Goliath, by Charlie White
Goliath Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2001, $39.95, 112pp
ISBN 3-9807602-9-4

This reviewed first appeared in The Alien Online

There are two ways of looking at this large but thin hardback book, a collection of often rather disturbing photographs by Charlie White, all with a pronounced sf slant to them. The first course is to exclaim, Beavis and Butthead-style, “Cool!” at the set of photographs, entitled In A Matter Of Days, which depict an alien incursion into an ordinary American city.

You might also be tempted to give a throaty “hurgh-hurgh-hurgh” upon seeing the naked Femalien pottering about her home.

You would be less tempted towards either reaction with Understanding Joshua, since Joshua is an emaciated adult-sized pseudo-Muppet who appears more than human enough to be disturbing. Very disturbing given the context of the various situations he is placed in. Beavis and Butthead probably wouldn't find these at all funny or cool, recognising too many unpleasant elements of themselves in the pictures.

So much for the first approach.

The second, more mature, approach can be just as rewarding.

The In A Matter Of Days photos however are more chilling than ever upon closer examination. There are only nine of them and the fearsome aliens are in less than half of the pictures. What makes them more powerful and frightening are the other pictures which, frozen slices of time that they are, give a sense of everyday life being disrupted, or on the very verge of being disrupted, forever. The mind naturally fills in a story behind these snapshots and it's not a pleasant one.

The Femalien set leaves me rather cold, although its attempted subversion of sexual imagery is, arguably (I think it's probing what makes a sexual image, my wife thinks it's just porn) justified.

Understanding Joshua I don't think grows more disconcerting with further viewing, thank goodness. The immediate, visceral shock value of Joshua's appearance and his apparent assimilation into society - not to mention the blatantly sexual aspect of many scenes - is simply there, make of it what you will; but I defy you to avoid imposing your own moral judgments upon these images of Joshua and his friends/keepers/exploiters.

The introductory pieces to the three sections were generally too pretentious for my taste but I recommend reading them, if only to get a sense of what the art establishment makes of these images. Goliath isn't cheap (in more sense than one) but I thought it was worth the money as a fascinating use of sf tropes in Art - and a fine, confrontational change from the more traditional spaceship/robot/astronomical oriented sf-nal art.

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