THE EXIT COLLECTION, 1998
For a diabolical decade — 1984-1994 — I edited and published EXIT, an outlaw Pop Art magazine in opposition to both the underground and the establishment. It was a forum for extreme ideologies and inclinations manifested as political pornography, psychosexual terrorism, scientific threats and infernal texts. It was graced by contributions from the best artists and writers in America — famous, infamous, and unknown — each driven by unusual passions to excel and influence and go all the way.
You, dear reader, probably have never seen an issue of EXIT, but you certainly have felt its impact. Perhaps someone has shown you an old worn-out copy, or perhaps by some twist of fate you do own an issue or two — it doesn’t matter; most copies are now dust, or are becoming dust … the earlier issues, generally suppressed and unavailable even in their day, were manufactured by respectable printers on marginally good paper but as the magazine’s political and sexual implications grew more intense, fewer and fewer printers were willing to take the job. By the fifth issue only a local Chinese sweat-shop, whose owners had no understanding of Western symbology, would print it — on some of the worst newsprint imaginable (an especially aggravating circumstance when the non-availability of hemp paper is considered … ).
Out of EXIT came Serial Art, which utilizes timelines, graphs and diagrams to show changes and processes and the flow of situations. There also came Propagandart, which utilizes principals of advertising and propaganda to manipulate emotions and play with opinions. There also came the eradication of boundaries between Left and Right, the validation of previously outlawed symbols, the use of scientific motifs as weapons of intimidation … unfortunately the world wasn’t ready for the magazine’s vibe — it was too advanced, and so nobody was able to emulate it, and so nobody was able to rip it off, therefore it was doomed.
There were six issues of EXIT. On issues One, Two, and Three I worked with Adam Parfrey, a writer who embraced saints and sinners with equal abandon, and Kim Seltzer, an illustrator who electrified the rendered figure with explosive sensuality. I also worked with the writer and Jungian psychologist R. Bruce Ritchie, whose art career was superceded by his academic pursuits. We had so much fun playing with forbidden and forgotten ideas that we threw in with the proud procession of political agitators and religious fanatics who constitute America’s elite intellectual fringe. Adam was co-editor and co-conspirator; he was all about tearing down the docile clowns who ran the publishing industry. Kim was art critic and femme fatale; she was a psychedelic siren who transformed Sci Fi into Fine Art. We developed many interesting (and viable) blends of voodoo and prophecy. We saw ourselves as an improvised answer to the hogwash of the day, and our association as being analogous in practice to what was happening in Hardcore music: do it yourself, make your own medium, ignore authority, function over form … in fact I had hoped we would be perceived as something like a Rock Band — an Art Group in the tradition of Zap or Metal Hurlant or Blast crews. Throughout that happy phase EXIT was subtitled “The Journal Of Preventive Sociology.”
The first three issues were characterized by my collaboration with Adam and Kim. We had a lot of fun while it lasted, but nothing lasts forever … our ending was emblazoned with entropic splendor. Mark Mothersbaugh, the voice of DEVO, once said that Adam and I were like the Lennon and McCartney of the underground art world … Adam went on to found the premier alternative publishing imprint, Feral House, and Kim became an art director and great painter.
On issues Four and Five I worked with Kim as well as Michael Andros, a graphic artist who dreamed of a military apocalypse hastened by witchcraft (he mutated into the magazine’s archivist and historian), and Nancy Keating, an art director with whom I collaborated a little too closely and ended up marrying for awhile. EXIT’s distinctive look was the result of Nancy’s tireless toil and excellent design directions. Robert N. Taylor, a writer, poet, illustrator, collector and dissident of the highest order, came through with ideas and inspiration and forbidden information (Mr. Taylor is the driving force behind the Apocalyptic Folk outfit Changes). Salvatore Canzonieri, VIP at AT&T, artist, writer and boss of Punk revivalists Electric Frankenstein, served as co-editor of issue Five. Writer and designer T. M. Caldwell and filmmaker John Aes-Nihil both made available their considerable collections of unusual and illegal publications as well as their unending streams of unusual and illegal ideas. Hardcore god and hootchie cootchie man Jerry Lee Williams kept those good tapes rolling. Electro-Industrial icon Foetus a.k.a. Jim Thirlwell provided compelling covers as well as incredible wallpaper for the mind. Darin Lin Wood helped me get it out there. Throughout that very fruitful phase the magazine was subtitled “Tomorrow’s (Words & Pictures) Today.”
By issue Six EXIT was over with. There was much appreciated assistance from Kim Seltzer, Michael Andros, Robert N. Taylor and the writer and musician Michael Moynihan, who orchestrated many contacts and provided essential critiques (Moynihan is the soul of the blasphemous post-Rock duo Blood Axis). There were also important contributions from two well-informed collectors, Nick Bougas and Arthur Deco. Invaluable (and sometimes loving) logistical assistance was lavished upon me by Kyra Burton, Les Barany, T.F. Colbath, Daniel Langdon Jones and Adam Keane Stern; and services far beyond the call of duty were rendered by Norman Gosney and Steven Blush. Eternal oblations were constantly compiled for delivery to Dr. Anton LaVey. Throughout that final phase the magazine was subtitled “You Are What You Fuck.”
Eventually the sands of time encrusted the delicate clockwork that ran EXIT, and the winds of change blew it away.
A few pivotal characters have been mentioned here, but it was the many other contributors — too numerous to name — who made EXIT what it was. With their incredible range of intellect and emotion they delicately balance discipline and psychosis, slickness and sickness, love and hate, science and sin. The magazine’s various agendas required subtle manipulation of their sensibilities … it became a game in which they were living tools, each producing their own unique fragment of an envisioned whole. Ultimately my manipulative efforts distanced me from most of them; some of them still hate me, which is cool — like Nietzsche said, “If you have no more happiness to give me, well then! You still have suffering!” The ninety-one contributors are to be thanked for their wonderful work — and their eternal patience, without which this collection could not exist.
Extrapolating EXIT’s potential, I became the editor of Seconds, a music, art, politics and crime magazine devoted to free speech and the art of the interview.
EXIT — outlaw Liberal Fascist Sci Fi Pop Art magazine, fusion of Social Realism and Surrealism, born in frenzies of beauty and anger, died in the hazy sunset of Western history, sustained throughout by dire necessity and the fires of Marijuana & Absinthe and the coolness of cool music & cool sex & attitude in Outer Space — like a rapidly blooming rare flower it was beautiful for a moment; now its harsh pollen lies dormant, suspended in oblivion …
Outlaw Liberal Fascist Sci Fi time bomb, pornographic fusion of social hygiene and surly decadence, born in frenzies of Revolution and Crystal Meth; died in the haze of Heroin and the stupor of self-righteousness; sustained throughout by stolen money and the fires of Marijuana and the excitement of sacrilege & drug sex & primal passions from Inner Space — like an ice-cold ghost it was hot for a moment; now its harsh electromagnetic signature resonates with echoing aftershocks, daring you to understand it.
This collection includes everything that was executed exclusively for EXIT. It contains some work that has been expanded or updated. It excludes anything that appeared in the magazine but had not been executed exclusively for it.
There is no delineation of the six individual issues; all work is presented chronologically. In most cases the original art, mechanicals or negatives were not available; almost everything presented here was reconstructed — or resurrected.
To be continued in a thousand years —
ADDITION FROM 2003:
I cranked out that EXIT art the way a meteor sheds its skin on the way down to destruction. It was very painful. Along the way many people passed through my life, and I used them as best as I could. Usually art was what I was after; ultimately their work wrapped around my own like a shield, and it appeared that I was a part of something big — but that big something was a foggy cloud of ideas and doublespeak and illusion and plagerism that I created. The artists were like batteries from whom I drew power and ideas. Everyone with whom I worked influenced me, even if I wasn’t a fan of their work. Especially then. In trying to understand that which I did not like, I had to take mental and aesthetic leaps and look in new places.