28 November 2006

Car Crash Chic

As a child, the great film director John Waters liked to play with toy cars. Nothing unusual you might say. However, Waters’ game involved the creation of gory crashes, complete with liberal daubings of tomato ketchup, decapitated dolls, and play acting the final agonies of the soon-to-be departed for his horrified mother. He went on to make films such as Pink Flamingos, notorious for its scenes of Canine Excrement Eating and Singing sphincters, creating an American icon, in the monumental shape of his transvestite star, the great ‘Divine’.
The young artist Andy Warhol was briefly employed as a Police Crash Scenes Photographer. His compositions are decidedly different from the standard businesslike representations of death by driving, managing to capture not just its forensic violence, but also the ordinariness of an American dream cut short on the highway.
JG Ballard sexualized twisted metal and lacerated flesh in his novel Crash - while any publication lurid enough to print pictures of the Princess Diana death scene, is guaranteed a huge boost in circulation.
People like car crashes. They slow down to look, fascinated and repulsed by carnage. Now that public executions at Tyburn no longer draw the Sunday crowds, rubbernecking on the motorway is the nearest they come to exercising their primitive demon.

The reason for this examination of car crash culture is that I’ve seen another one. I can’t get past Slough these days without crawling past fire engines and ambulances. Perhaps it’s the stench of the sewage works causing drivers to black out, or a sudden mental clarity confirming that modern life really is a futile. Quite likely they’re swerving to avoid the flower shrines left by the recently bereaved.

As I drove my daughter back to London, we approached what looked like ‘a nasty one’. Wishing to protect her from sights that could haunt her beautiful mind forever, I took responsible action.
" Ava, I might tell you to look the other way in a moment. If I do, don’t argue, just do it."
" But I like accidents daddy"
" But there might be people who are hurt."
" I don’t care. I like people who are hurt."
I reasoned that she had little idea of how hurt people can be, so I tried stronger tactics.
" Ava, there might be dead bodies with cut off heads and arms and legs."
" But I love seeing dead bodies with cut off heads and arms and legs."

Finally, there’s an artist in the family.


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