The Northern California Collective Consciousness (N.C.C.C.)
Before the School of Absurdity was formed, Tad Baker and The Northern California Collective Consciousness, a group of activists, artists, musicians, philosophers, students and dope smokers, collaborated on a series of performance art projects from 1984 to 1991. Their work shocked the communities of Chico and San Francisco, respectively, yet left a train of admirers and copy-cats in their wake. Their work was never given the explanation it deserved at the time or even after it was performed, as the N.C.C.C. routinely created a great deal of controversy and confusion amongst the media and intelligentsia of Northern California.
Not that their work needed explanation, for the effect of their paradigm-shattering revolutionary work was perhaps their only clear aim, that and an ongoing celebration of joyous creativity, yet each member of the N.C.C.C. was, in truth, their own director, producer and performer:
Tad Baker (aka Uncle Tad Baker; B. Woodward; L. Robuis; Dr. Robert Salubrius; John Ubu): director, producer, Master of Ceremonies, writer, musician, poet
Lee Howard (aka Marty; Tito): the legendary Loon Show performer and session musician/avante garde proponent who formed much of the background sound for N.C.C.C./School events
Ken Kunst (aka Gordy Creech; Dr. Ken Keurtchmer; K Gerard): stage director for all School of Absurdity events, musician, graphic artist and designer
Thomas Q Bosque (aka Dan McCune; Joe Montana): cameraman, actor, treasurer and quartermaster supreme
R. Roberti: musician, poet, performer, photographer, roadie, bouncer
Paul Bruce and Steve Haws from the experimental rock band, Critical Town
Here is the Official N.C.C.C. Mission Statement:
“The Northern California Collective Consciousness is a group of Chico- and San Francisco-based college students and professors, musicians, performance artists, philosophers and dope-smokers concerned with eliciting audience/public participation in the relevant issues of our era.”
The following visual works have been collected in hopes of capturing their infectious, enthusiastic and mad display of politically-incorrect joy and are available for viewing free of charge:
N.C.C.C.: Universal Thought's Unearthing the Sphinx
“Before he became Uncle Tad Baker from the infamous Loon Show, Tad Baker was one of Northern California's most prolific performance absurdists. Along with Lee Howard, Baker formed the performance art ensemble, Universal Thought, in 1984 as a vehicle to explore the performance theories of his mentor, Demetrius Toteras.
In this never-before-seen-video of Baker's earliest installation, the very first Universal Thought performance, “Unearthing the Sphinx,” from December 1984 at the 1078 Gallery in Chico, you will see why Tad Baker has rightly been called 'Alfred Jarry's bastard son'.”
Unearthing the Sphinx
N.C.C.C.: HTLV-13: The Performance Series
In 1986, Tad Baker and the members of Critical Town formed the performance art/stage terrorist group, HTLV-13, which soon earned them considerable ire for their habit of interrupting on-going musical performances from local bands and effectively hijacking the stage with their absurdist antics. These spontaneous interruptions, according to remarks from audience members, were often far more interesting than the live musical show, and several bands complained, in the aftermath of an HTLV-13 'slash performance', that the “wind had gone from their sails” once these madmen had stormed the stage.
This 51 minute retrospective captures the wild creativity along with some of the theoretical foundations supporting HTLV-13's landmark performances, including their remarkable -and infamous- Gay Christian Choir. These performances were not mind-less, direction-less mayhem, but as Ken Kunst from Critical Town has said, “HTLV-13, at their essence, was anarchy with a purpose: to shock us from complacency and to tear down the barrier between audience and performer.”
The Performance Series
N.C.C.C.: The Critical Town Sampler
In this one-hour video from the mid-80s, you'll see footage of Chico's most powerfully creative -and volatile- multi-genre original rock band, Critical Town. Lee Howard, Paul Bruce, Steve Haws and Ken Kunst along with a host of Chico's best musicians play their special brand of extended jams and soaring virtuoso performances, with some real surprises, including 'slash interruptions' and an on-stage drug test for the entire band! Catch a glimpse of Chico's best from the '80s, and enjoy!
Critical Town Sampler
N.C.C.C.: B Woodward's Chico Music Sampler
Tad Baker, aka 'B. Woodward', became infamous in the North State for both his stage terrorism as a member of HTLV-13, and his scathing criticism of regional art and music, notably the Chico Music scene. After much debate, he decided to create a collection of show clips from 1986-87 featuring the best acts he felt were representative of real creative efforts versus bands just going through the motions; included in the collection are Dog Killer, Critical Town, The Downsiders, Vomit Launch, Spore, Vic "Subgenius" Cantu, Ammin City Jammin Band, Gay Christian Choir, 04746, and HTLV-13.
Chico Music Sampler
N.C.C.C.: Universal Thought's Intruder
Universal Thought's “Intruder,” starring Lee Howard and dissonant art band, Vomit Launch, is a re-interpretation of Tristan Tzara's “The Gas Heart” with its lead actors jumping onto the stage and interrupting the scripted performances to overwhelm the senses of the actors and audience.
The simple theme of complacency is challenged by the Intruders, who threaten the Status Quo by mocking its fundamentals and usurping control of the 'Stage of Information', the flow of received ideas from actor to audience. As in Tzara's play, the Intruders revolt against the passive reception of a Theater of Ideas and offend and disrupt the script, leaving audience and actors in a state of confusion.
N.C.C.C.: The Pope of California, Vic “Subgenius” Cantu
In this short, taken from Lee Howard's Performance Forum from 1986, witness the enigmatic Vic “Subgenius” Cantu, long-time Chico performance artist and disciple of the Dada-esque Bob Dobbs, as he rants his way to a fever-pitch of Dobbs-inspired lunacy.
The Pope of California
Vic "Subgenius" Cantu
N.C.C.C.: Didactic Maxims
In this short from 1987, the members of the Northern California Collective Consciousness explore the absurdity of Jingoism and Didacticism. Through a series of social directives placed out-of-context from their intended settings, Didactic Maxims reveals the fickle nature of our instructive words and how flexible Meaning becomes when context has been altered.
N.C.C.C.: Tai Chi Short Form with Master Harvey and students
'Tai Chi Short Form with Master Harvey and his students' is a 12 minute VHS film shot in 1987 in Nevada City, California. Shot in one-take, with Eno's Discreet Music as soundtrack, “Tai Chi Short Form with Master Harvey and his students” captures the exquisite movements of one of the true masters of Tai Chi, Master Harvey, who died in 2009.
Tai Chi Short Form
with Master Harvey
and his students
N.C.C.C.: Guerrilla Dope Growing in Northern California 1987
This full-length movie, 'Guerrilla Dope Growing in Northern California 1987' follows the exploits of several members of the Northern California Collective Consciousness as they plant, maintain and successfully harvest a full crop of California Indica, the high-grade form of Marijuana. The film, shot on consumer-grade VHS cameras, follows the team as they enter the field in 3 different locations: a thickly wooded suburban site minutes from the town of Grass Valley; a breath-taking, remote plateau bare feet from a 200 foot cliff overlooking the Deer Creek Canyon in Tehama County; and a riparian jungle patch just off the Sacramento River and 10 miles north of Hamilton City in Glenn County.
Tad Baker, director of the N.C.C.C., along with Drs. Ken Keurtchmer and Thomas Q. Bosque, and body-guard/poet, R. Roberti, traverse the mountains and valleys of Northeastern California to service their clandestine, small-scale and deeply hidden gardens. The video captures the team's battles with the anti-marijuana authorities, thieves, nosy neighbors and a host of spontaneous but not altogether unexpected issues, from early-season crop losses and watering problems to a bear ransacking and crushing some of their plants at harvest.
The footage is at times shaky, the audio sometimes difficult to hear, but those were the compromises made by the N.C.C.C. team in order to film such a daring project, footage that, if found by the authorities, would send the group promptly to jail! Nearly 2 hours in length, the film chronicles the struggles, successes and amazing surprises that befell the N.C.C.C. team in 1987 as they prepared for, entered and returned from their 'insertions', giving the viewer a real-life vision of what it took to plant and harvest California's historic 'noxious weed' during the height of its prohibition.
N.C.C.C.: Slash 90: A Portrait of Insanity
Slash 90 is a disturbing look at a man struggling to maintain his sanity. A times even humorous, this dark, angst-filled short, made in the late 1980's on consumer-grade VHS and starring Lee Howard, while jarring and a-linear, nevertheless tells its story with a minimum of artifice. Employing a studio-concrete soundtrack and jump-cut edits, Slash 90 leaves you no time to analyze, consider or retreat.
You will understand insanity after seeing this film.
(First screened at the 2014 Independent Filmmakers Showcase, May 31, 2014 in Beverly Hills, CA)
A Portrait of Insanity
N.C.C.C.: S.A.D.: Students Advocating Death
In the spring of 1988, undergraduate and graduate CSU Business Students, concerned with escalating crime and the ridiculously high cost of Capital Punishment, decided to take matters into their own hands and come up with their own creative solutions.
Their response was SAD, Students Advocating Death. Their procedure: low-cost executions for a wide array of crimes, using an actual working Gas Chamber which came into SAD's possession by an anonymous donor, who further agreed to cover all of SAD's operating expenses including cyanide. Soon, after procuring the 1078 Gallery on Humboldt Street in Chico, they converted the former art gallery into a practical Correction Space, using SAD's Correction Methodology to perform a number of extremely inexpensive executions.
SAD's bare-minimum approach to dealing with crime was not without its critics, however, who simply could not understand how these sincere, well-intentioned and enthusiastic college students had not only been able to perform so many executions but had been given permission to do so in the first place!
How SAD was able to obtain Federal permission, and who actually was the anonymous donor, remain mysteries.
Are SAD's methods out-of-line? You be the judge in this landmark half hour promotional video, 'Making Society Safe: The Correction Methodology and the Execution of Scum'.
N.C.C.C.: The Fluid Series
The Fluid Series is an audio/visual study into the Rhythm of Images, shot in 1987 on consumer-grade VHS cameras, and set across Northern California. Edited by Lauren Kendal-Griffiths and Uncle Tad Baker, with post-production by Lauren Kendal-Griffiths, these three short films capture what Baker calls, “The Logic and Rhythm of Irrationality":
Fluid: Escape! is the first of 3 short films in the Fluid series, from the Northern California Collective Consciousness. In Fluid: Escape!, shot on 8 mil and set to a music-concrete soundtrack, the images flow liquid-like, approximating the rhythm of the choregos in Classical Greek theater and are held together by the underlying theme of...escape!
This film was shot in 1986/87 while gold mining at Fiddle Creek in Nevada County; at Tad's home in Chico; on the country roads in Northeastern California, and on the Sonoma County coastline at Goat Rock, using an 8 mil Lycra camera. Edited by Lauren Kendal-Griffiths and Tad Baker, post-production Lauren Kendal-Griffiths.
Statement from Tad Baker:
"The film evokes various dream sequences all connected to the theme of Escape and, much as in a dream itself, the viewer is presented snippets and glimpses of fragmented images from which she must construct her own sense of meaning...or forgo meaning and embrace instead the images' surreal, fleeting aesthetic for its pure enjoyment alone.”
(First screened at The 11th Annual Big Mini Media Festival, November 17, 2013, hosted by the Media Arts Department of Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus.)
Fluid: Blood Flow
'Fluid: Blood Flow' is the 2nd of 3 short films in the Fluid series, from the Northern California Collective Consciousness. Fluid: Blood Flow examines the correlations between life in a civilization as an individual and as a member of its greater community, and how the relationship looks on a macro-level; or, the individual cell and its relation to the collective body of cells as a whole.
Fluid: Blood Flow was filmed in San Francisco, California, in 1987.
Fluid: Blood Flow
Fluid: Faces Pastiche
'Fluid: Faces Pastiche' is the 3rd of 3 films in the Fluid Series, from the Northern California Collective Consciousness. Fluid: Faces Pastiche is a self-deprecating absurdist mocking of the stereotypical attitudes, words, behavior and thought of people who are not yet aware of themselves. Fluid: Faces Pastiche aims to show the shallow, plastic nature of the surface of our words, expressions and deeds.
Fluid: Faces Pastiche was filmed in San Francisco, California; Chico, California; and Sonoma/Marin Counties, California, 1987.
Fluid: Faces Pastiche
N.C.C.C.: Garbage Disposal: The Execution of Robert Alton Harris in the California Gas Chamber
'Garbage Disposal: The Execution of Robert Alton Harris in the California Gas Chamber' documents the Northern California Collective Consciousness' efforts to increase public awareness around the 1990 execution-by-gas-chamber by the State of California of the convicted murderer, Robert Alton Harris. In this 27 minute documentary, N.C.C.C. spokesman, Tad Baker, eerily describes what awaits Robert Harris at 3:01 AM April 3rd and relates other macabre -if fascinating- details of California's 60 year history with the chamber. This raw, fluid documentary, shot on consumer-grade VHS by amateur photographers, chronicles the N.C.C.C'.s campaign to expose the gas chamber -and thus, state execution- to the public, using Baker's personal working single-seat replica at an indoor public viewing before being painstakingly carried up Mt. Davidson for an Easter Sunday Vigil.
This document highlights the N.C.C.C.'s philosophical goal of fostering emotional reaction rather than the exchange of ideas. The N.C.C.C. is dedicated to exploring the great social issues of our times by delivering media whereby the viewer is freed to participate with their feelings instead of being forced to accept a particular intellectual or moral viewpoint. The N.C.C.C. believes society has become inundated with competing and often paradoxical systems of ideas which serve to confuse and separate the individual from their truest emotions and intuitions. Their work is characterized by the use of consumer-grade documentation by amateur photographers employing few if any editing tricks, relying instead on the integrity of the footage and its content to tell what the N.C.C.C. feels are vital and compelling stories.”
Audience Choice Award, Fourth Annual Chico Independent Film Festival, October 31, 2014, Chico, CA
Showcased at The Amercian Online Film Awards, May, 2014
The Execution of Robert Alton Harris
in the California Gas Chamber
N.C.C.C.: The Party at Tad's
In the summer of 1990, at Tad Baker's home outside of Chico, the members of the Northern California Collective Consciousness gathered for another of their infamous 'summer jams', an event which would go late into the night, offend and upset the entire neighborhood and prove to be yet another epic jam session amongst Chico's best musicians and poets.
In this 1 hour and 15 minute documentary, you'll see the N.C.C.C. at their spontaneous and enthusiastic finest. Join Tad Baker and the members of the N.C.C.C. in this rollicking, explosively-creative evening.
The party at Tad's
There are audio 4 recordings available at present (with more to follow) which capture the N.C.C.C. at their exhuberant, spontaneous and creative best:
60 minutes with the N.C.C.C. is a collection of some of their finest studio recordings, featuring studio-theater 'poetics' and unique versions of their original songs.
60 minutes with the N.C.C.C.
The On Trak Sessions was made at Mike Patrick's On Trak Studio near Chico, Ca., in the summer of 1988, and shows the team performing favorite originals and studio-theater 'poetics'.
The On Trak Sessions
The Mike Lexington Blues Power Project Band featuring Mike Lexington, recorded at Mike Patrick's On Trak Studio, shows the N.C.C.C., along with the legend, Mike Lexington, in an evening of impromptu jams, spontaneous and scripted poetics and favorite experimental-rock pieces at Patrick's relaxed, informal yet fully professional studio.
The Mike Lexington
Blues Power Project Band
5 Poets and a Thinker, from the Starshine Studio Sessions, August 1991, featuring the N.C.C.C. ensemble minus Paul Bruce. In this 1 hour and 20 minute recording, enjoy the N.C.C.C. at their creative finest as they perform original favorites and loose jams.
N.C.C.C. 5 Poets and a Thinker