Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Farewell to H. R. Giger

H. R. Giger in 1978. Image Source: IB Times.

Very sad news today: Swiss surrealist artist Hans Rudolf 'Ruedi' Giger died on 12 May 2014. He was 74. Giger was a Posthuman visionary who glimpsed an uncomfortable future, where humans and machines would combine biomechanically around sexuality. In the 1960s, Giger contemplated grotesque human bodies, twisted by nuclear radiation. Other influences on his work included H. P. Lovecraft, Samuel Beckett and Edgar Wallace, all of whom created fantastical worlds which were metaphors for layers of human consciousness.

Giger with alien design. Image Source: Twentieth Century Fox via Guardian.

Giger gained worldwide renown for his design of the monster on Alien (1979). Screenwriter Dan O'Bannon met Giger and saw a book of his sketches during Alejandro Jodorowsky's ill-fated film adaptation of the novel Dune. Giger's images helped inspire O'Bannon's earliest Alien script; on O'Bannon's urging, director Ridley Scott asked Giger to design the alien, based on Giger's painting Necronom IV. Giger also designed the Facehugger, the Chestburster, the Derelict spaceship, and the Space Jockey. He and fellow Alien production artists won an Oscar. Giger worked on later movies in the franchise as well as other films.

The Necronom IV (1976), inspiration for the alien. Image Source: IB Times.

Giger's advice for aspiring artists, reproduced here, became one of this blog's most popular posts ever. Although he gained celebrity for his work on the Alien franchise, his work moved well past science fiction. He explored the underworld of the late 20th century's all-consuming ego. His images, designs and interiors constituted a Dorian Gray portrait of the cost exacted by the fusion between that ego and the tools it uses to gain dominance.  Giger's shadows - grim, bleak, unrelenting, insane or obscene - are now commonplace on the back alleys of the Internet.

Alien - Behind the Scenes (Part 1 of 2). Video Source: Youtube.

Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2 Romantic was used in the movie Alien. Video Source: Youtube

See all my posts on H. R. Giger.


  1. I have been somewhat shocked that there hasn't been more coverage in mainstream news outlets, given that Giger had a pop culture presence that was surprisingly pervasive and in several media despite the provocative nature of his images. While I have found it heartening to find newspaper obituaries memorializing obscure comic book artists, some of whom toiled anonymously in the 1950's and remained forgotten even by most comic book fans (never mind the general public), what does it mean when Giger's passing doesn't make the evening news? Today's obituaries include a variety of notables such as the above mentioned comics artists and rarely seen avant garde film directors from the 60's and 70's, blacklisted playwrights, fringe political essayists, etc. If Giger's own consistent book and licensed image sales aren't enough to draw attention, nor his inclusion on rock album art (from Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Brain Salad Surgery" to Debbie Harry's "Koo Koo" to Dead Kennedy's landmark "Frankenchrist" trial), then the recent documentary on Jodorowsky's abortive attempt to adapt "Dune" and Giger's part in that should have made his passing more topical than most.

  2. It's a sad fact that the news is full instead of the spat between Jay Z, Beyonce and Solange Knowles and the surreal Kim Kardashian wedding. These things barely registered with me, but they dominate the attention of a lot of people.

    You can't say that Giger was ignored by the MSM this week because of his artistic obscenities or Satanist imagery, because Kim K got her start with her sex video, and a Satanist mass was depicted on *Silicon Valley* on HBO last Sunday - and another black mass was almost performed at Harvard next month. The irony is that Giger's work anticipated and predicted the notoriety of Kim Kardashian and Millennial Satanists. He brought the message to the world when it was still shocking; now these dabblers are mainstream and mundane. They're hum drum. Just for that reason, Giger should have been remembered in obits as an artist who understood how the world was changing in the 70s and 80s - and not for the better. His expected realities chimed with contemporaries like David Cronenberg - yet I saw no comments that placed him in his contemporary artistic context.

    Like you, I was surprised at how brief the obits were. Even the BBC obit was disgraceful in how brief and non-committal it was. That could be due to the fact that Giger passed away suddenly due to a fall. It could be due to the fact that his visions are everywhere, but people have forgotten where they originated; so oddly he may have been somewhat out of fashion with trendsetters who see themselves as au courant. Actually these people are legacy trendsetters. Hipsters are not originals. They're totally derivative, so much so that they don't even know *who* created the ideas floating around on the Internet that are channeled right into their heads. It is for this reason - that Giger envisioned a Bosch-like New Normal - that he deserves respect and remembrance beyond a non-committal summary of his popular creations.

  3. Well, I don't know who's reading your blog, but the Boston Globe ran an obit on May 16-- the morning after your reply to my comment-- three days late (he died on the 12th, but the official announcement from his museum came the next day). If the Pulitzers were awarded in Switzerland, I somehow don't think this would have taken so long.

    1. My impression about the obits was that his death was unexpected, so most outlets went with some stock paragraphs, which is unfortunate. I also got the sense that they rushed their obits; I didn't see any articles where anyone thought hard about what Giger's work represented or why it mattered beyond the popularity of the alien. I would chalk that up to today's rushed office culture and possibly to the fact that people assigned to the task were not senior staff. Thus their exposure to him, as I mentioned, was probably derivative and second-, third-, fourth-, or umpteenth-hand in pop culture. That's just a guess, but it reminded me of what Terry Gilliam said about Philip K. Dick: "For everyone lost in the endlessly multiplicating realities of the modern world, remember: Philip K. Dick got there first." I think a lot of people now don't realize that, for what he did, Giger got there first.

  4. I am Les Barany, Mr. Giger's friend and agent. I was heartened to read this.
    Thank you in the name of his friends and family.

    1. Dear Mr. Barany, My sympathies to you and to Mr. Giger's friends and family. I am glad you felt I did justice to Mr. Giger's memory and paid him the respect he so richly deserved and deserves.

  5. I am astonished at how people can be so blind, illiterate, and naive when contemplating pornography masquerading as art. Back in the 70s and 80s when I was first introduced to H.R. Giger's artwork for the movie Aliens, I felt very disturbed by the nightmarish gothic images he painted as pre-production artwork. Then when I actually experienced the movie in all its demonic nighmarish lewd immoral perversion, I realized this was a movie about sexual rape in an alien environment between demonic looking creatures and humans. There were too many inferences of that deviancy throughout the movie that there was really no way to cover up the sexual content of this movie. When H.R. Giger released his images of the Necronomicon, I finally realized why his images had really disturbed me and it was because they were demonic satanic images coming from Satan's own mind and inspiration. H.R. Giger turned his life over to Satan and became a committed Satanist who allowed Satan and his demons to use his God-given artistic talents to debase, degrade and destroy the holy image of God's human creation by incorporating so many sadomasochistic sexually explicit pornographic images of human life being destroyed by satanic alien beings enjoying their torture of human beings. I wonder what H.R. Giger, who never repented and turned to the Lord of Heaven and Earth, thought about Hell, Satan, and his demons when he came face to face with them when he was ushered into Hell? Were his images anywhere near as horrifying as the actual place, person and being of Satan and his rebel band of losers who fell from God's grace, disgracing themselves because of their stubborn pride and having to dwell in excruciating painful darkness amidst the flames of Hell itself. I am so sad for this man who was gifted by God and decided to waste his life by painting putrid horrifying images of satanic sexual intercourse between humans, mechanoids, and demons. How truly sad. This is a wake-up call for all who decide to venture down this wide road to Hell. Life is short and God created us to worship Him alone. To worship anyone else, or oneself, is foolishness and the cost is eternal damnation in a place more horrifying than any image that H.R. Giger could render in gothic colors.

    1. Anon, thank you for your comment. I see that you are looking at Giger with a religious view. Regarding the film 'Alien,' I think there is a parallel between the ocean and outer space, a frontier of mystery and superstition that must be crossed with science but which brings out our most primitive fears and urges. The film is a giant haunted house metaphor for that eternal problem.

      Humans want to explore and expand their boundaries, but in so doing they unwittingly awaken the beast within. The Catholic Church tied all those fears and desires to Satan and declared them immoral, evil and forbidden. Giger was clearly interested in displaying those primitive fears and savage desires and trying, via his artworks, to show us how those impulses work upon our daily lives. I have another post on this blog about Giger's work on the early videogame, 'Darkseed,' which similarly showed the subconscious and conscious flipping back and forth. You mean, I think, that Giger was privately an acolyte and therefore his works were dangerous, immoral, a threatening effort at Satanic proselytization. There is indeed a huge resurgence of Satanic imagery in pop culture right now - something I will discuss in upcoming posts. But I would suggest that it is coming from the fact that our technological capabilities are expanding. As we extend, we confront all kinds of moral troubles and upheavals. I think Giger was showing us the start of that process, but was not an initiator. Yet another earlier blog post here explained that Giger was initially inspired by atomic bombs, showing how science could go wrong, devastating the body with radiation.

      I do not know about his private convictions, but I think as a public artist, Giger fearlessly taught a deeper understanding about frightening things that are very difficult to understand. To put it in Christian terms, isn't Christ's story a biblical insistence that the strongest moral people confront darker parts of human nature? I have a post on this blog, 'Forty Days and Nights,' about that point. Note that Christ was crucified precisely because he was saying threatening things. He also said that we are not in a position to pass judgement on other people. Be careful not to so so, and in this case, shoot the messenger. Just because an artist delivers a message about frightening things, or spent a lifetime engaging with, and trying to comprehend primitive, frightening urges and how they affect us, does not mean that the artist was evil.

    2. Christianity as a concept is itself evil and has inspired far more "works of art" than has that other Christian concept - the Devil. Giger may be seen as as much of a prophet as the Christian Christ, and far more entertaining. And we know for a fact Giger actually lived, something no Christian can prove where their own prophet is concerned.