Nobody Cares About Your Stupid Art Project compositions 2008-2009
by Faiz Razi
Faiz Razi PORTFOLIO
photo by Sameera Maqsood
Although I don’t categorize myself in any one specific medium over the others, some of my skills happen to be illustration, photography, graphic design, writing and music. When people ask me what I do, I don’t respond with a single pat “I’m a writer”, “I’m a photographer” or any other such pigeonholing. My art is actually my approach more than the end result. I’m often called a mad scientist by people that actually like me. Duchamp, for bottle rack was asked where he came up with the idea. his response was simply, “well, I just bought it.” The only reason art is considered art is because it is presented as such. As an artist, one can only hope to create an aesthetic experience. My desire to create something isn’t based so much on sitting around trying to come up with a concept as much as it is just reacting to living life every day. This results in a somewhat effortless body of work. I chose the photo above, because it encapsulates several things I shoot for in my art: humor, a slight sense of the absurd, beautifully crafted artifacts, the martial arts, my Indian heritage, and being at the right place at the right time.
*Compositions 2008 - 2009
Installation 4. Musical Chairs: Random Band Generator Re-appropriation 8. Candy Bomb / Business & Pleasure 9. Pyramid / War on Drugs 10. Bottomless Gift / Toughest Cup 11. Horses PhotoEssay 12. India: Agra Culture 15. Pittsburgh: Sigil Disobedience Performance 17. Internet. Presence. 18. Faiz Zeppelin 21. Television. Personality. Archive 22. Timelines: 2007-1977
Chairs #2, and #3 were made possible with the collaborative assistance of the Stockyard Institute and Brian McNally
Random Band Generator
Musical Chairs is a sound/music/art installation that functions as a random band generator, heard by two listeners at a time. The physical makeup is dual correctional bus seats painted front and back by graffiti artist Zeb. Both seats are equipped with an enclosed iPod that runs through a mixer. The iPods randomly play oneminute instrumental pieces of music simultaneously, creating one song that can be heard through the two sets of headphones. A different combination or â€œbandâ€? is generated at random, every minute. Musical Chairs is a community-recording project created by Faiz Razi, and includes original one-minute pieces composed by an international group of musicians. Every time a piece of music is added, the number of possible combinations grows exponentially. There are currently 2,560 permutations. The chairs, built from transit seating, capture many elements of city life. They represent the shared experience of two listeners or commuters, the visceral nature of street art, and the mix of cultures and styles through the combined pieces of music. The chairs also bring to light the importance of experimental music, as you cannot predict the combination of pieces that you will hear.
Poster for Chicago Cultural Center exhibition designed in collaboration with Beth Wiedner
Photo collage detail: shots of listeners from Version 9 are part of a larger quilt documenting the chairs in different locations
In 2008, the musical pieces composed for the chairs were presented in Denmark as part of Rum 46â€™s â€œSchool for Nonproductive Learningâ€? In 2009, the chairs were installed in 2 different galleries, an underground music festival, and the Chicago Cultural Center. They were also installed in a high school, where I taught classes on the chairs and home-recording based around lesson plans included in the Musical Chairs Activity Book. More installations and classes forthcoming. 24-page Musical Chairs Activity Book can be found at http://www.stockyardinstitute.org/musical_chairs.html
Website design for Chicago Cultural Center Exhibition designed in collaboration with Beth Wiedner
I reappropriate found objects and assemble them into monuments in miniature. I almost never buy art supplies. My work is built out of nice paper, old hood ornaments, childhood toys, family heirlooms, office supplies, and whatever else is at hand. I recently brought home a trunk full of marble tile samples, which resulted in injury. I enjoy finding all these beautiful pieces and turning them into something new, and hopefully more interesting
You know, for Valentineâ€™s Day
Gifting is one of my strongest impulses for creating. Making a piece of art for an audience of one often gives me something strong to work with. I was working collaboratively with someone who often told me that we should never mix business and pleasure. â€œBusiness and Pleasureâ€? (right) was made out of two Moleskine notebooks (one large black graph paper book and one small red book (for business and pleasure, respectively)), a reused interoffice manilla envelope, a black gift bag and a slew of colorful rubber bands. I like this piece because she had to destroy it to get to the gift inside. I tend to make a lot of art that needs to be ruined to be enjoyed. She snapped this picture before tearing it open.
Business & Pleasure
Many years ago, I used to do illustration on the Etch-a-sketch. Once, I was commissioned to do a portrait of the band Orange Whip for their album cover. Over the years, friends, knowing my propensity for these temporary illustrating toys, would give me different sized Etch-A-Sketches as gifts, and so I fashioned my collection into a miniature monument to the Aztecs. Oddly enough, they were received in order from the largest to the smallest, from the base being my first as a child to the wrist watch from a few years back.
War on Drugs The title is quite literal. This piece is a tank constructed out of â€˜tobaccoâ€™ pipes, grinders, the endcaps for a 1980s glass coffee table, and fake Rolex watches. Itâ€™s a modular piece that can be also turned into a helicopter or a small fortress.
Bottomless Gift was built from several objects that were all important to someone at some point. These are all items that ended up in a box or a drawer, away from view and thought, and I wanted to give them a second life. The Rosetta Stone in miniature was used for decoding language, an ornate wedding invitation in gold foil for love, a cluster of stopwatches that I used to teach kids math, a small set of my grandmotherâ€™s prayer beads and a handmade knife that has been in my family for as long as I can remember. The new object that has been made from these things holds the same sort of importance to me, simply because of the way it looks together. I tried to create something that seemed as urgent as the component pieces were in their prime. Itâ€™s cryptic and hopefully a bit intriguing.
the Toughest Cup
Assembled out of a gas can and my black belt, this piece is meant to dispense a cup of coffee for a man so tough, he shaves his face with a chain. Not meant for public consumption. Being strapped with a gas can gets a good amount of awkward stares from strangers and squares.
Horses I assembled this piece out of a small collection of bronze and glass horses I found in my parentsâ€™ basement crawlspace. The light-up base the laser-etched glass horses are on cycles through several different colors, giving the piece a pleasing glow. I think it may be the most â€˜popularâ€™ of my re-appropriated items, as most people who come to my home will stop and watch them for a few minutes. Part of the appeal is that one can easily imagine this as an installation several dozen feet tall, yet it fits snugly in the hutch in my kitchen.
PhotoEssay I write a lot when I’m traveling. I write just as much when I’m sitting still. This is a small sample of the 200+ pgs. of observational essays on Tokyo, Cozumel, Shanghai, Hyderabad, Delhi, and a gas station in Woodridge.
As you round the corner to the front of the gate, the darkened, high-ceilinged entryway frames the far away Taj Mahal brilliantly. It’s the first time that the size and scope of it become readily apparent. It is epic. The throngs of people on the Mahal’s pedestal/plaza seem as insignificant and equally-scaled as gnats. I took a few photos similar to every photo you’ve ever seen of the Mahal from in front of the fountains, but was excited to get closer for some nice detail shots. The Taj Mahal is more of a complex than just the one monument. There are two large sandstone structures on either side of the pedestal, both symmetrical to the center line of the tomb. One is a masjid, or prayer hall, and the other, a guest house. The garden path to the white tomb and the flanking buildings are so aesthetically balanced, that it’s easy to see how so many starry-eyed visitors are distracted long enough to get their pockets picked by the children, men and women weaving through the crowd in tightly controlled slaloms.
When you make it to the actual structure, you have to cover your shoes up with small paper booties and then brave the slickly worn marble steps up to the plaza. Itâ€™s a precarious business, as the flood of people coming down is just as swift moving and jostling as the crowd rushing up. Losing sight of the top dome upon reaching the plaza puts a nice perspective on the immense size of the building, and the pristine and shimmering sheets of floor tiles catch the sunlight, and occasionally give hint to the translucent nature of marble.You can shine light through the stone. We waded through the crowd to the end of a line that stretched halfway around the structure in two snaking loops. I filled my camera with detail shots of etched slabs of white inset with lapis lazuli, opal, and Indiaâ€™s own red precious stones. Chiseled-marble trellises surrounded the shaft into the actual tomb and the octagonal structure of the building was heavy with incredible stone flowers and grids. Each hand-carved line was as rough as it was exact. While winding through the interiors of the building, we caught grids of light shining through marble screens, giving brief blasts of brightness in the otherwise dusk-like dark. When the immense and hollow inner dome was being etched, its center flower was made of more than 40,000 separate facets of stone. The workers piled dirt and mud high up into the pristine white tomb to make a natural ladder from where they could do their handiwork. When the Mahal was completed, the unfortunate workers had their hands removed so they could never replicate their feat, and the mud was washed out into the river that runs along the front of the building. The river itself is almost bone dry at this point, and the sandstone foundation for the proposed Black Taj can been seen across its thirsty banks. My favourite structure in the whole complex was the tiny straw shack that sat opposite the looming tomb on the other side of the river, clearly the tiny and unimpressive workshop of a local.
Pittsburgh Sigil Disobedience One of my favourite articles of clothing is a heather gray t-shirt for the fantastic rock band, Bottomless Pit. The insignia on the chest is a sigil-a symbol made out of other symbols to create a new intent. The sigil on the shirt is a grouping of Arabic letters that work as a great logo for the ‘Pit, but they literally mean nothing. Often, family will ask me, “what is ‘book book’?” which is how one would read the letters on the shirt phonetically. The shirt, combined with my brown skin gets me profiled from time to time. I’m willing to suffer for fashion.
I was traveling with some friends and a set of twin two-year-olds to Pittsburgh. We made a stop at the Plate Glass Building to marvel at the architecture and see the impressive water-fountain that graces the plaza. While milling around with the other tourists, I was stopped by security and informed that it was forbidden to take photos of anything above eye-level in the plaza, which included the Plate Glass Building. Stumped, I asked them why, and was given the infuriating response of “because of September 11th.” “What?” “Because of September 11th.” “What!?”
I looked down at the Arabic on my shirt, and over at the gaggle of white tourists taking all the photos of the Plate Glass Building that their cameras could hold. I knew exactly what the guards were inferring. For years, I’ve been stopped and searched on every flight I’ve taken and get routinely frisked at museums. And here we were, over seven years later, and my skin was still my sin. I responded with a snide “we have more important buildings in Chicago and no one stops me from taking pictures of those.” It was to no avail. The guards had their eyes on me. I waited until they turned away, and took the above shot, anyway. It turned out to be photo, and a day, that I would never forget.
Internet. Presence. Where I’ve been a verb since 2006
Mods and Rockers: I’m a moderator on the discussion forum for Electrical Audio, the finest recording studio in the world. The Electrical forum has over 10,000 registered users, with more joining every day. I firmly believe, as both a moderator and regular contributor to this forum, that this is the finest place on the face of the internet. If you can find me one better, I’d love to see it. the PRF: Electrical contributors are an impressively erudite and knowledgeable group of people. Topics range from world events to word games, culture to comedy, arguments to art, sound recording to songwriting, and anything in between. With the seemingly infinite collective wisdom of several thousand people from all over the planet, we’ve built a nice outpost for ourselves and other interesting individuals. In 2009, we banded together to throw the First Annual PRF BBQ, a three-day festival of music, art and food. the Games: We play dozens of creative writing games on Electrical. I’m the moderator for the Crap/Not Crap section of the forum, which is a running archive of music, art and culture criticism at its most binary. Rank! is played by organizing three similar items in their order of importance, and arguing the merits of the rank. Fake Italian is oddly, the lingua franca. The Kenny is a subtle, but utterly confounding game of taking any topic and describing what is both just better and just worse. Fellow moderator, Bradley R. Weissenberger, and I have been editing the several-thousand post Kenny thread into a book. the kerble: There is so much info collected on this forum. It’s glorious, and I’ve accidentally memorized most of it. In 2006, the search feature of the site was unofficially dubbed “kerble” in honor of my screen name, my near-eidetic memory, and my ability to recall previously discussed topics. As of 2009, the word ‘kerble,’ a nonsensical nom-de-plume I made up in 1998, has been used in one form or the other, approximately 12,200 times. This figure does not include any of my posts, but does include any time I’ve been quoted.
The folks at Electrical accidentally built the best online community I’ve seen, I’m proud to be a part of it, and I want it to grow and flourish. I can also state, for a fact, that Electrical Audio has changed my life. Salut.
Faiz Zeppelin Faiz Zeppelin is a concept/performance piece. It’s not a tribute act or cover band. It’s a Zeppelgänger. I’m using Zeppelin’s music the same way they used the blues. A large portion of Zep’s catalogue were blues and folk standards that they changed around, added their flair, and then claimed as their own. Faiz Zeppelin is no different. At times with a band, at times solo with guitar and keyboards, this project is constantly morphing into something it wasn’t before.
Some of the songs exist in a similar form, while others have been wildly re-imagined. ‘Black Dub’ reduces the song ‘Black Dog’ into a single monophonic keyboard bassline at half-speed. “Sitarway to heaven” is a planned LP, recorded in reverse, where one has to play the vinyl backwards to hear it in its correct form. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” retains the original’s sultry blues chord changes, but is now heard as an aching ballad that is swallowed by gongs.
From cover art, to re-arrangements to album concepts, every portion of this project is a fractured take on one of rock’s finest bands. Plus, I can totally howl. Thanks.
Putting my money where my mouth is (a Faiz Zep story) Now, Faiz Zeppelin isn’t a cover band. I keep saying it and people don’t understand. It’s a Zeppelgänger. And tonight (like any other) is a little test. I went to Piece for the first time by myself to see if I could work a room with my magic. The doorman immediately recognized me from the Zep bomb I dropped on the crowd a few weeks prior and didn’t card me. He asked if I was going to rock tonight (of course) and if I came with anyone. I did not. I wanted to test if I could win a crowd over without a built-in cheering section. He told me that he knew I’d kill it. I knew this too. It was a sure bet. I met some nice folks while waiting to sing, including this German guy who was also flying solo. We were hanging out outside when all of a sudden, a giant bus pulled up in front of the club. The bus doors opened and out poured a bunch of guys in tuxes and suits and women in nice dresses. A wedding party. Perfect. I immediately developed a plan. One thing that I know about guys at weddings is that they have, at some point in the day, gone to the ATM, gotten out a ream of twenty-dollar bills and put it in their wallet. No self-respecting man would go to a wedding without at least $100 in cash. I want to get this money, but since I run on the benefit model, I just want to give this money to someone that deserves it. In this case, the excellent house band at Piece. So the guys start coming out of the bus and linger at the door. And I start to talk trash. But I don’t do it like an jerk. You can talk trash in a friendly way and not anger people. Every guy who comes out of the bus to stand with us gets a similar variation of the same trash talk: “Congratulations!” “Why?” “Because someone liked you enough to invite you to their wedding, so cheers to you.” “Thanks man!” now here’s the trash talk: “To celebrate this wedding, I am going to rock you tonight. It’s my gift to you.” I’ve set the bait, and I’m waiting for the magic words. The loudest, most drunk member of the wedding party takes it. “No Way, man. I’ll give you a run for your money.” The magic words. I’m the Plant (see what I did there?), and I’m looking for my mark. I extended my hand for a shake. “Hi! I’m Faiz. Nice to meet you.” “Hi,” he replied happily, “my name is Mark.” I’ve found the Mark. Perfect. I tell the Mark that I’m willing to bet $20 that my Zeppelin will beat any song that he chooses. However, the money won’t go to him if he wins. It’ll go to the house band as a tip. If I win, the band gets $20 of Mark’s money, If he wins, they get $20 of mine. It’s a benefit show. I head in, alert the night’s host that a challenge has been made, and tip the band the $20 I already bet the Mark. It is on. Since I made the bet, I’m going first, and they’ve bumped the Mark up to just after me so the audience can decide who wins. Now what I didn’t know is that the Mark and his wedding party (which were about 50 deep) had given me 5 to 1 odds that I couldn’t take him. They had bet $100 against my $20 (that I already gave to the band) that I couldn’t win. Who owns this place? I do. I slip off my sandals, take the mic, and turn to the drummer: “Immigrant song. do you want four or six in before I start singing?” “Let’s do four.” He counts in, and we destroy that song. I see women go wide-eyed and open-mouthed as I give the siren call at the intro. I see men raise their fists in the air. I climb the bar. I climb the railings. I crouch down low to stand on a woman’s table, singing just to her and her lady friend. For the last ten measures, I drop to my knees and cut them up through my jeans. No problem. I’m willing to bleed for this one. The song ends and the place erupts. It goes bananas. Who owns this place? I do. As I leave the stage, people high-five me. Women make eyes. I make a bee-line for the restroom to wash up, as I’m a little dizzy and catch a few more hand slaps and pats on the ass. Meanwhile, on stage, the Mark is totally ruining AC/DC. It’s not even close. He finishes and we are both called back up to the stage for the voting. A sure bet, it is. Mark has 50 people in his corner, and I just have me. I get the vote by thunderous applause, no question. The Mark, a man of his word, opens his wallet, fans out 5 twenty-dollar bills, and puts it in the band’s tip jar. They got $120 for playing two songs. That’s how you do a benefit show. I make a lap of the room to soak it in, and this pretty lady grabs me by the arm. “My God, you’re incredible. Do you have a band?” “Yeah. I’m in ‘Zeppelin”. And I walk out the door. If any of you thought I couldn’t do all of this, you have grossly underestimated me. But I’m not going to bother to prove you wrong. I’m going to prove myself right.
Television. Personality. How Faiz Zep got me on TV
For an entire summer I had been rehearsing with the live karaoke bands at Piece pizza in preparation for Bob’s BBQ Pig Roast Benefit Show in October. I had been going by myself, give or take an odd night. Out with some friends, I owned “Whole Lotta Love” for the nth time. Afterwards, Bill, the manager at Piece, caught me outdoors and let me know that they were going to be filming an episode of ‘Check, Please!’ the restaurant review show, and that I should be sure to come sing for the taping. At the taping, they put me on first, and we killed “Immigrant Song”. I cut my feet up again (I sing Zep barefoot. Always), but no biggie. afterwards, David, the producer of ‘Check, Please!’ caught me outside and told me I was “Phenomenal.” I told him about the upcoming Faiz Zep shows and a bit about the project. He then invited me to pick a restaurant to review and come be on their show. They get 1700 applicants a year and I was scouted in the wild and moved to the front of the line. The show was a hilarious success. I mentioned wanting to eat ‘deep-fried car keys,’ explained how an appetizer almost ‘artichoked my esophagus closed’ and owned up to the desire to throw the art at one of the restaurants ‘in the dumpster.’ It was a blast, people still stop me on the street.
FIRST ATTEMPTS Mixed martial arts, Drums Lap steel, Bass Tambour Booking tours Simultaneous guitar, keys and singing Zeppelin Touring Teaching Synthesizers, Drum machines Sitar, Tabla, Bhool bhool tarang Recording , Composition D.I.Y. show promoting, Guitar Singing, Keyboards, Harmonium Smoking, voting Illustration Tutoring, Driving Cooking Sewing Painting Spanish Tae kwon do Boy scouting, Plagiarism* Lyric writing Etch-a-sketching, Public speaking Arabic , Swimming Brotherhood Violin, Performance Writing Drawing, Int’l travel English, Hindi, Urdu, Music Breathing, Eating
2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987 1986 1985 1984 1983 1982 1981 1980 1979 1978 1977
Teacher, Gas station jockey, Int’l booking agent, Moderator Teacher, Touring, Int’l booking agent, Moderator Teacher, Int’l booking agent, Gas station jockey Teacher, Int’l touring, Nat’l booking agent Teacher, Tutor, Touring Tutor, Touring, Gas station jockey. Record store drone Teacher, Tutor, Touring Teacher, Tutor Substitute teacher, Tutor, Barrista Tutor, Health care accreditation interview drone Tutor, Insurance office drone Men’s shelter organizer/cook, Greek food prep, Zine reviewer Tutor, Mcdonald’s drone #2 Greek food prep Tutor, Mcdonald’s drone #1 Tutor Baby sitter Lawn mower Hole digger
RELATED ACCOLADES Obama saves tour I booked with phonecall to Kenya “kerble” enters Urban dictionary Danger Adventure spanish tour
Bachelor’s Degree in Education, Dean’s List Reviewed zines for punk planet Quoted by Joey Ramone on David Letterman Black Belt Lincoln/Douglas Debate Team, State Policy Debate Team, State Young Author’s Short Story (actual) Webelos Scout Interviewed on the Bozo Show *Young Author’s Poem (sorry)
Issued two different birth certificates
RELEVANT ART 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987 1986 1985 1984 1983 1982 1981 1980 1979 1978 1977
joesepi “Live on WLUW” Danger Adventure “Live on WLUW 2” Danger Adventure “‘Double Phoenix’” E.P. Danger Adventure “kenstucky” E.P. Danger Adventure “the Pomegranate” Danger Adventure #2 E.P. Danger Adventure #1 E.P. kerble “love is a spectator sport” E.P. kerble “ain’t i volatile?” cassette kerble “the youngsters...” cassette Orange Whip (album cover) Roscoe P Soultrane 4 comp. appearances