Currently working at light-speed at the moment, such motion that all else appears as darkness. Here we begin another Nyx adventure. I’ll treat you to the extended call for ideas for this sinister magazine. We’ve sold out of issue 5, which is reassuring indeed. Will update with other businesses soon enough. Love to all beings, over and out, here we go:
Nyx 6: Monsters
Call for Papers – Extended version.
Jake and Dinos Chapman, “Insult to Injury” 1993.
Goya, “Sad Presentiments of what must come to pass”, from Disasters of War, 1810s.
“The wriggling of serpents, in the depths of swamps and in dungeons their strange intertwinings, their combats with fangs, knots or venom will always be the exact image of human existence shot through from top to bottom by death and love.” – Georges Bataille et al, “Reptiles”, Encyclopedia Acephalica.
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Nyx, a Noctournal returns in the autumn of 2011 to consider the MONSTROUS, and seeks contributions from writers, artists, photographers and theorists for its forthcoming edition. Who are the MONSTERS of our time? What would a BESTIARY of contemporary capitalism look like? Jihadi terrorist, immigrant without papers, Bradley Manning, military drone, obese unemployed single-mother, financial derivative product, alien, vampire, corporate executive, world leader?
After all, we are clearly terrified: beastly bodies and desires continue to threaten, erupt and disrupt our ordered, organic and nutritionally-balanced lives. Rolling news, tweets, films and email updates saturate our psychic inboxes with images of the grotesque: mangled bomb victims, limbless soldiers, murdered children, impending evil from megalomaniac traitor, food shortages, disease outbreaks and zombie invasions. Some contagion is always on the cusp of corrupting the system.
Francis Bacon, “Study for Portrait II (after the life-mask of William Blake)”, 1955.
Detail from “Dawn of the Dead”, dir. George A. Romero, 1978.
Sieving through this intense media-effluence, a recurrent figure or disorientating buzz of evil emerges. We consumers are right, of course, but our morally good, clean, safe lives are in jeopardy against some monster. But who is the monster? Or rather, what is the process of becoming monstrous? Is it, as Elaine L. Graham suggests, a study of human integrity transgressed? Or a reflection of how Western modernity has constructed and denied its outsiders as others? ‘Dead are all the Gods’, said Nietzsche, and yet why wherever we bury our ghosts, demons, witches and dead they mysteriously come back to life as melancholy aliens, capitalist zombies, mutating diseases and teenage vampires? Why, in a supposedly ironic, secular and digitised age, do we still dream of these fiends? Is the monstrous always an excess of what needs to be repressed, what remains impure?
The monster enjoys a rich history, with the notion of evil and the devil slithering into the Judaic-Christian imagination via Zoroaster’s distinction between good and evil, infusing into the demonologies of the Book of Revelation and the early Christian church. St. Anthony’s temptations in the desert played out the earliest conflicts of infernal monstrous temptations. Etymologies as ever are revealing: the monster is a warning, a bad omen, whilst devil comes from diabolus, a half-circle maybe, that which halves and destroys the whole. Grotesque takes us back to the grotto, of underground religious sites shrouded in darkness, an appropriate place to contemplate the soul and its damnation. But enough of these games. The monstrous is also that which escapes any system, which is always outside, and which always looms, ready to penetrate and interrupt our ordered social and psychological economies with their sinister contagion.
Joos von Craesbeeck, “Temptation of St. Anthony”, 1650.
Salvador Dali, “Temptation of St. Anthony”, 1946.
As Foucault notes, ‘the soul is the prison of the body’, and anxieties around the monstrous have become conflicts of the soul. Like the vampire, the monster lacks a soul, lacks empathy, its flesh disgusting or corrupted, corrupting, feeding on the souls of the innocent. Within the monster is a powerful critique and expression of what is freakish, deviant, dangerous, erotic, of the peepshow, of what society is terrified to see – and yet is compelled towards. The monster appears either as a temptation, an evil assistant, a warning against reason and the folly of man’s ambitious reason, as in Goya, Faust and Frankenstein, a reflection of our deepest, darkest fears. Such fear of the outsider and his or her beastliness has dominated racist doctrines. Despite the work of critical theory and social democracy, white Western male heterosexual Christian modernity still pitches itself as a universality, defined against that which it is not, banishing and condemning that which is other as evil, dark, female, queer, erotic, corrupt, irrational, sick. How does this process of becoming Monster or monstrous function, and for who? Does reason require monsters?
There are many trajectories: writers might think of becoming-monster, of the monstrous feminine or the post-human; of contemporary beasts in popular culture; of our addiction to evil and ideas of indulgence, sin and excess. What of dirt and filth today – in our compulsion to consume at quicker and quicker rates, and our naïve hopes of recycling our waste in a perfectly malfunctioning economy? What of the ghost, that spectral other, the looming, atavistic, heterogeneous energy of nature, always outside but waiting to penetrate inside? Can we read a postcolonial critique in the alien invasion movie, or a restoration of family values in the resurgent apocalypse genre? We look back to Brueghel, Hieronymus Bosch, Francis Bacon to consider the eruption of animality and bestiality within human forms – what does a contemporary monster look like? Are monsters now machines or malevolent meat, callously corrupting our anatomies? Is consumer culture itself: a zombie invasion that now requires hunting down; a Final Girl survival; a bloodless teenage vampire; or the parasitic excrescence of the Last Man? Or is the monster now a Terminator-like abstraction, pulsing and modulating with infinite evil?
Detail from “Twilight, New Moon”, dir. Chris Weitz, 2009.
Movie bill for “Dracula vs. Frankenstein”, dir. Al Adamson, 1971.
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Madhouses, meat-houses, the demonised, the freakish and the beastly. Photography, maps, drawings, reviews, critique, photo-essays, short stories, flash fiction and poetry and anything else towards or against the monstrous are called for.
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