An innocent American ballet dancer’s excitement at being accepted to a prestigious Berlin dance school turns to terror when she discovers that the institution is a cover for a murderous coven of witches. A nightmare fairytale etched in neon colour, Dario Argento’s witchy shocker Suspiria remains the most famous of all Italian horror movies. Suspiria is the horror movie as high art. Acclaimed for its febrile tone, experimental score by Italian band Goblin, garish lighting and baroque violence, it’s a barrage of primal terror, blood and guts, eardrum-piercing noise and dreamlike imagery.
Luca Guadagnino’s highly anticipated remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) will be released within the following month (2nd November U.S, 16th November UK).
Following the exciting soundtrack release of Thom Yorke’s ‘Has Ended’ earlier this week (which you can listen to here), an abundance of alternative movie posters for the 1977 original have been brought to the internet’s attention.
Innovative quarterly architectural magazine JA (now rebranded with a focus on urbanism to ja+u (Japan Architecture + Urbanism) explores movements and conversation in Japanese architecture.
JA’s website describes the periodical:
“JA – the Japan Architect – was first published in June 1956 and was the only English language periodical that introduced Japanese architecture to an overseas audience. Since 1991 it has been published as a quarterly journal in both Japanese and English, expanding its readership both inside and outside of Japan. Today’s JA showcases contemporary Japanese architecture with in-depth commentary on the theoretical history and context of the projects. It is organized with an emphasis on developments originating in Japan. The magazine surveys the country’s diverse, ever-changing architectural scene, identifies important trends to convey to a wider audience outside Japan, takes up current, compelling issues and considers the latest architectural trends”
JA and its sister partners (a+u, Shinkenchiku, Jutakutokushu) place an importance on the dialogue created between reader and content. Published in English alongside Japanese (both languages are seen across the same spreads), JA directly distributes detailed ideas of Japanese urbanism to its residents and to the rest of the world. In its acknowledgement of its wide-spread readership and the dialogue its translation creates, JA also gathers and presents high-quality works from around the world in their publication. Beneath the surface of academia and information, there is conversation and collaboration.
A 2013 spread by Kazuyo Sejima & Associates, entitled ‘New Approaches to Apartment Living in Japan’, is an example of JA’s commitment to distributing information through creative visions of Japan’s urban, contemporary architecture of living spaces. It can be seen in photographs below.
In recent years (the last six years or so), the phenomena of medieval graffiti has become a prominent area of discourse for medievalists. Specifically, what graffiti can reveal to us of the largely mysterious epoch and how it can perhaps debunk some of our modernly prescribed myths (‘medievalisms’) surrounding the period as a whole.
Historian Matthew Champion writes “today, graffiti is seen as both destructive and anti-social. It is widely regarded as vandalism, not as something to be encouraged on ancient monuments and historic sites. That attitude is largely a modern one. Until recent centuries, people of just about every level of society carved graffiti into ancient buildings. It simply wasn’t seen as something to be condemned.”
shoes and hands
“Echoing the very earliest of cave art, these inscriptions perhaps give more of a feeling of real people having been present than any others,” writes Champion.
There is a kind of individuality in the art of drawing around a hand or shoe, and some believe that these notably personal drawings were used to mark pilgrimage or to ward off evil. In their individuality, they became a means to immortalise someone in a moment in time, in a far more personal mode than any other kind of graffiti, similar to the markings of initials, names and faces we often see in graffiti today.
animals and birds
Expectedly, some of the animals inscribed in medieval churches seem to speak directly to the culture in which they were produced, for example, farm animals and their role in the mercantile economy. However, wild forest animals, such as deer and birds, are more often seen inscribed on church walls. In a nod to chivalric romance, the animals most abundantly inscribed are majestic creatures, revealing a consensus of animalistic fantasy from their inscribers. As the romantic, courtly love poems and epic tales of knighthood were in circulation around the late medieval period, it is unsurprising that the animal iconography and popularity of these mythologies translated into graffiti. Perhaps people began drawing what they liked to read, as an early form of textual illustratation upon the walls of parishes.
Field Dalling, Norfolk
church in Wiltshire
In medieval graffiti, inscriptions were often of what was feared. For example, there are few etchings of Christ or angels but there are many demons, the believed puppeteers of ill-fortune, inscribed all over European churches and parishes. As demons were a very real part of the conception of morality and faith in medieval Europe, they are often seen alongside other symbols, such as compasses, in order to fend off bad spirits.
In the mystery of their existence, it is most likely that medieval graffiti is (or at least has the potential to be) the workings of a wide variety of individuals. With regard to music inscription, even though it is somewhat unexpected considering the period’s illiteracy and dominance of oral transmission, there is a small number of rural parishes inscribed with musical staves. Within their rarity, they seem to convey a form of communication that transcends symbolic graffiti and eradicates any clear identity of the inscriber. In their fascinating anonymity and peculiarity, they communicate something deeper than popular inscription: perhaps “the lost voices” of medieval history.
Cary Fukunaga’s Maniac (2018) is a visual journey that takes us along multiple planes of expedition. Leading separate lives in the same retro-futuristic universe, Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) and Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill) are involved in the latter stages of a pharmaceutical trial for a drug that strives to rid the mind of trauma and disorder, yet Annie and Owen continually find themselves connected as the trial removes them further and further from their known realities. Each episode takes its audience through allegorical storylines that in their isolation begin to unify midway through the series, as they begin to coexist as a side effect of the trial and of a deeper bond between the two protagonists. The episodes, Annie and Owen and the characters they conceptualise represent some of the ways we see and try to understand mental illness and human connection.
As the series progresses, the pharmaceutical trial becomes limited as the setting to which all characters are tethered, an important backdrop but a backdrop all the same. The more realised setting and the more striking sites of exploration are the fragmented stories that are manifest during the drug experiences, the ones that somehow connect Annie and Owen on their respective ‘reflections’ and evidence the system’s refusal to keep the characters separate.
The series as a whole is (deliberately or not) an attempt at a visual display of how mental illness is complex, to say the least. Even in this futuristic universe, Maniac seems to suggest that pharmacy and psychotherapy are far from successful at navigating the intricacies of the mind. Within its sci-fi realm, including the retrofuturism in the early episodes such as the AdBuddys, Maniac moves beyond sci-fi as sci-fi for its own sake. We instead begin to simultaneously orient sci-fi alongside its exploration of mental illness, almost as if the technology within this retrofuturistic world permits and gives structure to a creative vision of mental illness, one that without this alternative universe would be rendered invisible, untracked. Maniac is just that, a vision, a vision through technology and augmented realities and versions of realities that allow characters to navigate, or at least witness, their own psyches within the regimented pharmaceutical trial as a facilitator.
What could be seen as arbitrarily futuristic, or ill-expressed when dealing with issues such as mental illness is up for speculation. Maniac is merited for its unusual and therefore alternative way of presenting mental illnesses. In this overtly fictional universe, can Maniac’s vision be held responsible for its portrayals and potential inaccuracies of mental illness if the vision itself is retro-futuristic? If, despite its warmth and familiarity, the entire universe of Maniac, outside the trial, is somewhat removed from our known reality in which these discussions are held?
The series’ potential flaw is its bundling of many ideas and philosophical takes on the mind. Maniac seems to say a lot about mental illness, encouraging important conversation from its audience. But because of the retrofuturistic setting, it is hard to dichotomise the series’ take on mental illness as nonsensical at best or offensive at worst. Regarding the universe in which it is set, it is unsurprising that Maniac was once a comic. The characters feel caricatured and therefore don’t promote much realism to the audience; nothing feels that ‘realistic’ compared to other series that try to explore mental illness. But perhaps the cartoonishness, the glorified visuals and futuristic technologies that humour the series and what we are given as reality, can actually help us to understand our own. Perhaps the retrofuturistic setting is just an alternative way to stomach these big, impenetrably difficult ideas surrounding mental illness and human connection. The series doesn’t try to compartmentalise the mind into easy, definitive disorders, in fact, it presents us with equally as complicated and abstract technology (Greta the conscious, empathetic computer) as a means to understand the minds of the subjects. In its absurdity there is some reason, Maniac is not condemning current treatments and remedies of mental illness familiar to its audience today, it is showcasing an invented, fictional system (that notably fails) as a cure.
Before the credits roll during the final episode we are given adventurous sentimentality, Annie and Owen chased out of the psychiatric ward car park by security and wardens, driving away in Annie’s father’s (Hank Azaria) truck. With their future unknown, the end rounds off the series with a sense of incompleteness which is endearing and fitting for the show’s overall messages: the trial did not work and no one is ‘fixed’, but people are (either in reality or in their own understanding of it) at least in the process. The trial, then, did achieve something. In its malfunction, creating a duality between Annie and Owen’s reflections, Annie and Owen found each other and thereby ways of coping with the real world, respectively.
A lot is contained in these ten episodes, and perhaps the ideas it explores should have been more fleshed out across longer episodes. But there is a kind of resolution, a cyclical satisfaction when the tenth episode ends. We do not witness an obnoxiously successful riddance of mental illness like the series initially seemed to preclude to, we are instead given a story of connected strangers in a time and place which is distant yet close in subject matter to our own environment, and in that simplification, it is triumphant.