Via invitation from Dumbo Arts Center, on Thursday (September 6) I presented a one-night event in support of my upcoming February exhibition at DA On the Desperate Edge of Now (historical trauma in horror film and contemporary art ) with Heather Cantrell, Folkert de Jong, Marnie Weber, and Joachim Koester.
In Edgard G. Ulmer’s brilliant and beautiful film Bluebeard (1944), artist Gaston Morrell deals with the failure of finding pure beauty in his paintings by killing his muses. The Art of Fear on the artistic practice of a serial killer…
A spectacularly dark mixture of noir and horror, much like Ulmer’s previous film The Black Cat (1934), Bluebeard is a revenge story. John Carradine plays Gaston Morrell (aka “Bluebeard”) in one of his rare leading male roles, an artist so scarred by the revelation that his ultimate muse is a “loathsome creative” that he kills her. This woman, whom he had rescued and nursed back to health after an accident, was the source of what he believed to be his greatest achievement in painting. After her murder, Gaston becomes fundamentally broken. Unable to escape the pain she had inflicted, whomever else he painted turned into a representation of her…and so he killed them too. She continually haunted him, controlling his downward spiral in artistic practice, ability to love, and mental stability.
With the release of American Horror: the genre at the turn of the millennium and The Philosophy of Horror in late 2010, there was a sudden onslaught of essays that promised fresh perspectives on the horror genre. While American Horror certainly delivered in introducing some of the first texts on horror film produced in the last decade, The Philosophy of Horror (edited Thomas Fahy) regurgitates many of the old philosophies to a seemingly non-horror audience (i.e. it’s very basic). This sameness isn’t productive and it isn’t really re-productive, it’s actually non-productive. A good comparison is the analysis of Land of the Dead seen in both books; Craig Bernardini’s Cronenburg, Romero, Twilight of American Horror Auteur proposed new readings of the evolved zombie in a contemporary context while John Lutz’s Zombies of the World offered an extremely didactic examination.