About Last Night: BLAKHAT Keeps It Dark at Milk LA
I find myself standing in line at Milk Studios Los Angeles literally drinking the Kool-Aid (spiked with vodka), after talking to BLAKHAT, the mysterious multimedia artist and self-proclaimed bandit, who fights against the lies spewed by mass media. Last night BLAKHAT presented an exhibition of recent works, entitled “Give a Man a Mask and He Will Tell You The Truth.” It’s a multi-media statement on pop culture, involving installation, sculpture, music, film, and the experience of being served Kool-Aid by several incarnations of the Kool-Aid Man himself. As BLAKHAT put it, it was an occasion of “pop art commenting on pop culture, which is a joke all into itself. “
In the middle of the hangar was a huge sculpture in the shape of a crucifix made up of broken cell phones, with a white female mannequin placed on top. The cell phones were bleeding, “because they have more soul” than mannequins with bulging eyes, staring at their selfie-sticks, ignoring their own destruction. “It’s a metaphor for a lot of things,” BLAKHAT states. “Whatever these soulless little robots are putting on their social media is going to come back and crucify them. They are being crucified by their cell phones and ego, but they don’t know it yet.”
And he was right. Everywhere I turned people were taking selfies in front of the art work, big glass panes with prints saying things like, “Your phone is your religion,” and “Smile for the ego.”
Some of the work included a pink electric chair (perhaps an allusion to Andy Warhol’s work), and a roll of printed one hundred dollar bills where BLAKHAT overlayed an image of himself over Benjamin Franklin. However, BLAKHAT was careful to point out that “it’s about the art, but it’s more about the idea and the message.” He continued, saying, “I couldn’t take this crap they called art that didn’t stand for anything.”
Around 9:00 pm there was a surprise musical set, and BLAKHAT emerged behind a floor-to-ceiling screen, where mysterious silhouettes played “statement oriented” rock and roll. Different films directed by Bill Yukich were projected on the screen, filled with images of half-naked women being directed by ugly men with power, trading their dignity for 15 minutes of fame and a name. They were combined with images of surveillance, government spying and beautiful landscapes, which BLAKHAT called “a statement of wherever we are in our culture and where it’s going.” In between songs, he kept asking the audience, “Are you entertained?”, “Do you get it?”, and finally, “Did you figure it out yet?” The artist was taunting and laughing at us, and having a great time.
Last night BLAKHAT showed people that the direction our society is going in is going to ultimately destroy us. We are kept sedated by mass media, directed to a “third-grade reading level. Catchy dumb stuff… with no message behind it.” We are obsessed with ourselves, with celebrities, with “ staring into [our] phones all day looking at other people’s lives in envy.” BLAKHAT pointed out that mess media is “all about control, the opium to the people.” And that we live “in an odd time of no individuality. We are truly robots marching.”
Somewhere over my shoulder, I overhear a woman say, “I want to know where the naked celebrities are.” She was referring to an art piece made up of images of nude celebrity selfies, all taken from the huge and controversial leaked nudes that occurred last year. This statement directly proves the point BLAKHAT was trying to make: this culture thrives on sensationalism, scandal, and celebrity adoration.
Nonetheless, with this event BLAKHAT turned irony into fun. He served alcoholic Kool-Aid, a direct jab at the crowd being “sheeple.” “They’re not gonna know it’s all about them,” said BLAKHAT. “When the band plays and the film plays, it’s all about them, and we will shout at them all about them, and they’re not gonna get one little bit of bit.”
In retrospect, I don’t think people approached this event like I did. I was lucky to talk to BLAKHAT. To attend as someone that looks from the sidelines, and I could see that he was right. People drank and laughed and danced and took pictures, but I don’t think they actually stopped to study the words that the artist was singing and sharing with us. People were more interested in partying, and seeing if they could recognize some of the attendees. BLAKHAT, with this event, perpetuated everything he stood against.
Even when I think about last night, and the fact that, according to BLAKHAT, “there is nothing we can do. We are too big of a dumb world now,” I still feel that we can rebel. BLAKHAT (sort of) agrees. “You can do little things like I do, and I do it for fun, and it’s art and its meaningful to me… but in the end I don’t expect anyone to understand, because they don’t take enough time to even figure out what it is.” We don’t have to buy into the “debt they want you to build so they can really own you,” or the pop music “neatly packaged for simple minds.”
I have to admit that I had a great time last night being part of the masses, drinking the Kool-Aid and getting schooled for being too into my phone. It is important to get out of cyber life and realize that the light isn’t coming from your phones, but from inside of you. There are still artists making work with a message, refusing to fit the mold. There is power in the mystery of BLAKHAT, and I have been converted.
Photos shot exclusively for Milk by Koury Angelo