The Art Assassin

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang

Chapter 50: ASSASSINATION: Mike Long AKA Dipsetmuthaf—–, Performance Artist

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Mike Long AKA Dipsetmuthaf—-. Courtesy of Mike Long.
Performance artist Mike Long at an unspecified public venue gets his groove on in black and white. Courtesy of Mike Long.

I was looking accidentally all over YouTube for some fabulous video clips to provide me a soundtrack while I was writing the interviews last week at the Apple Store (as the interviews are part of a long-term conceptual art project). I accidentally was looking at music samples for rap songs that I had enjoyed and came up on the channel for a Dipsetmuthaf—–, otherwise known as Mike Long who is a Canadian performance and video artist who was not well known yet.

There are some painters (mostly boring) who do a painting a day which has become a cliche but Long does a dance performance once a day which is recorded. According to his blurb, “I made a dance video, almost always in public places, every single day for an entire year…. I am only here to make you smile and hopefully change the way you think about ‘genres,’ show you what honest reactions to music look like on the daily, teach you some stuff, SPREAD POSITIVITY and provide a new addiction for the masses.” Very articulate, both in speech and his footsteps!

If you wish for more information about getting Long’s videos or special requests for design work or dances, please contact him at thelonger@gmail.com and he will answer accordingly.

qi peng: Alas, it is most wonderful to meet up with the wonderful Mike Long. Knowing that you did a version of a Black Sheep rap song, are you related to Mista Lawnge from that group? How do you go about crate digging for the obscure goodies that you choose to implement within your performance art pieces?

Mike Long: Amazing that you made that correlation, it didn’t come to me until I’d had that tape for a few years.  I doubt that we are related, but Black Sheep were very important to me as a young Hebrew interested in the hip hops.  Everyone hated that full length too, that’s why I chose a track off that one.  I used to dig crates for about 12 hours a week,  I’d say from about the ages of 13-21.  I have a lot of very amazing friends who like to share music.  My whole life it’s been that way, starting with mix tapes…

qi peng: How did you get the concept behind executing a single dance per day and videotaping all of them? What are some of your signature Mike Long moves that we need to observe within a typical video? Do you go about maximizing your sexual or dance appeal using a combination of moves? Is there any influence of martial arts on some of your wilder dance steps?

Mike Long: I figured I’d get better at dancing if I did it every single day.  Plus I wanted an excuse for being unemployed.  Tai Chi for sure, I do that every day.  I’m not interested in dancing for sex, or for anything else really.  Just doing what I need to do, what I want to do.  I want to dance for burritos.  To eat them, and to perform for them.  Guac can watch.

qi peng: How do you go about researching the proper venues for executing of the public performance? For example, you did your Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings at the Pepper Jack Cafe, so what was the reasoning behind choosing that for example? Do the song have to match the environment at all? Why do most of the outsiders appearing in your videos tend to ignore your seemingly outrageous, Dada-like moves? Is it because the general person is ignorant of awesome art skills?

Mike Long: I got really excited a few times and jumped out the door with a rocking jam, didn’t care about the scene.  Very rare though, those ones turned out to be decent shots and good videos, but not particularly relevant to the backdrop.  I made puns a bunch of times, some more obscure than others.  Dancing to “Paid in Full” at a bank, or “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” at a sex shop, people still don’t even get it.  I get, “where is this?” or people assuming I’m somewhere I’m not all the time.  The observant people aren’t walking around while I’m making videos, or this initiated world that we think exists does not, only a few people really paying attention to what’s happening.  I feel like most of the world is asleep.  Very, very tired world.  They don’t get their vitamins or exercise and they play too many video games and eat too many processed foods to figure out what’s happenin’.

AND AND AND

Sharon Jones has played at Pepper Jack twice, that’s why I did that video there.  Ken, the rad dude who books the place, is my roommate as well.  I have good luck.

qi peng: Which artists, music or visual, are the greatest influences on your ingenious craft? For example, how much do other performance artists provide a context for what you do?

Mike Long: Back in the day, I did some real fun stuff that is illegal.  I suppose Guy Debord would have been pretty into some of those activities.  I am a cinephile more than a music snob, that’s for sure.  I wish everyone was into all music and we could share it all like silly hippies, but movies are a singular activity for me.  So is writing!  I just wrote two books, third one is coming.  I’m like Henry Rollins (less macho) but I don’t have any more questions, only silly answers.

qi peng: How did you manage to dance so vibrantly to stuff that is considered to be “undanceable” such as the Wu-Tang Clan? Have you ever gotten in trouble for the “sampling” or for offending the sensibilities of the original artist who looked at your work and was repulsed? Have you ever gotten props from the original artist before?

Mike Long: I’ve never gotten in trouble from an artist, but a friend of mine has!!  About two dozen groups or solo artists have contacted me due to the videos and it has been overwhelming and positive.  I’m able to use a lot of music now for future film/video projects because people are into what I do.  Glass Candy and D-Sisive are super amazing people!!  I just react to the music though, I don’t really think anything is “undanceable” if it’s honest and has soul.  If it’s honest, it’s got soul, you can groove to soul!!

Thanks, and I knew I’d forget something other than an error or two, but I want to say that the Sweet Divines flew me to New york cause they are the best.

qi peng: How do you about choosing the directors for your dance video art pieces? What is the cinematography style or particular shots that you aim for? What is the difference between shooting a video which is based on a hip-hop song versus that of a rock song?

Mike Long: I just work with my friends.  I try my best to make my own shots a mix between Tsai Ming Liang and Bergman (Sven Nykvist was Bergman’s main main on the lens).  Is that pretentious enough?  I will clarify…I want to shoot reality, but closer up, more humane than Tsai, but more removed than Bergman.  But with a webcam.  (laughing now)

qi peng: How did you acquire such a broad knowledge and taste in all varieties of music? Do you ever plan to compile the whole collection of dance videos into one place that your fans can add to their collection? Do you ever hope to have your work exhibited at a major gallery or museum someday as a cultural artifact?

Mike Long: I’d like to do some sort of gallery showing in HelsinkiGlasgow would be nice too.  A few people have approached me, I will have some videos screening on a monitor round the clock at a group show in New York this summer (actually in Manhattan, woah), but I don’t think they want to fly me there.  I was there last year anyway.  I don’t like being the best dancer at a club in New York City, and I don’t want to stay in when I’m there either, so it’s uncomfortable.  Someone else called me the best dancer in New York, so I can get away with that, right?  Also the weed there is not good.

qi peng: Which videos are your personal favorites? Which videos are your surefire masterpieces? Why do you consider them as such?

Mike Long: You know, I always thought Lars Von Trier was a piece of s— for saying that he hated everything that he’s done in the past, until I made 600 videos in two years.  I like the books I’ve written, I have more control over words on a page, but I wish I could re-do the entire project without having the worry of “what do I eat today?” and “what if I die of the flu because I have to go out and dance today and it’s snowing and -30?”  Mainly because I’m a much better dancer off video, and now I don’t care about being too showy, cause I’m not.  I’m showy enough, but not The Scene showy.  I think that the realism comes across, sometimes I lose myself a little too much.  I don’t like any of the videos any more, but I do appreciate the videos that 42 Liberty made for me, especially the MC5 video for “Kick out the Jams” which got taken down,” and the video that Peter Michael Wilson shot, Glass Candy’s “Life After Sundown.”  The ones I felt the most were made in Stockholm, Sweden.  I felt very comfortable there.  The Brogues let me use their song for my first feature because of a video I made there.  My favourite, if I must choose, is Barry and the Remains – “Don’t Look Back.”

qi peng: What is the most controversial piece that you ever achieve? How do you deconstruct the nature of the soundtrack? What is the most difficult piece to dance to? Why is that song the hardest to get the beat down?

Mike Long: J Dilla“F— the Police” in front of a Police station in Denmark.  That is my biggest video, Stones Throw (the record label) commented on another video I made for one of their artists, and they liked that video too…not sure if anything I do is really “controversial” on a grand scale.  I don’t worry about getting it down.

qi peng: What is the story behind your getting tossed out of a shopping mall doing the Black Sheep piece? Does it make you proud that your performance art can provoke such a vicious response from the authorities?

Mike Long: Security guards are the lowest form of scum, and mall cops are the lowest, for sure.  What’s the big deal?  Oh wait, it’s because that mall got f—ed when someone was beat to death outside and it got on camera.  Just protecting themselves, the law and all that.  It doesn’t make me proud that I live in such a stupid world, no.  Almost everyone else likes it, the war I’ve fought is long over.  It’s hard to work up the nerve to do such a silly thing every day, but I’m pretty sure it was worth it.

qi peng: What are some of your favorite movies, music, books, artworks, or cultural artifacts that you want to recommend your Dipsetmuthaf—-ing audience out there? Do you believe that your celebrity will be growing in a positive way that makes society better? Can you dance your worries away? Can you dance to protest the Iraq war?

Mike Long: My friend Sam once said that he believed everyone should be aware of the genocides that took place over the last hundred years or so.  All of them, very important to study these.  Alfred Hitchcock did not have any skill until he shot concentration camp footage and came back a new man with a completely different vision.  There is no success without struggle.  Witness the horrors before you can make beauty, or you are false!  I have a lot to offer in the way of goodness, but I’m pretty sure it’s only going to effect a small sub-section of the population, and I’m very contented by that assumption.  I might do something really huge in the future that gets my presence out to a bunch of new folks, I might not, but only a select group of people are going to get what I’m really about in the end.  I want everyone to have fun all the time, to be themselves, to break the rules because they are only made for the fools, and life is whatever you want it to be.  No one can get in your brain!!  I want to tell everyone that a new perspective changes everything, or can change everything, the ability is there if the thought is there.   Drugs don’t solve problems, but they might be a good idea every once in a while, do your research!  Google is amazing!! Every problem in one’s life can be solved using the tools in that person’s toolbox, no need to buy new ones.  In the end, I feel like this is a very boring world and I’ve cracked enough eggs (although I’m vegan).  I hope to get in front of as many 8 year olds as possible to tell them that they need to save rock and roll, and to also get into all forms of art and music.  Look outside of your backyard, the world is big.  Think about your life on a global scale because you have the ability to effect everyone’s life on this planet.  That is not bullshit, that is real.  Drama and greed, say goodbye.  BE REAL.  Once they get those video games in their hands, they’re gone.  We need to buy back our culture!!

Oh, but movies and books…Iranian/German/Taiwanese cinema, early Hollywood, ’70’s indies.  I love silent cinema as well, it’s too bad that the good stuff is so hard to come by!  I wish everyone would see The Passion of Joan of Arc and The Docks of New York.  The Harlem renaissance was really something, and I dig Sedaris, Murakami and Fante.  The LIBRARY is FREE and wicked cool to hang out in.  EVEN IF YOU’RE THE ONLY COOL KID THERE.  Actually, I want to tell the kids that the world they live is false, get to work on music and new ideas, f— your style.

qi peng: Do you do song requests? If I asked you to “illustrate” my favorite song “Send Your Love” by the Born Jamericans, would you be willing to do and what would be the time frame? Would you like to send me the final results of this collaboration concept mash-up?

Mike Long: You wanna dance?  Send me the tune!!

qi peng: How do you interact with your environment? What is your opinion about public places and being able to act self-expressive in a society which is getting to be more dehumanized?

Mike Long: Take that space back!  It’s yours!  I’ve been doing it since I was very young, getting all rowdy at restaurants and the like.  My mom hates me for being a crazy kid still, ask her.

qi peng: What is the story behind your collaborations with Katie? Who is she?

Mike Long: Katie is a super rad pal I met on YouTube, one of the Kate crew along with K80Blog and KateReadsBooksfancyrants has a crush on Katie and it’s creeping her out, but she’s getting married so it doesn’t matter!!  Lay off, mens!!!

Sure thang!  There’s another Katie:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqOQD24DD1s

And K80Blog is cool too…she’s in one of them I think….

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at qipengart@gmail.com
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Written by qi peng

May 12, 2009 at 2:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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