While those words generally precede the off-center, seemingly random humor of the Monty Python troop, today they are introducing something far darker...and far less funny. I make it a habit on the few occasions that I take the time to wander through the swampy bog of art that is DeviantArt, to never accept that someone else's "favorite" or a "Daily Deviation" is the very best that artist has to offer. Not only is art so incredibly subjective, but unless the person whose opinion you are relying upon is an artist whose own work blows you away, but even then sometimes you can be left whispering "what the fuck were they thinking??" While I stand whole heartedly behind the idea of an international art community...I find that the level of education and appreciation for art on that site as a whole has all the depth of my toilet bowl.
A brief flip through the DD's early this afternoon introduced an image, which at the 1" x 2" thumbnail size looked promising as an (at the least) glimpse-worthy photograph, pointed me toward a photographer who I later learned is in fact, a large group of people: models, photographers and performing artists known as AZsacra. The spotlighted image was nice. An artistic nude of a woman straddling a piano bench with a lovely antique effect to age the sepia toned photo. It has all the elements of a glamour image: naked woman, flowers, pearls, a foppish hat, romantic piano and sheet music and a soft focus.
It's exactly the kind of image that would make a man tuck tail and RUN if he saw it on his girlfriend's wall...right next to her stuffed animal collection and Unicorn statues.
This is, however, a prime example of why I take the time to look through an artist's gallery and NEVER take the awarding person's opinion that this is the best an artist has done. Upon opening the gallery of zw6 I was astounded. That fuzzy, wine and roses ass shot is so misrepresentative of the artist's work it's like posting a billboard with a photo of the Eiffel tower, the words Bienveniue à Paris! just outside Paris, TEXAS. The gallery is flooded with what can be most aptly described as "Fetish" photography - but not the glossy girls tied up in latex and gas-masks kind of fetish....I mean the sexual representation of PAIN. The glorification of the intangible darkness of the human soul.
But the art goes even deeper than that. It isn't merely images of naked women licking the boots of a man in an executioner's mask, or shots of a feral man carving on himself with knives, some of these images manage to tap into something even darker. Particularly, for me, the images below.(*) While they are not represented as being part of an exclusive series, they stand apart from the others as something wholly different. The collection they belong to is called "The Doctrine and Meta-Concepts: AZsacra ZARATHUSTRA." The photographer is LOKI. I adamantly recommend viewing these images in larger format in the gallery...the girl's eyes are chilling.
The group is known as AZsacra, but oftens represents itself as Theater of Cruelty NOH AZsacra. The AZsacra stands for Sacral Arizona...beyond this, I cannot explain what it means. Theater of Cruelty is a reference to Antonin Artaud, a french playwright, poet, philosopher actor and director. Artaud created the Theater of Cruelty, professing that theater should be as realistic as possible and affect the audience as wholly as possible. Anne Rice's Theatre of Vampires in 'Interview with a Vampire" is more or less a demonstration of the same concept. His use of the term 'Cruelty' was not to singularly mean torture or sadism, but rather in a four-fold approach.
Firstly, it is employed metaphorically to describe the essence of human existence.
Secondly it is to mean discipline. Artaud aimed to reject form and incite chaos, but similar to an army inciting war- they must be regimented in their approach.
Thirdly, the use of the term was ‘cruelty as theatrical presentation’. Artaud's aim was to "hurl the spectator into the centre of the action, forcing them to engage with the performance on an instinctive level. For Artaud, this was a cruel, yet necessary act upon the spectator designed to shock them out of their complacency." (wikipedia)
Finally, it is to represent his philosophy that reality is merely a consensus of accepted perceptions; meaning imagination, dreams, and delusions are no less real than the 'outside world' when shared with a theatre of people. They are made real by the audiences participation in the acceptance of their reality.
AZsacra has latched onto his theories and philosophies and branched into realms of ritual torture, sadism, and even "playing at death." But as evidence by their milder images shown here, they embrace the romantic and spiritual, but only in that they too are wrought with underlying suffering. Artaud saw suffering as essential to existence, and thus rejected all utopias as inevitable dystopia.
Most of the sites that The Theater of Cruelty AZsacra have are in Russian, or have only the same repeating description of their troupe in English (quoted below):
Theater of CrueltyNOH was found in 2005 by a well-known esoteric philosopher and meta-extremal AZsacra / also known as Master of Death, Emperor of Suicide/. Theater of CrueltyNOH is aesthetical and philosophical synthesis of a French “Theater of Cruelty” of Antonin Artaud, medieval Japan ritual and magic theater NOH and Russian Magnetize Wordmatograph of AZsacra.
Here is a comprehensive list of the sites that their work can be found on. Most are just galleries that all feature the same work. The only real benefit to the DeviantArt sites is that there is some awkwardly translated poetry and essays in the journals and most of the photographs list both the book or CD series that it is from and the photographer that took it. Unfortunately I could not get any of the translation sites to translate their main page into English. If someone does...please, post the link or send it to me.
MAIN SITE: http://www.azsacra-zarathustra.ru/
And to illustrate the diversity of images:
If nothing else, I find AZsacra fascinating in that they celebrate an aspect of life that most of us shun. What is most appreciated by me, however, is that they are genuine in their respect for it. These are not people dressing up to go to fetish clubs or painting themselves "goth" and droning vapidly on about death and suicide. These are some dark, scary cats to be sure. Maybe that's a bad thing, to delve so deeply into the aspects of suffering, pain and death. I have a healthy respect for them, however, because they do not put on pretenses. Its a little more than just a show for them...and that's more than I can say for 75% of the Suzie Homemakers and Johnny Goths out there.
*I deliberately didn't post images too extreme since my blog is public and there are no "mature filters" for any surfing kiddies...I want to know who I'm corrupting. Call me sentimental.