Horror Now
The horror genre is about nowness. It is completely imbedded in the now. If science fiction is said to be about where we’re going, then horror fiction is about how it feels to get there. It is not concerned with what may come. Its only concern is the always-present condition of living with prospects of or anxieties about the future. That is the true political potential of horror – it is always describing an instantaneous now – the hurt of being in that moment that forewarns things to come. Be they utopic or dystopic. It is a horror, not of the monster here to kill us, but rather the inevitable prospect of that death residing within us. This is not to be confused with an imagination of things to come or grim visionary outlooks into the future. Horror has no imagination about where a crisis may lead us. It only knows the dread, the violence and death, that gives the crisis a body. Away with speculative anthropomorphism, freedom in singularity or anarcho-naturist/anarcho-primitive afterlife in the post-apocalyptic – there is only the way it feels to be experiencing this now, the way it feels to actually get to all those places. The horror of this condition and the atmosphere it breathes life into. Horror is not strategic, it is survivalist.

In Kim Stanley Robinson’s 'Blue Mars' (1996), the third and final instalment of his 'Mars Trilogy', he describes time as a loom - behind it a tapestry of occurrences and events stretch out in its intricate figurative weaving. At the fore no narrative is yet to be seen, no moments fixed in weaved figurations. Building on Robinson’s analogy, I imagine the lines of thread pointing ahead, promising coming textiles, potential patterns and depictions. And that what brings the spools of thread at the head, into the weavings stretching out at the other end, is the reed - the ‘now’ that combs the weft threads of the future into place, fastening it into the fabric of history. The reed of the now is only concerned with that motion of bringing the future into the past, the manoeuvre of the present. Horror has a particular interest in staying with that moment, that now. As with the reed, it is of course a now that stretches out towards the future and back into the past, connected by threading, but the nowness of it is always emphasised. The physical action of smashing the threads into place is not concerned with reverberations or projections, only the now.

This survivalist nowness touched on above has to do with how the body is directly affected and involved in the experience of horror. The way in which the horror genre mobilises this now, without winding up in conceptual approaches to it, that would immediately situate in either past or future, is by the activation of a bodily experience. The neuro-electric currents that make us act instinctively, unhesitatingly, unconsciously. The body reacts, something has been done to it, and it is experienced in the now. The way in which horror activates this bodily experience and makes us strangely aware of it, enables a temporal state that I have labeled ‘the prolonged now’. In certain passages the time quality of a horror film can have an outstretched quality to it. A time distortion that makes us acutely aware of the now. A dark hallway seems to take an eternity to pass through; hypnagogic actions are carried out seemingly unaware to the person doing it; time jumps, creating ruptured nows; time stops, motion does not. A topsy-turvy tempor(e)ality formed by how the unconscious is being dragged into the conscious, while the ‘real world’ of consciousness has yet to fully adapt to the accommodation of this. A condition of prolonged nowness is taking form. An impossible condition, that we nevertheless inhabit. It might exist as a mere moment, but a prolonged nowness of that moment, and its strange temporal quality, persists in the viewer, extending not only as a reverb of this experienced temporal otherness, but really as a change in the very temporality of the body. This now that prolongs through a bodily experience must be observed again with a lighting from the side. One has to look awry from the front stage temporal settings (plot, pacing, period, presentation, profiteering) and discover other temporalities existing underneath it.

Just like the horror genre, the temporal art practice has an array of temporal structures forming a temporal surface (i.e. duration, year of production, frame rate, deadlines, opening hours, dramaturgy, etc.), but beyond this surface structure other temporalities are at play. Temporalities most often recognised by an awareness in the body. One that supersede the conscious; a feel if one will. Unexplained temporal shifts and turns, undercurrents and echoes, glitches and loops, all there to evoke a sense of nowness, prolonged in the body and how it experiences in parallel with a conceptual reading. To observe a thing like that one must allow one self to turn off the ‘headlamps’ and instead shed light from other angles. The body knows.

Sublime Horror
That experience, brought on by the horror genre, of a nowness or a certain temporality that overwhelms the body is linked to the idea of the sublime. The receiver is removed from a familiar comfortable (temporal) position and elevated into a disturbing and awry bodiliness. Unsettled, the receiver is now open towards new sensations with a newly kindled awareness. In ‘Observations on the Feelings of the Beautiful and the Sublime’ Kant argues that opposed to the bound and recognisable beautiful, the sublime is that which remains unbound, formless, and unrecognisable to us. An unknown that our new kindled awareness must work out a new definition of. This suggests a making reason of the sublime experience. The sublimity experienced in the meeting with horror fiction is perhaps more related to the experience of terror than of overwhelming beauty, even though their affects are not that different, both having to do with a certain experience of pleasure. In his work ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful’, Edmund Burke describes the sublime as an experience of the terrible. He writes: ‘Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling. I say the strongest emotion, because I am satisfied the ideas of pain are much more powerful than those which enter on the part of pleasure. Without all doubt, the torments which we may be made to suffer, are much greater in their effect on the body and mind, than any pleasures which the most learned voluptuary could suggest, or than the liveliest imagination, and the most sound and exquisitely sensible body could enjoy.’ (1757)

That horror fiction cinema is the only popular entertainment product that literally wants you to turn away from it and thus obstruct your consumption of it, is an invigorating idea. But this is not the only way horror wants to do things to your body. The idea of a sublimity that lifts one out of the ordinary sensory register and into an other awareness evoked by our enflamed senses also speaks to this bodily dimension. How the notion of the sublime relates not only to the temporality of horror fiction, but also importantly to the time-and-body experiences that unfold within the broken time landscape of the video installation, is something that I been reflecting upon a lot, throughout this research project. It is this reflective work that ultimately lead me to develop the term ‘Oceanic Horror’.