LAist Interview: The Art of Bleeding’s Al Ridenour
On this Sunday October 25th, The Art of Bleeding will perform their piece “The Spirits of Safety Show” at the California Institute of Abnormal Arts. With a mix of live performance, film, puppets, music, fake blood, sexy nurses, robots, gorillas and more, The Art of Bleeding will most likely shock and entertain with their humorous and bizarre antics. LAist caught up with Al Ridenour of The Art of Bleeding to get some more insight on the group and their work.
You were one of the founding members of the notorious and wonderful art pranksters known as the Los Angeles Cacophony Society, which seems sort of defunct now. What is The Art of Bleeding?
You’d think I’d have a streamlined answer for that question by now, but it’s still a little hard for me to describe. Sometimes I just call it “my ambulance show” because the show actually spills out of an ambulance. The paramedical theme is unavoidable; there is a teasing element with the blatantly fetishized nurses. Sometimes I call it a “paramedical burlesque.” Much of it looks like a tragically misguided kiddie show. Oh, “Experimental comedy” might be another good tag. The important thing is it is performance art.
When did you start The Art of Bleeding?
Spring of 2004. Though we took a hiatus after a really big Halloween show in 2006. We bought three junkyard cars and staged a highway pile-up in the Steve Allen Theater parking lot — complete with smoke, flames and actors doused in blood. That seemed like kind of a plateau. Also picking up windshield glass and spilled oil in a shade less parking lot for three hours helped convince me a break might be called for.
What has The Art of Bleeding enabled you to do that you weren’t enabled to do with The Los Angeles Cacophony Society?
A lot of Cacophony events involved a sort of improvisational street theater, stuff like you see nowadays with Improv Everywhere, zombie walks or the Santa rampage thing. These events and various pranks we’d pull always called for costumes and props and the like, but not knowing if we were going to get shut down by police or ejected by security always made it hard to justify spending a lot of time creating those materials. With The Art of Bleeding, I get to finesse to my heart’s content — create props and costumes, write scripts, record music, and edit video – do all the creative things that I really love. I don’t have to worry that we’ll get the plug pulled at the last minute.
There is a noticeable Situationist detournement (subversion of a media) of educational safety films in The Art of Bleeding. Can you elaborate on the ambulance and medical motif in the performances?
Well, that use of stolen media is kind of a continuation of the Cacophony Society’s outlaw aesthetic. But of course, there are more basic factors involved like the fact that it’s cheaper working with found stuff. I got the ambulance before I started The Art of Bleeding just because I’d been looking for a truck to haul materials for projects. When I ended up not having many projects that required hauling lumber, I realized it might be fun to turn the ambulance itself into an art project. I already had the gorilla suit which suggested the character of the “Safety Ape” spokes-mascot. I always think of apes as representing wildness and recklessness, so creating a simian authority figure seemed intrinsically subversive somehow. The idea of taking the topic of first aid and emergency situations – things that are by definition deadly serious — just seemed a juicy target.
What’s the reaction so far of The Art of Bleeding shows?
We have a couple bits we do that are a little dark where people glance around at each other with that “Is it okay to laugh?” look on their faces. Audiences really seem to enjoy the shows, and despite the gruesome or grisly elements, I do think the puppets and costumed characters also have a sort of innocent charm to them. And who doesn’t like hot nurses in skimpy outfits?
What is The Spirits of Safety show this Sunday October 25 at 8:00 p.m. at the California Institute of Abnormal Arts?
Well, as if the world of The Art of Bleeding weren’t puzzling enough, there is a sort of underlying esoteric mythology espoused by the ape, robot, and puppet. We call it True Safety Consciousness; it’s a kind of mysterious form of enlightenment arrived through occult means. This particular show involves a sort of séance centering on one of those Resusci Anne mannequins. All in the name of safety, of course.
What can the audience expect of the night without giving too much away?
I don’t want to say too much more about the show, but audiences can also expect one of the “darker” numbers I mentioned as well as a sort of squirm-inducing breast cancer awareness tutorial. From 8pm to 9pm, we’ll also be screening episodes of our “Gory Details” online video series. These feature the same kiddy-show style hosts as the live show – the ape, robot and puppet and of course, our sexy nurses — analyzing and re-enacting true life medical horror stories. That’s kind of another side of The Art of Bleeding where we take the ambulance out to public streets and invite passersby inside to record their personal stories of grisly accidents and hospital visits. A lot of those recordings are on our website and some we’ve turned into video seen on our YouTube channel.
You live in LA?
What are your some favorite hidden gems of LA? Or maybe you want to keep them hidden.
Well, I kind of alluded to this earlier. I am more or less obsessed with all things occult, and fringy metaphysical groups are one of Southern California’s greatest exports, right? Some of my local favorites are the Aetherius Society in Hollywood where they channel space entities like “Mars Sector Six”. There’s the “Builders of the Adytum” in Highland Park and the Philosophical Research Society in Los Feliz. The last two, at least, were actually the creation of very scholarly men. In the Hollywood hills there are also some lovely Moorish style buildings that are the remains of an old Theosophist colony called Krotona. It was there before Hollywood was “Hollywood”. And there’s the mini Taj Mahal style temple in the same general area built by the Vedanta Society. Whatever you think about these things, it’s undeniable that these sorts of groups were incredibly influential in making LA the sort of place it is today.
Anything else you want to add?
I suppose just an invitation to folks who can’t make it down to the show to check in on our YouTube channel. We’ll be releasing a series of videos, new episodes every couple weeks through the winter, and beyond.