The “I’m an American” painting trope in Black Roses (1988) and Blood Harvest (1985)


Rev., Mar 30, 2017.

Note: This entry is part of Retrograde in the 80s: Retrograde trope formation in 80s horror movies (mss).

In the not bad 1988 movie, Black Roses, where heavy metal rock band visits upon the little town of Mill Basin Satanic psychokilling possession, Vincent Pastore is a concerned dad, upset about the garbage his son is listening to. But when he tries to turn off the record, the vinyl will not go quietly. It, in facts, begins to bubble up into a form

imam 1and then with a burst of formative energy given it by the woofers and tweeters of the son’s stereo set up, out pops a classic rubber 80s extravaganza, a cockroach something that attacks dad

imam 2Two things here. In my critical thinking, there is incidental, conventional, instrumental and inspired enacting of the agency of a property or trope. Only the last two will get positive reviews from me, but even knowing what the convention is and doing a good job with it is nothing to sneeze at. But I have also toyed with the notion that when the whole array of potential is bracketed and fixated upon by a cynical exploitative mindset, which kills actual agency, then instrumentation can strain to become active, but do so only from a propulsion of the presence of a fixity, in which case it becomes mere nervous agitation or activation of the object. This is what happens a lot in the rubber 80s, not only did the bodily Unitarianism of the decade demand that every object, if haunted or possessed, metaphorphized into a monster, and a monster entirely gooey rubbery something, but that this was presented as if a figural-active exaggeration of the capacity of the mind by pareidolic connecting the dots see physiogonomies in things, but in the 80s they did not just stay there, they had to come alive. The further extension of physiognomies I will call physiognomes, or tetraphysiogomies. When in the case of objects they figuralize and then activate, that is so 80s, and those are physioprops (Stephen King was, of course, the godfather of 80s activation of every object in life, setting the tone for the whole decade). This is what happens here.

Second, in the 80s, these were movies made for the eyes, no longer of 20 year olds born in the early 40s, but 20 year olds born in the early 50s. I have explained why this age group, the latter half of the socalled Baby Boomers, had a shadowed, cynical mindset with regard to the tropes of hippie America, and it is also true that something happened, perhaps by early exposure to life by the fact of growing up in the shadow of older siblings, that this age group was much more grounded in and fixated upon the imagery of the nursery. The pink rose on black fabric upholstery on the couch echoes off of the same pattern in so many dresses worn in movies of the time, it evokes a primal urge, a back to the nursery desire, which then seeks to obliterate all of the forces which have disturbed that preexistent peace. The nursery then becomes one of the “pits” or preexisting, backstoried prototypes before the prototype, that pulls on the depiction of life, and makes its representation more primitive. And, so this is plausible.

imam 3And then right on cue, just as in Legend of Hell House, the lamp falls to the floor, indicating that total chaos has broken out

imam 4And then he is pulled at, by the speaker

imam 5And then pulled in, with his shadow cast, interesting enough, on a ripoff variant of Arnold Fribergs Prayer at Valley Forge

imam 6and the original Friberg, a very popular print in the 20th century

imam 7

And, it is actually that image that I am writing about in this essay. Why? Why would it be there? Why would an image of such explicit patriotism be located in a house like this? It is not common.

A hint may be provided, and the idea might be nominated as an authentic 80s trope, by referring to another movie of the time, where the same sort of thing comes up, Blood Harvest (1985). In that movie, a local banker has been chased out of town because he began to do his job, foreclosing on farms

imam 8that is, in the bigger picture, he violated the tacit contract of AngloAmerican rural life, he put the banks before the farms, that was un-American. As a result, an effigy of him being burnt at the stake was hung in his foyer, this is hardcore pitchfork politics, the mob working its rage against the scapegoat

imam 9the daughter, Jill, is frightened, because someone else is throwing bricks in her window. This is a nice shot in that it contrasts the violation of ugly graffiti with the benign disarming whimsy of tasteless garden art, a mule pulling a cart being a classic genre motif (see my writing on Annabelle) on the state of normalcy, in doing one’s work, in middle class life

imam 10we also see that inside this humble country farmhouse is some ersatz art, the kind of things middle class people put on their walls, like the Last Supper

imam 11but then in the middle of the living room, with not very fancy living room wallpaper, is a strange landscape that is beclouded and gray

imam 14it is hard to make out what it is, but I suppose this shot means that it was beclouded in order to warn us of the presence of a nylonstocking killer

imam 15there appears to be a couple, naked, in the center foreground, meaning, again oddly, that this is some sort of Adam and Eve country fantasy, in the manner of Maxfield Parrish, for example and, strangely, it is under that picture, that, when her fiancé shows up, he tries to fuck her on the carpet in front of it, in the living room, I suppose a kind of territorial conquest thing

imam 16and then later crazy boy tries to sleep rape her on the couch under that picture

imam 17and it should also be noted that the carpet’s shagginess is made much of, and she does at one point do a workout in the living room, profiled by the Last Supper

imam 18and this does include a seemingly gratituous shot of an 80s style power crotch (a trope)

imam 19so, in a weird way, while she does spend a good deal of time upstairs in her bedroom, where she hides with her teddybears, relapsing into childhood, this room, the parlor, old fashioned style, in defense of her parent’s homestead, is really operation central for her grown up defense and her violation, with houseplants, spooky pictures and, then, her getting naked in there two and half times, it is fair to say the room in whole has been envaginated as the contested chamber of her battle against the forces of evil.

But all this is but a prelude to the room that is the most interesting. At some point, while he labors under a load of red herring throughout, Tiny Tim, as Mervo, the mad brother of the mad killer, brings her to an outlying house or wing of the house, where dad apparently has his mancave, and where he has set up a display of the truth, clippings of what happened to her parents, and then evidence that she is being stalked, the illicit polaroids psycho took of her after cutting off her bra and tieing her spread eagle on the bed

imam 20rarely is the display of evidence so elaborate as this, and I suppose it is an indication of Mervo’s mad efficiency, and perhaps as a cult shrine to the parents, who he reveals have killed themselves. But the pictures of her half nude are there too, she is shocked, family pictures, one of the oldest tropes of horror, carrying on the family being one of the drives of life against horror, corrupted and polluted by this mad violation of her modesty and privacy

imam 22these are related to earlier pictures that were taken of her, when she was drugged, and tied up and then pinned up on a wall with paneling on it, presumably in her house, to terrorize her by informing her someone broke in and did that to her

imam 23I thought possibly in her bedroom, parts of which were in fact paneled, as shown here, with some odd images on the walls

imam 24but then we see the room. It is entirely wood paneled (so I thought, the polaroids were put here, only for him). Like the house in Silent Night, it represents a redoubt that might at one point been secure, because woodpanneling was considered stylish, and hip, and with it, therefore sufficient security, but now has the distinct air of King Tut’s tomb, and a flimsiness too, not able to keep people safe, dowdy, crotchedy. But then the weakness of the wood paneling was apparently felt because the keeper of the room, I am assuming the dead father, began to put up classic little winter landscape paintings, and then, even more so, patriotic paintings, behind Tiny Tim on the left is a classic print of the First Thanksgiving

imam 25and then round over a sideboard is a nice Petolike trope doeil of a gun, like I said, mancave


imam 26Peto Fish House Door is close enough

imam 27

and it is also in front of, as if staged by it, the picture of the First Thanksgiving, that mad brothers will contend anxiously against each other, Tiny Tim, having been the mad one throughout, now revealed to be almost less mad than the other, though Jill does not know this yet

imam 28(the print is of Pilgrims Going to Church, by George Henry Boughton, collection of the New York Historical Society

imam 29

she then runs round to the other side of the table, the lamp standing now, we see, in the very center of the room, as the symbol of the intense intimacy of the proceedings, that deep secrets will be revealed, and, surprise, on the wall, is ANOTHER super patriotic ersatz traditional painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware

imam 30which is obvious

imam 31

and then while the brothers fight it out in front of the Pilgrims Going to Church

imam 32she edges around the corner and there is another, ANOTHER patriotic image, the Hasty Pudding march of fiddler and fifer during the revolution, and there on the sidetable she finds a gun, to shoot Tiny Tim with (not tuned in yet as to what is happening)

imam 34this is the Spirit of 76 by Archibald Willard

imam 35The original of which is in Abbott Hall, Marblehead, Massachusetts

imam 37

and then right as she shoots, backdropped as well over panels of winter hunting scenes, of no special provenance, she knocks the drummer askew, the tilt the screen, we are in chaos

imam 38and then the other paintings go crooked too (another trope, bespeaking chaos)

imam 39she all but screams away from it, backing up into the painting of the drummer

imam 40and then in the space between her and Gary, she not yet knowing he is the mad one, the painting comes to signify the deception

imam 41and as he feels he has pulled off the masquerade, we see yet another, identifiable painting in the corner

imam 42and then the movie proceeds on its way. So, in two 80s movies, Black Roses, and then in Blood Harvest, the action is backdropped by a super patriotic, and traditional, but so traditional as to almost be an image in popular culture, and no longer viewed as a work of art, an image that exists entirely in the public domain, so the question is why? why would this kind of thing be put on those walls?

On simply an expedient level, it could be argued that iconic images are put up on the walls of horror movies, simply to be recognizable, and simply to recognize that the character has undeveloped low-class taste that only knows of a few major, easily recognizable works. More expedient still, one movie may do it because another does. In Salem’s Lot (1979), there is both an ersatz Mona Lisa, obviously not the original, on the wall of the unhappy wife playfully cooking up an affair for the night in her short shorts

imam 43And then when Lew Ayres fights off a vampire in his house, he has a heart attack, in his bedroom, no less, to Trumbull’s picture of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but in this case he is a true blue All American so the picture truly bespeaks his grounding in American values, I am an American, no fooling. It is possible that 80s movies just followed the template of Stephen King, and added in the trope, not clearly understanding what it meant

imam 44

This IS the Trumbull, strange painting to profile a heart attack by (perhaps a tacit tribute to Lew Ayres)

imam 44 (2)

But, for those movies discussed, I think there is a purpose. Theory one, in Black Roses, it did seem as if, overall, there was an effort, as indicated by the comedic overtones, to parody 60s small town life as it persists in the 80s, so it might be so simple as this is what they imagined corny parents had on their walls back then. But as this mood is definitely not in place in the much uglier present day of Blood Harvest, that idea does not travel. The fact that the pictures exist in a mancave, where one’s deep pleasures are cultivated, usually of an escapist nature, but also, possibly, of a mad nature, including reactionary politics, indicates to me that these are what I call an I am American trope painting, that is, it says to the visitor, and the town, I am an American. In Black Roses it is funny that actor Vincent Pastore, soon to become famous as Big Pussy Bonpensiero in The Sopranos, likely thought he needed an I am an American trope picture on his wall, to demonstrate to the town that he is, Italian American, an American, one of them, a good assimilator, an honest, hardworking guy who has agreed to assimilate in to the ideals of Yankee America. The fact that a protestant church gets involved to curse the Black Roses, that the teacher, who is skeptical of that approach, but still teaches Whitman and Emerson, and is profiled with his Brady Dad hair and moustache with pictures of Mark Twin, means that he too believes in the small town ideals of Yankee WASP life. A house trying to assimilate, then, would try extra hard to reassure outsiders, and maybe even himself, that I Am An American, and that is why the picture is up there. What the music does to Big Pussy is reject that attempt at assimilation, it says, no your’e not, and, by the way, your’e kids are not either, they’re not buying it, they’re being seduced by evil out of it, and in order to get you out of the way the vinyl beast is coming alive to suck you and destroy you, and as your last shadow of a hope, and of you, is cast in life, it falls on your eidol, your image of self-confidence building, your hope and a wish image, praying like George Washington, please, let them accept me as a true American, and that’s that.

The same thing apparently is going on in the mancave in Blood Harvest. Remember, the father has been ostracized and even terrorized, on account of his banking duties. He would no doubt have to get defensive, as, now, the daughter does. It is also conjectured that Tiny Tim, the neighbor, whose farm went out, also went crazy, and now lurks around like a sad clown, the ruin of a man, in America. So the mancave is where the father goes to refuel, to get his bearing, to resist, to claim for himself that he is an All American, and to reassure himself, he changes the art, so that all of it is iconically, even emblematically American, even Americana, to tell him, hourly, even if they doubt it, I Am An American. At the same time, it is taken for granted that all of them are reproductions, likely prints disguised as paintings, that is, “fakes” but known fakes, the kind of thing middle class people hung on the walls of their home to make a statement, not to appreciate the art per se. So, like all these things, they also evoke a certain degree of selfdelusion and depletion.

For the mad son to then fly under the flag of convenience, using these pictures as a stage on which to display his defense of Jill’s homestead, depletes them, and makes them topsy turvy symbols of all that turned upside down, ersatz images, bereft of any meaning. That she fires from one, and tilts one, also means she has violated the lore by trying to kill family members. And then that Gary is later revealed to be the deceitful mad one, means that these pictures bespeak the opposite of what the father attempted, in the context of the movie, they knock down the fantasy and hope of their installation, and like a Blue Boy picture in a family album, promise the destruction of the family line, and the UnAmericanness psychoness of it, and the fact that, on a broader, racial level, the Anglo Saxon race, which allows cute blonde boy to be given the benefit of the doubt, because he looks like the perfect All American farm boy, is corrupted, and undone, all the father’s illusions destroyed by what is really happening in the fight on the stage they made. Thus, in general, I will argue that I Am An American trope pictures represent the same thing a Blue Boy trope picture represents in the context of a family line, the danger to and destruction of the family line, but expanded to a social and national level, with the question relating to nationality, loyalty and patriotism, that is, being an American. And this is why when Big Pussy was sucked in, that ended his pretentions, he was exorcised, and when Tiny Tim was shot in front of them, he too was ostracized from the line, but in both cases, the pretext of the hanging of the pictures is undone, and the fight and death represent the movie’s view that this is a fable of the decline of the morality and values of the Anglo Saxon race in America, and the mess and chaos that happens in their decadence.



Surnamed or local gods and private pantheons in Damien Hirst’s Wreck of the Unbelievable (2017).

Rev Jun 7, 2017.

Note: This is a part of six-part treatment of Damien Hirst’s Wreck of the Unbelievable. Again, it is a musing, not a review, as I was not able to see the work in person.

One of the most evocative areas of address of Damien Hirst’s Wreck of the Unbelievable involves his modelling by means a faux ancient art of a more localized and particular nature of cult in the world at any given time. The center focus of this trend in his art is to deconstruct the gods from vague generalities, or Olympo-centric, generic representations thereof, as we often only get in art history courses, to acknowledge that for the Greeks the gods were not just approachable in primary religious sites like oracle centers or major temples but that by means of tutelary duties they inhabited localities in numerous repeated forms with very specific purpose in terms of petition and prayer as related to events at a particular place or time, upon which a town might’ve founded its sense of itself, and, for that reason, Greek art is not unlike the more superstitious art of crossroads, and sites where special things happened, or memorials at places, plaques, and the like, than the large-scale centralized notions of representation. The importance of this deconstruction is significant for a few different reasons: 1) the previous model was athenocentric, and ignored the locale variations of the gods in localities; 2) the centric model just named a god in general, but ignored as mere semantics all what Pausanias calls his or her surnames, which means attributes, meaning that in many different locals local Greeks devised their own reading of the god’s power and asked it to specifically address a pressing local problem, and thus renamed him, to focus him, Apollo of the Computer, or Mercury of Getting My Car Started (actually, Artemis of the Ground, Cedar Artemis, Horse Artemis, etc ec). That is, the Greeks often only worshipped helper gods, which would evolve into the plethora of Roman functional gods, of which there are an almost uncountable number, one of the most intense areas of my interest at the moment, which are not that different than our way of talking about “the golfing gods being with me” or “my guardian angel is looking out for me” on a particular day; 3) these gods manifest to the Greeks in various epiphanies, many of which overlap with acheiropoetoi moments, but involves the sacralization of much of nature, and 5) as discussed by Cassirer, these encounters, created “temporary gods” as a figuration of a moment of insight or inspiration or reverie or swoon or dizzy spell on a site, which interjected into the site a god, and explained the event, the episode, the creation of a type of flower or whatever, in a “just so” tale, by ascribing it to a god, whose shrine was then, there, erected, and then that place was sanctufied. Indeed, with this model, it could be argued that consciousness in the Greeks manifest as epiphanic efforts to describe and create encounters with the gods. In addition to all this it is well known that the gods served as, as it were, traffic cops in land and property issues, especially with regard to public and private, and profane and sacred space, and by means of herms,

hirloc 1

which evolved in peasant Europe into crossroads or wayside Christs,

hirloc 2and border markers, and defixio-spelled objects, all of which sought out supernatural power to control the movement of peoples in and out of the terrain of a locale (and if they feared a dead soldier or a god was on the move, they would chain a statue down, or even, if the statue had wings, cut off the wings off, to make it impossible, in their mind, for it to wander).

hirloc 3

The notion of temporary gods translates to the idea that all art arises from a magic encounter between the imagination of man and an event or sighting in life in a landscape in a way that the person ascribes to some sort of supernatural force, altered state, or panic attack (I, as well as horror movies, also make use of tricks of the eye, or sudden associations in passing) thus consecrating the site, and, as such, this involves, as discovered, altered states of consciousness, either, as studied by Roscher, Pan’s Panic, nympholepsy, or other states of mind which induce these encounters, and from that a whole magic universe is created to walk in, and, no doubt, the Greeks lived entirely in a self-made magic universe, or milieu, or habitat, in which, eventually, everything had meaning (the density of Greek culture as described in Pausanias is both thrilling and appalling, as such closeness also bred intense tribalism, and endless war based on what would seem to be very minor offences of ritual). Since this deconstructed, localized form of reimagining Greek religion as the visionary devisement and commemoration of encounters with the divine in the landscape serves as a model for one of my most basic definitions of art as a subjective world-creating and milieu-creating effort, no surprise that my discovering this superstitious Greece, the Greece that shares with traditional world culture most traditional beliefs, the Greece which answers to the saying, “To the wise man, everywhere is Greece,” but only was enacted, or, more likely, survived in record, at a level of intensity unparalleled in world history, for all that, the idea of what was in the local temple or shrine site or site of commemoration is of greatest interest in altering the substructure by which the aesthetic predilection of Western art continues to be maintained (or, if I might say that the other way round, we tend to think art up to 1900 was ‘conventional,’ ie pictures and statues, and, then, it went crazy avant-garde conceptual, but, no, most art in most times partook of odd arrangements and strategies related to the needs of the moment which presage in form and scope, and, it is taken for granted, the expanded field, contemporary conceptual art).

And, adding to the interest in this, is that according to agency theory such sites had to activate agencies, either in singular or compound form, with movement from one to the other state orchestrated to intensify contact with the divine, and so it is necessary to parse out, site to site, whether an element is cult, intercessional, votive or apotropaic, to fully grasp the nature of contact there. In fact, I am slowly making my way through Pausanias with just this goal in mind, but with an eye to contemporary art which still, in its installation ethos, seems too stuck in merely formalist incidental arrangements of objects without any clear understanding of the necessity of arrangement of powers that be by way of agency and its compounds, in order to make it work, and thus I seek out models in Pausanias of collocated or dependable ritual arrangements of arrays of agencies in a shrine complex that was found to precipitate an encounter with the divine (and Verity Platt’s Facing the Gods is a great help in this). Indeed, it has come to the point that when looking at contemporary art I demand a spatial logic that is readable by way of pure agency, sans aesthetic rationalization or intellectualized copycatting of forms of arrangement imported from the culture at large (offices etc), and I have in recent years tried to review works by Bjarne Melgaard, Jonathan Meese, Rachel Harrison, Berlinde de Bruykere, Cornelia Parker, Mark Bradford and others, as well as, in review, Charley Friedman, Nancy Sanchez-Friedemann, Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, and others, in this way, sometimes struggling, sometimes not making my point, but always pushing to insist upon the “situation” or “arrangement” of the art in installation as beginning with one feeling and leading to another with a final goal of epiphany of some sort, even if only a eureka over a social issue, in mind (for the same reason my interest in group shows has dramatically declined as only the very most discerning curators can manage space adequately to make agency between works of art or between the art and site in a group show come alive; it also goes without saying the most display of art at art fair booths and on instagrams do grave damage to the art by means of ersatz decontextualization).

It does not look like to me that Hirst had any other spatial idea for his Wreck of the Unbelievable, than this is a palace, and its annex, and I am going to arrange it all as if some vast private museum of the collection that has been discovered fictively under the second century sea. It is not clear to me that there is shrine-like intention in his art and its arrangement (though I will talk about the large demon later). That is, Hirst’s installation does not sit on the cusp of my particular avant-garde at the moment, but washes up over it a whole construct of art derived from the kunstkammer exit-strategy from formalism, to nonetheless now and then create an agentic aura around one’s address to the art. It is also true that some of the individual pieces, by the peculiarity of their visual formulas, do seem to refer to the idea of surnamed gods, prayed to for very specific reasons, at very local sites, and thus evoke agentic powers (votive, apotropaic etc). And, for that, I am also interested, in so far as this kind of thing could help model for contemporary artists the less subjective model of creativity whereby ideas are seen as figured out as gods presiding over magical eurekas of observation inside the milieu of the confabulated dream world of the mind.

An example which I have already given a shout out to is the “surreal” object (online noncritics are so cute) of a large foot with a rat or mouse on it, and then an ear attached.

hirloc 4it’s a wonderful statue, and nicely played out

hirloc 5

but, what does it mean? well, the first thing that has to be addressed is what is it? Fictively, it seems to be the only surviving foot of a colossal statue, now lost. Therefore, it is a ruin, and plays into modernist reading of the ruins of classical culture in a romantic way as evoking passing time or the like. And, like the remnants of colossal statues of Constantine in Rome, played with by modern artists as metaphors for sublime contact with the largeness of the world, this is Fuseli’s version

hirloc 6The rat is presented somehow in the scene as if it is a thing which came up on the foot, and was not part of the foot, when it was living. That is, it is implied by its posture that the sculpture actually described a scene in history. Since the rat appears to be eating the leather straps of the sandal of the figure, it can be presumed that the figure represented a military figure in full garb, but that the story of the tableaux sculpture otherwise missing is that of the Persians when invading Egypt (and since this was a trope, I believe there was another example in Greece itself), when the Egyptians had no other defense so they prayed to the gods, so the gods caused all the rodents in the land to swarm at night into the Persian camp and eat all the leather in their shields, weapons, shoes and the like, so that the next morning, disarmed, the Persians had no choice but to retreat and leave Egypt. This story is also closely allied to the more famous lore of the Persian army that went south into Egypt and was lost in the whirlwind of the desert, this is Turner’s version, so, for me, this rat or mouse has apocalyptic frisson as well (this is Turner’s drawing of a Hurricane in the Desert, his painting of the whirlwind, apparently, is lost)

hirloc 7By this model, the foot is the remains of a large tableaux piece thanking a god for the miracle of the rats in a particular battle, perhaps in a shrine built on the site of that miraculous victory by infestation (in fact, using a biological weapon).

But, that is not what I think is going on. That is because in addition to having a rat on it, there is a very strange attachment: an ear. It is clear that Hirst intends the ear to be read as some artificial affixation to the object at some time in the past. He makes no claim that the foot and ear were sculpted together. The scenario seems to be, the foot was part of a large statue, then that broke apart, then in the ruins of that cult continued, on, devotees continued to come to the sight, they petitioned the god, they sought his intercession on behalf of their problems, they cried, in votives of an intercessional sort that one sees a good deal in the ancient world, the abstract art of the ancient world, hear me, hear me

hirloc 8And as a result, lacking this device, some latter day devotee looked around, found the ear of the ruined statue, said, that will work, it bespeaks a call to hear me, so attached it to the foot to make of it an intercessional plea for the god to hear the prayer of the devotee. So, in this reading, this is an impromptu makeshift concatentation of two elements of a ruined sculpture, reconstructed by expediency in run-down rite, to remake a foot as a votive-intercessional cry for help, maybe even specifically, like votives, to help the petitioner overcome trouble walking, which I could, of course, relate to.

In this reading, Hirst’s discourse reaches across time to relate to two other discourses that have reinvigorated the study of temple life in ancient Greek. Adrienne Mayor (The First Fossil Hunters (2001)), as noted before, has argued that not only were ancient mastodon and other bones, discovered by the Greeks, not knowing what they were, taken to be the bones of the giants of the past, and, from them, they “constructed” their notions of what the giants looked like, even if they left the bones as is, as mere relics of the gods in the temples. Indeed, in visiting temples one of the main events would be such bones, the bones of Orestes, etc., and then other objects would be placed around it to enhance the cult-relic experience. This was the main purpose of local temples in particular, where such findings were made, and made into the event which convinced locals that the god had appeared to them there. Hirst grazes the edge of this discourse by suggesting a devotee attaching an ear oddly to a foot of a ruined statue.

hirloc 9

Then there is the discourse of the assembled pieces of late medieval Rome, where combinations of Roman and other artifacts were often hodgepodged together to create magical objects, all covered in a terrific book on Rome 1300, numerous examples of these.

hirloc 10

This put-together impromptu nature of construction of the past by way of relics is another classic example of how real “contemporary art” was made, outside of the norms of formal painting and sculpture. It was also, in medieval Christian times, thought to enhance the sanctity of the place in which they were collected. Both areas have interested me, so Hirst brushing by the issue of course intrigues.

But, then, there is a “truer” (inside the fiction) truth of the fragment. It has a rat or mouse attached to the foot because the foot belongs to the god Apollo, but he is a very local manifestation of the god Apollo with a particular surname, Smintheus, Apollo, God of the Rats or Mice, and invoked to help keep the town free from infestation, but, then, on feast days, placate the rats or mice by worship. This is an example of a local surname God given a very specific housekeeping duty in the locale to serve a tutelary purpose, forecasting Roman functional gods, and shrine sites, and a greater awareness of the down-to-earth instead of up-in-0lympus nature of the gods in ancient Greece, and it is certainly welcome as a full-on precedent to all the physical and conceptual variety one finds in contemporary art, and I often do say, reading one of Pausanias’s descriptions of a complex shrine site, this sounds just like contemporary art. Here is a fragment of the weird sort of localized thing one finds at an Apollo Smintheus site, though no rats

hirloc 11So, Apollo Smintheus, he was real, this is from a cult site of him, possibly votives

hirloc 12and another (my identifications here merely circumstantial)

hirloc 13And, the humorous thing about this for me is that, once, we lived through a mouse invasion due to construction next door, and though it only ended when we, as advised, got a cat, the rug on which I saw too often mice scurry was, in fact, invested by me, as discussed before, by the image of a tutelary presence, an icon of the virgin of the mice traps (and blesser of the mice sacrificed to my mania not to have them in my house)

hirloc 14Which means that Hirst too understands the local nature of invocation of the gods for protection, or help, or guidance, or whatever, and, for that, this is Apollo Smintheus

hirloc 15But then there is a still wider issue. What do these surname statues, after all, look like? Pausanias certainly presents us with a lot of strange descriptions of these gods (I have been slowly collecting them, and at times am so confused I want to ask a local artist to draw them out for me). I have been frustrated with the lack of descriptiveness and expressiveness in Greek and Roman depiction of the gods for some time. It seems likely that they adopted a very strict formal model, and kept it at that, as if adherence to the model ensured that the god would answer (in magic formulae had to be repeated verbatim, or the magic was ruined). But I have often wondered, why wouldn’t they create a Poseidon statue that had more of the quality of the sea about him, what about a wind god that was all windswept? why not a forest god in the form of a pareidol peeking out over the treetops of a forest formed into a figure, why not? I have tried to find this strain of expressiveness in Greek art, but it is hard (19th century symbolist painting apparently had this idea too, and tried to fill it out, with some success).

Second, the Greeks did not seem to represent their surname gods as the Christians would later represent saints, holding their attribute symbols (though they did that too, Pausanias describes a stature of Artemis in Arkadia which held a dolphin and dove in each hand, representing its relationship with Posideon and Apollo), which identified them. As a result, Pausanias only describes a very few cases where the surname is represented in the statue or in a group in way that represents the object of the surname, that is, if Apollo Smintheus, mice (the best example I know of so far is Horse Athena, in Tegea, which was a wooden statue of a seated Artemis, with a horse head, and Medusa snakes coming out of that head, same statue as mentioned above). Though you can see an Apollo called Apollo Smintheus on coins, there are no mice in the picture. And my question is, why not? or is it simply a matter of taphonomy, that they did create these statues, and we do not have these statues simply because they have not survived? Or do we not appreciate these statues because our view of Greece has been too rational and too athenocentric? And maybe we are looking for the wrong thing, maybe figures in ancient Greek sculpture represent rather states of mind? Or as Platt argues, as I read it, not the god per se, but the wonder and awe of man coming in contact with the gods? In any case, though there are Amazons, satyrs, and the like, and Pan and other gods are somewhat figured out, much of the surname nature of the local manifestations of Greek gods was chosen to be left out of the visual record.

A third possibility, in answering, what did this local tutelary gods look like, is answered by the concept of syncretism. It is most often argued that syncretism, that is, the mixing of cultures, and influences from other cultures, and, therefore, in that combination of culture, creating a realization of parallels, which then morphs into the creation, for the purposes of sharpening or exoticizing a cult, of syncretic gods, happens on the global or worldwide level, in, that is, the flow of international culture. Which is no doubt true. But it is also true that syncretism can occur from the bottom up as well, that is, from the local level. That is, if there is a Mercury of this, and of that, and of this and the other thing, with all of these surnames attached to it, to give Mercury another particular task to undertake on behalf of this or that particular problem in a particular town, that would seem to create in the dot-connecting way that human beings create new ideas, not sui generis, but from filling in the gaps by falling back on what they already know, an opportunity for the creation of syncretic gods. In promotion of a syncretic vision of culture, accepting as a given that cultures mix, and there is nothing to be done for it, if a culture creates something the world wants, the world will take it (there is no such thing, technically speaking, as “cultural appropriation,” that is a defensive, essentialist, rationalist idea), I showed examples of syncretic gods (teaching art history 101) whenever I could, and, in the Graeco-Roman world, perhaps the greatest was Serapis, a completely Romanized combination of Zeus

hirloc 16

and Osiris by way of the Apis Bull

hirloc 17

And then an earlier example would have been Ammon, a syncretization developed by way of Greek “cultural appropriation” of Egypt by combining Amun

hirloc 18

with Zeus

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but then taking the particular form of Alexander the Great, who, after his visit to the oracle of the Ammon at Siwa, let on that it was revealed to him that he was the son of god, thus setting the precedent for the deification of earthly rulers in the Graco-Roman era

hirloc 21

While it is hard to say that in some of DH’s work that tends toward a reading as a local god, or tutelary god, a god of his own personal pantheon, as part of a psychological “return to Greece” (Hillman, meaning a replacement of ego consciousness with a greater interest in the unconscious), are, in fact, syncretic, combining in them both a model ancient and a personage modern, they are made very much in the manner described (and this one even displayed as if a shrine to her, and no one got this?)

hirloc 22It certainly appears that DH delves into the pleasures of syncretic Egyptian art, and may only be making use of Egyptian prototypes because this sort of thing most emblematically occurred in Egyptian art (it may be true that Greek art provided the world with the best living record of ancient votive and interecessional art, but it was ancient Egypt who surpassed all in the creation of cult art), so all of these strangely familiar, but oddly unfamiliar, recreations of unknown Egyptian pharaohs in the guise of modern actresses or persons that he likes, all seem to have a syncretic quality

hirloc 23and even in their strange, almost jewelrylike combination of ancient artifacts and modern body culture, with polished showing of the nude in the modern style, all of it exposed,

hirloc 24

harks back to Roman example of syncretism, when it took on a more theatrical-egoistical quality when Roman ladies would dress up as the goddesses and pose as them

hirloc 25

Similarly, in this bust of an Unknown Pharoah, and, except for like a dozen, most of them would be “unknown” to the average educated person even today, there is a hint of, again, the deification of a person

hirloc 26on the model of Hadrian making a divine cult out of his male boy toy, Antoninus, in Roman Egypt

hirloc 27

Still, for all these parallels (all of them, by the way, reflecting back on today, whispering amusing commentaries), it remains, even in the case of Serapis above, the ancient world and its iconography did not seem to call for a very expressive way of depicting clearly this or that god, by way of attributional features. And so, why not redress that problem in modern musings on them? And that is exactly what often happens in peplum movies, which I have studied for exactly that reason, that is, they are adventure movies, and feel free to elaborate on the fantastical elements of local gods in cult places, usually caves, so you will find examples of these figurings out, which might in fact be more what ancient Greece was like than how the art history books picture ancient Greece. But I will talk about this aspect of Hirst’s Wreck when I discuss its relation to imagery in popular culture subcategory adventure movies.

And, it strikes me, by bringing Greek religion down to a matter of devising in the moment a figurative way to remember an event or explain a happenstance or tell the story of the origin of thing or what happened at this place, the kind of art that I have favored, in fact, since I first liked Wordsworth, Hirst has involved himself in this complicated process of deconstructing the ancient substructure of continued conceptions of art in modern life, to work for a much more catholic and promiscuous model of artifacts and representations (and, again, using Hillman’s notion of the “return to Greece,” an art enriched by the unconscious, and not merely driven, as so much contemporary art is, by ego consciousness). Consider, for example, this god

hirloc 28This is Cerebus. But, in reality, Cerebus was only ever sculpted by Greek sculptors as an attribute to define a god who pretty much looks like everyone else, as Hades, the dog at his side, freestanding?, I don’t think so.

hirloc 29So, for this to be sculpted, he would have had to have been invested with divine power and become a dark god to answer to the particular neuroses of a locale due to the fact that it experienced an event in which Cerebus was involved in the solution of. Pausanias describes a town in northern Greece where it was believed the entrance to the underworld was, and where the River Lethe went into the ground. Maybe at that site, a Cerebus statue, invested with divine quality, might’ve been placed, right out there in the countryside, and then over time that place become a shrine to it, and to what it protects one from.

And here is another goddess, Sharon and the bear

hirloc 30It is shaped in the manner of the Victory of Samothrace, which is, itself, a harbor statue, invoking a goddess to protect ships, a common feature in Greek ports, and this could be another variation, perhaps in some seaport up on the Black Sea where the Greek world abutted up against the Scythian world, and the world of bears. For most passersby it is just a “work of contemporary art, “ a “Damien Hirst” but in its form, in its rendering (see my comments on the found-in-nature aspect of it), its specific address to a particular woman, as goddess, doing a particular feat, somehow taming a wild animal, it seems to be exactly that kind of descriptive statue of a local cult event that I wish to see described by Pausanias in a local shrine site (I also gave it a momentary oracular meaning by arguing that it bespoke the ethos of Russian Collusion Theorists in April, 2017). And, if it happens that Sharon is just someone Hirst knows too, that too counters the idea, but completes the circle, as, it is true, like private practitioners of voodoo, like the ancient Greeks, especially like the Romans, we all in our hearts and minds, composed of vestiges of cults of our enthusiasms, erect a pantheon of gods and goddesses whom we adore, or seek help from, or offer ourselves up to, or pray to for protection, and by joining and bridging the cults in the manner of a pontifex connecting these things, changing the way we think about ancient art as a way to change the way we think about contemporary art, Hirst has offered exactly the type of art, the only type of art, sometimes, I am interested in, art of the personal mythology (and other models show up too, such as Kate Moss, I think

hirloc 31

And while in this this brushes by the other work along these lines, using fashion models as symbolizing some essential decadence in our culture, as in the work of Mark Quinn some years ago, which I also wrote about, his Moss doing sort-of yoga

hirloc 32It is particular and peculiar enough to still evoke private mythology, and the depth and indecipherability of the POV of the subjective mind and habitus and mentalite.

Downshifting from representing cult statues in large format form for the localized temporary god, Hirst also tosses in some of those statues that Pausanias describes that appear to be the great grandfathers of realistic bronze sculpture you still see around to humor the literalists in time and place, forever living only in their little here and now, and so also delves into scene or event sculpture, showing, for example, some terrible event which is commemorated at the site (though this one is prurient with a weird counter spin that reads as a secondary commentary around the side, because it is possible that this boar is raping the rather too shapely, modern, modelly beauty)

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And then even in the larger sculptures, I remarked in a post that it was interesting that while the press as a whole covered wholes and “works of art” as a whole entity, persons with personal needs and desires, and likes and dislikes, sweep in and pick up from the statue whatever it is they want, and isn’t it odd, I mused, that Polish biker should swing through and not only relate to a statue not pictured previously by the press

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And even zero in on a detail which she reads entirely, partially, subjectively as related to her, something she is not just interested in, but which speaks to her, on a twitter level, a baby, who knows why, but one can guess

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As the above statue of some local goddess with a vagina face head and spider legs coming out of the body, it is also apparent that in order to fill in the blanks of his imagination as he applies it to this lost corpus of Greek art, as a model for opening up new areas of address in contemporary art, Hirst also had to swing round through peplum and popular culture to find examples of gods or monsters that might work, and in this case seems to have fed She Creature )1956) and The Fly (1958), not to mention some Magritte, but then there are also vaginal-formed monsters too, in the specular imagination, for him to figure out the particular complexes of a locality or person as expressed in their temporary gods of the here and now (more on this theme later). I have noted a number of times that It in the 1967 Roddy McDowell movie seems to have a vulviform face

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And another vulviform god in It Came From Hell (1957) (a hoot of a movie)

hirloc 37And while in Rome these gods were finally called lares or functional gods, I prefer to call them “gods of days,” that is, figural representations in human or monstrous forms of the problems of the day, as invoked by a number of artists on a roll, I think in particular of Guston, and also Basquiat, both of whose work in its best surges were diaristic in the sense of simply invoking day in and day out guardian figures or the like to get them through.

It is not clear to me how extensively Hirst dealt with this tranche of work in his Wreck either, but for me it is the tendency that rang most deeply, with the most reverberations, given, remarkably, that I have been seeking answers to the problems addressed, and continue to address it in even more detail, seeking examples of dynamic agency in the placement of art in rite sites, and, for that, the surnamed particularity of Hirst’s gods serve as models for pretty much the formula I want to see displace formalist-minimalist intellectual gestures, with a place-oriented visionary confabulation of the temporary gods of the living moment, so that we moderns too learn once again to live and thrive in an enchanted world.

The Hypnagogic House and its furnishings in The Devil’s Gift (1984).

Rev., May 6, 2017.

Note: this essay part of Retrograde in the 80s: A Study of Retrograde Trope Formation in 80s Horror Movies (unpublished); hypnagogic model consists of five phases from light to deep sleep: entoptic, glass onion (symbolic interaction); lattice; wormhole (whoosh, spiral); REM deep dream sleep.

Though I have written often on the meaning of paintings and objects in houses in horror movies, and, then, on another silo of interest, written on the hypnagogic dimensions of the depictions of states of mind in horror, cinematically, it is not that often when the two come together, to create a particularly, unexpectedly, and likely unseen, rich combination which might be called a hypnagogic house. The house, for example, that Tanya Roberts went home to, then was attacked and held in, in The Last Victim, was a hypnagogic house. And, surprisingly, in the very little, and simple, but strangely trenchant movie, The Devil’s Gift (1984), there is also a hypnagogic house. The problem is presented to us as soon as the couple with their small son settle into the house. One cannot help but notice that for a modern woman, this woman, this couple have seriously grandmotherly taste, with not only fussy Louis XV things by the door, including, in the mid 1980s, two godawful facing floral couches, and then an actual old time gas lamp sconce by the door, and a rococo mirror over it

devgif 1and then the dining room is super formal, with the lady of the house’s silver set out (likely a wedding present, and my mother did this too, but she was born in 1925, afterall), and then under a crystal chandelier, which says something, a Sargentesque painting of a lady in an interior scene, a genre picture, but of an aspiring elegant quality

devgif 2and then as you come through to the interior of the house, you are met straight on by a lares display of the family, and a picture of the history of the family in pictures, a Roman thing, and then thresholding entry into the private area of the house a bizarrely old fashioned plaster goddess of cornucopia holding up a fixed bouquet of those wild plants that I have elsewhere discussed in the 1940 version of Gaslight as indicating agitation in the house.

devgif 3then behind and in back of all that are the private hallways, no big deal, undecorated, of the house, functional areas

devgif 4including the bedrooms, and the bathroom, but then back out in the main room, a truly bizarre landscape of a genre sort with an ancient ruin in it.

devgif 5why? why would a modern couple in a modern house, fussy it up with all this old-fashioned, old-lady looking décor? And, then, if they did so with intention, then what does it all mean? does it serve a purpose in leading the viewer with intuitive sense through the paces of family life in trouble?

The first question is answered in the affirmative in that the story is about an object that comes into the house by way of an antique shop, from an old lady with a Ouija board who contacted evil spirits. A Ouija board is a classic example, along with Mason boards, of communication by letter, number and symbol, and reading the tea leaves of simply dynamic directional in the narrow field of relation between the nodes involved. It is symbolic communication inside the spinning crystal, or planchette, of the glass onion, one of the mainstays of symbolic level communication in horror

devgif 6first of all, then, we might say that this glass onion way of communicating has been taken into the house, by contagion from the old woman, the original owner. Then, second, he got the monkey toy at an antique shop, and its busy accumulation of things also means that objects stand out from the bunch by having some distinctive quality that grabs one, and in this context they hang from above, in a lattice formation, meaning that that level is also communicated into the house

devgif 7and then this is reinforced by the fact that later when he realizes he has a problem with an object-possessing poltergeist he visits a psychic and she holds forth, as she is also an old lady living in the crawlspace of an occult other reality, where objects are invested with special meaning, under a chandelier, reinforced by lots of religious statuary

devgif 8and there is a lot of religious statuary in her place, and, again, religious statuary is cult art, that is, it surrenders its finality and opaqueness as an end in itself as a formalist work of art in secular society might, to act as an intercessionary object to the cult being to which it refers, one asks for help from a believed in being behind the statue, through the statue, and, for that, they are, in a way, possessed

devgif 38the fun thing is, of course, that the object brought into the house is a silly pop art monkey toy, a windup from the 1950s perhaps, by the 80s becoming rather creepy looking in its too insistence grin and stare, and it also enacts its events by touching its cymbals and lighting up its eyes

devgif 9and, for that, it brings the whole aura or structure of its cult presence into the house, to remake the house as a haunted place, as a force field for it to act through. Thus, I argue that the house is rendered as an old lady house with haunted objects and weird old-fashioned taste to communicate the idea that ever since they brought that toy in, something is wrong, things are not going right.

But, then, as the movie progressed, I sensed that as the possession moved on, it also moved in, that is, it moved from the door, to the area beyond the plant goddess, to the family pictures, to the bedrooms and the bathroom. And, moreover, given the type of scenes enacted in each of those places, it seems as if the house also moves down through the stages of dream, as it moves into the house, from the entoptic, to the glass onion, then to the lattice and the whoosh, to deep dreaming (or, rather, nightmare). Though there is never a movie made in practice which conforms precisely to my models, I sensed a few levellings of hypnagogic quality in and about a few objects.

For example, it is very strange that, in the 1980s, the kid likes a toy from the 1950s, and then he seems to go for “cartoons, “which all kids watch, and, in those days, on the floor in front of the one TV in the house (though this was changing in the 70s), but they are weird old cartoons from the 1930s, which odd loopy, unreal characters, not at all modern cartoons

devgif 10these suggest that the boy has come under the influence of the toy, and is thinking “in toy,” in a language consisting of figures of an abstract sort, almost like flashing numbers or letters, which simply act as a crystal to hypnotize him, and make him behave in ways influenced by the comman of the cymbals of the toy. This weird, twisty, space is a classic example of the glass onion, for children, a flickering of random images, to enchant and transfix, but nothing else

devgif 12this is then translated into his bedroom where we see that the bedspread is of that sort, and then the only poster he has in his room (the football banners come from dad) is ET, another little homunculus who secretly, in bedrooms, befriended children, outsie the purview of their parents. Thus, by way of the TV, the idea is communicated that at the glass onion stage of dream in the house, the son has been hypnotized by the possessing figure.

devgif 13but then the odd thing is, even the mother is drawn in. But, she sits on the couch, she is an adult, and is profiled by the goddess who stands as a herm between the public and private part of the house. She is supposed to be the guardian of the house, the prettifier of the house, the one who brings in the flowers to make the place look nice, but she is spending her days hypnotized by her son’s cartoons, right at that border

devgif 14it is interesting that directly behind her, in this shot, is the wall of the family pictures, indicating the family tree, and the succession of the family in its life, but it is also true that this family tree has been exposed to the power of the monkey toy at the door by the fact that the monkey toy has emptied out the fishbowl of competing fish (another glass onion dream state object) and, even more ominious for the health of the house, as they form a gauntlet of alibi formations which always offer the possibility that you were not seeing an invasion, only the plant out of the corner of one’s eye, it kills all the houseplants

devgif 15thus, the mother stands at the threshold of the lattice, as the glass onion drops own into a deeper state, and at this point the monkey toy takes on a deeper power, as, as it were, the ephialtes, standing at the edge of the lattice, telling her to throw herself down, and causes the mother to try to drown her son in the bathtub, which in this formation represents the whoosh down to nightmare, which would’ve been if she had succeeded. Though the husband catches her in time, of course her residency in the house after that becomes untenable, so, strangely, she disappears, yet another clearing out of another protective layer of life in the house, leaving only the single dad to cope with the home invasion

devgif 16it is only after the mother disappears, that we see the dad in the position near the threshold herm figure, presiding now over the health of the family

devgif 17and he is now the one seen walking the walk along the wall of the family pictures (very much a scan device as seen in Chuckie 3).

devgif 18it is only at this point, profiling him, that we get a good look at a picture over the couch that we had only got a glimpse of previously, an almost unbelievable panorama landscape painting but of a Roman ruin in a landscape

devgif 19what is this place, where is it placed, in the phases of possession?

devgif 20my guess would be that since the mother had taken up the role of the presider over the lattice, and the one to manage the house, her departure means that the straight-down trajectory of that falling-asleep has been shunted to an adjunct dream space rationalzied to the right of the central life force swirling through the house (which would be her body), and we are now, then, in a house that has, by the posession, and by the man having to take up the control of it, deconsecrated, at it were, ruined, rendered a ruin, a vacant shrine to some forgotten god in some far off promontory in Pelopennesia as described in passing by Pausanias

devgif 33the fact that the trajectory of dreaming or waking from this point on will happen in the rationalized space adjunct to the life force means that it is dysfunctional dreaming, and will lead to nightmare scenarios, and true scariness with a deep frisson, and that is the surprise of this little movie, it actually comes up with some bewilderingly scary scares. As the husband struggles with his control of the house, and working around the posession, being told that he cannot remove the object, or let the object know he is removing it, or thinking of moving it, he has passed beyond the point where even he is master of his house, his house is now controlled by the posessed poltergeist toy. Thus, at this point, the toy becomes the demon at the top of the whoosh pressure, but shunted off to the side, to actively push him down, by force. And, amazingly enough, by some intuition, this is exactly what happens in the movie. The bathroom and the bathtub in particular having played the sight of the whoosh, where the mother in spirals and swirls of struggling in the bathwater, tried to drown her own son, possessed as she was by the demon, he now goes to take a shower. But the wonderful thing for me is that this is a full on shower sequence, but a dysfunctoinal shower sequence. Normally, representing the life force itself, vis a vis the proxemics of showering of a human body, it is the female that represents human fragility and vulnerability when bathing. That is why there are so many shower scenes in horror movies, they announce that one is stripped bare of the rationalizing defenses of modern life, and reduced to being a fragile body in a cruel universe, easily attacked, more so if preoccupied by the unwise freedom give an intruder by the modern shower. But, in this case, the shower sequence is shunted into a dysfunctional space, lateral to the central shaftway of lifeforce, and by pushing down on that, a terror is made. Usually, a man in a shower is not afraid, and the idea simply does not work (due to, at least, the folk and highly heterosexual idea that a man is not ‘open’ below). Whenever I see a man in a shower in a horror movie, I am like, wrong gender. But, this time, I was surprised because the movie was intent on giving him a full on no holds barred shower sequence, signalled by the fact that as he moves into the zone of the shower, the part of his bedroom near the bathroom, we are given not just a nautical painting, which indicates imminent trouble, but a storm at sea, with many points of cresting, indicating trouble right now

devgif 22he is further stripped of his power by going typically triplicate in the mirror, the three-faced mode indicating that he no longer thinks he has his own back, he is weak, worried, there is also, unique in my viewing experience, a compounding of the mirror effect, with a relfection of the waves in

devgif 23then he tries to take a shower, but the monkey toy zaps it, and makes it overheat, he is in trouble

devgif 24then the movie just tosses in the 80s motif, indicating that the possessing force also controls the plumbing, the shower sprays blood

devgif 25and so his shower becomes a struggle for his life

devgif 26he escapes, but ends up on the floor, deciding at that point, no fooling, I’m putting on the pentagram the psychic gave me

devgif 27but then as he disengages from this attempt against his life by the toy, he commits to engagement, this is war, and so the storm at sea photo communicates on the backside back up into the house, and he is now taking the experience of his nightmare scenario back into the house, to defeat it

devgif 28and  after this we get what maybe is the best scene in the movie, because it indicates, in its nutsness, all this for a toy, or, rather, even more nuts, so that a toy will not notice that he is moving about it trying to get it out, he pretends to clean the house, and he is, typically, dusting the family pictures. This is the lattice, but laterally placed in an adjunct space above the dysfunctional nightmare space he has crawled back up out of

devgif 29and, then, interesting development, it is at this point, that the carpet comes into play. I have not given that much thought to carpet in horror movies, but in the 80s, as Midnight, and other movies now indicate, it does seem to have developed into a trope signifying a state of contagious craziness and all over spreading of evil in the house, on which degradations can be done. I would say that it represents a precipitation of the entoptic-glass onion upper layers into a compressed lattice state

devgif 30and this scene even entails the surreptitious invasion of the room by the vacuum cleaner, over the carpet, which is the veritable wool pulled over the eyes of the toy, who “thinks” he is just cleaning house

devgif 31but in fact he has gone into a strange series of ritual behaviors, arranging objects in a way that will not make the toy think he has any particular attention to it, but is just moving things around to dust then, but then he just happens to place a paper bag under where the monkey sits, and the ruin of the temple is watching it all it

devgif 32is a remarkable thing to see, in a movie like this (only examples I know of is the first Alice in Wonderland movie, where I have discussed what it means there).

devgif 33What does it mean? The fact that he is faking out the toy, but only in his mind, and in the adjunct crazy possessed nightmare world that he is stuck in, in a house threatened by a possessing poltergeist, and which he is defending, by making several diversions, is not unlike those diversions that Burkert detected in Greek sacrifice, so that the animal would be seen by them to assent to being sacrificed, to relieve some of the burden of guilt, and then the surreptitious removal of the knife, and the initial harmless violation to break the ice, all diversions which I argue are built in reagentic cushionings of agency to keep it free of rationalization in cult and sacrifice, and here it is, and it is all happening underneath a temple of the old gods

devgif 34at this point, in his magical thinking, the grandfather clock also perhaps commenting that he has moved very far back in the ages of man in his mind, to the days of magic, he has become a contender, the lares figure, the god of the home and hearth, doing war against a possessing, invading evil demon. He has taken up residency like an old statue in that abandoned temple as spied upon in passing by Pausanias, and, as such, he is staking his claim. I will argue that at this point, this temple, which formerly was introduced as, perhaps, an adjunct lattice structure, in the dysfunctional spaces later to the circulation of the lifeforce, has now sunk to deep dream level, and his enacting a dreamlike action to get rid of it. It is a placement deeply informed by both the meaning that landscapes, and landscapes with ruins have (usually meaning that the people vis a vis it are arguing over an obscure point), and also of the dream structure in the evilly haunted home, this is his nightmare scenario, below the whoosh, lateral REM deep dream

devgif 35and sure enough, he drops him in a bag, so drops him down its own whoosh

devgif 36and while the Romans felt that death lie under the deepest dream, for us it is garbage

devgif 37now, though he does make one more return, the movie as it were incorporated a “to be continued” sequence to rev up one last scare, this more or less completes the rather remarkable dream structure of the house, the hypnagogic house, in this movie. As the house became possessed, the possession moved down and in from the glass onion to the lattice, where it drops the mother down to crime, and knocked her out of the house; then when it moved in again it took out the plants and fishes, to clear the way to the private part of the house, and in this movie that space is rendered at the end of the whoosh of the hallways and the main final spiral of the whoosh happening in the bath, in direct central space in the emergency of the mother’s attempted drowning, but then shunted off to the dysfunctional adjunct spaces to the side in the case of the man’s almost drowning or frying in the shower, a scene enhanced by enlisting a storm at sea painting and a triplicate mirror effect to sharpen the angle of the descent of the whoosh. And then, when he comes out fighting, that is when, stepping aside but not up from the whoosh, he realizes he is in a nightmare state, and it is at that point that the picture of the temple becomes as it were the emblem of the scenario and setting of his last battle by way of diversion with the monkey toy that has invaded his house, destroyed his marriage, and almost killed both him and his son. It is, for such a little movie, a remarkably insightful depiction of a modern home possessed by an ancient demon.