The Books are two guys, Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong, who despite multiple moves over the years, are based in North Adams, Massachusetts. They scour thrift stores in search of old videos and recordings, then mix it all together, adding cello and other instrumentation, both formal and experimental.
Which is all very well and good. But my main interest in them comes from North Adams, where Keith grew up (actually in neighboring Clarksburg, up the hill from North Adams). This is a small industrial town in Western Mass.--a part of the Berkshires that was not touristy, but lived in and a bit rugged. Beautiful, but eventually depressed after all the industry closed up shop.
That is until 1999 when MASS MoCA opened, taking over a factory that covers a full city block. This great big building full of art has attracted like-minded business to the area, which is scenic and affordable. The intelligent design choice that the museum made was to leave the factory almost completely intact, down to the industrial-grade bathrooms on the first floor. The exposed brick walls are an exhibit in themselves--tremendously high, chipped, multi-hued and textured. The galleries are massive and the artwork follows that lead.
You can enter some of the rooms and they become your complete environment for the moment. A climbable, life-sized plywood ship; a human digestive system made from ducts and bellows, paintings that could fill up airplane hangars. And best: humor in the form of videos, smaller exhibits and low-key literature in the gift shop. (I got my "Boring Postcards" book there, which is full of boring but amusing postcards.) Also: great live shows. Visit Mass Mocha and bring your lawn chairs.
The Books edit and play found-footage videos at their live shows. You can order a DVD's worth of these, plus CDs and other items, including the fascinating spoon box sculpture, on their site.
Boston Globe reports in.