LA Freak: A Nihilist’s Memoir
For the last forty years, Elisha Shapiro has created conceptual art that explores modern mass media, beliefs, and the very nature of art. Steeped in humor and irony, Shapiro is to Nihilism what Marvel is to superheroes. Highlights of his career include The 1984 Nihilist Olympics, The Nihilist Film Festival, The Nihilist Party campaigns for President, County Sheriff and California Governor, The 1999 Nihilism Expo, and The Nihilists' Corner television show.
Now, Shapiro's memoir, "LA Freak," tells his story of growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s. In his book, he discusses his love of Los Angeles, not the glamorous Hollywood, but the rebellious, fun, artistic, "alternative" Los Angeles he knows. Shapiro's unique worldview makes this a compelling read.
Continue reading for an exclusive interview.
How did you come to write "LA Freak"?
Since high school, I have written down stories from my life that I found amusing. And for the past ten years, I have been telling some of those stories at storytelling shows. And I enjoyed the audiences’ positive reactions.
After retiring from my job, a couple of years ago, and with covid restrictions, I started looking over all my stories and saw a narrative that made sense. I added and cut and was happy with LA Freak.
How would you describe the book?
LA Freak is the story of Elisha Shapiro growing up in Los Angeles in the 60s and 70s. Elisha talks about his love for his town...not the glamorous Hollywood, but the rebellious, fun, artistic, “alternative” Los Angeles. His funny stories include the people he was close to and his strange encounters with others. He talks about The Nihilist Olympics and the National Nihilist Party, and his other fun and challenging art projects, and where they came from. Satiric, sweet, personal, offensive, and funny stories.
Why was this book important for you to write?
To me, art is about finding a way to share a unique worldview with people who see the world differently. That is what I did with my conceptual art, and now with my writing. Letting others better understand the world as I see it is not always possible, but that’s what I do, with my cheerful, dark humor.
What do you hope readers take away from reading your book?
First, I hope to entertain readers. And maybe to challenge them a bit. Show them there are other ways of looking at things that they had not considered.
You’ve been running the Nihilist Film Festival for years. How did that come about? Do you cover it in the book?
I mention the Nihilist Film Festival when I talk about the 1999 Nihilism Expo piece I did. As I was building the nihilist world’s fair installation, I thought a film festival would be a nice addition. After the Expo, the film festival lived on because it was a lot of fun for me, and pretty easy to keep going. People from all around the world send me weird short films, and I put together a show.
Your website is called The Nihilists’ Corner. Can you tell us a bit about that?
In 1996, I heard talk about this “internet” thing. I looked into it and decided it would be fun to extend my art into this new area. At the time, there were not easy web page applications. I had to learn how to make a web page with Html coding. I did the best I could. Making my art and philosophy and humor available around the world. It took a while for people to find the page, but these days, I get between 100 and 150 visits a day. Even though it might look a little old-fashioned, a lot of people look at the page and see my stuff.
Do you have any other upcoming books or projects you would like to share with us?
There were a lot of fun stories that were not included in LA Freak. I do want to do something with them, but I don’t see a coherent narrative yet. Maybe something more chunky: drugs in the ‘60s, my dad’s story, goofy childhood, more art performances.
Right now, I’m putting together the twenty-second Nihilist Film Festival. And I’m working on the forty-first edition of my Nihilism Calendar. So sounds like a fun December.
For more information on Elisha Shapiro please visit his website Nihilists.net