Category Archives: violence

Crime scenes fake and true

Crime scenes by Melanie Pullen by you.

“Half Prada” from High Fashion Crime Scenes.
(c) Melanie Pullen (in the public domain as long as the orignal author is credited)

I find Melanie Pullen‘s High Fashion Crime Scenes[1] photo series by E-L-I-S-E. Pullen is a thirtiesh American photographer noted for her series based on the reenactment of true crime scenes.

I decide to investigate.

The first thought that entered my mind is that obviously, Pullen is influenced by the aesthetics of French photographer Guy Bourdin[2], especially his take on the aestheticization of violence.

I continue searching.

A trip to the Tomorrow Museum (searching for Pullen/Jahsonic) brings  Luc Sante‘s Evidence: NYPD Crime Scene Photographs: 1914- 1918.

I hear an echo of Weegee‘s work.

Can Pullen be classified as crime photography?

And then, the work of Ashley Hope![3] Her paintings are based on crime scene photographs of murdered women, exclusively. Transgressive.

Musidora @120

Musidora by you.

Musidora in Les Vampires (1915)


Musidora in Les Vampires (1915)

Musidora (February 23, 1889December 11, 1957) was the stage name of a popular French silent film actress of the early 20th century. She is best-remembered for her vamp persona in the roles of Irma Vep and Diana Monti in the early motion picture crime serials Les Vampires (1915) and Judex (1916), respectively.

Poster for Les Vampires

Adopting the moniker of Musidora (Greek for “gift of the muses“) and affecting a unique vamp persona that would later be popularized in the United States of America by actress Theda Bara, Musidora soon found a foothold in the nascent medium of moving pictures. With her heavily kohled dark eyes, somewhat sinister make-up, pale skin (see the heroin chic aesthetic) and exotic wardrobes, Musidora quickly became a highly popular and instantly recognizable presence of European cinema.

Beginning in 1915, Musidora began appearing in the hugely successful Feuillade-directed serials Les Vampires as Irma Vep (an anagram of “vampire”), a cabaret singer, opposite Edouard Mathé as crusading journalist, Philippe Guerande. Contrary to the title, the Les Vampires were not actually about vampires, but about a criminal gang cum secret society inspired by the exploits of the real-life Bonnot Gang. The somewhat surreal series was an immediate success with French cinema-goers and ran in ten installments until 1916. After the Les Vampires serial, Musidora starred as ‘Diana Monti’ in another popular Feuillade serial, Judex, filmed in 1916 but delayed for release until 1917 because of the outbreak of World War I. Though not intended to be “avant-garde,” Les Vampires and Judex have been lauded by critics as the birth of avant-garde cinema and cited by such renowned filmmakers as Fritz Lang and Luis Buñuel as being extremely influential in their desire to become directors.

I’ve previously mentioned Les Vampires[1].

Futurism @100

Futurism @100

Futurist Manfisto in the Figaro of February 20, 1909 by you.

Tomorrow, February 20, 1909, it will have been 100 years since the Futurist Manifesto was published in the French conservative newspaper Le Figaro.

Futurism is now known as a early 20th century avant-garde art movement focused on speed, the mechanical, and the modern, which took a deeply antagonistic attitude to traditional artistic conventions.

Centrale elettrica (1914) – Antonio Sant’Elia

The Futurists explored every medium of art, including painting, sculpture, poetry, theatre, music, architecture and even gastronomy. The Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was the first among them to produce a manifesto of their artistic philosophy in his Manifesto of Futurism (1909), first released in Milan and published in the French paper Le Figaro (February 20). Marinetti summed up the major principles of the Futurists, including a passionate loathing of ideas from the past, especially political and artistic traditions. He and others also espoused a love of speed, technology and violence. The car, the plane, the industrial town were all legendary for the Futurists, because they represented the technological triumph of man over nature.

Photograph of intonarumori: “intoners” or “noise machines”, built by Russolo, mostly percussion, to create “noises” for performances. Unfortunately, none of his original intonarumori survived World War II.

Marinetti’s impassioned polemic immediately attracted the support of the young Milanese paintersBoccioni, Carrà, and Russolo—who wanted to extend Marinetti’s ideas to the visual arts (Russolo was also a composer, and introduced Futurist ideas into his compositions). The painters Balla and Severini met Marinetti in 1910 and together these artists represented Futurism’s first phase.

Mina Loy (1909), photo by Stephen Haweis

Futurism’s misogyny is illustrated by article 9 (below): we will glorify scorn of woman

It was one of the few art movements to be initiated by a manifesto.

In fact, manifestos were introduced with the Futurists (not entirely true, there were the Symbolists and the Decadents with their manifestos) and later taken up by the Vorticists, Dadaists and the Surrealists: the period up to World War II created what are still the best known manifestos. Although they never stopped being issued, other media such as the growth of broadcasting tended to sideline such declarations.

Full text of the manifesto

  1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.
  2. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.
  3. Up to now literature has exalted a pensive immobility, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.
  4. We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
  5. We want to hymn the man at the wheel, who hurls the lance of his spirit across the Earth, along the circle of its orbit.
  6. The poet must spend himself with ardor, splendor, and generosity, to swell the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.
  7. Except in struggle, there is no more beauty. No work without an aggressive character can be a masterpiece. Poetry must be conceived as a violent attack on unknown forces, to reduce and prostrate them before man.
  8. We stand on the last promontory of the centuries!… Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute, because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed.
  9. We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.
  10. We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.
  11. We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot; we will sing of the multicolored, polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals; we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervor of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a glitter of knives; adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an enthusiastic crowd.

Death by bisection or dismemberment (excluding decapitation)

The final frontier in cinephilia is silent cinema.

I just discovered Ménilmontant.


Opening scene of Ménilmontant (no intertitles, a flurry of quick close-up shots depicting an axe murder)

Ménilmontant (1926) is a silent film by Russian film director Dimitri Kirsanoff. His best-known work, it takes its name from the Paris neighborhood of the same name. The film is a silent, but does not contain any intertitles. It begins with a flurry of quick close-up shots depicting the axe murder (see death by bisection or dismemberment (excluding decapitation)) of the parents of the protagonists, two girls. As young women, they are portrayed by Nadia Sibirskaïa, Kirsanoff’s first wife, and Yolande Beaulieu; their mutual love interest is played by Guy Belmont. The film uses many other techniques that were relatively new at the time, including double exposure.

Durtal is fascinating.

Self portrait, 1885, oil on canvas, by Félix Vallotton

Imaginary portrait of Durtal (2009)

Durtal is fascinating.

Durtal is the name of the the recurring fictional character in J.-K. Huysmans‘s novel sequence Là-Bas, En route, La Cathédrale.

Norman Mailer appropriated Durtal to rewrite Là-Bas — a novel by Huysmans about the first documented serial killer and pratictioner of Satanism, Gilles de Rais — in Trial of the Warlock, a novelette I am currently reading in a Dutch version in the collection Playboy Stories: The Best of Forty Years of Short Fiction.

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.

Guy Bourdin @80

Charles Jourdan ad, 1976

French fashion and advertising photographer Guy Bourdin (19281991) would have celebrated his 80th birthday today had he not died of cancer 17 years ago.

I’m not sure when I first consciously came in to contact with his oeuvre, but I am pretty sure it was in the terra cognita that the internet has become by way of this page[1] from the site of music and culture connoisseur Phinn.

Today, a wide selection of his videos is available on YouTube[2]; a large number of his films can be found on Flickr and on the internet at large[3].

However, and although I cannot confirm this, I feel that I had seen the imagery of Bourdin in the pre-internet world, in a Dutch-language magazine called Avenue, which my parents bought during the seventies. It was The Netherlands’ and Flander’s first glossy, and ran from 1965 until 2002. Contributors have included Paul Huf, Eddy Posthuma de Boer, Ed van der Elsken and Inez van Lamsweerde. I distinctly seem to remember the Charles Jourdan shoe photo-ads Bourdin produced during that era. Not coincidentally, Avenue reminds me of that other glossy, Nova magazine, which I covered a couple of weeks ago[4].

To me, Bourdin can only be compared to his contemporary Helmut Newton (although admittedly I’ve also tentavily compared Ralph Gibson [5] to Bourdin) because in the words of Charlotte Cotton and Shelly Verthime he “emphasised fetishism, power relationships, and the potential for sexual violence, as well as the artificiality of the image, its gloss rather than its reality.”[6]

I’ve reported on Bourdin many times, and I am glad that I saw his retrospective at the Jeu de Paume in Paris and was given as a present Luc Sante‘s first monograph on his work: Exhibit A: Guy Bourdin

You can find Bourdin’s work all over the net.

Avenue van A tot Zero

Can anyone ID the photograper of this cover image?

For something different here[7] is a photo of a cover from Avenue.

The next time I write in this diary Mother will be dead

Of course there is such a thing as female perversion and female crime, but it is rare. Two easy entry-points into this realm are the Papin sisters and closer to the Anglophone world, the Parker-Hulme friends. These cases provide access to the world of the female murderer and the black widow, the relationship between gender and crime and the concept of the folie à deux.

One of the most astonishing facts about the Papin sisters is the defense of their actions by the French intellectuals of their time.

The story:

The Papin sisters brutally murdered their employer and her daughter in Le Mans, France, on February 2, 1933.

The interpretation:

This incident had a significant influence on French intellectuals Genet, Sartre and Lacan, who sought to understand it and it was thought of as symbolic of class struggle.

The Papin Sisters in the Detective weekly periodical, February 9th 1933 by you.

“I’ve seen the photos of these two pretty girls, these servants who killed and battered their mistresses. I’ve seen the photos before and after. ‘Before’, their faces hovered like two docile flowers above their lace collars. They radiated clean living and appetizing honesty. A discreet curling iron had crimped their hair in a similar manner. And, even more reassuring than their waved hair, their collars and their air of being on a visit to the photographer, was their resemblance as sisters, the self-righteous resemblance that immediately brought blood ties and the natural roots of the family group to the fore. ‘After’, their faces glowed like a blaze. They had the bare necks of the future beheaded. Wrinkles everywhere, horrible wrinkles of fear and hatred, folds, holes in the flesh as if a clawed beast had roamed round and round on their faces. And those eyes, those same big, dark and bottomless eyes… And yet, they no longer looked alike. Each, in her own way, bore the memory of their common crime…” –“Le Mur” by Sartre

Motifs_du_crime_paranoiaque by Jacques Lacan by you.

Motives of Paranoiac Crime: The Crime of the Papin Sisters, a paper by Jacques Lacan brought me to French intellectuals on the Papin sisters. Also to[1], the Lacan wiki.

“Christine and Léa were genuine Siamese souls. Between them, the two sisters couldn’t even find the distance needed to wound each other…

“Christine must have gone through such torture before the desperate experience of crime tore her from her other self and allowed her, after the first hallucinatory fit in which she thought she saw her sister dead, to cry the words of blatant passion: ‘Yes, say yes!’” –Taken from “Motives of Paranoiac Crime: The Crime of the Papin Sisters“–Jacques Lacan

To conclude, from the diary of Pauline Parker:

“The day of the happy event” “I felt very excited last night and sort of night-before-Christmas but I did not have pleasant dreams…I feel very keyed up as though I were planning a surprise party. The happy event is to take place tomorrow afternoon. So the next time I write in this diary Mother will be dead.” –from Pauline Parker’s diary.

Serial killing was a rare phenomenon before 1900

Jack the Ripper / Der Dirnenmörder von London (1976) – Jess Franco

120 years ago today, in 1888, Jack the Ripper kills his third and fourth victims Elizabeth Stride[1] and Catherine Eddowes[2]. Footnotes NSFW.

Jack the ripper was only the 16th serial killer before 1900, serial killing had been a rare phenomenon until then.

It was probably the first case where all the victims were photographed.

Jack was never apprehended.


Der Dirnenmörder von London

Jack was at one time played by Klaus Kinski in Der Dirnenmörder von London. Here is the trailer [3] to that film.

“Because he had a hairy backside”

Drowning in the Loire by Order of the Fierce Carrier

drownings of Carrier

Prompted by my post on the drownings of Carrier and esp. Paul Rumsey‘s gracious comments[1], Drowning by Numbers by Peter Greenaway is WCC #60.


Documentary (1/3) on Drowning by Numbers

Drowning by Numbers is a 1988 film directed by Peter Greenaway.

The film’s plot centers on three women — a grandmother, mother and daughter — each named Cissie Colpitts. As the story progresses each woman successively kills her husband, out of dissatisfaction with them, one Cissie stating: “Because he had a hairy backside“.

The structure, with similar stories repeated three times, is reminiscent of a fairy tale. The link to folklore is further established by Madgett’s son Smut, who recites the rules of various fictional games played by the characters as if they were ancient traditions.

The musical score is by Michael Nyman, and is entirely based on themes taken from the slow movement of Mozart‘s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, K364. Nyman had previously used this piece as the basis for part of the score for Greenaway’s The Falls. It is heard in its original form immediately after each drowning.

Greenaway himself says:

The pretence that numbers are not the humble creation of man, but are the exacting language of the Universe and therefore possess the secret of all things is comforting, terrifying, and mesmeric…Counting is the most simple and primitive of narratives – 12345678910 – a tale with a beginning, a middle and an end and a sense of progression – arriving at a finish of two digits – a goal attained, a denouement reached…The magic of the women – why do they come in threes? To mock the patriarchal theological Trinity? Three sirens, three graces, three muses, and three witches…The women count. They count as a protective talisman. It becomes a funeral chant, a palliative. Counting is like taking aspirin – it numbs the sense and protects the counter from reality. Counting makes even hideous events bearable as simply more of the same – the counting of wedding-rings, spectacles, teeth and bodies disassociates them from their context – to make the ultimate obscene blasphemy of bureaucratic insensitivity. Engage the mind with numbing recitation to make it empty of reaction. —Peter Greenaway