Chaos Cacophony and Dark Saturnalia: How an obscure secret society in San Francisco in 1977 changed the way adults play for decades to come
A presentation by John Law
Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, Slovenia
12 March 2015
Urban exploration and pranks group The Suicide Club, founded in January 1977, was the protean cradle of ideas that, while obscure at the time, have gone on to influence world-wide trends, sub-cultures and social movements. Starting in 1986, The San Francisco Cacophony Society, a more open experimental organisation that rose from the ashes of the secretive Suicide Club, was the group that created the Burning Man Festival. Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, arguably the most influential American novel of the 1990s as well as a statement defining an entire generation’s cultural displacement, was directly inspired by Cacophony and the earlier Suicide Club. The first decade of the 21st century saw the rise of a mass movement of street games and urban play epitomised by the new social media phenomenon of “flash mobs” and the world-wide “urban exploration” culture. Cacophony was one of the primary sources in the early encouragement and implementation of these types of play. Street art and media pranking were a part of the scene as well, embodied in the advertising pranking of the Cacophony affiliated Billboard Liberation Front (starting in 1977) and the punk rock circus and bike rodeo underground that blossomed in the 1990s, instilling a DIY spirit into the alternative performance scene world-wide.