Horror Movie on Wheels Rolls Through LA
It’s Always Halloween for Off-Beat Theatrical Performance Troupe Art of Bleeding
By Shana Ting Lipton, About.com Guide
Art of Bleeding is a kitschy gory LA area performance art/street theater troupe that is best described in mainstream terms as a combination of a ‘60s horror movie, E.R., and The Rocky Horror Show for the Marilyn Manson set. Whether it’s Halloween or not, founder Al Ridenour and his costumed crew can be found riding around in an old ambulance dressed as medics, sexy nurses and other offbeat characters. They stop to give campy theatrical performances and presentations on safety and accidents, sparing no haunting details.
Once a ringleader of The Cacophony Society, and spouse of equally provocative comedienne Margaret Cho, artist and grand maestro Ridenour is a counterculture legend in LA. He took time off from his racy rounds to give About.com Los Angeles readers the bloody details on his group and its shows.
Q: How would you describe Art of Bleeding for the average person who has not come across it yet?
Al Ridenour: First we have the “ambulance open house,” with the vehicle in a public spot and passersby invited inside to share (and record) stories of personal medical emergencies. Costumed “nurses” hand out various medical novelties and offer to apply plaster bandages (preventative “safety casts”) to unbroken limbs.
Then there is “Magic Ambulance Theater,” which is something like a woefully ill-conceived Sid and Marty Krofft show in which costumed characters expound a recklessly metaphysical approach to first aid and safety in between petty disputes, shameful revelations and messy accidents. The “Gory Details” YouTube series brings the stories recorded in the ambulance together with the characters from “Magic Ambulance Theater.”
Q: Tell us about your ambulance.
AR: It’s a decommissioned veteran of the San Diego County fleet purchased through Recycler. Being an ambulance, it’s a pretty safe bet people have died in it, so I presume it’s haunted. That could account for its tendency to break down before every show.
Q: Who are the characters in the Art of Bleeding performances?
AR: The humor gets a little dark, but the ever-growing cast of seductively outfitted nurses works as a palliative. In fact, that’s all that’s all some audience members ever see. Abram the Safety Ape is the primary “spokesmascot.” Despite his prickly and mercurial tendencies, he has grudgingly befriended RT the Robot Teacher, an emotionally needy and disturbingly sensual robot. The “wise old hand puppet” Dr. Moody serves the bickering friends as a paternal referee. A new addition is the bandage-swathed burn-ward “fun-maker” Dr. Sunshine.
Q: Which venues in LA have you performed at?
AR: California Institute of Abnormal Arts, El Cid, The Steve Allen Theater, The Smell, Infusion Gallery, the Fold at the Silver Lake Lounge, Club Ding-a-Ling at Hyperion Tavern, and other galleries, lofts, clubs, and artsy holes-in-the wall either closed or transient.
Q: Is this a show for adults only or do you think kids could watch as well?
AR: Kids might like it, but I doubt parents would be happy about them getting into it.
Q: Tell us about some past Art of Bleeding performances and events (i.e. themes, etc.)
AR: Themes have included choking, CPR, poisoning, car crashes, fire safety, flesh wounds, and broken bones. We’ve also done a show exploring Abram’s friendship with a semi-imaginary “safety bug,” a show at the Silver Lake Film Festival that involved choreography of a dozen or so bandaged and crutch-enabled dancers, and an installation involving a 7’ Fetus in a walk-through womb.
Q: What reaction do you usually get when you give your impromptu performances?
AR: Everyone is puzzled. Many people insist there are hidden cameras, and are somehow relieved to learn that we do in fact record something (passersby medical stories) but confused again when they realize it’s a non-commercial effort to share the stuff online. If you’re costumed and using props and not making a movie, you don’t make sense and are best ignored.
Q: What is the most memorable interactive reaction you’ve gotten from an audience member or passerby?
AR: A woman once screamed hysterically and ran out of the building. This was at our giant walk-through womb and fetus installation created for a sort of artists’ version of a Halloween haunted house. The whole set was slimy and performers were wrestling with the rubber fetus and entangling visitors in a 15 foot umbilical cord, so I suppose it was unsettling.
Q: What has been your favorite LA performance and why?
AR: The “car crash show” we did in the parking lot of the Steve Allen Theater. We created a three-car pileup of crumpled, smoking cars with actors [fake] bleeding all lit by auto flares and ambulance flashers and juxtaposed with a screening of old highway safety scare films. Prepping for that one involved actually smashing the junked cars, and flipping one with a winch. Cleanup was not so fun.
Q: What would you like to do in the future with Art of Bleeding? Any particular dream (or should I say nightmare) shows?
AR: I’d love for us to do another auto safety show, perhaps at a junkyard, or a water safety show around a pool with swimming siren-like nurses and Abram in a little dinghy. Along with the sloppy spectacle of live shows, however, I also love the polished presentation video makes possible, and have a secret fantasy of one day seeing Abram, RT and crew all cozy and secure with their own slot on Adult Swim.
Q: Can anyone join? Are you open to new members? If so, what are the prerequisites?
AR: We are especially open to members who enjoy cleaning up smashed windshields, smeared cake or stage blood, but It’s always nice to hear from any creative types attracted to what we’re doing.
Q: What’s the main goal and purpose of Art of Bleeding?
AR: The intent of the stage shows as well as the “Gory Details” project is encourage people to laugh about life’s inevitable and gristly traumas. The humor may be black but we try to clear a little mental playground where more innocent feelings can be enjoyed. The puppets, costumed characters and other juvenile stylistics are intended to be genuinely charming right alongside the horrors, after all. Occasionally, we even accidentally teach a thing or two about safety.