If I were able to verbalize what my paintings are, I would not need to paint them.
I advise everyone to draw no conclusions from this.
By M. Casanova
Nick Zedd is a filmmaker, writer, painter, actor, political satirist and director of protocol for the cinema of transgression, a movement he spearheaded in New York 25 years ago and whose reverberations are still being felt worldwide.
Using multiple pseudonyms, Zedd edited and published the groundbreaking UNDERGROUND FILM BULLETIN from 1984 to 1990, hand coloring the covers of each issue, adorned with portraits he drew of local art stars within.
On the pages of this hand xeroxed “crudzine” Zedd penned the Cinema of Transgression Manifesto and invented a forum for the most scathing and subversive ideas emerging from the avant garde of that time.
Zedd is considered a genius for formulating a revolutionary strategy that empowered a group of guerilla filmmakers to circumvent the institutional indifference of dominant culture and “the censorship of omission” corrupting communication s through “the shared hallucination of consensus reality” by organizing an insurgency and creating a new media to document it. In the process he introduced the “transgression” meme that has so dominated critical thought in our culture for the last quarter century.
Through innovative movies like his two-screen WAR IS MENSTRUAL ENVY and low budget 16mm gems like ECSTASY IN ENTROPY,
Zedd employs shock value in the service of xenomorphosis, a term he coined to describe what happens when the “domain wall of an alternate universe smashes your reality tunnel and neurological re-engineering occurs.” In his work a “union of opposites” provokes cognitive dissonance or atavism causing viewers and participants to change from within.
“Alienating myself in complete darkness to the abstract world of Nick Zedd’s bewildering pornography, I had a vision, and here’s what I saw:
Plagues being dispensed at a hasty rate, sort of like a gushing bang from a hot spring geyser, or an ejaculating dick. About the time I’m viewing a tongue twirling around a tit with two nipples, the prophecy of deformity from man-made clones appears rather vividly. Blood dripping from a slit wrist, mostly onto the mildew caked floor, made me conclude that unexpected death and nuclear warfare are the least of our worries from human negligence. Nick Zedd has purposely portrayed that he is not a director. He is more of a prophet, clearly depicting his visions for the views of humanity,” stated Chase Spring in Sleazegrinder.
“Nick Zedd makes violent, perverted art films from Hell- he’s my kind of director!” – John Waters
“There is a tremendous energy and unbound, uninhibited imagination present in his work…forbidden, maybe even evil, perverted, ungodly,” said Jonas Mekas.
It is this mind blowing experience of viewing his films, described in Zedd’s Theory of Xenomorphosis that has created a legion of followers among a far flung cognoscenti, as well as a plethora of critical appreciations: (DEATHTRIPPING by Jack Sargeant, ART THAT KILLS by George Petros and the documentaries NO AGE NEW YORK, LLIK YOUR IDOLS and BLANK CITY all explore the influence of Zedd’s insurgent , satanic, hedonistic and hermetic work.)
Combining forces with Henry Rollins (who published his autobiography TOTEM OF THE DEPRAVED), Richard Kern (with whom he co-directed and starred in THRUST IN ME) ; Sonic Youth (for the soundtrack of WHOREGASM); Lydia Lunch (THE WILD WORLD OF LYDIA LUNCH); Richard Hell (GEEK MAGGOT BINGO); Annie Sprinkle, Taylor Mead and Rev Jen in the cable TV series ELECTRA ELF; and collaborating with the latter in the making of such spoofs as LORD OF THE COCK RINGS and I WAS A QUALITY OF LIFE VIOLATION, Nick Zedd has produced a magic theater for our time while eluding the critical scrutiny of newspapers, schools, museums, galleries, magazines and mainstream media for decades.
He is a people’s auteur.
“Nick Zedd’s films are legendary—he is a truly seminal figure in the New York underground. Now we have his first book, (Totem of the Depraved) and I recommend it to anyone interested in the rough underside of our overly processed culture.” – Jim Jarmusch
In his under-the-radar status as an intentional amateur making new discoveries, Zedd produced such uncompromising work as a film version of Nietzsche’s THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA and a DV short entitled TOM THUMB that clearly influenced a feature by Pedro Almadovar.
Other films bearing the influence of Zedd include Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant and a Pizza Hut commercial that ripped off a shot of a guy being run over by a giant cheese ball from an episode of ELECTRA ELF.
Zedd’s outspoken analysis of life has made him both a pariah and a visionary, especially in the post 9-11 era of conformity and mass deception.
“As consumers we are being daily subjected to a gigantic Simulation, designed by a global elite to strip us of our autonomy through mental addiction to social networking sites, reality television, sporting events and false political struggles with preordained outcomes reinforcing a cosmetically changing status quo. Through the ingestion of disinformation we’ve become victims of the science of mind control in which we appear to make our own decisions interactively while unknowingly being subjected to useless distractions from increasingly diverse sources, enabling us to feel united with unseen friends on websites designed to monitor our preferences and reinforce the illusion of personal freedom. The end result of this massive, near religious embrace of information siphoned thru computer screens is a passive population kept off the streets (except to work and purchase products,) politically castrated through adoration of leader icons (actors, politicians, singers, models, sports figures and other pawns of corporate sponsors and unseen puppet masters,)” says Zedd.
As an authentic dissident, Zedd has paid an enormous price, operating between the cracks in a virtual underground, demonized or hidden by a dominant culture terrified of genuine revolt.
Film textbooks in Italy feature Zedd on their covers. Filmmakers in Turkey and Brazil send him fan mail. Books have been published in England about him, and yet Zedd insists he is not actually famous.
“That only happens when people’s mothers know who you are.”
In a rare anomaly, Zedd presented a retrospective of films one night at the Museum of Modern Art in 1989.
“I was blown away that the auditorium was full of people. The audience was even more shocked once they saw the movies.”
A print of one of his best movies, POLICE STATE is in the permanent collection of MOMA.
Included in Zedd’s “greatest hits” dvd ABNORMAL, POLICE STATE tells the story of a rebellious kid picked up on the streets of the Lower East Side by an overeager cop played by the late Willoughby Sharp. At a local precinct , the kid (Zedd) meets a rotating clutch of sadistic cops played by Attica vet Flip Crowley and the late Rockets Redglare who engage him in a frightening and hilarious series of tests designed to destroy his mind.
A black comedy addressing police brutality, POLICE STATE cemented Zedd’s reputation as a true anarchist prior to the infamous Tompkins Square police riots that devastated the community and helped forge a short lived resistance to government sponsored gentrification on the Lower East Side. Around this time, Zedd forged an alliance with squatters and broke into an empty building to establish one of the local homesteads that survive to this day as an alternative to the feudal system of landlordism that oppresses millions of people in capitalist countries. Zedd has identified predatory capitalism, state terrorism, corporate globalization and landlordism as the main sources of oppression to be overcome by revolutionary means.
Other filmmakers have solicited Zedd to appear in their movies. He has acted in SUBMIT TO ME NOW, WHAT ABOUT ME (co-starring Johnny Thunders, Dee Dee Ramone, Richard Hell & Gregory Corso), SHADOWS IN THE CITY (co-starring Jack Smith, Emile DeAntonio and Kembra Pfahler), JONAS IN THE DESERT (co-starring Blixa Bargeld and Nina Hagen) and many others.
Zedd’s writing is featured in the anthologies Low Rent, Captured, Up Is Up But So Is Down, Underground USA, No Such Thing as a Free Ride (A Collection of Hitchhiking Tales) and Radium (from Sweden.)
Collections of his movies include STEAL THIS VIDEO (released by Film Threat in the 90’s), ABNORMAL: THE SINEMA OF NICK ZEDD (Rubric, 2001), GEEK MAGGOT BINGO, WAR IS MENSTRUAL ENVY and GENERATION Z (all on MVD).
A 4 disc boxed set of Zedd’s television series THE ADVENTURES OF ELECTRA ELF was released by MVD in April.
Zedd briefly fronted a “noise unit” called ZYKLON B in 1999/2000 making digital hardcore music, and released a single on Rubric Records entitled CONSUME OR DIE which has since become a collectors item.
In the last two years Nick Zedd has reinvented himself as a painter and custom clothing designer, selling hoodies, t-shirts, and skirts online and occasionally in stores. Current designs can be purchased at his website nickzedd.com which also features his writing and videos for sale.
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