Sunday, May 21, 2006


Went to check out the Whitney Biennial yesterday, the title of the 2006 exhibit being Day for Night. I usually tend to "get" the mixed media projects, appreciate the works displaying obvious technical proficiency, and ignore the films altogether. I am not one of those people who rushed out to theaters to see Drawing Restraint 9. (Did anyone?)

I was surprised to discover then that my favorite work from the Biennial was Cameron Jamie's Kranky Klaus. The Whitney Web site describes the work as a document of "the pagan myth of Krampus—a shaggy beast said to roam the valleys of Austria on the night of December 6."

In his film, Jamie follows a group of four or five Krampus as they make their way through a village on a snowy evening. The way the Krampus worked was this: a man dressed as Klaus would enter a building where a group of people were gathered in expectation. From a wicker basket that he carried, Klaus would distribute these satchels with "Gold Pass" stamped on them.

Shortly after Klaus left, the Krampus would enter. (Refer to picture.) Not only do the Krampus look grotesque, but they wore these bells the size of coconuts around their waists. They would come in, hopping from foot to foot, not only physically intimidating the villagers but overwhelming them with this awful clanging. They would start assaulting the people, pulling them from their chairs, wrestling them to the ground, and overturning tables. Most people, half-smiling, tried to resist. There was no fighting back. But one girl in the film did start crying.

Then they would leave for their next destination, the men playing the Krampus occasionally walking with their costume heads off (and at least once stopping for beers).

The soundtrack for the film was provided by the Melvins (warning: unnecessarily intense Flash site). The music was throbbing heavy metal-like, which underscored the oddly violent--yet organized--nature of the whole thing. LA Weekly has more pictures from Krazy Klaus. Artangel, which commissioned and produced Krazy Klaus, has more information about the other films in Jamie's trilogy focusing on "vernacular rituals": Spook House, about a working-class Detroit suburb's celebration of Halloween, and BB, about "LA teenage wrestlers."

The Biennial closes Sunday, May 28.


Blogger klaus said...

For the record, the men who play the Krampus do not stop off for a beer. They stop off for a soda. The men who play Krapmus do not drink any alcohol whatsoever during their evenings as Krampus. Alcohol is against the generations of tradition that they're following

2:32 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home