A monster may be understood to be many things, to make many sounds, to lurk in many corners, to hatch from many eggs.
The Oxford English Dictionary offers the definition of “a large, ugly, and frightening imaginary creature.”
Natural historian of exotic monstrosity Natalie Lawrence makes clear that ’monster’ probably derives from the Latin words monstrare, meaning ’to demonstrate,’ and monere, ’to warn.’ Monsters, in essence, are demonstrative. They reveal, portend, show and make evident, often uncomfortably so.”
The “monstratsia” or “monstration” protest parades that have spread throughout Russia since their initiation by Artyom Loskytov and the Novosibirsk Contemporary Art Terrorism group in Siberia in the mid 2000s are processions of human beings and other creatures holding placards that evade conventional constructions of political, logical, or grammatical “sense.”
Linking the above threads of potential monsterly essence loosely together, monsters may be seen as beings often demonized for existing outwith the constraints of the “normal.” The equation of certain categories of people with a perceived derogatory “beastliness” may be seen as a prominent ingredient in numerous supremacist ideologies such as racist notions of “savage” indigenous peoples, sexist suggestions of the “animalistic” irrationality of menstruating women, and ableist slurs of people with a range of (dis)abilities as “freaks.” What marks these notions of “monstrousness” is their divergence from the characteristics of those deemed as “superior” within hegemonic discourses.
Working in virtual residency in 2020 between November 3 and 17, Huge Sillytoe facilitated (no)work(no)shops centered on monsterly self-transformation and celebration with groups of (super)human beings in Quebec City and London. There, people who may or may not have endured bigoted accusations of monstrousness as if it were an insult previously in their lives to different degrees were invited to embrace and amplify their shared beautiful monstrousness, in so doing contributing to the reclamation of the concept of the “monster” and further undoing oppressive notions of normality which baselessly suggest that certain ways of being are superior to others.
The results of this process, conducted through video-conferencing with the Quebec City group and in-person in London, are displayed in this video. Following the pandemic restrictions in each nation at the time, participants in Quebec conducted individual supersensible experiments from their homes and created video reports of their (non)findings, whilst a group living together within the House of Free Massag artists’ community conducted a monsterly drift investigation across East London culminating in a verbatim opera of their (non)findings as their daily legally permitted outdoor exercise on Friday, November 13, 2020. All these elements are blended together in the above video summary of collective (non)findings.
The supersensible data collected is always incomplete and such explorations of revolutionary investigative monsterhood must and shall continue. For now, while we catch our breath between uprisings, let us leave this project description with a piece from Quebecois poet and (no)work(no)shop participant Simon Brown that they describe as “Une petite méditation sur les monstruosités bienveillantes intérieures et extérieures” (A little meditation on inner and outer monstrosities of the benevolent kind):
ôpe ôpe oppe
Soucoupe Dérange Poilu•e
nous croyais liquide
nous croyais Pourri Prolifique
nous croyais cou
coucou de l’air
coucou cryptide dedans
j-je porte nuage carotté
COMME bouclier bienveillance
Ô boudou bï
Participating artists and monsters:
Laurence Gravel, Moldy Moody Swing, Philip Després, Alexandre St-Onge alias A.A.G.G., Simon Brown, Cold Cold, Flavie Dufour, Annabelle Guimond-Simard, Soy milk box/Mathieu P.Lapierre , Anne-Marie Cardin, Laurie , Aaron Doomlord, Tally Saharova, Eny, Tasteless Paste, Grosvenor, Agos Art, Carlos Barba