bible burning. flaming out the word….Imagine
Art Chantry (firstname.lastname@example.org ):
Ever wanted to ban a book? How about burn a book? How about a huge public gathering of people angrily burning hundreds of copies of books, big flaming piles of books in protest? What, you say it happens all the time? They burn records like that, too? Well, what if that book were the bible? So, suddenly it’s a BAD THING, now?
most of us know about “Survival Research Laboratories” at this point (if you don’t, you really need to go look them up). We know all about their incredibly strange machinery built out of salvaged and stolen parts, jerry-rigged into huge walking rolling lurching creatures. We know about the robotics and scripted performances utilizing them (along with rocket engines, napalm and animal carcasses). We know all about how those performances always manage to reduce into flaming demolition derby rubble. If you are ever lucky enough to witness an SRL performance, you certainly know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I suggest you get to work.
Well, not many of us know that Mark Pauline (the high priest of SRL) has also had a long career outside of SRL. He began life doing altered billboards back in the San Francisco punk scene. His ‘survival research laboratories’ started off as a collective (spawning many offshoot projects and careers, like the music performance machinery of matt heckert). SRL and mark pauline’s efforts has also spawned technological advances that has influenced medical research and even silicon valley geeks. SRL is no slouching bunch of goofball ‘arteests’. These guys are the real deal, an alternative mad scientist arm of the underground exploratory discourse, not to be trifled with.
So, back in the early 90′s, when this poster popped up in underground circles in seattle (SRL has many connections into Seattle and many of my friends have been involved with their efforts in many different ways, some of them intimately), it means you were to take serious notice. This was to be a huge pile of thousands of bibles – publicly burned in mass crackpot bookburning (just like them texans!!) as a performance. So, i guess this meant that SRL didn’t always use machinery in their work, right?
Sadly, protests from the good righteous godfearing folk (emphasis on the word “fear”) managed to put a stop to it (of course.)I sometimes wonder if Mark Pauline didn’t intend all along for the power religiosity to stomp on the project. It’s so perfectly realized in that way, that it seems intentional. At any rate, the event never happened. I heard he still has a huge pile of bibles that he doesn’t know what to do with.
Mark Pauline does all his own graphic design. I once approached him about getting involved and doing design work for SRL. but, he brushed me off saying it’s his art and he does the graphics. That’s absolutely correct (it was sorta foolish of me to approach him, actually). He has developed a wonderful DIY graphic style for all of SRL’s publicity that is so identifiable as ONLY his work that it’s become a wonderful branded style.
This poster is a great example of what that style looks like. Very smart, nasty, primitive and ECCENTRIC. Total crackpot as brand ID. excellent! it’s always reminded me of those fucked up religious screeds that boobs carrying signs about the coming apocalypse shove into your unwilling hand on a street corner. it looks almost exactly like those same artifacts (see examples in the book “kooks” published by feral house press).
I think SRL is brilliant and Mark Pauline is a mad genius. Try to imagine a reality show based on their work. SRL already is reportedly the inspiration for a slew of tv shows like robot wars, junkyard wars, mythbusters, etc. etc. a direct inspiration. I think it’s high time for Mark Pauline to be a tv celebrity. It would likely harken that apocalypse those street corner crazies have been warning us about.
Damn, don’t you think it’s time for some big public holy bible burning bonfires? That would be the ultra-coolest thing ever! Let’s all get to work!
art chantry: i remember one machine they built that had a huge electro magnet on one end and a huge blower on the other. they pumped kerosene into the blower and added a sparker. it was a giant flame thrower.
it was sitting in a crowd and it roared int…o life, drenching the crowd behind it with kerosene. that sparker was sparking, too. but, somehow (through a blessing of gawd) it didn’t ignite. man, that was close! nobody seemed to notice, either.
man, theres’ so many stories like that, too. really scary stuff….ya know, when you work in that territory, burning a pile of bibles seems to pale in comparison, like it’s really no big deal. i don’t really know if they really understood that people don’t play with life and death everyday like they do, and that burning a religious document is something ‘normal’ folk never even considered before. living on the edge does that to you….
…ya know, i’ve heard tell that mark pauline has been repeatedly approached to do a ‘reality TV” show, but always turned them down flat. he’s also resisted all efforts by art collectors to buy any of the machines or ‘relics’ of his performan…ces. he’s never let his work be documented outside of his own efforts. he’s either a total nutjob control freak, or he’s a dedicated underground artist living on the very teetering edge of the law. actually, he’s both, i assume….i also love the “yes, but…” men. talk about weenies. harry reid, my weenie ass hero! barack obama, not far behind….
…the first performance i saw by SRL, they built this absolutely beautiful vehicle. it had this huge V8 engine sitting in the middle of it (on some sort of scissor-type suspension) and these huge SQUARE wheels made of metal pipe. it was cont…rolled with one of those remote hand held devices and when it moved it LURCHED in this weird jumping fashion, with this LOUD huge V8 engine (straight pipes sticking up in the air) jumping up and down the whole time. it was absolutely riveting and frightening to watch.
some how, somebody’s remote got crossed with the wrong antennae and the thing suddenly slammed into high throttle and began to literally jump across the performance space (a big dirt lot) in high speed, bouncing in the air, roaring like a dinosaur in jurassic park. damn, it was amazing!
it crashed into an ‘air cannon’ (that was modeled on those mattel toy ‘blasters’ we used as kids to blow out each other’s eardrums – remember those things? but, think 100 times bigger.) imagine it getting slammed into by this incredible square wheeled hot rod machine, parts and flames and smoke everywhere. all of it surrounded by hundreds of cheering gleeful observers. they just gracefully stepped out of the way, like the parting of the red sea…
…in their early performances, the had this incredible ‘spider legged’ machine that was actually controlled by their pet guinea pig (name of ‘stupid’, i seem to remember). it was compressed air powered and the animal was strapped into a box …with sensors on the straps. it actually quickly figured out that it could control the machine with it’s movements and was actually learning to walk with it (thus refuting the ‘stupid’ name).
the best part was that it had (if i remember correctly) a flame thrower on the front of it – also controlled by the guinea pig.
try to imagine standing there in a tight crowd of an audience watching a guinea pig run this thing right into you, hoping it doesn’t decide to fry you…