TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

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.



Showing posts with label Surrealism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Surrealism. Show all posts

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Hallowe'en Countdown 2018: The Skeleton Key


Olga Neuwirth, Lost Highway opera stills (2003), based on the 1997 film by David Lynch.

In this year's Hallowe'en countdown, I have been describing a malaise that unnerves us. There is a collective sense that things have gone wrong and somewhere, there is an answer why. Somewhere, there is a skeleton key. If you had it, you could unlock all the problems, find their solutions, and blink yourself awake into a better world.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How Much Truth Can You Take?


Tears of the Sky. Promo image from digital music LP Ichi (One) (2012) by Prosodi J.

Today's post asks: how much truth can you take? How many leaks, revelations and exposés can you endure before you realize that the world is not what you think it is - and it never was? The post is up at Vocal Media:
In an earlier post, Reflection Reversal, I asked how and what we choose to see in the Internet's house of mirrors. This is a meditation on freedom, to consider what options we will have as surveillance capitalism, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence collectively get off the ground. I'll continue this thread later in my series, Awaken the Amnesiacs, on technology, perception, and the soul.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Nuclear Culture 18: The Lynch Atomic


All still from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). All images here are © Showtime. Reproduced under Fair Use. Image Source: Vulture.

On 18 May 2017, I asked whether David Lynch and Mark Frost could bring Twin Peaks into the Internet Era. The answer is: yes. The show is already generating memes. So far, the series has proved a culmination of all of Lynch's work and surreal noir style, a synthesis of his ideas from Eraserhead (1977), through Dune (1984), Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), Lost Highway (1997), The Straight Story (1999), Mulholland Drive (2001), to Inland Empire (2006). Even bits of The Elephant Man (1980) arrive in dated, other-worldly dream parlours.

Image Source: Entertainment Weekly.

I could gush about all the actors' stellar performances, especially catatonic/evil Kyle MacLachlan and 'we-are-the-99-per-cent!' Naomi Watts. But if I had to sum up the execution of the whole artistic vision in one word, it would be, 'fearlessness.' There is not one iota of artistic compromise and no apology, as Lynch, Frost and the cast push everything over the edge and keep going.

Atom bomb clip from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

As for the most recent episode, leave it to the legendary director to create the best hour to air in the history of television. One Youtuber called it the "Best 1950s Retro Horror Film Ever." The reviewers are united in praise, because this episode explained the origins of evil; it revealed how the monster in the original series (BOB) was created, as well as his victim, Laura. From one Youtube commenter:
"This was essentially the birth of BOB and the other evil spirits that entered America (due to the atomic age). All done in a 2001 A Space Odyssey-esque style. Laura was created by the Giant as a counter to BOB I guess. The young couple might be Leland and Sarah? All in all, this might be the most surreal episode ever in the history of television. I can't believe Lynch got away with it. This was pure, unadulterated art man."

Image Source: W Magazine.

Image Source: The Australian.

Image Source: Vanity Fair.

Image Source: Nerdist.

Woodsmen clip from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Woodsman at the radio station clip from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Vulture's reviewer concurred that Lynch encapsulated the post-atom bomb reality:
"'Part 8' allows the series to present an elaborate, visually and sonically dazzling origin story, not so much for the demon BOB (represented by stylized images of the face of Frank Silva, the late actor who played him in the original series) but for the postwar United States of America. That’s not all it’s doing — I would not be surprised if entire books were written about this one hour."

Image Source: Vanity Fair.

The turning point which set the 'before' and 'after' of the Atomic Age was the United States' test of the Trinity bomb on 16 July 1945 at 5:29:45 a.m. In this episode, the repercussion arrives on 5 August 1956; a monster hatches from an egg in the desert, and crawls forth to unleash a nightmare, starting with rambling, charred woodsmen. One of these spectral figures breaks into a radio station and interrupts the broadcast with a sickening spell which puts everyone to sleep:
This is the water, this is the well, drink full and descend; the horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.

- Man Wanting A Light
There are several artistic influences here. The episode reminded me of many American horror-genre depictions of nuclear weapons and warfare, including the video games, It Came from the Desert and Fallout. There was a lot of Kubrick in this, too. The Nine Inch Nails provided the nuclear soundtrack. But only David Lynch could perfectly capture it all, in a one-hour dream that tells you everything that is wrong with our world.

Image Source: W Magazine.


See all my posts on Nuclear topics.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Twin Peaks Returns


Twin Peaks was full of occult imagery, signifying a battle between the forces of Jupiter (positive) and Saturn (malefic). My comment on the symbols in this scene is here. Image Source: The Dissolve.

David Lynch's and Mark Frost's acclaimed series Twin Peaks, which changed television in two seasons in 1990 and 1991, returns on 21 May 2017. The original series, and the 1992 prequel film, was a mystery about a murdered American homecoming queen, Laura Palmer. It unraveled in the second season into soap opera surrealism after Lynch stepped away from the project. But the first season was a landmark moment in popular entertainment and is widely considered one of the best television series ever made. It inspired many other ground-breaking series. My comments below the jump contain spoilers, so if you haven't yet seen the original series and want to, read no further until you have done so.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Away from Blog


Untitled - Dunkerque 2014. Image © Nicolas Decoopman. (Hat tip: Dylan Cuffy.)

I will be away from the blog due to other work demands until 1 May 2017. I may publish the occasional post in that period if circumstances warrant it.

Street Reflection - Dunkerque 2016. Image Source: Google +.

For more from photographer Nicolas Decoopman, go here. All photos are copyright the artist and are reproduced here non-commercially under Fair Use.

Behind the Window #35 - Lille 2016. Image Source: Google +.

Street Reflection - Dunkerque 2015. Image Source: Google +.

Street Reflection - Dunkerque 2015. Image Source: Google +.

Untitled - Dunkerque 2015. Image © Nicolas Decoopman.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Innovation in the Wild West


Travel on the back roads. Image Source: pinterest.

In this post, I intended to expand on my Wild West Theory of Innovation, continued from my 19 November 2016 post, Enter the Frontier. My idea was not based on the current American television series, which echoes the same notion that techno-societies have entered a Westworld. The piece became too long, and I have decided to submit it elsewhere.

Rather than fully elaborate on my understanding of a positive path through the frontier, this post will describe the initial inspiration I had for the piece. I started with the idea that when a society innovates radically and rapidly, the innovators will encounter marginalized people and ideas as they push into the outer reaches.

There is a paradox here. Although innovation is depicted in our culture as progressive, futuristic and positive, innovation starts from a point of social, political or economic alienation. The journey into innovation is an epic trek into the frontier, a 'wild west.' I suggest that the narrative of innovation does not automatically line up with the narrative of positive progress. The innovator, in inventing, transforming and changing the status quo, will confront society's fears and uncertainties, as much as he or she confronts its hopes and dreams. As a result, the innovative society will become increasingly polarized.

The film clip below shows the starting point of that trek, when the innovator metaphorically chooses one day to walk out the back door rather than the front. This choice inverts the normal way of viewing reality, the regular processes of thought and action. What the innovator discovers is a second reality, an alternate civil state beyond the conventional pathways, an Underground. The first figures the hopeful and inspired innovator will encounter on his or her journey are the people who were already marginalized and lurking about the back ways - the criminals, the psychopaths.

Back alleyways scene from Guy Maddin's docufantasia of a Canadian city, My Winnipeg (2007) © Buffalo Gal/Documentary Channel/Everyday Pictures. Winnipeg is Canada's western gateway city. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Undergrounds were always repositories for strange behaviour and ideas, and normally contained them. Initially, cyberspace was that Underground, and was not taken seriously as part of the public space. It was considered a computer playland, filled with alienated losers and fringe actors, or mainstream citizens engaging in forbidden, anonymous play.

What is happening now is twofold and contradictory. As technological and socio-economic changes took hold, the usual polarization between mainstream and Underground occurred. At the same time, the Underground and mainstream are fully exposed to one another and merging together. This nasty alt-mainstream synthesis is incorporating polarities without dissolving them.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Brontë Effect


Image Source: Opheliac Madness.

At the great blog, Trans-D, Dia Sobin finds artistic connections between layers of time and dimensional existence. Recently, she dug through a trove of old books - with initial posts here and here - and settled on a 1943 edition of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847). She wrote an incredible post on how Catherine's and Heathcliff's love reveals the blurred boundaries of reality. I commented, because she described something one might call 'the Brontë Effect'; the italicized text cites Dia's post, with my comments in non-italics:
"'And, there is also the transdimensional aspect of the story: the odd way in which Emily presented her narratives, from several different points of view, intertwining numerous points in time, thereby, creating a weird, reverberating gestalt as opposed to a linear chronicle.' ... [I responded:] I felt that there was an indistinctness, especially because the characters give their kids the same names. Past, present and future are jumbled together. ...

I wonder if Emily Bronte was exposed via her father to Scottish freemasonry? Because when you look at the story in the sense of two souls in an alchemical marriage, the story becomes much more clear. Maybe she intuitively 'reached for' alchemical concepts without knowing them. I am sure someone has researched it. A lot of the primal gothic takes on the trans-dimensional or multi-dimensional aspects ... if you consider the alchemical. Across time, space, in new incarnations, like the two lovers embody a conflicting spirit of humans on the moors, but [also on] Jacob's Ladder ... ."
First, regarding Dia's observation that Wuthering Heights is trans-dimensional and multi-temporal, one senses this less in reading the novel, and more in the lingering impression after one reads it. The story leaves one with a feeling of time smashed together through characters' blurred and overlapping identities; their names and roles repeat, and generational tweaks are permitted over decades. The novel goes on forever, but Catherine is only about 18 years old when she dies at Thrushcross Grange. The 2009 dramatization had her die at age 25; either way, she remains eternally young and a persistent force.

ITV 2009 adaptation of Wuthering Heights, starring Tom Hardy as Heathcliff and Charlotte Riley as Catherine. Image Source: Elementary.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lynch's American Noir


Inspired by Mulholland Drive (2001): This is the Girl by Sam Gilbey. Image Source: Roadtrippers and Spoke Art.

The San Francisco art gallery, Spoke Art (816 Sutter St., San Francisco, California 94109 USA), is running a show, In Dreams, until 29 March 2016 in which fifty artists paid tribute to surreal noir film director, David Lynch. Here are a few of the pieces on display.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Riding the Wheel of Fortune


Waterwheel at Daio Wasabi farm in Azumino, Nagano, Japan. The farm appeared in Akira Kurosawa's film, Dreams (1990; see film clip, below, and my previous posts on that film, here, here, and here). Image Source: Youtube.

Is time a circle? Sometimes, it looks as though the wheel turns and returns. The wheel of fortune represents two opposing things: a divination of the future, or luck at the roulette table. That means the wheel, which is also a symbol of human technology, mixes a message about the passage of time because it combines order with chaos. The wheel supposedly reveals the points where Fate meets Fortune. Looking at a problem linearly, we might believe the past is gone, done and fixed, indicating the path of future destiny. But if time is a circle, we can revisit the past, gamble again and change its story.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Forever: Maybe Not the Word You Want?


Johnny Depp's original 'Winona Forever' tattoo. Image Source: johnnydepp.org.

In the past couple of days, the word forever kept coming up. Finally, it all converged in a 'plate of shrimp' moment. The first mention came up in this analysis at The White Review of Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. The article, Famous Tombs: Love in the 90s, described Depp's and Ryder's relationship as the American youth romance of the decade. Author Masha Tupitsyn then probed a more interesting question. She almost cracked what, exactly, happened to the Depp-Ryder romance, not in terms of what it meant privately to the two actors, because we can't know that, but what it represented to the rest of us.

Image Source: Buzzfeed.

Tupitsyn hints that it never went anywhere, but Johnny and Winona did. She believes that Depp sublimated it in alcohol and drugs, replacing love for a woman with addictions so distracting that it became impossible to get back to the original source. Meanwhile, Ryder moved forward, but part of her is still trapped in that past time. It wasn't just her love for Depp. She embodied a decade for Generation Jones and Gen X rebels, symbolized by the curious fact that she is naturally a blonde, but for decades has dyed her hair Gothic black:
Like John Cusack, another black haired/pale skinned 80s/90s idol, as well as a youth actor whose great, and perhaps only gift, was to enact a different kind of youth (a counter-youth and counter-masculinity) in his youth, Winona Ryder was never timeless, she was of the time. Most especially that brief time in her life, her teenage years and early twenties. Perhaps this is why Jake Gyllenhaal’s light hair was dyed jet-black for the retroactive DONNIE DARKO, and Christian Slater’s jet-black for HEATHERS. Something about dark hair showing up in the late 80s and early 90s as a form of retribution for an aesthetically fascistic and representationally narrow decade. These are people who were not kissed by the sun, who were not California Dreamin’, or, as the German writer Heinrich Laube puts it, ‘These pale youths are uncanny, concocting God knows what mischief.’ If, as the teenage radio pirate DJ, ‘Hard Harry’ puts it in PUMP UP THE VOLUME (1990), the 80s were a totally ‘exhausted decade, where there’s nothing to look forward to and no one to look up to’, Winona Ryder rose up from the bleached-blonde ashes of the 1980s.
Depp and Ryder started in gothic and horror genres. Their early work, like that of contemporaries Keanu Reeves, Parker Posey and River Phoenix, appeared in dark indie films or popular movies with unsettling vibes. Depp made his feature film debut in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), in which he played a nice but useless boyfriend. These roles reflected a time, when, for a brief period, surreal depictions of the collective unconscious entered the American mainstream in almost unedited forms. It was remarkable. David Lynch, an American director surreal enough to be respected by Europeans, became popular, as his Twin Peaks exposed the underside of the American Dream.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Illuminati Eyes


.Gif Source: Z. Scott / We Invent You.

The New World Order plot of the Illuminati is one of the most popular conspiracy theories on the Internet. Did gossip on the Web foster this myth, mixing it with Freemasonry, black magic and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? One can scoff at the paranoid pyramid seekers, but they have a point: popular culture, institutions, corporations and political groups have incorporated so-called Illuminati messages for decades, and even centuries. That said, anti-Illuminati conspiracy theorists are often anti-Semitic and counter-factual, suggesting the Illuminati story in fact conveys those attitudes.

After the First World War, occult divination through ouija boards gained popularity as the bereaved sought to talk to their lost loved ones. At the same time, magical secularism which had enjoyed a vogue before the war lingered and combined with Satanic and Wiccan ideas. The outcome in a place like Hollywood, which already had (and has) a loose grip on reality, was grim. Perhaps certain cults gained a fatal foothold there. Odd evidence occasionally broke through the tinsel: ghosts of the 1920s; surrealism of the 1920s through the 1940s; the 1947 Black Dahlia murder, which may have involved a sacrificial black magic ritual; and many unsolved deaths from the 1930s to the present. Orson Welles, David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick are three of the most famous directors who explored this dark history.

Anne Hathaway flashed Mano Cornuto or El Diablo hand signs before she claimed her award at the 2013 Golden Globes for Les Misérables (2012). Image Source: AFP/Getty via Daily Mail.

These symbols have dominated entertainment, politics and advertising since the Second World War. Did politicians, business leaders, Hollywood and music industry moguls strike fateful bargains, applying occult practices and esoteric beliefs to the business of taming the newly-prosperous public? Did rising individuals, as director Roman Polanski may have suggested, join insider cults and labour under the illusion that their successes were and are due to arcane rituals, rather than their own talents and abilities?

Or perhaps occult and Masonic symbols offered an exciting visual lexicon for marketers in the post-World-War-II consumer culture. Just because a photographer, handler or stylist tells a celebrity to cover his or her eye, or make a cryptic hand gesture, it doesn't mean the individual is a cultist. This might simply be a marketing ploy, part of the art of public persona creation; the celebrity becomes a larger than life figure, the superficially-powerful pawn who sells entertainment media and consumer goods.

Image Source: Above Top Secret.

Are these Illuminati cults real or imagined? This blog is very skeptical of conspiracies, but this is the Hallowe'en countdown, so let us see. The Masonic all-seeing eye of God (or Lucifer?), also known as the Eye of Horus or the Eye of Providence, is a primary symbol purportedly associated with this world-dominating secret society. Below the jump, today's countdown to Hallowe'en presents a sobering overview of the prevalence of the Illuminati eye in the entertainment industry.

Chatter on the David Icke message board (for more on Icke's wild suspicions of world conspiracies, go here and here) debates the significance of a celebrity's illuminated left versus right eyes; the commenter additionally believes that there is a difference between those who encircle their eyes with their fingers or another gesture (the controllers) and those who cover their eyes (the controlled):
Handlers are those celebrities who willingly push the Agenda of the Illuminati. They can be identified by the "all-seeing eye" symbol. As handlers are often consistent with which eye they choose to "illuminate," I believe that a distinction can be made by observing which eye is favored. Though I have not been able to determine which is which, I believe that one eye indicates those who sympathize with the cause, and the other indicates those who agreed to push forth the agenda after being bribed (Please note that these individuals push the Agenda to reap its spoils, rather than doing so out of fear.) ... The Handled are those individuals who have been forced to push the Agenda. The individuals may have been opposed to the Illuminati from the start, or are former supporters who have finally had enough. Either way, these individuals are forced to cover one eye to represent that they are being oppressed; that they are the submissive. ... MK Ultra victims are viciously tortured, and when they attempt to escape within their minds, an alter-ego is put into place. Please note that many of those who have their right eye covered have referred to themselves as having alter-egos. ... Some photos may be written off as just someone winking or rubbing stuff out of their eye. However, it cannot be denied that the Illuminated eye symbol is everywhere in the celebrity community! Those who use these symbols are usually very consistent with which eye is covered, and which remains illuminated.
In addition, the left-right distinction may refer - so the conspiracy theorists say - to dominant character or talent through an indication of brain function.

Image Source: David Icke chatboard.

None of those speculations is confirmed here, but the Illuminati theory is clearly a mish-mash of pop psychology, anti-government sentiment, anti-Semitism, suspicion of the mass media, the spread of the occult and the impact of confirmed cults (you can see a daily rundown of real life cult headlines here). The theory of the Illuminati is more of a metanarrative which ensnares conspiracy theorists (online gnostic seekers constantly proclaim they have found the so-called 'real truth' above the evident truth) in their own fears of enslavement. Thus, conspiracy theorists ironically actually participate in, and constitute, the very community of believers that they project on public circles. Does that mean that public figures don't join higher cults? Not necessarily. More likely, the fears and symbols telescope the higher one goes in any area of endeavour: illumination is universally in Millennial fashion. It is a sign that the revived pre-Christian and Christian heresy of gnosticism is rampant today.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Not-So-Discreet Charm of Lateral Thinking


Meanwhile, in Vienna: David LaChapelle's dual poster, Once in the Garden 1 & 2, features American transgender model Carmen Carrera playing Eve in one poster and Adam in the other (May 2014). I can't show the whole poster due to Blogger's policies. Image Source: Out.com.

There are a lot of wannabe artistes out there in the online world. But you cannot mistake the genuine type. Only Ms. Dia Sobin at Trans-D Digital Art could find the link between bird song, medieval-derived 3-D geometric art, and lucid dreams about the mathematics of nature. Somehow, she recognizes the buried associations that "decode the living matrix." And I have to thank her for marrying bird song to the underlying art of the universe, because she identified a bird that warbles beautifully outside my window.

I've tried for ages to find its identity. It is not quite the wood thrush Sobin describes: "the song of the male is often cited as being the most beautiful in North America." She cites a 20th century naturalist who wrote: "As we listen we lose the sense of time—it links us with eternity…Its tones…seem like the vocal expression of the mystery of the universe, clothed in a melody so pure and ethereal that the soul still bound to its earthly tenement can neither imitate nor describe it. 

The bird outside my window is a hermit thrush, sampled for the Mockingjay's song in the 2012 film, The Hunger Games. The Globe and Mail writes of the hermit thrush:
A Fluttering of Wings to Lift the Heart: The hermit thrush ... spends its summers in the cool woods of the north. You rarely see it then, because its brown-grey back and speckled white breast are perfect camouflage in the dappled light of the forest.

You know it is there only by its haunting song, perhaps the most beautiful of any North American bird. One ornithology site calls it a “clear, flute-like note followed by a series of ethereal, bell-like ascending and descending tones,” but words can’t really do it justice.
You can hear the hermit thrush's song here and here. These are only partial samples of what it can do. Juvenile birds learn songs from their parents, and the one in my yard is a virtuoso, pealing waterfalls of cascading bell notes. It really is unbelievable. The bird sings in stereo.

This point brought me to another surprising fact: American robins are thrushes, whereas European robins look completely different and belong to the flycatcher family. This means the need to preserve robins in the culture was strong enough - it was seen as a bird that sang to Christ on the cross and fetched water for souls in purgatory - that colonists pressed the symbolic role on another bird when they arrived in North America.


Getting to the point, somehow, some day: proponents claim that lateral thinking is synonymous with creative thinking. Critics disagree and call lateral thinking 'divergent.' Image Source: Lateral Action.

Some argue that to think artistically is to think laterally, not linearly. Lateral thinking is defined on Wiki:
Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. The term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono.
In this theory, lateral thinkers differ from linear thinkers. Chuck's Lamp gives a simple contrast:
[M]uch of our world is indeed structured upon the concept of logic (very basic logic at least). We learn math, deductive reasoning, and tend to apply these logical processes to our everyday life. Our drive to do so comes from our inherent need, as cognitive humans, to categorize our experiences in our minds and make projections about what the outcome of an action will be. We compare our expectations with our experience, weigh the similarity, and adjust our thought processes as needed. Linear thinkers are very much the same. They start at step one and usually do a good and efficient job of completing the task before moving on to step two. They are driven, focused, and don’t easily get off topic. ...
[By constrast, in lateral thinking h]uman thought [is] characterized by expansion in multiple directions, rather than in one direction, and based on the concept that there are multiple starting points from which one can apply logic to a problem. Non-linear thought increases possible outcomes by not being so certain about the starting point for any logic process. Non-linear thinkers tend to jump forward, and from side to side through the steps of a project, in an effort to see the big picture and tackle those areas where they have the most interest. Where non-linear thinking falters is in finally carrying out the required action, because as a thought process it often encourages a user to agonize incessantly over where to start (that agreed upon truth, from which logic can be applied and action can be taken).
Systemic problems diminish the performance value of the status quo. And this theory suggests that lateral thinkers are better at breaking current thinking patterns or overturning the status quo to solve problems. They ask why accepted values or systems exist. Or to solve a given problem, they engage in
provocation techniques—wishful thinking, exaggeration, reversal, escape, distortion, or arising. The thinker creates a list of provocations and then uses the most outlandish ones to move their thinking forward to new ideas.
It seems that lateral thinkers and linear thinkers are arrayed, facing each other across a great divide of Millennial change. The lateral side is immersed in infinite chaos and displays occasional redemptive epiphanies. For the most part, lateral thinkers gain their insights because they are alienated from the forward march of technological progress qua 'progress.' And the other, linear, side stolidly clings to what remains of stable ideas and pushes relentlessly forward, logically, sometimes with brute force, through tabulation and data management to control, authority and power.

In the push and pull between these mentalities, the future technocracy is up for grabs. Will it, or will it not, become a police state? To put it in a less dire way, consider the words of Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of the United States Congress, who was quoted in a recent documentary: "Stories unite people. Theories divide them." What arcane mix of these two manners of thought will take us down the better path?

LaChapelle's artwork defaced at a Viennese bus stop. Image Source: BBC.

I was reminded of all this on 9 June 2014, when BBC's Hard Talk broadcast an interview between Stephen Sackur and world famous photographer David LaChapelle. Sackur was the voice of inquiring reason. He asked about the uproar caused this spring in Vienna by LaChapelle's transgendered poster for the HIV/AIDS benefit event, Life Ball (31 May 2014) and associated exhibition at Ostlicht Photography Gallery (2 June - 14 September 2014).

LaChapelle is known for his kitsch pop surrealism (see his website portfolio here); his splashy portraits of celebrities are dreams on the verge of nightmares. Think: Bubblegum Salvador Dalí meets Vogue in the subdivision - or the rain forest.

Stephen Sackur wanted to know whether LaChapelle thought it was appropriate to have Carmen Carrera's transgendered nudity simultaneously playing Adam and Eve this spring in Vienna's streets. He asked about small children who could see the poster and ask questions, which they reportedly did, about Carrera, who has male genitalia and female breasts.

LaChapelle dismissed this in the interview, but he did in fact worry about backlash. Both he and his model increased their security during their visit to the city. From Page Six:
“David and Carmen both had four bodyguards each from the minute they landed in Vienna until the minute they left,” said a rep for the photographer, who had an exhibition at a Vienna gallery this week following the Life Ball, which included nude images of Carrera.
The FPO had filed suit against the Life Ball, and its spokesperson claimed that LaChapelle’s work “[doesn’t] just cross the boundaries of good taste…but…also the limits of criminal law.” But the posters, LaChapelle pointed out, had been ­approved as art by the city before they were hung in train stations and other public places.
Some who objected to the images began defacing them by covering up Carrera’s exposed parts with spray paint. One 70-year-old woman, who graffitied the posters after dark, in a local report said of the images of busty Carrera with a penis: “My 4-year-old grandson asked me while walking if I actually also have a spatzi.” (We’ll let you figure out the translation on that one.)
In the end, all the controversy only amped up interest in the LaChapelle work. An original ­image titled Once in the Garden, on which the posters were based, was expected to sell for $41,000 at the Life Ball’s auction, but went for a record-breaking $245,500. An Audi car designed by LaChapelle sold to members of the Missoni family for $136,400.
“Art was victorious…it was all love,” LaChapelle told Page Six of the event, where Ricky Martin and Kesha performed, and guests included Bill Clinton and Courtney Love.
LaChapelle passionately pleaded that his work is not pornographic, that Once in the Garden is a Botticelli-esque expression of unfettered beauty. Once marginalized sexual imagery is no longer marginal but mainstream. In response, Sackur asked about LaChapelle's furry-oriented photo of a half-nude Angelina Jolie having her breast nuzzled by a horse. Is that mainstream too?

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.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lovecrafted Meta-Bible



What do you get when you cross the King James Bible with the Necronomicon? Entertaining surrealism! British sci-fi writer Charles Stross used King James Programming - a modified Markov chain which semi-randomly combines texts - to mash up the KJV Bible with the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft  (Thanks to -C.).

Stross called the output the Lovebible. The desert themes and environments which dominate the Bible mesh well with Lovecraft's obsession with ancient knowledge and water monsters. It is an elemental marriage of texts, weirdly bred on the Internet:
krina:markov charlie$ ./lovebible.pl 2> /dev/null 99820 lines, 821134 words read from king_james_bible.txt 16536 lines, 775603 words read from lovecraft_complete.txt About to spew ...
--- the backwoods folk -had glimpsed the battered mantel, rickety furniture, and ragged draperies. It spread over it a robber, a shedder of blood, when I listened with mad intentness. At last you know! At last to come to see me. Now Absalom.
the absence of any real link with that of 598 Angell Street was as the old castle by the shallow crystal stream I saw unwonted ripples tipped with yellow light, as if those depths of their rhythm. The training saved them.
the bed, and make thee borders of gold with studs of silver. 1:12 While the case histories, to expect. As mental atmosphere. His eyes were pits of a hundred and fifty shekels, 30:24 And he laughed mockingly at the village summoning.
the commandment of the room; then this. If this thing. 25:1 If he had no way to turn either to the coyote - or to something was wrong. Marsh and Marceline represents. I am strong. 26:16 I also in me. 14:2.
the ghouls, whose utter strangeness and their backsliding, I will love him, and have redeemed them, yet thou never gavest me a people: 8:11 And I said unto them, and I believe that the king doth behold the upright. 33:2 Thus.
the gleaming sand, bobbing lanterns. The Philistines be upon thee, and because the famine in the heart proceed evil for Israel, with hesitancy, and which I had known it, to himself, he said, How shall depart from his house. 7:2 That. the results we learned that no harm him, and rent it. 7:22 My face again no not to inform me, even all the heads of the unutterable consequences. It could tell, it thunders. The thing came out of Egypt. Who knoweth.
the grass-grown line on the glassy, phantom bones. 50:18 Therefore the children of Israel dedicated the sea, diverse and I hung an air of the war, to rest in my brother for nought, and the counsellor, and the cunning workman, and.
Song of Solomon. Chapman and Hall (1897). Image Source: Cary Collection, RIT via Manifold Greatness.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Companions Dream of Home


All images © Sarolta Bán.

Yahoo reports on a photo-allegory project dedicated this month to finding homes for homeless pets in many countries: 
Self-taught Hungarian photographer Sarolta Bán is best known for her surreal landscapes, which have been displayed in galleries across Europe. She creates dreamlike scenes, often populated by magical beasts, with photo manipulation software, and tells Yahoo Shine that she sometimes layers as many as 100 individual images to create a final product. She says she doesn't title her images so people can use their own imaginations to find personal meanings in each picture. Bán recently started using her skills to help real-life abandoned animals around the world find homes. She invited her more than 100,000 Facebook fans to submit photos of homeless pets, and she is transforming them into evocative, majestic portraits. Bán has received dozens of photos from Spain, Argentina, India, France, Hungary, and the United States in the two weeks since she posted the invitation and expects to get many more after she reaches out to shelters. "Abandoned dogs sadly have really few chances to appear on a photo that will help them get out of the shelter... [one] that stands out from the crowd, and 'speaks' to a person," she writes on the project page. ... The project ends in mid-April, and anyone who adopts one of the dogs or cats will receive a signed portrait of the new pet.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Simulactive Office Space


.Gif Source: Z. Scott via We Invent You.

Some online reports this week discuss the work of .gif artist, Zach Scott, who has created an artistic online conference call simulation. Scott sampled 15 voices with 75 lines of corporate office meeting dialogue which he randomized. If you visit this site, you will experience a Webinar as surreal Millennial art. Scott cites director David Lynch as a big influence, especially with regard to the use of ambient sound to contribute to an jarring atmosphere, and also in relation to a collage of normal details which, together, add up to something unsettling. From The Creators Project interview with Scott:
Lynch--he's my very favorite director and a huge influence. The intent of the ambient soundtrack was to create an unsettling atmosphere. I included quiet supermarket sounds at the beginning and end of the loop because I want people to subliminally feel the influence of money and transactions.
In many conference calls, time really is money, and every distraction and interruption begins to add up monetarily. The participants' inefficiencies are tangibly costing someone money, and it becomes stressful.
I had a few alternate backing tracks that dramatically changed the whole experience. One of them was a loop of a few cheesy hold music smooth jazz clips. I didn't use it because I thought it made the website too funny. I wanted to make people feel a little uncomfortable, and smooth jazz is just too funny. The backing track is really important in setting the tone--if the backing track was the sound of chatter and work and keyboards then the resulting vibe would be more industrious. But I wanted people to think about the absurdity of the conference call and feel a little despair.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Other People With Your Name


Still from The Double Life of Véronique (1991). Image Source: Wonders in the Dark.

I have a friend who wants to streamline his online image for professional reasons. He wants to deal with the Facebook photos which other people obligingly took, posted, and tagged with his name without asking. He wants make sure that nothing weird comes up when you google him, either correctly (some detail he would rather not remain permanently public) or incorrectly (some detail that is falsely associated with him).

Depending on how common your name is, you will be familiar with the experience: you google yourself, and up come the other people with your name. If you have a common name, then you have the comfort of the crowd; but then you have the problem of having any Web presence at all (assuming you want one).

But since my friend has an unusual name, for a long time googling him only brought up results about him. As the Web's reach deepened, another person appeared online with his name.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ellen Ripley Meets Therapeutic Nihilism


Still from Alien3 (1992) © Brandywine Productions / 20th Century Fox. Image Source: Alien Explorations.

In 1991, David Fincher directed the Alien sequel, Alien3, which was a decade and a half ahead of its time. The film was nearly ruined by studio interference and production problems. It had previously gone through versions to which science fiction author William Gibson, Eric Red (writer of the cult horror films The Hitcher and Near Dark), future Riddick director David Twohy, and New Zealand director Vincent Ward all separately contributed.

What audiences and critics found more difficult was the gloomy, apocalyptic plot. Alien3 marked the new era of the compromised protagonist. It was a fraught with despair, a difficult narrative for audiences accustomed to triumphant cinematic conclusions. The heroine, Ellen Ripley, is even more heroic because she is not going to win.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ego, Time and Digital Narcissisms


Gravitation © Jean-Pierre Alaux (1925-). Image Source: Surrealism and Visionary Art.

It is a sad comment on our times that one of today's greatest challenges is how to think and act without ego. Marketing depends on fake ego-building, and it permeates nearly everything that relates to consumption and perception and therefore, to consciousness. As one friend put it last week, "even the news reports are informercials now."  On social networks and elsewhere online, highly integrated personalized branding mobilizes our lives, our birthdays, and our friends from yesterday to deliver vast economic and political potential for new business interests. Our complacency and unconsidered vanities have made this so. Every Facebook page twists the formerly reasonable human activity of socializing into an ego broadcast. Twitter is the advertising stage for countless activists, hopeful e-novelists, gurus building their names on our well-being (or lack thereof), news-monger personalities, Kickstarter entrepreneurs, and bloggers with axes to grind ...

Prisonnière des glaces © Jean-Pierre Alaux. Image Source: AMAC.

It is the Cyber-Ego, whether it is trapped in the past, obsessed with the future, or narcissistically feeding of the present, which makes it so hard to concentrate. How do we detach the ego from the way we perceive ourselves moving through time? These two issues - ego and time - are commonly discussed separately in relation to the impact of the Technological Revolution on global cultures, but rarely as two, related concerns.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

This is for Zhora, This is for Pris


Felder Felder.

Designers for London Fashion Week took their inspiration from a catalogue of 70s' sci-fi films, with a few surreal touches from the turn of the Millennium. These clothes are Fifty Shades of Grey meets Eyes Wide Shut meets Star Wars, meets Logan's Run, meets A Clockwork Orange, meets Blade Runner, meets Battlestar Galactica ... (Images Source: Yahoo; Hat tip: Yahoo). Some of the models look like they are off to colonize Callisto. In other fashion news: clothing that is designed to fall apart by the end of the day.

 Felder Felder.