Magazine article Artforum International

Spirit Whirl

Magazine article Artforum International

Spirit Whirl

Article excerpt

This fall I interviewed Leonardo DiCaprio for Detour magazine as part of his publicity junket for Romeo and Juliet. To talk to him, you have to go through an elaborate screening process. His PR people want to see your clippings, and they want to know exactly what you plan to do with their client. Ever since DiCaprio decided a few years ago to avoid high-profile roles in mainstream films, and instead take controversial roles in smaller, artsy films like The Basketball Diaries and Total Eclipse, gossip columnists have been questioning his mental health, his sexuality, and his drug habits in print. According to what I'd heard and read, DiCaprio was a junkie, a cokehead, a closeted queer, a Scientologist, and I forget what else. Consequently, he's gotten a little gun-shy. I won the gig by promising to print our conversation, period. I wouldn't put a spin on his behavior, mood, facial expressions, or vocabulary. An accompanying photo spread would locate DiCaprio visually, and I would merely relay our exchange. After all that hoopla, actually meeting DiCaprio was sort of like studying a hit of Ecstasy. He seemed far too simple a creature to have effected such a flurry of hearsay, admiration, and lust. The resulting article had a weird emptiness about it, an unexplained gap between the visuals, in which DiCaprio allowed photographer David LaChapelle to completely disguise and glamorize him with surreal trappings, and our low-key, uninflected exchange, which indicated a nice young guy who happened to have a great job. What was special about him lay hopelessly encoded within the thing I couldn't investigate - his wariness as he tried to convince me that he was both more interesting than he sounded and less interesting than his wild public image would have me believe.

We're giving ourselves a little more downtime than usual to daydream about the ineffable - you know, why we think Leonardo DiCaprio has a secret ingredient, or why Ellsworth Kelly's ultra-simple paintings make our heads spin, or why logging on to the Internet does a David Copperfield-type number on our computer screens, or why dancing at a rave seems to erase our physical substance. So, it's no surprise armchair social scientists are tagging 1996 as the year of the "spiritual," hoping to explain the snowballing popularity of pop-mystical fodder like The Celestine Prophecy, The X-Files, DeePak Chopra, and Psychic Friends Network, and to make sense of some awfully weird behavior, say how gay men are starting to justify unsafe sexual practices on spiritual-esque grounds. as though the only thing between their horniness and enlightenment was a thin layer of latex. My guess is that seeing as how it's been a pretty solid year otherwise, what with new AIDS-combative drugs, a flurry of computer upgrades, Republican Party disarray, and the like, a lot of people, my friends and I included, spent more time this year wondering aloud about the things we couldn't quite define for ourselves, whatever we made or consumed, and pretty much wherever we went.

We went to Perry Farrell's ambitious ENIT Festival, the futuristic Lollapalooza-like event that toured the States this summer. With ENIT, Farrell, a former angry young bleak-monger turned Hawaiian-shirted Ecstasy priest, tried to have it all - rock bands, techno artists, DJs, all splashed with ravelike visual and aural overstimuli, plus a few Rainbow Gathering-type touches like a tree-planting ceremony and a communal, Hari Krishna-cooked, late-night breakfast. Problem was, it featured a listless, tossed-together lineup of marginal rock bands (Love & Rockets, Black Grape, Farrell's own inconsequential Porno for Pyros, and old-fashioned, overexposed electronic artists (The Orb, Meat Beat Manifesto, Deee-Lite's Lady Miss Kier). The LA stop, held at a remote ski resort, was tinily attended by only the hardest of hard-core Porno for Pyros fans, i.e., died-in-the-wool rockists who wandered around the wildly lit, electronica-blasted acreage in a confused daze, then waited impatiently through their favorite band's set hoping against hope that Farrell might trot out an old Jane's Addiction song or two. …

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