TRASHademiK – Will Bernardara Jr.
March 17, 2020
thanks to user zoPZ of the Pass the Popcorn forum[s]
The application of academic systems to “trash” [e.g., Z movies, dissonant or abrasive music, incoherent or feral attempts at literature, art by the mentally ill or inept + certain other indescribables] hasn’t been utilized to its disjunctive nadir; in the discourse we’re about to have here, we’ll aim for such lowness. However, our applicator is problematized by the regnant zeitgeist’s dernier cri for aggrandizing schlock + hologram sharks + all sorts of vision-impotence.
Experiential blanks – the time before you were born + the time after you die – are sometimes inadvertently probed by feral works: their labor’s claws are able to dig at something outside the Big Bang’s blast radius. Their artless art has access to truths about space, time, identity, mind + body that are elusive [if not wholly unobtainable] to the versed artist.
The juxtaposition of two specific filmic [or, in one case, “videoic”] works in order to elucidate + contextualize/theoryfuck:
[A corybantic flamethrower. And so rakshasa are full, and the demon Lamashtu chews on the bones of infants while Aka Manah influences the mind.]
Long Island, NY filmmaker Nathan Schiff’s film Vermillion Eyes (1991) and Jon McBride + Tom Fisher’s movie Cannibal Campout (1988). The former is a work of pure art that legitimates “trash”; Vermillion Eyes is perhaps a zenith of filmic transgressive grain, whereas Cannibal Campout is a backyard gore flick, calculated + sane – i.e., non-art. In Schiff’s film, the car-wrecked woman + DEMONmaw transcend the heteronormative framework of movies like Cannibal Campout through myriad dissociative audiovisual methods. Vermillion Eyes is synecdochic of art by madmen: its marginalization only tantalizes + speaks for the others, of which there are more than you’d think. Movies like Cannibal Campout or The Rocky Horror Picture Show might be fun, but they are not assembled from compulsion or dream or sheer lunacy, and art only evinces verisimilitude when it is compulsive/mad; sometimes [gold here] the wholly inept accidentally produce works of raw brilliance because of their ignorance + total lack of calculation. [Peter Slodczyk’s 1989 piece of video delirium Dialing for Dingbats is perhaps the best example, absent as it appears to be of any sort of “artistic” teleological brain-yanking.]
And so triffids + The Deadly Spawn become spiky qualia. In these sorts of corrdiors anyway. Rallying around these sorts of parasite-encrusted sigil rapists.
The 1980s slasher movie cycle: it is its own paradigm, seeing the world as a place of hunter + hunted – a world in which malevolence is an elemental force dwarfing all else. Philosophically, slasher films such as Dominick Brascia’s Evil Laugh (1986) or something like say Killer Workout are potent gestalts, more forceful + emphatic than anything by Kant or Kierkegaard. [The machete or ax more Kuhnian than the noumena, Shirley.] Let’s not obfuscate or complicate the hegemony here by discussing liminal works, however – we’ll concern ourselves with the boldest + most crackbrained, for coherency’s sake. Coherency, unfortunately, has never been a strong suit.
The pulverization exploitation feralism of Jim VanBebber’s work is a zip-gun cranial-shot example of outsider bludgeoning – get a camera, go, thrash out a work of art. The results are instinctive, blotting out juxtaposition and minds’ eyes. Deadbeat at Dawn + The Manson Family feel like exploitation items, not items trying to feel like exploitation items. [VanBebber’s Roadkill, it’s worth noting, is a polluted haiku drooling out of the ears of a tormented cannibal; its final howls of incomprehensible madness haunt icily.]
A Michigan prisoner + convicted serial pedophile – Gunny Nithercott – has written an unpublished novel, a prime example of “the Other”, one that Peter Lamborn Wilson would surely approve of. This “novel” is a kind of retarded personal fantasy of pedophilia rendered ostensibly as a space opera or SF epic. [Nithercott was dishonorably discharged from the Navy, where he was a sergeant, and rather promptly placed in state prison for kidnapping a dozen or so children over a period of 15 years – their ages ranged between 4 + 9 – and videoing his rape of them, which he termed “sexy sexual education tapes for youths”; he believed the tapes to be instructional and not hell-images.] In Nithercott’s magnum opus, the planet Lycanthropizer has been partially colonized by humans but is home to native werewolves. The novel, in a brilliantly deranged and convoluted manner, describes a “rubberband effect” that causes humans on Lycanthropizer to stop physically aging once they’re on-planet. And so the strange land is teeming with prepubescent girls who have the minds of grown women – and the sexual drives of the latter as well. After this protracted explanation of how the rubberband effect works [it makes no sense at all, sounds insane, and is utterly unscientific], the remainder of the story merely depicts various sexual encounters between elderly military men [sergeants] and little girls, all written in the purple prose of shit-tier romance novels: “Sergeant Johnson couldn’t believe the girl, who was really a woman in mind and spirit but a child in body, took his whole throbbing rod with such eager delight!” Etc. Nithercott the author, once the sex scenes begin, appears to abandon the werewolf plot entirely. The untitled opus is unreadable dreck, without question – but the lunatic brilliance of this 700-page work cannot be discounted or discredited, and someone should publish it. Baen maybe.
Consider the Nickelodeon network’s gameshow-for-kids Double Dare. Nothing is what it seems, and Double Dare is no exception. On the surface, DD was a colorful, fun kid show with an emphasis on “gross” tasks. But behind the scenes, the children contestants were being sodomized + fellated by the Nickelodeon execs, the cameramen, boom operators, and sometimes even the janitors. So your happy, innocuous children’s programming was actually a horror show. Peel back the layers of Double Dare, and it’s nothing but a pederasty hotbed. [Interestingly, it appears only boys were victims. The little girls were evidently untouched, which suggests to some that Hollywood’s only interested in fucking male adolescents.] Now what to make of Double Dare? It’s now more than a disposable children’s gameshow. It is a puzzle, a mirage masking nightmare. [THE 3-QUIN BENZILATE IN THE PIXY STIX.] Watch a rerun, and know that one or several of those contestant tykes were being pounded in the ass by directors + ex-felon stunt men. Far from debasing the show, this lends the program an added layer of meta-interest – a weight of horror that cannot be dismissed as uninteresting or simply “evil”. At night, the obstacle course became a sex gym, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that were cops to have taken samples of those tunnels + slides + giant noses, they would’ve found more semen than 1,001 sperm banks!! Therefore, DD is not only a sunny/smiley TV show with a skull of child-rape behind it, it is also a multilayered work of outsider art, blurring liminal aspects, subjugating its terror with buckets of phony snot + a mugging host. I’d imagine the majority of children’s programming prior to, say, 1999, operated in a similar fashion: zones of forbidden compulsion-satisfying disguised as entertainment [entrainment begins here]. This is art of the best kind: art that is not even meant to be art.
Victor Salva’s Clownhouse is another analogue: director Salva was rabidly buttfucking child star Nathan Forrest Winters throughout the shoot, and, knowing this, you can read the tenseness on Winters’ face in nearly every scene. [And goddamnit Sam Rockwell, you had to know something bizarre was going on. Hard to believe you didn’t have an inkling as to how often + how hard your kid costar was being reamed, Sam.] [Later, post-conviction, Salva was backed by the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, which shows you how Italians stick together, regardless of questionable child-fucking.] [I’m Italian so I can say that type of shit.] Other examples abound – Brian Peck’s splendid horror anthology movie The Willies, e.g. – but Double Dare is sort of the apex of this sort of thing: it was a very popular, televised show, and a big bit of nostalgia for some of us. Double Dare achieves a higher level of artistic invention in that the show’s title displays a Nabokovian double meaning: the course was an innocuous fun-time game, whereas at night it doubled as a pederast’s gymnasium of hardcore buttfucking + circle jerks w/ minors. [Note: This boyfucking-at-Nick might’ve been a daytime activity + not “Dick at Night” b/c Nickelodeon shot at night.]
The incongruous connection between art + artist, final product + intention, gets very muddy very fast. Still, we are able to single out certain works, works that evince alterity + others that don’t. Subjective, yes, but it’s obvious to me that Jay Woefel’s Beyond Dream’s Door is a slice of prime Z lunacy, whereas Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space is just camp + camp alone. This isn’t solely dialectic: the disenfranchised artists typically manage to produce works redolent of uncalculated + therefore strong noumenal strangeness. Bifurcating this perfect line are works by the machine [Nickelodeon, et al.] who inadvertently [and embarrassedly], rarely but every now + again, exhibit true bizarreness. But their accidents aren’t due to ineptitude; rather, uncontrolled lust + warped compulsion are the drivers. [Which is fine. I’m not saying one is better than the other.] Contemporaneously… Hmm. My brain has benzodiazepine tunnels through it.
Mass shootings – Virginia Tech, the Pulse massacre in Orlando, et al. – are very much what we would deem performance art. It’s reductive to get humanistic/moral about this; this sort of thing operates on higher levels, levels that have nothing to do with anthropocentrism/moralism. I’m going to attempt to mediate this issue using a reductive argument – one that ignores the more important metaphysical claim: not all, but most, watch the news of a mass shooting or horrific murder with the hunger of a Knut Hamsun – they stalk its updates as though it’s vital juice leaking from the screen like some Videodrome LCD secretion. This is merit. This interest of theirs is value in itself, even if that “value” reprehensibly lies in getting outraged about it to exhibit to others how “empathic” they are. What it does, though, is it retrenches the metaphysical + aesthetic VALUE of mass murder. This is not edgy posturing; there is legitimate art being made here. Are the Polaroids of Regina Kay Walters taken by the so-called Truck Stop Killer not art? They’re downright beautiful. Of course they’re art: art predicated on entirely legitimate compulsion. Art by serial killers or, to a lesser degree, the mentally ill or untrained, is often viewed as “fringe” or anathema by normal people. They’re unable to see the multi-faceted metaphysical + aesthetical value of these things, which means they’re worthless, these fucks, despite the volume of their mainstream opinion. There is no issue reconciling appreciation of, say, Magnotta’s dismemberment scored to New Order and Disney’s Fantasia. In fact just a while ago I cast a spell that caused “extreme horror” scribe Brian Keene to set himself on fire, and I’d do it again. Purporting to be “cult” or “transgressive” is theater unless you’ve actually acquired obsessives and/or criminal charges. Maybe that’s harsh/extreme. But why settle? Intent is irrelevant; Rhoades’ photos of Walters were not intended as “art”, and yet they ARE art – of the highest order: they affect us much more deeply than anything Testino or Aslund managed. Death + art are correlative; chaos + art are correlative; insanity, perhaps most of all, cliché yeah, is correlative w/ art.
George Barry, director of the 1977 film Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, lives next door to me [no shit]; he said this about dreams: “Low budget or inept productions – these are closer to what dreams are like. Dreams aren’t slick. Sometimes the acting’s bad in dreams. The editing’s fragmented. Things are off. The dream’s sometimes aware of itself.”
A Night to Dismember, the music of Hasil Adkins, suicidal homeless poets + the silent/cerebral work of snuff videographer Cortical Larvae – outsider works w/ hallowed aspects.
Psychochemical weapons + metaphysics, both doxically relevant. This art connects w/ the spirit, not the social or philosophical, ultimately. An ankoku butoh between mediums of talons + lost marbles.
[Interjection: Charles “Bronson”, the UK’s “most violent prisoner”, used to be a pen pal of mine. He hasn’t written in awhile. Hope he’s doing OK.]
Surrealism’s rejection: surrealists depict dream logic as the conflation of incongruous objects; outsider artists, feral artists – they are dedicated to incongruous FORM, bizarre + often aleatoric decisions that produce extremely disorienting effects. Ineptitude is the most perfect mode of automatism in art. These works realize an impossible poetry, achieve an incomprehensible synthesis, and therefore present an inappreciable structure – the most effective gateway to the sublime.
A lab or warehouse fire destroyed most of Doris Wishman’s A Night to Dismember, rending its narrative, truncating it w/ flame. She salvaged what she could, and what we have left is a totally unpretentious example of “film as detritus” – not as some kind of avant-garde conceit. [You can probably watch it for free on YouTube. Go do that.] Born out of pure desperate necessity, her film exemplifies the Dadaist mindset far better for being accidental: it’s more natural than, say, Kurt Schwitters working w/ garbage. Breton tried to justify Surrealism through straightforward reasoning; Wishman remains deranged. She took unscorched scraps + slapped them together into a piece of chintz-macabre brilliance + dismemberment library shock-strobe.
And sure, lines blur. It’s what lines do.
Tapping occult sources makes the artist a junkie. Great novels were written by the insane, the desperate, the invaded-by-demons. I could’ve written you all a novel or bit into my wrist-veins until I bled out all over the fucking floor of the bathroom – that’s the vibe now. Making art. Hurting self. Watching someone bleed or they’re watching you bleed. What I mean is I can’t tell the difference anymore. Between the two. If there is one.
Ligotti wrote that Schulz and Kafka were what society would consider “extremely disturbed individuals. And most people who are that disturbed are not able to create” blah blah. He goes on to suggest that in that disturbed psychological forge is where the future of art lies – the outsiders, those “almost too emotionally and psychologically damaged to live in the world” but not too damaged to produce art.
I think of the long, bizarre slashing of N.G. Mount’s productions: a “choplicity” is mechanized in these movies, and Frankfurt’s principle of alternate possibilities is dramatized in a kind of Grand Guignol Aeschylus/Eschaton. Envision a lawn of mowed mice, and a crude epiphany flensed from the torso of John Candy.
END NOTES/DEEP CUTS [INCOMPLETE]: Franco’s The Rites of Frankenstein features layered realities + cheese-based malediction. Criminally Insane 2 is a lard-box of B-grade butchery, fractured + grotty gorgeous. Things (1989) is the televisual equivalent of suffering profound brain damage. Finally, the glowingly strange masterpiece Xtro [this last cited work deserves its own essay.]