Larry: [mutters something about William Burroughs becoming a rock star and selling Nikes on MTV ads.]
?: I was half-asleep, or maybe I was drunk, when I first saw his face on the Nike commercials. I didn't think it was real. I don't trust TV. Let me rephrase that: I embrace TV. You mentioned the bondage/fetish fashion stuff in Japan. I've seen a lot of porn videos, bondage vids, from Japan that are hardcore. I mean extremely hardcore, more so than the stuff coming out of Europe. The Japanese seem to really be into that.
Larry: Oh yeah. I went over there one summer on a grant from the NEH to study postmodernism in Japan. This was not planned, but one of the topics that kept coming up in every single interview, with professors as well, was S/M. Partly because Takayuki Tatsumi, my buddy over there, had written an essay that he published in The American Book Review called Creative Masochism. Yes, we should talk about this.
?: It is Avant-Pop, in a way.
Larry: There was this 1st bondage fashion store in Tokyo. It was run by a woman who was a fashion designer and a guy who was a performance artist. These guys went to England and they got hooked up with this magazine. So they took the look there -- the leather, the rubber, a lot of science-fiction -- masks: a lot of stuff that looks like oxygen masks, not just costume masks but masks produced for underwater. Plus the usual rubber, dildos, the whole spiel, and they opened up this store in Tokyo; the first one. At the same time they opened this store, and partly as a way to promote their stuff, they started having S/M parties. These were public events. They had 2 types of parties: open parties where anyone could come -- the only thing is, if you went you had to be dressed in bondage or in a tuxedo or some formal wear. These became big events there, media events. The public things were almost fashion shows; there was a party, but the main thrust of it was for you to look at -- fashion. So it was a sort of, you know, a typical postmodernism thing. And it was something else...
?: What was the second type of party?
Larry: They also had private parties, that Sinda and I went to. These were maybe a hundred people -- an invitation thing -- held in a club -- a closed club; only people with invitations could be there. These were more intimate. Very strange. Everybody there was in bondage, most of the women were topless --
?: Japanese women or a mix of -- ?
Larry: Mostly Japanese women. I would say that half of the people there were really interested in S/M, and the other half were just interested in the whole "thing". One of the things that was interesting to me is that I interviewed these people because they seemed to be very "postmodern". You see, there's a long tradition of S/M in Japan. In particular -- and you can see this is everywhere in their art -- magna, the comic books, the movies, and their fiction as well -- beating the women: submissiveness, bondage, the victim is always the woman. The reason for this is very complicated. But the garments, the clothes, we have over here in the West for S/M -- rubber, leather, those kinds of things that signify bondage and that culture -- are of course utterly artificial in Japan. So what I found over there was that a lot of people would wear this bondage stuff. For example, Takayuki Tatsumi's wife is this very beautiful, very sweet, very innocent seeming woman. I went to this publication party for Takayuki, it was sort of a formal party, and she showed up wearing a total leather outfit -- bondage, the rubber & leather -- this totally outrageous outfit. But for her it was just a Fashion Statement. It really wasn't anything involved with S/M. So that in itself is a postmodern notion -- this clash of codes, the symbols being transferred to a different culture and taking a different meaning. That angle is very interesting; it turned out that this couple we interviewed were very sophisticated, widely read in Western culture -- Bataille, for example, the whole Mondo 2000 scene -- and also interested in S/M as well. And what this woman in particular said she enjoyed was the feeling of putting on masks and costumes, but in particular the full-on rubber masks; totally covering your face where you cannot see out, you cannot see anything --
?: Gimp masks.
Larry: She described her sensation there as being very akin to Buddhist meditation. The getting out of ordinary daily life. She wanted to be able to share this with people.
?: From what you've told me, and what I've read about it, the Japanese seem to be more receptive to the idea of Avant-Pop than Americans.
Larry: Americans will, eventually, be receptive to it. If postmodernism exists anywhere... let's back up for a moment... I think postmodernism is dead. It's time to bury the fucking thing, give it a proper burial -- or a handshake, a: "Thanks for being there but we don't need you anymore". I really believe that postmodernism as a term, even as a concept, is now actively counter-productive. Its time has come & gone. We need now to develop different categories and ways in approaching art that are not going to be so generalized & reductive.