Ok so where was I? Yes! I remember. I was in college. While I was focusing on my BA, I had been doing a cable access TV show called Corrosive Material.
On this channel I showed really great video art from my friends, some of whom were local and some of whom I’d met online. Given this was 1995, this was more surprising than you might think.
Also, I’d started doing a audio visual sensory experience event in town. This event was most likely the most extreme community intervention I have ever been part of and it’s a story worth sharing.
(TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE — stop here if you’re not in a place to read on.)
The man who owned the local nightclub was drugging and raping my friends. His parties were the only place people into subculture music could go in town so my friends continued to frequent his business. However, I’d had enough of picking my girlfriends up off the floor and talking them down from blaming themselves for drinking or going to a party.
Reporting the assaults to the cops was not an option. The cops in Tennessee, where I was at the time, were corrupt and terrifying and no one dared to report out of fear of retaliation. We’d all seen those same cops involved in this same club. We knew they were friends with the club owner and most likely his source for some of the drugs flowing through his venue. We lived in mortal fear of them arresting us for just existing. One of our friends had attempted to report the crime and went to the hospital afterwards. Somehow, all the records of her hospital visit were mysteriously lost. Even though she had the wrist band, they said they had no record of her.
What could we do? We could stop him from having access to young women if we closed his club. How to do that? Well, we were a pack of young, fun women with talent and cool interests in art and music. We took the obvious route. We started our own events and threw better parties in a club owned by a friend that was young and was just opening his doors. Being not white, he had dealt with the racist, sexist attitudes we were working to change. He was welcoming, supportive and glad to have us. Together, we gutted the other club on a week by week basis for the duration of a year. Did the police show up? Yes, several times. However, at this point we’d started attracting press and the spotlight was on us. We were all students and being part of the University put a level of safety around us I do not think we’d of enjoyed had we been a bit older. Cops don’t arrest a packs of young kids for throwing music events on a college campus in a college town unless they have cause. We saw to it they never had reason. Drugs? No. Not here. Move right along. Besides, our numbers were large enough who knew who our parents were? Being more than one, we were now a critical mass and dealing with us seemed low on their priority list.
In short, the monster who owned the original venus now lives in a trailer in Florida. His business never recovered and he closed up shop. The venue reopened under new management and is now much safer. My friends have mostly gone on to have cool careers and do interesting things around the US and planet. Sometimes, success is the best revenge.
By doing this event, my network had now expanded to include touring experimental video and music acts we booked into our event. This whole time, I’d also been collecting information about screenings and events in the experimental video scene world wide for a newsletter and website called Flicker run by Scott Stark. Scott was also a developer and working with him let me foster my coding skills by working on the site while focusing on my creative practice. He became my mentor. Not only did Flicker allow me to learn and grow as a creator, it expanded my network massively. The experimental video scene was connected enough I had started hitting people’s radar.
This lead to something beyond all my expectations happening. I got an email from one of American’s most respected punk rock art venues in San Francisco, ATA, asking me to apply to be their new Art Director. I almost fell over. I couldn’t even believe it. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life but it came and found me. When I interviewed, I was so poor I couldn’t even afford a phone and had to do my interview from a friend’s house.
About a week later, I called my friend from a gas station on Christmas Eve in-between the drive from my small college town to my sister’s house. He got a voice mail. I was being offered the job. I had one week to get myself to San Francisco in 1997.
I threw everything I could fit into a carry on suitcase and walked out of my apartment with everything still inside to start my life. The year was 1996. By January the 1st, 1997, I was in SF. I bet you can see where this is going right? How could someone with development skills possibly earn extra money in San Francisco in 1997?
Sometimes, the unconventional path is the straightest line.