Where does my darker art come from? First and foremost it comes from my imagination, but what triggers and stimulates the imagination to create art, especially dark art? For me it’s a combination of things, obviously from my personality and certainly the darker regions of my psyche. I sometimes get ideas from dreams, influence from other art. I’ve had some fucked up life experiences which can be something I tap into, and I have a very dark sense of humor. Maybe this humor is a way to deal (or not) with things, who knows? There’s a lyric from one of my favorite bands New Model Army “We love this gallows humour but there must be a gallows.” In a time of creeping accelerating Fascism, the brink of what could become WWlll and environmental turmoil, I feel the gallows are not going anywhere anytime soon. So obviously my environment and what I expose myself to can clearly influence where the darker aspects of my art come from.
During these Covid lockdowns I have found myself reading nonfiction books on the collective traumas humans have imposed on each other in recent history. “To Hell and Back” is about survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and in some cases both nuclear detonations. “Light of Days” is about Jewish women’s partisan resistance against the nazis and their sympathizers during WWII. “Love Thy Neighbor” is about the Bosnian war in former Yugoslavia. These three books are the most recent nonfiction I’ve read. They are harrowing examples of the extremes of the human condition, folly, and the horrors we are capable of unleashing on our fellow human. All of these are emotionally draining reads. I have a tendency to be drawn to this type of history, as do many of my friends. Sometimes I question, especially through troubling times, why we, and specifically why I am drawn to this type of knowledge and understanding of history.
I often wonder if it’s some kind of masochism, like trying to lure parts of my mind away from things I don’t want to deal with currently or ruminating too much on troubling things from my past? So instead I delve into the madness of civilizations history, something I can’t do anything about and yet it can occupy a part of my mind that makes me think and feel things intensely. Maybe it does a thing in my brain similar to extreme sports, or even how drugs that put us in non-ordinary states of being can heighten our perceptions. Is it like a dopamine affect or is it just emotional avoidance? I know in the part of my brain that has trauma, I have a tendency to go to the worst case scenario when projecting the outcome of things. To the point of actually negating even trying to do the thing in my life before giving it a chance. Armchair therapist aside, I think the truth is something closer to a genuine interest in history and for me to continue to try and wrap my head around the machinations of power, both global and personal and what people are capable of under extreme conditions. I think that’s the easier answer for now, I’ll probably get to the deeper Id and psyche later, haha!
I have been privileged in so many ways to lead a life free from the extremes in these books. It’s not that I have not experienced difficult things in my life, but the scale of suffering is not comparable. Even with the things I have suffered I have made the effort to process what I’ve experienced and come to peace with them in my own way. Such as through the use of Entheogens (psychedelics) or the practice of meditation, being present and grounded in nature, mindfulness, ritual. All of these tools, whatever you want to call them, have helped me in my quest for some inner peace. I have learned to forgive, and to love without much judgement (lets be realistic). As complicated as love is (so much that I’d say the majority of our collective artistic history is about trying to understand the complications of the heart) I feel lucky to have felt love in so many ways and different types of relationships in my life.
But the thing I’m getting at here is trying to understand the reason I continue to read these types of books. As much as I’ve felt hate, and I’m not afraid to explore the dark corners of my psyche as any close friend would attest to. I can’t wrap my head around these atrocities that humans are capable of and continue to subject each other too, both on the micro and macro scale time and time again. I think the most sobering thing is understanding how close any society is to turning into cannibals, the veneer, or facade of civilization can crumble quickly and if you become the other, things can deteriorate in a hurry. For those who think another holocaust or the balkanization of this country (aka civil war), a potential nuclear exchange with a global world war or even mass extinction is not likely to happen again, you are fooling yourselves.
I think reading and learning about the extremes of the horrors humans do to each other is a way for us to try and understand the darkest places of the mind, and hopefully not go down those paths ourselves if confronted with these situations. I suspect that some may think this is pessimistic, it only is if we allow ourselves to give into worrying about what we can’t actually do anything about. As long as we are aware of these aspects of the Id I think it can be a sort of inoculation against giving in to the worst demons of our nature.
It feels like we are living in a surreal pre-dystopian fever dream, a slow motion apocalypse where Salvador Dali is cranked on PCP and DMT. Waving around his paintbrush wand of chaos creating absurdity around every round corner. Right is wrong, left is right, up is down, anti-fascism is fascism. Covid19 is fake, vaccines a way to implant microchips, and school shootings are false flag events to take away our guns. What the actual fuck, the loonies run amok? This empire collapsing and an environment sliding past the point of no return seems like too much sometimes and I struggle with not falling into despair. It’s dangerously amusing like a killing joke and at the same time tiring. Is it all fodder for me making some new art, or a reason for me to bury my head in the sand and let my tinnitus obscure the rest? I hope that a slew of new art manifests from all this but I fear I feel more like a deer stuck in headlights, where my creative ability has been frozen in amber and my art is a relic of my past. If that’s the case, I think I may be doomed sooner than later, we shall see?