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The Somnambule

{ I have put away the despairing flesh of childhood
Entombed my unnamed, availless years
Within driest flowers, cracked spines of books
And a stone with a soul of blood,
Sloughing off some fine plum-black cocoon
Or chrysanthemum bloom
And I had myself a waking dream
The dream felt white,
Like old bones
And hurt softly as rain.
}

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Unbearably Lovely: Photography by Kristamas Klousch

The self-portraiture of Kristamas Klousch has had an enduring fascination for me. Enigmatic, alluring, and almost painfully intimate, her portraits of a self-described “strange little wolf-girl residing deep in the forests and cities of Canada” are often blurred, double-exposed, over-shadowed and seemingly encroached upon by time and imperfection. The decaying and spectral beauty of these images is extremely nostalgic. Taking inspiration from classic self-portraitists such as Francesca Woodman, Cindy Sherman, and Sarah Moon, Kristamas’ work harkens back to such vintage analog photography, and has immense individuality, every shot being touched with emotion, atmosphere, dreams, and attended with all the ghosts of subjective experience. They are eerie, disturbing, moody, distorted, fervidly beautiful and otherworldly – filled with an almost sinister sadness.

The myriad, muse-like, ever-changing face is partly obliterated and obscured over and over, but retains the vividly evocative ability of the most memorable visages. Having a phantasmal and nebulous quality, these images are yet charged with an emotionality that seems mercilessly to pierce through to the private and intimate regions of being. They resemble daguerreotypes capturing intense moments of interiority, of childhood and adolescence and womanhood, the bizarre deliciousness and agony of so strangely inhabiting one’s body – precious tintypes which have been warped with the emotions like the presence of a ghost. The decay has bloomed on them, frosting them with shadows in so mysterious a manner. They faintly give off a scent of crushed flowers. The poetic quality and experimental nature of Kristamas’ photography appeals to me like a lingering ache, like a mossy cabin, like fallen leaves, like a cross blazing from the wall, like lipstick with the redness of wounds, like a lost glove, like a dress that I loved as a child.

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“They will not exhaust it, for its matter is inexhaustible.”

{She sailed beneath a sky of lilacs, each cluster of which was heavier and more charged with anguish than the word “blood” at the top of a page.}

{Where do the angels’ progeny now meet?….I turn to my youth; I fall asleep in it. I try to revive it by kissed lepers, canonized guts, flowers condemned mirthlessly by notorious councils, in short an entire legend which is called Golden, the even more overwhelming miracles with which [we] teemed…}

{It is not to be wondered at that the most wretched of human lives is related in words that are too beautiful.}

—Jean Genet, The Miracle of the Rose

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The Dissected Martyr: Sculptures by Emil Melmoth

Emil Melmoth‘s sculptures are astonishingly beautiful and disturbing. Visceral, provoking, profane, they resemble bizarre religious medical experiments, crafted to a high degree of grotesqueness and macabre sensibility with meticulous detail. The extreme realism of his work only enhances its potential for horror. The subverted martyrs, women, children, demons, and hybrid beings which populate his sculpted imagination appear to be suffering greatly, as though their very nature were pain. They seem to have been granted existence by a diabolical and surpassingly sadistic God – creatures of hopelessness sewn together by an omnipotent needle. Their suffering is made palpable and shockingly tactile.

Blood and despair, tortured flesh, tormented ecstasies, distortions and abominations are rendered with painstaking subtlety in clay, metal, and wood. The victim-subjects appear vivisected, autopsied, flayed, torn apart and joined together countless times, in unholy combinations. This process of ghastly martyrization seems slow and infinitely effective, infinitely sinister. The carnal and the fleshly, the otherworldly and the ecstatic, combine in his subversion of spiritual works, embodied with merciless scientific exactness. The Last Rites Gallery aptly describes his works as “portraying macabre, fragile, and powerless aspects and philosophies of life. Melmoth’s wax anatomical models revel in a dark and surreal environment, where his depraved sculptures live in affliction: fragile beings in an eternally harrowing state of mind.”

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Gretel & Hansel: A Modern Grimm Tale

Gretel & Hansel is a bit of a film after my own heart. Osgood (Oz) Perkins has done a wonderful job of crafting a horror movie which is subtle yet still intense. It is splendid to look at in its minute details. Down to the beautiful fanned windows in all the dwellings, even the crude bowls and spoons on the table where Gretel sits with her mother for a few moments at the start… The lighting is exquisite, and the forest scenes are so gorgeously shot, stark but lovely.

This new interpretation of the Grimms’ story takes place in a surreal land that falls somewhere between realism and a stylized fantasy. It is not bound within its traditional historical setting; rather, it is a fluid amalgamation of its fairytale epoch fused with modern aesthetics. There is the striking, minimalist triangle which appears as part of the movie’s occult symbolism, and the exterior shape of the witch’s house is utterly modern, not at all reminiscent of a medieval dwelling, or like the gingerbread house of our childhood fancies.

Atmospheric, ominous, moody, yet elegant, Gretel & Hansel is something like a Margaret Atwood or Angela Carter fairy tale in cinematic form, but more taut and minimal. Early on, the film quotes the song from “The Juniper Tree,” perhaps the most violent fairy tale of all time, which begins, “My mother she killed me, my father he ate me…” This gives a foretaste of the dark direction of the film, whose more macabre moments still remain subdued and which always retains an understated but eerily beautiful quality.

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“I Want to Say Goodbye Human”: Paintings by Akiko Ijichi

The still, slightly eerie beauties in Akiko Ijichi‘s watercolors participate in a sinister serenity. Their direct but almost unseeing, melancholy, red-lidded gaze has a silent languor, a breath of the simultaneously sterile and erotic; grim passion. The theme of her work is antinomy, the contradiction and struggle between opposites, life and death, evil and holiness, happiness and lament. Ijichi uses traditional nihonga techniques to achieve a clarity and lightness of effect emphasizing the opalescent pallor of the girls depicted, the delicacy of the flowers with which they are surrounded and garlanded. It has an intermittent sparkle or scintillating quality, as if dusted with gold powder, due to the crushed mineral pigments used in her painting.

The marriage of traditional techniques with the modern aspect of the subjects, whom she describes as like shrine maidens, creates an interesting juxtaposition. These palely luminescent beings seem to be giving up their humanity or exchanging childhood innocence, the path of the straight and narrow, or some such unimpeachable condition of life, for the bittersweetness of darker dreams, fairy tales gone wrong. Wolf-girls, flower-girls, butterfly-girls, their pearl-sheened skin tinted with rosy hues is in the embrace of death, turning them into beautiful memento mori, portents of deathlike change.

Two posters and a monograph of her work are currently available on AkaTako.

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Malicious Birth: The Art of Januz Miralles

Philippines-based artist Januz Miralles uses photo manipulation as well as traditional painting techniques to create phantasmal and ethereal works where feminine figures are obscured by fading, by hand-drawn illustration, and by layered brush strokes. It is all brought together into a molten, haunting effect in which identity is heightened at the same time it is negated. The textural contrasts and poetic veiling and distorting of these images give them a dreaminess, an enigma, and a fluid or evaporating sense of movement both vague and violent.

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Twin Temple: Sex Magick

The following music video from self-styled “Satanic doo-wop” duo Twin Temple is charming, campy, fun, and lighthearted, with its nostalgically vintage palette and occult imagery.

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Lamb of the Future: The Photography of Alexander Berdin-Lazursky

The crisply elegant photography of Alexander Berdin-Lazursky is impressive, impeccable, and extremely beautiful. It has a flawless hyperrealism which is haunting and masterful. His photographic series resemble portraits of a latter-day Joan of Arc, an astronaut-saint, an assassinated queen… Black-cowled ethereal women are haloed by hand-drawn golden symbols and drenched in a colorful austerity as lovely as it is precise. He also has a wonderful talent for graphic design, as evidenced by his layouts for the tarot card series below.

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