Links, Curiosities & Mixed Wonders – 13

GIF art by Colin Raff

These last times have been quite dense, in the wake of the publication of The Petrifier.
Allow me a breif summary. 1) On the Italian magazine Venerdì di Repubblica a nice article by Giulia Villoresi came out: it starts out by reviewing the book but soon shifts to the wider subject of new aesthetics of the macabre, saving some nice words for this blog. 2) I was featured on the Swiss website Ossarium for their series Death Expert of the Month, and upon answering one of their three questions I recounted a tragic episode that particularly influenced my work. 3) I also took part in The Death Hangout, a podcast + YouTube series in which I chatted for half an hour with hosts Olivier and Keith, discussing museums and disturbing places, the symbolic meaning of human remains, the cruelty and bestiality of death, etc. 4) Carlo Vannini‘s photographs served as an inspiration to the talented Claudia Crobatia of A Course In Dying for her excellent considerations on the morbid but fruitful curiosity of the generation that grew up with websites like

Let’s start immediately with the links, but not before having revisited a classic 1972 Monty Python sketch, in which Sam Peckinpah, who in those years was quite controversial for his violent westerns, gets to direct a movie about British upper class’ good old days.

  • The blog Rocaille – dedicated to the kind of Beauty that lurks in the dark – is one of my favorite virtual spaces. And recently Annalisa visited the wunderkammer Theatrum Mundi (I also wrote about it a while ago), which in turn is one of my favorite concrete spaces. So, you can imagine, I was twice as delighted.
  • Another friend I unconditionally admire is relic hunter Elizabeth Harper, who runs the All The Saints You Should Know website. A few days ago she published a truly exceptional account of the Holy Week processions in Zamora, Spain: during those long days dedicated to the celebration of Christ’s death, she witnessed a paradoxical loosening of social and sexual inhibitions. But is it really a paradox? Maybe not, if, as Georges Bataille pointed out, eroticism is ultimately an anticipation of death itself, which erases individual boundaries. This might be why it is so strictly connected to ecstasy, and to the sacred.

  • Since we’re talking Bataille: in his obscene Story of the Eye, there’s this unforgettable passage where the protagonist Simone slips between her legs the eyeball she tore off the corpse of a priest (the engraving above, inspired by the scene in question , is by Bellmer).
    This eyed vagina, or vagina oculata, is an extreme and repulsive image, but it has an archetypal quality and it is representative of the complex eye/egg analogy that underlies the whole story.
    Following the same juxtaposition between creation (bringing to light) and vision, some have inserted a pinhole camera into the female genitalia. The Brainoise blog talks about it in a fascinating article (Italian only): several artists have in fact tried to use these rudimentary and handcrafted appliances in a Cronenberg-like fusion with the human body.
  • By the way, one of the first posts on Bizzarro Bazar back in 2009 was dedicated to Wayne Martin Belger’s pinhole cameras, which contain organic materials and human remains.
  • Toru Kamei creates beautiful still, or not-so-still, life paintings. Here are some of his works:

  • When it comes to recipes, we Italians can be really exasperating. Post a pic of chicken spaghetti, and in zero time you will be earning many colorful and unlikely names. A food nazi Twitter account.

  • Above is a mummified skeleton found 15 years ago in the Atacama desert of Chile. Many thought — hoped — it would be proved to be of alien origin. DNA tests have shown a much more earthly, and touching, truth.
  • A typical morning in Australia: you wake up, still sleepy, you put your feet down and you realize that one of your slippers has disappeared. Where the heck can it be? You’re sure you left it there last night, beside the other one. You also don’t recall seeing that three-meter python curled up in the bedroom.

  • Everybody knows New Orleans Mardi Gras, but few are familiar with its more visceral version, held each year in several Cajun communities of South Louisiana: the courir de Mardi Gras. Unsettling masks and attires of ancient origin mocking noblemen’s clothes and the clergy, armies of unruly pranksters, bring chaos in the streets and whipped by captains on horseback, sacrificial chickens chased through muddy fields… here are some wonderful black and white photos of this eccentric manifestation. (Thanks, Elisa!)

  • There are several “metamorphic” vanitas, containing a skull that becomes visible only if the image is looked at from a certain distance. This is my favorite one, on the account of the unusual side view and the perfect synthesis of Eros and Thanatos; anybody knows who the artist is? [EDIT: art by Bernhard Gutmann, 1905, “In the midst of life we are in death”. Thanks Roberto!]

  • Country homes in Vermont often feature a special, crooked window that apparently serves no practical purpose. Perhaps they are meant to discourage witches that might be fluttering around the house.
  • My Twitter went a little crazy since I posted the photos of this magnificent goat, found mainly in Siria and Lebanon. The breed is the result of careful genetic selection, and it won several beauty contests for ruminants. And I bet this cutie would break many a heart in the Star Wars Cantina, too.

  • Finally, I would like to leave you with a little gift that I hope is welcome: I created a playlist on Spotify for all readers of Bizzarro Bazar. A very heterogeneous musical offer, but with a common denominator which is ultimately the same underlying this blog: wonder. Whether it’s an experimental indie piece, a dark melody, a tattered and frenzied polka, a nostalgic song, some old blues about death, an ironic and weird reinterpretation of a classic theme, or an example of outsider music played by homeless people and deviant characters, these tunes can surprise you, transport you to unusual soundscapes, sometimes push you out of your comfort zone.
    Each song has been selected for a specific reason I could even explain in a didactic way — but I won’t. I will leave you the pleasure of discovery, and also the freedom to guess why I included this or that.
    The playlist consists of more than 8 hours of music (and I will continue to add stuff), which should be enough for anyone to find a little something, maybe just a starting point for new research and discoveries. Enjoy!

Camera obscura

Abbiamo già parlato della stenoscopia nel post relativo alle straordinarie macchine fotografiche di Wayne Martin Belger. Affrontiamo di nuovo l’argomento perché si tratta della base fisica che ha dato i natali ad arti quali la fotografia e il cinema, e perché la costruzione in proprio di primitive macchine fotografiche sta godendo di nuova vita. Sempre più sono quegli artisti e fotografi che cercano un punto di vista differente e, tornando alle origini, cercano nuovi mezzi espressivi e di ricerca visiva.

Tutta la fotografia si basa sul concetto di “camera oscura”. Non si tratta, come pensano alcuni, di quella stanzetta illuminata di rosso – tante volte vista nei film –  in cui i fotografi sviluppano le loro pellicole come novelli alchimisti. La camera oscura era in origine una vera e propria stanza che aveva un piccolo foro in una delle pareti, e nessun’altra fonte di luce. In questa stanza i pittori e i primi fotografi si ritiravano per lavorare alle loro opere. Infatti la luce del mondo esterno, entrando dal foro sul muro e attraversando il buio andava a proiettarsi, di molto ingrandita, sulla parete opposta. Chiaramente, l’immagine risultava capovolta e ben poco nitida, ma il procedimento aveva qualcosa di misterioso e magico che attirò gli studiosi della visione.

Infatti, come avrete intuito, la camera oscura ricorda molto da vicino il nostro stesso occhio, che altro non è se non un globo forato da una parte nel quale la luce penetra e si proietta capovolta sulla parete opposta alla pupilla, per essere poi percepita dal nervo ottico. (Curiosità etimologica: la pupilla, cioè il foro all’interno dell’iride, significa esattamente piccola pupa, bambolina; questo è dovuto al fatto che se guardate negli occhi qualcuno, all’interno della sua pupilla nera potete vedere una versione miniaturizzata di voi stessi, la vostra “bambolina”, appunto.) Fatto sta che il principio della camera oscura, reso con il tempo più piccolo e maneggevole di un’intera stanza, è tutt’oggi quello che fa funzionare macchine da presa e fotocamere (sempre per restare nell’etimologia, ecco spiegato perché le macchine fotografiche si chiamano “camere”).

Il rinnovato interesse per la fotografia stenoscopica, ossia praticata in questo rudimentale modo, ha fatto sì che molti amatori si costruiscano le loro macchine fotografiche stenopeiche, alcune anche molto fantasiose. Il blog Frankenphotography raccoglie molti esempi di questa nuova verve creativa. Di particolare interesse sono le macchine fotografiche di Francesco Capponi, che è riuscito a ricavare delle vere e proprie camere oscure da oggetti sempre più piccoli, come un cilindro da prestigiatore, un pezzo degli scacchi, un origami, una noce, o un pinolo:

Sempre lo stesso blog contiene un video decisamente affascinante su un moderno e improvvisato esempio di camera oscura:


Abelardo Morrell scatta le sue fotografie con questo metodo, talvolta riuscendo a capovolgere l’immagine (così da farla ritornare “dritta”) mediante l’uso di un sistema di specchi.

Il metodo ha vantaggi e svantaggi. Difficile è calcolare con precisione il tempo necessario per impressionare la pellicola attraverso un foro stenopeico, ma si parla anche di alcune ore. Il foro, inoltre, se non accuratamente forgiato, può dare luogo a fenomeni di diffrazione; per diminuirli occorrerebbe ridurre il diametro del foro, aumentando però così i tempi di esposizione. Le immagini comunque non saranno mai nitide e precise.

Dall’altro canto, la profondità di campo è illimitata (perché non si utilizzano lenti) e gli stessi difetti (sfocatura, approssimazione ed evanescenza dell’immagine) possono essere utilizzati come scelta espressiva. Le fotografie così ottenute sono infatti imprevedibili, evocative e fragili al tempo stesso, e hanno un sapore antico che le moderne macchine digitali riescono a riprodurre soltanto dopo un lungo lavoro di post-produzione.

Ringraziamo Frankenphotography per le immagini.