I like many of Lynch’s films but The Elephant Man, with its themes of social stigma and public ghoulishness, appeals most. The protagonist is both shunned and misunderstood solely because of his appearance. Merrick’s longing for acceptance and desire to be like anyone else, is met by hoots of derision and revolted gasps. But he is, below his misshapen exterior, really just like us; seeking the warmth of companionship.
Mental asylums may seem a curious, if not to say odd wellspring for creative inspiration. But to me they offer a tender and liberating subject which quietly worms its way through the imagination. My interest in these long abandoned institutions- as neglected by society as their former inhabitants- was awakened by a desire to pass beyond their shadowy facades. A surreptitious visit to the now derelict Sussex county hospital in the village of Hellingly, drew me further into the labyrinthine possibilities for artistic exploration. The silent interiors and vacant corridors are being reclaimed by nesting crows and creeping ivy. Wards which once echoed with chattering and imbalanced minds crumble into ruins. The long departed residents are retreating ghosts who have made the walls their home.
The thylacine (vernacular name ‘Tasmanian Wolf’) was the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world. That was until man entered the picture. A combination of aggressive great white hunter culling and the introduction of competitive predators by humans pushed this shy, beautiful and somewhat clumsy creature to the brink of extinction by the early twentieth century. The thylacine was once found on the Australian mainland and New Guinea but by the mid 1930s only one specimen, named Benjamin remained in captivity in Hobart Zoo, Tasmania. Benjamin succumbed to neglect the way the rest of his species had. On September 7th, 1936 he died after being locked out of his sleeping quarters: an undignified end to this now extinct animal. Although several short film clips have survived and interest in the genus has grown since its demise, no authenticated sightings have been recorded since.
In my piece the thylacine is happily reborn to redress the hideous imbalance precipitated by man’s ignorance. This splendid creature walked the earth for millions of years but its numbers were decimated in little more than a lifetime.
On Friday May 20th I was invited to attend the ceremony for the Erotic Awards 2011. I had been nominated on the short list in the Best Artist category. The show helps publicise and raise funds for the Outsiders charity which helps disabled people gain confidence and fine partners. Their cause seems very worthwhile.