The horror genre and its subject matter can arouse disagreeable responses such as disgust and fear, offering intriguing insights into our psyches and the ambiguous nature of the ‘abject’. The inability to rid ourselves of this impulse to upset, disturb and reject what threatens the stability of the self characterises our human condition. We are simultaneously repelled and drawn to the horror as it ‘titillates, excites, mesmerises and terrorises’.
‘Horror Show’, an exhibition exploring ideas associated with the horror genre, is currently on show at Strange Neighbour, a contemporary art gallery ironically situated on Gore Street, Fitzroy. Curated by the Ryan Sisters (Natalie and Pip Ryan), the exhibition features works by Adam Boyd, Danny Frommer, Linsey Gosper, Kotoe Ishii, Paula Mahoney, Michael Meneghetti, Simon Pericich, Neale Stratford, The Ryan Sisters, Michael Vale, Jordon Wood and Joel Zika.
At the official launch of the exhibition, visitors are confronted with an untamed, wild man chained to a tree outside the gallery, like an animal. His head and hands restricted in stocks, he is vulnerable to predators and surrounding dangers. Profondo Ferro / Deep Iron (2015) by Michael Meneghetti unleashes the horror within and invokes, according Meneghetti, “the demons that haunt us from the not too distant past”. He continues that “humans carry a deep fear of being preyed upon from thousands of years of violent battles”, accosted with binary emotions of predator and prey, we are left with a feeling of threat and vulnerability conflicted with that of curiosity for the forbidden and unknown and a hunger for the chase.
If you dare to enter the doors of the gallery and experience the horror inside, nothing can be more fitting than the work of Joel Zika. Pig Farm Massacre (2015) is printed on waterproof canvas and installed over the large roller door entrance of the gallery. The audience enters the space by walking through an archway in the banner, much like the entrance to a theme park horror ride. With much excitement and trepidation the journey begins.
Some works in the exhibition are derivative of the Gothic sub-genre which focuses on ruin, decay, death, terror, the grotesque, chaos and psychological insights, especially into sexuality. Danny Frommer’s life-sized beetroot head rotates and slowly rots through the course of the exhibition; Paula Mahoney’s Free falling No.6 (2014) shows the androgenised role of the female typically found in the horror genre; and Neale Stratford’s The Pit (2015) shows a monstrous figure and a decapitated head.
Collaborative duo, The Ryan Sisters explore ideas that are associated with humour, horror, death, and the absurd. In Untitled (2015), two hyper-real human arms protrude from opposing walls of the gallery, each holding a candelabra, an ode to the film ‘La Belle et la Bête’ (1946). The film depicts a Gothic fairytale, conjuring spectacular visions of enchantment, desire and death. The candle-lit shadow play deepens the gothic atmosphere of the beast’s castle creating a dark and sinister yet enticing and romantic ambience, an effect mirrored in the exhibition.
‘Horror Show’ invokes the phenomenology of abjection where dark and disturbing elements prompt the imagination – the churning of the stomach, throbbing of the arteries and uncontrollable chills and gagging – is a result of the enjoyment of the adrenaline, the distraction of the mundane and the intriguing voyeuristic glimpse of the horrific.
1 to 23 May, 2015
Kotoe Ishii, In a Whisper, 2014, single channel colour video, duration: 2.16min
Paula Mahoney, Free falling No.6, 2014, pigment print, 70 x 46cm. Ed of 10
Courtesy the artists