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Post-Modern Analysis Of Hr Gigers "The Birth Machine"

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A Postmodern analysis of

H.R. Giger's: "The Birth Machine"


1. Introduction to Essay: Premodern, Modern and Post Modern Art

2. The Artist, Hans Rudi Giger and "The Birth Machine"

3. "The Birth Machine"

4. Picture: "The Birth Machine"

5. The Philosophical Narrative

a. My chosen philosophical narrative (Postmodernism)

b. Analysis of the piece through postmodernism

6. The Poem: "Der Atom Kinder"

7. Critical Evaluation

8. Conclusion

9. Picture: "Bullet Baby" and "Iron Cast Copy"

10. Bibliography


Premodern, Modern and Postmodern art forms

Various styles of art change and mould to fit the times, as do their artists. It then follows that a number of eras are identifiable in history with the previous style or form of art usually being a catalyst for the next. The art often reflects not only the time in which it was created, but also the influence of the great thinkers of that time.

The Premodern

The premodern philosophy in relation to art can then be divided into two separate and distinct areas, namely the Hellenistic and the Medieval. The latter saw art as a mimetic actively or a second-hand reflection of the original source of meaning; that which is above man. In the biblical sense, this would refer to Yahweh or God (Kearney, 1994:115). This was followed by the belief that the imagination (and therefore that which came from the imagination) was a mere counterfeit of the original being (Kearney, 1994:117). As art could never be perfect and was always an interpretation of the imagination, the iconography (representational paintings) of Christ and the Saints had to therefore follow strict rules in order to show no emotion. This was no ensure that the icon which was being represented was being worshiped and never the painting itself.

In the Hellenistic imagination, although man can be seem as an original creator of physical art pieces, the artists can never escape the feeling that it is an imitation of the act of their divine creators. Plato denounces art as inferior copies of their originals (Kearney, 1994:89) and further condemns artists, claiming that they commit the crime of daring to "make the invisible source of truth visible in the form of representational images"(Kearney, 1994:95). He claims that the imagination is idolatrous to the extent that it worships its own imitations instead of the divine original (Kearney, 1994:95). Though a paradox does appear when Plato says that certain "thought-images" are allowed if their purpose is to further human understanding or in an attempt to share or gain knowledge.

The Modern

The modern view was a complete reversal to the old and saw the imagination as the only source of true knowledge. Konigsberg stated that he imagination was the root to both understanding and sensation (Kearney, 1994:157). Kant too believed that imagination, and therefore that which is created out of imagination (like art), ceases to be a copy of a copy of a copy, but instead becomes the ultimate original. Modern artists believed in the beauty of the object as its original self, the sense of freedom that the imagination enjoys while beholding it. This implies that the goal of art is in fact the artistic experience itself. (Kearney, 1994:172) The art can then be seen as an original "second nature" and not an imitation of the "first". It is a new creation simply transforming the appearances of the previous creations (Kearney, 1994:173).

The Postmodern

The Postmodern interpretation then returns to the belief that all art is simply a copy of a copy and so forth, with one main difference from the premodern beliefs. Postmodernists believe that there is no original or divine source from whence all of the others are based upon, and that all art pieces are merely a collection of mirrors, reflecting and projecting each others images. Postmodern artists often use common images and ideas and incorporate them into their work, furthering this idea. Postmodern art is often consumer related, monotonous or simplistic in design.

Although my initial plan was to discuss H. R. Giger's "The Birth Machine" as a modern and not a Postmodern piece of art, my decision was swayed after a re-analysis of the piece as well as the various reproductions of the original.

The Artist, Hans Rudi Giger and "The Birth Machine"


The Swiss surrealist, Hans Rudi Giger is one of the few artists worldwide who does not and doesn't to sign his works of art. He is considered the modern day master of the macabre and his works are recognisable at first glance.

The motifs of birth, death and sex are the predominant subjects of Giger's art. From the beginning of his career, powerful elements, seemingly inspired by repressed memories of a traumatic birth, appeared from his talented hand. He willingly acknowledges that themes of birth trauma appear in his works.

By 1966 he had begun producing a series of 'shaft' pictures which had their primary origins in dreams. Bottomless shafts, undoubtedly representative of the birth canal, surrounded by a series of steep banister-less stairways the embodying fear and danger predominated these pictures. Other works produced at that time had birth allusions, and included underground cities as well as buried bio-mechanoids. These humanoid beings combined features of humans with mechanical equipment.

Continuing the birth trauma passage theme in his art, Giger later became engrossed with 'passages.' These pictures were the result of a series of dreams. He writes, "in these I usually found myself in a large white room without doors or windows, the only exit a dark, iron opening barred by an iron hoop halfway along. Moreover, in passing through this opening, I regularly got stuck."(Giger, 1980) He found himself stuck in the tube-like structure with his arms pressed to his sides and being



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