...Our greatest weapon in those carefree days was sheer size and we worked purposefully on a large scale. We took on, in the biggest of ways, political figures, professors of academies, government officials and members of the art elite. One of our favourite tricks was to paint massive canvasses - sometimes even sheets were used - in a photo realistic style and then unveil the works in a variety of public locations. Most of the time, in those days at least, it was too dangerous to approach the media who, invariably, would show up after the fact and not get our names or the locations of our underground workshops. Much of our subject matter was indeed extreme, as were elements of the larger movement, and friction with the police was more and more frequent and now planned for as inevitable.
There was to be a bridge opening and we decided to unveil our current art attack before the crowd that would be sure to assemble. It proved to be a risky adventure for the Queen was to show up for this opening - apparently, the bridge was a landmark of contemporary architecture - and her appearance would assure a heavy security presence. There were also a different set of laws governing the public’s conduct concerning royalty and these rules would likely be in place at this function. The massive cloth that we had painted did not depict royalty directly but was rather an insult to a couple of government officials who had cut spending to the arts. These two were painted in a sadomasochistic position complete with whip and handcuffs. We rolled it up and placed it in the van and waited the two days before the bridge opening to unfurl our pictorial politics.
Because of the certainty of a police presence, we planned our campaign accordingly. Lately, the authorities had been taking a dim view of our art attacks and were now doing more to apprehend us and shut down our clandestine operations. However, because of the non violent nature of our attacks, there was not much the authorities could do even when they did catch one of us and they would have to lay a mischief or disturbing the peace charge which were by no means serious offences. We were walking a fine line and we knew it. Indeed, we consulted our lawyers before embarking on any attack. We knew that crossing the line could result in a terrorist charge which was a far more serious offence than disturbing the peace. As usual, we had to be careful and even more so given that this operation would be witnessed by the Queen.
This had not always been the case. In the early days of our campaigns, before we had become a quasi formal organization, we didn’t concern ourselves with legal issues and, if the police questioned us, we invariably told them that our actions were “art” and they bothered us no further. One such campaign, executed years earlier, took place in a subway station. A friend of mine had put together a number of harnesses with which we hung ourselves to some steel rafters on one of the platforms. With show ropes we made it look like we were hanging by our necks. As you can imagine, this got some strange looks and shortly thereafter some security guards appeared. When we told them that we were doing “art,” the supervisor told us to be on our way or they would call the police. We didn’t feel like an encounter with the police so we unhooked ourselves and disappeared into the anonymity of the city, our point being made.
In those days we had a strange sense of “fun” indeed and we did not really see these campaigns as either artistic or political in nature. It wasn’t until a philosophy developed, that such actions began to take on a deeper significance and were with greater consideration conceived. Once a nexus was in place between the members of our group and our varying philosophies and approaches, we began a movement and followed it with exact precision. That is what differentiated us from the other outfits - our skill and the architecture of our projects. By the time of the bridge campaign our actions were beginning to get international attention. And with the attention there came an even greater eagerness on the part of the authorities to apprehend us.
We had begun taking certain precautions even in those early days. It was a policy, for example, to use only first names, but, as the need for precaution grew, we began also to withhold personal addresses from one another. We were at war, as we perceived it, and we strove always to stay out of the hands of the police and the cells they could throw us into. I remember one year when two of my accomplices were caught while infiltrating a theater production at the state auditorium. They were thrown in jail for that stunt and got one year each in the local detention center. A lot of time for a five minute audience. But then there was the publicity...
Publicity was often a factor in the design of the campaigns and attention was frequently paid to securing a media presence. At other times the audience was a more select one as was the case when we dealt with members of the political or art elite. Often we crashed their parties and caused a ruckus before escaping inconspicuously into the dark night. Some of our members were also known to use drugs to cause confusion. A hit of thlacyd into a cup of coffee and the victim will soon wonder what strange thing is happening. I myself refrained from such attacks not quite agreeing with the ethics of it. Some drugs could certainly cause one to fear insanity if one knew not that a drug had been ingested. No one in the group pushed the point and those who used such tactics did so with impunity from the other members. Each one of us shared a different philosophy and approach. I suppose now that this was our biggest strength - our diversity. We each attacked the problem from a different angle.
What then was the shared goal of our collective endeavors? Clearly, because of our association, we all shared in each other’s “crimes” loose though that association may have been. Our shared goal, stated simply, was no less than causing a cultural and mental shift in contemporary and future societies. Although it may sound grandiose, we all shared an extreme dislike for contemporary society and pop philosophy and sought to undermine it. Furthermore, most of us were artists and we had many ideas of what to supplant this pop culture with. True, the majority of us were working completely underground, but that did not mean that we were without money. A few of us were involved in the drug trade and others held day jobs. I made my money through sales to a few private collectors who were interested in my artistic endeavors. I had more than enough to cover living expenses and to contribute to the projects.
In those days I had not only an apartment but also a studio and workshop. I kept a bed in my work space as well and I generally moved every couple of days between these two locations. The studio was in a complex of buildings and I had access to several rooms if I needed them. A couple of other artists also used the space but I had little to do with them. Occasionally I would throw parties and I would have to get their permission to do so. I would have invited them to these parties but they were too straight laced for our drug and music festivities and they would have disapproved. I kept my distance as much as possible. Not many knew that this was my studio and, when I threw these parties, it was under the illusion that the space had been rented. As usual, it was out of concern for security. Even in those days I was beginning to take precautions. The art was getting very subversive indeed...