My Head Is Disconnected, currently running at HOME Manchester, is the first major exhibition of David Lynch’s art to be held in the UK. So, for anyone enchanted by his unique films who is able to get to Manchester, it will make for an intriguing and essential experience.
The curators have chosen to display the 60 or so works in four themed rooms: City on Fire, Nothing Here, Industrial Empire and Bedtime Stories. In truth, the obsessive repetition of troubling imagery means that all of the works here are surprisingly interconnected so that the idea of separating them into themed sections can seem a little redundant. Having said that, the works are displayed sympathetically and the gallery space itself seems ideally suited to these pictures.
There are two concerns I had with this exhibition, one of which only became apparent to me as I started to view the pictures. The first was that this is an exhibition of art by David Lynch the filmmaker. I imagine that I’m like most people who were excited by this show because I’m a big fan of Lynch’s films but know very little about his fine art. To what extent would the works on show here be interesting but underwhelming addenda to the films? My second concern emerged soon after I had started looking at the pictures. Most of the works here are mixtures of image and word and I tend to dislike art works that are too embellished with text, feeling that the image should be compelled to speak in its own language. Happily, both of these concerns disappeared as soon as I became immersed in this strange universe.
One strand running through Midsommar concerns the use and understanding of temporality. Midsommar is already, even for those who have yet to see it, a film situated in a historical context thanks to its acknowledgement of The Wicker Man as a cinematic and spiritual forebear. It is consciously locating itself in a folk horror lineage and so it must look back to films like The Wicker Man even as it situates itself firmly within the context of 2019. But the engagement with temporality runs deeper than simply updating a film from 1973.
The title of the film, Midsommar, is itself an explicit reference to a particular point in time, the point in the cycle of the year at which the majority of the film takes place. Midsummer is not just one other day out of 365 others (at least not for the Swedish cultists), it is a significant and special point in the ritual calendar. But before the action concerning the Swedish cult gets going there is an opening sequence set in America in deep winter. In fact, the opening shot of the film is of a painting that depicts the upcoming plot running through from midwinter to midsummer. The polarity between the two points is emphasized by the dark, death-like, nocturnal images of winter on the left contrasting with the bright, diurnal images on the right. So, the time in which the film’s main narrative plays out, midsummer, is set up as a counterpoint to the dark backstory from which Dani is attempting to flee. And it should be remembered that the brightest light casts the darkest shadow. Continue reading “Midsommar and Temporality”
I recently collaborated on a new zine titled Interzone which is now available to purchase. The text is an edited version of my essay Edgelands: Birthing a New Lore and the images and layout are all the work of Lawrence Bailey.
Copies for UK delivery are available from me for £4.50 inclusive of postage. Please send payment via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For delivery outside the UK the cost is €5 + p&p. Contact Lawrence at email@example.com or on Instagram at lawjamba for postage rates.
Coil were always a conceptual project that was located in, and concerned with, time in ways that are only now becoming fully clear. The name itself is a way of cheating time: a coil is a contraceptive device used by women to avoid reproduction, and so providing a way to opt out of hereditary time; and the DNA double helix is the ultimate evolved time machine, an eternal parasite shifting from host to host through the lust impulse. Their early releases also speak to the cheating of time in oblique ways. How to Destroy Angels is specifically focussed on the accumulation of male sexual energy, and Scatology points to the anal, non-reproductive use of sexual lust. The occult aspect of this is geared toward the creation of the magickal child, the non-material issue of ritual congress. But it also encompasses an anti-production ethos, a refusal to countenance the idea of a ready, pre-fabricated artistic praxis. Their method, ironically enough, was profoundly anti-industrial.
Smithereens, the second episode of Black Mirror’s fifth season, was made available on Netflix on June 5th. Is four days long enough to dispense with spoiler alerts? Is it now reasonable to suppose that anyone who might be interested in watching this episode will have already done so or will at least avoid reading reviews for fear of stumbling on spoilers? The question of spoilers is a perennial one: should we still issue spoiler alerts when discussing plot twists in The Crying Game or The Usual Suspects? What about Psycho or Citizen Kane? But the issue has, like everything else, accelerated to a point where we no longer feel we have a firm grip on it. Twenty four hours seems to be the maximum life expectancy for a Twitter trend. This runaway velocity of everyday life is one of the central concerns of Smithereens. Continue reading “Black Mirror: Smithereens”
I won’t be joining in with the prevailing criticism of Series 8 of Game of Thrones. It’s not that the criticisms (to do with rushed narrative and unconvincing character motivation) are necessarily wrong, but that for me the series ran out of steam a few years ago. There were really two things that made Game of Thrones stand out as a superior work of TV art. The first was the brilliant portrayal of the power struggles that play out behind the scenes of geopolitical upheavals. The second was the powerfully plausible depiction of the ethos and Weltanschauung of a pre-modern society. The former became weighed down by its own intricacies. The latter continues to impress. So it is the latter element that manages to hold my interest, and that element really boils down to the atmosphere of the show.
This atmosphere strikes me as being completely at one with the world of the Hyborian Age as created by Robert E. Howard in his sequence of Conan stories. Howard was a Texan, but his longing for a mythic European past was absolutely evident in all of his work. There is a Welsh word, hiraeth, that means homesickness, but it also expresses a deeper set of meanings that encompass a deep sense of nostalgia or longing, often for an ancestral home. In this latter sense it can denote a powerful longing for a home that you never had. Howard’s sense of almost metaphysical belonging to this prehistorical world seems to fit that description perfectly. Continue reading “Game of Thrones as English Eerie”