Vanguard Zine Interview, Fall 1998

(In August of 1998 we receieved a letter from Michael Williams, editor of the British zine Vanguard, expressing an interest in doing an article about us. Eventually we had an e-mail Q&A exchange in which X-plicit Players director Marty Kent responded to his questions. The following is a transcript of that exchange.)

What if anything in general do you X-plicit Players want to change about the society within which you live?

Especially since the "industrial revolution", we've been in a situation where the ways of human culture have diverged dramatically from the ways of Nature, both "physical" nature and human Nature. People live in BOXES, physically, emotionally, intellectually and psychically. These boxes have been created primarily for the convenience of "industrial culture". We want to see these boxes softened, the social environment softened, so people can interact in more personal, idiosyncratic, quirky, genuinely friendly ways. We want to see heightened standards of personal interaction pave the way for the destruction of the oppressive social institutions under which we slave.

What is the specific purpose of the X-plicit Players? What is your aim, goal? Are there any long-term goals?

The enterprise of the X-plicit Players stems from intuition rather than from any conscious plan. In proceding intuitively, though, we begin to see some patterns in our own actions. We don't have goals in the sense of states to attain, but we do have lines of research and development we very much want to pursue.

We seem to be deeply concerned with what constitutes a "self" as a discrete entity. We begin with fleshly bodies, which are understood in modern culture to be fundamentally distinct (i.e. "my body" and "your body" are generally understood to be fundamentally distinct entities). We challenge the MODERN ASSUMPTION that we are fundamentally distinct entities, by investigating a wide variety of dimensions of shared experience; bodies in contact, psyches in contact, thinking in contact via shared attentional focus in shared time...

Our goals are to continue these investigations into the powers and possibilities of merged consciousness.

When partaking in these houseplays and public exhibitions, I think alot of men would get embarrassed about the fact that they might get an erection. Does this tend to happen, and how do you operate so this does not become a problem?

Guys sometimes get hardons; chicks' pussies get wet, etc. We emphasize a non-sexual FOCUS of the energies in the performance. This means that sexual arousal is a distraction during the performance, and we treat it as such. It's like somebody talking during a poetry reading. You just go "shhh!" and forget about it. But if people start getting into it, putting their conscious focus on sex, we deal with them personally. This has only happened maybe 3 or 4 times in the past 7 years of performance. I like to think it's scarce because what we're actually doing in the performance is more interesting to people than their pre-existing sexual agendas.

How do you become a member of the X-plicit Players, do you have to pay,and if so what does membership give you?

The X-plicit Players is a performance group, not a membership "organization". People meet us or see us in performance and become interested in what we do; we take them on as "apprentices", having them practice ("rehearse") with us and letting them participate in the performances in small capacities. As they develop more capability for fostering intimacy with people in the performance, we "use" them accordingly, giving them more responsibilities.

How many members does the X-plicit Players have?

This varies as people come and go. Right now we have 8 people participating in performances. We've had as many as 15 people in the core group, and as little as 2.

Is it a profit making organisation, a charity or what?

Well, it's Deb and Marty's (the directors) main source of income, but it's a very meagre income at that. Year after year we just barely get by. But at least in theory, it's a for-profit venture.

Why do you think that people want to ban others from appearing naked in public?

In my experience, the number of people who want to "ban others from appearing naked in public" is really quite small; most people seem quite willing to have us, at least, go naked on the street.

It also seems clear that the vast majority of people who do want to ban public nudity are people who have never experienced it. They're reacting to something in their imaginations, a fantasy, rather than to something they've personally seen and experienced.

Why do people want to lay their bad dreams on us? I don't know much about it. But I can say there seems to be a lot of resentment simmering in people with repressive agendas. "Misery loves company."

Do you accept that it is offensive for people to see naked people in public? Are there any circumstances which you could understand that a person would be offended by seeing another person naked in public?

I sincerely believe there's no human behavior that nobody finds offensive. Whatever it is, from public fucking to blinking your eyes, there's some collection of goons who think it's terrible.

For myself, I can't possibly walk down the street without being offended many times per block. Cars offend me. Armed men and women in uniform offend me. Fashion victims in their identical clothes and postures offend me. People with headphones on, treating public space like it's private space, offend me. People with 20 pound boom-boxes blaring out moronic rap where every other word is "nigger" or "motherfucker" offend me. And so forth, ad nauseum.

But I don't take my own feeling of offense too seriously. I do some work to oppose the things that offend me, but I also do a lot of work on myself to defuse my sense of offense. A lot of these matters come from culture clashes.

And if I don't take my own feeling of offense too seriously, believe me, I take somebody else's feeling of offense even less seriously.

So yes, I can "understand" that someone might be offended by public nudity. But I'm just not moved by their offense. I'm moved by deeper feelings of attention, affection and response between myself and other people. Offense is trivial.

Why do you think the naked body is so ingrained with sexual intercourse?

Commercial interests (including medicine) have been working to control people via redirected repressed sexual energy for many generations now. Clearly they've not been completely unsuccessful.

Why is penetration not allowed as part of what X-plicit Players do?

Hey, penetration is fundamental to what we do! It's just that we're concerned with psychic penetration and merging, rather than with pop-cultural-sexual physical "penetration".

What kind of people get involved with X-plicit Players? Class? Race? I just think that with so many lawyers etc then you must all be quite well off. Is that correct?

"Well off" is the last thing we are! Most of our legal work of the past 7 years has been pro bono. We manage to get some donations from supporters of public nudity to help pay legal fees, but that's about it. Note that we haven't gotten any support from established nudist organizations in the USA; they mostly think what we're doing with urban naturism is too radical to support.

Most of the members have been white people of middle-class economic background. We've had a few black people, and one or two Asians (there are a lot of Asian immigrants in Berkeley, drawn by the university).

People seem to come and go in waves. Right now Deb Moore and Madeline Kraskin are the only women in the group. But a year ago, women outnumbered men.

Just out of interest, if someone had a contagious skin disease would they be allowed to participate? And what kind of checks do you carry out in order to establish whether a person has a skin disease?

Certainly we would never knowingly expose our audience or ourselves to contagious disease. We don't carry out any checks to prevent this, other than making it clear to people that we are encouraging physical contact and leaving it to them to act responsibly. Occasionally audience members have held themselves out of the contact because they had some skin condition. I'm not aware of anyone ever having been infected with any communicable disease at our performances.

Do you have any links with paganism and if so what are these links?

We have one long-term member who is a pagan. We have attended pagan rituals once or twice. One of our lawyers is a pagan. Beyond that, no particular connection.

And finally, are the plays that X-plicit Players put on scripted, or are they speechless, penetration-less orgies?

We work from scripts that Deb and I write, but the scripts are mainly frameworks for the performances, rather than detailed specifications. We develop individual pieces, "routines", roughly comparable to songs for a band. In the actual performance, we pick and choose which piece to perform on the spur of the moment, and at every performance we always end up inventing some entirely new material, inspired by the particular mix of people and place.

I don't think it's accurate to call our performances "orgies". I've been to orgies, and they've all lacked any shared central focus. We raise a lot of energies and passions amongst our people, but we also have a focus and discipline that's unlike the feeling of an orgy.

We're concerned with the personal experiences of each person present, but basically we're sculptors of psychic energy of the group. It's the shape of the total group energy that interests us the most.

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