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The ritualistic, sexual and political mixed media paintings and performances of this Native American artist reflect our times with his relentless and fiercely unapologetic vision. Redeemer of the swastika and desecrator of the American flag “to mock blind nationalism and patriotism”, Leyba is a master of art as social satire, giving birth to controversies and theoretical debates alike. A legally ordained priest in the Church of Satan, Leyba has been a prominent figure in the debunking of christianity and itŐs role in the American Holocaust. WHY had a chance to speak with the Reverend regarding his search for “a more free country” in Europe, where he intends to spend more of his time promoting his art primarily in Holland and England including a December performance in WORM, Rotterdam. Read his exclusive comments about the atmosphere in Amerika and his imaginations of confronting Fortress Europe and Rotterdam with his “Unspeakable” life and art.


WHY: Question relating to what is on your mind in the San Francisco area, in America: With an understanding (from the book and website) of the reccurring themes in your work, what are the recent preoccupations?

Steven Johnson Leyba: In San Francisco, one of the so called liberalist places in Amerika (and they say the world), my mind is on fascism; the fascism people want more of. I feel like I am living among brainwashed people that have a superiority complex and I am. Right wing Disney funded radio is so very popular here and has started a national craze. For me S.F. was the final frontier of Amerika and now it has grown into this playground for neo-fascist left and right wing groups. Hell even the gay and sadomasochistic groups are conservative. Sexuality and its public image are policed. As a bisexual man in the bay area I am an outsider. When Marc Rokoff's documentary "Unspeakable" showed in the S.F. Independent film festival the local gay paper the Bay Area Reporter said "Though Reverend Leyba is queer tinged, he is insufficiently gay". All this is bread and circus - a divergence from the real war.

WHY: What is your feeling (ouch, summary or recent feelings) on the invisible war against terrorism?

SJL: The war on terrorism is part of this christian capitalist empire that needs to demonize something or someone (cold war is over; let's look for evil Arabs and local terrorists). Local terrorists are those that speak out against the inept government that the majority feel should have more powers to protect U.S. citizens. Excuse me but these bureaucrats in the corporate military government could not protect N.Y. from a commercial airliner crashing into an important capitalist building.

WHY: What repercussions do you see/feel/notice in the physical and mental environment in SF? (ie from city planning, cameras, bent rights, the Patriot Act, the CitizenŐs Corps etc.) and how do these issues (in)directly manifest in your work / the strategy upon which to deal with the issues?

SJL: I am ashamed to say that the so called radical artists and activists I have known in the Bay area have almost all grown conservative and silent here. The only breath of fresh air is in Berkeley with KPFA free speech radio. I am an outsider amongst outsiders, to obscure or weird for free speech radio and too much of a renegade to be part of any of the Marginalized "token" groups of S.F. It may actually be better this way, for me. I prefer to be an outsider. As a trickster figure, it is more important to be acknowledged for wrong doing than accepted for conformity. I choose to walk the edge and live and play by my rules. I had all of my band U.S.A.F. quit post 911 except M Stevens because they said my politics had a bad context all of a sudden. Galleries, friends and associates warned me not to exhibit my amerikan flag paintings and to "Be tastefully silent for awhile" I refused and still do. It got to the point that family and friends started treating me different and I was expecting them to come out and say I was a terrorist so I wrote my rant "I'm a Terrorist" and called myself one. I promptly put the rant up on my website www.satanicapache.com and then received several cyber visits from the "U.S. Government" so I know the big military corporate government is watching. I must be doing something right. The right wing radio fascists are always bringing up the founding fathers of the United States and I like to remind them of what Benjamin Franklin once said:

WHY: Why are you leaving San Francisco?

SJL: I am leaving Fortress San Francisco not because I am scared or tired of fighting; I am so bored with the insulated bullshit. I see a bigger fish in fortress Europe. Amerika lacks fight. I am sick of my "culture"; McEmpire and the silly crap pop culture. It is an ugly bill boarded landscape that has terrorized me since my youth. Anything that does not contribute to my culture takes away from it and that is how I am feeling at the moment. Maybe things will change and my mind will but I feel corporate globalization is fucking up the whole damn world and America may be a lost cause. McCorporation is colonizing the planet. I do feel Amerika is leading the way to the final homogenised demise of this planet. I must get away from it to be objectively critical. Profiting from the destruction of all natural resources is a western biblical philosophy and a modern cancer.

WHY: Why the choice of Holland/England as opposed to other regions: Is it an operation from the fringe of the Empire or is there a sense of the global condition of an absolute inside? In the process of coming to Fortress Europe, Have you experienced any (unprecedented) difficulties?

SJL: As an American artist I do feel I need a perspective outside of fortress America. I do not see utopia in Europe only better more civilized artistic opportunities and different control systems. I will not be free from conflict or opposition as my work tends towards the grotesque realities over the pleasantries and my use of the swastika is grossly misunderstood by those old enough to be alive in WWII. I will not bend or conform and I fear not the mockery or the savagery that I am already being accused of in fortress Europe. Holland and England may have the context of modern art and the opportunities I need to take my art further. Minimalism is still king in New York City but figurative art is taken more serious in Europe.

WHY: Removed simultaneously from the soil of Amerika and the soil of the Apache, there is a new disconnection from the theme of national identity. Are you looking for a different perspective on the stimulus of your work or a change of stimulus?

SJL: I am a citizen of this earth. I do feel an attachment to the south-western U.S.A. as an Apache Indian but I am more attached to the earth. I do need new stimulus as Britney Spears and the Disney do nothing for me. Because of the role Amerika plays in bulling the world my art does have a global context. Especially post 911.

WHY: Is there a strategy to deal with Amerika from a distance, from a "safer ground" or to address the Amerikanization phenomena as a global condition(ing)? Do you imagine Fortress Europe, with its own new conservative and populist right-wing trends, lends itself to being a safer ground?

SJL: Safer ground? I do not feel there is safer ground. At least in Europe I am not getting into silly arguments everywhere about if I love my country or not and why am I picking on the poor president, he is only doing his job (are you a terrorist?). Atleast in Europe it is seen as healthy to criticize political leaders. Oh, and I am sick of every fucking idiot here telling me that Amerika is the freest place in the world, where everyone can say anything, right after they have told me to "shut the fuck up and stop criticizing the country"

WHY: The use of symbols and their unconscious meaning to the audience are important devices (theatrically, in ritual, politically) in your work. Often employing (consensus reality/oppressive conformist order/idea) and (marginal/anarchist/counter) symbols/signs, your dramatization and interpretation of select symbols could be perceived differently and have often different (consensus) meaning, sensibilisation and interpretation in Europe. Do you anticipate a different feedback/response/impact from a European audience?

SJL: The symbols I use, Swastikas, pentagrams, U.S. Flags etc. may have a slightly different context in Europe. I do feel that Europeans feel a bit colonized by Amerikan Corporate culture. As a Native American this seems a bit ironic as North Amerika was invaded and colonized by Europeans. Is this corporate colonization poetic justice? The bottom line is corporate cultureŐs dominance of the modern landscape is a disease. This disease is the modern outcome of the western biblical philosophy of Divine right. The right for all natural resources to be used and abused by what now is a lazy capitalist christian system. Europeans are starving for Amerikan dissenters to help fight this ugly globalization, homogenization of mediocrity for maximum profit and destruction of all world cultures. I do expect a more intellectual feedback from artists and thinkers but I also anticipate simplistic critiques from most critics that will not see past the re-contextualization of symbols in my work. I do not expect praise from the establishment as I am anti-establishment. I do not expect praise from bureaucrats and politicians as I despise them, whatever country they reside in.

WHY: Suspecting a siege of a Black Swastika armada upon the City of Rotterdam in December, perhaps you can illuminate Why Rotterdam for the soon to be captiv(ated)?

SJL: The siege of The Black Swastika armada of writer Monique Lorraine Everhart and me upon the port of Rotterdam, the worldŐs largest port, may be symbolic. A port being a place of entry is not unlike the anus. Why not Rotterdam? It seems like a no nonsense, no bullshit city.

WHY: Did you have any sense/feeling of what dimensions might be of motivation?

SJL: Maybe Black Swastika will be the anti-thesis of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Maybe our motivations are not entirely evident and the repercussions not exactly predictable.


More images from Rev. Leyba's performance with Monique at WORM in Rotterdam can be found on the Black Lodge website.