This post is about the art of serial killers and serves the purpose of referencing a couple of very good blogs/bloggers.
© Joe Coleman, And a Child Shall Lead Them [Mary Bell], 2001
There’s a dark-toned blogger I’ve been following for some years now, which I love for its very unique voice (it actually appeared in the same year Nihilsentimentalgia did). Abraxas 365 Dokumentarci is a serbian blog about documentaries, music, video, literature, mainly about outsider aspects of life – out-of-the-ordinary behaviors I would say. So there is a lout about serial killers and about anti-authoritarian philosophies, also about mental illness, punk movements and drugs. Unfortunately, because it is written in a language I can’t read I mostly get his references and documents. Sometimes, due to the exclusive nature of the subjects a translation is necessary. Anyone interested in subversive themes should stop by Abraxas, it’s an amazing source of material and links.
Back in 2010, over at the Humble Arts Foundation blog, Grant Willing made a series of posts about Serial Killer Art: Ottis Toole, Henry Lee Lucas, John Wayne Gacy and Richard Ramirez. Some famous murderers were excluded from this list and Charles Manson is, of course, one of them.
© Raymond Materson, Asesinato de las noticias 1995 y El prisionero 1991, via a very good blog about Outsider Art (in castilian), by Graciela García – El Hombre Jasmín
On the subject, there’s a mandatory documentary to watch: The Collectors (the title couldn’t be worst). The movie portraits Rick Staton and Tobias Allen, collectors of serial killer artworks. I can’t stop drawing parallels with the outsider art world, because there are a lot of aesthetic resemblances between the works – the composition, the way the space is filled and ornamented, the impact of the trace and the subjects represented. The curiosity around these works is often macabre, almost psychotic in the sense that the paintings and the drawings become a sort of prize, alike the ones the murderers tend to keep. Well, it’s just the sort of world we live in, where victims and perpetrators often switch places.
This reminds me of a text by psychoanalyst Arno Gruen, “Surrendering the Self” (2001), where he talks about the sense of Self and the victim’s identification with the aggressor. In it he tells the story of Rudolf Hess and Hitler, which he also tells in some of his books:
This is a man without an inner sense of self, a man always in search of someone powerful with whom to identify in order to fill his own inner emptiness. Such a man does not know what love or empathy is. On the contrary, when he comes upon these feelings he dismisses them as signs of weakness. We often point out in defense of people like this how good they are to their wife, their children, their secretary; but we don’t realize that their behavior is not based on empathy but on playing a role in which they behave ‘correctly.’ They can be disarming because they give the appearance of being humane while actually having no regard for others. They do not recognize the destructive life-denying element in themselves that draws them to an idealized image of a superhuman being. They hate the very idea of love, for it was denied them; they want to destroy everything that reminds them of their need for emotional warmth, and the suffering they endured because that need was never satisfied. They look for a figure who “with indomitable will … does not shrink from shedding blood,” not even their own.
filmmaker John Borowski started a fundraising campaign to complete his documentary about Serial Killer Culture. He states: The intention is to shed light on why artists, collectors and the public are fascinated by serial killers, murder, crime, and death. The film also highlights the historical importance of archiving true crime artifacts and literature so that future generations may learn about true crime history.
Merge Divide, at Serendipity says: “While the artwork of serial killers is often less than compelling, the motivations of the collectors of such memorabilia are complex. Why would someone want a piece of art of questionable quality, just because it was created by a man who has taken multiple lives? I understand the acute curiosity that is stimulated by extreme behavior, but insights are not often found in the amateurish articulation of the inane subjects chosen by the typical “prison artist”. Would perpetrating intensely destructive acts lead to some deeply mysterious and refined artistic aesthetic? The amount of proportional talent within this self-selecting subgroup probably mirrors that of society in general. Why would we expect to find more value in the paintings, sculptures and drawings of killers? Why would the association between the object and the man’s deeds be meaningful at all?“
*the title of the post refers to Hannah Arendt’s challenge to Adolf Eichmann