Tentacle Session #35 : Sunday 21 July 2002
Since 1978, San Francisco's Survival Research Laboratories has menaced and amazed with nearly 50 performances of chaotically choreographed machine mayhem. Over the years SRL founder Mark Pauline has directed numerous others in the creation, deployment, and documentation of these mechanical minions, in order to present:
a unique set of ritualized interactions between machines, robots, and special effects devices, employed in developing themes of socio-political satire.
In Tentacle Session #35 Maribeth Back moderated a discussion with seven women who have contributed to SRL's work over the years about the participation of women in the SRL project. They demonstrated their knowledge, and shared details of their experience working with the most dangerous machine art show on earth, and even brought some of their own artwork to show the audience gathered at Spanganga.
Margann Arata is an artist and mother of three who was fascinated with the controlled, stylized movements of the machinery coupled with the incredible physical excitement from the combustion, and decided this past fall to check out SRL and worked on the Berkeley show this past December.
Violet Blue works in SRL in a variety of functions; she is a mechanic, fabricator, machine operator, project coordinator, and employs many skills including carpentry, electrical work, and a very dark sense of humor. In her other life, she is a full-time sex writer, has authored four books, and takes her "research" very seriously. She enjoys making a nuisance of herself around the shop, and drinking good scotch.
Deb Lee has worked on numerous SRL shows and events since 1988. Her contributions are 99% in the electrical field; wiring motors and motor controls for props, machines, and just about anything that needs electricity be it explosives, coffee makers or light bulbs, designing the electrical "grid" for large scale performances, hauling cables around, and getting dirty. She currently works as a master electrician and owns her own contracting business. Although no longer in California, schedule willing, she occasionally can still be spotted working with SRL.
Karen Marcelo is SRL's "Teleobliteration Engineer"; she codes controls for lethal devices to be operated over the web from the comfort of users' own homes. She has operated the Running Machine, Track Robot, Sparkshooter at shows and written systems for the Air Launcher, Pitching Machine, Epileptic Bot, and Track Robot.
Amy Miller has built props out of found objects, huge metal clamshells, giant potato skins, ran the snot gun and spark shooter, assembled the finger and V-1, did technical drawings for insane load in and installation logistics of 45 machines and props, cooked and inspired others to cook for the crew, put together posters, packed the shop for travel to Europe, and most recently made about 40 gallons of gak by hand mixing some simple secret ingredients in small batches and has the scars to prove it! In 1992, Mark asked her to make a large batch of napalm in Austria.
Deb Pastor delights in aligning talented groups of People, props, and locations to produce distinguished events. Streamlining the backend at SRL (resources, documentation, funds), So fabrication can be activated on the front end. For numerous Reasons, she considers SRL a valid, lifelong projection.
Liisa Pine - is a Senior Mechanical Technician and machinist for a telecommunications research company, does welding on the side to support her new skydiving habit, and was recently sworn in as a Court Appointed Child Advocate for the City of San Francisco. In over a decade of work for SRL as fabricator, mechanic, and machine operator she has built dozens of large scale mechanical props, welded tons of steel, designed explosive special effects, and has worked on most of the machines, but is most proud to have earned the title "Power Boss Drivin' Mama".
Maribeth Back designs, builds, and writes about multisensory interfaces and environments. She is a dynamic systems designer and audio engineer whose work includes experimental electronic books and reading devices, mixed reality systems, sound design for professional theatre, radio, and CD-ROM; system design for virtual and computational environments; and performance installation pieces, both solo and collaborative. In 2001 she won the ID Magazine Silver Award for her Listen Reader, an experimental Magic Book that incorporated rich, controllable sound textures into each page of a real paper-based children's book. At Xerox PARC (1996 - 2002) she worked with the RED group exploring emerging genres and document types.