(Notes on the work Some Thing) Ian Haig, 2012
Some Thing represents the unclassifiable body, a body that slips out of the comfortable category of what we think of as human. In an attempt to describe accurately what this pulsating mass of melted flesh and guts actually is, the title Some Thing seems like an appropriate starting point. It is a body that was possibly once human and is now on its way to being something else, transformed into another thing. Then again this thing could be sub human or post human. We can’t quite be sure.
The work itself is a bodily fusion of David Cronenberg’s New Flesh along with assorted other viscera from numerous horror movies and William S. Burroughs’ transmuted bodies that populate Naked Lunch. When referring to the junkie’s mutating body in Naked Lunch, Burroughs sees it as losing its “human citizenship and was in consequence, a creature without a species”
Some Thing is perhaps a creature without a species, an aberration of flesh, guts and gristle. It is what Burroughs refers to as un-D.T. – Undifferentiated Tissue – a condition whereby the body and its flesh liquefies and transforms into a new form, literally seeing parts of the body consume itself with its own flesh. With this in mind, the notion of the body in a state of transmutation is central to the work.
This is a body that maybe represents the subjective state of disease or illness, and how such conditions alter our very imaginings of what the body is. Our latent fears, unconscious horror and disgust of the body manifest as a thing not of this world.
The work too is concerned with ideas of attraction/repulsion of the body and how the two are closer aligned then we think. Mark Dery refers to an emotion of sorts called the pathological sublime which he has defined as “an aesthetic emotion that is equal parts horror and wonder, inspired by works of art (or nature) that hold beauty and repulsion in perfect, quivering tension”.
The work also references David Cronenberg’s oft quoted quip that we should have beauty pageants for the interior of our bodies. Cronenberg maintains that we are disturbed by our own moist interiors because we lack an aesthetic classification for them, we reject, rather than rationalize. For Cronenberg the body is a polymorphously perverse zone, an inside out entity with multiple functions and genders, latent and repressed psychologies, and new forms of sexuality. For Cronenebrg the body embodies notions of the abject and the beautifully repulsive co existing on their own terms. Indeed the horror film has long been the cultural site of dread for the internal body, destroying and breaking apart the body while revealing its dark and wet insides in its own genre of ‘body horror’.
It therefore makes sense that the project’s initial starting point was a scene in David Cronenberg’s The Fly, which features an experiment on a Baboon as it travels through a matter transporter/telepod. As the Baboon passes through the telepod its entire body is turned inside out, into a disturbing, writhing collection of organs, viscera and bones.
What if such an experiment took place on a human, what would the result be, what would it look like?
Many of us will never have the opportunity to view our own interiors, our skeletons and our bloody viscera of organs. Our internal selves remain largely invisible too us, abstract and removed from reality even though they are indeed part of us, our interior’s remain a mystery.
Some Thing not only takes its visceral aesthetic from the horror movie but one also expects to see such a gory prosthetic and pulsating bodily form within the world of a movie and not the real world. ie: John Carpenter’s The Thing or Stuart Gordon’s Re-animator. The illusionary world of film fuses here with the real in the uncanny material of a strange cinematic object. The teleopd of cinema delivering the work into the real world, cinema made flesh.
Some Thing too explores the idea of the death of our bodies, that is death as the ultimate bodily transformation. Death renders the body as a cadaver, a thing other than a live body, and in turn the body decomposed or turned to ash too becomes another thing, another material. However the more direct reference here is perhaps the development and introduction of new kinds of improved death technologies, such as those nicknamed The Digester, currently used in the cattle industry.
The Digester involves a process known as tissue digestion or waste reduction, of mixing potassium hydroxide with the carcass to produce a slurry of liquefied matter. With plans for The Digester to be introduced as a more efficient way of disposing of dead humans, and with less environmental impact, the process sees that the body is liquefied like a human slurpee and flushed into the sewerage. No muss, no fuss.
No longer in the ground decomposing and returning to the earth, or incinerated and its fumes symbolically rising into the ether and ashes scattered, the body is a waste product to be disposed of. The liquefied body sees the erasure of all features, all gender, all identity, returning it to a material state of primordial ooze.
Some Thing too is about the body transformed into unclassifiable meat, the body as a form of raw and exposed gristle, fat and muscle, stripped of its exterior shell or as the Heaven’s Gate cult referred to the body as ‘your container’. The body lays pathetically exposed, vulnerable and possibly in some kind of pain, or then again maybe this body is only half alive or possibly being born, trapped in a state between life and death.
While Solariums, liposuction, plastic surgery, body building, vaginal reconstruction and other body modifications all point to an amplified notion of what the body can be, such procedures not only show us just how malleable flesh is but also how strangely limited the body is, in that such procedures are necessary to enhance and extend it.
While technology may be advancing to dizzying heights, in terms of Darwinian evolution we are trapped within our meat bodies, left behind in the rush of the technological vortex, and they don’t look like evolving anytime soon. The body isn’t obsolete, the body is meat.
Some Thing references this teratological body, the body turned inside out, its internal viscera exposed or appearing in places that it shouldn’t, the body engulfed by its own flesh, mutated like a DNA experiment that has gone horribly, horribly wrong. Welcome to the Future.
Some Thing references all of these things and more.
Concept, development, direction and original model: Ian Haig,
Production and fabrication: Fiona Edwards,
Animatronics and electronics: Martin James,
Sound: PH2 (Philip Brophy and Philip Samartzis)
Thanks to Drew Harding, John Barcham and Creature Technology Ltd, ?Funded with the assistance of the Australia Council, Inter-Arts Office, 2011