11 September, 2008

Meeting with BS 4

Much has transpired since my last entry on Insex and BS.

The lovely, well-connected and ever helpful Barbara Nitke, as it happens, is a close friend of BB, a former writer for Big Worm Productions - Insex's minuscule nom de camouflage that once marked their DUMBO warehouse door here in lil' ol' Bklyn. She arranged a dinner at a perfectly extraordinary little place on the LES (Mexican food / French technique / 22 seats) where we all met and regaled each other with our respective experiences of Insex and BS. I had read BB's 2000 literary opus (available on Amazon) a couple of years ago, a rangy and popular thriller with a carefully considered BDSM theme, and had been moved by her unsentimental traverse across the some of the uglier congruencies of our favorite pastime. I was eager to meet her.

I won't speak out of school here*, but suffice it to say that I was sorely impressed not merely by BB's heartfelt interest in the ways of BDSM (as opposed to the usual uninformed or academic - so characteristic of (often wrong-headed) portrayals of BDSM in a popular context), but with the many dimensions of her intelligence and the ecology of her life as a writer. While she had provided Insex with a great many of its more legendarily scenarios she had been quietly digesting her experience into a documentary script for a more gimlet-eyed exploration of Insex and, more specifically, the cult of the mad genius behind it, BS. Being a work in progress, it is as such subject to all of the usual detours, funding difficulties and creative slog any work of its scale would be, but it promises to be masterful when it comes out. BB believes it will be well received in European markets and Japan, where people better understand the distinction between analyticity and porn than they do in our electively sex-conflicted culture.

I surprised myself by having information I would have guessed BB to already possess regarding BS's foray out from conventional middle class propriety. It was while in the walled garden of academe, well before the veil would be lifted from the eyes of the first Insex subscriber and BS would fulfill the mandate of those who had convinced themselves that he was a corrupter of youth.

When he and I first met BS had recounted to me the beginning of his fascination with digital media in the 1980s when he was living in Buffalo and appended in some fashion to SUNY Buffalo. It was there that BS began experimenting with realtime interactivity using machine interfaces and video. By the early 1990s BS was at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, having taken with him some of his more promising protégées from Buffalo, encouraging new acolytes and continuing to build a reputation in interactive digital media. Consider this former student, and for an even clearer harbinger of what was to come (including perhaps the character origin of the renowned Insex model Liz Tyler) click here.

At about the time Bruce Sterling and Tom Maddox teamed up on the breakthrough Snake Eyes (a live-action cyberpunk drama wherein actors controlled computer generated graphics with bodily movement) in Austin, TX, BS was organizing his first interactive performance art / installation outside the university setting. The piece, titled manINFESTation, debuted at the TransHudson Gallery in Jersey City in June of 1995. I remember BS said that the press showed up but did nothing with it, although I would learn later that some positive reviews did come of manINFESTation's one (expensive) gallery exhibit.

The following quip from the press release presages the elaboration of BS's career in art and media, and had it not been written for manINFESTation could easily have been applied to Insex.
"This work raises questions and concerns about control and power. It explores relationships and responses to the spectacles of society. These spectacles are recontextualized in images and performances intended as visual hyperboles."

In their reaction to consideration of BS's theory and practice of art, the predeceased right, the hysterical left and the timid administration of a major eastern university satisfied themselves that faculty member BS was a danger to their young charges' well-being and moral probity. He was summarily discharged and several other factors arrayed themselves against his quiet enjoyment of life. Thus began the plunge into the woods that ended with the founding of Insex.

*By the way, all the clues about BS left out in the open throughout these essays are entirely intentional. A little googling around would net you all this and more, and with the screening of BB's documentary all of this coyness of mine will be moot anyway. I'm just being respectful for the time being.

No comments: