C.3 Sacred to Death: On Horror, Art, and Colonialism

C.3 Sacré peur: horreur, art, et colonialisme

thu Oct 21 / jeu 21 oct / 9:00 – 10:30 PDT
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  • Émilie von Garan, University of Toronto

Taking the relationship between horror cinema and contemporary art as a point of departure, this double panel session explores the porous interstice at the intersection of horror theory, art theory, and art criticism. Specifically looking to the ways in which horror tropes such as the return of the repressed, the uncanny, misrecognition, spectralisation, possession, and dispossession, as well as the transgression of borders and boundaries resonate with the post- and the de-colonial, this session invites reflections on the shared aesthetic, structural, and conceptual strategies between art and horror. It asks: What can be said of the profound influence of horror cinema on contemporary art and artistic practices? Can horror be conceived of as a theoretical perspective? Can horror aid in reassessing how museums, galleries, and universities research, collect, exhibit, and teach? Presenters will explore these questions as they relate to research practices, film and moving image art, exhibition, and more.

Émilie von Garan is a bilingual Toronto-based critical writer and researcher exploring the intersection of the body, technologies, and architecture in film and moving image art. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Concordia University in Montreal and holds a Master of Arts from Toronto's OCAD University. She is now a PhD Candidate in Film Studies at the University of Toronto. Her interests include continental philosophy, horror theory, art criticism, and the ways in which art and horror share aesthetic, structural, and conceptual strategies. Her dissertation explores the instability of the gaze in post-war Italian cinema through the works of filmmakers Michelangelo Antonioni and Dario Argento.

C.3.1 Decolonial Horror in Stan Douglas's Le Détroit

Miriam Jordan-Haladyn, OCAD University

The social conditions that underlie urban decay are the focus of Stan Douglas' 2001 black and white film installation Le Détroit and the accompanying 25 colour C-print photographs that make up this project. In the synchronized two-track looped film installation, the character Eleanoree, like a spectre, endlessly breaks into an abandoned house in Detroit's notorious Black ghetto Herman Gardens and searches through the decaying detritus. Douglas makes reference to two horror novels in this work: Shirley Jackson's 1959 The Haunting of Hill House and Marie Hamlin's 1883 Legends of Le Détroit. Douglas' photographs are completely devoid of people and document the aftermath of the flight of Detroit's white middle class to the suburbs, while unveiling the trauma of the 1943 race riots and the 1967 Detroit riot. This paper examines the role of horror in Douglas' Le Détroit, specifically by exploring the horror tropes of the return of the repressed in relation to questions of race and class.

Miriam Jordan-Haladyn is a First Nations writer, artist, and scholar. She's the author of Groundwork for a Haudenosaunee Philosophy (2020) and Dialogic Materialism: Bakhtin, Embodiment and Moving Image Art (2014), as well as numerous writings on contemporary art and Indigenous cultural history. With Julian Haladyn, she curated Ways of Being: Yhonnie Scarce and Michael Belmore (2019–20) and The Films and Videos of Jamelie Hassan (2010). Currently, Jordan-Haladyn teaching courses in art history at OCAD University.

C.3.2 Marisol's Babies, Nuclear Giants, and Other Monsters

Delia Solomons, Drexel University

In the early 1960s, hot on the heels of a boom of horror and sci-fi films about nuclear giants and brainwashing invaders, Marisol created two sculptures of colossal, eerie toddlers. The 7-foot-tall Baby Boy (1962–63) and Baby Girl (1963) appear to be some monstrous progeny of The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) or the betrayed lead in Attack of the 50-ft Woman (1958), with the creepy stasis and posture of the children in Village of the Damned (1960). Marisol taps into recent horror and sci-fi to convey certain realities of a life with children. Her baby Gargantua reflects the enormity of childcare, which consumes extraordinary time, labour, and mental/emotional space. Each sculpture grasps a Marisol-headed doll — a diminutive version of their mother/creator — reflecting the relinquishment of independence and agency that midcentury motherhood seemed to demand. Marisol never had children and in these sculptures expresses specific anxieties about that prospect.

Marisol considers how not only domestic but also political monsters inflict brainwashing, possession, and petrification. Marisol twice referred to Baby Boy as symbolizing "America, this huge baby monster taking over." The Paris-born Venezuelan-American reveals how seemingly innocent US patriotism — the boy wears his red, white, and blue Sunday — permits its sinister cousin nationalistic Cold War imperialism to wreak havoc. Baby Boy behaves like King Kong, grasping Marisol and indeed the world in his nuclear-armed clutches. Ever the caricaturist, Marisol offers no cathartic protest or possible solution to the monsters of maternity and imperialism, but rather presents the viewer as helplessly micrified before these uncanny incarnations.

Delia Solomons is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Drexel University. Solomons specializes in modern and contemporary art of the Americas, focusing on intersections between exhibitions, politics, and visual culture in the 1960s. Her current book project — Cold War in the White Cube: Latin American Art for US Audiences (1959–68) (Penn State University Press, forthcoming) — explores the surge of US museum exhibitions of Latin American art amid escalating inter-American tensions in the sixties. Her research has appeared in Art Bulletin, Journal of Curatorial Studies, and The Americas Revealed: Collecting Colonial and Modern Latin American Art in the United States (The Frick Collection and Penn State University Press, 2017). She also co-edited a themed issue of the Journal of Visual Culture and co-curated the exhibition Sari Dienes (The Drawing Center, 2014).

C.3.3 The Colonial Curse of "Egyptomania" and the Postcolonial Pharaonic

Gillian McIver, University for the Creative Arts

European fascination with Ancient Egypt was popularized by colonialism. As Egyptology became the exclusive preserve of Europeans, largely excluding Egyptians from the discipline, occultists claimed ownership of Egyptian magic and visual motifs. This soon found its way into the horror genre, in novels and the new art form of cinema. In the 20th century, Egyptians responded by largely eschewing pharaonic motifs in art and by avoiding the horror genre altogether. Egyptians are reclaiming the Postcolonial Pharaonic, both in visual art and, finally, even in horror films. This paper looks at contemporary artists Alaa Awad, Nazir Tanbouli, and Khaled Hafez and the production of the Netflix series Paranormal (2020).

Gillian McIver is a Canadian filmmaker and curator based in London. She completed her PhD Roehampton University on the relationships between cinema and painting in visual culture. Her research addresses the way that art has shaped “the past” for us in films and how our continuing allegiance to art’s interpretation of events demonstrates the power of retinal communication. She is the author of Art History for Filmmakers: The Art of Visual Storytelling (Bloomsbury 2016), a survey of the historical and aesthetic relationship between cinema and visual art. Her forthcoming title is Art and the Historical Film: between Realism and the Sublime (Bloomsbury). She is currently an Associate Lecturer at the University of the Creative Arts and at Central St Martins.

C.3.4 Surrealism and Horror

Julian Jason Haladyn, OCAD University

In the infamous opening scene of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's 1929 Un chien andalou, we witness the slashing of an eyeball, a scene of horror that locates this Surrealist film within the larger genre of horror cinema. Yet this is not an isolated manifestation of violence within practices of Surrealism but rather part of a larger exploration of unconscious impulses and imaginings, of violence and fantasies, of confrontations with "otherness." Much of the existing scholarship on Surrealism and horror focuses on film. However, questions of horror permeate virtually all aspects of the Surrealist project, from Hans Bellmer's grotesque images of dolls to Maya Deren's uncanny doubles, from Mayo's bent and broken bodies to, in the words of Aime Cesaire, "the original terror and fervour" of Wifredo Lam's abstracted bodily forms — an approach that Lam himself referred to as "an act of decolonization." This paper discusses the role of horror in Surrealist art, understood in an extended sense of the movement and spirit of Surrealism. Specifically, I will examine ways in which images and ideas of horror are used by a series of Surrealist artists to explore what is a vital terrain of the Surreal, which is grounded in questions of the unconscious and of "otherness" as a means of challenging and expanding notions of the "real."

Julian Jason Haladyn is an art historian, cultural theorist, and professor at OCAD University. He is the author of Duchamp, Aesthetics, and Capitalism (2019), Aganetha Dyck: The Power of the Small (2017), Boredom and Art: Passions of the Will To Boredom (2014) and Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés (2010), and co-editor, with Michael E. Gardiner, of the Boredom Studies Reader (2016).