Friday, October 06, 2006

Giant Robot Aftermath

My E-mail has been swamped with "How was the Giant Robot lecture"
so here's my report:

First, traffic was a pain trying to get there.

Second: In a bizarre twist of physics that would put H.P. Lovecraft's non-euclidean, cyclopean walls to shame, amazingly, the Walker space becomes increasingly non-intuitive to navigate in direct proportion to the urgency with which you want to catch a presentation.

Live At The Walker!

Bao Phi, Chamindika Wanduragula, and I were in attendance, scattered throughout the auditorium.

The audience was jam-packed with more punks than APAs, and some who were both. More people within the 20-30 something demographic for a change, and not all the 'usual' crowd one expects to find at an art museum.

Unfortunately I wound up getting seated behind a fellow whose sense of personal hygiene gave new meaning to the term funky, and I don't say this often, but it actually became hard to hear all of the GR conversation because of it. :/

But I'm not going to dwell on that... He was more of the exception rather than the rule.

There were the usual shots at A. Magazine and Yolk that have become par for the course.

The talk was an affirming reminder of the power of indie DIY mindsets, seeing how they went from being a photocopied 'zine to a glossy full-color magazine today that scooped the arrival of Jet Li before Jet Li started sucking (although they feel he's now on a rebound) and many other stars.

They showcased some great artists and musicians across the country because they liked their stuff, and not because some corporate guy wanted to get some PR out.

They explained why art is now on the cover of GR and not photographs of people.

To their credit, they came off as people who really print what they really like, and not what someone tells them or pays them to. And the result is going to be somewhat eclectic as a result, and will suprise readers from time to time. And even themselves.

Their approach is more reminiscent of punk's approach than the techniques of traditional Asian American activism and identity politics.

We were given an interesting insight into how they approached the business, and how they ultimately diversified into stores and even the Giant Robot restaurant where you can get a tofu taco.

A big door was left open in the suggestion that what they've accomplished could be replicated, although I wonder if this is true- as little discussion assessed unique conditions of their time and the social-political and economic circumstances of the time that have effects on the process.

The big thing they wanted to convey was that they were ordinary people, well, actually, "obsessive dorks," in their own words, who happened to be willing to commit to long hours and strange routines at first. Boy, that sounds familiar.

It was a handy overview for people just starting to become familiar with Giant Robot, but I think the most interesting insights to their process, approach and potential came at the periphery of the core discussion, particularly around the issues of Asian American culture and how that will be communicated at a mass level.

I'm glad I went. There were definitely things to take away from the discussion that I'll be applying to some future projects of mine, even as I don't agree with all of their approaches.

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