Kusama’s Self Obliteration with The C.I.A. Change

R-925457-1287861075A film exploration of the work and aesthetic concepts of Yayoi Kusama, painter, sculptor, and environmentalist, conceived in terms of an intense emotional experience with metaphysical overtones, an extension of my ultimate interest in a total fusion of the arts in a spirit of mutual collaboration.

I was introduced to the Citizens for Interplanetary Activity (C.I.A.) through my old friend Ted Berk. Ted was a poet and occultist, and lived in Brooklyn near the Pratt Institute in the early 60s while I was living on St. Marks Place in the Village. I lived down the street from what became the Electric Circus, around the corner from the Fillmore East and across the street from The Five Spot. From 1961 to 1964, I had done several early film projects, in regular 8mm and in 16mm, with Ted before he had gone to Mexico, and then moved to California.

The C.I.A. (I believe they added the “Change” to their name when they went on the road to come to New York) was founded some time in early 1966, Ted and I believe, by Win Hardy*, the lead guitarist and vocalist. He was originally from Lexington, Kentucky, where his father owned a funeral home. Ted first performed his poetry with the band at a gig in Portland, Oregon at the Pythian Hall on Friday, March 3, 1966, on a bill with The Jook Savages and the Multnoman Electric Band, with lights being done by the Retinal Circus. Later, from March 21-26, the band performed at the Rock Garden on Mission Street in San Francisco, on a bill with Big Brother and the Holding Company and Arthur Lee’s Love.

The C.I.A. Change came to New York perhaps around September 1967, just as I was finishing up the editing of the visual for the “Kusama’s Self Obliteration” film, which was scheduled to be premiered at the Fourth International Experimental Film Festival in Knokk-Le-Zoute, Belgium, that December. As we remember, the band came to perform at the Fillmore East with another group, from San Francisco called the Salvation Army. C.I.A. Change stayed on to perform at the Fillmore as an opening act for Procol Harem, and then later for Simon and Garfunkel. (!) After my meeting with the band, they agreed to do a soundtrack for the edited film. I arranged an after-hours session at the Apostolic Studios of Vanguard Records with Matt Hoffman, and old friend and fellow filmmaker, who worked as a sound engineer there.

We screened the film in the studio on a 16mm Bell and Howell and the band improvised as we ran the film a second time. We recorded it on 1/4” tape. On piano, sitting in with the band, was Paul Kilb, an actor / writer / friend, who was the star in “Twice A Man”, a short film by Gregory Markopoulos. One or two others, whose names we cannot recall, who occasionally worked with lighting behind the band as “aurora Glory Alice”, provided “Liquid Sounds” for the mix. What these “liquid sounds” consisted of, we have no idea. We were prepared to record other takes and do remixes, but upon hearing playback, everyone agreed that the track was perfect as it was. That track was what was married to the visual in the release print and it is what you have on this record. The band returned to San Francisco after this, and their spell at the Fillmore “self-obliterated” there, as it were.
-Jud Yalkut
Dayton, Ohio, August 2000

More here on an LP issue of the soundtrack