Phenomena (1985) and Dario Argento’s use of ambient and sentient dream space.

Rev., Jun 10, 2018.

In recent analysis, my model for studying the nature of the visualizations of horror or dreams in horror movies has expanded from the hypnagogic, to include two other states lying horizontal and vertical to those states, the Ambient and the Sentient. The hypnagogic involves those activities that take place “inside the head” of the person, that is, the central cognitive spiral at the center of thinking, and then its adjunct places.

phe 1

but, then, it occurred to me, there was a trope shot of people surrounding a victim at the level of the lattice, and that encircling imagery seemed to be the nearest convergence of a whole series of wider circlings, which constitute a whole host of Ambient sources for visualizing horrors coming from farther off upon the self

phe 2and, then, finally, if there are wider circlings, there are also, beyond even that, wider invasive forces, usually on the scale of natural forces, that also come in upon the self, and these (perhaps inspired by my reading of how rumor took over a Roman camp in the Aeneid), these are Sentients, as the idea that the forces of nature have and will come at you, and attack you, that idea can only be premised on the occult idea that the world is an entirely Sentient place

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now, the thing about this particular way of expansive study of modes of visualization of dreams or altered states of consciousness in movies, is that it also gives me a tool to at last get to the heart of why Italian giallo-based horror seems so, as I have put it over the years, pulled apart. The simple declarative answer is that Bava and Argento set the tone for everyone else, and everyone else copied them. But, then, those directors too, and I think in the past I have faulted Argento for being just a formalist for this, they also stretched the envelope of the scope of haunting forces, and, for that, entered into the Ambient, even on beyond that to the Sentient zone to explain the origin and composition of haunting forms. In fact, Argento’s Phenomena (1985) might be one of the most sentient-based, pulled-apart horror movies ever made, sometimes that makes it hard to follow, but, overall, it reveals a startling vision of a world in whole made Sentient by horror. In this note, I address the Sentient quality of Phenomena (1985).

There is an opening prologue crime, showing that the problem that exists at the school where Jennifer Connelly is going to attend already is ongoing, when a girl runs for safety, but, oddly, into danger. That is, she is in her hypnagogic sort of sleepwalking terror space, with phone cords, in spiral form, and pictures, in oval form, evincing vertiginous impulses, approaching a spinning climax

phe 4but then she runs off, and, weirdly, runs into a very scenic cave site, which speaks of “the Translyvania of Switzerland,” as they call that part of the country, but also is perhaps a quote from Herzog’s Nosferatu, as indicating, by its whoosh of water, an entry into a dark place

phe 5but, then, it is precisely when she gets to the end of the tunnels, to the overlook over the waterfall, that the knife of the killer takes on a life of its own, this, then, also a hypnagogic force

phe 6and by crashing her head through glass, and causing all the glass to spray around her, pushes her through the outer limit of the hypnagogic, but at the edge of the Ambient, as ambient glass circles around her to communicate death

phe 7and then the movie shows her body being washed away, spending rather a lot of time on that, indicating that by this her body has been bust out of the hypnagogic, into the ambient and even the sentient spaces of the world, but those alive forces treat her body as just a thing

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then, the movie breaks, to the police investigation, but in a manner almost equal to the best of the wind in the trees movies, the Mexican movie, Even the Wind Was Afraid, this movie blows the wind to indicate that it is a bad wind, and it is on the occasion of remarking of the wind that it is twice mentioned that the movie takes place in “the Transylvania of Switzerland”. The wind blowing is, no question, a sentient force (if you think it blows for a reason).

phe 10Jennifer, then, looking incredibly self-assured at 15, confident, even grown up, checks into the school. The first thing I notice is there are a lot of very large pictures in the rooms, here

phe 11and here, back facing the door

phe 12and again

phe 13and again

phe 14and another one in the outer hall

phe 15and then again with the head mistress

phe 16and then it profiles her escape

phe 17all of these harken back to earlier Italian gothic movies, and generally represent a defenseless openness to the outside, as if the place cannot protect itself from the outside. Usually, a landscape painting means danger is coming from the outside, but when they are picture-window big they mean that the outside and the inside have merged, the inside is open to the outside, and what this means for Jennifer is that the hypnagogic realm of the school is, right away, too limited for her, and she, by her talents, opens it up to let in ambient and sentient powers. The pictures then as it were are placed at the outer border of the adjunct spaces of the hypnagogic, to tell us that the movie will be constantly opening up to other places beyond the school, that is, this is not a movie limited to the school. Indeed, the ambient moments in the school seem ill-informed and a bit hysterical. There is one scene, later on, when the head mistress, Jennifer in bed, rather ridiculously calls her demonic, because she seems to have a power over nature.

phe 18well, she would say that, because, for her, human power is limited to the conscious, and maybe the hypnagogic, but not to any ambient powers with regard to nature. To have a power that can communicate with nature, as, for example, Jennifer does, with her symbiotic relationship with insects, means that she is a witch. In fear, the headmistress loses all her professional composure, and backtracks her mind to peasant days, any woman who controls nature must be a witch, so we have to expel her and, worse, commit her to an asylum. And she, of course, makes this panicstricken speech in front of a painting, evoking her standing between Jennifer and nature, and trying to close off the openness of the place to nature

phe 19then, there is an even more interesting, but awkward scene, as if Argento was less interested in it, but when the girls hear that she has a power, they circle around her, to bully her, this is the classic Ambient shot, meaning that a whole social world is collapsing in on her, to torture her

phe 20but, then, Jennifer pushes them back, by, in fact, performing a bit of witchcraft, which silences them

phe 21she calls in the flies, and they come against the windows in a way way worse than even in the Amityville Horror

phe 22that is, she escapes and trumps an Ambient attack, by commanding a Sentient force of nature, and bringing that in against it, to stop the attack. It is a good scene. (But, of course, it is also this that causes the head mistress to freak as Beezelbub in the bible is the demonic Lord of the Flies, and if she has power over the flies, that means she is the devil).

This whole business with the insects in this movie is both the thing that makes it interesting and what causes some problems. It starts with a curious role played by Donald Pleasence, he is an expert in insects, but, specifically, what insects in what sequence come to a dead human body, meaning that if you count the phase of infestation the body you find is in, and identify the insects, you can count back and tell when the body was murdered. All of this, this way of investigating, the deeply forensic, and then motivated by the movement of insects and larvae or maggots, this takes the movie out of the hypnagogic into the Ambient realm, as these forces would not normally be noted by the hypnagogic mind, and then encircle and decompose the self in an attacking manner more consistent with the Ambient (my personal exposure to this world was at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, when I was given a chance to visit the beetle room, where beetles were cleaning the final material from a skull)

phe 23so, right away, the movie lurches us out of the normal precincts of the hypnagogic, into the further afield realm of the Ambient. This gives things a different tone. A note. In previous remarks, I identify the Raggedy Ann doll trope in American movies as indicative of the Dead Eyes of the World, that is, it is a device to give a murder witnessed a non-witnessing dead eye look to tell you the awful truth that the world does not care about you. In American movies, it is mostly at that level, that things stay, as we most definitely do not want to hear about that, and, in general, in middle class popular culture, we are committed to the idea that the world does care, and no one dies for no reason. But, in Italian movies, it is worse than that. It occurred to me, watching A Blade in the Dark (1983), that, yes, the killings were brutal in a much more depersonalizing way

phe 24But what was really upsetting was seeing the killer drag the body around, and the director even make a scene of this

phe 25and, it occurred to me, in American movies, the body, even if killed, remains in hypnagogic space, to scare, but, in Italian movies, after death, it is pulled out into Ambient space, space which in American movies is only inhabited by the Dead Eyes of the World doll trope, but, here, the Dead Eyes of the World doll trope is played by, replacing it, a real dead, murdered body, meaning that, chillingly, not only does the world not care, but the killer does not care, and, worse, the person who was in that body just a moment ago, also, is gone, and does not care, it is a pretty grim view of things, and evocative of the deep morbidity of giallo movies. So, by pulling the movie out of the comfort zone, if you will, of the hypnagogic, and re-placing it in the Ambient Zone, with communication to the Sentient, Argento has indeed resituated the horror in a very strange, very abstract, very grotesque place, and it makes a certain amount of sense as in Suspiria (1977) it was the attack of the maggots coming from a rotten carcass of delivered meat stored in the attic that caused a moment of full-on revulsion as the maggots got into everyone’s hair and the like, so here he builds as if in a sequel on that motif to make it the site of the modus operandi of the story, and, in fact, two major scenes in Jennifer’s exploration of the mystery. Therefore, with this, I can make the surprising claim that, though it involves the hypnagogic, Phenomena is mostly an Ambient movie in full, with Sentient incursions

phe 28this pulled-apartness is no more evident than in two or three remarkable sleepwalking incidents in the movie. These scenes are so prolixly labyrinthine, pulling the cord of the search out to the farthest extent possible, that one, if one was simply arguing from the fixed point of view of the frame of the hypnagogic, might say this is a baroque or mannerist movie. But, in the logic of displacement to the Ambient, these scenes are revealed as just explorations of the horror potentials of those zones. In the first one, she is sleeping,

phe 29but the wind acts on her sleeping mind, to pull her out, she dreams she is exploring, I think I got this right, a haunted house, as per Argento, remote, entirely empty

phe 30and, then, as if fed by the TV, left on by her roommate

phe 31she is agitated enough, to “wake up,” or rather sleepwalk

phe 32inside her head, she is seeing long corrdiors, these are whoosh formations, dropping her down into REM state

phe 34a corridor, these are nicely done

phe 35but, in her REM state, she is “awake,” she gets dressed, and walks. The large picture here then represents the edge of hypnagogic space, entering into Ambient space, by way of REM sleep state

phe 36and, indeed, having brought us to this state by way of a lighted whooshing corridor, and then a picture, Argento makes it clear that this is a state that is composed of a shuttle of visualities from the picture, as, here, she literally walks into the world of the picture, the picture opens up on the screen, and becomes the outside (like later in Stendhal Syndrome (1995), I suspect this picture was also altered to maybe almost make it move, to give it the deepest possible sense of immersion (a sense conveyed to me in art only by a swimming mermaid painting by Bochlin, and then a wave wading picture by Repin)

phe 37and then more of the lightshow corridors, with a constant, if not strobe effect, reminding us we are in her sleepwalking episode

phe 39and, then, in this state, with a more traditional iris shot, we spiral down the stairs

phe 40and the whole of them, for us, because we are on the outside looking in, but therefore need more rational images explaining where she is

phe 42that is, she has pretty traditionally, moved from being in bed, sleeping and dreaming, to a sleepwalking state, which is a dysfunction that drops her down through adjunct space, and through the entoptic zone represented by the pictures, and then the lattice-whoosh composite space (remember, I do not hold modernist directors to noncompressed or uncompound notions of dream), in the white space, and the stairs, both, then, as her sleepwalking moves down through the REM zone horizontally out to the Ambient zone outside of the hypnagogic adjunct space, she enters that space, the sleepwalk, and I would also note that while in entoptic hypnagogy the Spotlight, as I call it, a type of light dream, is a small device of a bright spot derived from a blue spot over one’s half-dreaming, the Full Moon is here proposed to be the deeper sight of that sign  as she moves into this REM dream state, high overhead is the mark of her point of departure, herself, in the form of the full moon

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and the full moon

phe 45and then she begins to walk very far in her state, horizontally, perilously

phe 50and she has premonitions or reviews of things that will or have happened, she comes by a house

phe 51and sees, in the whited out REM state, a murder

phe 52and then she goes out into the woods, all agitated by the wind

phe 53she goes into town, and there is a swell scene where she is almost hit by cars

phe 54but she sees the town in her dream, all whited out, I really love these floodlit shots of the oldness of these old towns (they make me think of whatever panic attack must have motivated Anthony Bourdain this week to, in one of these towns, Kayserberg, up in France, end his life (RIP))

phe 55and this, my favorite shot in the movie

phe 56and then there is inevitably an adventure, but she jumps out, away from the boys who want to take advantage of her

phe 57so she ends up in another fall, down a forested hill, deeper and deeper in

phe 58and then the movie tosses us a curveball, way out at the edge of the Ambient, she is seen, but seen by an insect, and an insect eye, in multiple iris form, very strange, this is now Sentient force

phe 60all of this is rationalized as part of her dream, but then she shows up at Pleasence’s place, and gets the explanation

phe 61All of this, then, takes her, by way of the magic of sleepwalking, because she is driven, it is implied, by an intuitive force in dream, out from the comfort of the hypnagogic, into the REM state then through that out into a wide open Ambient version of the world, and there, at the end of it, she even encounters the far edge of that zone, to see into the Sentient, and it is out there, at that place, that Pleasence’s house stands, to lead her through to the wider areas of the movie

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for, no mistake about it, she does go there, in terms of moving out through the Ambient to the Sentient, because she is, in fact, literally, sentient, that is, Pleasence finds out that she is psychic in that insects like her and communicate with her, and she can sense their need to tell her things, so she can be lead to places by the insect. Even better, it seems that if she is sentient with regard to the following of flies, she can even be sentient with regard to the Sarcophagus maggot, the flesh eater, the main maggot that feeds on dead bodies, and, in her sleepwalking state, she can by walking down in and through and out from the REM hypnagogic state, enter into the Ambient zone, and then beyond, to the Sentient, where the insects begin to communicate with her. And that, that phenomenal premise, is exactly what happens in her next sleepwalking episode. This time she leaves the house in slightly less clothing (and Argento always edging on addressing the sexuality of a 15-year-old is a bit creepy throughout)

phe 63then THIS is where the movie takes it to the next level, she moves fully out into the Sentient zone, because here is where a firefly now leads her, in her dream, a classic intuitive movement not unlike something out of a David Lynch movie

phe 64and this takes her to an empty house, where she finds a glove

phe 65and on the glove are maggots, indicating that the glove had something to do with a murder

phe 66and, then, even more remarkably, the maggot, or the firefly who lead her there, SHOWS HER the murder, in multiple fly eye iris

phe 67and then when she reports it all to Pleasence, we revert to that classic zone of the horror movie, the under-the-microscpic mad scientist vision, in this case, confirming that this is from the body

phe 68

and the microscope

phe 69In her second walk, she goes much further, and we learn a new thing, she can follow the insects, as graphed out here, her second sleepwalk takes her quickly through the Ambient out through the fly-eye iris into the far wilderness of the Sentient zone, where she has powers, at least when she sleepwalks, and all that is brought back and dissolves back to that favorite place of horror, and a subgenre I love, the microscope view of a menace, in this case the unsettling study of maggots, inherently disgusting to all humans, no doubt

phe 70

but, then, while I previoulsy mentioned that her being attacked by all the girls in the school was an ambient moment, in the context of the hypnagogy of the school, in sequence, it comes right after this episode, and when she tells the head mistress what happened, she is castigated for lying, and for being a witch. SO, when, bullied, she pauses and says, “I love you all!” this the abreactive pause, then she brings in the flies

phe 71but, then, Argento turns up the volume, by suggesting exactly what the head mistress fears, that she does, in fact, have a power to summon the flies, to protect her, or do things for her, and that is by bringing a swarm of flies in, to attack the school

phe 72and, then, the movie steps back into waking life, to as it were “exploit” her powers, Pleasence explains that this fly in a box will go crazy when it gets close to a place where other of its kind are lodged, that is, maggots, and so if it is true that you can read the minds of flies and they tell you things, take it, in daylight, awake, and when the fly in the box goes crazy, which you alone can sense, get out, and follow it like a geiger counter until it stops being crazy, because it has come to the site of a murder. And so in one of the movie’s most deliriously weird sequences, happening all in waking life, but of a highly extenuated Sentient nature, she takes the box on the bus

phe 73and here it is, her little meter

phe 74and goes for a long ride in the countryside, amazingly so

phe 75and, then, it does, in fact, go crazy, so she gets out, and it takes her to a house (note that she is all in white to appear disembodied in hypnagogic and ambient zones, dematerialized, made into a kind of ghost)

phe 76and she searches a room in a trope I call the Far Place, but this is, in Sentient space, a really far Far place

phe 77then there are some maps or something, she is interrupted by the caretaker, thinking it the killer, she freaks, but that is a dead end

phe 78but, then, as she leaves, Argento lets us know, by an extreme close-up of the fly

phe 79the fly was right, as below that floor, there was a hand, covered in maggots

aaaaFinally, Jennifer has had enough, she will not return to the school, so the assistant mistress takes her home, after a whole runaround to get a ticket at the airport, so, again, this time again waking, she is walking into a strange place

aaaaaathis is a straight up hypnagogic place, but with all the mirrors covered (this does raise the suspicion that the lady is a vampire, but it is not that)

phe 82it is a creepy place, there is a false scare of a large doll, whom Jennifer momentarily thinks is the woman’s son

phe 83then there is as close to a shower scene as a director would be able to get with a fifteen year old, she is told by the mistress to take some pills, to sleep, she is apprehensive, but does, but, then, in the bathroom, notices that there are maggots all over the place

phe 84then she refuses to take the pill, it makes her sick, so she throws it up, now she knows the woman has ill will toward her, and while the woman is out abducting the snooping police officer, she tries, not unlike a scene quite far removed from its point of origin in Suspiria, she struggles with a whole scene at a transom trying to get to a phone there

phe 85then she finds out, after more twists and turns, that the house is filled with maggots, because the woman has created a place below, in the basement, which is full of maggots, a kind of pool where she throws the dead bodies that her son, a homunculus monster, kills, and in this one, I feel for young Connelly, she has to swim and strive to survive in a sea of maggots

phe 86and then, trying to wrap things up, she runs again, only to then have to use her Sentient powers to call down the flies to kill the little monster who attacks her again

phe 87but this then knocks her into the lake, and there is a fire on the lake, which she tries to get out of it (Argento trying, but failing, not to peek up her dress)

phe 88and, then, when she emerges, the implication of the Eye of Isis (ie thigh gap lit through) being that she emerges from this struggle a grown up, successful, her uncle comes for her, but then is, and I think this is over the top, beheaded by the mother, who is also doing killing on her son’s behalf

phe 89and then, as another eventuality that I think strains credibility, Pleasence’s monkey comes back into it to kill the woman before she kills Jennifer, and that’s that, all of this later happening as if a traditional horror movie in the hypnagogic zone, but with incursive twists provided by the fact that we have set up sentient powers at her disposal, that is, the animals.

phe 90For me, the ending is a bit of a letdown. Having, in the course of the movie, lead us into the far frontiers of the visualization of Sentient terrors, while it is true she made use of her Sentient power to, once, be saved, and the monkey perhaps picked up on her sympathy with the animal kingdom to come to her defense, the movie did in fact pull back in entirely to the hypnagogic realm, and left the Ambient and Sentient zones which it had so intriguingly explored, at bay, at loose ends, and did not, in fact, instrumentalize them in a progressively climactic way in the finale, as ought to have happened. Nonetheless, Phenomena is a very interesting document, in showing us why Argento’s movies are so pulled apart and apparently abstract and arty, in fact, they are that because he chose to explore a farther out realm of the dreamy, both the Ambient and the Sentient zones of the visualizations in human perception of where horrors come from.



Veit Laurent Kurz, Aspects of Arriving, Weiss Falk, Basel, May, 2018: a few thoughts.

Rev., May 12, 2018.

FUSION byline. FUSION byline considers unconnected affinities between art world and culture at large cultural forms. This is an informal part two of a previous note on Kurz. All art pics from WF care of CAD.

Disclaimer: I did not see this exhibition in person, this is a POV review of it as it relates to my current interests only and not reflective of the artist’s intentions.

My interest in the work of Veit Laurent Kurz is known, especially his overseeing a group of exhibitions over the past two years which I have analyzed as offering an out to the current dilemma of contemporary art. But, now, in Basel, in time for the fair, comes a one person show, where he has to show if he has learned anything from his collaborative work and its insights, and, the answer would appear to be, yes. This is a very good idea, and, I think, the first exhibition in which he has entirely internalized the ideas of the group installations into his own work, and then taken them further. As you know, to start, I have always liked his drawings of a world to be run by vampires, it is a counter world, that somehow took root in a crawlspace apart from the real, he has a few here, to ground things, or connect them to the sequel, to at the very least declare that this one-person show is the first to be conceived as a spinoff of the group shows

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but the interesting thing is, in this work,

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he seems to depict his world, but, then, in it, something has gone wrong, it seems that blood, perhaps kept in pipes to supply the vampire population (to continue the fiction) has spilled, or is overflowing, something bad is happening, that is, this is his counterworld, but now it is negating. Here is a better example

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this shows some sort of arrangement of forms, reminiscent of a park, but maybe an industrial one, where what setup might’ve been used to transport blood, now is spilling out blood, and the whole thing is taking over. Two things here. One, the idea of an alien presence in a factory sort of place outside of town, threatening town life and its pieties, is the very oldest of sci fi ideas that I have taken in, from the movie Quatermass 2, when I was a kid, in that movie, the blob being fed was in the dome

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And then it was fed by the human prisoners being fed into the pipes, as feed for it, the horror

aaavlk 5Then, too this theme was taken up in Soylent Green, so, it is well known trope, a system is set up, in some counter world, and then it begins to go bad. But this also has a spatial dimension. In the first Q movie, there was a strange trajectory. The alien form is taken into the system, but then escapes, mainly by getting power from incorporating into it, plant forms nearby, that is, he “consumes” the windowsill cactus, so his arm becomes more cactuslike. Then it hides out in outoftheway marginal or liminal spaces at the edge of the known world,

aaavlk 6not unlike Ringo parading in AHDN (1964)

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But then it passes through the neighborhoods adjacent to those less desirable places, it is noticed, and feared. A drunk woman, usually ignored, reports seeing a green meanie slime up the side of a building, this time, the cops pay attention (great touch!). But a nice “vision” of the outlying horrors of modern urban London

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Then too it can pass through other attractions that have been set up in less than opportune spacec in the culture, like zoos, and thus kill all the animals

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But, then, only after all that, come back in to the center, to attack, right here in Westminster Cathedral

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So, by having his silos as part of the world of his drawings overflow with blood VLK is not only positing a negative out of controlness, but he is moving the mind of the viewer observing his counter world from inside domestic or village space as conveyed in the squatting nature of the group shows, out to more outlying spaces, where things can run wilder, where bodies are buried or dumped, where evil happens. So, this is a counter world, negated, then, itself, countering.

This, by itself, is a strong move, and a step up in terms of his “vision” of the outofcontrolness of the world. And that is the second point, and, which, surprisingly, makes VLK’s art more in line with my thinking in the past year. He has let his world drain away into the “green slime.” I have written about the green slime in the movie of that name, but, then, it became, for me, a kind of symbol of the utter irrational nature of charge-countercharge which as entirely ungrounded public debate in a poison partisan era from arguable or meaningful points, to turn it all into a pingpong mush of traded barbs. Any time the prez deflects the truth and then somehow wraps it up by double down and contradiction and then response to that and etc etc so that finally one does not know what is up or down….that is the green slime. But so is any overmoralistic response in outrage to that, or getting into a state of outrage based on something merely said the green slime. We had a lot of green slime this past week, when Giuliani got involved in helping DT but only seemed to emit green slime from his mouth. And then since his misdirections seemed to work in murkying up the waters of the entire debate that was more green slime. Then green slime is the verbiage that trolls emit, it is the only kind of utterance they can emit. Takedown heros are entirely supported by green slime motives.  In all cases, it would seem, the trolls conTROLL the conversation.

In both ways, VLK’s movement from straight on depiction of life in vampire land, to documenting some problems which are developing in it, is a good move, it resonates, strongly, on the moment. But, then, another good step, VLK decided that he had to move from drawing to color, and so he has in a few terrific Windows works, giving us a full panorama of the catastrophe in vampire land (with a lot of green slime! Also a bog like terrain which speaks to the Black Bog light hypnagogy state)

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in these larger works, we see the edge of town

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but then are lead off into a meandering maze land of deeply polluted green water moving through a parched landscape

aaavlk 14this one, Windows 1 even shows one of the fachwerk houses, speaking to the haunted village aspect of the town, the fact that it has, in fact, stripped back art to a pure apotropaic charm state, we are now let to open the window, and see out the window, and see what they are afraid of, and it is ecological disaster coming in on them

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some of the new paintings (but really large colored drawings) show us that the town is being made over by the pollution, accomodating a new reality (somehow this all reminds me of Antonioni’s Red Desert

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another good one, Windows 4

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and my favorite, because entirely overflowing, Windows 3

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so, this is all positive, it shows a movement of vision from the counter, to a consideration of the counter going negative, thus showing us something negative in its world. But, then, there is a third point. VLK decided to present all these as views out of a window. In a video he explains that they all resulted from him sitting in a small apartment and imagining the world without as if through the window of a large sheet of paper. That is, he has turned away from the world, to envision the world, classic countering behavior. No doubt too, he turned his left shoulder away from the world, and in this found a magic crawlspace in which to create art. I am not entirely convinced by the way that he found to represent the windows, but, the idea of the painting being a window into a nonreality, a dream reality, to reimagine reality, is an important point, and had to be made about his work. It acts here as a kind of lattice form to declare to us, what you are seeing, you are seeing, but it is through the eyes of the character who made these. He is not claiming more than that, but that at least. But, then, there is another aspect. In a few cases, he created a window ledge, and put things on it, including flowers

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and a kind of soda, with flowers in it too, perhaps a comment on the idiocy of thinking drinking a certain type of healthy looking soft drink contributes to the betterment of the ecology of the world (the gap between domestic solution and worldscale problem), but the general idea certainly being that from a safe vantage point in one’s house one is looking out upon a catastrophe what one can hardly imagine, it is a nightmare, but we are still ok. This is a theme that Tarkowsky worked with,

aaavlk 20derived, possibly, from the whole idea of the “parochial holocaust” developed in British horror in the late 50s, but it also, oddly, relates to the dream windows of the Wizard of Oz,

aaavlk 21

again, reinforcing for us that we are looking at a vision of the world rendered as a counter world by an artist who has turned his back on the world, to see it more clearly.

This reinforces the countering, then, is all that I will say.

But, then, there is ANOTHER twist. And that is that. Just as he did with the fachwerk structures in the group shows, having set up his counterspace, VLK must swing it round by reverse engineering to make that counter space real. So, having made the frontier images of ecological disaster in his vampire world, that is, negate the countering, he then reverses that back into the town, to imagine, what will, in fact, the town look like, after it adjusts (also a strong sci fi theme, in fact, one of the most cogent). These, in fact, are my favorite pieces in a show I already up to this point like a lot, but this

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is the best piece in the show, showing, as it were, a redesigned vampire world in which the pollution has now been incorporated by reverse engineering into a new colorful reality where all the pavements are red, perhaps even paved in blood, where the lagoon is green, and moonlit, to make it all seem romantic, there is a lot here to absorb, the trees with red leaves, the pipes, the vampire face front of a building in the rear,

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then, in another twist, what would the ‘art’ be like if, in this haunted village, where ‘art’ is dead and there is only visualizations of devotions, intercessions, votives and fears, where all is reduced to primitive ritual, and primitive feeling, what would the art on the motel in this world look like, VLK has an idea for that too

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and these can almost be seen as dengerate genre paintings, or legend pictures, with very rudimentary agentic purpose, in a green slime world run amok where crime scene photos turn into motel room paintings (I don’t know what the particular whimsy critique involving the particular soda is in VLK, but I think it must be, as noted, a symbol of useless domestic-level protest, in a world where the battle is already lost; that is, the COCA COLA critique, but it’s way worse than that)

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and then, having set up his world, by countering, and negating, and reversing, inside the window of the drawings, all of these steps taking us further in from his group installations, he decides, since he is VLK, he can’t show any of this outside the context of an installation that situates them properly in the universe, and so swings back round through the material to pop it out by actual reverse engineering, and ostension, as trolls have stepped out of online life into reality in the past six months, into the real space of the gallery, this appearance, this epiphany, another step, is the final step, almost.

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I am not convinced in Home Where There is No Home VLK needed to self represent himself again as the viewer, the one whose POV is the guiding Mercurial force here, it might be that the Windows concept did enough of that, and this is reundant, but, maybe not, in my thinking there are all sorts of scarecrow, psychopomp, and trophy figures, abstractions of man which represents dream moments and thresholds, but maybe this is an apparatchnik ghost, VLK represented as the disembodied zombie who lives like the last man on earth or any of those situations in sci fi to make sense of the world (that is, my interest in dream guide figures all involve agentic personages encountered at thresholds in the passage, but the scaffold of rationalization of the system also creates scarecrow figures, objectified human beings, and maybe this represents that). But, at present, I will not address this mannikin aspect of this show. But the real point here is that the odd loop forms in the drawings have now come out into life as sculptural forms. In the drawings they seem to derive from blood dripping, stylized examples of a natural form, a dripping. Then, in a few other drawings, as things countered again to try to imagine how vampire world would respond by making itself over and adjusting to the new normal the form seemed to mestatasize into a playground, or paritition form, part of living in the town. They seem here in the gallery to act almost in form like Haring sculpture, but functionally as desk-backs or cubicle partitions, to separate space, to create islands of interest, from which the POV of the artist can be contacted. Here, drawing table, inside the countered world of the drawings

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then a large partition, leading you in

aaavlk 29and back in the gallery another kiosk form, with the form, and another table in a space age Forbidden Planet form, and then some business with insight or research into the horror got, like in a horror movie, from drawings, from the internet, or even from an old video

aaavlk 30and then there is a third one, a more marginal, wall-oriented one, almost like an information kiosk in a doctor’s office, very strange, then, too the painting skied over it, to signal that art really has, in this space, been pushed to the side, just like in a doctor’s office

aaavlk 31(I cannot help but notice that in the above shot the Windows painting is skied as if to situate it where the basement window of the world is, relative to the location, not unlike in The Blob, and thousands of other movies)the small details of which I cannot at present, or ever, since I will not see this in life, work out, but, again, these kiosks is where the drawings are done, they say in form, in situation vis a vis the drawings, and in setting in the gallery

aaavlk 32then it even keeps going back into the office (this is, now triggering on my recent visit to AMI Imaging in Lincoln, where you wander hallways to various imaging rooms, and I sat outside a room with RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS on the door, a Van Gogh across the way

aaavlk 34and, of course, once you are drifting through a counter world, or rather, a counter world negated, then countered again, THEN reversed by ostension back into “reality” this switch of color and format, to the vertical, can, indeed, make of this painting, the “Van Gogh of my world of painting” (But the reason the kiosk is near by is that he had to create the “office” space in the intallational island-moment, perhaps I will call this a “trap,” in order for one to bounce off that and see the picture set next to it, for it, to be read correctly as a “Van Gogh” that is palliative painting

aaavlk 38

I mean, I can link this up to my musing on Van Gogh’s blue Daffodils last week in a medical context

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A word about painting in office spaces. In a doctor’s office, or, really, beyond that, in the ever-widening labyrinth of medical care, an imaging clinic, the main business is imaging, and of a diagnostic story. Though, of course, diagnosis can lead to alleviation of suffering, and therefore has agency, diagnosis itself does not, it is modern rationalization, though a necessary one. But, then, it is odd that in the context of imaging made use of to diagnose disorders, the visual art on the walls is entirely depleted to ersatz state, and that Van Gogh shows up. This is art depleted down to simply existing, even lower than TV allowing one to pass the time, to just rest the eyes on, art as respite from the stress of the activities of the center all around one.

aaavlk 40but the thing is, when the art is depleted in such a way, one does not, really, take this in as a Van Gogh, one can, but I did not, since I was not getting what I wanted, which was to be done with this, I impatiently began to “see things” in the Irises that I had not before, this partly linked to my recent analysis of painting in American in Paris, I saw Van Gogh’s self portrait in the white plant on the upper left, then said that he was peeping on a couple, bottom, left of center, making love in the reeds, and, then, he was caught out by a bunch of ladies of the town, the blue irises, upper right, all making faces, with their bonnets, and that was the new meaning of the painting. That is, a projection of my thinking about metoo or whatever, and having nothing to do with the art, a projection onto the art, because the art was made depleted by being reproduced and shown in this way. And then, it got worse.

And it got worse because there were OTHER Van Goghs situated in the corridor, for all the busy orderlies or apparatchniks to pass by

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meaning that this was not one spot where an attempt to create a sense of calm was made, but part of an ongoing spatial campaign down an entire corridor to calm things down, through vacuous visuals. But, then, things got even worse, because in this center, the maze concept of hosptial space was attenuated to new degrees of obtuseness. Not only were there endless turns of hallways, but art was placed at every turn, to make believe that you were getting somewhere

aaavlk 33

but, for the most part, you weren’t really, as I had not seen before, this center had tiers of waiting areas, as if by degree, there was the first waiting area I was taken too, which was freezing, and torturing by way of a terrible homebuying show on the mandatory TV, almost drove me crazy

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but then someone comes to get you there, and they lead you down another corridor, to another waiting area, where you wait there, for the next person to come get you. And, the thing is, though in actual fact you are being lead into the system, so there is a slight intercessional vibe, as guides take you in, the whole arrangement of the tv and art distractions, and the design of the space was meant to make it all seem modular, that is, as if you were stuck on an escalator going the wrong way, you get up from one place to go to another, and it is exactly like the other, and so on one level you have not moved at all. This palliative erasure of time and space is, of course, one of the mainstays of deep bureaucratic space, and, I think, it is the kind of thing that VLK is more likely to analyze than other artists (for example, I have in other posts mentioned the progression of some installations from a place-here to a Far Place where a work of art of some greater import in terms of meaning or cult was placed, I think it more likely that while there is a vibe of that here, VLK is really more in tune to the fact that, somehow, in the modern world, that agency cannot be got back, so he works with it inside the spiderweb of rationalization, meaning that it flips over from being an agency-restoration critique of the white cube to a motel painting critique of the meaning of art (though, again, in office situations, paintings lack, for the most part, the meaning they have in horror movies). Thus, at the end of the line, I do not think one arrives at, in VLK’s work, a Far Place, where this painting has cult meaning, I think one arrives somewhere in the maze, but in a state of not being clear where, and this work presents itself as the “Van Gogh,” relative to other works in the exhibition, to your situation, but of uncertain import, does one at last discover art in the labyrinth, or just go down the drain of depletion with it?

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Who knows, perhaps VLK’s seemingly extra space-fill toss in ideas, this one of snails, speaks to the time element spent in such entropic spaces, but, really, the spaces of the bureaucracy of life

aaavlk 38 1

This is what the press release talks about, it is not about art, it is about people, and feeling, and what we feel in this world of ours

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and etc

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and then on the previous exhibitions, note comments on cardboard, which drew me to VLK

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for all of this, and it looks so much like a “normal” exhibition of contemporary art, you would not think that when you enter into this exhibition you not only enter into VLK’s world of drawings, his counter world, but skip past the reverse world he developed for other artists to squat in with those cardboard exhibitions, but, then, you are witnessing 1) his counter world negate, things getting worse, going down thr drain, but, then, you are thinking, what if we have to get used to this? what will the new normal look like? 2) that is here too, and the best work in the show, and, then, you are in that world, and, imagine, 3) what might paintings in the motels in that world look like, and he gives you a few of those, as if in passing, and then you 4) come OUT of the drawings, thrice removed from reality, back OUT into the reallity of the gallery to partake of his life in his aparment in the gallery to imagine his posture in life, and art’s purpose in life, as not much different that a prospective patient sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, waiting, and looking at an ersatz Van Gogh (this a variation of motel room painting). While it might be a bit off in some of this, I do not think I have misread the general contours of the map of VLK’s afterworld, the world after, that we always dwell upon, his apocalyptic world, the world after the vampires have taken over, and then in that we try to make a go of it (no doubt to also, like every other society, fail). For all of this, this, so far, for bringing in countering, then reversing it, for THEN upping his game to fullscale color, for THEN pushing the countering a second time, THEN for being able to keep track of his twists of mind to actually, successfullly figure out how to THEN ostense into reality by reverse engineering his countered counter-negated drawings, for the green slime, for all that, this is my favorite show of the year on our failing planet earth.


My comments on “imaging center” art on my FB page, plus my post on VLK on my FB page. March, 2018.

The Devonsville Terror (1983) and the negative space of a shower scene.


Rev., May 31, 2018.

Note: this note makes use of a taxonomy of types of apotropaia derived from Talismans and Trojan Horses (1992), Dennis Faraone.

Following up on a previous note expressing interest in the simple one-two devices made use of by 40s movies like Fear in the Night, and then Dark Mirror (1946), The Devonsville Terror (1983) comes back to suggest itself as following in the footsteps of those movies. What this means is that the movie is caught in a particular state, and this could be called 2D space, but in this case it is curse space. Curse space is the space which a place is trapped in because of a curse. Because Devonsville was where they burned witches, and, as typical, the witches cursed them

aaaadev `1the town is caught in that curse, which consists of its very narrow views about women, especially young women, coming in from outside, teaching new fangled ideas. As a result of this curse, I think I can state with a fair degree of accuracy that Devonsville is a town caught in a state of  what I call “twinfire”, which means, if any woman coming into town looks like one of the witches they burned, then that means she is the witch they burned come back to life, and we will have to take care of her the same way. Thus, I can use the same graph as before, we are in an adjunct glass onion (second level hypnagogy) state, in which haunting is done by way of kaleidoforms not so much whooshing as just zooming down at one. One can get best to this point by first examining the very odd point that the movie does not really have a shower sequence, or rather, has offset or negative shower sequences. In the large picture, the movie also takes place entirely within hypnagogic space, and does not overly involve the Ambients or the Sentients that might spin in from farther out in the mind

aaaadev 2

Early on, when one of the town fathers, who had just murdered his wife, goes into the bathroom, he senses a presence in the shower curtain. He murdered the wife at the hour of TV static, that is, under the control of an entoptic state of sleepwalking or hypnagogy

aaaadev 3then he looks at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, either to ask what have I done? or just tell himself, you’ve done it, now, you’ll be ok

aaaadev 5and he looks at the shower curtain. Now, normally, this screen wipe is an entoptic device to reduce the showering body behind it to just an object of one’s incoming passion or menace, to make it easier to kill her

aaaadev 6and so, this is an alibi formation, as the folds, before the darkness a few feet behind, in many movies, create the idea that someone is behind there, perhaps naked. But, instead, in this case, there is no shower sequence, there is only a witch face come zooming up at him out of the folds and the entoptic field

aaaadev 7and then the movie makes clear that the device of a face coming out of a shower curtain is like an acheiropoetic (not made by human hands) style imprint of a face on fabric, in the same form and arrangement of materials, as the wife’s face suffocated by a pillow, so, it is a “neat” or “tight” movie, making near comparisons

aaaadev 8but, when, way later on, almost at the end of the movie, we do have a shower spray turned on, and, luckily, it is Suzanna Love’s, the main character

aaaadev 9but, then, just as she is about to undress to shower, she hears a noise outside the glass bricks

aaaadev 10she has previously been shown undressed, getting ready for bed. In an earlier scene, she is topless, putting on a sleep shirt for bed, she is getting dressed, however, for bed

aaaadev 11perhaps, post shower, and it seems she needs some lip balm too

aaaadev 12then she goes in

aaaadev 13and encounters under the blanket, another common trope, a snake in the bed

aaaadev 14but this time, back before she takes the shower in the later scene, she, rather oddly, right hand on the left, left hand on the right, turns OFF the shower, ending all hope that the movie would have a shower sequence with which to show her vulnerability

aaaadev 15so, the question is, two shower sequences, but entirely pulled back from, and gone into negative space. What gives? What gives is what is shown very quickly after. One of my favorite things about Haxan (1922) is how it rationalizes modern appliance life after ancient rite and claims that today’s shower bath for neurotic women

aaaadev 16is the equivalent of burning witches in the old days, a montage

aaaadev 17back to the witch

aaaadev 18Well, this movie, perhaps influenced by that film, does the same thing. When they at last decide to kill the three new women who have come to town bringing the trouble of their sexuality with them, they use modern means, for old tortures. So, pulling one witch by the hands behind the wheels of a truck, to kill her that way, as she spins on the ground

aaaadev 20is the equivalent of rolling a witch on a firewheel down a hill 300 years before (the other kill, by pigs, stays the same)

aaaadev 21this means that the shower is the visual equivalent of another old device of witch killing, and that is burning, and this is stated by, shortly after the shower turn off, the headlight glaring into our eyes

aaaadev 22that then representing the gaze that rapes her, then burns her, first, I think, the rape

aaaadev 23and then the burn

aaaadev 24though the movie lets her keep her night slip on

aaaadev 26but still we get a screenwipe breast close-up, to tell us that something is about to happen. But what is that something? First, let me summarize, this formulation of contrast between a modern day shower being cancelled out, and sent to negative space, by a witch burning, in the same position and relative to the opposite marterial, fire from water, as a shower, is why there is no shower here. What this means is that the sexual attraction of the woman is not circumscribed by her private life and her home and her bathroom, even, but that her whole being the minute she crossed the town line and came to town, is the problem, the problem is that she is there, period, the minute she came into town, she was a problem. And that is the issue. Thus, the shower sequence is here, but it is cast as a witch burning sequence in the public realm, to communicate to the whole county and town. But, then, how this is specifically done is the thing. Again, here is the screen wipe at the last burning which tells us something is about to break from one zone of reality to another, her breasts, though faintly covered in slip lace

aaaadev 27but the thing is, just her presence in town is enough to cause all the men in need of women to not only fantasize on her, but almost have hallucinogenic moments of imagining her nude in front of them. The really odd thing here is that she appears to the grocer in a kind of window, at least behind a pane of glass, giving us, as viewers, what we would normally get from a shower sequence, except that here, since he is the one shocked to see it, she is not vulnerable, but powerful, menacing, her presence and sexuality weighs heavy on his mind

aaaadev 28it seems to be the back of a closet door, it is a full on nude scene, her entire torso, as one might see in a shower sequence

aaaadev 29this so turns him on that he later attempts to exploit the fact that he was able as grocer to get some herbal tea for her to try to date her, in his very strange living room, log cabin style, with a flag in the corner, which I have written about before

aaaadev 30and, of course, flag and winter landscape protecting her in her refusal to be interested, as one might expect

aaaadev 31but then he (or another man) has another erotic nightmare about her, and, again, she appears, but in light, her hair either colored or on fire, and she is sweating

aaaadev 32and then in this nightmare he meets her out by the bog

aaaadev 34and she glares at him pitilessly, with disgust

aaaadev 35as he goes down in, as if it were quicksand

aaaadev 36and the nightmare aspect of this that brings the dreamspace very very close into him, almost suffocating, in his sleep, is her glare, we get the close-up of her eyes

aaaadev 37and her lips

aaaadev 38and what’s under her tartan skirt

aaaadev 39now, somehow, the nightmare contagion in town gets to her too

aaaadev 40she dreams that she is tied up at a witch burning

aaaadev 41and though it is odd that she sleeps in her pearls, she sits up covered in sweat, the pearls likely there to reinforce figuratively her cold fear sweat

aaaadev 42this is a very odd dream, however, let me pause to consider what it means. She is strung up to a particular tree. In only a few movies, one Spanish one with Paul Naschy, where there is a witch hanging tree, have I heard much about witching trees, that is, trees with strange shapes like spooky sticks which came to seem to the local people to be good places, for all the warding off that their branchings did, to hang witches, but in a way to ward off her power to curse one or fight back. This is a strange trophy, with three branchings, then it has a stump behind, and then she is spread out her arms most of all on two of the branches, and then she stands on the built-in kindling piles of roots

aaaadev 43but now the most curious thing is, each of the branchings has a demonic mask mounted on it one behind her, and one to the left of her

aaaadev 44that ram’s head on the branch is very odd, indeed

aaaadev 45and that one to the left of her is given a close-up

aaaadev 47and two other masks are given play too, perhaps also affixed to the tree, or worn by particular participants in the rite, not to let devil power get to them

aaaadev 48and another one that almost feels like an Iroquois false face between the trees

aaaadev 49very close to its prototype (so an example of cultural borrowing; and it is, I think, impossible to tell, in these her dream elaborations of a witch burning, if, one, she is just improv-ing in the dream, or, two, this is an atavistic vision back to how it was authentically in the real past, where her avatar lived)

aaaadev 50The Romans and Greeks would make a trophy, sometimes of a tree, or carry a trunk in a parade, to mark the spot where a turning point in battle was made, and it was won. They did this by mounting enemy armor on the tree or trunk, and carrying that as an effigy of their defeated presence, always after this under the control, and then as an offering to the gods. I would argue that this is similar. The strange hecatean tree was chosen as a place where the devil is known to come into this realm, so it is a kind of doorway (like in Maciste movies) to his realm, why not offer sacrifice to him right at his front door? Then, as mentioned, the branches had to be festooned with masks to both mark his presence, and the goats head behind her looks a lot like the appearance of the devil in The Devil Rides Out, again, to reinforce this as his spot. But then the other ones would, I think, serve, to push back that evil energy for it not to get on them, to ensure that she is trapped in it, and wont turn the tables on them. So it is an interesting property, and as a dream device it signals that this nightmare has in fact spun down from the lattice (third stage hypnagogy), the tree, to represent the whoosh (fourth stage) in her twisting body, and it lubricated in its drop to nightmare by her sweat, for her to then snap out of it when the fire touches, she wakes up. So, here, too, just as the shower sequence has been erased or displaced by the more public show of a witch’s vulnerability by her burning, so her dreams have been invaded by a nightmare and her bed made over into a kind of burning place too.

If I were to demarcate the apotropaic complexity of this site, it would focus on the fact that at the center of it was a witch burning, which in its nature intends to banish and utterly destroy the witch, by fire, it is an apompic (banishing) ritual, but it takes place in the crux as it were of lesser or more refinedly parsed types of apotropaiea. In general form, I think it is likely that in that town the three branched dead tree was invested with the power of a hecateaion, which usually stood inside the vestibule of the house, but often at crossroads too, to ward off general evil coming into the town from outside. Since she came to the town from outside, it would make perfect sense in terms of apotropaic magic, that she is burned there. But, then, why is the goat’s head mounted on the main stump, like a titulus over all? It strikes me that since Satan is the presider over her, they also have to invite Satan to witness it, in order for him, in his opposite role, to take the banished thing back. As a result, the goat’s head is like a head of a god placed in an oven, it brings the pest, but it also banishes the pest, and in that turnstile way or janusfaced way, it protects the operation of the site. Thus, the goat’s/ram’s head as a very good example of an epistatic (presiding) apotropaic artistic placement, to contain within the limits of this burning all the evil that is emit from it (it might even swallow up her curse and take it down to hell with him, harmless to man). In addition, I would say that the witch burners also worried about splashback from the burning, so the devil’s face is a straight on blephobic scary face, to keep any other evil spirits who might want to interfere off, but, then, the last face on the left, since so closely allied in form to the tree, I argue that this is a geitonic-baskanian (a neighborhood protector) array designed, specifically, to protect those participating in the event. And, note, strangely, there is a woman off to the side, sitting, as if at a picnic, but perhaps she is the one chosen to light the fire, to burn the witch, therefore, the third mask is meant to protect her. It is also true that there is a man on a horse nearby, meaning that the threat of further torture by way of quartering, or of brutal disposal is shown to the witch the tamp down her tendency to utter curses, I would equate the horse with a herm to mark the boundary of good town land, and this evil place, the go-between that crosses the line between the wagons-circled of the in group of the town, and the outside space

aaaadev 51I also note that she stands on the roots of the tree, and that they are prominent. These undoubtedly serve as baityls (sacred stone) consecrated with a power to drive her to hell, by way of this entrance, with a touch then of intercessional propylaic (before the doorway) function, by touch of her feet, view of her intimate parts, and the touch of fire (perhaps the men being jealous of the tree for sexual contact with her), being the kindling as it were of her immolation. So, it is a very complicated social site. I map it out as an apopompic event in the center, but which had to take place on a hecateaion crossroads protector given intense meaning by also warding off the entrance to hell in its roots, but for that its roots being a baityl with a propylaic punch, to in the firing of it open it up and send her down. Then for all that supernatural business not to splash back and infect the burners with a curse or whatnot, the hecateaion was circled by epistatic power, blephobic power and baskanian-geitonic power, to scare off from moving out into the congregation any contaminating demons that might have been, in the invocation of the devil, called up. Thus, it is a very complex site, with a central apopompic purpose, which nonetheless required, by my count (top of the my head) seven additional gradations of apotropaic form to make sure nothing evil splashed back in the doing of it on the community (here I read it just straight on, not as a projection of her fears in her dreams, which might change the directionals)

aaaadev 52

All this array of torture and protection then circles back by way of mention of the purpose of the herm above, and then the fact that the burning was the last of several tortures, to strongly suggest that the tree was ultimately chosen because it served the physical purpose of a pillory, that is, a place of torture, which then turns into a burning place. Amazingly, in the Japanese movie, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972) the lead figure is tied up to precisely the same three-pronged tree scorp 1She is then tortured on this pillory, in front of all the other inmates, by three guards, who don bear costumes to come and then group rape her, to humiliate and crush her scorp 2and, then, in a circle around, all the others watch, pouring blame on her for accepting this humiliation, so the ultimate answer to why the complexity of the burning site above is that it is, in the New England tradition, a witch burning site true, but mostly it is a pillory for public torture

scorp 3But, then, the really interesting thing, back in Devonsville, is that, she took something up with her out of her dream. After she woke up, back in bed, she was still in a state of sleep drunkenness, and she saw a kaleidoform but in hecaetean triple form, before her eyes, a kind of migraine dysmetropsia, which maybe made her think she might be sick.

aaaadev 53for that reason, her weird night continues as she actually is so frightened by the dream that she gets up out of her bed, gets dressed, and goes sees the doctor. Donald Pleasence’s doctor is one of the most interesting and most paralyzed figures in this movie. He has a very strange office, and he seems to only sit at his desk, waiting for people to come by. He also has a large deer trophy in his office, which means he is an objectifier, possibly an exploiter, and he has behind him, an open window, which people as at a drive in window have become accustomed to looking through to check if he is in. But when she does it, it is a reminder that THIS TOO is a dream place, as she appears in that window as she appeared to the grocer in the closet door mirror, but here as the face at the window trope, haunting him, and this scene too is to be a displaced shower scene

aaaadev 54and the evident weirdness of her behavior here is once again portrayed by the ersatzness of the American flag, just as with her awkward date with the grocer

aaaadev 55then, even weirder, he is still there, late at night, and agrees to examine her. A word. For the briefest of moments, in the previous shot, I spied lower left in the shot, a statue, either on the floor, and therefore fairly large scale, or on his desk, a bronze, but it would appear to be a seated girl, or possibly subscribing to the trope of the Crouching Venus. What this means is, she is going to encounter her dark side, and, in fact, find out that she is not unknown to those parts, but is one of the witches reincarnate, from 300 years ago

aaaadev 56in any case, he will examine her, takes her pulse, listens to her heart, and for that, she must take off her top, but not her bra, still, there is an undeniable sexual charge, since she just came from posing in his window in the exact same hallucinatory way that she did when topless in the grocer’s closet door. So we are consistent formally in keeping visions of her nudity within very narrow confines.

aaaadev 57then the funny thing, in the horror movie sense, is that he is clearly turned on by her, so, I mean, his office is like his house, it is one of those in-between offices of suspicious character as one sees in the sequel to the movie Jungle Woman in the 40s, and which by the 80s gave people the creeps, where the line between professional care and intimacy can too easily be crossed, because it is his ballywick. But, then, he also has a picture of Trumbull’s Signing of the Declaration of Independence above his examination table (with no paper laid down on it, by the way). But, the picture is in the shade of Venetian blinds, meaning that it is rendered shady. What this means is that he is trying, hard, to be an American, this picture abides by the trope I have identified in other 80s movies, the I Am an American trope, and that would be true, but, he is a Warley, deeply American, but he has turned, because of a curse on HIS family, of having a worm-eating disease, against the tradition of it, and wants to turn against, so he is conflicted

aaaadev 58and then, rather remarkably, well, we did see this earlier, his professionalism is limited, or conflicted, as right past his examination light, he has a kind of strobe light, which strobes directly into the camera, as a screen wipe, for him to, completely unethically, without the patient knowing it, hypnotize them, so that they might experience their former lives, 300 years ago

aaaadev 59and the movie goes beyond the screen wipe earlier, to really cast us in

aaaadev 60then she has a vision, but, then, coming out of it, is kind of shocked that the doc has in his collection of witchcraft objects, right there in his office!, a knife like the one she saw wielded in her nightmare of witchburning

aaaadev 62and then this weird night adventure, and her visit, and then her shower being interrupted, it all stirs up the night of the killing, and her getting it too. And we are back to her getting ready to take a shower, but then being interrupted one more time. So, in fact, her shower interrupted turns out to be its opposite, strung up as if to a shower head but to a stake, to be the opposite of showered, burned. But, then, she has powers, perhaps previously conveyed by her ability to appear to others, it is unclear, but her eyes now emit power, bolts of lightning

aaaadev 63and she zaps the men away, one

aaaadev 64two

aaaadev 65this, then. is why I like The Devonsville Terror (1983), not because it is entirely scary, it is more creepy and traditionally weird in the sense of a gothic tale than that, but it is tightly instrumentalized inside the hypnagogic range of imagery that it has staked out for itself, without, except for the lighting blasts, venturing outside the hypnagogic to the ambient and sentient spinnings of terror coming in on a town. This creates a premise for the town’s narrowness, and a kind of Beglaubungsapparat (plausibility enhancing device) to explain how by living in very limited 2D curse space they would come to feel so threatened by the arrival of three modern young women in their town that they would or even could go over quickly to thinking them reincarnations of the witches of old, calling for a revival of the old ways, and kill two and try to kill the third. And this is clued in mostly by the fact that though there is no shower sequence in this movie it is the default or negative space removals from a shower sequence that create a narrow instrumental framework for the hauntings, all of it focused on Suzanna Love’s imposingly beautiful presence, which kinda drives the whole town crazy. For all of this, I think the Devonsville Terror is a very nicely done little horror movie, in the early 80s.