David Cronenberg – The Exhibition

I spent yesterday in Amsterdam and visited an exhibition at the EYE film museum dedicated to the work of David Cronenberg. Check the description (including an intriguing video in which Cronenberg invites you personally to come and see his work) here.

Cronenberg is a Canadian film director known as one of the big names in the field of body horror. Many of his films deal with the often terrifying connection between human beings and nature (The Fly), the influence of media violence (Videodrome) or the interaction between technology and sex (Crash). After 2000 he moved into less controversial territory but his recent work, inclusing 2012’s Cosmopolis, never ceases to amaze.

I guess I’m fascinated by his work for reasons which also explain why I like H.P. Lovecraft, H.R. Giger, J.G. Ballard and a long list of other writers and artists which mix science fiction and horror, using the (transforming) body to explore a wide range of issues. These include the role technology plays in our society, the effect it can have on the way we physically develop and evolve, and the potentially dystiopian effects these developments may have. The resulting artworks are often rather bleak – Cronenberg in particular seems critical of the combination technology-advanced capitalism – and sometimes extremely gory.

The exhibition featured many of the original props used in his films, ranging from the organic game controllers used in ExistenZ to the rubber masks used to transform Jeff Goldblum in The Fly. It even offered the opportunity to have your picture taken next to an enormous Mugwup, one of the many frightening creatures which populate Naked Lunch. I was surprised to discover that most of the special effects used in Cronenberg’s films are actually organic, Especially in his pre-CGI times he often used latex models which look uncannily realistic. Most props were accompanied by clips from the films in which they feature and an extensive amount of paraphenalia, including  a memo written by Cronenberg which announces that crew members are entitled to a free massage on set.

I was accompanied by my mum, who is not a Cronenberg fan but appreciated the more technical aspects of the exhibition and the behind-the-scenes footage. We also met a rather terrified-looking group of middleaged housewives. When directing the group towards Cronenberg’s more recent work their tour guide announced that this was: “More normal, luckily.” The ladies sighed, obviously relieved. Cronenberg’s visions are certainly not for everyone but if you’re a lover of the freaky and the unexpected, prepare yourself for a treat.

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