Fact One: The tiny town of Gruyeres, Switzerland is where the cheese comes from. It is picturesque, idyllic, and a family destination.
Fact Two: Gruyeres is also where the H. R. Giger, the artist made famous for his sticky, anthropocreepy art in Aliens, lived in a castle for 15-ish years. That castle is now the Giger Museum.
The two data points did not compute. At all. Until they did.
Gruyeres is centered around a castle—specifically the Gruyere castle (not where Giger lived), the way most medieval villages were—or still are, depending on your lens. “Grue” comes from the French for “crane” and is prominent in the crest, traditional art, etc...
Upon being pushed to visit the castle (let’s face it, I’m not into historical sites. I get antsy. And climbing big hills makes me sleepy.), I quickly got it.
Giger’s art, I posit, is continuing a long tradition of creepy Swiss art.
Consider the following. This is a huge seal (now) decorating the outside of the Gruyeres Castle. Notice the demon's head in the center. Notice the interplay between the bodies that rope and wrap around each other. Notice how the longer you look, the more you want to call your mother and tell her you love her:
Now look at this:
The first is medieval, the second is Giger’s. When extended by a modern hand creatures like these strange bodies make sense:
I'm being reductive in comparing a tactic of war as a historical precedent for the aesthetic of Giger, with his use of fragmentation and overly augmented bodies/not bodies.
Now, interior spaces are another thing. Castle vs. the Giger café.
I won't try and stretch a comparison here. But if I did....
In fulfilling a lifelong dream of visiting a town made of cheese and eating all of it (more or less), and seeing Giger’s amazingly animalistic/erotic/violent/lustmordey art, I had no idea I would see that the two have the same roots. Creepy, erupt out of your stomach, gooey roots.
So let me pose this challenge. If you like Giger, google around "medieval Swiss art" for a while. There are dots that connect in ways that change his art for me from just 80's powerhouse sci-fi, to something that's a part of a much larger artistic ecosphere.
* Dirty Pictures I. is coming, but this followed the latest Eurocentric posts better.