InFrieze’s October 2006 Life in FilmLondon-based artist David Noonan discusses, amongst others, two influential horror films: Susperia and Toby Dammit (which is certainly one of the most surreal and insane Poe adaptations in cinema). Noonan’s screenprints are filmic in themselves. A collage of images from movies, books, and magazines, they are haunting impressions of a scene that vibrate with a sense of performative movement. See his most recent exhibition atDavid Kordansky Galleryin Los Angeles.
In Suspiria (1977), directed by Dario Argento, an American ballerina enrols in an exclusive ballet school in Germany and becomes embroiled in a witches’ coven bent on chaos and destruction. The art direction is astonishing and overshadows the acting; the film is saturated in a very unnatural palette, which heightens its sense of unreality, right down to the wallpaper designs by Escher. The baroque, flamboyant soundtrack is by the Italian Prog Rock band Goblin and is a masterpiece in itself. The murders are theatrical and balletic; the film is like a violent opera.
Federico Fellinis’ short film Toby Dammit (1968) is part of the trilogy, ‘Histoires Extraordinaire’, also known as ‘Spirits of the Dead’ after a short story by Edgar Allen Poe. The film is complete with Fellini’s trademark references, from circuses to paparazzi, stardom, kitsch and glamour. The film stars Terrence Stamp at his finest: an alcoholic, self destructive thespian lured to Rome to appear in a television show by the promise of a Ferrari – in other words a Faustian pact. Fellini conjures an extraordinary, creepy atmosphere, and Stamp’s crazed, decadent performance makes it all the more powerful.
Image: Leicester Square, 2005, Archival inkjet on paper from paper collage (not one of the more filmic works but one of my favorites)
As part of my The Art of Fear post on Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso, I wanted to highlight LUX’s Thinking Through Cinema (Deep Red) that used the film as the basis for commissioned artworks (film, video, and sound) at last year’s Artissima Art Fair.
For Thinking Through Cinema (Deep Red), LUX’s project at this year’sArtissima Art Fair in Turin, Argento’s film becomes a stand-in for cinema as a whole – a starting point from which to explore the differences between film (as a physical medium) and cinema (as the cultural, architectural and social space in which film has traditionally been experienced).
Six commissioned artists – Meris Angioletti, Juliette Blightman, Claire Gasson, Torsten Lauschmann, Nathaniel Mellors and Emily Wardill – will each present their ‘version’ of Profondo Rosso, using Argento’s film as a source text but perhaps without showing a single frame of the original. The artists’ projects will be presented over the course of the fair as part of a rolling programme of timed events, hosted in a specially constructed space modelled on a cinema auditorium, framed within the fair’s ‘House of Contamination’ strand. Thinking Through Cinema (Deep Red) offers an opportunity for artists to completely reimagine cinema – its history, its limits and its untapped possibilities – from the perspective of both creator and audience.
The presence and absence of artwork in Dario Argento’s giallo classicProfondo Rosso(1975) act as puzzle pieces to solve the murder mystery.The Art of Fearputs it all together…
Profondo Rosso, aka Deep Red, depicts a series of gruesome murders committed by an unknown person (who turns out to be the mother, take that Friday the 13th!) as well as bits of the supernatural, childhood/psychological trauma, and an insane score by Goblin. Like some of the other films included in The Art of Fear, the art featured in Profondo Rosso act as clues or markers to finding the source of horror rather than being the source itself. These clues function in two parts: one as a painting and the other as a child’s drawing. As the narrative evolves, the initial perception of these artworks becomes more complicated for the characters and the audience. However when the revelations contained within each work finally emerge, they reveal not only who committed the murders but also the personal history as to why all this carnage began.