It is only later, after someone dies that we
gather up the pieces and try to assemble them into a comprehensive picture
of the person so that we can understand what they were made of. The
same may be said of a time, an era, a place. In his latest radio piece
Bleeder, multimedia artist Terry Allen uses the easy intimacy of radio
as both a storytelling and information medium to examine the way history,
events, images, memory, and hallucination dissolve into each other,
become reworked and mythologized. The recollections of one woman recounted
in a distinctly Texan vernacular accompanied by a prairie wind, hymns,
and songs evoking the 50s and 60s, paints a vivid portrait of a piece
of America that walks with us in shadow. Through the fictional biography
of one man, we can see it clearly in the mirror and it tells us something
about who we are today.
The man was a hemophiliac who hated Dracula
movies, "maybe because he spent his whole life living off other people's
blood." He was a huckster, a politician, a possible gangster, a charlatan,
a religious fanatic, a drunk, and a great storyteller, born of oil and
married into cattle, and the "only person I ever knew who had no conscience".
This is Lyndon Johnson's Texas. This is a parable of America letting
blood. Cash through Christ, the Kennedys on the cross, blood money,
Allen, himself a masterful storyteller, skillfully
employs the color and phrasing of regional American language, to provide
a deeply disturbing subtext of yearning and loss, in a landscape of
hypocrisy, alienation, grand illusions and monstrous lies. Allen makes
every lie reveal a deeper truth. His device is the telling of the story,
which is an act of recollection, which is a revision of history. In
making this piece for public broadcast, Allen also draws a parallel
between this process of the human brain and what the media does. "Biography
is a form of necrophilia", the now deceased subject is said to have
said, by a woman who loves him in memory.
Bleeder, written by Terry Allen, performed
by Jo Harvey Allen and Terry Allen, music by Terry Allen and the Panhandle
Mystery Band, produced by Terry Allen and Lloyd Manes.
Commissioned and distributed via satellite and on cassette by New American
Radio, 129 Tysen Street, Staten Island, NY 10301-1119.