Betty and I are sitting in a bar. The setting is imprecise. Maybe it’s our usual dive in Little Haiti in Miami or a more rarefied place in Paris. She’s just finished her set. I’m supposed to be writing something for her upcoming exhibition, for the new body of works that extends the on-going narrative concoction of pulp culture, B-movies, and DIY rock as a viable alternative universe to the glumness of the world around us. In the new drawings and sculptures, she weaves a new fantasy scenario that treats the rock band’s touring van as a vehicle for space travel. She sounds enthusiastic as she is telling me this. I can’t get pumped about it. It’s got little to do with her. It’s me. We order a round of beers.
“Entering the van,” I say, “one knows deep down that its doors are a portal to hostile dimensions where things can always go wrong.”
“But, even knowing this,” she rebuts, “one is brimming with enthusiasm. One knows that as bad as things may turn, they will always turn again--a new gig is always on the horizon, a new town just down the road, both filled with the potential for everything to go right. Although going on tour can sometimes feel like you’ve coursed into a time-bent wormhole, it is also the best way to be catapulted out of the deadening habitual world of unfair transactions and squashing relations that underscore our everyday lives.”
“I think you should consider the awful things that happen in the tour van,” I go on. “Gas runs out or the engine breaks down, equipment is stolen at the fast food parking lot, catty band fights proliferate, post-bad show despondency collectively swells to suicidal levels.”
She isn’t buying it.
In this “other” world of deep space and rocketing vans that Monteavaro carves out, Gary Numan becomes a Lovecraftean Thing and The Crimson Ghost, recoded from the 1946 serial film into The Misfit’s indelible avatar, who may also be Skeletor from the He-Man cartoon, becomes an ambiguous figure.
“Yes, but David Lee Roth emblematizes those ecstatic moments in which everything turns out just right,” she reminds me.
In Monteavaro’s previous works, rock-cosmonauts, like Siouxie Sioux, Adam Ant, and Marco Pirroni, have been on these voyages. They return in these drawings to stand-in for those willing to still take the journey. And now, in these new works, more than the musicians, it’s the space vehicle itself that is of interest, this hopeful machine with which we embark on journeys away from the dullness of having to negotiate incessantly in a world driven by little else than bottom-line exigencies.
I tell her that I think that this tour van-spaceship is, in some distant way, a stand-in for the exhibition space itself--a fucked up place, at times joyful but usually depressing; a portal that we enter looking to be teleported faraway only to be yanked back to the same old transactional logic of the world--PR, money, ass-kissing, look-who-just-walked-through-the-door anxieties. It’s the tour van as placeholder for a desire to learn how to be artists in a different way, against less gloomy backdrops.
She suggests I stop reading the depressing books--Ray Brassier’s Nihil Unbound, Dominic Fox’s Cold World--that I’ve been devoting too many hours to lately.
We order a second round of beers.
Although I can’t get into it, I see that her new drawings are celebratory. They mark her own return to music, to touring, to understanding that there are other worlds--and that happiness blossoms in them.