KILLING FOR CULTURE : 1993
In 1982, SPK issued their 'music' video, Despair. Sold mainly
via mail order, Despair quickly asserted itself as something of
a cult item on the underground when publications such as Re/Search #10:
Incredibly Strange Films began to plug it. In that volume, Frank Henenlotter,
director of Basket Case, said: "When I saw the video I thought,
'What a fabulous thing; what a strange way of using music. Who would
make a music video to such horror - with actual severed heads...'"
Despair consists of 60 minutes of screeching, heavily distorted guitars, electronics, and various tape and vocal effects. The graphics mutate from a series of lines running up and down the screen, into a seemingly random cut-up of images, like scenes of a sex-shop, or an autopsy. The soundtrack drives onward, relentlessly. Sequences showing the mutilation of a dead cat (its eye gouged out and its tongue sliced off) and the unspooling of intestines from a cadaver's gaping abdominal cavity, are intercut with footage of SPK performing live. The frontman, in bondage mask and swastika armband, bites meat from a rancid horse's head. Slides of death camps, brain operations, foetal deformities and pathological specimens take the video to its conclusion and infamous mortuary footage. An individual, seen only as a pair of industrial-gloved hands, manoeuvres a detached head to perform clumsy fellatio on a penis protruding from the severed, lower extremities of a corpse. The head is replaced by a skeletal hand, woven with strings of yellowed tendon and gristle. This appendage simulates masturbation of the grey member.
Hailing from Australia, SPK were one of the first wave of industrial noise groups. Throbbing Gristle's label, Industrial Records, put out a 7" EP of theirs (one track of which, Slogan, appears on the video) and rumours abound that band members consisted of ex-insane asylum inmates.(*) The source for several of the autopsy images that occur in Despair is a 20-minute professionally shot document of a pathologist demonstrating human post-mortem procedure, footage lifted from a video that a UK record company put out. Some later versions of this tape (which became known as 'SPK's Human Post Mortem') were made available in two parts: the first part, the 'straight' autopsy film; the other part being the same footage, but treated with cheap visual effects, and silent so that you, the viewer, could overdub your own soundtrack. It has been said that the group denied any responsibility for Despair and Human Post Mortem.
[...] At best, Despair is a musical showcase in the populist tradition of music videos in that the noise runs secondary to the accompanying images. Perhaps the music is redundant altogether, with the greater part of the audience for such videos hardly comprising of those interested in the noise of SPK and Hijohkaidan.
(*) Early group members supposedly included Oblivion (named after a lobotomy drug or something) and Ne/H/iL, who supposedly killed himself. SPK is an acronym for: Surgical Penis Klinik (Industrial 7"), Systems Planning Korporation (first LP), Socialiste Patienten Kollectiev (second LP, and apparently named after some West German mental patients - inspired by the Baader-Meinhof gang - who killed themselves while attempting to make bombs in an institution), and SePuKu.