I had been waiting for it since the beginning of October and there was indeed a lot of hype surrounding it. When at last the night of the unraveling came… We waited with bated breath.
What exactly did I feel when I saw my friend, somewhat of a celebrity in her own right, dressed to kill (quite literally) in her very own handmade Halloween costume (an artist, cosplayer, writer and what have you – the girl burns the midnight oil, toiling away on her quirky get-ups). Well she didn’t disappoint! She rarely does when it comes to designing, stitching and crafting great attires.
Was it mortification, incredulity or terrifying fear that I felt upon laying my eyes on her ghastly garb a few days ago – no words can describe it! But I have watched too many A and B horror movies, which were indeed more stomach churning than what I saw Thursday last. As I try to zero in on the issue here, I am reminded of Keats’ ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever.’
Now you might wonder where I am going with this. But here’s what I think. Call me an idealist, but I think that there is something of profound aesthetics as far as depiction of love, sensations of ultimate joy, enchantment and yes horror is concerned. Crafting a piece of art – be it grotesque or a thing of beauty – should essentially be tasteful and appeal to the senses, either negatively or positively.
What I am thinking is most aptly said in an article on the late designer Alexander Mcqueen by writer Zeewan Lee at Duke University. He writes: “Now, in art, unlike in literature, the term grotesque is not equivalent to ugly. What differentiates the term from the purely and wholly ugly is the duality inherent in grotesque. In other words, for something to be grotesque, it has to be strange and familiar, fantastical and real, beautiful and yet disgusting. The term ought to invoke in viewers both a feeling of bizarreness and empathy. Upon sensing the complexity of feelings the grotesque — more specifically, the gorgeousness within the grotesque — arouses from its viewers, one will find oneself infatuated with the grotesque. Grotesque is mesmerizing because it is a rare kind of a beauty far from the standard. The concept of grotesque sticks in one’s mind in part because one can neither forgive nor understand oneself for sensing both beauty and repulsion in one thing. Then, one cannot help but wonder if what he or she sees and feels is what is truly there.”
It was a cold wintry night when Mary Shelley dreamt of Frankenstein – a horrific tale of a nameless monster with atrocious strength and even more vicious demeanor. But the story had an underlying vibe of an intense promethean tragedy and the more one read the story, the more it invoked a melancholic response and the nearer one came to truth. Truth beauty…
So what does it all mean. Simple! Nature has ‘interred’ something appealing even in the most bizarre, misshapen and distorted – and what appeals to the senses really gets its inspiration from beauty and the aesthetics.
From Mephistopheles to Henry Wotton and Walpole to Kafka; is it really untrue to perceive that with every horrific character created, the writer attempted to display individualism, reacting against the rigidity of time and formality of art in the preceding millennium.
Read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, weaving a sensual web of fear and dread through the grizzly account of love, loss and everything in between, watch Stanley Kubrick’s The Shinning with the cascading blood flowing in corridors of the Overlook Hotel or the eternally chilling The Exorcist with Regan’s petrifying antics – these artistic endeavors have indeed stood the test of time and made them into beloved classics; not because these managed to shock the audiences. Perhaps their timelessness owes a lot to the undertones of empathy or may be because sometimes unsettling ugliness can overpower and ‘outshine’ its subtle or sedate counterparts.
It is sad to say that in his sojourn to find his true voice through craftsmanship, man has not deviated but relegated to reflecting the most demonically tasteless. For me the quality of unsurpassed artistry lies in nuanced elegance in the unnervingly appalling!