Danse Macabre

Photo by Yumedyne

By Yumedyne

At the end of Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal’, the personification of Death leads the film’s troupe of main characters in a wild dance of the dead across a distant hillside, a daisy chain of manic movements and ghostly wails as they are led out of existence. The themes of the film are dense and somber – our uncertainty regarding what will become of us when we die, how we will be judged for our actions or our faith, that those who proclaim to know the truth are often those who inflict violence and shame on others – but this final image serves as a reminder that in the end, all those questions will go unanswered, and the inescapable force of Death greets kings and peasants alike, joining their hands in a final mad dance to the grave, their status and identities stripped away.

It’s dark. But despite our distractions, it’s hard to deny that we are obsessed with, and (at least according to Freud’s concept of the ‘Death Drive’) attracted to, death. For me, there’s a deep internal schism between wanting to be remembered and the knowledge that inevitably I’ll have no control over I’ll be remembered. My artwork serves as a form of shadow work, juxtaposing pop art aesthetics and allusions to works created by those who tackled these same subjects. Most of my work involves the ubiquitous bedsheet ghost in strange predicaments: the ghost of Zampano from Mark Z. Danielewski’s horror novel ‘House of Leaves’ is reincarnated as one of his precious cats (though doesn’t regain his eyesight in the process); down in Twin Peaks’ Pink Room, a gimp ghost is locked in sado-masochistic roleplaying as the lightbulb eye of God from Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ watches in perverse interest; the ghost of Elizabeth Short waits in vain for her killer to be brought to justice; the lingering spirit of 50s Americana trapped in a family portrait are finally burned away; a demon interrupts regularly-scheduled torture to enjoy a vice of his own; a neon grim reaper prepares to lead a rave-y Danse Macabre of his own – musings filtered through pop culture references and childlike speculation. The one exception is my reinterpretation of Francisco Goya’s ‘Saturn Devouring His Son’, the image itself a specter of power that consumes those it fears will overthrow it. I’ve come to the same conclusion as Antonius Block, the knight that tries to elude Death over the course of ‘The Seventh Seal’: it’s the lives we touch and the kindness we spread that makes a life worth living in spite of our eventual demise, and not the attainment of power or glory that gives us meaning. With that, I’ll gladly glowstick dance into the grave.


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