Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Interview with The Old Guard: Avant- Garde Artist Aldo Tambellini

by Doug Holder

I first met Aldo Tambelini about five years ago, when we were involved in a group that was putting out a poetry anthology: “City of Poets: 18 Boston Voices.” Tambellini is a poet who has been a longtime political activist, an avant-garde film and video maker, a sculptor, and painter . Tambellini was born in Syracuse, N.Y. 1930, and was taken to Italy to live shortly after. His neighborhood in the Italian village he resided in was bombed during World War ll, and he lost 21 neighbors and friends. In 1946 he returned to Syracuse University to study art, and later got an M.A. in Sculpture from Notre Dame in 1959. After this Tambellini moved to New York City, and founded an artistic group named:" Group Center,” an active counter-culture organization that hosted group exhibits, organized Vietnam War demonstrations, multi-media events, etc... He later founded “The Gate Theatre,” in the East Village of NYC, the only daily public theatre to show alternative, independent films. In the 1960’s he was a pioneer of the “Alternative Video Movement,” and later he went on to teach at the “M.I.T. Center for Advanced Visual Studies.” In 1998 he hosted a poetry venue in Cambridge, Mass. titled “The People’s Poetry,” and he has accrued numerous poetry publication credits over the years. I spoke to him on my Somerville Community Access TV Show, “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”
Tambellini made it clear that the avant-garde of his salad days in the 50’s and 60’s was different from the avant-garde today. In fact Tambellini dismisses the contemporary avant-garde, and told this writer if there was any worthwhile work he wasn’t aware of it. Tambellini, no fan of Lyrical poetry, has a strong belief in art used as a political tool. Tambellini said that part of being a human being is to interact with society, to challenge the “establishment,” and to fight poverty and oppression. Tambellini, who experienced the horrors of World War ll firsthand, uses his art to address his ghosts. Recently he self-published a book of his poetry that consists of a number of his poems published on the website: “Voices in Times of War”
Tambellini, 75, is certainly not from the computer generation, but is profoundly aware of its significance. Tambellini stated: “It is impossible not to work with the computer. It creates a space to communicate with a very large group of people.” And this, according to Tambellini, is what he is about. Communicating. In his early years in New York City he worked at “St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery” bringing as much artwork as possible to the public without dealing with a gallery or dealer. Computer Science and Science in general are important to Tambellini because he feels it reveals the nature of the world. This “nature,” is what Tambellini explores in the mediums of painting, video, sculpture, and poetry.
The themes in his paintings he described as “circular.” He reflected: "We are all tied up to the universe... we are in a circle, in that we are all connected.”
Tambellini said his poetry is written with the intent to read to an audience. Tambellini, feels his poetry is presented at its best when it is spoken, not lying inert on the page.
Tambellini also talked about his years in the alternative video scene. He has always had a fascination with TV. TV, unlike movies, during the pre-video, DVD days, was ubiquitous. With a movie you had to go to a specific theatre in order to view it. TV was in every home, and Tambellini was well aware of its power. When Tambellini was starting out there was no video work, other than the work being done at the major networks. So he was like a dog on a meat truck, when he discovered this nascent art form. He incorporated light , his own voice, test patterns, news clips, and children’s songs, in a sort of abstract video painting. These videos were devoid of narrative or dialogue.
Tambellini said he always used Afro-American poetry and poets in his video work. He is close friends with esteemed Afro-American poets and writers Ishmael Reed and Askia Toure. He feels Afro-American poets reveal the underside of America, and the American Dream. Tambellini said these poets reveal the “reality of America.”
Tambellini continues to stay active, and participates in the “Howl Festival” in New York’s Lower East Side every year, and his videos are being shown at the New England Video Festival in Coolidge Corner this month. Tambellini feels his work keeps him vital, and he wants to remain nothing less. ---Doug Holder

1 comment:

  1. It is important to understand that Aldo continues to be involved in new technologies and art. There is an evolving counterculture of surveillance that is increasingly becoming influential.

    Aldo experienced firsthand the undermining of social minded art during the Vietnam era, and possesses insight and wisdom in how the new evolving among card movement seeks to keep persons connected and protected with film, camera, and video as weapons of artistic empowerment against a” big Brother” actualization.

    He has been collaborating with Steve Mann via a virtual Souveillance community, developing poetry, as was new multimedia experiences that bring persons together. The experimental aspects of aldo’s work from the 60s are becoming actualized in how people are using such technologies in independent journalism.

    A network counter to the artistic establishment’s emphasis on the beauty of unbalanced and Unilateral surveillance is evolving around a magazine that Aldo has been editing called “A gathering of the Tribes” with many other old guard avant-garde artists such as Ismael Reed, Steve Cannon, Ben Morea, and Dan Georgakas, as well as contemporary artists from the Canadian Souveillance revolt, Steve Mann and Clayton Patterson.

    Myself as a Geriatrician, and as a poet, I've discovered working with Aldo how “big Brother” anthropology has evolved in the post 9/11 surveillance industrial complex through the reflectionist exposure of how current surveillance art is misaligned with human freedom.

    There is a need of rebirth of a meaningful counterculture, as many persons are discovering and firsthand how the principles of the Patriot Act are diffusing or other aspects of our society ranging from health care to public transportation.

    So it is important to make manifest to the art world of multimedia truths of BlackGate, and discovery the accurate prophecy of a connected datasphere. This will point the current generation and to the direction that will lead us out of dismal social imprisonment through the connectivity of networked individuals.

    It is important to see with clarity the man this of industry co-opted by the out-of-control group dynamics of generals, politicians, and mentors, and surveillance profiteers who seek to capitalize upon our profiled actions of daily life.

    For this to occur, the birth of little brother needs to be sheltered by art that is meaningful and rooted in principle and fairness, especially as artist or beginning to be seduced by the industrial surveillance complex’s vision of isolation by exposure to the feel-good of safety and pleasure.

    A new poetic is needed that is based on the validation of human experience and imaginative remembering of photographed event past. But more important in this clarity of purpose and removing from activist art the gag of selfishness which is the ultimate controlling tool of the surveillance industrial complex; when in doubt depend upon aggregate selfishness to destroy a movement, meaningfulness, and humanistic purpose.

    Aesthetics need to move towards the feeling of genuine empathy, rather than this unbalanced self empathy and pleasure seeking that blinds The artist to how others suffer artist needs to go beyond the group dynamics of trapped within Bentham’s circles, watched but alone.