Afterlifers: Walking and Talking

As we’re currently in production for Living On: Zombies (the third volume of Incognitum Hactenus in which we make the position to re-contextualize, consider, and represent the zombie figure), I have zombies on the brain. And this 2004 film Afterlifers: Walking and Talking by Halflifers (artists Torsten Zenas Burns and Anthony M. Discenza) fits the bill, addressing the post-culture life after the pop-culture knowledge of the zombie. 

Particularly interesting is their notion of “zombie architecture” or “zombie space”  – a existing zone where people and objects “become zombie” – in relation to Shaviro’s term “zombie time” in his “Contagious Allegories” where he says:

The slow meanders of zombie time emerge out of the conventional time of progressive narrative. This strangely empty temporality also corresponds to a new way of looking, a vertiginously passive fascination. The usual relation of audience to protagonist is inverted. Instead of the spectator projecting him-or-herself into the actions unfolding on the screen, an on-screen characters lapses into a quasi-spectatorial position. This is the point at which dread slips into obsession, the moment when unfulfilled threats turn into seductive promises. Fear becomes indistinguishable from an incomprehensible, intense, but objectless craving.

In considering a zombie-space and zombie-time we perhaps might tap into the way in which these narratives fold in on themselves, addressing the fear of the viewer while also basing this fear on an acknowledged fiction. Unable to speak or articulate, the zombie has become the language we use to address the unspeakable: this craving, this need for representation. 

The work of Torsten Zenas Burns is currently on view at the Dumbo Arts Center in Brooklyn.

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Ivan Zulueta – Frank Stein (1972)

Selfishly happy that Ivan Zulueta’s Frank Stein (1972) is back online:

The absorption of the cinematic within Iván Zulueta’s work, Frank Stein and King Kong among them, reacts to the political and social constructs of the 1970s. This is why his version the ‘Frankenstein’ story as subject is so fascinating. Born in the 19th century in a novel by Mary Shelley (Frankenstein 1817), this monstrous tale has been told throughout the decades as a reflection on modern society. In the 1800s, the Frankenstein monster could be read as an allegory on the dangers of scientific explorations or fears of an expanding world. At the dawn of the new decade while the idealism of the 1960s waned, Zulueta’s ‘Frankenstein’ represents the confusion and lapsed innocence of this new world. That Frank Stein is filmed from a television broadcast remarks on the change in media consumption and how its accessibility began to blur the line between information and entertainment. Meaning can seemingly be projected onto this monster in any given era, thereby he perpetually symbolises the recycled, relevant, and rejuvenated spirit of the horror genre.

Our world of zombies: Jim Shaw and Evan Calder Williams

I’ve been reading Evan Calder Williams’ book Combined and Uneven Apocalypse: Luciferian Marxism in which he relates capitalism’s most recent fall to the allegorical representation of the post-apocalypse in horror and science-fiction film. Williams proposes we search for new horizons in the face of the end of the world; one where the emergence of new possibilities faces off with humanity’s seemingly repetitive nature. Naturally, the zombie film encompasses a good portion of Williams’ exploration. And when considering his evaluation of the genre’s relationship to a capitalist society, I cannot help but think of The Hole (2007) by Los Angeles artist Jim Shaw.

Shaw’s first fictional feature, The Hole “…appears as an O-ist horror movie. In it, a new female convert to the religion, peering through a hole in her apartment wall, discovers a parallel world where zombies stroll in an ill-defined “somewhere”, beyond which space becomes abstracted.” Here, the space between the living “normal” world and the endless repetition of the continuous living in “zombie” world collapse, meeting through a hole in a wall in a domestic space. The zombies, all men, are dressed in suits aimlessly wandering, slightly bumping into each other. A close up into the zombie nerve center reveals the “brain” is a fuzzy television-like portal (Dani Tull’s soundrack is incredible), providing us an abstracted account of what goes on in the mind of the mindless. The film suggests a parallel world of zombies to our own, prompting the question of how do we look, evaluate, adapt, and change our own end of the world that’s so near by?

To consider this further, provided below is an excerpt of The Hole combined with excerpts from Williams’ book. 

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xfb6nl_the-hole_creation

Combine and Uneven Apocalypse: Luciferian Marxism:

This is particularly of what the figure of the zombie does and its position in the mass culture of capitalism. It thinks how real abstractions work on real bodies, of the nastiest intersections of the law of value and the law of inevitable decay. (page 80)

In this way, zombie films are not about the living dead, at least not in any direct way. They are about the undying living. They are about surplus-life, the new logic of excessive existence: something has given us all too-much-life, an inability to properly die in a system that no longer knows how or when to quit. (page 92)

Following and moving out from Lacan, we could say that anxiety is never about the radically new but rather about the horrible possibility of the same persisting…Anxiety emerges with the creeping realization that there may be no lack, no space in which to move, leaving us crushed by the awful possible certainty of knowing how things are and knowing that they will remain that way. (page 101)

The anxiety proper to zombie films is the deep horror of something not being different, of everyone remaining as limited a category as we know it to be, of the same persisting, of the end of death and lack…People are not consumers because they are scared of change. They are scared of change because they are consumers. (page 103)

It’s about labor. It’s never been about consumerism gone bad, but the lost heritage of the zombie film, the horror from more Haitian origins: of being forced to work, of knowing that “choosing” to sell one’s labor has never been a choice, just a particularly nasty illusion of free will. (page 105)

…the innovation – and perhaps the underlying horror – is not just “how horrible to be killed and brought back to life as a slave” but: what if our past is never forgotten? Not remembered by historians or marked into the very landscape and bodies of the colonies, but smuggled back in, dark knowledge too powerful to be lost and too tempting for capitalism to ignore (page 111) 

Image: The Hole zombie stills (2007)

Halloween Lullaby: how the Cure shaped my love for horror

“On candy-striped legs, the spiderman comes…”

Because I’m always thinking about “why horror?” for a generation of artists, filmmakers, and cultural production, I often ask myself, why horror? I mean, how did I get into this mess in the first place? While there are many layers in answering that question, amongst them being the magical lure many of these films have, actually pinpointing my obsession with horror aesthetics and narratives has come down to this…The Cure’s video for Lullaby.

Twenty-two years after its release, The Cure’s Disintegration (released May 1989) is not only one of the best albums of the late 20th century but also a formative influence in my life. I vividly remember watching The Cure’s music videos, ranging from the earlier and silly Love Cats to the love lorn Love Song to the powerful Fascination Street featured on Disintegration, on MTV with such intensity. Their goth allure appealed greatly (and still does) to my inner depressive and most likely also cemented my enduring love for England and black eyeliner. After recently re-watching The Cure’s Lullaby video, directed by Tim Pope, a flood of memories rushed back and I realized that even before my first horror film scared the pants off me (Halloween 5),  Lullaby was where it all began.

Of course now I recognize the filmic references within the video that escaped me at the time. Now I can’t look at it without thinking of German Expressionists Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) or even many years later Werner Herzog’s stunning Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). The dark-rimmed eyes, creeping human-like figure, foreboding death, being repeatedly consumed, and the fear of sleep are all at play with these films and culminate, with all its British goth pop glory, into Lullaby.


On candystripe legs the spiderman comes / Softly through the shadow of the evening sun/ Stealing past the windows of the blissfully dead / Looking for the victim shivering in bed / Searching out fear in the gathering gloom and / Suddenly! / A movement in the corner of the room!


And there is nothing I can do / When I realise with fright / That the spiderman is having me for dinner tonight!

Quietly he laughs and shaking his head / Creeps closer now / Closer to the foot of the bed / And softer than shadow and quicker than flies / His arms are all around me and his tongue in my eyes / “Be still be calm be quiet now my precious boy / Don’t struggle like that or I will only love you more / For it’s much too late to get away or turn on the light / The spiderman is having you for dinner tonight”

And I feel like I’m being eaten / By a thousand million shivering furry holes / And I know that in the morning I will wake up / In the shivering cold / The spiderman is always hungry…

Faüxmish

Performance, music, and art have deep roots in the unique creative landscape of Los Angeles. New experimental power trio (Marnie Weber, Dani Tull, & Doug Harvey) Faüxmish is sure to be a part of this legacy.

Faüxmish is celebrating the release of their debut LP & CD ‘F for Ache’ with their debut public performance at Human Resources in Los Angeles on September 2nd. More info here.

Faüxmish is a Los Angeles art-rock supergroup that came together over a shared engagement with American spiritual sects who remove themselves from established social norms and create their own culture as outsiders.

Taking as their motto “Simplicity Through Noise,” Faüxmish have developed a practice rooted in improvisational ensemble playing using electric guitars (played with rubber mallets and other extended as well as traditional techniques) and vintage synthesizers, in various combinations of three.

Initially conceived as a ‘wall of sound,’ the group’s music rapidly developed a complex and idiosyncratic audio vocabulary drawing on the members’ widely divergent individual musical backgrounds, which range from noise to prog, post-punk to film scores, and 90s alt-rock to improvisational audio collage. The results range from dreamy ambient soundscapes to theatrical rock songs.

Monster in the washing machine

Talk about a shift in medium and audience: check out this new video that filmmaker/musician Rob Zombie made for Woolite that pulls from the “torture porn” films popular in the 2000s (and of course from the 70s, most obviously”Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). What’s interesting about this ad is that it pointedly references our cultural collective knowledge about recent horror film and the political implications torture entails. Now, thanks to Woolite and Zombie, monsters can now be found in your washing machine.

Bava on interiors

“I’m especially interested in movies stories that focus on one person: if I could, I would only tell these stories. What interests me is the fear experienced by a person alone in their room. It is then that everything around him starts to move menacingly around, and we realise that the only true ‘monsters’ are the ones we carry in ourselves. Alas, the marketplace demands terrible papier-mâché creatures, or the vampire with his sharp fangs, rising from his casket!”