Kyle P. Silvers attends University of Wisconsin Marathon-County. He is Chief Editor of student newspaper The Forum. His interests include philosophy and journalism. I met Kyle during the formation of my group Hang Our Bed Sheets Upside Down a place for art adventurers and those kept from the mainstream.
The following conversation took place online.
Forson: For many men and women my generation life more or less began with Woodstock. This was the era of sex drugs and rock and roll. Sex took on a whole new means. I think about Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” where he sings about making love in the green grass behind the stadium to the sex and cocaine of 70’s Studio 54 to the AIDS epidemic. 90’s more or less was the “Hot” decade where heroin and sex, literature and the post feminist came to fruition. How has sex drugs and rock and roll continued to affect your generation. What purpose does it serve now? Is it like David Byrne said same as it ever was?
Silvers: Sex drugs and rock and roll are universal. Sex is a major part of my generation. Rock and roll has gone to hell though. You have to page back through the decades to feel the full sex drugs and rock and roll experience. The west brought all that to everyone else around the world those who were still living in the 13th century. It's obvious there has been major cultural backlash from conservative cultures such as the mid east region.
Forson: I look back at the point and time in the 50’s when rock and roll surfaced. James Dean and Marilyn Monroe represented the male and female persona. Circumstantially the male and female ideal has changed with each decade following.
Silvers: When Marilyn Monroe sang Happy Birthday to JFK I feel that was a major turning point in sex and politics. The way she delivered it just poured sex into the realm of politics with her almost ghostly voice. I feel since my birth in 1990 I have lived in a world where Warhol’s idea of 15 minutes of fame has become available to all.
Forson: What we have now in this current state of mind is the inability to be oneself. I remember a radio station here in New York WLIR had a tag line "Dare To Be Different." What made pop stars like Cindy Lauper, Lena Lovich and in fine art Keith Haring and Basquiat was their ability to develop a unique way of looking at the world.
Silvers: Throughout my own life I've been isolated by overprotective parents who have sheltered me from what they deemed dangerous, the world they came from, the 80s, the cocaine scene. I have developed my own unique viewpoint of the world. On some level I'm incredibly fortunate. But on another level I'm thrown to the wayside as some kind of intellectual terrorist as my failure to buy into the corporate game has made me an outsider.
Forson: I think what defines my generation is a sense of freedom to transcend music, fashion and pop culture. What centrally defined us was the ability to have certain people represent us in culture. Authors like Jay McInerny and Bret Easton Ellis, personas like John Lurie, artists like David Salle and Julian Schnabel, filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch and Spike Lee all contributed to developing our minds. What sense of history do you have in yourself? What moments or points in history do you value and are important to you in this day and time. Whether it is art or politics?
Silvers: My most vivid political memory would be of September 11, 2001. Being 11 years old at the time I remember feeling the deepest fear I had ever felt that the world was ending, that some kind of World War III was coming. 9/11 changed my life watching people jump out of buildings on the TV screen at school. I've never felt such fear as I did on that day, being that young. I think that shocked my entire generation.
Forson: I think then of John Lennon and The Beatles. They singularly represented for the universe the possibility of love and how it can be expressed innocently. What's your opinion on freedom of speech?
Silvers: Freedom of speech is alive but it's being abused. The Beatles channeled an era of hope, optimism and freedom. As Thoreau said for every thousand people hacking at the branches of evil there is one hacking at the root. People don't know where to direct their anger anymore. They just shoot whoever and then ask questions later. Fear permeates like blood.
Forson: We live this horror now that becomes progressively present in the stress for intellectual freedom. Richard Kern and his cast of characters beginning with Nick Zedd with whom he formed Transgressive Cinema, artist David Wojnarowicz and performance artist Lydia Lunch, actress Lung Leg created a cinematic and musical world where violence was expressed in shocking text and aggression I liken to the physical and emotional kill in sadomasochistic acts. Much of this was relevant to the punk movement. Whereas on the cover of Black Flag’s album Damaged a distressed male punches a hole into the mirror. In this current generation a person would likely stare into the mirror until they decide on plastic surgery. What is the relevance of the history of art to this current generation? How is art implemented in the day to day?
Silvers: Art is anything, really. I can smear my shit on the wall and call it 'Universe Farts' and someone will pay for it. Art today is anything with a price tag it seems. There are no real Warhols around today who permeate a whole generation’s idea of art. Art I feel has become in a way much freer as time has passed but also constrained by the freedom. Everything seems to have been done already so artists do these ridiculous things that people don't know what to think of. The boundaries have to be pushed and pushed and eventually you get into some pretty fucked up shit.
Forson: What about the Lady Gaga and Madonna debate.
Silvers: Lady Gaga and Madonna are very similar. They personify sexuality and sexual tension. Homosexuality and identity are major Gaga themes. With Madonna it was being a boy toy. We don't need anymore boy toys.
Forson: Madonna emanated from the art world. She dated Basquiat. She was quoted as saying “I’m gonna rule the world”. She did.
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Kofi Forson is a writer, POET and PLAYWRIGHT living in NYC. His current blog is BLACK COCTEAU, a mixture of philosophy and art on modern culture.