The Corpse Bride and the Human Centipede


As a noisy unstable montage of found objects, the splendid monster of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein demonstrates an enduring aesthetic as well as scientific romance. By the re-animated and remediated (and remedial) conjoining of its corpse parts we could construe this phallic creature – with the erotic pataphysical and alchemical recipe of Duchamp – as a “bachelor machine”: an allegorical image as well as working diagram of art as a “chemical wedding” even if, like the bride of Frankenstein, Duchamp’s famous bride stripped bare remains – isolated in the upper storey of The Large Glass – a virgin muse. This is the masturbatory discipline of an art dedicated to her.

I propose a new image of art that interferes with this erotic chemistry: necromantic rather than romantic and thus a catastrophic undoing of the bachelor machine. The muse in this case is the notorious “corpse bride”: the instrument of a legendary mode of execution in which a putrescent cadaver is tightly bound in actual intercourse with the victim. Consider the notorious scatological exploitation movie by Tom Six, The Human Centipede 2 (2011) in which a demonic pervert kidnaps and crudely attaches with sculptural surgery, mouth to anus, a dozen victims in a phantasmic image inspired by Six’s first film, The Human Centipede 1. While the first movie typifies the camp style of the “mad science” horror genre derived from Frankenstein, the brutally explicit sequel is a metafictional if not metaphysical disquisition on the camp sexual diagram of the first film. With the second human centipede, eros is transfigured into an appalling aesthetic rage – yet in a manner suggesting more affinity with the stage kitchen of Master Chef than with the Marquis de Sade’s chateau, the orgiastic assemblage of bodies is transposed into a singular extrusion of the alimentary canal. I propose – in a gesture that is transdisciplinary rather than transgressive – that we make use of The Human Centipede 2 as a caustic satire on contemporary art – in particular debasing contemporary art’s diagrammatic, relational and participatory practices – and use it as an unpleasant antidote to the new doxa of Deleuzian aesthetics.