The Trumpets of the Apocalypse – Luis Bunuel

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“The trumpets of the apocalypse have been sounding at our gates for years now, but we still stop up our ears. We do, however, have four new horsemen: overpopulation (the leader, the one waiving the flag), science, technology, and the media. All the other evils in the world are merely consequences of these. I’m not afraid to put the press in the front rank, either. The last screenplays I worked on, for a film I’ll never make, deal with a triple threat: science, terrorism, and the free press. The last, which is usually seen as a victory, a blessing, a ‘right,’ is perhaps the most pernicious of all, because it feeds on what the three other horsemen leave behind.’ – Luis Bunuel from My Last Sigh (page 251-252)

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Psycho Buildings

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“Here, we find architecture not in its functional guise but as a site of desire, memory and doubt, home to personal contingencies and collective histories, the clashing of cultures and coalescing of subjectivities. Refusing to address us in the spaces they generate, engaging us in ways that are at once visceral and conceptual, and that call attention to what must be experienced rather than merely seen.” – Ralph Rugoff, Psycho Buildings from the exhibition Psycho Buildings: Artists Take On Architecture.

Image: Mike Nelson, To the Memory of H.P. Lovecraft (1999), 2008.

I Remember Things

I remember things. It’s more than just void, darkness, unconsciousness. The mind does work. There are images, patterns, things to recollect. It’s not just the long, deep sleep that comes when the fear has left. The cold is felt, the slipping away of feeling is noted and then succumbed to. The mind functions. Time is distorted, jumbled, telescoped, accordioned, but there is a sense of time even so, and I remember things. I remember the way it began. I remember the way it was in the beginning. – Twilight Zone, The Long Morrow.

Hill House: a house personified

No Human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of the house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice. Almost any house, caught unexpectedly or at an odd angle, can turn a deeply humorous look on a watching person; even a mischievous little chimney, or a dormer like a dimple, can catch up a beholder with a sense of fellowship; but a house arrogant and hating, never off guard, can only be evil. This house, which seemed somehow to have formed itself, flying together into its own powerful pattern under the hands of its builders, fitting itself into its own construction of lines and angles, reared its great head back against the sky without concession to humanity. It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope. Exorcism cannot alter the countenance of a house; Hill House would stay as it was until it was destroyed. – The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson, page 24).

Mike Nelson – 500 Words in Artforum

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Mike Nelson’s 500 words in Artforum (read the whole thing here):

LINEAR NARRATIVE HAS NOT always been important to me, but illustrating the sense of meaning and space beyond what is actually presented in a show is. As a child I was taught that if we want to see a figure moving in the distance as darkness falls, we should look to the side of him to see the movement more clearly. This idea resonates with the way I work: I try to draw the viewer in to focus on one thing in order to understand another. I hope that this way of working is becoming more pertinent in relation to our media-saturated lives. The constant mediation through technology that we face everyday leaves very little time or space for the unknown––no time to imagine or wonder what might be or have been. So few people have the desire or the patience any more to engage with work in this way.

Image: Coral Reef (2000)

Hill House

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“No organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

– First paragraph of Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
-Image from Robert Wise’s film The Haunting (1963)

The Fall of the House of Usher

In celebration of Edgar Allen Poe’s birth:

FROM The Fall of the House of Usher (1839)
I shall ever bear about me a memory of the many solemn hours I thus spent alone with the master of the House of Usher. Yet I should fail in any attempt to convey an idea of the exact character of the studies, or of the occupations, in which he involved me, or led me the way. An excited and highly distempered ideality threw a sulphureous lustre over all. His long improvised dirges will ring forever in my ears. Among other things, I hold painfully in mind a certain singular perversion and amplification of the wild air of the last waltz of Von Weber. From the paintings over which his elaborate fancy brooded, and which grew, touch by touch, into vaguenesses at which I shuddered the more thrillingly, because I shuddered knowing not why ; – from these paintings (vivid as their images now are before me) I would in vain endeavor to educe more than a small portion which should lie within the compass of merely written words. By the utter simplicity, by the nakedness of his designs, he arrested and overawed attention. If ever mortal painted an idea, that mortal was Roderick Usher. For me at least – in the circumstances then surrounding me – there arose out of the pure abstractions which the hypochondriac contrived to throw upon his canvass, an intensity of intolerable awe, no shadow of which felt I ever yet in the contemplation of the certainly glowing yet too concrete reveries of Fuseli. 

Read my ART OF FEAR essay on the Roger Corman version, House of Usher, and the role of artwork in the narrative.

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Quote: From Beyond

“What do we know,” he had said, “of the world and the universe about us? Our means of receiving impressions are absurdly few, and our notions of surrounding objects are infinitely narrow. We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with a wider, strong, or different range of senses might not only see very differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie at hand yet can never be detected with the senses we have…”

Quote from H.P. Lovecraft’s From Beyond (1920). Related to Joachim Koester’s Numerous Incidents of Indefinite Outcomes (2007), amongst other things.

Behind the knife: horror versus terror

Differentiation by Evan Calder Williams between horror and terror that reflects both a representational turn (in terms of genre) and in real-life manifestations. Horror is repetitive, recyclable, unending, instructive.

Terror is about the threat to life, the knife behind you. Horror, conversely, is about the threat to understanding, of living to see the after-effects of suddenly realizing you were behind the knife all along. In this way, horror is apocalyptic. It confronts us with the symptoms – and with our complicity in reproducing them – and demands that we find new sets of instructions. – Evan Calder Willams, Combined and Uneven Apocalypse, pg. 226.