The grotesque and the sublime. The juxtaposition (I think Elle would like that word) of the pure and beautiful with the coarse and ugly. The sacred and the propane. Art should be about beauty, but something about the grotesque touches a primeval chord within us. Is it a perverse curiosity with disorder? The fascination with the abomination? Or does the ugly only serve to accentuate the beautiful that much more?
Perhaps the heyday of this art form was in the late Renaissance, especially in the Golden Age of Spain. Royalty would often be painted with dwarves. The court jester has long been seen as an essential part of a court, a reminder of the limits of sovereign power and the monarch's own position Le Danse Macabre. The Catholic Spanish royalty remembered Death after much of Europe had forgotten it in their humanism. Diego Velazquez(an artist that you can literally and figuratively feel staring back at you)'s Las Meninas shows the doll-like Infanta of Spain with, among others, two dwarves, contrasting the young future super-Empress with the casteless and powerless.
Of course, the most popular example of the grotesque and the sublime is "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". Victor Hugo, being a Romantic, has no grasp of the same truths that Velazquez played with. As usual, Romanticism, like cheap makeup, only serves to make the tale that much more drab. There is absolutely nothing sublime in this story. Quasimodo fedora-tips the first woman he comes across, Esmaralda, who is surely only pure in his fantasies. Frollo, a villain conjured from Hugo's tortured Jacobin LARPing, isn't even evil in an interesting way.
We'll start with some light refreshment, courtesy of the pop-poet of our generation, Billy Corgan. I would say "Zero" channels Fellini's Satyricon, but it has heavy French influences as well. Here sensuality includes the beautiful and erotic as well as the ugly and weird. Slaanesh would be proud.
HAM, starring the incomparable John C. Reilly, has no beauty in it at all. It's all straight-out-of-Wal-Mart-why-you-hating-on-Wal-Mart-you-never-lived-in-a-small-town? ugliness. But you can't look away.
The video that inspired me to start thinking about this whole thing in the first place. Part of my curiosity also stemmed from my hesitation to share the video with anyone. "Ugly Boy" treats on the the grotesque and the sublime most directly, seemingly trying to make the viewer uncomfortable. The sexual attraction to the grotesque is examined here.