Saturday, 4 June 2011

Actophile Society 2: Southend-on-Sea


Actophile Society 2: Southend-on-Sea,

With Dave, Hannah, Jon, Yuka and Amy at Southend, in part two of English Heretic's leisurely psychopaddles in tomorrow's flotsam. What would a theme park look like to an archaeologist from another space and time. Iam obsessed with what we are actually seeing and the fairground natural cartoon surrealism feels like the perfect place to reframe reality as something altogether more deliriously unhinged.

My friend Jon is an Upminster lad, so grew up visiting Southend and Adventure Island in its older incarnation. The Crooked House, Helter Skelter and Pirate Island are still there but dwarfed and annexed to an almost quaint museum by the newer structures - which look more like apparatus to test the physiological breaking points of Astronauts. They represent an ergonomic, military approach to thrill seeking, eschewing the fuel of kitsch imagination that powered the wonky attractions of the past.

In trying to photograph the rides, I've been keeping in mind the aphorism that came to me a while back when walking through South Kensington (posted here).

"Can we reconstruct an exoticism from a carefully edited perspective of the exoteric? Could it be possible to create an entirely false travelogue from capturing the mundane at the correct angle?"

Ride 1: Pharaoh's Fear

A space time travelling archaeologist would have a field day of psychedelic and syncretic theories about Pharaoh's Fear, guarded by its phalanx of futuristic mummies. This ride is almost the perfect metaphor for instilling the delirious surreal - Iam listening to Sun Ra's Solar Myth Approach as I write this entry and this is a soundtrack that could easily accompany the unearthing of the Pharaoh's Fear's stellate vehicle. What kind of curses would be set upon the excavators of this ludic tomb?

Ride 2: Candy Cottage And The Fudge Factory

OK, not exactly a ride but more a fantastic voyage fuelled by sugar, who the hell is the marketeer behind the naming of these sweet shops? They sound like slang for something much less saccharine and much more profane.  It invokes all kind of queasy trips - Hansel and Gretel's anthropophagic forest retreat,  the archetype of the fun fair as the abductor's hunting ground. In a weird way the Candy Cottage  reminds me of Alma Tadema's The Flower Market - so perhaps what I am exploring with the future archaeology of the theme park, is analogous with desire of the Victorians to re-imagine Rome and Greece. I was recently visiting the Holbourne Gallery in Bath and was struck by a series of Giovanni Panini's Capriccio paintings. The whole notion of inverting the capriccio technique seems a very fecund mechanism for intuiting a mythic present from the perspective of an archaeological future.

Ride 3: Lucifer's Return Saloon

I can't tell you how much pleasure and possibility this crazy realm of the dust demon gave me. The hooded figure approaching the Helter Skelter is the spectre of Manson - Choronzonic destroyer of the 1960s.  I really hope when I finally confront a Babylonian djinn in the astral desert, he'll look like the Satanic Orville outside Lucifer's Saloon. What I love particularly about Philip K. Dick's exploration of Lovecraft in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, is that when the egregores manifest, they have a decidedly Dr. Seussian air about them.  Strangely these are a lot more sinister than any imagined  HP Geiger occult fetish.

Ride 4: Firewheel

A Pagan Catholic Sacrifice machine, more like it. I can easily put myself in the mind of an overwrought self-appointed expert in comparative religion - cross referencing this ride with the Sun Wheels carved in the temples of Kornak. I love the idea of a religion part Jonestown, part techno-occultniks inventing these contraptions to hoist their sacrifants before the Solstice sun; all under the tutelage of a megalomaniacal  child emperor - The Heliogabalus of Southend-On-Sea.

Ride 5: Pirate Island

In finishing off this short exercise in tactical psychophotography, I must show this incredible picture Dave and I concocted. I was taking some snaps of the De-Chiricoesque tower, when Dave stuck a Super Mario toy in front of the lens - booty from one of the stalls. I told him to throw it up in the air and see if we could capture him. Almost paranormally, we managed to construct this photo whereby Mario appears to be stepping off the top of the building. I am sure most readers will think this is a wind up, but absolutely not. It also gives the picture a religious resonance: Crowley's Tower Card, figures falling from the Tower Of Babel. I'd love a future archaeologist of the funfair to discover this photo in their researches, and for it to construe a fabricated ritual intent for the Tower's past purpose.


Fearlono said...

Despite not having visited a theme park for many years (I was terrorized by frequent trips to Blackpool as a child), I must admit that you've made this look rather attractive.
Couldn't help myself from shouting "don't do it!" to Super Mario !
That's an uncanny photograph.

poultryhen said...

This is a true image. I saw the throw myself. Jon.