Posted by:on July 11th, 1998
The scenario so far… An intelligent young man leaves home to pursue higher education. He returns a changed man, gradually becoming disillusioned with the trappings of a high-tech society that seems to be in the early stages of cataloging and dehumanizing it’s members in order to fufill the laws of supply and demand. He moves to a remote cabin in the hills with no road, phone, or electricity and spends his time making explosive… Art!
Where as Ted Kazcinsky made cowardly mail bombs, Winston Smith is the man who brought you the ubiquitous Dead Kennedys logo and the infamous Christ-figure on a cross of dollar bills (titled “Idol”) that graces the cover of the Dead Kennedy’s album, “In God We Trust, Inc.” The Dead Kennedys will always have a soft spot in my heart, and not just because JFK got it on with Marilyn Monroe. Act Like Nothing’s Wrong is 95 pages of reproductions of Winston’s montages, mostly in color.
I’ve always enjoyed Winston’s work in the albums of the Dead Kennedys and other Alternative Tentacles works. Winston took the name of George Orwell’s protagonist in the novel 1984, and his work reflects that. Montage work is hard to look at in volume as it tends to melt into one indistinguishable blur after a while. Although Act Like Nothing’s Wrong falls victim to the same problem, the overall quality of the work is incredible. Of course some of the compositions work better than others, but most of them deserve more than a second look. Winston’s sense of humor is razor-sharp as is his paranoia. There are some pieces that are purely humorous, but most have an adgenda that may not be apparent at first glance. The book has a healthy dose of commentary from the artist that will give you an insight into the way his mind works. You have to take some of what he says with a grain of salt. His tirade against the UPC code (complete with links to the unholy number 666) is so over the top that it verges on being cartoonish. Fortunately, his extremism usually manifests itself in a more subtle fashion in his montages.
This is a body of work in the art sense and not a half-assed pile of scraps schlepped together with a glue stick. One factor that aids in giving his work a unified feel is his choice of raw materials. He draws heavily from magazine illustrations just before and during World War II. Many apparenty from the same artist. Blah blah blah. I can go on and on, but you really need to see these to appreciate them. My only beef with this book (other than the usual complaint that it should be thicker) is a bizarre demand for a royalty payment if you have a Dead Kennedys tattoo. I have no doubt that Winston is not making tons of cash from this book, and we’ve all seen the bootleg t-shirts, skateboards etc, but I can not agree with that request. Well Ok, they’re only asking for a dollar. But hold on. Most of the images were made by appropriating other peoples work, so I say live and let live. I suggest purchasing Act Like Nothing’s Wrong instead. If you feel the urge however, mail your dollar to The Swine Flu Memorial Starving Artist Fund and Home for the Asthetically Bewildered c/o Alternative Tentacles, PO Box 419092, San Francisco, Ca, 94141. If you’re feeling really generous you may want to include an extra buck in case Jello needs the dough in light of his recent legal problems. Three and a half out of five ransom letters, and looking forward to a rumored second volume.
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