Scares for Intellectuals! Deb and Dave Tolchinsky Put on The Horror Show
"It's no fairy tale... this girl really existed. She really levitated. It's all documented."
For the most part, the master of horror himself, Stephen King, has already cemented the notion of all-things frightening (the site of a clown still gives us the creeps). But curators Deb and Dave Tolchinsky attempt to redirect our perception of terror in their latest endeavor into the dark side: The Horror Show, a group exhibition opening tomorrow at Dorsky Gallery.
The married duo, who also work together as professors at Northwestern University's Department of Radio-TV-Film, sought to explore the subtleties of "horror" by excluding the cliches: blood, guts, gore, etc., Subtle or not, some of the images, have you questioning what is it you're actually perceiving.
Highlights include Christopher Schneberger's terrifying photographs of a legless young girl trying on her mother's shoes, Josh Faught's portrait titled The First Person I Ever Came Out to Was A Convicted Sexual Predator, No. 5, and Ellen Wetmore's video of a woman whose arm appears to be spontaneously combusting.
We asked the Tolchinsky's about their fascination with trying to freak us out. Good thing this opening is happening during daylight hours, we're just saying.
What were your original conceptions of horror before the show?
Deb: Initially, we envisioned a celebratory splatter-fest of wall-to-wall blood, guts, and gore. But then we were reminded that mainstream entertainment already provides an endless source of such imagery.
Dave: We watched an episode of CSI.
Deb: Look at any cop show or a lot of reality TV shows. People eat sheep eyes for cash and glory, families dissect neighbors as a bonding exercise, men saw off their own feet, cadavers are sliced and diced, aliens splayed, prostitutes murdered, and children eviscerated.
Dave: So instead, The Horror Show -- a title meant cheekily to evoke old-time B movies as we simultaneously go in quite a different direction -- investigates what is nasty, what is ubiquitous, but also what is not apparent: images and sounds that present as banal and benign, as inviting and beautiful, and therefore may ultimately be that much more terrifying.
You mentioned how peoples ideals of what is terrifying has varied throughout the years, mostly from mainstream movies, to now, graphic I'll-do-anything-for-money reality shows. Do you think it takes more to frighten us?
Deb: We are in a constant state of anxiety because of everything we see and hear and the coping mechanism is to become numb. So yes, it takes more to really evoke a visceral reaction.
Dave: Then again, biology is biology. We're wired to pump adrenalin when we hear certain sounds, smell certain smells, or can't make sense of what we're looking at.
Were these artworks created with the horror theme in mind, or where they selected because they already had a scary element?
Deb: We had the idea for the show and then selected work that fit with the theme. Initially, we imagined work that was more in your face scary, but in the end we were primarily moved by pieces that at first present as beautiful and then kind of creep up on you.
I created a new piece "Man in the Mirror" (above) which springboards off of two previous works as well as the King of Pop's passing.
Dave: Your piece epitomizes the show for me -- Jackson was attractive and frightening, so much in the world and not of the world at all.
Deb: But it's also about the horror of the mirror. Who are we? What have we become? What are we capable of? Perhaps we no longer see ourselves. We are smoke and mirrors.