Shark-humans, tree-people, pig-people
Cura is an experimental arts magazine that is occasionally so gruesome it is difficult to look at. One particularly difficult feature profiles the work of the French virtual reality artist, Mélodie Mousset. In what is perhaps her most challenging work, Mousset had her own internal organs scanned and then reproduced as wax candles. She then travelled to the Sierra Madre mountains by boat, lived four months in the jungle with local healers, and eventually burnt her organ-candles inside a cave. Cura prints photographs of a digitally altered Mousset, her chest split open, so you can see her spine. We see a brain bubbling away in a bowl of water, and a dog gnawing on what looks like a human thigh bone. The fact that these images are virtually rendered doesn’t make them any less disturbing.
While the images in Cura are explicit, the text can be opaque. The short essay printed alongside Mousset’s work, for example, is a kind of poetic meditation on what it feels like to experience one of her works. I found myself having to Google the works in question, because it was hard to make out basic details about them. This lack of detail can make the magazine feel like hard work. When the art is this strange and disturbing, it would be helpful to have more factual information to help the reader make sense of it.
If you submit to the incomprehensibility of it, though, Cura is rewarding. One particularly transfixing artwork is a visual essay by the Canadian artist Jon Rafman. Thirty pages long, this is a story about a spoiled frat boy and an asthmatic orphan, who somehow end up in the same supermax penitentiary. I truly cannot work out how they end up in this penitentiary, but perhaps that’s not important. The images themselves — which show monstrous shark-humans, tree people, pig-people, and horribly grey, mangled babies — are so extraordinary, no explanation is required.