We are used to the jump-scares of horror film, startling, fast movements that aim to shock us, to make our heart rhythm jolt. But what truly terrifies an audience to the point of complete dread is the foreboding atmosphere and the inexplicable certainty that the characters are moving towards their doom. The foreboding, the unease, the dread lies in the slow movements, the out of place objects, the bumps and creaks during the night and the unexplained shadows.
Such a lingering sense of dread was what I aimed to create in the studio work of my project, and it is also a central idea I explore in this dissertation. The writing is divided into four main parts; Horror Film, Unhomely Interiors, Partial Depictions of the Body and Drawing as a Final Medium. Each part is also pivotal to the studio work. The ideas explored in both the studio and written work look at how the domestic space can be transformed into a place of dread through the ‘uncanny’ and ‘unhomely’ as utilised in Horror Films to create a lingering sense of doom and foreboding. The partially depicted body also adds to lingering unease, as when the body is fragmented in non-overt ways, it suggests a sense of subtle violence. The process and materiality of drawing are also important as the traces and gestures it can create are utilised in the project to amplify a sense of foreboding, given their ghostlike nature.
I tapped into my childhood fears when trying to suggest true dread in my work. There is also somewhat of a voyeuristic element included, it is as if in some of the works the subject is being watched. And I think this expresses a genuinely real fear for many of us. Being stalked as a woman is a real fear with which most women can identify with. I think the other real fear I recognize being signaled in my work is of one’s home being invaded. However despite this suggestion of stalking there remains a clear ambiguity around the central female figure; the changes of perspectives and angles allows at times a sense that she is in a position of power rather than exclusively placed in the role of passive victim. Young women are so often victims in horror films and so perhaps my work, allowing a sense of danger to stem from her own presence, is almost a protective element, a way of reversing the power relationship. The work suggests: don’t mess with a young woman as you never know what she might be capable of.
Emily Gordon’s Master of Fine Arts was supervised by Graham Fletcher and Leoni Schmidt.