Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Bauble

I just saw this one and like it a lot although there isn't much to say. The 'bauble' is the stick and ornament toy that the jester is holding. It was generally used in art to indicate madness.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

gallows speeches

Bear and I were wondering a while ago what kinds of things people actually say right before getting executed. I did a little research on it and found out that final statements of a prisoner are referred to a “gallows speech” named after the hangman gallows of course. Following is a collection of ‘last words’ more than true gallows speeches in a few of these are natural deaths, not executions. A few of these also include something even more precious, called ‘gallows humor’ – the wonderful moment when a person makes fun of the fact that they are about to die.

Robert Erskine Childers, Irish author and nationalist, faced a firing squad on November 24th 1922:

“Take a step or two closer, lads. It will be easier that way.”

Daryl Holton, American child killer, electrocuted by the state of Tennessee on September 12, 2007:

“Two words, I do.”

Tallulah Bankhead, died December 12, 1968 of pneumonia, and was a true American actress to her last breath:

“Codeine… bourbon.”

John Wayne Gacy, Jr., party clown and serial killer, was put to death by lethal injection on May 10, 1994 :

“Kiss my ass.”

Ned Kelly, a notorious Irish-Australian bushranger, was hung on November 11 1880:

"Such is life."

Oscar Wilde, Irish writer and self declared genius, died of meningitis on November 30, 1900. I have a feeling this one may be a bit of an embelleshment:

"Either that wallpaper goes or I do."

Pancho Villa, a Mexican Revolutionary general, was mysteriously assassinated on July 20, 1923:

"Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something."

Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV of France, was killed by guillotine on December 8, 1793:

“You are going to hurt me, please don’t hurt me, just one more moment, I beg you!”

Benito Mussolini, Italian fascist, was executed by firing squad on April 28th 1945. He was a true control freak until the end:

“Shoot me in the chest!”

Frederic Chopin, Polish composer and pianist, died of tuberculosis on October 17th, 1849:

“The earth is suffocating. Swear to make them cut me open, so I won’t be buried alive.”

Richard Feynman, physicist, died of not one but two rare forms of cancer on February 15, 1988:

“I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”

Giles Corey, farmer and accused witch, was crushed to death by stones on September 19th, 1692:

“More weight.”

Saint Otteran, willingly buried alive for religious purposes in 548 on the island of Iona.

The legend is that weeks later he pushed his head through the wall of his tomb and told a horrified audience that there was no afterlife.

They pushed him back in.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Joel-Peter Witkin

I wanted to see if there was any modern art done around the old idea of ars moriendi, latin for the art of dying, and rediscovered Joel-Peter Witkin, who's photograph below is in fact titled Ars Moriendi.
Bear and I had actually totally fallen for this artist ever since seeing this next one at The Getty. It's called Mother and Child (with retractor, screaming) and we decided we would love it in our home. No, really.
So of course then I had to really look this guy up. Apparently, he answers to his fucking creepiness by saying that as a child, he witnessed a horrible car wreck that culminated with the severed head of a little girl rolling up to his feet. I'm skeptical, but it's a fantastic image.
He is known for themes such as death, corpses, dismemberment, dwarves, transexuals, hermaphrodites, freaks, and the general outsiders that I so love.
There are a few other themes he deals with that a little bold and unuasal.

(It's also possible he may be a little into plague doctors too...)

As for actual ars moriendi, the classic ones were carved onto wooden blocks in the 15th century by a man called Master E.S., and they looked like this:
They were supposed to be instructional on how to properly knock off. Hope it's helpful.

Safety coffins

As a psychologist, I dig phobias. The fear of being buried alive is probably as old as burials, but during the 18th century Cholera epidemic things took a turn for the weird when grave robbers - that's right, grave robbers - started noticing more and more that the corpses they dug up had made obvious struggles to escape. Vampire believers went crazy of course, and morticians started examing the bodies more thoroughly before burial. What they found was that about 2% of the bodies they assumed to be dead were in a coma or some other kind of suspended animation.
As usual, the public freaked the fuck out. And then safety coffins started coming into play. Most of them were like this one below - you wake up in your coffin, and after having a good old scream and cry you simply give a little rope in your coffin a good tug, and a bell above you rings for the graveyard worker to come for your rescue.

They didn't all have bells. The bells gave off a lot of 'false positives' from corpses accidentally giving them a tug when really they were just shifting during decomposition. So people tried all kinds of things.
The safety coffins all had one important aspect in common: absolutely none of them have ever actually helped rescue a person buried alive. Which makes me think that safety coffins are really, truly, about a person's fantasy that they won't actually ever die than any kind of real fear.

Apparently every once in a while artists will make a homage to safety coffins. The one below has a computer screen that you can watch as the corpse, with the keyboard placed outside. It doesn't seem to be quite a functional safety coffin as far as being able to be rescued, but at least someone can chat with you while you slowly starve and suffocate to death.

I'm not sure I really understand this next one at all. It's a couch that's a coffin, I suppose. I have to say though, I like it.

By the way, I got excited thinking the expression 'saved by the bell' may refer to safety coffins. It doesn't. It refers to boxing.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

the plague doctors

As usual, I had trouble sleeping the other night and passed the time with a mind numbing and endless Wikipedia search of things that generally interest me. One of them being the Black Plague. Ever since reading old Camus back in 9th grade, completely not realizing his Plague was an allegory of war, I've been more obsessed with it than even the average morbid chick. But I had never seen this before.
At first, I thought it was just an old, spooky sketch of death personified, but death personified being yet another thing I'm real into, I decided to investigate. That's when I learned something that made the me have my own petite muerte. This was not the personification of death - not literally at least - no, this was in fact the garb that 'plague doctors' wore. So when someone you are lying in your death bed in 14th century Europe, you know, the peak of our world's existential crisis, one of the last people you see is this sinister stranger. Who will be examining you solely with the use of his cane.

It was an early Hazmat suit, really. A long black coat, boots, and shoes were waxed to try and keep off any dirt or dust from the victims, the goggles to protect the eyes, and that long 'beak' was really filled with flowers and herbs that they hoped would protect their noses and mouths. They also carried canes In an unusual twist of human morality, the majority of these plague doctors weren't even physicians; most of the real doctors fled Europe having the funds to do so and not knowing how to help anyway. Sadly, these doctors could only really do two things - confirm that someone had the plague, and, more importantly, rampantly spread the plague

Now you can buy the costumes for big costume festivals like Mardi Gras or Carnival or etc. And yes, they do look like spy vs. spy.