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RE/Search #6/7: Industrial Culture Handbook Excerpt: SPK

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R/S: Can you explain why in your work you present images from forensic pathology, venereal disease and hardcore sex?

SPK: I’m not so interested in sex images. Hardcore porn usually seems to follow certain obvious lines. Like there’s always some kind of power relationship going on, even in sexual perversion—especially so here, because it’s heightened. Probably the a la mode variant of the moment is SM—I guess that’s been a la mode since the 1700s…

R/S: Now some major publisher is trying to launch a middle-class S&M magazine—

SPK: That’s just a kind of mirror of an almost archaic society-porn is like a spectacle state society in microcosm, and that’s why I don’t find it very interesting, really. To come back to Freud, even though I don’t agree much with all that Freud says, death is a great deal more powerful than sex, or at least as powerful. And there’s a real fascination with images of yourself as dead, or images of others as dead. Today, even when I was shooting guns with Mark Pauline I was quite terrified of what they can actually do: you’re just holding this little lump of metal in your hand, and having seen forensic photos and things like that, you can all of a sudden imagine just one tiny slip-up in half a second and some guy’s got a f*****g red hole out the back and he’s dead, you know. Somebody—it could even be a friend. That kind of image is really basic dream material, I think. And to actually see it, especially in a fairly clinical sense, not in one of these B-grade movies’ violence-for-the-hell-of-it sense, is very striking. It is to me, anyway.

Plus a lot of what we’re doing is dirt, is filth, and we live in a society that pretends to be exceptionally clean. It cleans up everything, it paints facades and makes things shiny and bright. I think the unifying theme is that we are very conscious that whenever there’s a winner in a clean society, there’s a filthy loser as well. But that tends to be just shoved away either in a back ward or a jail or a back street or a dirty little squatter, whatever you call it here.

We have got this childish, if you like, fascination with the genre-it may not be childish but I will always admit that I am fascinated at looking at it, for probably not very noble motives. A reasoning behind that fascination may be that we feel as though we are hitting at the soft underbelly of society…at an area where there’s a great deal of vulnerability. And people often criticize us for being negative, but it’s just a focus of attention.

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