It used to be “the end is nigh”—but it’s apocalypse now. It is the age of isolation and the bedroom is our oyster. The world is freakier than ever; we are living in a highly absurdist stage performance by Geneva Jacuzzi. The arbiter of bedroom pop.
Geneva Jacuzzi is a pop artist working in the strange paradise of angels—Los Angeles. A mother of invention, she is exalted as an early pioneer of the modern lo-fi bedroom pop terrain, and is a notable figure in the underground scenes in Hollywood and Los Angeles, with her influence spreading worldwide in the pop, noise, and independent art communities. Geneva is further recognized for her work in visual and performance art, fabrication, fashion, and film. She directs and produces music videos and video art installations, designs and produces her own sets and wardrobe, and choreographs her stage performances.
Lamaze is Geneva’s 2010 debut—a full-length pressing of analog 4-track and 8-track recordings that document the development of her musical style: from her first appearance in 2004 up to 2009. The collection is venerated as canon among her devotees and has become a coveted relic among fans and collectors of pop artifacts and rarities. The recordings from this period are largely electronic pop songs that are typical minimalist constructions with dance floor tempos that trot around at about 100 BPM. This framework is often decorated with ribbons of melodic airs that navigate through the space freely. Floating over everything are punctuations of effects and customized noise-crafting. She plays around with formats including instrumentals and varying types of interludes—soliloquies, dialogues, free vocal speech, cheerleading chants, unintelligible prattling, or onomatopoeic sounds. Geneva’s sound, fashion, and performance style varies broadly, but they supplement each other’s functions in the scope of the performance. Her core inheritance is rooted in stage traditions including classical Greek, Weimar-era Berlin, Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, French mime comedy, Klaus Nomi, Nina Haagen, and Liquid Sky.
Geneva’s subject matter tends to gallop around the fantasias of surrealist mindscapes, Freudian/Jungian dreamscape cosmologies, the ecstasy and the agonies of dissociation, high drama in the astral realms, collisions of Dionysian grotesqueness in the arcades of Apollo, personality disorders likening to parodies of sybil, a garish exaggeration of Beckett styled theater of absurdity, and high goof.
Geneva came from the shoreline of certain untouched coastal neighborhoods, the last of the wild beaches in San Diego County. She toyed around with recording and performing with various music acts from the San Diego art scene, but her art form took direction when she arrived in Los Angeles in 2001. She supported herself as a make-up artist in Hollywood and had odd encounters with celebrities like Robert Blake and Britney Spears. In the meantime, she formed Bubonic Plague, which she led and fronted with members of The Warlocks and The Centimeters. Bubonic Plague was a synthwave death-disco club with a minimal electro sound, similar to Chrome, Throbbing Gristle, The Screamers, Nowave, and Devo. They kept company with the goths, death rock, noise, anti-art, and hardcore acts from the emerging dark wave revival of that time. It was the last era of true weirdness, a scene populated with oddballs, slimers, masochists, sadists, greasers, pyros, witches, hustlers of every kind, danger strangers, cowboys, art dealers, actors, true weirdos,and all the creatures of freakdom.
By 2004, Geneva’s general style of music, fashion, concept art, and stage presence developed into something more considered, sophisticated, and weird. She retained the dance beat that drove her initial work, but her compositions became more asymmetrical and oddly spaced—textured with distances felt through tiers and lyrical and vocal dimensions that piloted around conceptual strata. She found her way in the Echo Park art scene, centering around the Tiny Creatures gallery—recognized for the activity of artists Jason Yates, Tall Paul, Chris Kraus, Hedi El Kohlti & Semiotext(e), and the founder and owner of the gallery, Janet Kim. A music scene developed around the new label Human Ear Music, by Jason Grier of Supercreep. Human Ear would release seminal recordings by Geneva, Ariel Pink, Holy Shit, John Maus, Julia Holter, Gary Wilson, Nite Jewel, and the Softboiled Eggies. This was ground zero for the “new American sound,” and these were the people helming it.
Geneva took her art further in her living play, Dark Ages. With collaborator Casey Simpson, she staged unannounced performances in public spaces that were hijacked for the play, a form of art intervention. The project spanned four years in over thirty countries. Spaces were planned in advance; Geneva designed the act, while Casey wrote the play. Each play would utilize cultural aspects of the space. Crowds that witnessed the public interruption responded with varied emotions, at times protesting it as a vulgarity of hubris, or as a grotesque display of bad taste. Vice commemorated Dark Ages with a 12 page pin-up of stills from a six-video odyssey directed by JJ Stratford that was written, designed, and shot on the fly. Dark Ages signified a maturation in Geneva’s art practice. It was a postmodern exercise of performance as an art object that had to be witnessed or documented, but could not be acquired because there was no object to commodify—a contemporary art exercise similar to Allan Kaprow’s “Happenings,” Fluxus, Situationist International, Vienna Actionism, COUM Transmissions, Duchamp, Marina Abramovic, Carolee Schneeman, and Womanhouse.
Lamaze is essentially a collection of demos, which is an atypical debut. But it is among the first lo-fi pop recordings that became the lexicon of the new music frontier, the “hypnagogic” jukebox— chillwave, bedroom pop, witch house, vaporwave, and more. The sound of the future, today. It was also the beginning of a new kind of lifestyle and art practice for Geneva, where she could make a living as an artist. Lamaze is an artifact that represents a very specific period in Geneva’s career. But it’s also a window into a vanished world: a wilderness of bold action, of doing everything yourself, of risking wreckage, a world you might only see through the portal of Lamaze.