People are squeamish about art about violence and suffering that remains art-sy. Art about disasters should be transparent; to foreground the art, the pageantry is somehow offensive. You are accused of “aestheticizing” suffering, violence, torture etc. — as if that is an inherently negative thing, as if that makes it flippant, as if that is not pious enough. As if the art itself is a crime.
— Johannes Göransson, “‘Why Is the Poem Such an Insult to This Evil Life?’ On Sandy Hook, Blake Butler, Aase Berg, and Disaster Aesthetics”
I am currently writer-in-residence at the Coffin Works museum in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, where I am running a series of writing events in conjunction with the annual festival on death and dying “A Matter of Life and Death”. I want to discover how death rituals might benefit those without a secure religious belief in the process of mourning.
A ballgown cuts a swerve in the air, whip-sharp and encrusted. One rail is unscathed. He removes armfuls of clothing. He layers the structure with silk blouses, cotton summerdresses, anything light and sheer. The entrance is garlanded in lace panties, in black hose, in glossy hold ups. Soft through the fabric, the televisions hum white.
fiction // THE DEATH BELL
'The Death Bell’ was anthologised in The New Gothic (Stone Skin Press, 2014)
This is good. Sarah said, genuinely impressed by the blood pudding; she loved the way that the black fat had cracked under the grill and oozed just a little. The delicate shards of bonemeal that gave it grit.
You’re such a carnivore Sarah, Ryan teased, flirted maybe. She let him, it wasn’t bad this menu. He wasn’t such a sap after all.
Save some room for dessert, the waitress, who was constantly at their table, said. It’s a little bit special. She poured miniscule amounts of wine into their green tumblers, water into the blue ones. Sarah giggled. It was all so childish and pleasurable, she just let herself relax.
It really is special, the dessert. They put gold in it.
story// PAINFUL HARD ECTOPLASM
'Painful Hard Ectoplasm' was published in Murmurations: An Anthology of Uncanny Stories about Birds in 2011. This story follows the protagonist, Hart, as he attempts to induce supernatural phenomena, sets fires, and watches Hitchock's The Birds.
Nancy had a little tear running down her face but she said nothing and lay down in the straw as the chickens pecked all around her. Hart took one of the pictures out of his pocket and looked at the woman in the white dress. He thought it looked quite easy to get Nancy’s legs to the same kind of angles and bent down slowly to her. Hart closed his dirty fingers around Nancy’s ankle, just above the frill lace on her socks. Slowly he pulled the sock off and Nancy giggled. He pulled the other one off and tickled her feet. At last she seemed to be relaxing. Her hot little feet felt good in Hart’s hand and he held them for just a little while. Then Nancy kicked, scattering straw and dislodging Hart’s hands.
STORY// miss america
'Miss America' was published in Succour's Fantasies issue in 2009.
Most of the others were more straightforward in their desires. If she’d put that black silk dress on a hundred times she wouldn’t be surprised. Heavily made up and her hair twisted into yellow barettes she instantly became the black dahlia, a true American sweetheart. It was somehow more sinister than even the beauty pageant get-up. Dead, passive and beautiful, she looked like a doll.
Advertising through discreet channels, Lorna soon had the kind of clients she was used to and set up shop again in her little London flat this time claiming to have the very trunk that Violette Kaye had been discovered in, chopped into pieces.
This film is a reproduction that draws attention to its status as perverse copy – as defaced art. The poem-film examines what it means to reproduce. There is a heavy emphasis on the female body in the language and visual imagery of the piece. What we are seeing in this film is both a reproduction of Bergman’s Persona, and an interrogation of the ways in which reproduction happens culturally, artistically, and biologically. Efrik reminds us that reproduction is an uncanny act, that to reproduce is always to die. Reproduction exists as a means to protect the dwindling, fragile object which is replaced. In the case of Persona Peep Show, Efrik resituates Bergman’s original film within a contemporary political and artistic context and allows it to be disseminated anew. What she also does is to set up a series of psychoanalytic and feminist concerns around the nature of reproduction.