PAIN SPEAKS TO DAVID GREENBERGER ABOUT HIS CULT ZINE
Duplex Planet began in 1979 when David Greenberger worked at the Duplex
Nursing Home in Boston. It is a magazine comprised of interviews and
conversations with the elderly residents of the home, revealing their
armchair philosophies and their often profound stream of consciousness
observations. David Greenberger came to London and Paddy Pain caught
up with him after an eclectic performance at the Exploding Cinema.
NIGHT WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU'VE PERFORMED IN ENGLAND,
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE EXPLODING CINEMA?
two things are worth mentioning. One is that it was the first time
was ever presenting this material to a British audience, so I didn't
if some of the reference points were to oblique or anything but there
a couple of times I even asked what this word was and everybody did
was kind of nice finding out that the same material works, that there's
that much of a cultural difference inside of the material I was presenting
and I was amazed last night at what a huge scene that it is. I mean
generally come there I assume not because they know what's specifically
going on but because they just know that there's a scene going on.
WHY DID YOU FIRST START THE MAGAZINE?
the first place, I had direct proximity to these people - I was working
briefly at a nursing home for just a couple of years in 1979 to about
Also, I always had an interest in how overheard bits of dialogue and
of sound speech took on a real power when written down - so I was
interested in that and I was also baffled by the amount of resistance
people have to notions of aging. I just felt like there aren't any
models, we're not given any models on aging. We see people in our
age, but that's usually got so many emotional connections to it that
disturbing and so not much is learned from it, and we just aren't
anything about when you're older, everything will be different. We're
encouraged in all the wrong ways and given all the wrong information
aging. The best example of how there's wrong information given is
people hear I do a magazine that is interviews with the
elderly people, they assume that it's all history and I think that's
of a sad comment on the way we view - not the way we view old people
the way we view ourselves. We assume that we're going to grow old
going to repeat our glory years, like our glory years are from like
30, or something - you'll grow old and retell that stuff and there's
certainly a place for oral history and a place for reminiscences and
traditions and a whole range of stuff to go with that, but the elderly
viewed that way to the exclusion of anything else - and this is just
attempt to sketch in a variety of
people that I've met, that I found interesting and it's just me as
artist trying to communicate that to another group of people - just
in what I see and re-communicating that to somebody else.
DO YOU RESPOND TO THE QUESTION THAT TO AN EXTENT THERE'S A
CERTAIN SENSE OF EXPLOITATION IN WHAT YOU DO?
don't think so at all, I mean I think that comes up sometimes but
the element that raises the question of whether or not this is exploiting
somebody is the element of humour. People become uncomfortable with
idea of, am I laughing at them, or am I laughing with them, and in
one of the definitions of humour is unexpected or strange juxtapositions
and that's what makes humour. If somebody like Fergie and that snake
- that guy has no objections - this is the way he's going to talk,
going to go off on these limbs and just change the subject but he's
clearly somebody who really wants to communicate. I can go with Fergie
this little journey, let the words take on poetic meanings or ironic
meanings or humorous meanings that maybe he doesn't intend but are
and just go along for the ride on this, you know, shake off the logic
you use all day long in the working world. The other side of the coin
that Fergie is not in a position to do anything but what he's doing
not going to make sense the way he's expected to in the working world
then means that you can either talk to him on his terms or ignore
there's nothing in between. We can listen to him, we can let it be
we can let it be poetic, you know, or we can let it be something where
now feel like whatever his condition is - I never want to know the
the conditions because that becomes a divisive thing, whether he has
Alzheimer's or some form of senility, it doesn't matter, it doesn't
a bit for him, he's still the guy sitting there - giving it a name
a barrier between
A LOT OF HUMOUR IN YOUR MAGAZINES......
serves two purposes, one is that with people reading the magazines,
humour is a hook it pulls people in and it's a way by which we get
people, ......and then on the other side of the coin the people that
to - sometimes the more ridiculous and surreal the things I ask them
feel like that's what I need to do for them as a friend. The question
cause them to say 'What the hell did he ask me that for?' you know
them feel like that's what I should do for them. I should sort of
buffoon, I should be odd, I should have them wonder "Why is he
about how you get a cloud named after you', or any of these things
they ask each other 'Why?' I Think that's a healthy thing for them
wonder why because they live in such a controlled environment that
slowly depletes their personalities. I think that humour serves two
purposes, one is the sort of public one which shows up in the magazine
the other one, the same question is sort of a private one, it's my
relationship with them and what I feel I need to do for them.
TO A CERTAIN EXTENT IT PUSHES THEM AS WELL?
think so, I mean I hope it does, they're like "oh well, it's
toll coffee time", there's all these routines that are imposed
upon them in
their lives and that just gets them out of the room you know away
news on the TV just about anything that makes them go into their mind
different way than they have, I think is what I should do for them
YOU STARTED DUPLEX PLANET WHAT 15 YEARS AGO? HOW DID YOU
DECIDE ON THE FORMAT; HOW DID YOU MAKE THE JUMP FROM THE
INTEREST IN THESE PEOPLE AND THE THINGS THEY HAD TO SAY AND THEN
PACKAGE IT THE WAY THAT YOU HAVE?
the first couple of issues were just like stapled in the corner,
nothing glamourous about it and the first issue I did sort of give
everybody at the home and they all threw it away, they had no interest
it at all, but the couple of issues that went home with me, friends
seeing and reading as literature and I instantly knew, this stuff
aimed at everybody but the people in it. So over the first four or
issues I started knowing that I was aiming at an audience that sort
me put on a tie or made me take my elbows off the table you know,
me like think about it - "What am I doing here?" and then
I started the A5
size, a size based on an inexpensive printing format. Since then I
colour covers, but it's all based on a fairly standard size. I'm always
trying to keep the costs of it close to the ground so I can keep doing
ALWAYS HAVE QUITE A UNIQUE COVER.......
that's varied, sometimes it's been things from the nursing home,
there's been some linoleum prints, sometimes it's been things that
I knew did. Sometimes I would literally see an image that somebody
I would build an issue around it because I wanted it on the cover.
YOU DO ALL SORTS OF THEME ISSUES?
like - Frankenstein, Kissing, Post Office, broken hearts, you know.
The themes are a little more loose now and I never think about what
theme is until I list it in the back issue and then I sort of give
name, I don't really think about it that much but lately now I've
realising what I am going to call this issue, I don't always have
DID YOU MEET UP WITH DAN CLOWES, THE CARTOONIST?
met a long time ago and he was doing a comic, 'Mary, Sue Ellen' before
he did Eight Ball and he likes the duplex Planet and when he started
Ball he wanted to start doing one page of Duplex and little by little
made me realise I could do a whole comic book of this and that's how
'Duplex Planet Illustrated' started because I knew enough comic book
artists to just pitch it to the same publisher who does Eight Ball.
HAVE THIS WHOLE THING OF WHERE IT'S SUBSCRIPTION ONLY?
the magazine? Well it's just in so few stores, Compendium, the ICA.
INITIALLY YOU WERE ONLY DOING IT BY SUBSCRIPTION?
that's because that's the only way I had to distribute it, you know
that's really all it came down to.
SORT OF CIRCULATION DID YOU START OFF WITH AND HOW DID YOU BUILD IT
it's just stayed the same for the last ten years, its been about 500
subscribers, so there's just enough that it pays for the printing.
there's another few hundred that go to the distributors too, so between
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