Tech UPTechnologyThe show of death or death as a show

The show of death or death as a show


A video called Suicide Box was shown at the 1997 biennial at the Whitney Museum in New York. The recording had been edited by a group of artists and scientists – the Bureau of Inverse Technology – from images captured at the Golden Gate in San Francisco. The cameras caught everything that fell from the bridge: spills, objects thrown by drivers… and suicides . The viewer, while watching them fall, was informed in detail about the distance traveled to reach the water, the speed reached by the body and why some of the suicides survived the fall.

The attraction to death has led to bizarre situations, such as a concert organized in 1897 in some catacombs where Chopin’s Funeral March or Saint-Saez’s Danse Macabre were heard . Coffins also have their fans, and not only as pendants or earrings, but as a substitute for the bed. Two famous examples are Bela Lugosi (according to some, the best Dracula in film history) or the actress Sarah Bernhardt , who also used it to store her fan letters. Coffin nails are much sought after by witches and sorcerers: in fact, they are part of the ritual to maintain a tête-a-tête with the Devil.

Many anthropologists speak of the Age of Hidden Death to refer to what has happened in the West in the last century. Death, which in other times and other societies was a visible part of life, has become a taboo: we have moved away from cemeteries and it is extremely rare to see someone walking through them. In addition, the management of the corpses has ceased to be a community task and has passed into the hands of specialists: funeral homes have replaced the family. Even more: until recently death was so well hidden that, in fact, few people had ever seen a corpse.

From taboo to object of desire

So, faced with a taboo, it becomes an object of desire and fascination. And if we let the media into the game, always on the hunt for shocking images, the result is obvious. As soon as something ceases to be an open topic of conversation, it becomes possible material for the search of the public. This phenomenon has made the exploitation of taboo profitable. An example: in 2004 the British channel Channel Four was looking for volunteers for its winter program Dust to dust : the requirement was to die and be able to place a camera inside the grave to follow the decomposition process live. At the same time, Doctor Death Gunther von Hagens –inventor of “plastination”, which replaces the water in the human body with a plastic solution that hardens the tissues, creating statues of corpses– would carry out a live autopsy for all viewers and More vocational fans could attend the show live –although it seems contradictory–. In the cinema, films like Henry, Portrait of a Murderer initiated what has been called the “aesthetics of the corpse” .

In recent times, death has ceased to be something hidden to become a spectacle. That is the price that a society pays for creating a taboo : what could be a natural process, part of life, becomes something that arouses morbidity and restlessness. From there to the assumption of a supernatural component in our lives there is only one step.

Fascination with death and murder

In 1968, director Roman Polanski lived through a terrible experience: the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, the victim of a ritual murder in which four of the couple’s friends also perished . The elements of this crime include two of the most classic topics used by the current media. On the one hand, the existence of cursed objects that should not be touched. Roman Polanski had just shot The Devil’s Baby in the Dakota Building in New York. According to legend, a black magician had been murdered by the residents of that building and, since then, anyone who stayed there for a long time had been cursed.

The guru who commanded the criminals, Charles Manson, told the police that he had ordered the murders because he had been asked by the Beatles . According to him, the Liverpool boys’ White Disc contained subliminal messages calling for revolution and indiscriminate murder.

The sinister thing about this matter is that all of the above exists only in the minds of those who believe in it. On the one hand, the damned fame of the Dakota building is based on an event that never happened. The murder of the black magician is a classic urban legend that is told from many places. On the other hand, the Beatles’ white record does not contain any subliminal messages. The power of unproven subliminal perception is part of the paranormal myth: through it, it is believed that a person’s behavior can be controlled until they are forced to commit a crime, even against their will. But what interests us about this story is that two mental ghosts, two ideas that have no objective substance, end up producing terrible events. This is something that has happened many times throughout history.

snuff movies

A gruesome spin off of that crime are the so-called snuff movies, a term introduced as a euphemism for murder in 1971 by writer Ed Sanders in a book about the Manson Family crimes . Although some killers record their own crimes, this is not considered snuff as the motivation is not business but their own pleasure. We have an example of what they would be in the films Tesis (1996) and Murder in 8 mm (1999).

Considered an urban legend, the existence of films that recreate the torture and death of a human being had its peak in the mid-1980s when actor Charlie Sheen reported to the FBI that he had seen a Japanese film at a party where someone dressed as samurai drugged and dismembered a girl. The film turned out to be the second in a series called Gineapigs films (Japanese Za Ginipiggu ) that recreates with absolute detail and realism what a snuff would be like . The series rose to fame again in 1989 as a “source of inspiration” for Tsutomu Miyazaki, the murderer of four girls between the ages of 4 and 7, whom he tortured, murdered, raped and ate, in that order. Diagnosed with extreme schizophrenia and multiple personalities, he was a mannered, quiet and obedient employee who chose his victims at random. The Otaku killer – which means extremely obsessed with something, in this case gore movies and pornographic animeterrorized the families of his victims by sending them letters detailing what he had done to their daughters .

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