THE ART OF APPROPRIATION 

 
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A still grabbed from an issue of Reset, a local underground video magazine. (courtesy photo)

'Reset' video magazine represents the San Antonio hip-hop culture - and the politics that inform community art

"It's like Michael Moore on speed," says filmmaker Jim Mendiola, (Come and Take It Day, Speeder Kills), in reference to Reset, a local political underground video magazine produced by a 20-something quartet of brown video artists with aliases: Turkano, Lo Res, Mister Itchy, and Electric Messiah. The four set out last spring to "keep it real" in San Antonio by providing a forum to promote the local music community - and critique the Bush administrations, 1 and 2.

Reset's formula is straightforward. The quartet collaborates on concepts for attention-stealing short segments, pairing off to shoot local footage with digital cameras. The crew collectively edits the segments with appropriated clips into a cohesive episode, via Final Cut Pro, and makes several hundred VHS dubs with money from their own pockets. The dubs are given away, and their recipients are encouraged to make more copies for family and friends. "The technology boom has come, and it has allowed us to have access to all these cameras. It has allowed us to have access to these computers," Turkano notes. "Let's switch it up and use it for something that it is supposedly not meant to be used for. People are more likely to pop in a tape at home than watch a public access show or read a `local` magazine. There is a lot of important stuff that's swept under our noses. We just wanted to throw our two cents in."

Supporting local music is an important part of the magazine's mission, with a focus on the hip-hop scene. "When we first got together, we were talking about how ClearChannel has such an impact on society," says Turkano. "We are sitting here in San Antonio, where ClearChannel is from, and there are a lot of local acts and a lot of talent from the local scene that don't get much airplay or much recognition. Still, there is definitely a following or a subculture of the underground scene that is aware of this talent."

Politics are also essential to the Reset crew. "I view the whole world, the physical geographical landscape, as political," explains Turkano. "Everything is political. Here in Texas we have a river, and there is nothing political about a river, but when it turns into a border, which it is, it becomes political."

The premiere issue of Reset was released in February 2003, and opened with a segment linking the Bush clan to Osama Bin Laden and 9-11 through the clandestine Carlyle Group. The next segment, featuring activist Mario Africa, focuses on the U.S. military's targeting and recruiting of minorities and youth of color. In the same segment, Reset runs a clip of Spike Lee, who directed five commercials for the U.S. Navy, saying: "I'm very grateful to be given the shot because there are some backwards people in the world, some people who have a very narrow vision of whom I am, what I'm about, and what I can do."

The video segues into an excellent spoken word piece by local MC CROS 1 that explores dysfunction within Chicano families, a pair of short experimental works that celebrate the DJing and b-boying elements of hip-hop culture, a music video from Assasyn Dynasty featuring #9 and Orion Pax, and a video poem that salutes iconic rebels including Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Mohammed Ali, and Alfred Hitchcock. The issue's comedic highlight - looped footage of Saddam Hussein and his advisors grinding to 50 Cent's "In Da Club" - illustrates the quartet's sharp sense of humor and affinity for guerilla satire.

"There's so much media that is owned by so few people, and they really have a control of what people see and what they think. What we are trying to do is drive a little wedge in there and get people to question what it is that they are surrounded by."
— Turkano
The second issue - released in April 2003 - is an unflinching response to the war in Iraq. Its opening salvo consists of a tightly edited deconstruction of Gulf War 2's "shock and awe" campaign set to Outkast's hyperkinetic "Bombs Over Baghdad."

"Reset came up right before we started the war with Iraq. We were hearing all this stuff on NPR and getting more and more pissed off on how Bush was running the country into the ground, which was all part of the genesis of this project," explains Lo Res. "The war definitely inspired us to get started. Hopefully, our thoughts and our concept will inspire other people to think of it in a different aspect." The second issue also takes aim at apolitical commercial rap and "Empty V, aka MTV," for refusing to air a commercial opposing war directed by Academy Award-winning director Barbara Kopple, then depicts Dubya rhyming "damn it feels good to be a gangsta getting voted into the White House." There is also a hilarious pseudo-protest by madmedia and Cruz Ortiz using street teatro to undermine a March 2003 anti-immigration rally in front of the Alamo.

A brief segment underlines the Reset philosophy with a quote from Malcolm X: "In World War II, this country could use its news media to propagandize and make the whole American public love the Russians and the Chinese, and hate the Germans and the Japanese. And then after the war, they changed it, and made the American public love the Germans and love the Japanese and hate the Russians and hate the Chinese, which shows that they can make the American public love whom they will and hate whom they will."

 
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Lauryn Hill, as she appears in Reset (courtesy photo)

Turkado echoes the sentiment: "There's so much media that is owned by so few people, and they really have a control of what people see and what they think. What we are trying to do is drive a little wedge in there and get people to question what it is that they are surrounded by." The second issue concludes with coverage of San Antonio's International Women's Day March, and a haunting collage that explores the concept of liberation by pairing striking footage from social uprisings from around the world with conscious rhymes. Also featured in the issue are local DJs Chacho, Dish 1, Donnie-D, painter Soup, and the San Antonio Housing Authority.

Completed this past October, the third issue of Reset focuses primarily on music performances by the Turtleheads, Sexto Sol, and the touring Triple Threat DJs. The issue also includes local footage from recent art functions, including the third annual Clogged Caps grafitti festival and madmedia's ambitious Manifesto production. Performance art and drama are represented with segments showcasing the calo-fused poetry of writer Anthony Flores, and an excerpt from the local play Pocho/a, entitled "Maria La Roach Killer," which references Oscar Zeta Acosta, La Bamba, and animated Raid commercials. The issue concludes with a dynamic live set from Lauryn Hill's recent Smoking Grooves/Unplugged tour, which blends dialogue toward the audience with an un-released track.

The Reset crew is completing a DVD documentary on this year's Clogged Caps, commissioned by the Prhymemates hip-hop collective, in addition to beginning work on Reset #4. For Turkano, the struggle continues - but not alone. "For us, getting together and trying to put our collective voices and visions into this project is very political because capitalism breeds `modularity`. You might know something, I might know something, he might know something, and if we all just know something but we don't discuss it, it's not doing any good. Once we start to project our voices, and start to think and talk and communicate with one another, we learn more together. This is all just an impetus for discussion we want started." •

For copies of Reset, or to submit a story for future issues, visit www.Resetvideo.com or call 320-2911.


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