We Are Furious Yellow: Reflections on the Speakeasy by m.o.i.

We Are Furious Yellow: Reflections on the Speakeasy

by m.o.i.

“Those are not worms. They are only maggots.”[1]

There is a raft of coveted demographics adrift and in search of authentic experiences. I do not mean a basil gimlet or a bracing Collins topped with a blood orange slice. A stiff drink can be refreshing but its success largely hinges on quality ingredients, distinct proportions, and the company it keeps. One would think that if the masses were eager for a dram of satisfaction, then art world gravitas would manufacture smiles, dreams, and cultural relevance.  Well, two out of three isn’t bad. So try as they might to find artist investment opportunities, frequently the public are left to console themselves with empathy while the artist sulks suspiciously in the corner.

“Lord, help me to remember, that nothing is going to happen to me today.”[2]

Although chance encounters in a queue are unlikely to foster a cultural revolution they can lead to compelling conversations; proximity breeds acquaintance. Lines for toast and coffee at the Speakeasy were typically shorter than at the grocery or post office but the dialogue quicker, more engaging, and the opportunity for cultural renaissance closer at hand.  Because of that, the (at times) lukewarm coffee can be forgiven.

“Massive civil disobedience is a strategy for social change which is at least as forceful as an ambulance with its siren on full.”[3]

We have led ourselves to believe that culture is a prix fixe, no substitution allowed, four-course dinner. Gratuity, but not beverage, included. Would we recognize hope or change if it camped in the park adjacent to our office for 99 straight days? Perhaps. Would we first need a full report? Here are some Speakeasy numbers: 6 dozen rolls, 8 loaves of bread, and a jar of orange marmalade. Seventy-five grilled sandwiches. Nine pounds of coffee, a hundred weight of b-b-que’d argument, 25 pounds of Alex Pope’s meat, 5 kegs (plus 20 cases) of beer. Two 2 bottles of bourbon, 1 of gin, and several gallons of mineral water. Fifteen hand-painted signs, 150 posters, 500 silk-screened napkins, 7500 web hits, and one portfolio. Eight bands, 250 artists, 6 critics, and 3 or 4 trailers.  Sum all the numbers, multiply by the paid admissions, and you can begin to estimate the project’s scope. Yet eight conversational exchanges of varying dimensions, intensity, and intrigue remain the most important Speakeasy outcome.  If a revolution was to be had there, it lay in the understanding that dialogue between artist and consumer should be art’s most valued transaction. This precious and vital principle, as abstract as money, is often just as difficult to obtain with any degree of regularity. Please tip your server accordingly.


[1] Battleship Potemkin, 1925, directed by Sergei Eisenstein and shown with a new score by The People’s Liberation Big Band, International Worker’s Day, 2012.
[2]Jordan Stempleman, reading at the Speakeasy from his poem, Sunday that appears in No. Not Today, Magic Helicopter Press, 2012
[3]Martin Luther King, 1967, The Trumpet of Conscience, Harper and Row. In the installation “Flash Mob Re-enactments “ by Jamie Warren as part of Beating the Bounds, Paragraph, Kansas City, MO.
 
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m.o.i. aka The Minister of Information @ Warrior Ant Press Worldwide Anthill Headquarters in Kansas City, MO, USA examines artistic, cultural, social, and political practices in a consumer society.
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About Sean M. Starowitz

Sean M. Starowitz’s work is executed in a variety of social, political, and community engaged contexts. Notable projects include Fresh Bread, BREAD! KC and Byproduct: The Laundromat. He has also explored curatorial projects such as The Speakeasy, and Vagabond, Kansas City’s premiere pop-up restaurant. He has contributed writings to Proximity Magazine and Temporary Art Review, and has lectured at Queens College in NY, UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures Department, and at American University in D.C. He currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri as the artist-in-residence at the Farm To Market Bread Company. He is a 2010 graduate of the Interdisciplinary Arts program at the Kansas City Art Institute and a 2012 Rocket Grant recipient with support from the Charlotte St. Foundation, Spencer Museum of Art and the Andy Warhol Foundation. More recently, he is a 2014 Charlotte St. Foundation Visual Art Award Fellow.
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