Will Bernardara Jr.
Q. What is “feral art”?
A. It’s outsider art, only
Q. Meaning what?
Extract: Part of a movie
review by Gil Marina [The Psychotronic Burrow/website/ www.tronicburr.com/March
New World VHS
Dir. Donald G. Jackson
exist films that appear to have been produced in a world similar to ours but…
dangerously skewed. They’re like broadcasts from a dimension of the brain
damaged or cable-access fever dreams: analog jabberwockies. These products seem
to want something from the viewer.
They’re less like movies, more like snares. Visual traps.
Roller Blade is
nearly one of these. In this movie, set on the sidewalks of a post-nuked L.A.,
slutty nuns pray to a happy-face light bulb upon a crystal altar… ///
- review never posted
- [Detroit Free Press] May
2015 headline: Movie blogger Gil Marina found dead of suicide
Some comments posted on social media re
Marina suicide: HE BLEW HIS HEAD OFF WITH A SHOTGUN!!! /// theysaid his head
wuz pulverized. unrecunizable. had 2 ID him wif fingerprints /// ALL bloggers
should follow suit /// LOL
Q. Why do you seem afraid?
A. I’m not.
Q. You look spooked.
A. I don’t like where this
Q. Relax. Headed? It’s an
interview, that’s all.
A. Then get on with it.
Q. OK. [pause] Who’s Lyman
Art gallery ART/IFICE: Ann
Zeno’s show is scoffed at. (Behind her back, of course.) The homosexual critics
hate it the most: the hairless esthete with the bowtie and martini; the metro
gadfly/essayist who does nearly as much coke as Janet.
- Brat. She bought her way into this gallery with daddy’s money.
- She’s probably fucking him.
Who? Her father?
She went to CCS.
That explains the absence of talent.
It’s not even shocking. Nothing is anymore. It’s kitsch.
It’s insalubrious. This show should’ve come with Purell.
the canvases with their indefinite auburn-reddish streaks and smears look
virtually identical. The hook is the paint is menstrual blood. Janet’s. She
named the show The Flow of Months.
Punning, coked out, faux depth – Janet Zeno deserves contempt.
shifty man in all black – black jeans, crow-black hair, black boots and black
coat – with a bloodless alabaster face of haunted determination (as though he
hasn’t slept in weeks) jerks a few jerky, twitchy looks at the Zeno images and,
hands – fists – thrust in his pockets, blurts out, exclaims really, tourettic:
“Shit! This isn’t art; it’s fuck-all!”
subtly backstabbing mock-gasp, others giggle. The barely visible DJ doesn’t
cease spinning, but his set is so ambient it’s somehow less than sound, like
flustered and coke-edged, elbows and shoulders all sharp geometries, hands off
her champagne glass like a baton and marches petulantly toward the man in all
black. He sees her coming and seems almost contrite, now, his expression
Stern, Janet is. “If you don’t like my art –“
it the word art that snaps some
safeguard in him?
happens fast and slow, stroboscopic almost – the grim man yanks Janet’s head
back savagely. She real-gasps. The man’s other hand comes up – a box-cutter.
The retractable razorblade jags a deep wound in Janet’s long neck. And again
and again, hacking now, as though he’s lancing the trachea in some gruesome
spastic mimesis of desperate, wild surgery. A choke-blood erupts messily. It burbles.
scream. The bow-tie-wearing critic faints. 911 is dialed by numerous people at
once. All but a few flee.
madman jerks Janet’s head around by the hair, controlling the head, aiming the
arterial gusher so that its rocketing blood soaks the nearest incandesced
canvas: new blood on old blood.
officers pour in like blue lava.
Ann Arbor Police Station
Interview with Phil Marina /
DB: You don’t look like such
a bad guy. I read the report and expected a monster in that chair.
PM: I’ve seen things,
DB: Hells? Plural, huh?
PM: Iterations. Fucking
DB: You see things.
PM: Inadvertent invocation,
detective. Accidents. Apocalyptic accidents. And I always thought our species
would knowingly destroy itself. [dry
laugh] Not at all. The artists are the killers, detective.
DB: Miss Zeno, you mean?
PM: The destroyers – they’re
of no consequence. Wars? War doesn’t even account for a significant reduction
in population; did you know that, detective? It’s the creators. They’re
the threat. The ones Wren called the little gods.
DB: I heard about your
brother Gil’s suicide. That must’ve affected you deeply.
PM: Gil. He looked into the
abyss and the abyss grinned, detective.
The abyss – it had teeth. [maniacal laughter]
DB: Phil. Why did you kill
Janet Zeno? Did you know her?
PM: He showed me the world,
unfiltered. It ruined my mind, detective. Wholly.
DB: Who showed you, Phil?
PM: Lyman Alder.
infants are God’s art. They’re His
sculptures. The Twin Towers: performance art. A high-school prom-toilet
abortion: objet trouvé. A serial killer’s mutilated-then-dumped prostitute: art
installation. War: man’s greatest theater, with its extremes Shakespeare
couldn’t even dream of. Such a torrential, elemental force, art/war is, so
great that, like grit off a hurricane, smaller artworks of magnitude spiral out
from it: novels, films, memoirs, paintings. War. Art. War.
But no. No. Phil Marina told you already: it
isn’t the tanks and armed units that annihilate.
It’s the artists.
What follows is a possibly
apocryphal biographical sketch of Lyman Alder:
Lyman Alder’s house is a
bench in Palmer Park
Lyman Alder’s mother died in
a fire at Eloise, a psychiatric hospital where she was a resident
Lyman Alder wrote a “novel”
called Trash Fish Automat, a roman ŕ clef
penned in illegible scrawls on bar napkins, food wrappers, leaves, fruit rind,
religious pamphlets, newspaper margins, and other detritus the streets of
Lyman Alder lost 98-percent
of the novel; the wind “stole” it
Lyman Alder somehow got ahold
of a 1993 camcorder around 2014
Lyman Alder made an
incomplete written list of works that aren’t true feral art but show glimpses
of feral artiness [randomly selected sampling from the list: Wishman’s A Night
to Dismember, Wintergate’s Boardinghouse,
Things (1989), Roller Blade, Dialing for
Dingbats, Nathan Schiff’s Vermillion
Eyes, Zelda Fitzgerald’s
unpublished novel, YouTube’s Alan Tutorial… (numerous dark web videos
A list of true feral
The morning star’s Hades
Paul Bernardo and Karla
Homolka’s home movies
Any suicide note
Chiaki Takashita’s diary
[teenage years: 1989-1992]
Orlando, Florida’s Mystery
Fun House [closed]
Lyman Alder’s untitled video
I know Lyman Alder better
than anyone. Which is to say not that well at all really, but still. The thing
is, you’ve got crackpots and then you got reasonable people. Between them you
got interpretation. It’s like the old chicken-or-the-egg quandary, maybe. I
mean, reasonable people think Chapman was a loon who shot a Beatle and fixated
on that Salinger book. Then you got some crackpots, see, and they believe that
that book made Chapman pull the
Q: Your brother Phil,
A: We’re estranged.
Q: He torched a video store
in Clawson. Two days after you wrote
about the same store on your blog.
Q: Some hipster place.
Q: OK? You write about
Thompson Video for your blog and –
A: It’s not my blog. It’s a site. I’m a freelancer.
Q: - and less than 48 hours
later the store’s burned down by your brother.
We got him on surveillance lugging a fucking can of gas right up to the front
door. In the parking lot your brother leaves behind a VHS tape, some kind of
homemade movie –
A: I don’t want to know.
Q: - a movie, Gil. That’s a little, you know, odd. The two detectives who viewed it
have been behaving so goddamn strange we had to refer them to –
A: Yeah yeah. Infinite Jest. The
Ring. I know this story. Whatever.
A: Artworks that kill. This
one makes you kill, that one makes you rape or suicide or arson. It’s like Remote
Control. The Lieberman movie.
Only that’s not it. It’s not the movie.
Q: Intimate Jest and what? Ring
A: It’s not the work, you fucking idiot. [pause] It’s
Ghost in the magnetic tape?
Blow-by-blow description of
the content of the Lyman Alder video. Pulled from the site Reports From the
Deep Web. [NOTE: The legitimacy of this description has been called into
No credits or prefatory
material. Static for a few seconds then footage cuts in abruptly. No fade-in or
Crappy ‘90s video. AFV quality.
Camera pans across city
park. Day. Sun-shocked. Handheld technique is amateurish, shaky. Offscreen, the
videographer, presumably Lyman Alder, announces: “This here… is… is uh… a Lyman
Alder production.” Shot lasts nearly seven minutes. This should be agonizingly
boring, but as Lyman begins playing with the camcorder’s zoom feature (around
the two-minute mark) something imperceptible but incontestable happens. Change
in the lighting? Camera speed? Whatever it is, this uneventful footage grows
Viewers at this point report
feeling an overwhelming premonition of “shrieking horror.” Something
unspeakable is close to occurring. What, though, no viewer can really say.
Camera, hideously, begins
zooming in, sniperlike, on single women: joggers, professionals on lunch
breaks, et al. Worse, families. With children.
There is a nauseating sense
of leering, as though the viewer is
complicit in what’s become a “gruesome selection process” by the videographer.
It is as though what is happening is now in
real time. A feed. A live stream.
Jarringly, the footage cuts
to LOUD static, which causes the viewer to flinch.
Static cuts in to a
brownish-black. Lens cap is on. We hear a woman’s muffled gagging and what
sounds, horrifyingly, like a child’s broken sobbing. Viewers report, without
exception, that this is the tape’s most disturbing moment. Which is difficult
to believe (if you haven’t seen it, that is), considering what follows:
Lens cap’s torn from the
camera. Sudden brightness blinds the frame. Cam swings wildly. We’re shown a
city alley. See an abandoned shopping cart. On the asphalt is a small white and
blue shoe. For a baby’s foot. It is spattered in wet blood. Fresh blood. A
woman offscreen screams: “My baby!” The sound of this scream is clearly not
The footage once again cuts
For nearly three minutes the
screen is black. We hear a man breathing. It’s either lascivious or labored,
Footage resumes. For the
first time, the camera is stationary, not handheld. (This writer believes Lyman
Alder set the camera on a dumpster lid or garbage can, as we are again in a
city alley and the shot is medium.)
Alley’s dead end.
Lyman Alder, a
fortysomething black man, heavyset, garbed in what look like cast-off rags,
staggers into frame.
His hands, chest, chin and
mouth are painted in wet blood. Blood not his. He appears exhausted. He
stumbles, drags his feet.
Lyman has a brown bottle of
beer in his right hand. He strikes the brick wall with the bottle, shattering
its bottom into a jagged cavity.
He braces himself, planting
a wetly red left palm on the wall. Without preamble or hint of any kind, he
begins mechanically, almost drunkenly, stabbing himself in the throat with the
busted bottle. His tongue protrudes grotesquely. His eyes bug out. His throat
becomes a ragged, dripping wound. On stab #5 the bottle gets stuck and the
bottle’s opening acts as a spigot, assisting the blood on its way out.
Lyman Alder collapses out of
frame, where he certainly bleeds to death.
And now comes the tape’s
most enigmatic and talked-about moment: someone
turns the camera off.
Ann Arbor Police Station
Interview with Phil Marina /
DB: I interviewed your
brother a couple days before he pulled the Cobain.
DB: He blamed this Lyman
Alder video for your arson schtick. And the video you left –
PM: I didn’t leave any
PM: I burnt the store. I
slashed that dumb cunt’s throat. I tell you all this and you think I’d lie about
leaving a fucking videotape at the
scene. Gimme a break.
DB: I’m a cop, Phil. In
copworld, in life, things add up, and this, this –
PM: In life things add up?
What life are you living, detective?
DB: This Lyman Alder was a
homeless Detroiter who killed himself in September 2014. Some drunk crack
addict. Mental case. He had two arrests for indecent exposure. No Charlie
Manson, this guy, but you’re tellin’ me –
PM: Where’s the tape,
DB: Evidence locker. Why?
PM: He’s in the tape. You don’t have to watch it
to be affected by it. It’s radioactive. He or it will haunt this entire fucking
goddamn jail. Infect it.
DB: [sighs] I’m just going
to turn you over to the psych, OK Phil?
PM: I don’t care.
DB: Neither do I. I get my
paycheck either way.
Ann Arbor station where Phil Marina is being held is a small, quiet place. It’s
not a jail proper, just two holding cells, primarily for drunk and disorderly U
of M students. The holding cell Phil’s in is white and the harsh overheads
remain on 24/7.
stares at the white wall. It’s not unlike a drive-in screen. On the wall, over
and over like a loop, plays clips and bits from the Alder tape. Over and over.
And Phil thinks about putting an end to himself just to stop the images.
3:22 AM and the police station’s quieter than a morgue. The one sound, the only
sound apart from the faint buzz of
the lights, is coming from the black VHS tape shut up in the green evidence
one can hear it though.
from the plastic tape, muted by its plastic case, is the video’s audio – sans
VCR or speakers of any kind. The
tape is whispering its horrible audio track, its wind noise and woman screaming
and baby crying and awful choking suicide.
VHS tape isn’t alive. No. There’s something dead
on the tape’s thin ribbon. Spectral information has been stored on the magnetic
Will Bernardara Jr. is the author of the
novel America (voidfront press). His stories have appeared in The Society of
Misfit Stories, Grotesque Quarterly, and Underbelly Magazine. He is a
co-founder of the criminal artist collective The Tender Wolves Society.
Sean O’Keefe is
an artist and writer living in Roselle Park, NJ. Sean attended Syracuse University
where he earned his BFA in Illustration. After graduation, Sean moved to New York
City where he spent time working in restaurants and galleries while pursuing various
artistic opportunities. After the birth of his children, Sean and family move
to Roselle Park in 2015. He actively participates in exhibitions and art fairs
around New Jersey, and is continuing to develop his voice as a writer. His
work can be found online at
www.justseanart.com and @justseanart on Instagram.