Wednesday, July 05, 2006

My artist talk this Saturday, 7PM

Ok... so if you are masochistic enough to read the meanderings of "the guy" who runs this site, you are aware that I am giving an "artist's talk" on Saturday. This will be for the closing of the Carnivalesque: A Grim Guignol show. I've expressed my trepidation on another forum, and I'm not going to rehash it here. Suffice it to say that if you come I will be happy... because then, no matter what I say, the purpose of the talk will have been fulfilled.

Anyway... I plan on encouraging questions and I want to address two of the most common so far.

Q: What the hell is "Guignol"?

First of all it's pronounced "geen-yole". Second of all, don't you people have the internet? Never mind. Stupid question. I proceed.

The abbreviated version: There was a French dentist who wanted to ease people's fears of him, so he created a puppet in his likeness (named "Guignol") to tell funny stories and defang his trade. It worked, and it became so popular that it inspired copycat puppet shows. These productions eventually incorporated social commentary that led the King to outlaw puppet shows altogether.

In 1897, a French shock theater opened, and took as its moniker, Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol. This theater operated until the 1960's, becoming widely renowned for its cringe-inducing fare. If you have ever before heard or read the word "guignol", it was probably inspired by the theater. It's a word that comes up a lot in film reviews, particularly related to directors such as David Lynch, David Cronenberg, John Waters, and Fellini.

What does that all have to do with my sense of the carnival, or the arts? Come to the talk and ask that question to my face...

Q: Where did I take my photos?

I took some of them on the pier in Ocean City, MD last year. It seemed to be one of the few places that I could recapture the sense of the old-time carnival. Most amusements are now homogenized, so that even the dullest parent will remain unoffended in their presence. If you have ever been to Ocean City, MD... well... you probably know that the normal strictures just don't apply.

Most of the carousel photos were taken in Mansfield, Ohio. They have a beautiful old merry-go-round right in the middle of town. Why Mansfield? Because they have a historic carousel district right in the middle of town. But why did I go to Mansfield? To take photos at an abandoned prison reformatory. But that's a story for another show.

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