Friday, March 30, 2007

An introduction to Documentia-X the 80's


"DOCUMENTIA"- " allowing a perspective to be put on the physical, social, cultural, and historical act of Documenting, while combining it with emotional and sensory states of Dementia."
-Stephen Roy Mingle/Gonzo®

The 1980's was like having your computer crash over and over again. -Some sort of virus had snuck in and transmorphonnifyed your operating system. It then locks up again, crashes, locks up- and crashes. You will keep working -go ahead keep Marching and striving for an end some kind of understanding or meaning, and just when you were getting somewhere- boom, bang, bong... nothing.

I started high School in 1980: Manhattan High School -as in ( the Manhattan Project). Nothing to Do with nuclear explosions, except my father was a professor of nuclear engineering and there were plenty of those Nuclear-Dudes around. It wasn't on Manhattan Island N.Y. either, it was Dorothy's country , the land of "OZ". Kansas-(Ahh-Kansas!). Oz the Mystical magical place were your dreams become real.
"Hey kid, pay no attention the man behind the curtain for he is the one who controls your perceptions using tricks, illusions, disinformation, public relations, and latest popular dance craze." Essentially it was a massive manipulation of the Media, on an unbelievably grand scale.
"There, there,
Don't be alarmed child, it's only a dream, caused by the tornado that slammed into your skull."

The first real Post-modern, figure-head president Ronald-Ray-Gun had been beamed into the White-house. Suddenly politics, perception, and presentation melded into mush of parties and prescriptions. The lines became so Blurry that attempting to restore clear vision was like putting the Visene in your eyes that had been sitting on the sunny dashboard of Gabbert's Monty Carlo since lunch- Tremendous pain, and no relief. Suddenly, the political and cultural reality we had at our disposal turned the president and Max Headroom into contemporaries. There was no difference between the way they operated, except Max Headroom didn't have the ability to Obliterate the entire world over and over again, I think?

Yes, the spectre of the Cold War was something we all lived with, everyone even the octogenarians. Perhaps President Reagan wasn't even real? Maybe he was just a hologram: something those "Whiz Kids" over at Disney had thrown together. That annimatronic Lincoln had been around for decades. Conspiracy theories flourished on a daily basis. Who knew, that after the millennium everything that is publicly stated would be challenged by a conspiracy theory, and for any and every piece of data presented, another could be produced to rebuff it.

The seventies had passed on. As John Lennon said shortly before his assassination in 1980,
"How are you doing?
Did you survive the 70's,
Wasn't it a Bummer?"
This gave ourselves permission to finally move away from all that baby boomer- cultural disillusionment stuff. Even though It is still providing a Sub-text for every aspect of modern life. It still can't let it go; sign a living will, and let somebody, anybody pull the plug! That's one thing Generation-X learned. "Let it Go," go forward, straight ahead, and keep moving. Live it, love it, hate it, deconstruct it, and then put it back together, but keep the line moving.

MtV had arrived. The sex pistols had com and gone and the Ramones lived! Inside the sanctuary fortress of the Manhattan High School Darkroom , the Jam-Box had- Adam Ant, Bowie Music, the Clash, the police, Sex Pistols, Ted Nugent, not to mention Dan Fogelburg. We were "turning Japanese".
Our Darkroom compound - IT WAS Bliss . No rules-Just right!

Photography was (still seemed) like a fresh medium; lots of things still seemed fresh, even the air! Things were alive. They almost seemed real. The option to stay inside a totally plugged in environment- Letting media shards Carpet bomb your cerebral cortex at virtually the speed of light wasn't viable. We had to go find and make our own. Spoon feeding of stimuli wasn't a way of life, Yet! (Not that there's anything wrong with it.)

I let photography be my medium. Shooting photos, and learning to Read them. Reading photographic meaning is the most essential part of the post-modern Paradigm. Without the ability to store, recover, and manipulate imagery derived from the Physical world, no a Cultural Conscious could be contained.

We hadn't gotten "Full Blown ' media-we didn't even know what aids was. not P.C.s no internet, Just a little cable tv and on the dirty movie on the "Scramblvision". There were still rock stars, and Anchormen, and people who were larger than life, Myth held a position of respect, and actually doing things and "geting out there"was about the only way to build the reality you wanted. There were still Hero's and Anti-hero's ( Ronald Regan, Ted Kennedy, Gary hart, and the origional Hippy-club members) , Artists,(Duane Michaels, Angus Young, The Dead Kennedys ) Writers,( Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut) Thinkers, (Timothy Leary, Nancy Reagan, The Residents) . There were people to look up to, who might have contain valuable bits of cultural identity . These people had to be actively sought out, photographed, and including in a creative process.
And yes, there were people you should strive to be nothing like at all! The Fonz, Nixon, Tom Selic, Don Johnson, Kadgagagoogoo, Wham! Poison, Reagan's Attorney General- the one with the Grand pornography report, Edwin Meese, and don't forget Tipper Gore. She's still trying to come around.

Back in the Day, Radio Waves still brought you the outside world. How retro is that! Classic Rock was just Rock.The classification and re-classification of all things had just begun. We could deal with a Postmodern Field of information, If we use names, labels, tags, extensions, or icons for it's specific elements. Things need to be assigned some value, or at a minimum be identified. once this was accomplished, deconstruction, reorganization sampling, and mutating could begin. The Promise of a digital society brought the about the release of rock-an roll and let it mutate.

And mutate it did. Music was reborn. Some of it was good, real good. Luckily the Crap sank to the bottom. The principles of Justice used the in the Salem witch trials finally worked. If she doesn't drown she isn't a witch. after all, even the bottom feeders need sustenance.
There was Punk, New wave, techno, Synth, Hardcore, Thrash, Rock-abilly, Cow-punk, Reggae, Ska, Dub, Industrial, Rap, Metal, Speed meatal, and New AGE, It was all there, and my Culture mutated right in step. MTV, and college radio opened a whole universe of new culture. Some high some low. The mutations seemed endless. These Mutations were and are still liberating.
By opening a space for mass mediation to be challenged, it helped provide a avenue I could navigate the world through,using the media. It fed the fire of personal exploration. The dualistic simplicities of good and the Bad, right and wrong, and the divide and conquer ethos were revealed as a wasteful endeavors.

We did not realize we couldn't simply simulate realities, but it was just beginning of the Mediated experience That was beeing launched in your general direction. These photographs call on the documentary styles of Frank ,Winnogrand, and Friedlander while incorporating the portraiture of Avedon, Liebewitz and Arbus to create an Iconic vision of the subject or subjects whether they be rock Stars or casual Freakers, Famous Counter culture intelligencia or lonely Bovines receive the same artistic treatment. These images take on the group-mob mentality as well as the individual struggles of the young, the weird and the curious!, All these figures become Iconic manifestations of an of my intuitive reactions to the perceptions they're giving off. The language of representation was seen as an end to a means. It was the sinewy material that I could forge into a new visual language that tranquilized, caught and and released the energy of these times.
While attempting to grab up the "essence" of an era is futile, I did capture an "essence" of my world.

Yup, This is what was going on in my life, and through this documentia, I organized my social, cultural, and intellectual, ideas. Not just Iconic images for Nostalgic purposes, but Hieroglyphics of culture and time. It was and still definitely is a search:, where are we now, Where have we been, Why are we here? Its sounds like investigative journalism disguised as Art. There is nothing wrong with that. At least I don't have to be Fair, and Balanced. The great thing a bout documentary photography, is it doesn't give you that much of a chance to think about what your doing. It must become a more instinctual endeavor, or you end up with nothing useful. It's horribly difficult to organize all your ethics , and put your perspectives in order before you shoot. History must interfere before reconstruction takes place. Only then, can you test your claims and ideas in the waters of time! Who's time? mine, yours, anybody who lived it, or anybody who thinks they know something about any of it!.

In the 80's Full blown post-modernism had not taken hold. Even if it had, how were the young and impressionable to know what to do with it. Before I could deconstruct something I needed that precious "Modernist object". I needed some" physical reality" to photograph. This "Documentia" needed some kind of "cultural Icon", or an "the event" or "the experience" to jump-start the medium. The photography itself would allow the, molding. working, re-working , the deconstruction , and reconstruction of its own the indexical forms. The subject would provide an intellectual context to the image, and my aesthetic and editing choices would bring a intuitive visual subconsciousness to the photographs, based on the vibe the media was slipping me. I could use any of the Iconic values that were inherent within the physical realm to get at a representation that I deemed appropriate to my experiences.. This would become my artistic strategy that I continue to recall throughout all my work.

These photographs come from a ritual of capturing, and collecting pieces of experiential data. The subjects seems to become objects of desire. Quite often some pilgrimage must be undertaken to influence a mediated reality. Photography would be used to re-contextualize , and re-create it.
The photographs emerge from a ritual and a pilgrimage about ritual, and pilgrimage. Within this Photographic tableau, the workers, and drones, intellectuals and grunts, posers, punks and power brokers all share the spotlight in the same performance space.

A wise man could have once said,
"When building and Alter, One must f first figure out what one deems of great value."
And when I looked closely at society, I could see that the "totality of the experience" is what seemed important to me, and therefore, of great value. I set my sights on flattening of the playing field of sociology, to construct a socialistic view that attempts to render most all images as Icons . The photographs, and the Subjects themselves then become residents in the annals of history and thrive inside the mediated field of Post-modernism.

Stephen R. Mingle/Gonzo®
03-29 2005
And Coming Soon :


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you should become a circus perormer!

10:52 AM  
Anonymous fill said...

A good shot of the 80's

4:20 PM  
Blogger vivaldi said...

Great photos from manhattan. I had the privilege of living there from 1989-1996.

2:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a great set oh photographs!

6:15 AM  
Anonymous timsum said...

A great document of 80s US life - excellent live shots too.

Hope you won't kill me but I have used the one of Bob Mould on my MP3 blog & linked to here/ credited it to you. (see: )



6:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And on a lighter note than pure transcribing transcript trial , check out the funniest trial transcript ever! If it's not serious enough of a topic, well, just pretend it's the Brit's version of transcribing transcript trial !

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never been to the states but im hoping want to be just like you when I leave high school. Catch the real people keep it real, the photos are great...Could you tell me a good road trip route?

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Maxwells said...

I see first time your site guys. I like you :)

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonimous said...

Excellent website. Good work. Very useful. I will bookmark!

12:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al and Lisa sat and looked through your photos with the girls - AWESOME - loved seeing the 80's again through your eyes.
Al sez:
glad my photo wasn't there. Kids and I are stayin' at your place in August! Get the ice cream ready...What?! kidding....

6:45 PM  
Blogger David GH said...

Your introduction is well stated and provides a different angle to view these photographs from. As many of them were taken at events I attended what you wrote helped me get out of my head and into yours. Thanks Steve. By the way, in 1987 I purchased my first portable recorder and microphones, and embarked on a journey of my own, documenting and recording moments in time. My recordings have lead me to a great many friendships with like minded tapers all over the world. In I've recently acquired a soundboard recording of the Residents performance in Lawrence on February 12, 1986. It's lossless (flac) not MP3. I will be working on designing art for the jewel case and direct print to disc on archival TY CDR's. I'd like to use your photo and give you credit, of course. If there are other shots of the Residents you would be willing to make available to me let me know. I also have the soundboard recording I made of Hunter S. Thompson remastered to wave to flac and on CD. I've been using Steadman art for my designs, but your photo would be far more appropriate. Please let me know if I can do this with your permission. Thanks, David Hale

7:11 PM  

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