Kurt Cobain, lead singer for the band Nirvana, has been dead for nearly 18 years, but for those who lived or grew up in the periphery of his artistic and musical contributions, his legacy will live on and in the future his music will undoubtably be bequeathed to other generations to share. Cobain, a casualty of his own genius and subsequent fame, and a victim of dependence on the protective shields, namely heroin, that one uses to protect themselves from the burden of human commoditization has become an icon. With what he hoped a bullet would achieve still could not release his personality from the shackles from which he was so tightly bound. But does everything really have to be such a tragedy? "It's better to burn out than to fade away," Cobain once wrote in his journal, borrowing a line from a Neil Young song, but it couldn't be truer. At the young age of 27 Cobain was dead and forever his image will be trapped in that impenetrable mirage of myth. Cobain was a representative to an entire culture of youth searching for that voice to air their angst – he was the epitome of the teenage rebel – not in age, but in metaphor and his lyrics were the soliloquy of life's dark, unanswerable questions. Sometimes its take 20 years to realize that once someone is gone you can't go back and beg for answers – questions begin to pile up like kind of unpayable debt on our curiosity. Adarsha Benjamin, who grew up around Seattle in the 90s, knows the Cobain myth well and through artistic exploration attempts to answer some of those questions and perchance pay some of the debt. The project, which is currently in the works, is an art film by Benjamin in collaboration with Nina Ljeti that abstractly portrays the many masks of the Cobain myth, and is more so a "retrospective" of Kurt Cobain, exploring the many facets of his personality and life through multiple actors including Benjamin herself and Henry Hopper. The project, which is tentatively called 'Kurt', is still in production and has no set date for release, but Pas Un Autre was able to get a hold of a few production stills from a recent day on set in Brooklyn and ask Adarsha Benjamin a few questions. Read interview after the jump.
What is the "Kurt" project? Well to start, we have not officially called this project "Kurt," but its the working title.... Other names are floating around.... It's a film installation to start, but its sort of progressing into a full on retrospective of Kurt, from the minds of myself and Nina Ljeti.
What was the impetus behind the project?The project began in my mind many years ago, but came to fruition when I started talking to Nina about making a short film art piece based on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. At the time, we were sort of commissioned by James Franco for an exhibition called " Girls School" and the idea sort of just was born out of this love for Kurt Cobain, this really intense beautiful inspiration that he has created for us in our lives...So we decided to go to Seattle in November and film with my best friend, Brendhan Bower's, who makes film look like your dreams and that was exactly what I wanted for this project. Like it was a dream.
Where have some of the main locations been? We started with Seattle, and we will go back to the Northwest in April – to Aberdeen – and film some more there. Most recently we filmed a segment here in Brooklyn, at our friends The So So Glo's DIY venue/home, Shea Stadium - we had about 15 different people dressed as different versions of Kurt (Alex Levine, of the So So Glo's, Henry Hopper, Ericka Clevenger) and myself, as Kurt, and Nina [Ljeti] as Chris Novesleic and Brendhan [Bowers] as Dave Ghrolh (in a most hideous wig) we performed SLIVER live...
What format are you shooting in? We are shooting on 16mm, the whole project is filmed on film ONLY.
What is it about Kurt? The whole thing could almost come across as a nostalgia project of some sort, when talking about it – hence the reason why doing an interview on it or explaining it is hard – because its not some post 90's nostalgia act we want to make. Its actually based a lot more in surrealism and in dream then anything else, being that is where Kurt exists and where this vision of Nirvana exists because nothing or no one is like him. You know, it was someone who said the day Kurt died was really the day Rock and Roll died. I don't believe that necessarily, because that spirit exists around me and in a lot of people I know...but there was this fantasy that was broken and being someone who grew up with this music, grew up with Kurt as an idol of the anti-cool, you really see how it molded who I am as an artist, as a rebel, as a person who is creating out of the circumstances surrounding me...The reality of the world, of our society, of the fucked up shit we see and have to do, of the righteousness that lives in these ultra sensitive soul's. You know, not since John Lennon had an artist so widely affected kids with his poetry.....Not by throwing words and slogans in kids faces, but by giving them something really fucking intense and real to feel, by letting them figure it out... and you know there was this pain in giving that away, but its the only way Kurt knew how to survive... until he didn't, which is a whole other conversation.
Where is Kurt going to be exhibited or shown? It will be shown in an exhibition at the Issue Project Room.
Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. Photography by Angelina Vezzetti. Stay tuned to Pas Un Autre for more on 'Kurt.'