Saturday, January 29, 2011

In-Game Grotesques

The word 'grotesque' is popular in video games, especially in relation to the weird creatures that players are often called upon to battle. I recently discovered that Hellgate: London (2007) has some creatures called Grotesques, and figured it was worth posting here. Of course, the more I look, the more games I find with their own grotesques, so I might do a few of these 'in-game grotesque' posts.

Hellgate: London is a post-apocalyptic RPG involving a bunch of contemporary Knights Templar trying to win back London after the earth is overwhelmed by evil monsters. The knights wear glowing Tron inspired armour, and the game occurs in 2038, so there are clearly some past/future border crossings occurring here. Not that there is anything wrong with that.


You can play as other characters, but the knights look the best . Likewise, there are a whole bunch of different creatures to battle, but the Grotesques are in a class of their own. The Hellgate Wiki provides this visceral description:

"Stitched together from numerous corpses and chunks of flesh, the Grotesque is an aptly named abomination. The stench of rotting meat is always a sure sign that one of these lumbering, disease-ridden automatons is in the area. The decaying bodies are filled with maggots that have been altered by the demonic energies used to create this monstrosity."

Brilliant. In gameplay terms:

"Different Grotesque creations present different challenges but after slaying any of them, they remain dangerous. Invariably their melded corpses explode and undead forms then rise from the remains, freed from their united servitude. "

Here are a few screenshots of different Grotesques in action:

I'm always impressed by good screenshots. They are difficult to take when you're in the middle of playing. The official art images give you a clearer look at the design and appearance of Grotesques (click to enlarge):

I am definitely seeing "numerous corpses and chunks of flesh."

There is also a Fetid Hulk which is worth looking at. The intro video for the game is below. A bit melodramatic, but worth checking out for the shiny Tron outfits. And the monsters.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Head Full of Zombie

"Land Down Under" by Men At Work is not the Australian national anthem. But it may as well be.

The lyrics are apocalyptic gold:

Traveling in a fried-out combie
On a hippie trail, head full of zombie
I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She took me in and gave me breakfast
And she said,

"Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover."

The lyrics are humerous, but also a little bit sinister. Feels somewhat appropriate, given the conflicting feelings many Australians have about the date of today's celebration.

Happy Australia Day.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Once Upon A Wall of Stone

I found this excellent Gothic nursery rhyme the other day.

All the angels in heaven
And Demons below
Were soaked in yoke
As they fought for his soul.

The puppets were created by CartBeforeTheHorse, a husband and wife team:

"A two-person company of artists, they make contemporary folk art pieces from their home in Oregon. All of their creations are made one at a time with their own hands."

Many of their pieces depict human/animal/machine hybrids. For instance, Katie Pillar:


And Darcie Fish:


These very much remind me of traditional grotesque designs. And yet most probably wouldn't think to call them 'grotesque,' because their folksy charm does not suit contemporary usages and understandings of the word. There is nothing 'gross' about them. Interesting to observe how the composite body appears in so many different spheres of creative practice.

The skeletons are pretty amazing, as well. They get a starring role in this video.

You can check out many more creations at their website here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Little Green

I was feeling a bit tired and sorry for myself today. Then I looked down in the bathroom and saw this.

Fact: it is impossible to remain crotchety when your soap is smiling at you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Sea Within

My Aussie brethren have been battling a heinous sea monster these last few days.

It can be hard to really absorb the magnitude of natural disasters, particularly when they occur far away and do not impact on you personally. The sheer amount of water in Queensland right now is staggering to behold. When was the last time you canoed through a McDonald's restaurant? This is Brisbane, third largest capital city in Australia.

Ghost town indeed. Good to see people keeping their sense of humour, even in circumstances like this.

If you would like to help out, you can donate to support the people here and the animals here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Meat You There

So. I'm quite busy at the moment with writing deadlines and marking. Apparently the majority of people spend January on a beach somewhere running in slow motion while tossing their heads back and laughing.

What fools, eh. I'll do that when I'm dead... right? Oh.

Anyway, I couldn't resist posting these incredible sculptures from the Meat After Meat Joy exhibit back in 2008.

I love these pieces because they are multivalent, they could read in any number of ways, depending on the politics, beliefs and experiences of the individual viewer.

To me, as simultaneously organic yet artificial forms they bring home the reality of living creatures torn apart and reassembled into objects of desire. The Frankensteinian nature of the Nike runners puts a Gothic twist on the shoe fetishism so encouraged in Western culture, while the teacup suggests an horrific substance lurking behind a (gendered?) domestic facade.

Curator Heide Hatry was interested in the role of meat as both a medium and a symbolic substance:

"By putting these artists together, the exhibition seeks to investigate the uncanny effect meat as a medium is for artist and viewer. This is not a show about meat as spectacle but about meat as signification, precisely because meat does not signify (a body) but its very annihilation."

My favourite is the toilet. I mean, wow. I find myself asking 'what is it?' Trying to identify distinct body parts in the larger shape. What is that big blob at the back? But these are not natural formations, so no 'real' body parts are to be found.

It seems rather poignant that an appliance designed to disguise and sweep away human refuse has been remade from flesh. Perhaps a timely reminder that we can never erase our waste completely. It has to go somewhere. There is a cost to pay, and we must manage our rubbish or suffer the consequences via the destruction of our own bodies and environment.

You can check out a video from the exhibit here.

{Via Miss Cakehead and Eat Me Daily}

Friday, January 7, 2011

How They Know You're A Lady

Just in case the Forehead Tittaes are drawing a little too much attention to your face... Behold: Camel Shows.

Lobster Claw, anyone?

[Via Street Anatomy]

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grotesque Chess

[Nick Gabrichidze, "Chess revolution"]

With all the focus on the 'grotesque' body in art and literature it can be easy to forget that the term isn't always used in relation to living anatomies, human or otherwise.

In chess, for instance, a Grotesque is a fantastical arrangement of pieces designed for entertainment and amusement. Grotesques are endgame studies: arrangements of pieces designed as puzzles which other players attempt to solve and win. Unlike other endgames, though, Grotesques are intended to provoke laughter.

Tigran Gorgiev, a designer of Grotesques, explains in Endgame magazine (pdf here) that "good grotesques are composed with great difficulty." Not only must they be challenging, but they must also include "superfluous" and "comic" elements.

Hungarian Ottó Bláthy is well known for creating Grotesques. Here is one of his inventions:


The white pieces in this scenario are outnumbered to a ridiculous degree. There are a sequence of moves which will ensure a white victory, but to most this would seem an impossible situation.

The chances of this exact pattern occurring during a normal game are very low. It has been deliberately constructed for effect and amusement (although I suspect the level of hilarity depends upon your knowledge of/interest in chess as a game).

Here is a study by Gorgiev. Looks fairly silly, to my untrained eye anyway.


I'm having real trouble finding examples online. Perhaps this is because they are not being called 'Grotesques' anymore?

In any case it is interesting to consider how the term has been used to denote those problems that are simultaneously difficult and amusing. Seems appropriate somehow.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year

I'm resolving to eat more green food.

Within reason, obviously.

[A man in bed with vegetables sprouting from all parts of his body; as a result of taking J. Morison's vegetable pills. Coloured lithograph by C.J. Grant (1831) Via]

Wishing everyone an excellent 2011. Starting today.