Entertainment is the Suspension of Morals
- (or) Fun with Blood, the Works of Benjamin Bertocci
You are an office worker. You are tired of the cafeteria food in your building, and today you decide to take this
morning detour through a fancy sandwich shoppe. Routine shifting brown bag procured, you stealth into a side
entrance of the white collar corral where sounds of furniture animated to it’s own destruction radiate through
hallways and past closed doors. Familiar voices form guttural devolutions, accented by the dull crunch of polarizing
filters which house sheets of liquid crystal. Cascades of Bic projectiles once pridefully organized by fastidious accountants,
are scooped from their transitory position as ballbearings underfoot, to their final resting place in an eye socket or
otherwise accepting human softness. A secretary hovered over the copy machine as usual is running a face skinned off of
her once perky rival through the scanning bed, and laughing as full color duplicates emerge. A submissive male drone has
squirreled away in his cubicle with a black trash bag of every phone he could steal, and he’s stomping on them with the
fervor of newly wedded Jews. The madness of this scene is global and gives way to a chemical surge exciting you to join.
Eventually you are bathing in the font of irrationality along with what feel like shades of your self unified by galvanizing
blood lust that eclipse minor olive oil drenched distractions you had planned. As in any good Bacchanalia, the transgression
Violence - that subterranean threat to society, is also paradoxically what the heights of fascistic order have produced for
us humans in its own methodical styling. Any way you slice it, the top soil is prone to sporadic eruption when enough
pressure is felt by mineral enriched clay, suffering under taxation. Bucking the veneer continues to be a mission of artists
and thinkers - Harrison Bergeron types self exhumed from suffocating earthly boredoms. This desire has also been
classified in ever more minute detail by grand bureaus of mental health to be an affliction, a medicable offense. This
divergence is reflected in tracking post war artistic movements. Something that began when America re-entered itself after
WWII to celebrate its own vibrato with grandly masculine yet obtuse Abstract Expresionists. Concurrently across the seas,
reconstruction was laced with bitter blood rituals of the Viennese Actionists who site the famous pervert Egon Schiele as a
forbearer, and a rhizome called Dada that evolved into Punk as it spread to England and America.
Acknowledgement of unrest is contagious. As self congratulatory economic prosperity falters, and the tolls of luxury are
revealed, culture forces open windows to how apocalypse may go down. Certainly the works of Benjamin Bertocci could be
added to a lineage of artists against anesthetizing tchotchkes that distract from this trajectory. Jovial cartoons like Flip the
Frog, obscured portraits of little school aged dudes, rugged soldiers carrying some kinda m60s with a rope of shells draped
over a shoulder, and clandestine shots of modest city housing, emerge from largely pixilated frames in his current
repertoire. Distant images are then further obscured by globs of paint and images of bulk baking racks like an Urs Fisher
portrait without the wavy hair styles. Screens which mediate our memories and communications are treated here as a
collection of discrete details eroding their usual illusion of clarity. Aluminum sheets are given mouths, if only so that they
could choke on garbage bags which plume out of a void, only to disappear again behind known borders. Lidless eyes float
through these mashups in electric unrest. Teeth bared, and disembodied balls out, these works house doodled characters
which look like deranged cousins of Daniel Johnston’s friendly goobers. They float through compositions, occasionally
stopping to brandish a pistol, accenting above gestural self portraits like a morphing Plumbob from the Sims. These scenes
are interspersed with renditions of the maniacal laughing man drenched in blood. Like a performer of Otto Muehl’s or
Herman Nitsch on the cross at some Blood Organ Aktion, doused in the rich blood of a lamb - these faces depict a state
between ecstasy and lunacy, unphased by passing carpet samples. They have surpassed revenge, or even giving a fuck.
Bertocci’s mixed media language is able to express blends of brutality, textural harmony, expressive portraiture, and
through it all - punk humor that could have you laughing at a burning Walmart as obscenely overweight shoppers attempt to
flee on slow moving scooters. Bertocci’s work is a pipeline to the source of dissent.
The Pre-Apocalyptic Art of Ben Bertocci
Nick Cave doesn’t believe in an interventionist God and Ben Bertocci’s god is Calvinist, Lovecraftian, or non-existent,
but both men, through their art, believe in eventual wrath. Like Cave or Gorgoroth, Bertocci’s biblical dread isn’t
dependent on faith but regardless; we’re all going to get what’s coming to us.
Born in a small town, where crashing one’s pickup truck through whatever surface is available was the main source of
entertainment, Ben's first foray into the world of serious art was taking a steel baseball bat to the Great Barrington Newsboy
Fountain, for which the young artist was sentenced to the community service of painting local buildings. The statue was
restored a year later. Then a tornado hit the town. And look, Bertocci is a now painter.
Bertocci was reared on the twin philosophies of Nick Cave’s pre-crooner heroin disaster ensemble, The Birthday Party, and
Aliens inspiring Jesus Christ dislikers, Celtic Frost. The latter, besides their boss album art, served mainly as soundtrack
and inspiration in only the most general “here’s a reasonable haircut” sense. But the former was a world builder. Nick
Cave as the wrestling angel, the sweet honey in the rock, the sensual naysayer offering up to a small town ne’er-do-well
the simple affirmation of, “Hands up! Who wants to die??!” Out of the haze of adolescence, it would be difficult to pinpoint
a single Birthday Party lyric that best sums up Bertocci’s ethos, but, gun to our head, we can safely go with anything from
“Zoo Music Girl,” the band’s ode to incoherent fate sealing: “My body is a monster driven insane/My heart is a fish roasted
in flames.” Or “Don’t drag the orchestra into this thing.”
The cleansing fires are just around the corner, but we don’t have to be hoity-toity about it.
Like the dissociative, religious carnage of Nick Cave As a Young Savage, Bertocci is fixated on lips, teeth, eyes, and red.
There’s also technocracy clip art. And there are frogs, plague of, dancing etc. Nothing is in the right place. Almost, but not
quite. Eyes askew like the demiurge trying to recreate man in God’s image but poor demiurge; his memory is fucked b
ecause his mind’s not right. Then there are the washes of color, red like Argento splatter or blue like your computer blinking
one last time before crashing completely, taking your family photos with it. Apparently there’s some larger societal meaning
to all this, but at it’s basest level, at it’s most, forgive me, metal level, Bertocci seems to be saying that we’re, at all times, a
thirty second ad away from full on Bosch/Giger-topia on a global scale. He doesn’t seem terribly bummed about this.
Presumably this is why he, unfashionable as it may be, learned to draw real nice. As the early SoCal philosophers, Bad
Religion, once said, “how could hell be any worse?”
Ben Bertocci’s art, while certainly post-apocalyptic in the cinematic sense, is mainly Pre-apocalyptic. It can not exist
outside the certainty that the end result of all our washing machines, hubris, and apartheid is doom, simple (or
complicated), unadulterated DOOM. In lesser hands it would be Voivod slash fiction or twelve monkeys agit-scrawl, but
Bertocci has an aesthete’s eye, a preacher’s sure hands, and the adolescent existential grievance of a thousand gothics
on the head of a pin. That, and the fact that any fool can see this world ending, badly and soon, makes for a valuable art, a
balm even if it’s not one any of us deserve. Here’s the world, here’s how it ends, but hey! For now? Here’s the world! Like
the poet says, “My baby is alright…she doesn’t mind a bit of dirt.”