Category Archives: Carnography

Carlo Jacono @80 and Italian exploitation

Carlo Jacono @80 and Italian exploitation

Segretissimo n° 75 (art cover by Carlo Jacono)

An Italian translation of Malory by American author James Hadley Chase

Cover design by Carlo Jacono

Carlo Jacono (March 17, 1929June 7, 2000) was an Italian illustrator detective novel covers and regular contributor to Mondadori’s gialli and Urania magazine.

A digression into Italian exploitation.

My interest in regional exploitation or pulp culture is that what it tells about the region where it is produced. I am searching for national stereotypes by way of their exploitation culture; regional stereotypes deduced from regional fears and desires (horror and eroticism).

Italian exploitation culture is literature and films in the “low culture” tradition originating from Italy, cultural products which address the prurient interests of its audience. A quick glance at Italian society on the one hand, which its firm anchor in puritan Christianity, and its abundance on the other hand of graphic exploitation material, quickly reveals its double standards.

In print culture there has been giallo fiction, quickly followed by adult comics, the so-called fumetti neri.

But the nature of Italian prurience is most readily revealed in Italian cinema. Genres such as cannibal films, Italian erotica, Italian horror films, giallo films, mondo films, il sexy, spaghetti westerns, sword and sandal films all went a tad further than contemporary products of European exploitation.

Had it not for the world wide web, these maligned genres would probably not have been so widely known, but if you prefer reading books to the internet, here is a list of publications on European exploitation you may enjoy.

Introducing Yuka Yamaguchi

Introducing Yuka Yamaguchi

Yuka Yamaguchi

Yuka Yamaguchi

I found this image[1] by Japanese artist Yuka Yamaguchi yesterday. Artwork which features innards of bodies are a personal favourite, I first realized this after discovering Ferdinand Springer‘s Ecorché I[2] some years ago.

I can’t tell off hand who else belongs in this category from an artistic point of view, but from a utilitarian point of view there is the anatomical art by the lickes of Vesalius, Jacques Gautier d’Agoty[3] and John Bell[4]. Perhaps my first exposure to the subversion of inside and outside was David Cronenberg‘s Videodrome in which a videotape and a pistol are inserted in the belly of James Woods.


Videodrome (belly insertion scene at 2:54)

More of her art can be found by clicking this[6] Google gallery. She also has presences on Youtube[7] and Flickr[8], as well as a blog[9].

She is a woman with excellent and adventurous tastes. From her Flickr profile:

Favorite Books & Authors: Mishima, Osamu Dazai, Mitsuo, Cyu-ya, Oliver Sacks, Murakami Haruki, Saki, Yourou Takeshi, Tsurumi Shunsuke, Kindaichi Haruhiko, Malcom Gladwell, Jan Wong,

Favorite Movies, Stars & Directors: Ozu, Kurosawa, Yamada Yoji, Wong Kar Wai, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson, Michel Gondry

Favorite Music & Artists: Aeroplane, Superpitcher, Junior Boys, Jacques lu Cont, DFA, France Gall, Daniel Wang, Kelley Polar, Loo & Placido, Alpha, Satie, Kahimi Karie, Tom Waits, Stereolab, Yuzo, Fujiyama Ichiro

Most of the comments on Yamaguchi’s work focus on the fact that she transcends the “weird for weird’s sake” aesthetic found in many of her contemporaries (think many of the lowbrow Americans presented by Wurzeltod). Her work is an uncanny mix of cruelty and innocence, benign in spite of its undercurrent of disturbance.

Her closest percursor is probably Roland Topor.

I am the Dying Gaul

The Dying Gaul

I am the Dying Gaul

This is my death scene, I was not given a deathbed. I do not represent the most famous death scene. I am outdeathed by Jesus Christ who died on the cross and Jean-Paul Marat , both after me.

I seem to have been born in a culture of death, yet I was not given any last words. This fascination with death in Western culture. Why? Why so pervasive?

Why did Jane write A Death-Scene?

So I knew that he was dying-
Stooped, and raised his languid head;
Felt no breath, and heard no sighing,
So I knew that he was dead.

Why this fasicnation with crime scenes?

Why did Andy Warhol produce The Death and Disaster paintings?

And why is every sensationalist  corner of video-libraries around the world filled with copies of Faces of Death?


Bonnie and Clyde

Why do we enjoy the slow motion death of Bonnie and Clyde and countles other movie death scenes?

Aristotle, had I known him, would have answered me:

Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies.Aristotle via the Poetics.

Any similarity to any person, event, or institution is intentional and anything but coincidential

In search of intentional and unintentional similarities in fiction


Addio Zio Tom (Goodbye, Uncle Tom) (1971) by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi

“All events, characters and institutions in this motion picture are historically documented and any similarity to any person, black or white, or to any actual events, or institutions is intentional and anything but coincidential.” –from the credits to Goodbye Uncle Tom, see fictionalization and fiction disclaimer.

Thus opens or closes Goodbye Uncle Tom of which a clip is listed above and it provides an excellent introduction to the tenuous relation between fiction and reality.

Addio zio Tom (1971) – Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi
Image sourced here. [Dec 2005]

Two more quotes provide further food for thought:

“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction.” Fiction has to make sense – Mark Twain
“The mind of man can imagine nothing which has not really existed.” —Edgar Allan Poe, 1840

If we represent the relationship between fiction and reality on a sliding scale we find on the left hand side: fiction which makes no claim to reality. This kind of fiction is nowadays always preceded by the fiction disclaimer:

“Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.”

The above is sometimes preceded by “The characters in this film are fictitious,”.

This kind of fiction is helped by Poe’s quote in its theoretical approach. If done well, this kind of fiction is called the fantastique, that area of literary theory which provides us with an unresolved hesitation as to our position on the reality/fictitiousness scale. Another growth of this kind of fiction is the roman à clef a novel and by extension any sort of fiction describing real-life events behind a façade of fiction. The reasons an author might choose the roman à clef format include satire and the opportunity to write about controversial topics and/or reporting inside information on scandals without giving rise to charges of libel.

On the right hand side of the scale we find fiction that does make claim to reality. This kind of fiction is nowadays usually preceded by the claim based on true events:

This kind of fiction is helped by Twain’s quote in its theoretical approach. Real stories are often so unbelievable that we need to make the claim that they are based on actual events.

As a narrator of fiction, one is always aided by this claim to capture the audience’s interest. This is true in the case of a joke (tell it as if it has happened to you), in the case of novels (Robinson Crusoe was soi-disant based on actual events) and film (Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) was supposedly about Ed Gein)

A whole range of concepts falls into this category, listed under the heading fictionalization: faction, based on a true story, false document, nonfiction novel, true crime (genre), histories (history of the novel), stranger than fiction and mockumentary.

The funny thing about the right hand position on the fiction/reality scale is that the act of narrating alters reality by default. I always illustrate this point by going back to your youth. You had a brother or sister and you fought with him over something. You went to your mother or father or any other judge-figure, who gave you both the opportunity to tell the story. You both came up of course with a different version.

Which brings me to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the observer effect. If the act of perception alters reality, the act of telling a story alters reality. That is why I dislike films such as Schindler’s List because in this case, “real” documentary material is available. Maybe this is also the case for Goodbye Uncle Tom, but boy, I sure would like to see that film.

Contemporary philosophy

Collapse 4

Collapse IV (2008)

Order it here.

This looks interesting. Nice cover too. A bit arcimboldesque. I wonder who did it. This is the cover of a contemporary philosophy magazine of which this issue is dedicated to the theory of horror. Any philosophy of horror and the representation thereof (which is also the theory of the aestheticization of violence) needs to start with Aristotle, as I’ve stated before. Aristotle said on the subject:

“Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies.” —Aristotle from the Poetics.

As you may have guessed by now, I have limited first-hand knowledge on some subjects; I do not have the patience to read Aristotle. Nevertheless, in my infinite ignorance, I dare to state that I like Aristotle and dislike Plato. Plato strikes me as a bore (much like Kant does), Aristotle was a sensationalist like myself. From “my” page on aestheticization of violence, Plato comes across as the sort of moral crusader I’ve never felt any sympathy for (except that they have sometimes pointed me in the direction of worthwhile art, see the censor/censored dilemma):

Plato proposed to ban poets from his ideal republic because he feared that their aesthetic ability to construct attractive narratives about immoral behavior would corrupt young minds. Plato’s writings refer to poetry as a kind of rhetoric, whose “…influence is pervasive and often harmful.” Plato believed that poetry that was “unregulated by philosophy is a danger to soul and community.” He warned that tragic poetry can produce “a disordered psychic regime or constitution” by inducing “a dream-like, uncritical state in which we lose ourselves in …sorrow, grief, anger, [and] resentment.

Back to contemporary philosophy. From Wikpedia:

“Philosophy has re-entered popular culture through the work of authors such as Alain de Botton. This trend is reinforced by the recent increase in films with philosophical content. Some films, such as Fight Club, eXistenZ, The Matrix trilogy, Little Miss Sunshine, and Waking Life have philosophical themes underpinning their overarching plots. Other films attempt to be overtly philosophical, such as I ♥ Huckabees.”

I’ve done Fight Club, eXistenZ, The Matrix and Little Miss Sunshine and of those three I like eXistenZ best. I will want to see Waking Life and I ♥ Huckabees. Where do I start. Huckabees? It stars Huppert. And from what I’ve Youtubed of Waking, it reminded me of Scanner Darkly, with which I was not too impressed (but has lingered on afterwards). Any thoughts, dear readers?

Update 17/4: More on Collapse. Collapse has links with New Weird and Speculative realism. The cover is probably by the Chapmans (“new etchings from Jake Chapman“). Of all its contributions I am most curious about Graham Harman on the unnatural bond between Husserl and Lovecraft and Iain Hamilton Grant on Lorenz Oken‘s naturphilosophische slime-horror.

Satisfied that the photograph has been censored

Thousand cuts

Death by a Thousand Cuts is certainly one of the most gruesome photographs in the history of visual culture. I first encountered the photo online and later when I purchased Georges Bataille’s The Tears of Eros (currently available from City Lights). The version above is from the Dutch booklet Kaarten (1967, published by Born N.V.) an excellent little study by Drs. P on his postcards with a full bibligraphy on contemporary books on collecting postcards which even mentions Ado Kyrou’s treaty of the subject, L’age d’or de la carte postale (1966) which I have in my collection.

What is particular of this postcard is its obvious censorship. And actually, for once I’m really satisfied that the photograph has been censored, because I would not like to show it to you in its original version. The notes to the postcard read “Ling-chi” or “One thousand cuts”, the barbarous death penalty for a parricide in China. Published by Karl Lewis, no. 102, Honmura Road, Yokohama, Japan.

Carnography #4

No particular narrative …

A.-A. Préault, Tuerie  (Slaughter)


 Antoine-Augustin Préault‘s  La Tuerie (The Killing) (1834) is a relief sculpture first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1834. Its thematic violence and stylistic daring shocked conventional taste at the Salon, one of whose visitors characterized the work as an “incredible farrago of every horror, wretchedness, misery, extravagance, monstrosity.” Tuerie was supposedly admitted to the Salon of 1834 at the insistence of the academician Jean-Pierre Cortot. Since no particular narrative was associated with the work, it was perceived by contemporaries as gratuitous carnography.

See previous carnographies

Carnography #3

Terror Blu

The Black Champion

Although Curt’s of Groovy Age is no longer personally digging the crates for transgressive Italian fumetti, his Scandinavian (I assume) correspondent Jaakko has taken over the helm. It is quite impossible to imagine that these Terror Blu comics would be sold today anywhere in the Western world today, except maybe Japan.

Virginia, 1812. Tom the slave is about to be hanged for raping his owner’s daughter, even though Tom swears the girl is lying.

Read the rest of the Black Champion here.

Batailleana #1 and 2

Ma Mère by Bataille, cover by publisher domaine francais

Ma Mère by Bataille, cover by publisher 10 | 18

#1) 10/18 is a publisher in France (with a sub collection named domaine français). Their series of Georges Bataille novels are illustrated by Hans Bellmer. One of the nicer book illustrations around. I like the overall feel of the design. Can someone tell me more about the graphic designer over at the 10/18 publishing imprint?

Here is the 10/18 cover of Madame Edwarda.

#2) In 1997 André S. Labarthe produced a documentary on Georges Bataille. The focus was Bataille’s extreme, perverse, surreal story ‘Madame Edwarda‘ where the prostitute reveals that she *is* God (‘je suis DIEU’) – perfectly merging the sacred and profane, a key notion for Bataille … in the final section of the clip, the infamous Chinese torture victim is shown … in his last work, the heavily-illustrated ‘Tears of Eros,’ Bataille said this about these photos:

“What I suddenly saw, and what imprisoned me in anguish-but which at the same time delivered me from it-was the identity of these perfect contraries, divine ecstasy and its opposite, extreme horror.”

posted by hiperf289 (check his other Youtube clips)