Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Saga Singularity and the Digital Art Scrolls of Will "Red" Blozen

by Drew Martin
Will “Red” Blozen is a middle-aged outside artist who lives in Boonton, New Jersey, a post-industrial city that saw its economy come and go with the production of Packard cars during the first half of the twentieth century. Red’s art combines pixelated video-game-like creations with pictographs and semiotics to create handheld epic sagas.

The first thing you should know about Red is that his initials WRB (including his nickname – he has bright red hair) mean a lot to him. He explains that his graphics can only be White, Red, and Black. When I mention the industry standard abbreviation for black, is the letter K. He replies, “The car industry? I thought it was T?” There is a pause, and then he looks out his window at the old Packard factory, where a rusted body of one of their earliest models sits like a billboard on the rooftop. “Cars are dying. It’s so sad. They could not adapt because no one wrote a future for them into their stories.”

The “stories” are the creation myths he is obsessed with and has been reading since he was seven years old. One thing he noticed early on was that although they share many types of characters and concepts, the characters themselves never appear in each others’ stories. “Where is Medusa in the Old Testament? Where is Moses in Greek mythology?” He asks with such a straight face, you could plumb a door with it.

The titles of Red’s stories reflect his mythological world vision. The picture here is from one of his gadgets (which he refers to as “chapters”). He has titled this chapter POed Medusa bears Moses for Topless Siren. In it a wild, red Medusa, with white arm-length gloves and a head of white snakes has impregnated herself with spores from a mushroom-sprouted phallus of a dead, armless albino Cyclops. She gives birth to a pale baby over a pipe that drops deep into the ground, where it empties into a subterranean canal full of a red liquid. It is simultaneously the blood of life and the lava of inner Earth. A topless, but full-skirted woman (the Siren) has lowered her bucket into this river Styx. A small, white ghost with red horns mounts her as she goes about her chores. This devilish conception will end with her lifting the baby boy from the well.

Boonton, is no longer a wealthy town. Red is not well off. In fact, he is dirt poor. He has never owned a new computer; all of his gadgets were picked out of the trash or picked up for the change in his pocket at yard sales. His room on the second floor of his father’s house is pack-ratish and smells of burnt solder. There are storage containers full of old adapters, joy sticks, and mother boards of all sizes. His shelves are stacked with mythological adventures and encyclopedic books about ancient cultures: Mayan, Incan, Aztec, and Egyptian. There are also a fair number of do-it-yourself plumbing books. Plumbing is a big part of Red's work. Canals, wells, drains, sewers, and fountains are the veins and arteries of his worlds.

The most impressive part of Red’s creations is that he makes the systems for creating his art. He writes the codes, creates his worlds and characters pixel by pixel, and he customizes the gadgets to limit their functions. Typically, a gadget’s input is limited to W, R, B keys, arrow keys and a few other select buttons. These are not slick devices; you would not mistake them for a Mac product. Red wraps them in tinfoil, clear packaging and black electrical tape, and details them with silver acrylic paint. They are so clunky looking that it is a wonder they work at all.

Red’s stories, such as POed Medusa bears Moses for Topless Siren, are created as if he is playing a video game but you cannot play them as such. They function more as ancient Japanese narrative picture scrolls, which continuously crawl into the story. The viewer can only control the speed.