A modernist critical framework would have you believe that the difference between a machine and sculpture is the same as between politics and aesthetics: a machine uses power to fulfill a function, while a sculpture is all about form and taste. Knowing that this is bullshit—that there is no apolitical aesthetic—our contemporary lives are defined by the somewhat analogous understanding that the difference between war and terrorism is the same as between art and non-art: purely a question of legitimacy.
Started in 1978 in San Francisco by Mark Pauline, Survival Research Laboratories is a collective of technicians who build freakish militaristic machines. They’re then employed in spectacular public productions that are part hilarious war zone, part robot drama, consisting of modified jet engines that shoot hurricanes of fire; remote-controlled six-legged crawlers that skitter and stab; and spark shooters and shockwave canons and wheelocopters that provoke a sort of childish, anarchic delight. However, there’s a political rigor to these radical machines.
published in Art Agenda, January 2018