The Body Horrible is a fluid passage through bodily states which swell across a broad cultural terrain: bizarre & hardcore pornography; abstract & pop art; sex crimes & serial killers; horror & violent movies; body-building & plastic surgery; heavy metal & hardcore techno; pop, rock & hip-hop music videos; victim toys & children's food; spectator sports & crowd control; skyscrapers, cars & kitchen appliances. Envisaged as a text book that students would read even if it wasn't on class lists. Imagined as a manual for those wishing to re-use and re-invent their bodies. Designed – quite literally – to fuck with your mind.
The Body Horrible is not an exploration of the ‘self’ in troubled times. Nor is it an exposure of ‘power’ & its effects on the politicized body. The information and insight it contains result from many years of author Philip Brophy's research into the hypermateriality of cultural viscera, and his willingness to penetrate and be penetrated by animate objects and inanimate beings. The heady text is aimed at: (i) those who are fascinated and excited by ponderings on the psycho-sexual ramifications of that which surrounds us everyday; and (ii) those who are seeking ways beyond the politically correct impasse of gender definition and humanist desire which fails to unleash a truly liberating means for connecting the self to all that one dreads. The spurting text is designed to be messy, murky, moist. Directly attacking the dry stomach rumbling and limp crotch scratching of academic discourse, the book transmogrifies all accepted ‘ways of seeing’ into a complete re-build of the act of seeing with one’s own eyes. You will never distinguish a ‘phallus’ or ‘vaginal dentata’ again: in place, you will be lost in a dimension of morphic infinity. You will become lost in your own body.
Format: text with images
10 chapters @ 10,000 words
Plus bibliography, filmography, netography
Categories: animation, cinema, music, pop culture, media, cultural studies, sex, pornography
Do we really live in a liberated era? Do you laugh at middle-aged swingers using the internet for attracting members to their parties? Do you implicitly support the binary barracking of gay and straight polarities? Do you bemoan the pornographic in preference for the erotic? Do you think plastic surgery is ‘unnatural’? How much do you know about flesh patches, gainer/feeders, penile implants, lactation syndrome, parafillia? Do you think a person who could fuck someone after they have killed them is a ‘monster’?
It is no accident that we entered a digital age right at a time when definitions of sexuality, gender, type and practice were being re-coded into a series of templates, patches and pull-down menus which save one from linking discontinuities between that which is deemed ‘sexual’ and that which is deigned ‘beyond sex’. The fetishization of virtuality and its logic of remote triggering is itself a sign of sexual displacement, heightening the power of placing obstacles, tensions, ruptures and collapses in the way of direct physical contact. While this could be claimed to be a liberating extenuation of jouissance and titillation (clicking, panning, downloading, scanning, bar-reading, decompressing – all in the name of striptease narration), it more directly points to a yawning cavern whose depths embody the dark abstraction and dank tactility which clouds the mind and throbs the body in sexual action. It is equally no accident that the greatest concern about the territorial collapse of political economies on the internet is centred on the viral spread of pornography – because internet porn appears to enable transgressive consumption while maintaining a desperate representational outpost which feebly wires back to society: yes, sex is human.
But maybe sex is not as human as we think. Maybe you are not essentially human for being sexual, for engaging in sex, for practicing its social rites – both normalized and transgressive. Maybe sexuality is worth considering as a small alien planet in the floating universe of ‘parafillia’: the clinical psychological subset term for pathological fetishes, so quaintly humanist in its Latin derivation, ‘beyond love’. Maybe indeed.
Favouring posthuman stimulation over postmodern simulation, The Body Horrible goes ‘back to the body’ to rewrite the cartography of sexuality which signposts all that which is beyond sex. In doing so, it posits the body as that which is rendered ‘horrible’ – primed for horripilation. ‘Horripilation’ is the contraction of the skin which tightens one’s bodily surface when a state of dread is induced: the colloquial ‘creeping flesh’. The Body Horrible extends notions of the socialized being as determined by influence, subjection, attraction and identification into a concept of the body as a quivering organism which uncontrollably responds to all and every parafilliac stimuli. It wishes to feel those frequencies with as much erogenous impact as possible, and to allow their effects to shape a way of thinking about one’s relation to cultural forces. The concept of ‘the horrible’ thus anchors the ideas in the book like it would a craft being tossed on the ocean of hyper tactility which is popular culture: a realm where no cultural studies coast guards will heed your distress signal.
Forget therapy. Forget analysis. In opposition to the normative configuration "psychology - mythology - sexuality", try "corporeality - megamorphology - polyasexuality": the investigative triangulation from which The Body Horrible is cast. The book’s views are more derived from abject materialism, hyper phenomenology and hard science fiction than determined by conventional psychological methods. Rather than perform a direct analysis on `the body' in relation to socio-political discourses (sex, gender, power, control, etc.), the book outlines ways in which we use our body as both metaphor and metonym for recognizing and realizing the world around us. This means that in varying instances, ‘the body’ is figured as latent or manifest; actual or virtual; analogue or digital; molecular or genetic; visceral or structural. Furthermore, ‘the body’ in question might be an image, a form, an outline, an object, a subject, a tool, a machine, a process, an icon, a fantasy, a possibility. Anything can be a body; a body can be anything.
This open-ended concept of the body facilitates a site where cosmologies are modulated – where microcosms and macrocosms are in a state of continual flux, each becoming the other due to vast shifts in range and scale. You will perceive sports’ crowds as spermatozoa; skyscrapers as inverted casts of colonic tracts; artworks as suppressed acts of serial vivisection; children’s toys as implementations for bodily modification; cars as wombs; breasts as asteroids; perfume as entrails.
Now – whether you desire it or not - you can begin to glimpse cracks of relevance in life’s dreadful and repulsive produce. By using The Body Horrible’s extensive research and inquiry into a network of netherzones and undergrounds usually avoided, ignored or presumed insignificant by conservative cultural theory, you can navigate the ‘universe of parafillia’ and land in some truly alien worlds. Hopefully, you’ll stay. The greater bulk of the book’s contents rarely has been given detailed analysis, and never within an overall theoretical project. In no trivial way, The Body Horrible stares head-on into the asexuality of the serial killer; declares oil painting as excessive sperm production; rejects biological determinism as pseudo-mystical dogma; celebrates low frequency rumbles in rock music as spiritual; and advocates the use of unknown drugs in sport. Drink it down, all the way.
19th century erotic postcards & the dawn of body objectification; photography as bodily abstraction & the advent of pornographs; the hunger for flesh & wartime sex curbing; postwar pin-ups & girlie magazines; continental sex culture & differing views of bodily function; anatomical vivisection & sexual viscera; dismemberment & cataloguing the body; the body in action; origins of the cum-shot; rubber/vinyl/latex/PVC fetishism; phone sex & computer bulletin boards; air-brush art & the mortician effect; the normalization of nude calendars; Playstation skin patches & peeling female flesh; the shuddering depths of parafillia.
Jackson Pollock & the control of goo; Hans Arp & womb destruction; Willem de Kooning & bodily evisceration; Andy Warhol & mortician's techniques; Francis Bacon & the liquefaction of flesh; Luciano Fontana & graphic penetration; the canvas as body; female nudes & feminine models as painterly fodder; Chris Burden, Vito Aconite & performance art; bodily waste displays; modernism & formal violence; male creativity myths & the celebration of sperm; the hysteria of ejaculation & the mark of man; postmodern revisitations of theatricalized violence in David Hirst, the Chapman Brothers, Joel Peter Witkin & Cindy Sherman.
Jack The Ripper and total disfiguration; Ed Gein & the surface of the body; John Wayne Gacy’s paintings & the repression of being; Ted Bundy's execution & the celebration of BBQs; nomads, vagrants, itinerants & hobo-sexuality; the deliberate heterosexualization of serial killers in modern fiction; dysfunctional family units & grave-beds of sex; gun erotics & penile mechanics; reality television & amateur news footage; snuff mythology & fundamentalist death texts; death wishes & white light of the sex tunnel; torture & kicks; forensic analysis & the trace of liquids; masturbation addicts & pornoholics; life-force and spiritual transferal through violence; sperm, urine & DNA autographing.
Horripilation & the body’s tensility; sexual iconography in non-sexual action & depiction; bodily morphology versus social mythology; elemental forces of the earth & the planet as body; the thickness of gore & the colour of pus; displacement of gender through bodily abjection; the act of seeing versus the act of showing; the sound of the body; modern archetypal ‘horripilators’ of the body – Jason, Leatherface, Freddy & the Shape; the body beyond control & the body past controlling; the bodily dimension and the space of its habitation; the abundance of erections and their morphic continuity; approaches to the body by David Cronenberg, David Lynch & George Romero; inner & outer spaces; replicants & their existential form; pain thresholds; muscle-men; disease; cadavers; the elevation of the colon.
Body-mapping and Charles Atlas; the invention of Michael Jackson; supermodels & the apotheosis of bland; mega-breasts & the quest of silicone; cellulite & the stuff of being; the machinic craft of plastic surgeons; body art & scarification; hormonal injections and gender-sliding; menopause mania; pre-op transsexuals & sex change operations; science fiction & the imagined body; body building & self-shaping; mortician's wax & death masks; ressurectionism; cancer & immune systems; phrenology & facial sculpture; computer morphing & texture mapping; genetic engineering & moral engineering; fundamentalism & the Human Genome Project; menstruation wars: tampons versus pads; control of hair & fear of skin pores.
The bowels of Satan & the body of Christ; transubstantiation & indigestion; fear of the anal tract; backwards incantations & the terror of the reversed; biblical fundamentalism & the druid effect; The Exorcist; Judas Priest subliminals trial & frequency hysteria; speed metal, death metal & the subjection of pain; pseudo-androgyny & Hollywood rock; amplification, power & spectacle; technological stimulation & extenuation; biological pulsation & the rhythmic core of techno; acoustic decimation & digital deconstruction in drum’n’bass & r’n’b; oceanic sensations of space in trance & ambient; the club as womb & sound as water.
Gender war in musicalized space; inventing & designing stages for the body performer; vocal trajectories & arcs of sex; pubescence, hysteria & exploitation; figurines, marionettes & ethereal beings; valleys of fans and mountains of music; striptease narratives and bodily objectification; multiplicity of replicant individuals in girl/boy groups; vocal recording and mechanical auras; fallacies of ‘surrealism’ & ‘dreaming’ in music video form; the sound of imagery & the musicalization of narrative; holes, gaps & lack of breath in music video editing.
Cabbage Patch Kids & Garbage Pail Kids; body mythology in Masters Of The Universe; the impossibility of posable Barbie; designed neutering in doll gendering; third world toy production & petrochemical alchemy; dolls of the devil; child-as-victim & child-as-vegetable; gross-out toys & victim toys; parental fear of childhood self; identification with visage & form in doll design; talking dolls & instructional dolls; the marionette syndrome; lifelikeness & nearness to death; Ed Roth & monstrous excess; love of the ugly & the attraction of icky substances; the fallacy of nutrition; messy food and leaking bodies; playing with food & eating shit; the inexplicable torture of cows & hunger for fabricated milk.
Speed, mass, density and gravity; Leni Reifenstahl, Busby Berkeley, Glen Miller and wartime human-organization; sports narrativity & dramatic enveloping; televisual relay & sports casting; ovals, arenae, auditoria & other containers of spectacle; spermoid thrusts & labial excitation in strategic field sports; suprematism & ejaculation in the drive to win; WWF and the unreality of wrestling; the morality against drugs; male urination as sublimated gunfire; the liquid grain of beer; coffee and the taste of burning energy; elemental produce of the gods and elixirs of life; sports foods, body fuel & physical engines.
The fluidity of Gaudi and the melted cities of Max Ernst; sexy war machinery and implements for the sex-death drive; car crash trauma & unrecoverable body-shock; the car as mobile architecture of the internal; the home as womb; skyscrapers, the ‘non-phallus’ & the hysteria of colonic output; shaping negative space & carving into air; designing knobs and buttons; the fetishization of the hand in domestic appliances; breathing in shopping malls; the tactility of air conditioning; shaping phantom entrails in perfume; your last breath.