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It is no exaggeration to say that
the art of HR Giger has been one of the most powerful forces in science fiction
iconography, and through the de-eroticized form of the Alien movies, has
had a major effect on the popular imagination.
His themes concern the mechanization of the human body and the
interaction between humans and alien forms.
His work is rooted in surrealism and pornography, but what makes it so
memorable is his integration of the human with the non-human. In the 1970s, Giger had a fascination with
the industrial production of babies, but his images are much more disturbing
than the nurseries of Brave New World.
These babies have old faces and are half-human and
half-fighting-machine. Their ugly faces
are covered in warts, and where their arms should be they have machine
guns. These are baby cyborgs designed
for military purposes. Giger's
preoccupation with machine-like sexual acts is also traceable back to the
1970s. In a striking picture of the
"Passage Temple" entrance from 1975, Giger himself stands in the
entrance, dressed in a black robe, wearing sandals, arms folded. Surrounding him are his images of body parts
and machines intertwined, with penises fitting into vaginal and other holes,
alien heads and women's thighs and buttocks all linked together into one
machine. His art became more standardly
pornographic in subsequent decades in his images of group sex between human
women and alien creatures or robots, because these images simply reproduce a
familiar representation of sadomasochism and a powerless penetrated female.
Giger's images of powerful alien mothers and decaying male bodies are more
This collection of Giger's art is a
strong introduction to his work. As
with other books in Taschen's Icons series, the book is a paperback the size of
a novel, and the reproductions are very much smaller than the originals, so
some detail and emotional power is lost.
But the quality of printing is good, and the well-constructed book is a
pleasure to handle. It contains a short
introduction by Stanislav Grof and a few other brief pieces of text, but the
book is largely devoted to images. The
work includes an impressive range of sketches, drawings, paintings, and
sculptures. While the selection only
gives a small portion of Giger's overall output, it does convey how consistent
his work is. As the fantasy of the
integration of humans and machines becomes ever closer to reality, Giger's art
is one of the most important influences on the visual vocabulary we have for
picturing our future.
© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of
the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at
Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online
Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine,
psychiatry and psychology.
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