Recently I saw Belinda Sallin’s documentary, Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World. An art gallery curator spoke regarding the therapeutic healing aspects of Giger’s work. He commented that many artists deal with the darker aspects of human experience and survival by diving deep into the damage of human suffering to find the “voice” and “inspiration” for art but then re-emerge to take a break from all of the darkness. The curator then stated a fundamental in understanding the late H.R. Giger, H.R. Giger dove down deep and stayed there. Whatever childhood or personal traumas this man endured — he opted to find a way to be comfortable in the darkness and pain. This is one of the reasons his art speaks to so many people on such a profound level.
I saw this film out of curiosity of the way Sallin and her Cinematographer, Eric Stitzel, had reportedly approached the artist and his home. It was a rewarding cinematic experience. It also gave me pause to look at the often disturbing sexualized themes of Giger’s art.
What had often struck me as phantasmagorical exploration into BDSM / KINK erotica, was actually offering a great deal more to his ardent followers. H.R. Giger’s dark work served not only as his personal art therapy, but offered the same release to viewers. So much so that an entire subculture of artistic and marginalized people have taken these works to form detailed maps tattooed all over their bodies.
Art speaks to us. Sometimes it is there to only allow an escape. Other times it is a form of magical pleasure. This is especially true of Film Art and Music. The Sound of Music has held generations of people within its sway. The same is certainly even more true of Star Wars or the television series, Star Trek.
As for music, a song can bring us back to the happiest moments of our lives and the saddest. There are more than a few generations of people who think of songs as Anthems. A sort of collective “call to arms” on the fields of sport or in pursuit of summer fun. This of course is the power of art. No matter how “lofty” or “petty” the concerns of the artists, the work that results impacts in various and powerful ways.
In 2009, I was diagnosed with D.I.D. (Dissociative Identity Disorder). The diagnosis was horrifying to me. It would take me about two and a half years before I could fully “own” this disorder.
However, as shocking as this diagnosis was, it did make sense. I had been “losing time” for almost a year. I would be sitting some place and then find myself in another with no clue as to how or why.
Most scary was finding myself in places that I did not know. I did not yet have a smart phone to help me determine where I was. I was convinced I had a brain tumor.
After visits to numerous specialists to clear me of any physiological issues, it came down to psychologists and psychiatrists.
After 18 months and four psychiatric professionals who consulted with each other, it was determined that I was “lucky.” After several years of repeated and nightmarish childhood sexual assault, my mind had developed a way of surviving it.
The subconscious took over and created tiny spaces in which to place the seeming “unsurvivable” emotions and pain. As I entered adulthood these fragments within my brain remained somehow active.
What were once my mind’s coping strategies morphed into oddly functional capacities. One of the reasons I had so much trouble in accepting the diagnosis of D.I.D. was that I had no problem remembering what had happened to me. In fact, I remembered everything with almost detailed precision.
After intense therapy I began to realize that there were entire blocks of time over the course of my life from the age of 9 to 38 of which I had no memory.
Having been an exhaustive journaler from way back, I spent a couple of months sorting through them.
Pages had been ripped out or “detracted” by self-imposed scribbles to prevent me from reading what I had been up to.
Suddenly it all begin to make sense.
Aside from the fact that I had to quit and walk away from a highly successful professional life and face life in the “fun world of Disability” I had to come to understand the odd way in which my mind helped me to succeed where many would have failed.
The sad fact of D.I.D. is that sooner or later the coping strategies backfire. Instead of assisting the individual, they start to turn against the goals of the owner.
For women this tends to happen sooner in life. For men, it appears the strange functioning powers hold off giving-out later in life. So it was as I entered my 40’s that I could no longer succeed in the line of work or any level of employment that required active thought and responsibility. This may change in the future, but for now I am told that I need to “re-adjust” my life goals. For now, I need to think about a life without a traditional career.
I could go on and on — and, in fact, I have written a great deal about this struggle. The point of this blog entry is to discuss how Film and Music Art have helped me all of my life.
Much like H.R. Giger and has fans, darkness in art is often a forgiving and cathartic place for me to seek refuge. Unlike Giger and many of his fans, it is not a place in which I can stay for too long. I have to “escape” all of it. But I cannot stay away for too long. There is a healing to be found in both the world of darker art and certain levels of escape art.
As a child I was utterly consumed with fascination regarding the music and film world. Rather than attempt to “restate” myself regarding these Artists and their work I will simply mention them and include some images. You can draw your own conclusions. Maybe a few of you will even relate or connect to a different (I hope!) but similar way.
I was four years old when my parents decided to take me to see a “re-issue” of Bambi. The cinema was sold out. So they opted for us to see What’s Up Doc?
I was too young to find the movie funny or interesting. However, I recall something very vivid about the experience of seeing Peter Bogdanovich’s classic film: This different looking lady was laying on top of a grand piano. She started to sing, “You must remember this…”
and my four year old ears and eyes were forever changed. Something in this lady’s voice grabbed hold of me and never let go.
After the movie I demanded to know who this lady was.
I believe it was my father who told me she was a singer.
I demanded that we cross the busy street to K-Mart so I could get the What’s Up Doc? record. There was no such thing. But I think my demand was puzzling enough for my parents to follow it. I selected my first record album based on the fact that the cover was of a child who seemed close to my own age.
I would go on to play this album so much that I swear you could hold it up and see through the vinyl. I listened to Barbra Streisand constantly. Over the years her voice became my equal to chicken soup.
I was 8 when I discovered The Who and Ken Russell’s Tommy. Both the 1969 album and the 1975 movie.
The connection to this film and The Who album seem almost painfully obvious with hindsight.
It would not be long before I found a powerful level of escape from weed and downers. (Valium was my particular favorite) But music and most especially Film Art formed into a core of my being. While most of my friends were obsessed with Welcome Back Kotter and Happy Days, I was consumed with Ken Russell’s rock opera film and Streisand’s rock-pop remake.
As I am unable to legally work, I have found creative entry ways into helping re-discover work and artists that matter to me. Aside from filing my time, it has led to some unexpected connections and a sometimes exciting background “roles” in helping to get films restored and re-issued.
Sometimes my assistance leads to nowhere. Other times it helps.
I’m not an artist.
I’m not paid.
But my voice is now heard in surprising new ways.
D.I.D does not get in my way the way it used to. Right now the main challenges are defeating phobias and odd thought processing.
And, no. My life is nothing near nor has it ever been remotely like the depictions of the disorder seen on television or movies. I don’t change clothes and personas.
Actually, it is so nuanced that few ever noticed.
There was a period of about 4 years where it would sometimes be clear to others that something wasn’t quite “right” but for the most part it has never been easily spotted.
And I’m very relieved to say that I have not “lost time” in over 3 years now.
The challenges now seem to creep up in phobias, self-doubt and often inabilities related to concentration. Sometimes letters re-arrange as I write or read.
That is when it is time to stop and just lose myself — in Art.
Art that seems to speak to struggles, fears, reality, surrealism and ideas
that seem to have the ability into which I can escape.
…And, to heal the broken.
Matty Stanfield, 8.25.2015