Friday, June 09, 2006

Trevor and I went out to lunch with our friend Aaron today. Because of busy schedules and life in general, we don’t often get a chance to see him. But, hot damn, every time I see him I am always blown away by how fucking brilliant he is.

Aaron’s artwork was a catalyst for Probability Map, a series of poems by Trevor, some of which were recently published in Bay Poetics (see my previous blog entry about this). Aaron is also the mastermind behind the Center for Tactical Magic, Tactical Magic being a “fusion force summoned from the ways of the artist, the magician, the ninja, and the private investigator…an amalgam of disparate arts invoked for the purpose of actively addressing Power on individual, communal, and transnational fronts.”

Aaron’s projects are amazing! As an artist, he creates performance and static projects that are a synthesis of art, magic, media, and community activism. One of his most recent projects, funded by a grant from Grand Arts, is the Tactical Ice Cream Unit

From the Grand Arts website:

An amalgam equal parts SWAT van and ice cream truck (with functional and aesthetic flourishes borrowed from the apparatus of armored cars, military transport vehicles, urban hot-rods, and 1950’s-style milk trucks) the Tactical Ice Cream Unit is designed to attract, unsettle, amuse, disarm and engage the public with its strange brew of Good Humor gentility, Willy-Wonka wizardry, and Big Brother bravado.

Citizens looking for a free icy treat choose one of a myriad of flavors from one menu, flavors which include a red-white-and-blue pop called Da Bomb (the Mexican flag version is called La Bamba). There's also Black Magic (chocolate-chili), White Magic (honey-vanilla) and eight other flavors. Then folks choose an issue (oil, clean water, etc.) from another menu.

From Tactical Magic’s website:

The TICU emerges at a time when most channels of distribution, communication, and social interaction are mediated and constrained by the fervor of financial exchange…with every free ice cream handed out, the sweet-toothed citizenry also receives printed information developed by local progressive groups…incorporating an alternative strategy of utopian potlatch, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit is envisioned primarily as a mobile distribution center for ice cream and information.

The Tactical Ice Cream Unit just wound up a tour of the Midwest and Southern California, touring college campuses – where Aaron gave talks on the intersection between design, activism, art, technology, and magic – while also providing support and cold creamy goodness to antiwar protesters, as well as flat-fixums to critical mass participants, and serving up both frosty treats and food-for-thought to all stratum of society.

Aaron regaled us with stories of how the truck seemed to break down barriers in people’s consciousness. This ranged from the simple -- that the ice cream and pamphlets were indeed free -- to the more profound, as when a gentleman expressed concern about the issuing of “liberal” propaganda to children via a frozen treat. Aaron proceeded to ask him if he had problems with the progressive issues expressed, or the dissemination of propaganda to children itself. Of course, it’s the propaganda that is the problem, the gentleman said. Aaron said, “then you’re not a supporter of our military?” To which the gentleman vehemently said he was indeed a supporter of our military. Aaron then engaged him in conversation about how the military fully admits that some of their propaganda is aimed specifically at the 10-12 year-old bracket. The man didn’t leave with any of Aaron’s literature, but I bet you he is still thinking about this encounter.

Aaron mentioned how it seems most folks think in, and are comfortable with, a strict black and white dichotomy – conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat. The Tactical Ice Cream Unit parrots that familiar dichotomy and then fucks with it. Utilizing things with very intense associations for most people -- a SWAT van outfitted with scavenged military hardware, a sophisticated surveillance system, and a loudspeaker pumping out hip-hop – and melding it with something as innocuous and memory-pleasing as a mobile ice cream van, confuses, yet opens up the opportunity for a critical thinking and the option of looking at issues from different perspectives.

Again, from the Grand Arts website:

It is not possible to tell from the uniform or hat that a person wears if he or she is part of the legitimate government or a terrorist. It is necessary to look closely at the person's actions to know where he or she stands.

As Trevor pointed out, the truck and it’s MO operates just as the ninja – unbalancing, creating a space in which to move, and then letting the person move into it.

Aaron’s project has received a lot of attention, and he is gearing up for more Tactical Ice Cream Unit tours. If you’re interested in hosting Aaron and the Tactical Ice Cream Unit, be sure to contact him through the Center for Tactical Magic site. And for one of the most unintentionally publicity generating and hilarious takes on the Tactical Ice Cream Unit, see Funding Anarchism as “Performance Art” at the Front Page Magazine website.


Blogger CJKnaak said...

That's pretty cool. Jus' min. Someone is trying to fight me right now. I'll be back.


June 10, 2006 at 2:53:00 PM PDT  
Blogger bunny said...

Wow. I have to read more about this. But right now, I'm anxiously awaiting the download of the one episode of 24 we missed recording this season. We're having a catch up night but can't finish the rest of the episodes until iTunes finishes delivering the goods. Grr.

June 10, 2006 at 7:46:00 PM PDT  
Blogger CJKnaak said...

reminds me of this guy Levi and I and the rest of the SnoMo Crew ran into at the trade show. He is the designer for the Red Bull campaign.. He is a total crack head.. and a HUGE motherfucker. I mean He's like 6'6" and 280 lbs and like a bike insane viking. He had many great ideas for the SnoMo thing.. ideas which are yet fomenting.

Anyways- Graphic design apon ice cream trucks-- pretty neat. The best I can do these days is string together a series of napkins on the wall of the employee bathroom- held on my soap. You can read them in the mirror as you pee. It's neat.

June 11, 2006 at 5:23:00 PM PDT  
Blogger saudade said...

Um, except Aaron is about 14 inches shorter than him, and is not a crackhead or a Bike Viking.

He didn't really do graphic design -- it's more of a social experiment around the principles of tactical magic. You've got to check out his site.

June 11, 2006 at 9:43:00 PM PDT  
Blogger CJKnaak said...

I didnt mean literal crackhead.. just a guy with ideas.. you know. Anyways.. yeah. some people have ideas and are bullheaded enough to make them come to life. That's awesome.

There. I typed slowly. No Typos. Good.

June 12, 2006 at 5:08:00 AM PDT  
Blogger CJKnaak said...


Transformation magic. Hm. Kinda reminds me of SnoMoBike on display at the tradeshow. People had strong reactions varied from total sketical disbelief.. to commenting things like "It's a child's dream come true".
Well.. I think we transformed a few people for a few minutes at least..
It's that moment of confrontation that challenges the reactionary minds..
But, like Aaron says- the media has created a social environment that is not condusive for the Houdini's of modern time to capture the collective curiosity over anything life changing.
Or something.
Anyways.. I like his art.. it's silly, and he play the part to a tee.. he can back it up with words as well.

I am going to transform into Shut-The-Hell-Up-Man and go transform some plants and diary by-products into Ceaser salad for the remainder of my useful day.

Your childish friend forever-


June 12, 2006 at 5:30:00 AM PDT  

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