Reviews & Blurbs

You’ve got a wonderfully astute and far-reaching sense of the world.
- Jocelyn Saidenberg rejecting ms. of Ghost Dance

… your poems are much appreciated …
- Leslie Scalapino in a 2008 rejection letter

Scott puts the ‘mental’ back in ‘experimental.’
- Don Hilla, publisher of Anne Frank In Jerusalem

You are a genius. How do you get to be such a good writer of such important subjects? (Disclaimer: I have only read the first 3 chapters)
- Beca LaFore

That’s kinda what my soul looks like….
- Kim Donovan about my painting “Rowboat & Stars”

I love your work.
- Barrett Watten, in conversation, while reading Ghosts

You're butcher than I am Scott.
- Torreya Cummings

Your writing is BEAUTIFUL! oh my god.
- Sigrid Hackenberg

Your writing gives me… …pause.
- Jeannie Weiffenbach

Scott, though we only made out once, I've never forgotten it. It was exquisite.
- Caitlin Morgan

Thanks for the pervy euro-comic book. I'm glad you exist.
- Scott Hewicker

You inspire me to stick with it.
- Minnette Lehmann

…incisively facetious…
- Michael Koch (on Necromancy) Poetry Flash No. 130, SF 1984

This is the first metaphor of a play that runs on metaphor, not on plot or character development (the play cartwheels through time and space with panache to spare)….
- Aaron Noble (on Necromancy) Bloatstick, SF 1988

There are these surprises in his multitude of work that pop up, stream briefly across the night sky, then fade away into murky ocean of art world plankton. You remember the flash but not what caused it.
- Jakub Kalousek

Scott MacLeod is a prolific giver of gifts. Reading his work is like unwrapping layers and layers of them, finding things like gold leaf, beetles and bodily fluids in between. It is fearful, hopeful, and rewarding.
- Michelle Rollman on Hymns For Different

I think my favorite piece is the one in which you chained me to a parking meter and dropped a quarter in. You, more than anyone I have ever known, can capture it all in a move.

- Raegan Kelly (on Brief Amaze at Southern Exposure)

I have always very much liked your painting. It seems to distill the senses into a concentrated melancholy, which is holy with longing. I’m serious here. Sad beauty, indeed is my living aim.
- Matt DeGennaro in a letter

I like how the text jerks one back & forth, all around, & refers all over, seems to always arrive anyway but the interior story can't stay still, like life.
- Cheryl Burket (on Just Another Morning)

...and why I liked your installation so much: maybe because you didn't forget how complex history is and how almost impossible it is to represent...
- Rudy Lemcke, 2007 (on Situation Room

…a completely bald guy, very energetic, listening to the Grateful Dead.
- Will Oldham describing me to Franta Skála

Your website is really beautiful. And even though we can’t know death in this mediated form we can certainly sense it through the accumulated experience of moving though images of your work. I hope you don’t take what I just said the wrong way. I mean that the deconstruction of the material world reveals/hides its meaning, and that death and transformation is at work in the way I experience your art -  that can only be experienced as a continuous moving through images appearing on a browser page, and that your work on the web is a beautiful performance that you do so well.
- Rudy Lemcke, 2017

I think i finally agree with you - [Anne Frank In Jerusalem] is some kind of fractured novel, and not a poem of new sentences at all…. This is one of the effects of your work. I feel compelled to sort things according to familiar categories- but I have a hard time sustaining the effort. It doesn't make any sense. I find myself laughing out loud at myself. This is a very good thing. Brief Amaze is a novel. The Targets are poems. Anne Frank is a sculpture morphing into performance.
- Jim Leftwich, 2006

“One of the strongest performances doubtlessly was Scott MacLeod’s [Brief Amaze]. After a blindfolded 5 kilometer walk from Clusone to Ponte Nossa he painted his body half white and half black. Both sides of his thus-created schizophrenic personality started a verbal argument with each other which led to a physical fight with himself. He whirled arms and legs around with anger, rolled hectically over the floor back and forth…”
- Moniek Darge, Logos-Blad, Ghent, Belgium 1990

abendland…is poetry at direst direct compression, removed to desert landscape machinery music with rural side effects, frontiered & spiralled, the skin off each page flinted, dust-devilled.  Work wracked & withering….”
- W’ORCS, Landstuhl, W. Germany 1985

Scott MacLeod ha dato emozioni con la sua performance Puppet Walk, bendato, camminando con al traino di uno spago un "mattone/idea," lasciando stupefatti i turisti clusonesi per il suo coraggio, presentando poi successivamente nella piazza di Ponte Nossa la sua incredible e spettacolare azione dal titolo Brief Amaze.
- Emilio Morandi, ArtPer, Ponte Nossa Italia 1990

The beginning movement [of “Brief Amaze” at The Lab] with the glass reminded me of old guard conceptual art pieces (Marioni, Kos, etc.) but didn’t really seem derivative. One can be in a genre without being derivative. I like the vulnerability in your work – also a part of the charisma – ritual sacrifice to the audience. Your nudity became animal-like in a way that was quite disturbing. I found myself wondering if male nudity was more taboo than female nudity…. I’ve always liked the way details accrue increasing significance as the piece unfolds in your work. Not really an aspect of narrative but an aspect of symbology and compression – the details like magnets attracting stray filings of meaning. The doppelgänger image continued to articulate itself (language or no) and the wrestling, strangling, etc. was wonderful – pathetic and absurd all at once, a Beckett-like clowning. There seemed to be a string of false endings – like a box with false bottoms. First the reconciliation with the audience, then the erasure as a coda and finally the return to the beginning with the glass. It was like you were exhausting every possible stratagem of culmination.
- Christine Tamblyn, in a letter to me 1998

The final portion was the most shocking.  After talking about sex, murder, cars, cars, murder and sex, MacLeod went out into the audience.  Standing about 6’2” or something like that.  At least he loked big.  He fondled women’s faces, giving them hard, long, sloppy kisses, shining a flashlight into faces (male and female) for a long time, asking questions he expected no answer to.  At the end he stood right next to me: four feet away!  I thought he would grab me and shove the big flashlight in my face, finding fear, making fear.  I got the fuck away from him.
- Aaron Alexander George on Road Kill

And so it was with some trepidation that I watched as the US performance artist Scott MacLeod produced a cut-throat razor during his performance The Last Voyage of the Body. Scott began his piece by emerging from a trapdoor. Two bare arms flailed up from the floor. Please, please don’t let him be naked, I thought. He was naked. Then out came the cut-throat. I felt sick with fear. Please please don’t let him hurt himself. He began to shave his head, with no soap, and no mirror. There wasn’t much blood, but every scrape of the blade scraped right down my spine.
- a review of Last Voyage of the Body, Span² Festival, Dilston Grove, London 2001

Está claro que partes de una sinópsis de la historia que te interesa, pero tú no la estás contando, la cuentas a través de otras voces - voces que quedan anuladas, pues no haces refrente directo a las Fuentes. El lector no puede mapear [the sense here is that there is not a direct mapping between source and result] esas voces que han quedado consolidadas en tu relato, pero en realidad no es tu relato (o sí?) Más que hacer el trabajo de quien relata, haces un trabajo similar al del comisario - salvando distancias, claro está. Elijes un tema, seleccionas fragmentos, los organizas, les das forma y los presentas. Me parece interesante la estrategia que utilizas - generar un narrativa a partir de una geografía completamente movil - y esto definitivamente debe afectar el tipo de relaciones identificativas que el lector puede establecer con los personajes.
- Vanessa Oniboni on Betaville (the text version)

Slithering from the cretaceous annals of performances of yore you embrace yet another transgresssional contretemps with something outside of the sham-bogus art world and something within your own voluble inner geography. Am I making sense? I hope not. Having abandoned the sloughed skins of my youthful fetish orientated performance actions I am ignited and ogling your enervating images on this expertly crafted and intuitively interesting website. I am impressed by the dearth of egomania[*] which accompanies so many artists sites. Yours is refreshingly colourful, kaleidoscopically diverse and ultimately a macrocosmic shrine which all fledgling and as yet unborn foetuses of performance artists should worship at. A testament to walking the tightrope of the shoestring budget, your contributions are beyond the hackneyed and veer towards the macrocosmic.
- Shaun Caton in a letter 2006
[*this new website of mine might fill this dearth....if so, sorry Shaun]

In his gargantuan installation Dhghmunculus, Scott MacLeod invites viewers to consider the notion of transformation in art via the trappings of an alchemical laboratory. MacLeod spent several years collecting furniture, medical and construction tools, old phonographs, bugs, rusty springs and broken computer parts in order to compose them into the several loose sets of experiments that seem to be under way in the installation. The results emphasize an artist’s (and consequently a viewer’s) need to see, record and reorder to produce an epiphany. In one small piece on a shelf in the lab, MacLeod places a magnifying glass in front of an insect. Its stunning forest green, brown and golden-tinged wings are radiantly enlarged. But the artist doesn’t let us get away with a pretty moment – when our eyes tire of this spectacle, they continue downward to the fecal matter the insect is resting on. As it dawns on us we’ve been taken, we realize we’ve fallen for the tricks of a clever conjuror.
- Marcy Freedman, SF Weekly Nov 4-10, 1998

Within the dense dark and deeply nostalgic work of Scott MacLeod, the decay and failure of Western Culture is collected and transformed. Scott obsessively reconfigures the ruins of our cultural, physical and spiritual architecture into synesthetic environments whose elements, be they plastic, literary, performative or ephemeral underscore our collective failures. Like an alchemist, Scott transforms this cultural derides [do you mean 'detritus'?] into acts ['actions' would be more apt], objects and prose [texts] of disgusting beauty. The tension between the abject and the sublime is always present. It is within this tension, infused with sexuality, despair, rage and controlled hysteria, that we are given insight into a deeper personal narrative that runs parallel to his cultural criticisms. Together these subtle bombardments create sensory experiences that beg the viewer to think, question, reflect and feel. In selecting Scott for the 2000 Adaline Kent Award Committee we honor and recognize a truly prolific, dedicated and honest artist.
- Liza Fox, SFAI Adaline Kent 2000 catalogue essay

As you have said elsewhere, a kind of monologue that is “inter-permeated with (its) environments” – I was thinking that perhaps the writing could be seen as a kind of ‘environment’ in itself? I’m not sure what I mean by this, however – free to take flight, to be absorbed into surroundings, to enter into objects, become a twist of thought, loosened memory, an involuntary wash of emotion, who knows? But your previous remarks about writing toward exhaustion, or something like that… something like an entropic landscape. Makes me think of Robert Smithson…. The images continue to fascinate too – the series of subtitles are particularly intriguing for me… in fact the forced juxtapositions of all these elements, and the differences between components that are ‘grafted’ together in that way, where they cannot be separated from their supports, so to speak (though I even have doubts about this), deserves more considered attention. One might ask just what it takes to render images with language, what can be peeled away from emulsions – from image and text both mixing and refusing to gel? … I like the allusive nature of the text, almost as if it were designed to be read in reference to something that is not, and will not be, given. Instructions for the material conditions of a dream, spewing out in associated words. To have a text aspire via an enormous manifold of asides, of ventriloquisms. The text is itself dissolving as well as being corrosive, with implicit and explicit references to ambivalence, anxiety, paranoia; points combining into configurations that point ‘off’ – trying to accommodate gaps, to lever out the cracks. In fact the whole text seems to be to have a fidgety, shuffling momentum.
- David Stent on Betaville (the text version)

… The backdrop for the performance was a gallery in which he had installed a major installation some weeks before. The place was littered with leaves, empty birdcages, suitcases, baskets and miscellaneous detritus. There was a general look of desolation, not exactly abandoned, but stripped of whatever power might once have been there. MacLeod's performance was about dereliction and entropy on the human level as well as on that of civilization as a whole. What he did was actually quite simple, perfectly clear, and memorably annoying ... good annoying, that is. Appearing with golf cart wheels strapped to one leg - his movements were awkward throughout, reminiscent, perhaps, of Clov in Samuel Beckett's Endgame - MacLeod began by methodically smashing with a hammer the room's dangling light bulbs, giving it an even stronger feeling of desolation. Then, after starting slide projectors and video monitors - images of despoiled landscapes and architecture, Nazi death camps, bombed-out buildings in Dresden - MacLeod seated himself at a table with a large bottle of Russian vodka. He then selected members of the audience to join him, one by one, at the table to share shots of the vodka and to read jumbled extracts from Mein Kampf, some of them referencing Hitler's artistic and architectural interests and ambitions. It was like musical chairs: the reading continued until it was interrupted by music (Shostakovitch, political songs) or further texts (Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky speaking). At that point, the whole cycle began again until the bottle was empty. That was it. An Atmosphere ... was a playing-out of a ritual of dissolution; by the end, MacLeod was completely smashed and disordered - dangerously so - just like certain political systems we thought we would never see fail. This was performance well done, an anti-theatrical experience in a nontheater which conveyed its dramatic message clearly and artfully.
- Charles Boone, on An Atmosphere But For An Instant, in P-FORM, May 1995

Oakland-based artist and writer Scott MacLeod has put together a witty and audacious story laid in the rarefied circuit of performance art. Angelique Jobelle is written in the style of the late great Patrick Dennis photomemoirs of the 50s and 60s. I have fallen in love with Angelique Jobelle and her extreme lifestyle, as well as her free spirit artistically. She is the heroine of Scott MacLeod's newest book, a compilation and expansion of some of the best ideas from the blog of the 2000s in which he invented her and then she got too big for him, the same way Flaubert credited Madame Bovary with achieving independence from her creator. In a way, Angelique Jobelle might represent the inner self of MacLeod, himself a widely acclaimed performance artist, for though he suggests that she has little actual talent, there is much in her joie de vivre and her incessant re-invention that everyone can enjoy, even if you'd hate having to sit through some of the durational work she plagues her audience with. It's page after page of discovering Angelique first at art school, in Alberta of course, where she is training for a performance art career that then includes her boyfriend slash partner slash collaborator, Tim Delano. The two of them view themselves as superior Canadian updates of Ulay and Abramović, and she provides documentation in photographic form of their greatest hits and occasional disasters—she learns from her disasters one of the reasons why she's so lovable—sheer resilience. But then she leaves Tim behind and goes on to conquer Europe as a solo artist, helped along the way by her Svengali, the American performance professor Scot MacLeod. If any of you read LITTLE ME or FIRST LADY by Patrick Dennis then you will recognize MacLeod's vision of autobiography, but suffice it to say, he holds his own in the Patrick Dennis department and this book will have you screaming with delight at every turn of the page.
- Kevin Killian reviewing
Angelique Jobelle [for]

What a bombshell! The title sets out a pretty stunning premise - Anne Frank, the tragic child-diarist of the Holocaust, alive for all these years. There's plenty of intrigue there already - Anne Frank's possible activities during the intervening years, her decision not to come forward, her eventual fate (the entries simply stop). But each of these is more interesting as a question than it would be answered, fictionally. MacLeod has the sense to open this Pandora's box, and not trivialize it with sappy pseudo-biography. This manuscript is presumably her journal from the end of her life. The entries begin "Helsinki, 2 December, 1995 ... " Unlike the mythologized Anne Frank we all know, the tender, optimistic, intelligent and brave little Dutch girl of World War 11, this diarist is misanthropic, harsh, and unable to prevent memory from flooding into her present. The prose is a streaming diatribe of dark notations, at once perfectly clear and strangely disjointed. It is quite disturbing to read; it is like being with a schizophrenic person or a speed freak - you know, that special kind of logic that is not nonsense, but is also not quite coherent, either. The sentences are all vivid, but the synthesis is jammed somehow. This style bears some resemblance to Céline, perhaps, in "Journey to the End of Night,” without Céline’s rascally confidence. This Anne Frank is, as you might expect, a ground-down, damaged psyche, making these stabs at expressing the inexpressible. Whereas a speed freak and a schizophrenic each have their reasons for language/logic breakdown, so would a survivor of the death camps obviously have a difficult time with these. Authors from Elie Wiesel to Primo Levi and Jerzy Kosiński have all struggled with the conundrum of expressing events at the limit of comprehension. Wiesel has relegated himself to nonfiction; Kosiński and Levi, after having seemed to win this struggle with language, committed suicides rather late in life. Both authors were thought to have "dealt with it," but then succumbed to the suicidal urge statistically common among Holocaust survivors. So then, what of Anne Frank? Of course, she wouldn't be the same before and after the death camp. This journal is in the shorthand sentences of someone taking notes:

"All limits have been passed, dominated and transformed in the same way, subtle predators having fainted, leaving a dead weight upon the fingers, the stench of man's sojourn on earth. Operative metaphors penetrated, fragmented, the forest and the body buried in it moving on separate pivots, altering the pre-recorded future. Only compromise survives. There is no compromise possible."

Needless to say, it's all about death. None of the child Anne's aspirations and observations. Certain themes crop up repeatedly; for example, "the forest." A neutral thing or place, but the site of so much death (the mass graves, the Death Marches, the bucolic camp locations) that it takes on another meaning for Frank, much the same way the trains or railcars are a constant fugue in Claude Lanzmann's movies. The whole book, while not easy to read, is a powerful evocation of bodies, cold landscapes, blood, time, lies, certainty, words, and most of all, memory; and absolutely worth the effort. I had heard that the book took "references" from other literature. As I was reading, I was immersed in the mood of it, but I didn't recognize any other distinctive passages. I looked up the author (MacLeod lives in San Francisco) and found that the construction of the book is quite fascinating. MacLeod's method was an amazing harvesting and recombining of "phrases" from other texts, to create Anne Frank In Jerusalem. MacLeod scanned at least 43 sources, compiling lists of phrases that he chose intuitively, with Anne Frank's second diary in mind. Then, with these lists of phrases before him, perhaps the list from "Mein Kampf," from de Sade's "Justine," and from Emily Dickinson, he would compose a journal entry from combinations of these phrases. Thus the weird sense of simultaneous clarity and ambiguity in the writing. I have to admit, I am a form slut. It's so unusual to see a movie or a book or mural, or whatever piece of art where the form is really maximized. The result of MacLeod's method, itself a neat balance of intentionality and chance, is the creation of this universal vocabulary of despair and boundary, and an illustration of the relationship between the Holocaust and language that has been under scrutiny since Existentialism.
- Greta Snider reviewing Anne Frank In Jerusalem in Maximum Rock & Roll