Industrial Performance Artist Mark Pauline of Survival Research Labs Mounting Gallery Show

Amongst the occultural community of yore, preferred divertissments included pointedly post-industrial art forms like Industrial Music per se (Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Cabaret Voltaire and so on) and spectacularly destructive, often mechanized performance art. One of the foremost exemplars of the latter was Survival Research Laboratories, the nom de guerre of Mark Pauline. Surprisingly, with all the explosives and heavy machinery he’s handled (which cost him most of the fingers on his right hand back in the ’90’s), Mr. Pauline is still with us and going strong and earlier this year launched a rare gallery  show and the first at which the pieces on display will be for sale.  Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times’ account:

“Everything about S.R.L. resisted success,” said Adam Savage, the former “Mythbusters” host, who recalled seeing the work in the early 1990s in San Francisco. “They wouldn’t charge enough, and Mark would always have to spend a couple of days in jail after every show.”

Mr. Savage also recalled a sense of danger. “Whenever you went to one of their shows,” he said, “you knew you were going to fear for your life at some point.”

The anti-commercial stance owes a lot to Mr. Pauline’s early experience as a military contractor, building 40-ton mechanical targets for Air Force pilots to practice on. That was in 1972, as the Vietnam War raged, and it entrenched in him a permanent resistance to the corporate world.

“I just want to be in my own hermetic world where there’s no commerce, there’s no killing,” Mr. Pauline said. “There’s just goofing around.”

The Survival Research Laboratories performances generally come with unwieldy, gonzo titles, like “A Calculated Forecast of Doom: Sickening Episodes of Widespread Devastation Accompanied by Sensations of Pleasurable Excitement.” They also resist a simple political interpretation, although they are resolutely hostile to corporate culture and straightforward narrative. Blasts of cacophonous polka music have been a recurring motif.


Frater Lux Ad Mundi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *