More Readings * Images Page
by Andrei Codrescu (from Direct Art Special Edition Fall 2003)
Slowinski's country is not a tourist destination. In fact, the very idea of "tourism" is repellent. One imagines a group of Disney-bound holiday goers being devoured like dog-chops or worm-burgers before they even reach the first rest stop. In fact, there are no rest stops. Looking at the organically monstrous creatures of his world one feels the anxiety of someone who strayed by mistake into Hieronymous Bosch's hell. A diseased white lecher embraces a degraded black female while they both suck poison from barrels attached to their bodies. A fat baby diapered and armed like John Wayne postures before a TV spewing blood, while a tiny lynched figure completes the decor of a motel room that makes the Bates Motel look idyllic by comparison. A grocery cart with a human head shoves down the isle of a market laden with menacingly heavy goods. Every item on the store shelf is politically explosive. A human-headed hydra feeds orgiastically on its own flesh. A grotesque couple strolls down the street in a seemingly peaceful suburb: she is a dog-headed, cigarette-smoking, pregnant abomination while her four-legged partner drags along a scary, fat head whose eyes are filled with horror.
What makes Slowinskiland so uncompromisingly frightening is its perverse familiarity. The inhabitants may be monsters, but they are only the dark aspects of people familiar to us. The land may be bubbling with carnal distress but it's a land we know, it's America, Slowinski's America. The rhetoric of the allegories is also familiar. When I was growing up in communist Romania, the anti-capitalist rhetoric we learned in school was inhabited by a vast menagerie: we had "capitalist pigs," "hydra-headed corporations," "bourgeois hyenas," "imperialist dogs," and many more. In some way, this rhetoric was unfair to animals, and I always thought that people were a lot more loathsome than those beasts. In its simple, vicious way, commie ranting was still beholden to the ethnocentric tradition of the bourgeois Enlightenment. But if such polemical echoes haunt Slowinskiland, they have become a lot more sophisticated, because it's much later in history. Since those somewhat innocent days of 50s Stalinism, we've experienced horrors that have found many different expressions in Surrealistic and Gothic art. These too have found a genial host in Slowinskiland.
On the other hand, Slowinski is a moral rabble-rouser who yields prophetic simplicity. He points out our vices in nearly medieval, scholastic order. Greed, gluttony, stupidity, and lust, all come under the scrutiny of bright lights. There is a punctilious and skilled attention to detail here for those fearless enough to venture within. You cannot leave Slowinskiland off your map if you want to see the whole picture of our world now in all its dimensions.
Editor of "Exquisite Corpse, a Journal of Life & Letters"
More Readings * Images Page