February 3

Taking Time to Contemplate the Horror


As Ferris Bueller once said,

‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.’

I never really thought of Ferris as a visionary. Cool dude, yes. But not someone who could predict the tsunami of information we now have. Because life sure does move pretty fast around here, and so does everything else.

For example, when was the last time you watched a film that favoured quiet, contemplative moments over fast and furious action? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for fast and furious action in movies (except I have never seen a single Fast and Furious movie, and now that we are up to approximately 271 sequels I don’t think I can jump in, life’s too short) but I do feel we are in danger of losing the ability to spot the subtleties of life and art without slowing down sometimes.

For another example, when was the last time you peeled yourself away from your FaceInstaWhatzaYouBook feed, which refreshes every millisecond, and took time just to appreciate the view, or a piece of art?

Like this sculpture —

Image of toddler asleep being cuddled by a monster

It’s not exactly easy to look at, is it? And I can imagine myself standing in an art gallery, gazing at this, maybe walking around it to look at it from all angles, and becoming increasingly unnerved as the seconds stretched out. Although fascinating, there’s something offensive to the eyes about this sculpture. And what about that poor toddler, lying there contentedly asleep whilst being cuddled by something out of a mad scientist’s worst nightmare?

No jump shocks here. No fast editing or creepy music to jangle your nerves.

This work is by Patricia Piccinini, and if you think you can take more you can follow her here on Instagram.

Let’s move on, I feel like I have looked at enough.

Let’s take a look at this painting by Dado.

Painting by Dado

There, that’s better, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a bit odd, I know, but it’s not freak out weird and nasty like that last one.

Oh, hang on. What’s that there? Is that a face, and it’s eye has popped out? And why does that man have a bird’s beak sticking out of the side of his head, and burrowing into the skull beside him? No, not a skull. A cockroach, maybe?

And, wait a second, is that really, seriously … ?

With a work of art like Monster Brain you have to stop and look. You have to wait for the details to emerge. It’s not like YouTube where everyone tries to grab your attention within the first five seconds of the video. Dado isn’t competing for your attention, he’s not yelling at you to stay with him. It’s up to you. Move on if you want, go find something else to lavish your gaze upon.

No, he’s inviting you in, much like the witch invites the children into her house for a plate of cookies and a mug of warming hot chocolate.

Stay awhile, have a look around.

You’re safe here.

If you really are in a rush and want a shot of disquiet fast, like mainlining horror through a vein, then you should go visit Laurie Liptons website.

Image of drawing, Last Night I Dreamt I Murdered Mommy

Last Night I Dream I Murdered Mommy has to be one of the most unsettling line drawings I have ever come across. Partly it’s that gruesomely joyful smile the kid’s sporting, but even worse the child is looking at us, inviting us to share the joke and making us complicit in the horrifying murder that is about to occur. Take a look at Laurie Lipton’s website for further examples of her work, and then join me in wondering if she is actually sane. Whatever, she’s brilliant.

I’m going to distract you from the horror for a moment to take a look at Cornelia Parkers brilliant art installation

Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View.

Cornelia had herself a shed built and filled it with the detritus of life that usually winds up in our garden sheds.

Then she asked the British Army to blow it up.

Amazingly, they agreed.

Actually, maybe it’s not that amazing. The army, after all, do seem to enjoy blowing things up. It’s just so very British though, isn’t it? And I can picture the conversation.

Parker: I’ve just had a new shed and filled it with lots of my possessions. Could you blow it up for me please?

Army General: Yes, of course! Shall we come round and do it now?

Next, Parker gathered all the pieces and strung them up in the Tate Modern, seemingly mid-explosion, and lit by a bare bulb which cast shadows over the walls.

Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991 by Cornelia Parker born 1956

I’ve seen it, and it’s brilliant.

And I love how Parker has attempted to catch that most fleeting of moments, a millisecond of time, and freeze it in real life for us to gaze at and contemplate.

Back to the horror,

and here’s one that hits you in the gut immediately, like a barbed wire baseball bat to the head. Wait a minute, gut, head, I mixed my metaphors there, didn’t I?

An image of the painting Tiffany May

Tiffany May looks like your typical High School Prom Queen. Beautiful, sweet, looking lovely in her dress and tiara. Except, she happens to have a decapitated head in her lap and a knife jammed in its ear. What the hell did that poor guy do to deserve this? Was he her prom date and he turned up late or, even worse, with someone else? And it looks like the violence happened by his locker, with the baseball bat and ball, and the football in view.

Wait! While writing this blog I just noticed the fork lying on the floor in that ever so shiny pool of blood. What the hell is that all about?

The artist, Aly Fell, makes us complicit in this act too, by having Tiffany proudly showing off her selfie on her phone to us.

Or maybe we are meant to be the high school principal, just come upon this horror tableaux.

Well, I’m not sure this whistle-stop tour through the alternative horror side of art has been at all contemplative, but I had to be quick because I need to get back to writing Joe Coffin Season Five.


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