Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Report from the Phantom Zone

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Halloween (1978)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Day of the Dead (1985)
Creepshow 2 (1987)
Monkey Shines (1988)
They Live (1988)
Village of the Damned (1995)
Land of the Dead (2005)


My wife and I have an extensive collection of horror movies.
Horror movies are fantastic. And anyone who says they can’t be serious as well does not watch them.
The social commentary in the original Night of the Living Dead propels the zombie flick from more than just gory cult classic, to a staple of film studies classes across the US.

Literature has extolled the horror genre for centuries. Who didn’t read Edge Allen Poe or Mary Shelley in high school both for pleasure and intellectual development?

So how come there is no such thing as horror art?
If there were it would be a mockery.

The closest artists I could find were artists like Jane Benson who displayed a totem of latex masks pierced through, and held together by, a steel bar at Samson Projects or David Altmejd’s werewolves. But neither of these artists really inspires a deep feeling of horror … more like intellectual curiosity.

So why don’t we look for art to provide the same type of visceral reaction to horror the way we want to watch a movie or read a book? It seems to be a hold over from the notion that galleries and museum should be places of quite contemplation. How great would it be to show up at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and hear hundreds of people inside shrieking in terror?!

My real question is, “Why is art only supposed to inspire certain emotions”? Art that employs humor is rare, horror seems unacceptable, sexual arousal is considered pornography, hatred implies ignorance, ecstatic joy is only for church, etc. etc.

Well, on this Halloween, the one day of the year where horror is venerated for the powerful force that it is, consider how there is so little art that inspires horror that is shown in the US, and yet we still show so much horrible art.

Jane Benson
You and Me
from Samson Projects exhibition "Off My Biscuit, Destroy Your District!"

David Altmejd
"The Glasswalker"

Happy Halloween!


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