I’m So Obsessed With You: Mark Morrisroe & Lynelle White’s Dirt Magazine (1975/1976)

Allegedly, he stalked John Waters and sub­mit­ted a gi­ant, flow­ery swastika for a school as­sign­ment. He cut pic­tures from porn mag­a­zines, placed them in empty candy boxes and left the rest to weather and chance. He tor­tured his cat just to film the bloody de­ba­cle. She handed in a photo of Joan Crawford’s face for home­work, and she was asked not to re­turn? Though their lives quickly di­verged — she later went to Harvard, thank you very much — what Mark and Lynelle White’s re­la­tion­ship lacked in length it more than made up for in vol­ume, ar­ro­gant vol­ume, the kind only two six­teen-year-olds bored out of their minds can make. At school they started DIRT, a punk-fanzine that sur­vived for sev­eral is­sues. Seeking gos­sip, the first is­sue reads: Have you ever wanted to use a fake name? Tell lies?” If it did­n’t carry the whiff of a run­ning joke, this might have been the zine’s ethos: if you be­lieve it, so will we. You were en­cour­aged to slander your friends!” and to send any­thing that might be found ly­ing on the floor. One trans­gres­sion the zine de­lights in is in­con­gru­ous prox­im­ity: the pro­fane, Frankensteinian in­ti­macy of cut-and-paste con­tact, plac­ing names of friends, en­e­mies, no­bod­ies next to Andy Warhol, Sophia Loren, Cher. (Cher re­ceives par­tic­u­larly crude at­ten­tion in the pages of DIRT, and even her cat is crowned Pet of the is­sue.”) DIRTs DIY-aesthetic is its re­al­ity and its bril­liance: lit­er­ally any­one could have done this.

In one is­sue, con­trib­u­tor Cindy LaViande (who later re­names her­self Judy: It’s judy from now on”) writes that rock mu­sic doesn’t mean a thing if there are no good look­ing guys in the band.” A cut-out of Bowie ac­com­pa­nies the piece. In an­other is­sue, we learn who smokes what”: James Dean, lurk­ing in Heaven’s al­ley, smokes Camels (unfiltered)” while Blondie, um, smokes opium.” DIRTs tag-line reads Eat it while it’s hot!” But what is it hot with, ex­actly? Agitation, de­sire, bore­dom: surely, these things burn. But DIRTs heat is bor­rowed, its flames of no­to­ri­ety on loan: this is fever by as­so­ci­a­tion. Like Richard Hawkins’ col­lages, its reach is know­ingly ex­ces­sive, ob­ses­sive, even, but ec­sta­t­i­cally so. Permission to ob­sess is so rarely granted. Is it ever? Now I’m telling lies. And who needs per­mis­sion any­way? What else is DIRT say­ing when they claim that, af­ter a man was set on fire by Gene Simmons of Kiss — at a Kiss con­cert — he said he still likes Kiss? In per­mis­sion’s ab­sence, bon­fires. Burn.

– John Christopher, ARC.

Mark Morrisroe (1959-1989) was an American artist who grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. While he is known mostly for his pho­tog­ra­phy and in­ti­mate por­traits, he was also a film­maker. He died at the age of 30 of com­pli­ca­tions aris­ing from AIDS.

John Christopher is on the ed­i­to­r­ial team at ARC.