Survival Research Labs: Shows:   LA ♥ SRL   John Rogers': Why We Rock and Work so Fucking Hard


Why We Rock and Work so Fucking Hard.

By John Colle Rogers

It is difficult to be objective from within the maelstrom, but sometimes the eye of the hurricane is the most advantageous place to scrutinize the clockwork whirling around you. I feel like this is my position as a member of SRL.

Dirty and tired as we headed back to SF from the 2005 LA show, Ralf Burgert, Malcolm Horn and myself had the opportunity to compare notes on the experience of this wonderfully spontaneous community of technical and material wizards. The term that both Ralf and myself have come up with is .functional anarchy,. and we spent our first chunk of the I-5 trying to figure out why is worked so very well. Many reasons were voiced, and I think of them all as true for various aspects of SRL.

Our common desire for fiery riotous fun, fueled by a shared revulsion with the blandification of our culture seems to be the grease on the chains. We are all pyromaniacs of one degree or another, with a love for things that go boom in the night. A certain edgy aethetic is shared as well - - we are not satisfied with what CNN spoonfeeds the masses. There is a desire to deconstruct the sterility of consumer culture and make our own reality in its place, a tearing down of old structures mostly because they are so damn boring.

An SRL show is a ritual for all involved. It is an endurance test, taxing one.s creative and physical resources in an almost survivalistic manner (albeit with catering). The short term, liminal experience, which is the production of a show, is nihilism with integrity. We build to destroy, echoing the life cycle in a microcosm. The .play. encapsulates the brevity of our own existence, compressing the elemental, magmatic forces which form and continue us. But it.s gotta look good at the same time. Thus, we self-organize out of necessity. We all know what we do, and what others can do, and either self-delegate or get orders from Mark or another project .leader., and then just get to it. Everyone is pushing toward this insanely short, elementally compacted spectacle.

Driving our dedication to a concerted destruction of communally created property is each member.s desire to be engulfed in the intensity of the show. In a world where we are constantly interfacing with computers and experiencing the world through filters (windshield, video or computer screen, etc), there is a driving urge to experience the Cthonic underpinnings of the world, the elemental forces over which .culture. is simply a thin veneer. The punishing sound, the fire, Kimric.s smoke screens, the brute force of the machines - - these are all a heavy stand-in for what is at our core, an externalization of the mechanics of raw being. The creation and destruction as well - - a graspable cycle.

Malcolm made the point of how a certain weight is lifted from us with this destruction, there is no burden of continuity. Our culture is so wed to the idea of permanence - - a fundamentally unnatural expectation in an impermanent world and I guess we find it our duty to unhinge that. The Japanese have a term for the transitory nature of thing - - .Mono-no-aware.. Honoring this terminal state is in harmony with the cycles of being, another part of the deeper drive to fuck shit up.



This Shiva involvement keeps the energy recirculating, sustaining the power over the last 26 years. The machines endure, but their environments are constantly destroyed and rebuilt. A string of reincarnations? Whatever. We all go back to the fire in the end, and this art is about that action of circling through again and again - - the cycles of Samsara - - rather than creating a static enduring precious object.

The complete destruction of our work which makes us work all that harder, to have complete control of the future of our present labours is the ultimate cure to the classic Marxist alienation which plagues our world. The fiery solution to how to end the story is typical of our pyrohydrolic tendencies in the Bay Area, surrounded by water, yet focused on flame. Look at the Burning Man festival. It has its many many many faults, yet provides an outlet for predominantly white color folk to experience this .closure.. Taking part in such a ritual is a basic drive ignored in contemporary culture, sublimated and unrecognized by most. We know how fucking good it feels to be a part of this thing running its course, and do our best to make it happen in the most intensely satisfying way it can.

Toward this end, many of us use our professional skills to make the shows happen, and I think there is something important about taking the powers that we generally use to fulfill our responsibilities, and using them in an irresponsible manner. We own them more closely. It allows us to chuckle a little when some asshole is breathing down our neck about a deadline or some asinine detail. Perhaps the elemental involvement gives us a carrion crow-like perspective, seeing the larger picture by virtue of having experienced a miniature life and death. Maybe we let the laser point sight of the Pitching Machine track up his pant leg to his crotch, reflecting on the power we play with.

This in-group out-group dynamic is another driving factor, with the shows helping to coalesce our Alliance of Evil. We dwell in this culture, but have created a subset of dissatisfaction within it. There is a sense of responsibility to our group (look at the various benefits for Tim, Amy, et al), coupled with a typically fuck you punk rock attitude to all the rest. The personalities here are larger than life, and the show environment amplifies that. Our porcupinal tendencies as well as the compassion for our .familiy. all become exaggerated in the sleep-dep madness.

There are many other factors driving us, and sometimes the whole machine doesn.t work all that well. Ralf made the point that in most anarchist households the dishes never get done, and there is shit everywhere. In this same vein, Mark is usually left with a big mess to put away.

In closing, it seems the way the community dissolves after every show flows in the same pattern as the shows themselves, dissipating into the concrete. Again I quote Ralf from after our return to SF, .Tomorrow it.ll just be me and the spiders again..

10-4, over and out.

John Colle Rogers
JohnKo Systems Unlimited
Communications Division



Photo by Ralf Burgert