ASSUME VIVID ASTRO FOCUS a.k.a. Eli Sudbrack
Defying more traditional ethical concerns of appropriation and authorship, Eli Sudbrack (A.K.A. Assume Vivid Astro Focus) revels in the power of the found image and the computer age futility of copyright while exploiting the music of our own personal nostalgia. By recycling the graphic language of popular culture’s detritus, lunch boxes, singles magazines, post cards, comic books, coloring books, National Geographic specials, album covers and video games, Sudbrack uses a gently parasitic eye and ear to create an amalgam of artist, fan, preacher, surrogate and rock star. Like the Anthropophagi artists of his native Brazil, Sudbrack proves that imported culture has, for better or worse, become the nourishment necessary to fully evaluate one’s sense of self within a modern world. The result is often a defiant reclamation of the lost splendor in the banal and a boyish enthusiasm towards the true beauty in the world around us.
An email from Eli to Becky dated 5/29/02:
Before that I wanted to tell you how I came up with the Assume Vivd Astro Focus name. I was looking for a new pseudonym and decided to go and see the LP SHow at Exit Art specifically with that intention in mind. Started to take some notes of LP titles and group names and ended up mixing this Throbbing Gristle record called "Assume Power Focus" (which is also a text/statement) with this band called Ultra Vivid Scene. Assume Vivid Astro Focus became a proposal of a different vivid psychedelic positive look at the world.
The Free Bird video was born one perfect summer day at the beach in the Hamptons, with a bunch of friends, coming back from a long day out in the sun, after lots of body boarding, pot, sunbathing. We were all in this van, having tons of fun, beautiful sunset, in this beautiful curved road in a hill with tons of green trees, everybody laughing and happy. Then this crazy non-stop guitar solo started to play in the radio and that was just the perfect soundtrack for that moment. I asked who that was and everybody in shock said: "YOU DON'T KNOW WHO THIS IS??? THIS IS FREE BIRD BY LYNARD SKYNARD!!". I was fascinated by it and by people's reaction to my lack of knowledge. Even more because everybody seemed to have such strong feelings about the song, either positive or negative.
Free Bird is a lot about looking at things in a sort of explosive way, without preconceptions (or if you have them, let's get rid of them) like the first time you have chocolate ice cream. The intention is then to regain that sort of excitement and discovery of the world that surrounds you, something that usually happens when you are a kid and are watching, let's say, Josie and the Pussycats or Land of the Lost on TV. Josie and the Pussycats was, by the way, how I started drawing, trying to copy the characters from TV on paper. Free Bird is also a homage to "Yellow Submarine" and Peter Max.
This look also applies a lot to nature/landscape and New York city. New York mostly because of the mithology that I brought with me when moved here and getting to know that all that's true (in one way or the other)! Like watching people roller skate on Sundays in Central Park and keep thinking about "Hair".
Free Bird contains a compilation of characters that are a mixture of images from my childhood with other things that I recently discovered since I moved to the States. Actually my move to the States was primordial to this process, since I started to resee TV programs that I had for a long time forgotten, like HR Punfstuff (which I loved/love so dearly).
All this is wrapped with my personal life and love shared with John. The big billboard at White Columns (which is the same image at the end of the Free Bird video, but drawn) is a snapshot taken by John of me in Big Sur, California. The image became for me a symbol of, better yet than just loving someone, knowing that you are loved by someone you love. That too enpowers the vivid astro focus thing. Actually, my work has never been so personal.
Appropriation for me is the same as producing something manually. Looking for me is where the power is. Selecting. Like the snapshot that John took of me in Big Sur becomes mine in way, once I tranport it to a new envrionment and context. My work is very varied in this aspect, mixing appropriated and non appropriated imagery. Some of the elements in the Free Bird video, for instance, are from Coloring Books (which I collect), some are pictures that I come across and draw them (like the flowers and butterflies).
The chandeliers, which I have a series of works of, are a representation for me of this celebration of color and light (the same thing with my other series of works of fireworks). The chandelier in the Free Bird video (this image is also a print) was drawn after this crazy rococo chandelier in a palace in Venice. The chandelier in the video is accompanied by these elements that I appropriated from Wire's album entitled "154". They are very important for me as well and very present in my work. The story behind them is the following: I love electronic music. People would always tell me that I should listen to Wire. For some bizarre reason I never did before. Than I learned that one of my favorite songs by Fischerspooner ("The 15th") is a version of this song by Wire present in the "154" album. I run to the store, sure that I would love the record. Saw the cover and totallty fell in love with it. Somehow the cover was a reassurance of my expectations (so 80's!). Nevertheless, I got the album and hated it. Decided though to keep that wonderful expectation and excitement feeling alive and started to use the elements in the cover of the 154 album in my work.
The big print that we got today ("Peacock Ride Ons") is also part of the Free Bird video and it is actually Assume Vivid Astro Focus' logo repeated infinite times. The original image was the background of this t-shirt that John has from the 70's which has this guy with really short shorts and long hair (very gay) riding a bike. On top of the image there's a big "RIDE ON" and that image (my logo) in the background. I redrew it and worked on the colors. The logo reminded me a lot of designs by Peter Max and Milton Glasser, two big influences for me. I love all psychedelic Hippie "Age of Aquarius" things.
Carla, the chick wearing one if my t-shirts (the photos were actually taken for this article that came out a few months ago on V Magazine on A.V.A.F'S t-shirts), is also an important and recurrent charecter. I know her forever from Brazil and we always like to just smoke pot and go out. She is very powerful and some sort of a witch. No kidding she makes things materialize. She is like an icon for me, like Candy Darling was to Andy Warhol.
One last character present in the Free Bird video is Dazzler, this short-lived X-Men superheroine from late 70's, early 80's ultra powerful, who was also a Disco Queen and could turn sound into light running around in her roller skates. Like the chandeliers for me. She is the character that appears in the video right before the butterflies,with tons of color light circles coming out of her.
By the way, the butterflies, the flowers, the animals, are all images that I draw, scan and work on the colors in the computer. I love to fuck with the real colors and make this fantastic creatures.
One very strong point about my work and one of the reasons why I use a pseudonym, is to attack all current policy on rights ownership. Music, for instance, is part of your body since it can affect our lives in so many different ways. Music should be everybody's ownership and free. Everybody should make music videos of their favorite songs and post them to MTV. MTV should actually be just that, people's personal music videos of their favorite songs.
One other reason to have a pseudonym is to be able to extend the manufacture of A.V.A.F.'s things to other people, other professionals, who could assume A.V.A.F.'s identity and produce projects under its name. The pseudonym also helps A.V.A.F. to gravitate in other surroundings that are not just the Art World.
Well, that's all for this. Now, you'll find the other texts.
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