Christopher E. Harrison: A Monster Anthology

Review I by Isela Gomez

Soo Visual Arts Center
Aug 4–Sept 8, 2018

Monster.

A thing that scares.
A shape we fear.
A horrific, ugly form. A one-eyed, three-headed, ten-footed thing.
A furry, scaly, floating, writhing figure.

Monster.

A body that is born, that before that moment, spent time confined in a womb, maybe in an egg, perhaps in a garden, under a tree, next to memory of a snake that just had to have its evil way.

Monster.

A face. A mask. A myth. A symbol.
With a smile and open eye.
With a bite and a vision.

Monster.

We don’t know. We think we know.
We are afraid. No understanding why.

Monster.

A life.
Whether we like it or not. Whether we choose to recognize it, honor it, cherish it, or not.
A life.

Most days, my mind conjures El Cucuy under my bed or in my closet.

Today, I am back in the days when imagination was playground, when possibilities of life and living things and the world they and me and we dream of were limitless. When what I imagined and what I did not know, did not scare me.

At least, not until the world taught me to fear.

Now, I remember. Christopher E. Harrison’s
“A Monster Anthology” bangs at the door and my memory.

I imagine a world without definition, that does not make us define everything and everyone,
divide everything and everyone.

Harrison’s world moves us there. Draws it for us and draws us into the evolution of an imagined species. But we’re not void of accountability here. This world – it’s not free of war, or corruption. Not free of questions and ambiguity.
Like the places we inhabit.

A species transforms. It adapts.
To biology.
To the world that marks it. Beats it. Tries to break it. And fails.

There are bodies trying to flee. There are bodies, that haven’t even fully formed, that are trying to escape a frame mounted on a wall, while everyone in the gallery just stares and says nothing,
or worse, oh.

Because if you’ve never had to run when you didn’t even know what you were running from, then you most certainly would say nothing, or scoff at abstraction because to you, it is only abstract, it is not real life. The world around you does not make you into a monster. The sun does not forget to shine on your horizon.

There is a life with two heads, two legs, a womb, blood, genitalia, cells, chromosomes. It stands.
Above a sculpture, a nest of eggs,
And I wonder whether this life – again, hung on a wall – is the ancestor or the descendant.
And I wonder about a world where gender does not prescribe how we live, how we care, how we must move.

And as always, there is war, A Lovely War, though. Between who?
The powerful and the powerless. But that’s vague, and not reflective.
So, between who?
Two Tribes, Harrison says.
Maybe, two brothers.
Maybe, the Black man and America.
Maybe, the rebel and the patriot.

Either way, whoever it is, there is a wall between them. Not a wall, like the ones in the gallery, A wall, like the ones on borders, like the ones separating neighborhoods, like the ones alongside freeways that tore through neighborhoods. Walls alongside freeways that White people built to tear up Black and Brown neighborhoods. To be exact.

But back to life. Back to imagined reality. What makes a monster, a monster? Who makes a monster, a monster? Is the monster an it ? Is the monster gendered? Would that give the maker license to brutalize?

What is the qualification for the title?
That the monster desires to haunt.
Or, that the world, that we, fear it first.

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