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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Mark Morrisroe Day

 

‘I, Mark Morrisroe pledge to coldly use and manipulate everyone who can help my career. No matter how much I hate them I will pretend that I love them. I will fuck anyone who can help me no matter how aesthetically unpleasing they are to me.’ — Mark Morrisroe, 1985

‘Mark Morrisroe was an outlaw on every front—sexually, socially, and artistically. He was marked by his dramatic and violent adolescence as a teenage prostitute with a deep distrust and a fierce sense of his uniqueness. I met him in Art School in 1977; he left shit in my mailbox as a gesture of friendship. Limping wildly down the halls in his torn t-shirts, calling himself Mark Dirt, he was Boston’s first punk. He developed into a photographer with a completely distinctive artistic vision and signature. Both his pictures of his lovers, close friends, and objects of desire, and his touching still-lifes of rooms, dead flowers, and dream images stand as timeless fragments of his life, resonating with sexual longing, loneliness, and loss.’ — Nan Goldin

‘Mark Morrisroe’s biography bears the tenor of a tragic, love- and fame-driven star doomed to fizzle too soon for the likes of those standing awed and breathless beneath it. A teenage hustler and a prostitute, he spent the second half of his years with a bullet in his back, flirting with his spine. Dauntless, he made it to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He palled around with Nan Goldin and David Armstrong, and eventually moved to New York, in the mid-1980s, where he pursued a brief yet scintillating career as a photographer and an artist. He died of AIDS-related illness in 1989, at age 30.’ — Matt McCann

‘I never met the notorious Mark Morrisroe, but I must have seen every one of his shows, beginning in the mid-’80s, at Pat Hearn’s now mythic galleries in New York’s East Village. In ’85, it was a works-on-paper group show at her slick Avenue B storefront, featuring Morrisroe, Donald Baechler, George Condo, Philip Taaffe and others. In ’86, it was a solo at her imposing 9th Street space (between avenues C and D), where she presented a full range of Morrisroe’s photography: “sandwich” prints (as he called them) in big dark frames, small prints from Polaroid negatives, and “early darkroom experiments” using found materials—from gay porn magazines and such—printed in negative.

‘Morrisroe’s work became better known after his death, as Hearn, his devoted old friend from Boston, staged a series of memorial shows, in 1994, ’96 and ’99. Hearn, who inherited his estate and more than anyone else shaped, curated and pushed his work, also died young, at 45, in 2000; and, like that of so many artists whose lives and careers were cut tragically short by AIDS, Morrisroe’s work was put in considerable risk. When Pat’s husband, the maverick dealer Colin de Land—who had been trying to place the estate—died at 47 in 2003, it seemed like the two dealers’ engaged and unorthodox way of working was going to disappear.

‘Role-playing and gender-bending youths — artists and others — populate Morrisroe’s photographs: 20-somethings getting naked, donning high heels and wigs, trying on identities. This is the culturally specific world of Boston in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when high punk ruled and Morrisroe and his friends from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (where he got a scholarship) were cutting up, living on the edge and documenting each other’s every move. Among them were Hearn, Nan Goldin, David Armstrong, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, and Doug and Mike Starn, who with Morrisroe and others were dubbed the “Boston School” of photography in a show at the city’s Institute of Contemporary Art in 1995.

‘Morrisroe, by all reports, was the most out-there and diabolically ambitious of them all. “If Mark didn’t have art he would have been a serial killer,” remarked his friend Pia Howard, one of many choice quotes printed large on the wall at the entrance to the Winterthur show. Indeed, as we read in Gruber’s biographical essay, Morrisroe’s mother was a severely depressed alcoholic, and his father was absent. The artist often claimed that his father was Albert De Salvo, the Boston Strangler (who was in fact his mother’s landlord and lived nearby). As a precocious teenager who changed high schools and left home early, Morrisroe styled himself “Mark Dirt” and worked as a hustler in order to raise enough money to get his own apartment; he also found time to graduate from high school. At the age of 17, he was shot in the spine by one of hisclients; after several weeks in the hospital, he willed himself to walk again, though with a noticeable limp.’ — Brooks Adams

‘It kills me to look at my old photographs of myself and my friends. We were such beautiful, sexy kids but we always felt bad because we thought we were ugly at the time. It was because we were such outcasts in high school and so unpopular. We believed what other people said. If any one of us could have seen how attractive we really were we might have made something better of our lives.’ — Mark Morrisroe, 1988

 

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Manifesto

 

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Video works

‘Between 1981 and 1984, Mark Morrisroe made three films on Super-8 sound—underground home movies filled with thrift-store costumes, cheapo gore, trashy dialog, and gratuitous nudity, starring himself and his friends as performers. The Laziest Girl in Town features the transvestite antics of Morrisroe, Stephen Tashjian (Tabboo!), and Jack Pierson, culminating in an obscene sequence reminiscent of John Waters’ Pink Flamingos. The trio continued two years later with Hello from Bertha, loosely based on a one-act drama by Tennessee Williams about a prostitute dying in a fleabag bordello, played out in a Boston bedroom with spotty Southern accents and loose wigs. Morrisroe’s longest film, Nymph-O-Maniac, tells the story of a portly phone sex operator and her insatiable girlfriends, one of whom comes to a grisly end at the hands of two sadistic young toughs. Considered together, these works illuminate the social milieu of Morrisroe’s early life as an artist, but also locate the development of his creative sensibilities at the historical juncture of camp and punk.’ — Artists Space


Excerpt from “Hello from Bertha”


Excerpt from “Nymph-O-Maniac”


Excerpt from “The Laziest Girl in Town”

 

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Dirt

‘You hear what we hear’ – the thoughtful, reassuring motto that opens the inaugural issue of Dirt, a photocopied fanzine that ‘dares to print the truth’ – is a good metaphor for the bare-all philosophy of Mark Morrisroe’s work. The tongue-in-cheek irony (‘Advertise in the magazine everybody reads’), fake news reports, irreverent hearsay, celebrity clippings, blind-item gossip and guest editorials that grace Dirt’s cut-and-pasted pages live up to its guiding principle to keep its readership informed. Co-edited by Morrisroe together with Lynelle White from 1975–6, and titled after the name its primary writer used when he hustled – Mark Dirt – the indelicately collaged pages of alternately typed and hand-written ‘exclusives’ express an individual aesthetic which was driven by editors happy to exploit their readers; generous submissions of personal photos were strongly encouraged, for example (‘nude ones especially welcome’), while entreaties to divulge any unconfirmed gossip (‘Slander your friends!’) were every issue’s back page. Dirt was a small, short-lived, but confidently written operation. Like his later output, which includes thousands of gum prints, silkscreens, Polaroids (often either of himself or of young friends unclothed or in drag), it served as a modest means for a young Morrisroe, then aged 17, to gain attention from the world around him.’ — Frieze

 

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Photographs

 

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Ephemera

 

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2 lectures

José Esteban Muñoz ‘Mark Morrisroe: Neo-Romantic Iconography and the Performance of Self’

Collier Schorr ‘Mark Morrisroe: Photographic Process and Psychic Structure’

 

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Further

Mark Morrisroe @ Wikipedia
‘Viewing Mark Morrisroe: Whimsy in the Face of Danger’
‘Mark Morrisroe: From This Moment On’
‘9 pm to 5am: Underground Boston and Mark Morrisroe’
‘Love From Bertha: Queer World-Making In The Art Of Mark Morrisroe’
‘Exposed for Eternity: Mark Morrisroe’s Walk on the Wild Side’
‘Mark Morrisroe’s Self-Portraits and Jacques Derrida’s “Ruin”‘
Video: ‘FOTOGRAFIE: MARK MORRISROE’
‘All the Cat Photographs in Mark Morrisroe’s 2011 Publication’
‘The Tragi-Comedy of Mark Morrisroe’
‘Moving images that belie their brutal undertones’
CINDY SHERMAN ‘Untitled (In honor of Mark Morrisroe)’
‘Mark Morrisroe’s Battered Brilliance’
‘Emotional Metaphors – Discourse on Animals in the Work of Mark Morrisroe’
Jameson Fitzpatrick ‘Morrisroe: Erasures’
Mark Morrisroe books @ Amazon

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. Interview Magazine just published an interview with me about ‘Permanent Green Light’ and other stuff including this very blog. It’s here if you want to read it. ** Steve Erickson, Yeah, very. A very palpable loss of someone in the heat of what he did. Everyone, Steve Erickson … he’ll tell you. Steve: ‘Here’s my interview with cinematographer and accomplished mountain climber Renan Ozturk. He shot the documentary MOUNTAIN, which opens in New York today.’ … and … ‘Here’s my debut piece for the Nation, an album review of the Flatbush Zombies’ VACATION IN HELL.’ May the Nation hoard you. ** David Ehrenstein, Ha ha, whatever happened to Freddie ‘Boom Boom’ Cannon, I wonder? And why was he called ‘Boom Boom’? Oh, I would happily host a show that booked those dudes. Thank you. ** Sypha, Hi. Yeah. I never met him, but he was such a constant, active presence on Facebook that I always felt like if I met him we could just start blabbing like friends. Wow, what a cool job your bro got. I like bowling. I like bowling balls. Their scale vs. weight is really cool, not to mention those charismatic, triangle shaped three holes. I bowl. That’s awesome. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Almost accomplished. Gisele liked the episode. She had changes for us. I’m implementing them this morning, and then … yeah, it might be accomplished. The concert is an experimental music thing, I think mostly with actual instruments rather than electronic, and my visiting friend James Rushford is performing, and that’s why I’m going, although it sounds promising in general. I found out yesterday that I spaced out and missed Iceage playing here on last Monday. I’m kind of crushed because I’m so curious to see how they play the new record’s songs live, and I’ve been wanting to reconnect with Elias (their singer) to say hi and talk about some stuff. Go Aquaria! Yesterday I did that Gisele meeting, and I met with Kiddiepunk to finalise the new gif book (publication date: May 29), and just usually stuff otherwise. Do you work today? I forget. Have a splendid weekend, and fill me in. ** Jamie, Hi, hi. Well, Jamie, I daydream about being given a plot of land in an amusement park and 1,000,000+ dollars and carte blanche to create any attraction I want quite, quite often, but I think it’s probably not so easy. Several years ago, Gisele and I co-curated a festival at the Pompidou, and I invited the head Imagineer at Disneyland Paris to give a talk, and he accepted, and I had planned to hit him up, pump him, etc., but then our budget got cut, and his gig was forcibly cancelled. It is very true that designing and building at least one dark ride before I die is a bucket list thing. But at least Zac’s and my new film is set in a haunted house attraction, so we’ll get to design that and build a fake at least. I’m good, thanks. Yes, the new gif book comes out on May 29th, and it consists of 7 animated gif short stories, and it’s titled ‘Zac’s Coral Reef’. Gisele says she wants Zac and me on set during the shooting to give our opinions and also to advise her since she’s never directed anything that wasn’t on a stage before apart from one music video for Sunn0)))/Scott Walker. We want to do that. I guess it’ll depend on whether she can arrange that on whatever budget the show ends up having. Hm, dilemma, about the new cartoon with Jonathan. When do you need to decide? Yeah, that’s a toughie, although of course I like the idea, but of course I wasn’t privy first hand to the shitty stuff with him. I hope your work on the web series goes extremely fruitfully. Mm, I like the title, but … maybe it needs just a bit more energy or something? Maybe there’s quality of familiarity about it? Maybe the word ‘Dispatches’ is a bit soft? Hm, I don’t know. I guess my first impression is a little mixed? Sorry. But I don’t know what it is, and that could make all the difference. That is spooky, and it’s also spooky because, as I was writing it, I thought, What if he gets a haircut today? Would that be good or bad luck? Love that forks everything over, Dennis. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Well, my overgrown adolescent side brought drool to my current, very adult mouth/face at those leaked Nintendo plans. Yes, I don’t know Frightened Rabbit’s music, but that is a very haunting story and terrible news. ** Liquoredgoat, Hi D. Yeah, really bad, bad news about Adam Parfrey. Thanks for digging into ‘TMS’, and, yeah, I shook the shit up a bit in that one. Take care, buddy. ** Misanthrope, Dude, go to a motherfucking amusement park. What the hell is wrong with you?! There are six amusement parks in your general vicinity just waiting to change your life! Cool beans about the seeming mess revealing itself as a launching pad. That’s a lot of concussions. Have you had a concussion? I don’t think I ever have. I always thought they were super minor little annoyances, but they’re not, they screw your head the hell up, or they can. Wine in the Woods sounds awfully civilised. Maybe too civilised? But you’ll change that, won’t you? ** John Fram, Well, hi there, John! Long time no see and good to see ya! I’m good. Fresh … nothing truly fresh, mostly a lot of continuing things being continued. Dude, big congrats on submitting your novel! 630 pages is a whopper! Well, by my standards, I guess. Oh, you’ll write again. PNS (Post-Novel Stress) doesn’t last that long. I think it gets easier, yeah, but I don’t think I get PNS. I think I was always daydreaming the next novel into early shape by the time I finished one or something. May your advance and/or sales send you flying headlong to Paris! Take care, sir. ** Okay. Any of you guys know the work of Mark Morrisroe? It’s very special stuff that I think will interest you if you don’t. That’s the substance of the local portion of your weekend, folks. See you on Monday.

20 Comments

  1. David Ehrenstein

    May 12, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    Mark Morrisoe came from the fringes of Planet Homo, wiped out by The Plague. He was far edgier than Mapplethorpe, and stylistically related to Basquiat in some ways.

    Basquiat seems more alive today than when he walked the earth

    I heard from Ira Silverberg. He thinks that “Raised By Hand Puppets” would be seen more as a compendium of previously published pieces than an original work and therefore would have a tough time getting published. I tried to explain to him that it was a mixture of new and unpublished pieces as well as old ones and had a definite shape and form, but he seems dubious. Nothing will deter me.

    It’s Irving Berlin’s Birthday

    • “Nothing will deter me.”

      Yay! I love that, David.

    • Ghost of Joe Strummer

      May 14, 2018 at 5:29 am

      It’s amazing to me after all these years; and with all the information available on the internet; that people still believe the official narrative on the origins of AIDS.
      The Plague? Really? AIDS was designed as a biological weapon, and it had a very specific targeted population. It’s not a “conspiracy theory”; the 17+ intelligence agencies have pretty much always had unlimited budgets, zero oversight and no accountability. “Evil” Russia came out with the info in the early 1980’s, but it was quickly debunked by the Gay establishment who longed to be accepted by mainstream society.

  2. Ohhhhh, Mark Morrisroe. I believe I first saw his work at one of the Pat Hearn shows in the mid-90s. I know Mark is not husband material, but that wouldn’t have stopped me.

    Congratulations on the Interview article, Dennis! Steve, congratulations on the Nation piece! This reading combo will be a perfect start to the weekend.

    Jiri Barta is turning out to be more eclectic than I expect; the early animations are less dark and not very Svankmajer-esque at all. Still fun though.

    Bill

  3. Dennis, Mark Morrisoe’s photography is stellar and stunning. I’m an instant fan.

    I read the Interview…interview. That last question and answer is sublime. I totally agree with you there.

    Yeah, I know, right? I gotta get my ass to an amusement park this summer. It’ll happen, I’m sure. (As long as I don’t forget.)

    It’s interesting, this going off the rails in this bit. How it happened, which it never really has before, and then the frustration about it that turned into a bit of a eureka moment. I just totally didn’t do what I set out to do and it turned into a bit of shit that fermented into my seeing what I really wanted to do. Very interesting to me.

    I’ve probably had a concussion before, I don’t know. Seems it doesn’t take much, and they do indeed fuck you up. It seems, too, that the little ones that are repeated over and over and that you don’t really identify as concussions at the time are the worst. You know what athletes get tons of those mini-concussions? Swimmers. The constant banging their heads against the water as they come up for breath and then slam back down to swim. I read an article about it about a year ago. The coaches would say, “Ah, you got swimmer’s ear” or some such, but really, they were getting all these little mini-concussions.

    Hahaha, yes, quite civilized, this wine festival. Indeed. I feel really out of place at things like that, which is probably why I go. I guess that most of the things I do are very civilized, though in my head, I’m like, “I want to fuck this shit up.” But I don’t. However, as is my (unintentional or not) wont, I’ll end up saying or doing something that’ll make everyone feel uncomfortable/uneasy and then the rest of the day’ll be shot. At least for them. 😛

  4. Hello Dennis!

    I’ll say it out loud: Mark Morrisroe is a god.
    Thank you for this day!

  5. Hi!

    Oh my god! This is such a mindblowing post! I can’t tell you how much I love Mark Morrisroe’s work (and person)! Thank you so much!

    I’m so sorry about the missed Iceage gig. I just got a notification on facebook, but literally at this very second, and holy shit, HOLY SHIT, they’re playing here on the 12th of July!! You’re very welcome to join! You once mentioned some vague plans to work on a music video together, or is this memory just wishful thinking on my part?
    Wow!! The new GIF work’s publication day is very, very close! I can’t wait to read it! Oh, and congratulations on the article/interview in Interview Magazine! I just finished reading it and I liked it a lot!

    I had a good day today. I met a friend and we visited this tiny, hidden pub and it was raining on and off but we were sitting under the crown of a huge tree so we didn’t get soaked. And now the news about Iceage. I’m feeling great. And tomorrow’s free-style day, as almost always. I can’t wait!
    How’s your weekend, Dennis? Could you finally finish and send Episode #3 on its way?

  6. Amazing post.

  7. David S. Estornell

    May 13, 2018 at 1:14 am

    Just wow quelle post! ! !
    I would like to meet you maestro, un café? un beer?

  8. Hey Dennis, how are you? Amazing Mark Morrisroe day–I’ve seen exhibits of his work a couple time and always so blown away. Did you know him at all or ever meet him? He must have been intense to be around. Looking forward to checking out the Interview piece on you guys. How have the film fest showings for PGL gone? Are you excited about being part of the Venice Biennale? Alistair xo

  9. Great PGL interview. I think one of the things I notice often about people my age as opposed to those of other generations including younger&older (16-25, as a broad banner, though maybe that’s too wide?) is that few people are wrapped up in their own wants and preoccupations. Are we worse at identifying them? Is everyone bad at identifying want? Or is it just my own individual circles? Just general anecdotal stuff, but, yeah. I’ve restarted watching Arrested Development. I only saw six episodes before; and I do like it despite the kind of budget feel it has. I figured it’s about time, I’ve wanted something light and comedic to watch and go along with while I dive into all the intense heady Philip Ridley work etc…. did I miss the exciting PGL/Farley news or is it simply not announced yet?

    J

  10. I just learned about the Paris stabbing. I hate the common tendency to assume that everyone one knows who lives in a city of millions is directly affected, and in fact in physical danger, when something like this, but I assume this must be worrying, at the very least. Are you, Yury and your friends OK?

    As far as youth, I was encouraged to learn that Anthology Film Archives’ current 18-year-old intern does a college radio show focusing on “femme and queer booty bap” (I looked at her last two playlists and, in practice, this means 80% female rappers) and in June, she is changing the concept to “consumer electronics” (I didn’t fully understand the idea as she explained it, but it’s connected to video game music – I recommended an album I have by Yellow Magic Orchestra member Haroumi Hosono literally called VIDEO GAME MUSIC and directly inspired by iconic 80s games I recall playing as a child like XEVIOUS and DIG DUG.)

  11. Dennis!!
    Aw man, sorry I’ve been a total stranger lately, we’re so busy with that whole ‘getting a new place and having thirteen gazillion things to organize’ madness.
    All those really exciting life moments like ‘choosing a new electricity provider’ or ‘comparing 15 quotes for some overpriced kitchen work’, you know, the really civilized shit that we all live and breathe for. I keep thinking about my grandparents’ little wooden cabin in the forest with its raw earth floor and stuck-together tables and no electricity or running water and how that’s by far the best place I ever was and wondering what in the holy blue fuck this modern life is all about. Still, how would I drop by my ol’ pal Coop’s blog from my Walden-style forest cabin? I would not. So, you know. Swings and roundabouts.
    XX

  12. Yeah, great post this weekend, really digging a lot of these photographs.

    You bowl, Dennis? Amazing how I’ve been coming here for all these years now and I’m still learning new factoids about you. You’re a regular Russian matryoshka doll!

  13. What an awesome post Dennis. I love the colorfull sanwiches of Morrisroe and those boys in wigs, great and fun. I see that David Wojnarowicz has an upcoming whitney retrospective coming in July. Interesting to see him in the spotlight – he was also on the New York Time’s T magazine recently.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/17/t-magazine/culture-issue-editor-letter.html

    I’m trying to adapt to some heavy outside pressure in my private life. I kind of just have to do what is expected of me, move with the fear and all that. Glad to see your blog still kicking. Its realy very generous.

  14. Holy shit how have I not seen this stuff before? Complete convert here, completely stunning. I actually recognize his face from Nan Goldin photos I think?

  15. Dennis, loved these photographs. New to me too. Your interviews are so good. It really seems to be happening with my new novel (actually old novel) – so maybe this fall or early next year. Doing final revisions now. Can’t wait to send it to Sarah Kane’s brother when it’s out…he gave me permission to use a quote from Sarah, which is my opening quotation, and then send it care of Sarah’s agent at Casarotto Ramsay in London. I’ll finally be able to say what I want about all this. And it ‘s gonna be good!

  16. Gisele directed for Sunn O))) ??? dope

  17. John A. Weingardt

    August 4, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    Dennis,

    Thank you so very much for your extensive post on Mark Morrisore. As an angry and scared punk traveling back and forth between San Francisco during the late 1970s-1980s, I was truly lost. Gay and well below the age of consent, I had no idols, nor the realization that other kids like myself were stuck in the same emotional and psychological trap. Graduating from high school as we were just starting to hear rumors about the so-called ‘gay cancer’ had me convinced there truly was no future…

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