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March 11, 2013
Spotlight on Hilary Harris
March 27, 2013

Godless, Lawless, Nomadic: Scott Treleaven’s The Salivation Army


By Diarmuid Hester
Scott Treleaven has just uploaded his 2002 documentary THE SALiVATION ARMY, onto the web (see below). Now a cult classic, in this short film Treleaven talks about the origins of his infamous queercore zine “This is the Salivation Army,” finding its roots steeped in queer defiance and desire, and its unexpected decline a consequence of its popularity. The zine, he intones, began with discussions amongst friends, “about how we wanted to fuck anyone carrying a Molotov cocktail: the sexiness of the true revolutionary. I have seen the face of new radicalism – and it’s cute.”
I was introduced to “This is the Salivation Army” by a friend who pressed it into my hands with an enthusiasm bordering on the devotional. And I could see why: Xeroxed page after righteous Xeroxed page of manifestos and eye-popping collages, loudly affirming queer revolution and the violent, irrepressible force of sexual desire; denouncing equally the heteronormative status quo and sclerotic and commodified gay identity; beckoning you to follow. Anarchistic, pagan, subversively queer, a representative pronouncement from issue eleven declares with typical fury and imagination:
Lift the lid and see that the flowers in the dustbin have finally taken root: droves of Queer children in warpaint, roam the streets like packs of sex-crazed hyaenas [sic]. Like mandrake at the bottom of a gallows, we have flourished unchecked because they never do their homework. Beacuse [sic ] we have been ridiculed we are buoyed by the civilized world — getting stronger. We easily feed off the fat of the cities, dream to see them starved into submission. We have finally realised that the thief’s trick is not to trade, but to take things away. Starving people of beauty. Hoarding. Recording. (he taps on the lens of an old video camera and says: “this is an experiment.”) We have a history this time. Play – the first of the New Rules. Next…
When I first read “This is the Salivation Army,” the zine had already been decommissioned for five or six years but even then its words were potent, passionate, sexy in a way that made so much sense to me on affective and intellectual levels. However, Treleaven’s provocative call to arms, as this film shows, by mobilising the very forms of ferocious desire it affirmed, produced unintended consequences that the writer himself could not predict. Dreamy, poetic, honest – this film is a fitting tribute to its story.
Bugcrush (2006), a film adaptation of one of Treleaven’s short stories is also available online in three parts and is well worth checking out. A short film about a high-school boy’s attraction for the brooding, chainsmoking new kid with a sketchy past and the fucked-up turn their relationship takes, it is well shot and excellently builds suspense through greyed-out tones and suspenseful editing (though perhaps it’s too short to really achieve full effect). Carter Smith’s direction is reminiscent of new queer cinema and he comes across as a darker, more supernaturally-inclined twin of Gregg Araki. The release of his new short, Yearbook (2011) is eagerly anticipated.
Watch THE SALiVATION ARMY (Scott Treleaven, 2002) from S T on Vimeo.
Useful links:
Scott Treleaven’s Official Website
Scott Treleaven Wikipedia
More on “This is the Salivation Army” (Zine wiki)