For the uninitiated, Joe Coleman paints meticulously constructed circus-dream visions that often depict serial killers and does performance pieces in which he bites the heads off rats and sets off explosions on his own body. One Chicago performance found him arrested and charged with “possession of an Infernal Machine” (a machine or apparatus maliciously designed to explode and destroy life or property) — a charge not levied against anyone since the 19th Century.
Robert-Adrian Pejo’s film, R.I.P. Rest in Pieces: A Portrait of Joe Coleman, explores this side of Joe, but also the loving and funny side; the one that is forever questioning the bounds of consensus reality, pushing an pulling universal dualities until they creak under the pressure. Joe expounds on his theories about the world (cities as cancerous tumors on the planet with the human inhabitants as a cancer). During one of these discussions, director Jim Jarmusch hangs out with Joe and smokes in a church. The DVD extras include Joe’s circus-like, but over-the-top romantic wedding: part of which one might expect, the other part of which one wouldn’t.
Many, many contradictions incarnate, Joe Coleman ultimately emerges from Rest in Peices as a likable guy with a penchant for the disturbing.
I marshal the middle between Mathers and McLuhan.