SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

The Greyhound bus lot on 934 Branna Street, now SOMArts Cultural Centre

Mark Pauline/Survival Research Laboratories, A Cruel and Relentless Plot to Pervert the Flesh of Beasts to Unholy Uses (12th November 1982)



A parable of re-animated flesh, highlighted with fires of varying origin. Our most technically advanced show yet. Featuring a wide range of iconoclastic imagery: the huge Billy Graham robot, real robotized mummies, a military-type CO2 laser, a Mobile Mr. Satan, the rabbit Kow-Tow, a fully automated mechanical arm, stink dogs, a squirming rocket target, a 400-lb mechanized Tick, and the Mummy-Go-Round. Significant portions of the show equipment were brought together and destroyed at the end of the Event by the Integrator. (Survival Research Laboratories 2013)

Bill Edmonson: Your most recent piece, A Cruel and Relentless Plot to Pervert the Flesh of Beasts to Un-Holy Uses, employed many organic robots. Explain the part they played.

Mark Pauline: Well, the whole show was centered around the concept of the organic robot—of bringing back the dead. What we did is there in the title: Pervert the Flesh of Beasts to Un-Holy Uses. We got these old, dead mummified dogs, that we found in the train tunnels, brought them back to life and taught them to do tricks—you can teach a dead dog new tricks—which is something many people would think to be unholy. My assistants and I trained these dead dogs to do unholy tricks, through the servants of both God and Satan, who to me are one and the same. That’s the unholy part; now, some of the tricks were…were like what Stink Dog did! Stink Dog was this dog we found that had only been dead for a few days, that stunk really bad and was covered with maggots. We put him up on top of this wooden platform with a rope tied around his collar, that was hooked up to this pulley device. At a certain point in the show, we pulled him down onto this bed of nails, and dragged him across, ripping him to shreds.

Bill Edmonson: What role did the image of Billy Graham play?

Mark Pauline: We had Billy—this enormous image of Billy Graham, with flapping, mechanical arms, that held two mummified dogs—up there because he’s a real “barker”—a con man—who’s much more convincing than your average ol’ devil. He was there acting as a servant of Satan, to instruct the training, and to convince people of our sincerity about the use of these dogs. After his mission was completed, we sent him back to hell by torching him with a flame thrower. And of course Satan himself was there in the form of the radio car, that had this mechanical mummy dog on it, whose head spun around real fast like in The Exorcist. And then we also had the Mummy-Go-Round, which was this round, motorized cylinder type thing, with dog carcasses attached to it, that spun around while I used my laser to burn holes in their decayed flesh…It looked like a bunch of dogs chasing each other’s tails, while they were engulfed by flames. (Edmonson 1983)

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