Friday, February 26, 2010

Vampire Vision

Ever wondered what Count Dracula saw in Mina and Lucy? Or maybe what Edward saw in Bella?

Artist Fernando Vicente gives us all a little insight into vampire vision.


You can see more of Vicente's pure amazingness on his blog or read about him here (if you speak Spanish).

And just because it's Friday night and I'm feeling Gothic...

[Via Fabrik Project]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grotesque Collector

This short animation by Dimitri Kozma popped up today on one of my regular keyword searches for 'grotesque' on YouTube.

"Besides the bizarre factor, the animation was created with a second layer of interpretation as a critical appreciation of the superfluous and disposable."

The scatological aspect of grotesqueness has been sadly lacking in this blog since my early posting about gross science. I apologise, and hereby promise to provide more toilet humour in future.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Flying Grotesque, Hidden Hybrid

Apparently, far, far back in the mists of time, there were games that were not on the computer. Some of them involved running about, which was very dangerous. Some of them involved cards, such as the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. Why am I talking about this?

Because it involves grotesques, naturally. Here are some of the cards used to play the game:

My favourite is the Shrieking Grotesque.

"Orzhov mage-sculptors bring their stone to life before they carve it. The shrieking begins as soon as the mouths are formed."

Kinda makes me want to play. As if I didn't spend enough time sitting down. Magic: The Gathering has a pretty intriguing website, which you can visit here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Walk This Way

Thanks to Tammy for recommending this fantastic animation.

It very much reminds me of Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel. Bald giants, munching their way through the landscape; sneaking through walls, morphing, removing their heads...

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Hybrid bodies have become quite a theme on this blog so far (including such luminaries as the elephant/fly, animal/animal corpse sculptures, and human/animals), ostensibly because of their connection to early definitions of the traditional grotesque. Plus, I just like them.

Clearly the universe shares my sentiments, for not only are there murmurings of a Sharktopus movie in the wind, but a Dinoshark movie as well! These creatures are, as you would expect, shark/octopus and dinosaur/shark hybrids respectively.

If anyone is still unsure, here is Tony Colella's artistic rendering of Sharktopus:

I want one.

The above pic was taken by Jason Ku, who used it to make his own version of Sharktopus out of paper.

Jason has made a huge variety of origami creatures, some of which are hybrids, including a basilisk:

And a gryphon:

Considering how difficult it is to wrestle an A4 into a paper plane (trust me - I just tried), this kind of technical skill is pretty incredible. You can see more of Jason Ku's work on his website.

The Sharktopus movie is apparently going to be directed by Roger Corman, a man who has produced an astonishing number of B-movies - including the epic 1963 version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven:

This movie is amazing. It's worth the DVD rental price for the wizards' magic battle alone. Anyway, back on topic, it turns out that Corman produced a hybrid horror as recently as 2004: Dinocroc. I'm not entirely sure about the different between Dinoshark and Dinocroc, but I'm sure it's significant.

Couldn't you just watch that trailer over and over? It's the "woohoo" that does it for me. In any case, I have high expectations of Sharktopus. It won't be out in time to make a cameo in my thesis, but that is probably for the best.

Back to work.

[Pics by kind permission of Jason Ku]

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

(Blue) Skin that Speaks

A while ago I commented on Avatar and the racial cross-dressing of the main character. Since then, things have obviously got more intense.

OK, so this is a parody. But L.A.R.P. (Live Action Role Play) is very real and has been around for a long time. It presents something of a soft target for comedians, for obvious reasons.

Yet I can't help thinking that this phenomenon offers a unique perspective on racial politics and performativity. As the video above points out, these role-playing scenarios involve becoming a fantasy 'Other.' But what does it mean to colour your skin in the context of play? Does the fantasy world provide an alternate reality in which real world boundaries can be crossed safely? Can people of different racial groups really come together and become 'the same' as part of a shared imaginative ritual? Those involved clearly believe so, which is significant in itself.

The documentary Monster Camp (2007) is worth a look, if you are interested. It follows the organisers of a monthly camp in which participants engage in live action role-playing. The documentary treats its subjects in a fairly respectful manner, and gives an insight into the reasons why people get involved.

It's pretty funny, but only because those involved are genuinely entertaining and creative people. It's also interesting to see the how many rules are required, and how interpersonal politics interferes with the role-play. Fantasy is hard work. Perhaps it isn't the complete escape from reality that we imagine?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Doll Face

I recently discovered Andrew Huang's work, which deals with many interesting themes from nature to digital culture and the body. He uses a combination of live action, animation and CGI to create short films such as Doll Face:

"A machine with a doll face mimics images on television screen in search of a satisfactory visage. Doll Face presents a visual account of desires misplaced and identities fractured by our technological extension into the future."

The Gloaming is another example:

I can relate. Also liking the Hitchcock 'Birds' reference happening in there.

In addition to films, Huang creates light installations that are pretty amazing:

"A series of works focusing on the fusion between physical and 'virtual' forms using polygonal meshes created from string, nails and found pieces of driftwood."

You can check out his website here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Morning After

Have a good Valentines Day. Please don't get drunk and let some vamp give you an infection.

At least, I think that's what this video is about. I enjoy the Gothic nature of it all, whatever it means.

Vampires are so hot right now.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Waiter, There's a Nerd in My Soup

I'm very busy at the moment with my usual writing schedule, PLUS my mutant drilling schedule. Oh, you must know what I'm talking about:

Playing wasn't as easy as I'd hoped. My first attempt to launch the game resulted in the soon-to-be-dreaded Windows error message "BioShock 2 has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience." Without going into my extreme rage in unflattering detail... after two days of trawling forums filled with similarly distraught gamers I found the solution. It was, of course, ridiculously simple. If you are having troubles getting the game to work I recommend checking here and/or visiting the 2K Games tech support forums. Yes, I had a genuine "Computer Says No" scenario, and we all know how irritating that is.

At least I can laugh about it, now... *twitch*

Technical troubles aside, I am happy to report that BioShock 2 is just as good as I'd hoped. I won't be posting any spoilers, so you will have to play for yourself to find out what it is all about. Now, if you will excuse me... *drilling*

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I really like the merging of city/body/machine in this poster for Terminator Salvation:

This Sony Pictures animation is even better, as it shows the metamorphosis of the image.

It plays on the idea of the urban landscape as a menacing life form, a threatening city/face that watches you. It also raises the spectre of terrorism and 9/11 through the two burning holes that form the eyes. I suppose you could also argue that the emergence of a human skull, usually representative of death, from the contours of a human city acts as a commentary on human self destruction through the 'termination' of the natural landscape. "The End Begins" indeed.

Interesting. I'm sure I've seen other images recently on this theme... I'll try to remember where.

[Via Trash]

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets

The Grotesque starring, among others, Sting and Trudie Styler.

Lady skeleton? Check. Frog poking? Check. Man kissing? Check. Possible cannibalism? Check.

It's time to visit ye olde video library again.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Grotesque... Music?

One area I really haven't touched on in my thesis is the possibility of grotesqueness as an auditory phenomenon.

Research shows that there are a number of books on the topic of 'grotesque music,' such as Esti Sheinberg's Irony, Satire, Parody and the Grotesque in the Music of Shostakovich. This book "offers a multidisciplinary approach to music and compares musical devices with the artistic principles and literary analyses of satire, irony, parody and the grotesque." There is also Julie Brown's Bartok and the Grotesque, and the English translation of composer Hector Berlioz's The musical madhouse: Les grotesques de la musique.

However, these books focus upon music in the classical sense. What I notice about contemporary uses of 'grotesque' in music is that they mostly occur in what I'd call (in my ignorance) the heavy metal genre. Marilyn Manson's fifth album was The Golden Age of Grotesque, featuring a song of the same name (lyrics here). There is a Swedish death metal band called Grotesque. The word grotesque also appears in a number of song titles, most enthusiastically vile. A YouTube search should have you retching in the acceptable manner.

This is a fairly representative example, by UK band Benediction:

You know, once you adjust to the hair and the growling, the lyrics are interesting:

Inner deformity, such a foul deceptive rot.
Conceiving the grotesque. Nothing is but what is not.
Screeds of verbiage, never explained. Gazing at the flames.
Inside the dungeon or my skull, only mawkish thoughts remains.
Grotesque addict, forever shadowed,
darkness clouding me. Absurdity now fate.
Bizzarre dreams, an horrendous nightmare,
nothing left but to hallucinate.
Dementia reigns, a predilection. Total order cease.
Rescrudescent, this condition. Coherency decrease.
Humanity is not to shine, in my bloodless face.
Magnified in travesty, I have been displaced.
See with the eye of the mind. That the lie will speak.
Traumatic cracks in my addiction, made the future bleak.
Paralysed to ruminate, embolismic bitter jest.
Ontologically I'm dead, reborn as the grotesque.

Here is another example with intriguing lyrics, by German group Ashes to Ember:

I'm on the front line of your misery
I'm falling down, you'll follow me
We fall down
Until we hit the ground
In this place
I shall embrace
My grotesque
My inner plague
And in this place
You won't see my face
My grotesque
My inner curse
Can I please die now?
Let me go away
Cause I don't want you to share
My disease
Please don't look at me
This the curse of former vanity
That's what I deserve,
So please don't pity me
I fall down
Until I hit the ground
The endless fear
To fail
To be so near
But so far away
In this place
I shall embrace
My grotesque
My inner plague
In this place
You won't see my face
My grotesque
My inner curse
Can I please die now?
Let me go away
I don't want you to share
My disease

In just two songs there seems to be a theme emerging. The grotesque, in both, is imagined as an inner state that signifies not only the emotional and physical breakdown of the individual (My grotesque/My inner plague) but its reconstruction in a new image (Ontologically I'm dead/reborn as the grotesque).

Oh, perhaps there's space for one more chapter...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

(Hu)Man -Things: Patched Together

If you are a fan of Threadless you should definitely check out Patch Together, a site where you can submit designs for your own toys.

"Think you can design? Now have it send to us and we will show it to the world! Select one of the three categories you want to participate. Toy: This can be an image of the designer toys in your mind or the ones you already made, it can be anything that you can possibly think of, surprise us! Everyday product: you can now submit ANY random ideas you would like made into a product. It can be non-toy related. Flash: A small animation you made, of course, it has to be cool and smart."

Users vote for their favourite designs and the most popular get made into a figurine that people can purchase. This is such a brilliant idea, and I'm kicking myself for missing out on the Tentatiger:

Hippocamp the Seal Horse is also pretty cool:

I also like the Glowing Mushroom Wolf:

Or even Miss Mary Jane, the broccolicious version of Marge Simpson:

The designs themselves are good browsing material. Hybrid bodies seems to be a huge theme here also, for example this Toucan Griffin:

I find it interesting that so many choose to design animal/human/plant bodies, given the open nature of the project. Then again, the act of creating something popular does seem to require invention, as well as general artistic skill. The more unique and startling your design, maybe the more people will vote for it. This is a good one, the Hodgepodge Cyborg:

Rio from Tomopop got himself a Tentatiger, and he reviews the quality of the final product here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Aesthetic Ideals

My BioShock 2 countdown continues. It's only 1 week until the release date now, so everybody better get their pre-order ready. No?

Hmm. How can I convince you...

"With genetic modifications, beauty is no longer a goal, or even a virtue, it is a moral obligation."

One of my favourite parts of the original BioShock is the way the game imagines the possible repercussions of plastic surgery in the context of genetic modification. Once absolute symmetry is achievable by all, what next? As any fashion connoisseur will tell you, conformity is the opposite of style.

"Why do we have two eyes? Is there some law that says we must? Two arms, two legs, two ears, two breasts..."

So asks the game's first major villain, Dr Steinman, a plastic surgeon whose 'Aesthetic Ideals' surgery is the setting for the first boss battle.

This video shows the main points of your encounter with Dr Steinman and gives you a taste of how storytelling occurs during gameplay. Yes, it is very spoilery, so if you are already planning to play the game you probably shouldn't watch.

In fact, this post follows rather nicely on from my last post on the 'grotesque' female body. What is beautiful? What is grotesque? And why is the female body so central to our constructions of both of these concepts?

On Steam right now you receive the original BioShock free with your pre-order of BioShock 2.

I am so excited.

[Steinman pic via BioShock Wiki > Warning: epic spoilers here]

Monday, February 1, 2010

Origin Theory

This is an interesting excerpt from BBC's 'How Art Made the World.' It presents a theory regarding the origins of 'grotesque' imagery of female bodies that involves fluffy baby birds, stripes, and brains.

I really want to watch the rest of this episode now.

You ever seen an elephant/fly?

On the topic of merging bodies... I love this picture by Thomas Mangold:

You can see a larger version on his website.

Mangold is a designer and artist who takes animal/animal and human/animal blends as inspiration for advertising campaigns. He uses a combination of photography and computer graphics to create his own vision of the world:

“There's no need for me to get lost between asteroids or in the halls of the dwarfs [...] If you rearrange reality and/or approach it in a new and unfamiliar angle there are endless possibilities to create stunning stuff. Usually these ideas will find you, because if you look too hard for them, they don't show up. You need to listen carefully.”

[Via Cakehead Loves Evil]