UNDERGROUND EXPLOITATION TECHNIQUES
So how does unsanctioned art get distributed?
The answer is always the same – however it can.
In the case of “Teaserama,” it occupied a legal grey area. The movie played in burlesque theaters. Cops often turned a blind eye. The customers loved it. The establishment made tons of money from the product. People operated as if the law wasn’t being broken when in many instances it kind of was.
Irving Klaw, the director of the movie, regularly found himself in a court of law precisely because he catered to underground audiences, aka legally nebulous audiences.
The Underground is Always Legally Nebulous.
So you find it where you can:
Independent Establishments, Among the Folk, Secret Meetings, Anonymously Displayed in Public, On the Internet…
By the way, these are still some of the best places to find and disseminate underground media. So I’ll go over them one more time…
Independent Establishments (Theaters / Galleries / Cafes / Book Stores / etc)
Among the Folk (aka, Wherever People Gather: The Mall, Town Square, Events, etc)
Secret Meetings (Connections from protests, the Internet, like-minded friends, etc)
Anonymous Public Art (see: the works of Banksy + Libyan revolution graffitti, etc)
On the Internet (This one should be obvious) …
COURSE IN GENERAL UNDERGROUND ART
1. Make What’s Illegal
2. Stay Angry
3. You Must Be Willing to Fight
4. Anonymity (If Your Life’s in Danger).
5. Always Have an Alibi (Plausible Deniability)
6. If You’re Arrested, Relax: Make It Part of the Art
7. Smart Art for Smarties, Dumb Art for Dumbies. (Both have equal power).
8. Cater to the Local Economy
9. Less People, More Impact.
10. Cash Only.
Underground Art Case Study ~ Tijuana Bibles:
The Tijuana Bibles probably weren’t produced in Tijuana (or in Havana, Paris, or London, as some of the covers imply), and they obviously weren’t Bibles. They were clandestinely produced and distributed small booklets that chronicled the explicit sexual adventures of America’s beloved comic-strip characters, celebrities, and folk heroes.
These books might have been called Tijuana Bibles as a gleefully sacrilegious pre-NAFTA slur against Mexicans to throw G-men off the trail, or because the West Coast border towns were an important suipplier of all sorts of sin. In other regions of America they were also known as Eight Pagers, Two-by-Fours, Gray-Backs, Bluesies, Jo-Jo Books, Tillie-and-Mac Books, Jiggs-and-Maggie Books, or simply as Fuck Books. They began appearing in the late twenties, flourished throughout the Depression years, and began to peter out after World War II.
The Fuck Books were not overtly political but were by their nature anti-authoritarian, a protest against what Freud called Civilization and Its Discontents. Here was a populist way to rebel against the mass media and advertising designed to titillate and manipulate, but never satisfy. Betty Boop, Greta Garbo, and Clara Bow all radiated sex appeal on screen, but they were cockteasers, never quite delivering what they promised – especially after 1934, when the Hollywood Hays office went into high gear.
- Source: Tijuana Bibles – Art & Wit in America’s Forbidden Funnies (1930s-1950s) by Bob Adelman.