On roadkill of one sort or another

When my daughter and I visited our family and friends in the US last month, our itinerary included a wee road trip.

road signsWe drove from East Lansing in Michigan to Madison in Wisconsin, via Chicago, a journey which took roughly eight hours along interstate motorways.

traffic jamMichigan is the home of the American automobile industry: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler all grew up there; Detroit’s nickname is ‘the Motor City.’ Driving through the state, I found myself taking note of the unnamed casualties of the car industry: the various animals lying twisted and bloody on the hard shoulder, if not ground down into fleshy mush on the tarmac itself. In a macabre mark of respectful witness to these dead creatures, we kept a tally of what we saw – me pointing out each animal, in some cases merely speculating at what species the remains might be, and my daughter dutifully recording it in a pocket journal:

dead animalsIt was impossible to keep the Knitters out of my head: Poor little critter on the road, where were you trying to go?

In between corpse-spotting, we counted down the miles courtesy of a string of billboards clocking the approach of the Lion’s Den.

lions denI wonder if the Lion’s Den carries 65 Guy Cream Pie, the porn movie featured in Chris Hedges’ book Empire of Illusion: the End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. In chapter 2, The Illusion of Love, Hedges explores the pornography industry. He describes the making of 65 Guy Cream Pie, a film which portrays a single young woman being screwed repeatedly by sixty five different men, one after the other. The young woman, after the filming of this scene, stands awkwardly by herself, ignored by the camera and sound crew men as though non-existent; she is sweaty and trembling, and uses tissues to wipe the considerable amount of sticky wetness from her inner thighs.

In a few days’ time, the reputedly final installment of the Dark Mountain Project’s Uncivilisation Festival will take place in Hampshire. One of the contributors is Dougie Strang, with his art installation Charnal House for Roadkill and an accompanying performance, Badger Dissonance. Gender will also play its part on the programme this year, a development I welcome as a long overdue acknowledgment of the conflict and tension that has existed within the project, behind the scenes of its slick exterior. There will be a men’s space as well as a women’s space, with a selection of sessions under each theme.

I offer the following picture as a salute to this year’s Uncivilisation: please imagine your sister or your wife, perhaps, your mother or your daughter. She is lying at the side of the road, limbs twisted at odd angles, the blood and semen on her skin drying in the August sun. It’s ugly, I know that – but let’s shine a light on that ugliness that resides in all our hearts in one form or another, and let’s see it without flinching.

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