said that she was now considered a total creator, in the spirit of ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’. I looked up the word and it’s a concept, first advanced as a theory by the german philosopher K. F. E. Trahndorff (I know nothing about him to be honest!) which delineates the “integration of all of the arts (music, poetry, dance, and other visual elements) into a single medium of dramatic expression”. I thought it was a really great word so it became the name of the show.

In hindsight, i’m not sure it was the wisest title choice. For starters, it is impossible to pronounce, sounds like you’re saying cunt and no one really knows what it means. Secondly, the term roughly translates as ‘Total Artwork’ and, being delineated as an integration of art forms into a single medium of art, suggests that the outcome must, in some sense, reflect a predetermined, socially-adhered ‘artform’ in the first place. This isn’t what we are trying to do with this show. We’re not setting out to make a ‘total artwork’ – i’d be happy to settle for a ‘total failure’.”

Will it be similar to your John Cage inspired show from early on in the year? What can those who did attend expect to be different?

“I think it’s going to be lots more fun, a little crazy and very odd. Well, there won’t be any John Cage for a start. I toyed with the idea of sticking some Cage in the show but realised I’d be doing it for no other reason that to try and arouse some interest in the show from the outset, which is obviously pretty abhorrent and cynical way of going about things. Having the name John Cage on your poster does a fair bit, he’s easily the most popular avant-garde composer of the 20th century and, what with the centenary of his birth last year, interest in him is at an all time high. I love John Cage, it’s just that I wanted to go out on a limb, do something completely different and, as expected, it’s proving to be much harder to promote as a show.

That said, I would imagine there to be Cagian elements to many of the performers work. Steve Beresford is a huge John Cage fan. We are giving away free mixtapes (they are in actual fact CD’s) to the next bunch of people who get tickets online and Steve has chosen Cage’s Variations II, as performed by David Tudor on the CBS Musique Electronique Nouvelle compilation from 1961, to feature as his selection for the mix.

The performance space is larger, but still has a brilliant intimate feel to it. I wanted to do the show at The Port Mahon again but realised it just wouldn’t be practical; you couldn’t even fit the performers and all of their equipment into The Port Mahon. There won’t be mushroom biscuits but I can guarantee some kind of addictive sugary confectionary to subdue everyone (nb. Max Levy and I found one of the mushroom biscuits on the floor after the show last time – we still ate it). There will be another handmade program that details the performers and their work, as well as having details about the show and upcoming performances by each performer. I don’t want to give away anything else!”

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What inspired you to put on such an evening? 

“I knew I wanted to do something after the Cage show, before the next Fixers record, but didn’t really know what it was. I guess it boils down to my last eight months of culture consumption, lots of comedy, music, poetry etc etc. There was this connection between performance art, comedy and experimental music which I hadn’t really made before. Simply based on how hard it is to promote this show, I think it’s safe to say that Oxford isn’t crying out for a show like this. That said, I hadn’t really thought about it to be honest with you. I just happen to live in Oxford, it seemed to make sense to do the show here. We might get on a lot better in London, you can never really tell.”

Which performance are you most looking forward to and why?

“It’s more the integration of different disciplines I am excited , or should I say scared, about. I have no idea what will happen when this bunch of seemingly disparate individuals perform on the same stage together, I have no idea what could happen. I am also really excited to be able to have the opportunity to perform with artists that I really admire as well. I saw Pat Thomas performing at Mopomoso last month and it blew my mind. He began by taking of his jacket, dragging it across the stage and yanking it through the inside of a grand piano. This all took place at The Newman Rooms; a sickly, clinical and rather eerie Catholic Chaplaincy down near St. Aldates.”

Are you hoping to do more of these kind of shows in the future? 

We will have to see. At the moment, the next thing which I am going to turn my attention to is the new Fixers record and some fictional writing I have been looking to do. I have been in touch with several performers about doing another show though. Some of them are really eager and I’d love to see what they did.

What would make this show a success in your eyes?
I know it sounds dreadful, but I would just like people to attend. It would be a bit miserable if no one came. Other than that, I’m not too certain. Attendance is one of the few things you can’t really control when putting on a show. I do think about success, but I don’t like the idea of artistically compromising anything I do, so in that sense I find it’s better to just put to the back of your mind.

Do you see this as embracing a different audience to Fixers?

“There is a cross-over, it all depends on your interests though I guess. I never think about being in Fixers when I put these shows on but at the same time I am very aware that some people might attend because I am in Fixers. Then again, they might not. Obtuse title aside, I am trying to make it as black and white as possible in regards to what one might expect from the show. I think this show is going to be a hell of a lot of fun and I think some pretty insane shit might happen. Then again, it might not! I think you could say the same for a Fixers show in many ways, sometimes it is just a small autogenic reaction between the audience and the performer that can tip the show over into an entirely different thing.”

Can you provide us with a Fixers update? 

“We are working on a second record. We have all the songs half finished and have been sitting down with managers, press people etc to try and get something in the pipeline. I reckon we might even do a few one off shows towards the end of the year as well, in the smallest venues possible – at the moment, I’d like the live show to feel more like a party than a show. The album is sounding almost like it picks up from where We’ll Be The Moon leaves off, it doesn’t necessarily carry on in that direction but it feels like it’s born out of the same melancholy.”

Imagine it’s the 1960s and you can either have go to a sophisticated evening dinner party with John Cage, or on a drug-fuelled hippy bender with Brian Wilson. What will it be?
I’m really not down with sophisto evening party bullshit or drug-fuelled hippy benders. I’d rather just have a cup of tea and a bowl of museli with my cat, King Buzzo. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me.

‘Gesamtkunstwerk Memetics’ takes place on Saturday 27 July 2013 at the Old Fire Station.

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