We love artists at The Wild Word.
Our Artist-in-Residence page provides a space for artists to showcase their work and to spread their creative wings. In their month of residency, invited artists are encouraged to collaborate with other contributors within the magazine, to experiment and develop new projects, while giving us an insight into their creative process.
Our HAUNTED Artist-in-Residence is the artist Tom Moore.
‘The Truth is Ugly But It Will Set You Free’
RISING FROM THE SLAB
I wasn’t very interested in horror movies as a teenager. I liked gritty dramas. Looking back they seem way more schlocky than any of the low-budget monster films I get excited about now. Nothing is more cheesy than earnest. As a young child it’s pretty safe to say I was obsessed with monsters. Monsters and God. Catholic Father. Atheist/Witch/Nurse Mother. Protestant Primary School. A mixed bag of religious ideas made it easy to incorporate new mythologies.
I hadn’t seen many monster movies. I had seen King Kong and heard stories about the theme park ride where you get to be in the train car that he destroys. It didn’t really occur to me when watching Kong that he was a monster: more a historical giant, the Big Deal. He was distant from the large house on the rocky outcrop. The one that was constantly being struck by lightning. The one that loved so much to be struck by lightning. This is where Dracula and Frankenstein were. I knew about these figures from children’s books. Funny books. Jokes about vampires and mad scientists. I knew that the jokes were jokes, but they masked something real. Something not to be toyed with.
I was scared of vampires. It’s a question that children ask each other. It’s a clear identifier. What’s your favourite colour? Which team do you support? Who is your best Spice Girl? What scares you? It wasn’t just other children asking. When I was eight our teacher asked the class to draw pictures of what scared them. I drew a man with fangs stood over a large woman asleep in bed. He wore a black cape and looked very happy. I knew he was evil, and that his dreadful happiness grew from the fact that he really didn’t care about my morality or anyone else’s.
Every night I would say prayers, asking God, my friend, to protect me from vampires. I would imagine one appearing in my room. Standing over my bed. He would be so well dressed. Slicked hair with the tight V shape at the hairline. Black clothes, palest skin, and dashes of red everywhere. I would be awake when he arrived. I would know he wanted to bite me but he would wait. Everything was under his control. There was no move I could make. I was doomed. I knew I wanted to be as sharp as him. I knew I could not know what happened beneath his surface, know how he desired. I knew I would never feel what he felt until I was bitten. Then I would not care about God and would only care about blood. I had him visit me every night because I wanted to know. I wanted to know but I was so scared. I was so scared because I wanted to know.
Frankenstein was different. There are two things here: there is the Mad Scientist and there is the Monster. I wanted to be a scientist really badly. For a long time I was convinced there was a massive wall cavity in my parents’ house and I repeatedly tried to persuade my dad to break into it so that I could build a laboratory. I had visions of dank spaces with bubbling chemicals in strangely shaped glass jars, small threads of electricity dancing between metal wands. A place where my great work could finally commence. But alas, even if my dad had been an enthusiastic idiot, we would have only smashed the wall to find ourselves in the bathroom. The great work never got underway and my science career faltered early.
I wanted to be the scientist because of the monster. Perhaps you can’t have one without the other but I knew where my heart was drawn. I loved the monster, that massive gorgeous lug. I remember rising from the slab. I remember perfecting my monster walk. I remember it being on the list of things that I could do. It was all an act. All the things I loved about the monster were things I knew I could not have in my real life. I was small, I was growing up, I was being reluctantly socialised, I was desperately wriggling in the tight grips of the world around me.
He is unquestionably big and he was born fully formed. Out on the edges, in the ruined laboratory, all expectations are banished. When being lifted amongst the lightning, nothing else matters. All that matters is that he is alive. Terribly and gloriously alive.
‘with a foreword written by a family friend, Allen Ginsberg’
‘Drawing For “the Devil”‘
‘Someone to Watch Over Me’
‘Whatever and Practice’
I was coming to Berlin to visit an old friend, Jane. We had not been in touch for a long time and she said “When you come you should bring your camera, I’ve not starred in a film since LOVE, ACTUALLY!” LOVE, ACTUALLY! is an award-winning sci-fi horror sex movie that we made together several years before. I wrote, directed, photographed, edited and she starred as the central character Crazy Legs, alongside the brooding Alex Highet.
I wrote back saying I was amazed no young Cecil B DeMille had cast her in a new epic. She has such star quality. From old Cecil B we made the jump to Cleopatra. One problem, another jealous starlet wanted the role. Emily threw a glorious tantrum as only a true star can. “JANE CAN’T BE CLEOPATRA! I WANT TO BE CLEOPATRA!” With that two more Cleopatras were born. The Egyptian queen is a historic figure with a much debated past and is diverse in cultural representations. It seemed right to acknowledge this history and keep building.
We were lucky to find Sophie Buchel to take the role of DeeDee as a last-minute replacement for another actor who had decided to take an impromptu fast the weekend of the shoot. They were simply not ready for a mountains of ice cream. Sophie’s wide eyed charms and go-get-‘em attitude played perfectly against Jane’s living god persona. Keep your eyes peeled for her (accidental) fire eating moment.
Our Cleopatra is about many things. Romance. Multiplicity. String Theory. Chaos. The Eternal Void. Wrestling!
When the shooting was completed, the editing faltered. The footage spent months and months on the shelf, tucked up in an external hard drive. I was getting frustrated messages from the impatient cast. Not only did I not have the film ready I also didn’t have any good reasons. The performances were brilliant and the story made as much sense as it was ever going to. I just didn’t know what the film should look like, how it should feel, how it could visually live up to the stars and to the cosmic vision.
Then, as if by some angelic answer to my predicament, I heard the music of Dream Boi. High speed, high emotion, high sugar pop music belonging to an internet phenomenon called Nitecore. Not only was this new music exactly the way this film should sound it was also how the film should look. Saturated colours, moving patterns, multiple layered images. More is more and everything now. Dream Boi was kind enough to not only introduce me to my new musical doctrine but also to soundtrack the film. He is the angel who saved Cleopatra from the worst of all fates, eternal postponement.
Like many of my films, Cleopatra is a “star vehicle”. A term often used to deride old Hollywood movies which relied too heavily on the draw of celebrity, I think the idea is wonderful. I love making movies with stars. I love writing a fantasy as if it were a portrait. Why would you not want to fall in love?
I was sat in Hyde Park in Spring 2014. The sun was low and the ground was hard. The ground was hard because it was covered in small curled up hunks of wood. Wasp galls under an oak tree. These were of course familiar to me, but at that moment amazing and horrifying. Rapt in sci-fi movie trepidation, I filled my pockets and went home.
Andricus quercuscalicis, the wasp that creates the Knopper gall, injects its egg into oak flowers. This causes a genetic mutation in the flower and instead of an acorn it grows a gall, a thick waxy residence for the wasp’s grub, which feeds on the nutrients meant for the acorn. In the autumn the gall hardens and falls. When spring comes the grub emerges a wasp to find either a mate or another oak flower.
The genetic relationship that this parasite has developed with the oaks is hyper specific in order for them to be able to enact this mutation. In fact, it is not just oaks but two particular genus of oak tree. The wasps reproduce in cycles, one generation parthenogenetic (all female) and the next sexual, each with their specific oak preference. The pedunculate oak and the Turkey oak, respectively.
The wasp was first found in the UK in the 1960’s in Devon, having spread from southern and eastern Europe over 400 years. It has since spread north and was found in Eglinton Country Park in North Ayrshire in 2007. Despite the wasp seeming to thrive in some areas, and having a population boom in 1979, this slow spread may be due to the fact that they require to be in areas with both genus of oaks. Although one can’t help but factor in climate change making the north increasingly appealing.
Many parasitic insects make galls on plants and cause little impact on the host. The Knopper gall, however, affects the oak at its point of reproduction. For each gall there is one less acorn and the fecundity of the tree is decreased. Officials say that the Knopper gall is currently not a serious threat to the British oaks, however in Hawaii the local government was forced to introduce a secondary parasite to combat gall making wasps that were devastating local coral trees.
For this collection the galls were photographed using a fixed set up of magnifier, tripod, and lights. The style of the photographs is static in order to highlight the differences in the subjects. This method is inspired by the industrial architecture photographs of Bernd and Hilla
Becher. The Bechers documented numerous buildings and structures with a rigorously flat style. By presenting groups of photographs of different buildings, built for the same purpose (blast furnaces, storage silos, coke ovens, etc) they created series upon series of images with infinite subtle variations and seemingly miraculous similarity.
Unlike acorns, which are generally very similar looking, Knopper galls are wildly diverse. Despite the enormous variety of shape and form within the photographs each is unmistakably the relic of this particular parasitic mutation.
In 2011 Taysir Batniji produced a series of works called ‘Watchtowers, West Bank/Palestine’. Taking his lead from the Bechers, Batniji and a hired photographer set out to produce a series of photographs of Israeli watchtowers. Due to the political restrictions around photographing such structures, Batniji’s pictures lack the perfection of the Bechers. It is in this corruption of the ideal that Batniji’s point becomes clear, these are not photographs about what the buildings look like but the politics surrounding their visibility and their powers of surveillance.
The method used to catalogue the photographs in this collection is also a corruption, in that it was based entirely on personal aesthetics. The process was complicated and protracted and what may appear at first scientific is in fact not. The choices made in this taxonomy are entirely stylistic and in that respect the collection is perhaps more closely related to fashion than it is to botany. This draws attention to the imagined divide between the two and the unpopular idea that there is a liberal portion of personal taste in science and in turn, cold calculation in art.
 This paragraph tells us: This is a creature dramatically different from ourselves, which generates faster than we do. Its power lies in its females. Our acts of patriarchy make us weak.
 This paragraph tells us: This is a creeping threat and we have brought it on ourselves. In our decadence we make ourselves vulnerable to our enemies, who are numerous and gaining in strength.
 This paragraph tells us: Our complacency does not serve us. Time is not on our side. In attempts to fight fire with fire we are likely to burn up everything.
Based on the original ebook ‘Wasp Galls’ available on Tom’s website.
Photo by Anna Ricciardi
Tom Moore works with Lost History & Found Flowers, Low Spectacle & High Fashion, New Monsters & Old Hollywood, True Crime & False Lashes, Fresh Guts & Worn Clichés, Breaking Hearts & Accelerating BPM. Drawing is séance. Film is spell casting.
They have exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery London and the ICA. Their films have been screened at the London Independent Film Festival and Donau Festival. They teach drawing in Berlin.
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