Sep 27, 2013

Space Is the Place

Personally, I have no fear of a black planet, as long as I do not actually live it on myself. Undoubtedly, Afrofuturist jazz musician and black nationalist ‘cosmic philosopher’ Sun Ra would not want me living there either as he makes it quite ‘crystal clear’ (both literally and figuratively) in the audaciously Afrocentric avant-garde sci-fi flick Space Is the Place (1974) aka Sun Ra & His Intergalactic Arkestra: Space Is the Place directed by cracker TV director/producer John Coney and produced by fellow white cuckold TV producer Jim Newman. The closest thing to a ‘negro Lucifer Rising,’ Space Is the Place is suavely surreal celluloid racial mysticism of the forward-looking variety that portrays a futuristic fantasy in the apocalyptic racial utopia spirit of The Turner Diaries where a stoic spade messiah played by Sun Ra comes to earth to colonize black America with hypnotic power music and takes its most upstanding citizens to the homeboy planet and where, in the end, earth, as well as all the white devils and Uncle Toms, is totally destroyed. Originally envisioned as a mere 30-minute performance documentary on “The Arkestra” (Ra’s musical group) after Sun Ra came to the attention of producer Jim Newman when the musician was teaching a course at the University of California, Berkeley on “The Black Man in the Cosmos” where he promoted thinkers ranging from Russian occultist Madame Blavatsky to black poet Henry Dumas, Space Is the Place eventually evolved into a feature-length narrative film with the help of screenwriter Joshua Smith, although two different films exist day. Writing all of his own lines and dialogue, Sun Ra ultimately rejected the 85-minute director’s cut due to what he rightfully perceived as featuring exploitative blaxploitation themes, thus a shorter 60+ minute Ra-approved radical cut of the film was released on VHS missing two sex scenes and a scene with a junky degenerate, among various others. Admittedly, I preferred the decidedly degenerate director’s cut as Ra’s version of the film seems like a poor black man’s puritanical take on Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) and Steve Arnold’s Luminous Procuress (1971) as it lacks the ludicrously lurid and racial-stereotype-charged angle of the longer cut. Indeed, blaxploitation scenes or not, Space Is the Place is still a strikingly singular esoteric black empowerment flick steeped in blood mysticism and radical Afrocentric historical revisionism that combines intentional race-based mythmaking akin to National Socialist philosopher Alfred Rosenberg and the collectivist black identity politics of revolutionary pan-African leader Marcus Garvey. Sort of the sci-fi fantasy genre equivalent to the Afrocentric horror flick Ganja & Hess (1973) directed by Bill Gunn and starring Duane Jones of Night of the Living Dead (1968), Space Is the Place is a work that reminds the viewer, despite what the Hebrews, homos, and other assorted cultural Marxist types in Hollywood have to say with their inorganic and culture-distorting films, racially nationalistic cinema is more about love and true culture than hate and soulless cosmopolitanism, consumerism, and other vapid values that are setting the world on a path to self-destruction. 

 Taking his pseudonymous name from the Egyptian God of the Sun, Space Is the Place features a sort of Aeon of Horus of the Afrocentric persausion that espouses self-realization, albeit of the racially collectivist as opposed to individualistic self-absorbed and hedonistic sort. Originally a somewhat lowly but locally legendary jazz musician at speakeasies around the time of the Second World War, Sun Ra vanished from the planet in June 1969 while on tour in Europa, ultimately landing on a funky celestial planet with his (musical) crew “The Arkestra.” As for his reasons for heading to outerspace, Ra is quite blunt, stating, “We set up a colony for black people here…see what they can do all on their own without any white people there.” With the potent stench of black power in the air, Sun Ra decides to head back to earth to spread his message and recruit new brothas for the mother planet, using music as his mad cool medium of galactic transportation. First time-traveling to 1943 Chicago where he used to play piano under the lowly name “Sonny Ray,” Sun Ra confronts his nasty nemesis named ‘The Overseer’ (Ray Johnson)—a kind of black devil who symbolically wears all white, loves white whores, and who is a pimp and ‘psychic vampire’ of sorts that styles himself as a community leader of the negro community but is really just the 'enemy within'—and the two agree to duel using Afrofuturist tarot cards for the fate of heart and soul of the black race. As Mr. Ra tells a couple black national activists who question whether or not he is ‘real,’ “I’m not real…I’m just like you…you don’t exist in this society. If you did…your people wouldn’t be seeking equal rights. You’re not real…if you were you’d have some status among the nations of the world. So we’re both myths. I do not come to you as a reality. I come to you as the myth because that’s what black people are…myths. I came from a dream that the black man dreamed long ago. I’m actually a presence sent to you by your ancestors. I’m gonna be here until I pick out certain ones of you to take back with me,” thus demonstrating the need for blacks to make their own history and reality and stop living in whitey's world as second-class citizens.

 Upon arriving in Oakland, California, Sun Ra opens a place called the ‘Outer Space Employment Agency,’ where he turns down an Aryan man that worked for NASA with the most bluest of white devil eyes, a slutty white MILF, and a homeless black wino who refuses to work, as the mature Amero-Mandingo metaphysician musician is looking for negroes of upstanding characters and even prefers morally keen ‘ghetto blacks’ to ‘white physicists.’ Meanwhile, two radical young negroes—Bubbles (Jack Baker) and his mulatto friends—are told by the evil Overseer that Sun Ra is a charlatan and a fraud, stating, “The dude wants you to buy his records, you dig?!...He’s not dealing in black magical soul power…He deals in cold cash, you understand?,” but the two young black bucks disagree, stating, “But he hasn’t yet traded his black brethren to the exploitative, racially and culturally co-opted Caucasian power structure.” Sun Ra also faces spiritual trouble when a Svengali-like brotha' Jimmy Fey (Christopher Brooks)—the cracker-loving minion of the Overseer who is a sort of archetype for the fake Uncle Tom type blacks in the mainstream entertainment industry—coerces the out-of-this-world musician to ‘sell-out’ by doing radio appearances, a music album, and a large concert of biblical performances. On top of that, a duo of honkey hellions working for Nazi NASA begin spying on and plotting to kill the subversive spade Sun Ra. Of course, Ra has the power of Afrofuturist music on his side and believes that most blacks are depressed because, “The people…have no music. That is…in coordination with their spirits…because of this… they are out of tune with the universe. Since they don’t have money…they don’t have anything,” so he naturally decides to give them the gift of music to fight back against the white menace. Just when Bubbles tells his comrade that he thinks Sun Ra has degenerated into a sell-out Uncle Tom, stating “I think this whole big concert business is a byproduct of the Eurasian Occidental conspiracy…he’s been coopted, coauthored, and correlated,” the two Afrocentric revolutionaries spot the two white devils from NASA kidnapping the Afrocentric musician, so they rescue and free him. Not long after, Bubbles gets shot and killed by one of the white NASA dudes while shielding Sun Ra during a botched assassination attempt, but the musician ultimately saves his life by putting him on his spaceship, which will take him to the glamorous intergalactic ghetto. Aside from Bubbles, his friends (a mulatto and a Fat Albert-esque negro), Sun Ra also allows Jimmy Fey’s “black part” to board his spaceship, leaving the evil “white part” of Fey behind to taunt the Overseer. In the end, the most noblest of negroes fly into outerspace on Sun Ra’s spaceship and planet earth explodes not long after, killing the whole wide white world in the process and thus ultimately securing black domination of the entire universe, thereupon making Space Is the Place easily the greatest and most uncompromising black power sci-fi flick ever made. 

 As the scatological Semite Norman Mailer wrote regarding the Apollo 11 moon landing and its uniquely Aryan and Faustian character, “the real mission of the Wasp in history was not, say, to create capitalism, or to disseminate Christianity into backward countries…It was to get the U.S. to the moon” and “To wit, he can project himself 'extraordinary distances through a narrow path. He's disciplined, stoical, able to become the instrument of his own will, has extraordinary boldness and daring together with a resolute lack of imagination. He's profoundly nihilistic. And this nihilism found its perfect expression in the odyssey to the moon—because we went there without knowing why we went,” yet clearly the self-proclaimed “white negro” novelist spoke far too soon and jealously as Space Is the Place demonstrates there is not only a transcendental and spiritual element to space travel, but also that proud national black men would love to do it too, even if whitey was there first. More importantly, the film proves that black Americans can produce idiosyncratic mystic kultur that does not revolve around crude and animalistic sexual habits, ‘ill’ literacy, nihilistic materialism, and philistine-style hate-for-hate's sake. In fact, the antagonist of Space Is the Place, the Overseer, is a pernicious cultural parasite who enslaves his own people via drugs and addicts, prostitutes his own people for profit, is totally irreligious, and will do anything for a buck or fuck. Like the Aryan operatic “Gesamtkunstwerk” films of proud Prussian auteur Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King, Hitler: A Film from Germany), Space Is the Place is a cinematic work that, aside from its humor and classic sci-fi conventions, would be totally inaccessible and misunderstood today in our spiritually vacant and monstrously materialistic times due to its promotion of cultural myths among the respective group the film was made for. Indeed, it may be a total fiction that ancient Egypt was a black civilization, but such grandoise sentiments unify a people, which is a message that Sun Ra more or less tried to spread with Space Is the Place. Pro-black without being matriarchal and black Bolshevik like the cinematic works of Senegalese auteur Ousmane Sembène (Xala, Camp de Thiaroye) meets primitive science fiction cinema of the outmoded old school sort, Space Is the Place ultimately did for avant-garde Afrofuturist jazz what Slava Tsukerman’s cult classic Liquid Sky (1982) did for punk/New Wave/electroclash, thus making it a must-see for fans of the music subgenre (I must admit I am not one of them). With curiously comical and highly quotable quotes like, “looks like we got another dead nigger on our hands,” “we’ll put a coon on the moon by June,” and “sometimes when you lose you win,” Space Is the Place is accidental satire at its best.  Rather ironically shot concurrently on the same sound-stage as the porn chic classic Behind the Green Door (1972) considering Sun Ra's disciplined monk-like ways (the Afrofuturist did not cut out the sex scenes out of his cut of the film for nothing!), Space Is the Place is not only a celluloid space oddity, but a cultural oddity that is more thematically relevant today than when it was when released nearly four decades ago, especially considering a certain mulatto president of the United States of America bears a certain resemblance to the villain of the film as a false messiah leading not only blacks, but also whites and every other race, on a path of total destruction.

-Ty E

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