Bryson Edward Howe
HR GIGER: Mothers & Monsters
Stare at a Giger painting and you stare into the abyss. A dark kaleidoscope of psychosexual fears and desires stares right back.
Look to the stars, see yourself in the glistening cascade of hollow space and despair. Floating senselessly, folded up in terror; amoeboid babies, suckling, cradled stagnant in Mother’s arms… Mother hold me close and wrap your tendrils tight around me. Usher me crawling back into your welcoming womb. Why should we go on, rapturously rattling towards the vast, dark depths of the unknown when we could slip peacefully back inside the universe of our creation? Why should we go on, sailing the stars and tearing through the ether in search of a heaven when we were already ripped screaming from a heavenly paradise? Why wait for this life to end? A life that was hardly even worth beginning…
Stare at a Giger painting: Limbs. Limbs tangled in limbs. Veins. A network of veins. Mouth. A web of cavities, moist openings, aerating orifices. Bodies. Bodies tear apart bodies. Machines become bodies; bodies become machines. Machine. Machine becomes human. Child-bearing machines. Birth-death machines. Death becomes birth becomes sex. Sex becomes violence. Violence and rape. Rape becomes partnership. Assimilation. Penetration. Phallic eruption. Entangled. Engulfed. Cocooned. The caterpillar becomes the butterfly.
HR Giger once described his work as “bringing the inside out”. It is filled with these contradictions, the organic and mechanic fluidly interchanging in a place where myth meets metropolis; a unique dichotomy where his work feels both futuristic, yet ancient. Primal. Fossilised. Excavated. It feels stumbled upon, like scrawlings on a cave from some outer galaxy we are still yet to discover. Within a single work, Giger shows an enormous evolutionary timespan in its entirety: where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we are headed. Into the wild abyss, Giger takes us down the rabbit hole of our own existence; a psychedelic pre-incarnate voyage through the squirming cellular somatic system, as we are swept through the undulating internal factories and cavernous tunnels of our own anatomies, left reeling, mutilated by the incessant pummeling of our biological machinery.
“You admire it.”
"I admire its purity…”
One man’s utopia is another’s shimmering gothic gestalt; a bulbous, biomechanical Lovecraftian-lovechild’s fleshscape pried free from its creator’s wordless moonlit visions.
Alien, Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi-horror-masterpiece, would be nothing without Giger’s sexually dominating designs that served as the basis for much of the film’s most unsettling imagery. The alien is Giger’s dreams finally metamorphosed: this Frankensteinian concept, a perennially frightening idea of parental rejection forms the film's ecstatic horror (a common thread throughout the entire series – characters constantly confronted with the harsh indifference of the universe, God’s silence, and ceaseless unanswerable questions). As the boundaries between parent-and-child, parasite-and-host, human-and-animal are all blurred we see ourselves as Giger envisioned: turned inside out. The fact that the monster is born from a human yet looks so despairingly in-organic, it is a distortion not of what we are but what we have created. As we stare into the abyss, our ethereal child stares back at us – and it wants us dead. Our evolution, our progress is halted. The horizon dims. This creature didn’t crawl up from the depths of Hell, but directly from within ourselves. Giger’s monster literally and physically embodies our impending destruction.
Love and death so casually collide in Giger's imagery: the gynecological geometry flagposts our future and the sexual reproduction of our species, while the dread that is so deeply rooted in the work feel more connected to a primal fear; a fear that sneaks into the present through the remnants of the footprints of a more primitive past. The same fear that prevented Adam from first taking a bite of the forbidden fruit as he stood in his Eden, a fear that then crystalised itself into the DNA of human beings over centuries. The same gestating fear Giger must have felt with the world threatening to tear itself apart through nuclear war. Fear of the atom. Of technology.
And despite the fear, Adam did taste the sweet juices of the apple. The serpent-like psychedelia that populates Giger’s works reminds us of our original sin. We ate the apple, and now Giger shows us stumbling back towards our creation. Man back to ape, ape back to frog, frog back to amoeba. Where did we come from? Where do we go next? The caterpillar becomes the butterfly. What will we become?