American Memory


American Memory is a new and compelling DVD coming from extended Skinny Puppy posse members William Morrison and Justin Bennett later this year. It took me a while to figure out exactly what was going on (and exactly who was responsible), but that didn't detract from this hypnotic and ultimately forceful piece.

The voice in the clip on the DVD's trailer is that of former slave Alice Gaston, interviewed in her eighties for the Library of Congress in 1941. The actress is lip-synching to her dialogue. Videomaker William Morrison explains that the whole project works this way, using audio from the American Memory Archive along with new and processed footage. And, of course, delicious and eerie post-industrial music.

According to Morrison: "The theoretical context of the project is that some time in the very distance future, long after America is gone, some artists scouring the backwater of whatever the net has become discover the American Memory Archive. They have no context for it's meaning but are intrigued by the sights and sounds. They create surreal impressions of the material they find and broadcast it back through time. A quantum radio channel beamed into the sub conscious minds of the 21st century."

A few different permutations of the band will be playing a show on December 4 at the Gramercy in NYC, with special guests Doug Mesner and, if I can get my act and gear together, me.

Douglas Rushkoff is a guest blogger.


  1. Wicked. SP continue to make really interesting and relevant music- I dug Mythmaker. Should be a great show!

  2. Indeed, American Memory is it’s own multi-media project, something between a band and a film, with it’s own original music and separate from Skinny Puppy. These cats do play in the Skinny Puppy live band though, so there’s the connection…

  3. Douglas, I hope you become a permanent fixture here at BB. I’m a longtime boingboing/skinny puppy/psychic tv fan, so needless to say I’m a big fan of yours. Keep up the good work. I’m going to try to make it to the show. Take Care.

    sean aguirre, brooklyn ny

  4. Isn’t Skinny Puppy is a Canadian Band?
    While I don’t have a problem with it I do find it a bit interesting. I’m curious to know how (if?) a Canadian perspective helped shape the context of this projects subject matter.

  5. Don’t they all live here now, even if they aren’t US citizens? I’m not sure…

    The concept behind the project sounds cool, though. I’m looking forward to it.

  6. yep – just got confirmation from mr. morrison (wanted to be sure) this is NOT a skinny puppy project but, rather, skinny-puppy-related.

    william morrison and justin-gabriel bennett (who have both been involved with skinny puppy for a number of years) created American Memory and will be touring with (and opening for) another skinny puppy related band, ohGr, very soon:

    morrison and bennett have worked together to compose both music and video for American Memory (though i believe most of the video work is morrison’s).

    but yes, NOT a skinny puppy project.

  7. Noted this isn’t Skinny Puppy, but a related project, but this is actually quite typical, seems members of Skinny Puppy guys both past and present have a thing for multiple projects going on, this is no different, I could probably name twenty ‘projects’ that have had members of or very close ties to Skinny Puppy and probably a tonne of other seperate bands, the type of art created by people in the genre (I hesitate to call it music, as I think of it as much more than simply something audio based) cross pollinate and work with each other constantly, as I am sure Mr. Rushkoff could verify. The different names just help identify the ideas when they evolve far enough off the beaten path as to be become something new and worthy of its own vehicle.

  8. Not to be redundant, but this video is just so cool. No doubt the live performance is going to be pretty mindbending.

    I’d love to see this American memory music and (gorgeous, haunting) visual collage at a dance club/rave kind of thing. And then you could even have a turn on the DJ/VJ mixer thing and get down.

  9. It’s not back-in-time. Its the future! Read Morisson’s “theoretical context.” Sort of an advanced take on “Contact,” or maybe, “Close Encounters.” The masks are kind of freaky…. but I can see how it fits in with the future anthropology theme.

    …one of my favorite lesson plans involves handing out pennies and asking the students to imagine they are future archeologists. From the snippets of text and imagery, and whatever else they can glean from a rusty penny, they have to write about what that culture was like. American Memory seems to be playing with that concept but in a very sophisticated, aesthetically stunning manner. It is off the hook.

  10. Looks like Marian Bantjes did the main title…correct?

    That lady can rock a typeface like no one else.

  11. 2 more things:

    Finally!!!! oHgr at the Cats Cradle (NC)!!!!
    You should stay on as a continuous contributor to Boing Boing, I’ve really enjoyed all of your posts.

  12. definitely has the creepy whoa trippy bro! vibe that I remember from Skinny Puppy (and related).

    Joel Peter Witkin? Just sayin’

    Too Dark Park tour — Skinny Puppy is about the only bad I ever saw where things really did feel a touch “dangerous”

  13. Douglas, thanks for turning me on to William Morrison and Justin Bennett’s latest project. I was so intrigued that I had them on my show to talk about American Memory and play some of the tracks that will be featured on the DVD. I had a great time talking with them but sadly, I didn’t get to see them when they were in San Diego because I was editing the interview for this week’s show.

    You can listen to it here.

    Thanks again for the post!

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