Shock Art is a little bit like when a friend or colleague, for a hilarious joke, sets Meatspin.com as your internet homepage. You can only do it once really, after that it just gets weird. Although, if you take the level of weird far enough, something we’ve all seen before can become a whole new thing. A whole new, very scary thing. This is what Melbourne-based artist Mark Powell has done with these dioramas.
If The Chapman Brothers, Guillermo del Toro, Rube Goldberg and Dario Argento all got together to design hell, this is probably what they’d come up with. The dioramas are made from silicone and resin to achieve an organic, decaying look. Each one is intricately detailed and filled with individual events and scenes, rather like The Chapman Brother’s controversial diorama Hell (2000) or Hieronymus Bosch’s famously dystopian painting The Garden of Earthly Delights (1505). Powell describes his work as “miniature environments where imaginary beings evolve, devolve, consume, excrete, multiply and decay.” There are creatures with no eyes and massive ears, like this guy. The whole thing is a messy house party, hosted by the monsters that lived under your bed when you were six, being gate-crashed by Freud’s worst nightmares.
You might say that Shock Art doesn’t really exist anymore and that we’re all desensitized, cynical bastards. Maybe we’ve seen it all before and walk around in a constant, torturous, unending yawn of indifference. Well, Mark Powell has certainly got people in a tizzy on his website. One comment asks the artist: “what’s wrong with you? just why are you doing this, it’s FUCKING WRONG. life should be happiness and love and care, this is just horrible. it’s disgusting . it is horrifying.”
“I’ve never seen an art piece that makes me want to vomit as much as this.”
Well, fair comment. There’s definitely something horrifying about a colon with teeth and piles of dismembered limbs. And it’s nice to know there are still people out there who believe life is all cuddles and hot chocolate, unlike this person, who astutely points out while Mark Powell is clearly a psychopath, at least he’s expressing it healthily; “I bet a lot of priests, or policemen, or teachers, or whoever you would think are normal have a lot of built up sick shit inside them but they keep it in until one day they end up raping some little kid or killing someone. At least all the inner demons of the artist are displayed and vented in a productive way.” Another harsh critic gets right down to the crux of the issue: “I’ve never seen an art piece that makes me want to vomit as much as this.”
But opinion is divided. According to a comment entitled ‘Existential Terror’ Mark Powell’s work “transcends art itself”. Probably the most offensive criticism to art is indifference, and clearly this is not an issue for Mark Powell. I wouldn’t recommend looking at them before bedtime though.