Doctor Al Ackerman
are the most commonly used pseudonyms of well-known American mail artist
and still little-known writer who has been active since the early 1970s. A Vietnam veteran, Ackerman worked in hospitals in Texas in the 70's, where his extraordinarily pessimistic but also highly idiosyncratic worldview further crystallized. He moved from Texas to Baltimore where he became highly collaborative and a fixture of the burgeoning experimental cultural scene from 1992-2010, after being financially encourage by Rupert Wondolowski and John Berndt to make the move. In 2010 he moved back to Texas due to ill health, and currently lives in Austin with his daughter.
Heavily influenced by post-war pulp writers like L. Ron Hubbard, Theodore Sturgeon
, Raymond Chandler
and Fredric Brown
(with whom Ackerman corresponded as a young person) as well as by modernists like Ray Johnson
, Francis Ponge
and the Oulipo
, Ackerman's writing has dealt playfully, if obsessively, with themes of madness, derangement, and weird phenomena. He has been described as "the perfect synthisis of Flan O'Brian, Boris Vian, S.J. Perlman and H.P. Lovecraft though that hardly does justice to his unique, instantly recognizable prose style.
His visual work is also in the tradition of black humor
, often including a trademark character, "the hebephrenic
," a demented character with a wide upper lip and two protruding teeth. His output from the 70's to the 90's was primarily in the form of photocopied "Mail art" editions sent to other correspondents, and sometimes featured in gallery shows and underground publications. His most famous character, "The Ling Master" (based on the premise of what Lamonte Cranston (aka "The Shadow") would have been like if instead of being a super hero he had been an eccentric shut-in) has been the subject of considerable attention--including translations of stories into foreign languages,
In the 90's, collections of his writing and drawings began to appear in professionally produced books. His voluminous output was anthologized in The Blaster Omnibus and given a one-man show at the Chela Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland. Other books include Let Me Eat Massive Pieces of Clay, I Taught My Dog to Shoot a Gun, and Corn and Smoke. Over the past twenty years, he has been mostly frequently published "The Lost and Found Times"
, published by frequent collaborator John M. Bennett
, and by the Shattered Wig Review
published by Rupert Wondolowski
, although his massive body of work is difficult to track due to his regular use of a variety of pseudonyms (which he relates to his childhood love of the pulps), including Eel Leonard, Luther Blissett (nom de plume)
(a reference to the footballer
of the same name), and Swarthy Turk Sellers among many others, as well as regular anonymous and collaborative works. His latest book entitled "Misto Peas: Tiny Special Stories", was published in 2009 by Luna Bisonte Productions. The book contains reworkings or "hacks" of poet John M. Bennett's writing--one of many streams of longtime activity by Ackerman.
Ackerman's deep influence on extreme cultural figures far outstrips his public visibility. His influence in the 80s was strongly influential in the formation of Neoism
and on Neoism founder Istvan Kantor
, Neoists tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE and John Berndt, performance artist Andre Stitt
, photographer Richard Kern
(who published Ackerman's writing in his magazine Dumb Fucker) and musicians Genesis P-Orridge
who used one of Ackerman's letters as the text of Throbbing Gristle
's song "Hamburger Lady." Many of his stories have been made into videos by his longtime friend Steve "Sleeze" Steele, and one story, about a man who give his life over to the creation of a garment made of Vienna sausages, was given feature-length film treatment by Catherine Pancake
under the name The Suit.
In 2005 a long playing record of his spoken performances, titled I am Drunk, was issued on Ehse.