For the sixth project in his ongoing "Pop Star" series, New York performance artist Neal Medlyn takes on the Insane Clown Posse, the illustrious Detroit horrorcore rap duo. The product of a long, immersive research campaign, Medlyn's show is a unique and rather faithful take on the phenomenon of the ICP and the mythology that turns up over their six concept records. Titled "Wicked Clown Love," it opened in New York in February; here's a conversation I had with Medlyn before its performance at the Buoy Gallery in Kittery this Friday.
LOVING CLOWNS Neal Medlyn (seated) with members of the show's cast.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST PERFORMANCE LIKE? DID PEOPLE KNOW HOW TO TAKE IT? I think the show stands on its own, so even if people didn't know what was going on they were able to get into it. There were a lot of art world, New York-y people there, but we also had a bunch of Juggalos and people who just heard about it because of the MTV article. It was fun to have a pretty mixed audience, and to realize that they were all getting different things out of it. That's something I really want to do with (the "Pop Star") series. I don't want it to be just high art or whatever; I want to ride the line. I like to go to museums and galleries and stuff but I also like to listen to the radio and, you know, drink champagne.
HAS THAT BEEN DIFFICULT? YOU SEEM PRETTY GENUINE AND UNIRONIC ABOUT IT BUT OBVIOUSLY THERE'S KIND OF A SPECTER OF IRONY THAT GOES WITH SOMETHING LIKE THIS. Yeah, for sure. I think a lot of people who come see my stuff feel that way — which is fine, I don't get up in their face and tell them they can't — but that's not what I'm trying to do. I want to get rid of anything that might make the audience feel distant from the material, so I try to be really invested in it and take it seriously. Plus I only pick things that I find interesting. I don't approach anything like it'd be hilarious to make fun of or whatever.
YOU TIE IN A LOT OF OUTSIDE INFLUENCE TO "WICKED CLOWN LOVE." CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT? Yeah, the more I was reading about Insane Clown Posse stuff the more it reminded me of all these men's liberation groups or groups doing male bonding activities. And then when I was working with Kathleen (Hanna, musician and feminist activist formerly of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre) who did the set for the show, she was reminded about the mythopoetic movement of the '90s. So I read Robert Bly's book (1990's Iron John), the mythology he talked about had all this fascinating overlapping imagery with (ICP's) dark carnival mythology, like monsters and swords and dragons and even the colors of red and black and green. It all kind of fit together. The Robert Bly research led to Simone Weil and the idea of descent (into Hell) — not necessarily to rise back out of it, but a descent in order to identify with the low places or something. It's not a trial you're passing through but a recognition, like you're saying I am the darkness, I've taken on all this dark shit.
: Museum And Gallery
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