SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

Exterior recreation area of Portrero Hill Middle School, 655 De Haro Street at 18th

Mark Pauline/Survival Research Laboratories, Survival Research Laboratories Views with Regret: The Unrestrained Use of Excessive Force (17th-18th September 1983)



This live event featured all new equipment, of an even more massive scale than previous SRL works, including the debut of the 30-foot-long Stairway to Hell and a bevy of numerous male robots. Also appearing was the Autonomous Crazy Machine, a ramming car, styled after the children’s toy cars which rebound and change direction when confronted with obstacles. Essentially a show of handmade sculptures, SRL’s performances involve the interactions of his mobile machines as they exhibit the eccentric behaviours built into them by Pauline and others, who direct them by remote control. At the end of the performance, most of the equipment is used up and otherwise destroyed. (Pritkin and Searcy 1983: 64)

S.R.L Views with Regret: the Unrestrained Use of Excessive Force took place in San Francisco at night under floodlights on an asphalt playground. Some 1200 people gathered to watch the event which was accompanied with loudly amplified sounds of electronically altered groans and machine sounds. A five-foot high dog-like Jumping Machine powered by an internal combustion engine periodically crouches and jumps several feet into the air apparently attempting to crush a small four-legged piece of squirming raw meat (meat skewered on a motorized metal armature). Over a period of 40 minutes, while other events are taking place, the jumping machine stalks the piece of squirming meat. Finally the jumper succeeds in landing on the squirming meat breaking it into pieces. Part of the victim continues to “live” as its motor continues to turn until the performance is over.

The jumping dog then takes on The Crawler, a somewhat larger animalistic machine powered by an electric motor. The new “actor” has functioning front legs with which it drags along the rest of its body, and it has a pinchers device at the front end which it uses to attack the jumper. The two machines battle for some time and succeed in partially dismembering each other; then the Crawler explodes with a frightening noise and a flash, blowing itself apart and “killing” the Jumping Machine. Other performers in the show include a three-foot spider with eight functioning legs and a three-wheeled racecar with a pitchfork arm, which charges at the audience. A robot in wheels with butcher knives attached to each arm stabs and slices at panes of glass and curtains. A catapult the size of a canon fires bowling balls some 50 yards with sufficient accuracy to annihilate the remaining machines. The only machine to survive the mayhem is the catapult. (Shank 1989: 225)

Additional Resources