It was in the nineties when Marilyn Manson (born in 1969) became well known as a shock rocker combining brutally hammering industrial sounds with thick theater make-up and controversial texts about serial killers and Satanism to a garish spectacle. His extreme personality, which incited the hatred of parent associations and representatives of the religious right, was soon pushing beyond the boundaries of pop music. Marilyn Manson, whose real name is Brian Warner, played numerous minor parts in feature films like David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” and became the unofficial mascot of the MTV serial “Celebrity Deathmatch.”
It was less well known that Marilyn Manson had been painting pictures for quite some time. “I just don’t think the world is worth putting music into right now,” Manson told the Rolling Stone magazine in 2005, “I no longer want to make art that other people – particularly record companies – are turning into a product. I just want to make art.” Marilyn Manson’s career as an artist started in 1999 when he produced conceptual five-minute watercolors which he sold to drug dealers. The 21 watercolors of this exhibition seem to be in accord with his image and the themes that made him a famous/notorious figure: horror, pain, blood, tears, mutilated bodies, wounded souls. Yet a frequently delicate pastel coloring and blurred contours subtly subvert his works’ “explicit” contents, exposing the dichotomy of emotion and toughness, aggression and sensibility as an unresolved ambivalence. Manson’s interest is focused on the analysis of both the extremities and the cavities of the human body, i.e. exactly those parts of it which are most delicate, such as mouth, fingertips, eyes, or genitals, whose injury arouses our primeval fears.
“Outside it was raining cats and barking dogs. / Like an egg-born offspring of collective humanity, in / sauntered Marilyn Manson,” writes David Lynch in his introduction to Manson’s biography of 2000. The exhibition also comprises four of his short films from between 1967 and 1973 as a counterpart to and historical reference for Manson’s aesthetics.
As suggested by the works’ titles – Six Men Getting Sick (1967), The Grandmother (1970), The Amputee (1973) – Lynch is also concerned with the reflection of pain and its aestheticization, as well as with the deformation and vulnerability of the human body. The filmmaker’s probably most impressive early work is the short The Alphabet (1968), a mixture of real film and animation, which visualizes the creation of the alphabet as a painful and traumatic act of birth: we see the head of a woman made up in white who staggers through a room against a black background and spits out letters that assemble to forms and fleeting shapes of meaning. The Cartesian “Cogito ergo sum” is translated into the concreteness of letters, the signifying and the signified turned into material for a fantastic filmic experimental arrangement. “Absurdity is what I like most in life, and there’s humor in struggling in ignorance. If you saw a man repeatedly running into a wall until he was a bloody pulp, after a while it would make you laugh because it becomes absurd.” (David Lynch)