VAMPIRIC CHEMISTRY, ROMANIA

Region/Concept: East Europe / Space (Vampiricism)
Sub-Concepts: Dracula, Contamination, Arithmomania
Description: Dracula’s castle goes for sale and inspires speculation on the nature of vampiric force.

Dracula has never been more popular, as numerous TV shows and movies attest. Perhaps that means that he is truly dead, now living posthumously not as the aristocratic undead but as a pastime of bored twenty-first century audiences. Journalists are quick to announce that he is a “fictitious character” (they are not fooled, the fact-checkers). In Transylvania his castle is being sold. (Yes, the castle of Vlad Tepes, the legendary prince upon whose exploits the tale has been based.) It currently belongs to the Habsburg family, former rulers of the Habsburg empire. But let us get our facts straight. Dracula is just a spectacular manifestation of a much older, subterranean force that runs through southeast European tales and the everyday in the 1700s: that of a vampir. It is no coincidence that vampires rose (from the dead) to prominence when the Habsburg empire was at its peak, like a counter-current running from the edge of the empire, spreading disbelief and paranoia. What is more, this vampiric chemistry trickles through centuries, even millennia, both as a political and as an aesthetic force. It always appears as a disturbance at the heart of a “civilization” (Mesopotamian, ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese, etc.). Contamination, proliferation. Is there a more revolutionary tactic for a movement? And yet, the greatest terror does not come from the spilling and sucking of blood but from an internal compulsion, a terrible flaw: arithmomania (obsessive need to count actions or objects in one’s surroundings). One can only hope that new owners of the Bran Castle will also get bit (it is the least they deserve), then close the castle to swarming tourists, and count the bags of spilled peas into eternity. A passionate mania is always better than a passionless spectacle.

Link: http://www.businessinsider.com/draculas-castle-costs-80-million-2014-5?op=1

Posted by: Dejan Lukic

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PRIMORDIAL DREAM 2 (THE MONSTER), DENMARK

Region/Concept: Europe, Myth
Sub-Concepts: Fright, Malevolence, Extremity, Otherworldliness
Description: Danish artist John Kenn Mortensen draws images of monsters on post-it notes.

The Dream of Monstrosity: another of the most ancient obsessions of human consciousness (the first villages had their folklore of supernatural creatures threatening from the periphery). Myths of devouring jaws, of nightmarish forms and disproportionate limbs, of evil and miraculous traits. Ecstatic malevolence; diabolical thought; otherworldliness. Thus we descend upon the cellar stairs of our exhilaration before images of fright, paralysis, awe, and deformity. The monster has always represented the excess of human possibility, the visceral ghoulish embodiment of man-gone-too-far. This is why they resemble us in certain key ways (our eyes, our hands), and yet deviate toward horrid states of expansion, magnification, or irradiation (the pupils are too bloodshot, the nails are too long). Still, it is through this hyper-mirror alone that we can envision ourselves as the lost cause, and at the point of no return; for the monster’s face, the monster’s body, is nothing more than the extreme limit of our own mortal intensity (and thus made immortal).

Link: http://www.boredpanda.com/creepy-monsters-sticky-note-drawings-john-kenn-mortensen/

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh

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THE POWER OF A CURSE, ITALY/CONGO

Region/Concept: West Europe, Myth (Curse)
Sub-Concepts: Fairytale, Racism, Politics
Description: Italian right-wing politician and former minister claims he has been cursed (as revenge for his vulgar racist statement) by a sorcerer in Congo.

Who is to say that the snake did not materialize from the interiority of the minister? That it did not curl out as the very modality of his ethnocentric delirium, affirming the world that favors transmutations in which there are no solid forms and where strange animals can transpire out of certain emotions? A world not separated into distinct objects that have nothing in common, but where things are seething, churning, and swelling into inexplicable occurrences; where every negative utterance is therefore an informal curse, a metabolic principle that eats away the unprotected interiority of the person who receives it, no less than, albeit more imperceptibly, it eats the curser himself. This is an ancient problem of health, where sentiments of the society fold into sentiments of the individual, just as the outside folds into the inside, thoroughly following the logic of the fairytale, the power of which is only seemingly enclosed inside children’s books. In reality, the more it is dismissed the stronger it becomes, because it lives not outside our world, but rather, it is our world (the world as a spell that needs to be broken). Hence a fable at the heart of contemporary politics of the crudest kind.

Link: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/italys-deputy-senate-speaker-who-compared-countrys-first-black-minister-to-an-orangutan-claims-he-is-cursed-by-african-spirits-after-spell-of-bad-luck-9695231.html

Posted by: Dejan Lukic

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BOSCHIAN EMANATION, AUSTRIA

Region/Concept: West Europe, Myth (Vision)
Sub-Concepts: Miracle, Painting, Enchantment
Description: Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych “The Last Judgement” (1504-08) stands inconspicuously in the last room on the top floor gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, still emanating its power of attraction not just toward the mind of the curious viewer but also toward his or her body.

There are paintings that go beyond their frames. In fact, the narrative or form they provide within their borders is only secondary to the supplement, a metaphysical vitamin, that seeps out of it. Of course there is a technique of the master inscribed in the treatment of light and darkness, figures and shapes. But it is the vision which cuts through the image that counts the most. And the vision is always enigmatic; that is to say, it requires deciphering which no specialist knowledge of historical context or technique can reveal. There are some artists that provide a diagnosis of an entire “age” in which they live. Then there are few that go even further by carefully placing nothing short of a new form of life in their seemingly ordinary practice of painting. It is only then that their object (painting) becomes a collection of forces that goes far beyond their respective contexts. One will easily know which works generate this kind of power: in front of them one does not simply reflect, one levitates, now released from physical laws (gravity) just as the painting itself is released from the confines of art (it is now something else). Enchantment means experiencing the miraculous. All sharing of a vision in this respect is self-deception. And yet deception of this kind is intensification of the world; i.e. creation of something against which one can measure oneself. And is there anything more powerful than measuring oneself against the landscape of Hell, from which all sorts of beatitudes emerge?

Link: http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/the-last-judgement.html

Posted by: Dejan Lukic

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ELEMENTAL WRATH 2 (ICE), ICELAND/ANTARCTICA

Region/Concept: North America/Europe, Space
Sub-Concepts: Melting, Wonder, Brokenness, Frigidity
Description: Environmental photographer James Balog leads the Extreme Ice Survey, a collection of images documenting the effects of climate change on ice formations.

Once more, what is the crossing-point between artistic vision and an age of ecosystemic wreckage? As the vanishing accelerates, the dissipation and vaporization of forms, we come upon another series of epic images (this time of the fall of extreme coldness, polar hostility, and the once-absolute reign of the glaciers). What does it mean, then, to speak of beauty at the end of things? Is there not wonder at the sight of miraculous catastrophe? Where once there was millennial-imperial frozenness, there is now an alternative destiny of melting (both elegant and horrifying). Brokenness; downward eventuality; the crystalline; frost; chill; intersections of the fragile and the jagged; dance of unnatural temperatures; the thawing motionless; the colossus-that-shatters. Thought must therefore adjust to this radical disappearance of frigidity, the subzero-degree of arctic loss; it must train itself to enter an era of dying winters.

Link: http://www.chasingice.com/about-the-film/james-balog-photo-gallery/

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh

Ilulissat Isfjord, Greenland 24 August 2007

VISION MACHINES, AUSTRIA

Region/Concept: Western Europe, Movement (Vision)
Sub-concepts: Optics, Devices
Description: Swiss artist Alfons Schilling creates machines that dislocate human perception and thereby create unforeseen visions.

Are these strange contraptions put on one’s head someone else’s eyes? One of them, turning the human head into an engine, touches the core of perception’s physiology: “Light-Pump or Phantom Brain”. These vision machines prove one thing: that human eyes, the organs of perception, are not competent enough. We never fully trust them even though they are the primary tools of so-called objectivity. The machine-maker builds his devices clunky and awkward on purpose. They are not just extensions, they are burdens, proper crutches of the eye (sometimes on wheels). They do not “enhance” the performance of sight; on the contrary, they “refute” it. And after refutation, a dreamlike state comes into view, unpredictably. The world as we once saw it changes. Is there a more significant revolution? “What is left is right, what is behind is brought forward, what is in the vicinity recedes into distance; the drops of water fall upward, the pit becomes a hill, the blades of grass grow downward, the birds dive into the grass…” All in order to transform reality, to make the delusion apparent, and to create another one. Out of failure, a revelation. Only then come veritable visions: appearances not seen by the naked eye.

Link: http://www.alfonsschilling.net/werke/sehmaschinen/

Posted by: Dejan Lukic

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MICRO-IMPALEMENT, UNITED KINGDOM

Region/Concept: Europe, Space
Sub-Concepts: Idleness, Stabbing, Treason, Soullessness
Description: Urban planners in London install spikes along luxury buildings, stores, and bridge underpasses in order to deter the homeless.

Theory: How will the neo-aristocratic quadrants of today’s urban space accommodate the figure of the vagrant, the drifter, and the unproductive? Micro-impalement. And so the threat of idleness is met by the modern restoration of a medieval tactic: the spectacular violence of old kings who once lined their courtyards with stabbed-through bodies has now returned in minorized form (one-inch metal spears rising upward from city benches) as a trend to ward off the rootless and the deprived. This notwithstanding, the old kings reserved such punishment exclusively for the traitor, for the worst conspirators and enemies against their dominion, thus leading one to ask: in what specific way has the beggar betrayed the modern age; in what way do these piercing instruments reveal an accusation of full treason against power? Why does their loitering offend to the extent of pre-emptive torture? Perhaps the architects of such discomfort, the ones who nervously usher in an era of needles and thorns, who spitefully steal sleep from the sunken, who discipline sloth with puncture wounds, detect a kind of mastery at work within the slouched or sprawled body of the homeless person: that is, a will to fallenness. Their lack of need to ascend, their lack of need to generate a living or join the crowd, to prove oneself in the continuum of social value, is also the lack of need to exist. They may in fact occupy some vantage of Being, in a manner foreign to our definitions, but they do not require its attainment (non-striving). And no doubt one should fear the man or woman who does not need to exist, for this seemingly impoverished subject is also the one who cannot be intimidated, persuaded, forced, manipulated, seduced-unto-unity, bought or sold (beyond the torment of the others). The waiting-for-no-one; waiting-for-nothing. They have chosen a certain soullessness, and are the richer for it (the spikes do not reach far enough).

Link: http://mashable.com/2014/06/12/anti-homeless-spikes-london/

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh

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