Some Scream and Some Don’t // Splatterpool / New York

Text by  Kelly Armendariz / Curator Splatterpool NYC

Given Urs August Steiner`s background in scenography, investigations begin with a dismantling of elements that constitute a given setting for amusement. Spacial configurations predetermine not only the viewpoint of a spectacle, but also the ways an audience receives and reacts to complex combinations of stimuli. Sound comes into play, as do other kinds of sensory cues. We are compelled through cultural symbols to feel elation and fear from a safe distance as our reality is subjected to twists and turns. Relief comes in knowing that at the conclusion, all will probably be well and normal again.

Some Scream and Some Don’t speaks directly to the spectacle of cinema and the paradoxical pleasure of horror. This work builds upon ideas from Steiner’s previous work, 12 Minutes Funny Games (2011), in its focus on the use of sound in film and progresses his interest in the diversion of moving image. The flickering of light in film can often suppress the audience’s awareness of how sound affects and manipulates emotion. Anxiety is built with the application of a musical soundtrack, bangs and booms; but more importantly, emotion is aroused by empathy with the way an actor’s body reacts to the threat of physical danger.

The horrified scream of a woman has long been the most iconic ingredient of the horror genre, dating back to pre-talkie times. It is a signal for help, a physical outlet of desperation and most likely contains a whole range of evolutionary/survival implications. In real life, a scream can save you. In Hollywood horror, a scream can make you famous.

The current installation uses Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) as source material because of its precision of composition. Specifically, the climactic scene, in which Jack has descended completely into blood-thirsty madness and corners his wife, Wendy, in the caretaker’s bathroom. Her shrieks grow ever more intense with the rhythmic slams of his ax into the splintering paneled door. Steiner begins by isolating the image and the sound from this scene in an objective probe into cinematic construction.

The procession of work through the gallery space parallels the experience of moviegoing and unfolds the artist’s method of extraction and abstraction. Visual and auditory are processed in isolation in order to find focused responses to the fragmented whole. The connection between a two dimensional screen and audience regains a physical dimension that no longer depends on the necessities of plot and chronological sense in cinema.

A landmark film such as The Shining can take on its own life, letting in and putting out information into our popular cultural psyche while finding its place in the conversation between other films that came before and after. In the same manner, each of the works in this installation stands in its own space with its own impact but remains steadily in a minimalistic flow of an artistic process without a linear beginning-middle-end.