Presented by the Colloquium for Unpopular Culture. Co-sponsored by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU.
V. Vale was born in 1944 in a Japanese American incarceration camp to a Japanese showgirl mother and an actor father. He was later fostered by a Polish family in Peoria, his Japanese uncle in Fresno, and a Black family in Whittier, California. After a stint as keyboardist for proto-metal band Blue Cheer, he worked at City Lights bookstore in San Francisco where, after being gifted $100 each by Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, he set up Search and Destroy, one of the most important punk fanzines of the period.
In 1980 he started RE/Search, a magazine that gave sustained and unrivalled coverage to fringe and underground culture: the first issue alone included Julio Cortazar, Sun Ra, and Throbbing Gristle. Later books were devoted to or written by William Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Kathy Acker. Other titles included: Angry Women, Bob Flanagan: Super Masochist, Incredibly Strange Music, Pranks, Industrial Culture Handbook. Modern Primitives (1990) played a crucial role in making tattooing and piercing practices better known to the public.
Still living in San Francisco, still flying the flag for social surrealism and the punk virus, V. Vale is unquestionably—unassimilably—one of the giants of America’s hidden reverse.
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Dan Fox is a writer, musician, filmmaker and editor-at-large of Frieze magazine. His first book, Pretentiousness: Why It Matters was published in 2016. His second book, Limbo, is due out on October 1, 2018 from Fitzcarraldo Editions.