12 January, 2009

Meeting With BS, Part 5

Props go to M. Yu at The Jade Gate for breaking the news of Barbara Bell and Anna Lorentzon's documentary on the Insex phenomenon, Graphic Sexual Horror.

In previous postings on this subject I have been circumspect regarding Barbara's identity and especially that of Insex's resident mad creative, pd, or Brent Scott (BS). With the release of GSH I can relax. Better still, I can share more openly.

When I returned to NYC after sojourning here and there I fell upon the notes I'd made about meeting Brent and my impressions of his peculiar genius, much of which comprise my extant ramblings here on the subject. In them were particulars on the TransHudson Gallery and its proprietor in 1995, whom I don't believe is mentioned in the GSH film, and is certainly not (yet) on the GSH website, so I'll refer to him simply as J. A little filtering in Google netted me a small number of contacts to dial up.

On the second try I landed the very person I'd been seeking, who in reply was polite and quite clear that he had been the one to book Brent at the gallery. He remembered the show as short-lived but utterly fascinating and almost certainly doomed to failure owing to the bombast of its artistic intent and the expense of mounting it. He noted to me several pieces of memorabilia in his possession, and would be happy to show any and all.

We met shortly thereafter and I spent a very pleasant afternoon comparing notes and discovering a fellow patron of the arts, one whose constitutional inclinations diverged sharply from the Brent Scott vision, but who nonetheless recognized profound talent when it landed in front of him. J. spent a ramshackle career from the 70s to the 90s as an impressario, bon vivant and, from the looks of his home decor, a groovy dresser.

I came away from that meeting with not only a better appreciation of Brent Scott before the fall, but pleased to have made the acquaintance of a fellow dilettante, a non-artist with an gnawing, insatiable need to be mixed up with the creative moment. J. sent me along with a stack of aging VHS tapes (including Brent's personal document of man.INFESTation), a copy of the show poster (posted previously) and other records of the event, all of which pointed to Brent's aspirations being not at all dissimilar at the time of man.INFESTation to those of all artists I have known.

Owing to the sloppily laid plans of various reactionary authorities, the creative history of Brent Scott is inscribed as a short, intense record of revolutions, against respectable bourgeois propriety right up the demonization scale to, literally, imputations of terrorism. In 2005, as you'll learn when you see GSH, Insex was forced to close under threat of prosecution for violations of the Patriot Act, namely suspicion of bagging money for terrorist organizations. Thus did Insex become a casualty of our era's cheif mania: Cynical political manipulation. Brent may not have been sentenced to drink the hemlock, but I don't think the parallels between his case and that of the great ancient corruptor of youth are at all lost on him:
"If you won't allow me to teach your children, then I will corrupt them."
Brent Scott, riffing on Socrates
In matters cultural it is in the nature of governments to work at 180 degrees to the foregone conclusions of any great cultural shift. Government is always last to lead. In 1995 it was possible, if one was looking closely, to visit the future of porn, and possibly of art, in the short-lived gallery career of rejected academic Brent Scott. Within the ten year history of Insex, from its formative moment to its manufactured demise, sex would become exponentially more defused throughout culture and sadomasochistic signifiers would begin infiltrating the popular consciousness. When most BDSM was still the provenance of Farmer's Daughter BBS, through the then-experimental Vivo player Insex loosened the stopper from the full-motion dike and inaugurated the end of the passive era in media, as well as affording a first look at fearlessly expansive, deeply disturbing and displacing forms of play known previously to very few.

While I have in my own life and play gone to very few of the precincts regularly visited by Brent Scott at Insex, I'm indebted to the appaling grandeur and devastating sweep of his vision, and to his ultimate faith in the fortitude of the women (and later the men) with whom he worked. Over the years I've met many of those models and to a one they recall their visits (often multiple) to Insex as the hardest and most rewarding bondage modeling gigs they'd ever landed. When I visited, when Insex was young, the world of hard-core questers, pain-sluts and contortionists was beating a path to Big Worm Productions. The payoff for performing may indeed have scaled according to depth of ability and/or consent, but there was always an out, a safeword, so in the final analysis the bottom reserved control and the deprivations suffered were ultimately elective.

Incentivizing with bonuses to get better performance, all for the sake of selling...what? Mortgage derivatives? Credit swaps? Economy busting, life-ruining, reputation raping, history changing swindles?

No... just sex.

Seems quaint in light of the scorched earth the partisans of righteousness were engineering while they drew their long knives on Insex, habeas corpus, the Geneva Convention and The Constitution. Reactions to art have always given a clear warning that human rights are in the cross-hairs, and I don't think it overreaching to consider for a moment the history of any art labeled "degenerate" by politicians - as it was by the Nazis (the Entartete Kunst and Entartete Musik exhibitions of 1937), or, more recently in my own fair city, the pogrom against degenerate art and the NEA staged by then-mayor and former Presidential candidate Rudolf Guliani along with the right-wing minion of representatives Jesse Helms and Al D'Amato.

I bring this last example up for those who think that I am perhaps overreaching for comparing the shuttering of Insex to government demagoguery against art - the anti-NEA cabal of the late 1980s is now well understood to have been an opening salvo in the anti-gay, anti-sex war on culture by the religious right. As Insex succumbed in 2005, the economic, cultural and political carnage of the Bush occupation forces was becoming apparent; remember Terri Schiavo, privatizing Social Security, New Orleans, Tom DeLay, "Duke" Cunningham, Harriet Miers, warrantless wiretaps, etc., etc.

When the moralists and the clean-living get vocal, sensible folks watch their rights and their wallets, the latter of which I'll be opening as soon as Graphic Sexual Horror screens in New York.

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