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John Waters
Baltimore Babylon

In this exhibition of corrupted images, faces under the influence, dregs of divinities, and the trashing of his own films, even his own image, John Waters makes the reuse of images into an insurrectional style. These 'TV image fixes' are, as Guy Debord might have put it, a real 'irrational proliferation of parasites' infesting our cinematographic subconscious; a re(-)collection of memories and images stolen from the screen like so many stigmata of the end of an empire, the Hollywood Empire.

Waters goes as far as to move the sacred temple to Baltimore - the small provincial city that is the location for all his films and the source of inspiration for his photographic collages. So, Baltimore (from the god Baal?) becomes Anti-Hollywood; Waters imagines the city synonymous with scandal based on the same purity that binds Sodom to Gomorrah. Baltimore: the city that gives birth to Lady Divine, Waters' travestied fetish of a double; a lipstick Lilith who unveils herself in a photographic assemblage like the accursed sister of that Hollywood idol, Elizabeth Taylor.

Waters entertains himself by  borrowing the looks of other celluloid divinities from his daily life, like Errol Flynn or Walt Disney. The director of 'Cry Baby' shares this fascination with/profanation of the liturgical icons created by the American dream factory with other equally iconoclastic directors, like Kenneth Anger, David Lynch, Bruce La Bruce, and the New York artist Cindy Sherman. Following their example, he also seizes on this showbiz society and, with his own kitsch and queer situationism, turns it into a 'Mondo Trasho', a place of Sacrilege and Blasphemy, an inverted and singularly orgasmic model of Warhol's Factory.

As Debord put it, to destroy the showbiz society effectively you need people who put a practical force into action. John Waters named this force The Art of Bad Taste'.

Text by Yves Montmayeur


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