Thursday, July 21, 2011

Subvertising the Anti-brand.

Been lying low for awhile, stormy weather chilling my soul while I contemplate the contradiction of pursuing notoriety under my artist's brand-name and my contempt for fame-whores in a vacuous pop-culture civilization. Nothing much else is happening here on the Northcott Ghetto front, the TV antenna for the whole complex has been knocked out, 1000 apartments left to stare at blank walls, I fear the joint will go up in flames tonight as the maddened denizens look for something to fill the void.

I knew what I was doing way back in 1978 when I came up with the anti-brand name of Toby Zoates, it was outre, cutting and ridiculous. I'd noticed a television commercial for a famous Aussie breakfast cereal where the voice-over slurred his "s" into a "z" and I had an epiphany, Z for Zorro, Zapata, Zippie the Pinhead, Zarathustra, Ziggy Stardust and Zen, even scientists eventually named the all-round nutritious ingredient in oats the "Z factor." As a renegade artist I saw riots and civil disobedience as my "performance art" and wrote/drew comix/cartoons with salacious, subversive content, satirising "consumer capitalism" via the breakfast of champions, OATS. No wonder the"System" was never going to give me a GO, my name is unmentionable, the works destroyed or banned from the light of day, no invites to anything, my post-modernism too clever by half. Unlike under Stalinism They don't kill dissident artists here in Auz, They just ignore them.

Yet every seventy seconds there's an add on TV eulogising "Uncle Toby's Oats", for many years now the announcer very careful to pronounce the words clearly, separately, no "Z". And lately Donald McRonald is selling bowls of Zoates in the mornings from their golden arches, again the TV commercials careful not to connect the words, it's "Uncle Toby's heart-tick oats" they're flogging, much to my amusement. Oh the joy of undermining the sacred cow of advertising and TV-land, as an artist in the gutter I could only have dreamed of reaching such sublime heights, to actually have an effect upon the over-arching cyber-sphere.

Sydney is a cruel city, it uses you up and spits you out, and gets the last laugh at you for being a smart-ass. I recently designed a poster for a classical music concert for a friend of mine, he decided one way to get noticed would be to donate the proceeds to the community radio station, 2MBS FM, a worthy cause. But when they put my design on their newsletter, mentioning the concert and sending it to 70,000 subscribers, they cropped the artwork and lopped off my signature, like it was done by no one, I don't exist. It's long been that way, every job, either no recognition or when promised payment, of a few lousy dollars, they refuse after they've got the art, or they make me go to the back-door, seven times, to beg. That's what I get for being a smart-ass, subvertising an anti-brand name like Toby Zoates.

Though the cone of silence permanently upon me is dispiriting, poverty painful, ignominy humiliating, the pouring rain outside bitterly cold, (poor little orphan me), yet the exhilaration of creating art, leaving a long trail of it behind me, was worth it all, my mind is blown, my heart is full. I might not get a VIP invite to Lady Googoo at the Town Hall along with gangsters and media-whores but I can thank nogod I have a peaceful life, there's no papparazi stalking me with their blinding flashbulbs, I'm absolutely persona non grata. To be really radical and subversive one has to stay anonymous, under the radar, that's what anti-branding is all about, otherwise you become "state-sanctioned", status quo, a franchise, a recognisable brand.

Read "Alec Farthing" in the anthology "Being Different" or my comic "No Future", or the strip in Penguin's "Aussie Underground Comix", view my posters in the National Gallery in Canberra, (hidden in the dungeon), read the stories in this Blog, do you think I'll ever surface from the Underground? Not bloody likely! I'm rattling on about this shite because I'm considering having a show of my art, past and present, at a fairly respectable gallery whose curator seems eager to have me. It's a bit like Banksy coming in from the shadows, (yeah, yeah, with not as much talent and no Brangelina cachet.)(More like Mr. Brainwash trying to flog a whole lot of trash that's overflowing from my apartment.) I'll have to surface from the sewers for it, work hard, promote, advertise, risk money, get exposed: why bother? So much nicer to hide out and read science-fiction novels. But nogod, I'm not dead yet, life's a challenge, being a recluse is boring.

What's my problem? Why the chip on my shoulder? Why do I have to eternally stick the finger to the System, the Beast, Consumer Capitalism? (Again I'm a walking contradiction, my art is possibly just another product to be consumed!) First, because as a cheesy smiling sacred-cow white-washing exploitation, pollution and destruction, the Beast cries out for satirization, and, secondly, because I got fucked, twisted, stunted on the journey to here and I can't Get Over It. Toby Zoates is my "fuck you" to the Beast. Hee hee hee! I'm also quite mad but madness is a healthy response to a terrible world history. Who wants to be normally adjusted to all this crap raining down upon us in the name of, what? The one true god, Money!

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.