Sunday, January 28, 2007


Friday night we saw legendary experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger at the Walker Art Center. He showed several of his films and talked great vines of words from topic to topic that rarely had much to do with the question he was asked.

Two of his films from forty years ago deal with the fetishism and conformity that go with motor vehicles. Scorpio Rising looks at motorcycle fetishists while Kustom Kar Kommandoes does the same for those who polish cars.

In both films, the motor vehicle is the object of a young man's affection. The motor vehicle is his real lover, and something much more. Anger also puts this metal love into a context with images of skulls, Nazi flags and the KKK in the title of the second film. He is saying something about the facist like conformity at the heart of vehicle obsession. He is saying something about the sexual nature of motor vehicle obsession. These ideas can go a long way to explain why so many people cling to their cars in these days of news of global warming, and the great and destructive war for oil.

As we stood outside the Walker waiting for the bus, I couldn't help but notice how much all those cars do really look like skulls, with their smooth heads, their empty eyes and grins, their occiputs jutting out behind. In their appearance, cars really do look like a death wish. They are more than the wish of death for the cities that they bash their way thru, they have already killed them as meaningful people places - there is no more clear example of this than that spaghetti of streets and freeways right outside the Walker. What could be one of the loveliest parts of the city is made into a hell by the mouth of the Lowry tunnel, and the myriad lanes of the Hennepin-Lyndale mix-up.

Cars are a kind of global death wish too. With all the news about global warming and the war in Iraq, I can't figure out how so many people can keep driving so many cars, burning all that bloody oil to melt the world.

Anger made movies about how these vehicles represent an individual death wish. Scorpio Rising ends with the wipe-out of the biker and his wish is granted. But this is even a whole world we are death wishing now, and that is very sad.

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