Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I do not like skulls. Wearing a symbol of the self in death. Mortality is just a t-shirt away. Silk screened onto silk scarves, littering the neckline or dangling from one's ears in a pewter head shop mess. They've lost their menace. They are a signifier of tough for those who do not know harshness. For those who do not know pain. Our own bones are pain, alarm when we see them, that sick flash of white when our insides become out, it can mean doom or at least partial physical damnation, yet the skulls of our imagination not sourced from our actual departed brethren still mark the smiling lipless grin of death.

Not that I am going to entirely beg off a fascination with morbidity. More and more the morose bores me. I am not troubled by it. It doesn't upset me and I understand it, but it does not intrigue me. It seems like an exercise of the sheltered. Those who do not know true terror like to imagine it and through such imagination they feel as though they do know it. That they will be prepared to meet it when it comes. Prolonged exposure to imaginations of terror make us falsely familiar. I cannot empathize with the raped and pillaged. I cannot know the sight of watching my loves slaughtered. I do not know the feeling of being torn limb from limb, but I can pay someone $200 to get a grinning death's head tattooed on my arm to show the world I think I know the meaning of pain.

Somewhere in art the wires get crossed and alienation becomes synonymous with death. the artist talks of suffocation, of a creative death with falsely suicidal malaise. Cut off from expression we say we feel dead, if we are emotionally lacking we say we are dead inside, but despite our boasts and dramatics we do not know death. We cannot feel death, have no claim on its finality. If our eternal mortality, the end of all ends becomes a ringer in a series of social cliches where does that leave us? "A fate worse than death?" Were you ever so embarrassed you could have just died? Really? Were you? Shame and death never the two shall meet.


Anonymous said...

Actually, I am fixated on the image of the skull not because it somehow denotes a sense of suffering and pain, but because death happens to us all, and to me, that's the power of that image. It's not badass, it's humbling.

Beverly said...

I can understand that fixation. I wrote this on the train while staring at a man in a sleeveless tshirt with a skull on it and Seven jeans with a bleached out skull design all the way down the leg. I lament that through it's popularity as an image in popular design (anything from Alexander McQueen scarves to Old Navy t-shirts) it has become a cartoonish representation of mortality and is worn without thought or reverence and death becomes a cartoon.

It should be humbling, I agree Anonymous. By the way, is this anyone I know or are you just passing through?