“… I wanted to punish myself as thoroughly as I could. I’d decided to have a vasectomy, but that wasn’t enough: I wanted my last potent seed to be spent in a dead body. I made arrangements to have sex with a cadaver. I was bodily thrown out of several sex shops before meeting a man who set me up with a mortician’s assistant in a Mexican border town…”

Don’t do this to your friends unless you want your ass kicked

After his famous 1980 work “blind date”, in which his sex with a corpse and subsequent vasectomy had many in the art community calling for his extradition and prosecution, John Duncan moved to Japan in a deliberate attempt to be completely cut off from society. In his recordings, installations, and print work, he collaborated with or inspired many artists and musicians; including, but not limited to, the Hardcore Punk and Noise scenes of 1980’s Japan (and artists such as Sakevi Yokoyama of Gism and Masami Akita of Merzbow fame), and even stretching his work into the world of Japanese Pornography with the “John See Series”. Below in this short interview, I ask him specifically about his time in Japan

W$- What prompted your move to Tokyo from LA? Was it due to the public response to “Blind Date” or did you plan to do so as part of that experience beforehand?

John Duncan – It was prompted by a list of motives. Partly it was due to responses to Blind Date, partly to the struggle with work and money I was facing in LA, partly to positive responses my art was receiving in Japan, and partly to a craving to re-learn, from scratch, most of the social signifiers, codes, cues and behaviors that up to then I’d largely taken for granted.

W$ – What was your relationship with Sakevi Yokoyama? I know you both worked together on P.O.W magazine, how did that come about?

John's Foreword to P.O.W. #1 - May/June 1985 issue

John Duncan – I had heard about his recent past, including an incarceration for his hairspray/lighter attack on salary-man commuters who gave him contemptuous looks, and especially given the pervasively conformist tendencies of most Japanese I liked his rebellious spirit. When we met we got along well and in the course of things he mentioned the magazine as a project he wanted to do.

Advertisement for “Punk On Wave” magazine

He asked what I would want to see in an issue about Death as a theme. I answered that I would want to interview people who knew something about it and weren’t usually spoken to: the Tokyo Medical Examiner, inmates at Tokyo Seishin Byouin who knew patients who had been murdered by members of the nursing staff, the patient who had murdered and eaten his Belgian girlfriend (both cases were featured months beforehand in Japan’s national press), the Tokyo representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Sakevi wanted artists included, so I contacted Joe Potts, Paul McCarthy and Genesis P-orridge. Sakevi wanted to make sure my art was represented as well, and I offered to pose nude for the back cover image. With those details decided, he asked me to guest-edit the issue. I conducted the interview with the PLO representative in English; Sakevi did the others in Japanese. Sakevi also found a text on Japanese capital punishment rituals that we re-printed. Akita Masami wrote an article, which we published but to Masami’s and my frustration went uncredited, on an American high school student who had found and re-printed illustrated instructions for a homemade nuclear explosive device. At Sakevi’s request, I also designed a logo for that issue, scratched onto paper with a stick.

A number of details in the issue were quite far away from my personal aesthetics, especially the lacy designs covering several pages, but then it was Sakevi’s magazine…

W$ – While you were in Japan you collaborated with Nakagawa Noriaki to create “the John See series”. As someone who was raised a strict Calvinist, porn seems like an interesting transition…

Production still from FALLEN ANGEL, part of the John See Series

John Duncan – When Nakagawa invited me to direct, I agreed to do a series of films — write the script, direct in Japanese, compose the soundtrack, occasionally act in bit parts, edit the material — in order to then rent them and use them as material for my own video and film montages, to ‘subvert’ them in a sense. The entire process was quite different from what I imagined it would be, great fun and a lot of work. I loved working with Nakagawa, who gave a lot of freedom and support throughout this project.

Writers note: John Currently lives and works out of Bologna Italy. The works discussed in this interview are just a very small part of his massive body of work spanning over 30+ years. You can read about his work as well as upcoming events at his website, http://www.johnduncan.org/



Filed under dem whites


  1. post links to this on bridge 9 and those sorta sites.

  2. Wow, this is amazing. Thank you. I had no idea about John Duncan, very interesting. Definitely the best online writing about anything Sakavi/GiSM connection I ever saw; althought it would of course been interesting to hear Duncan’s views on G.i.S.M.

  3. Full fledged art fag award goes to Brian. Congrats, you made it to the dark side.

  4. martinhugo

    we run more of an x-hardcore blog….. so tthats why he didnt really get into gism….

  5. yeah as was understood

  6. x-MANx

    haha I did post this link on b9 like 10 mins after you posting it. Very into it this interview please more stuff like this.

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