Apocalypse by the Bay

from SF Weekly June 8 1994


Apocalypse by the bay: Counterfeit tickets at SRL show


The full title of Survival Research Laboratories' May 28 performance pretty much sums it up: "A Calculated Forecast of Ultimate Doom -- Sickening Episodes of Widespread Devastation Accompanied by Sensations of Pleasurable Excitement." Though some might disagree with the "pleasurable" part. In a cavernous building at Pier 70 SRL's Scary Pranksters immersed roughly 3000 attendees in a harrowing, apocalyptic inferno.


After a prolonged, tension-building wait heightened by ominous, maddeningly repetitive music a big-headed Jesus on a rocket-powered go-cart kicked things off with a few laps across the 850 x 100 foot building. The room then devolved into an abyss of smoke, flame, ash and sound nearing-biblical proportions, and stayed that way for nearly an hour.


As a large, fluorescent-tubed digital clock counted off the years, SRL's anthropomorphic metal machine monsters got into the pandemonium, attacking each other, assaulting the audience and laying waste to a slew of evocative props, including a massive Last Supper diorama. On one end of the hall, SRL's trusty V-1 rocket took to torching Christmas trees, pianos and anything else that couldn't run away. On the other end, a huge Tesla coil spurted frighteningly random bolts of electricity. There was no shortage of nastiness in between, and the earplugs-mandatory din was literally window-shattering.


"It was our Armageddon show," SRL mastermind Mark Pauline reflected last week. "We thought we'd better do it before someone else did."


In short, "ya hadta be there" rarely rings so true. Sadly, there were all kinds of people who desperately wanted to be, but couldn't. Roughly 1,000 of them gathered outside, most clutching tickets. And they were understandably pissed when the Fire Marshall reportedly insisted the gates be closed or there would be no show. The only thing averting a full-scale riot was the small SFPD contingent called to the scene after the first officer to arrive was pelted with debris. Both Pauline and co-promoters Media Kaos blame the crisis on counterfeit tickets; a Kaos spokesman estimates that as many as 2,000 bogus tix were made. Mike Rowell


excerpt from Art Park case legal document


SRL performances satirize America's socio-political system and the systems of other nations in which it has performed. It is committed to shocking and jarring its audience by confronting it with representations of deadly warfare technologies and consumer culture gone mad. SRL uses robotic creatures, controlled fires, controlled explosives and special effects to confront its audience.