HOTT LAVA on Friday night at the Yellow Barn

In less than 24 hours, my friend Forest “the one man arts community of Ann Arbor” Juziuk, whom you might remember from the Corner Brewery’s men’s bathroom, will be hosting something in Ann Arbor called HOTT LAVA. In an effort to understand what it’s all about, I’ve asked Forest a few questions… Here are his responses:

hl4-sideMARK: So, what’s all this I hear about Hot Lava?

FOREST: Well, what do you want to know about HOTT LAVA?

MARK: Oh, there are two t’s? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to piss you off.

FOREST: And in caps! The origins of HOTT LAVA actually go back to my home ownership days in Ypsilanti. The Garland Street Men’s Society was a four-person social club that began in the wake of a divorce or two and was basically an excuse for me and a few pals to smoke Black & Mild upon Black & Mild and drink 5 o’Clock Vodka. This is all true. Brian (Hunter) even drew up a shrine. I eventually let a graffiti artist move into my house (the infamous-in-A2, “GARY”) and he was supposed to paint it on the garage. You can even see a bottle with a clock on it pointing to 5.

We didn’t just smoke tiparellos & drink bad booze — we also watched experimental film. It was “our thing” every Thursday. Eventually I put the kibosh on the Garland Street Men’s Society because it was just so gross. I don’t miss the smell of that room. Here’s what a typical GSMS get-together looked like. (You can click through the photos.)

Later on, (my girlfriend) Erin (Nicole Bratkovich) wanted to start something similar: a social club based around experimental film but without all the damage that us boys were prone to. We moved into a house on Summit in Ann Arbor and threw three or four HOTT LAVAs. They were all a lot of fun. I think 60 people came to the first one which was too many for our abode.

MARK: So, what’s happened since then? Would you say that it’s grown like a cancer, or just limped along painfully, like a turtle with shards of glass in its feet?

FOREST: Around the time that Erin & I were moving into a new house, we read an article about DVD compilations of experimental film crippling experimental film distribution. I suppose universities began to ask, “Why spend $40 on one of Brakhage’s shorter films when we can buy a comp of 26 of his films for the same amount?” There are plenty of reasons why someone shouldn’t do that and even more reasons a university shouldn’t. Or doesn’t have to. It’s ridiculous.

But I’m fairly anti-university anyway and that’s the only way you can see experimental film in the majority of the US. Ann Arbor used to have several experimental/avant-garde/arthouse/whatever venues that were ALWAYS showing experimental film but they disappeared. We figured that if we wanted to see these films and didn’t want to pay an insane amount to go to, I don’t know — U of M for example, to see them then perhaps we should create a way for anyone to see them if they wanted.

MARK: Have you found a receptive audience here?

FOREST: We’ve been extremely fortunate to find a fairly large audience. In our living room, we could fit about 30 people comfortably. At the last HOTT LAVA with Chicago Underground Duo, we accommodated 183 people. Much to our surprise, 400 people came to see Hausu over the course of two nights when we presented it at State Theatre. That film has rarely been seen in the US and was seen as a gamble for the theater despite IFC in New York holding it over for one or two months beyond its original schedule and the impending Criterion release.

Music has been a huge component of HL from the beginning and might be the real draw for some people. At the first HL, Benoit Pioulard of Kranky Records did a reprise of a score for Maya Deren’s ‘Meshes of the Afternoon’ commissioned by filmmaker Bill Morrison for an Anthology Film Archives benefit. When Benoit (real name Thomas) played at Anthology, Philip Glass and Bill Frisell played before him. Then he played the score in our living room. Haha. Since then, we’ve been extremely fortunate to host David Daniell & Doug McCombs, Mountains, Chicago Underground Duo, Windy Weber, Blues Control, and I’m really psyched for White/Light. HL is a great way to meet people we admire & want to work with.

Beyond the June 11 HL, we’re doing an event with Everything Is Terrible!, another HL in August with unFact (David Wm. Sims of Jesus Lizard) and Noveller (aka Sarah Lipstate, an amazing guitar played & filmmaker), and a traveling show. A few test runs of the traveling show will probably take place in Ypsi and Detroit before taking it out on the road for a week or two. We’re working on creating a literal TON of original content to take out on the road, put online, etc. We’re also hoping to screen a little-seen film called Dirty Tricks Done in the Park Like Three Quarks for Muster Mark Meant to Leave You in the Dark by John North Wright soon. Wright lived in Port Huron and shot hundreds of hours of VHS and Beta tapes mostly of him playing guitar or detailing his wild conspiracy theories. One of his films is six hours long. Dirty Tricks is probably his shortest.

MARK: So, how many different venues have you now explored, and where’s the June 11 event taking place?

FOREST: Our events have taken place at State Theatre and Yellow Barn in Ann Arbor and Dreamland Theater in Ypsilanti. We co-presented Flying Lotus’ live score for Harry Smith’s ‘Heaven & Earth Magic’ at Michigan Theater during the Ann Arbor Film Festival and are hoping to do something there this year. We’ll test drive the traveling show in Ypsilanti, probably at Dreamland, and in Detroit at Burton Theatre. For the tour, we plan to hit up traditional rock venues & microcinemas.

The June 11 event will take place at the Yellow Barn, which is a really great & perhaps under-utilized space. We bring our own screen, sound system and additional equipment. Today, I picked up 100+ chairs from a rental company. More info on the June 11 event is up at the HOTT LAVA site, which is about to get a makeover post-haste.

MARK: For people in the audience without computers, could you tell us what you have lined up for the 11th?

FOREST: Since HL has moved out of the house & into larger venues, Erin typically puts the programs together. Although I’m biased, I think many would agree that she has great taste in terms of selection & sequencing. She’s the backbone of HL. But since she’s studying in Italy for one month, Brian Hunter & I put the program together which if you know us probably means something weird in terms of content.

The first set might be the most damaged & psychedelic group of films we’ve put together, very peculiar and perhaps crude at times but no less stimulating than real brainy films. Fans of Kuchar & Waters-style drama & satire should take note as well as found film freaks. The second set is comprised of mostly b&w, euro-style films. Each one is a little longer & really beautiful. There’s a pretty strong Detroit contingent with a new piece of Dan Tower & Tom Carey and White/Light will score films by Alivia Zivich (of Demons & various other projects).

After HL proper, Geoff Perrin & I will DJ for a couple hours and a band called The Butchers will play a set. It should be good times. Dancing & gettin’ rowdy.

MARK: Will Erin be angry with you when she gets back?

FOREST: Haha. Nah. Thanks to modern technology, Erin & I get to talk a couple times a day. She picked several of the films & helped with the final sequencing.

MARK: So, you mentioned a tour. Where do you plan to take HL?

FOREST: We’re creating a map of bands & performers we’ve worked with as well as small theaters & venues around the US. Most likely we’ll hit Chicago first and make our way up to Portland, Maine. Then again, the map will decide the course so who knows. But the traveling show will be adaptable to almost any venue so who knows. Hopefully our cred will be sweet enough by late August that a lot of places will want to work with us.

MARK: What’s your objective with all of this? What do you see HOTT LAVA evolving into? Do you want to establish outposts in each of these towns?

FOREST: The idea to establish HL outposts in each town has come up. Chrysta Cherrie suggested organizing several HLs to occur in different towns on the same night & that sounds great. At this time, I suppose our main objective is to create more original content for tours, releases and even submissions to festivals & similar nights.

MARK: What do you say to people who tug on your mustache and tell you that they sometimes find “art” films to be tedius, boring and self-indulgent?

FOREST: I wish you could see the what’s-that-smell face I’m making right now because that would be my response. Were I in a really bitchy mood, I would think to myself, “Have you looked in the mirror lately?” The less bitchy response: “Have you ever turned on the radio? Did you see Up In The Air or season 3 of LOST?”

For the most part, we try to curate a genuinely entertaining program but you can’t do anything about anyone else’s taste. If someone finds a film to be tedious, boring and self-indulgent, it’s hard to say anything about it. So what, y’know? Often, the people that say things like that probably have not seen many great example of “art films” unless they went to film school or are creeps like us.

MARK: What turned you on to experimental film?

FOREST: My interest in experimental film probably started with any kids movie. Kids films are so WEIRD! It’s interesting how many times I’ve heard a friend remark that they watched one of their childhood films with their own kid & was struck by the weirdness & horror of the film. For example, how about the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz? They’re scary but kids are more often open to that weirdness that adults learn to shut out.

Between peculiar & beautiful short cartoons that played as bumpers between Nickelodeon shows and then MTV’s long gone super-weird experimental short film & animation show Liquid Television, I became aware of this strange & beautiful secret world that had nothing to do with my shitty junior high.

Liquid Television informed and reinforced a lot of my interests too. Was Not Was’ video for “Hello Dad, I’m in Jail” was on Liquid Television, Mark Mothersbaugh did the music, “Art School Girls Of Doom” was a serial that was hilarious & so odd, and probably steered me towards a certain kind of gal. “Dog Boy” was another serial on Liquid Television based on the comic book character created by Charles Burns who remains my favorite artist. Another brilliant comic artist, Richard Sala, had a serial called Invisible Hands that was great. Winter Steele… I could go on and on.

After Liquid Television, I rented Richard Kern’s films on VHS from a really shady/awesome video store in Port Huron (Water Street Video; now closed, sadly). This was probably during the first years of high school & I was really excited that the adult world may be like Richard Kern’s films which is kinda’ scary if you’ve seen them. But I fuggin’ LOVED them.

I’ve always had a deep interest in “counter-culture” in general & I consider film to be an incredibly powerful experience, more so than music which is what I spend most of my time involved with one way or another. Without sounding too cliche, experimental film is a gateway to this OTHER that doesn’t quite exist in normal reality. It’s only occurring to me now how escapist this all sounds but I’m so attracted to the creativity and this world that exists outside the one we live day-to-day that’s rich with intelligence, strangeness, and power… it’s hard to resist.

Also, I consider myself lucky to still have my mind blown ALL THE TIME. It seems like some people lose that or get jaded or whatever.

So, if you want your mind blown, you know where to go tonight…. Have fun.

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9 Comments

  1. Posted June 10, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the official posting for the event, which includes more on price, etc.

    (( HOTT LAVA IV )) – 8PM (films begin at 8:45PM)
    HOTT LAVA, the experimental film happening is happening again! We have two (2!!) programs of unseen face-melters, hair-raising laffs, the ultra beguiling & wildly gnarly tempered with that mysterious & otherworldly SOMETHING that the French probably had a word for but can’t be translated.

    Filmmakers of the local variety include but are not limited to: Dan Tower & Tom Carey, Jacob Mendel, Ted Kennedy, Blood Club, John North Wright, Johnny Apricot & many more TBA.

    Trailer:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loFfhJqmiB4

    WHITE/LIGHT, real names Jeremy Lemos & Matt Clark, is the musical guest dropping some seriously hot brain peel to some new/old works by ALIVIA ZIVICH. W/L have collabo’d with Steve Shelley (SONIC YOUTH), Rob Lowe (aka LICHENS), and just wrapped up a month-long residency at Museum Of Contemporary Art Chicago. For a short doc on the MCA residency, tune your browser here:
    http://alandelrio.net/whitelight/WHITE_FINAL_web.mov

    (( POST-LAVA BUT THAT NIGHT )) – 11:30PM – 2AM
    MYSTERY PARTY Vol. 2:
    DJs Forest Juziuk (Dark Matter) & Geoff Perrin (Strictly Modern) play hits in the genres of stomps, smashes, bangers, belters, shuffles, shimmies, sackers, stank ‘ims, pearls, rascals & the like.

    THE BUTCHERS will also be playing a set! Methinks this is their first spell in Michigan & they come highly recommended: http://www.myspace.com/smackoutmouth

    $5 to come to Mystery Party + The Butchers if you’re skipping the films (why would you do that?)

  2. Posted June 11, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    “For people in the audience without computers…” Really? Are there people reading this website without computers?

  3. Knox
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I think that’s what kids today would call humor.

  4. Kim
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I don’t mean to criticize, but I really wanted to go to this until I watched their trailer. And I know that’s unfair. I know that everything isn’t likely to be like that, but those flashing lights made me think that I was going to have a seizure.

  5. Posted June 11, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Kim, it’s not going to be like that. Maybe the title sequences prior to each film but nonetheless… Here’s the trailer for the last HL thing we did:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZgS8fYfcog

    It’s definitely more indicative of what you’d see.

  6. Posted June 11, 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Knox: I’m disappointed. I’d hoped that someone had created a direct brain-MM.com interface.

  7. townielover
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I think we all love and value what Forrest does, but can we please stop calling him the “one man arts community of Ann Arbor”? It’s embarrassing for all of us — including Forrest — who is probably just too nice to say so.

  8. Edward
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I’d be more likely to attend if it were called LUKE WARM VULVA.

  9. Doyle
    Posted December 18, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I miss putting on my high price denim skirt and going to Hott Lava events in Ann Arbor.

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