If you are of a certain age, you’ll probably remember the terrorising thrill of discovering the lurid covers of many a VHS in a local video shop. These covers in turns horrifying and exciting, they often presented a ménage of screaming faces and shining weapons. Or the hero grimacing as things explode around them and as this was the early 80’s a quasi-medieval figure on a motorbike smashing through some recognisable (American) landmark in a post-nuclear landscape.
Or that’s how I remember it.
Of course the imagery that adorned the packets these films came in often bared no, or little, relation to anything in the film. Though those airbrushed images influenced a generation of film makers, as much as the films themselves. The imagery, the tropes of these films (young girls, backwaters, weird locals etc.) all filtered into the popular imagination. They were even parodied by one of instigators of the genre, Wes Craven and his Scream series.
All this sort of filters through my mind as I look around Jamie Shovlin’s Hiker Meat at the Cornerhouse, an exhibition about the recreation of a film that didn’t or doesn’t exist. On entering the gallery we enter a false history, an alternative time line detailing the production history of this thing called ‘Hiker Meat’. It’s very complex featuring as it does an imaginary band producing a soundtrack for an imaginary film, this level of fiction is supported by a collection of memorabilia. A kind of meta mythology of special created props, costumes, posters, video covers and lobby cards, a very good detail.
It’s all great fun. I lot of attention has gone into this it reflects that fanboy interest in things like the difference between international cuts. As a follower of cult films, and having seen the various cuts of Blade Runner, I see the strange magic where in these pragmatic alterations become mythologised and fetishized. Where the myth of what wasn’t made becomes bigger then what existed.
An example of that could be Jodorowsky’s Dune.
This is where the power of this exhibition lies, as I progress through the exhibition I become less enamoured with the material. The stuff about the making of the film makes it feel more solid, pricks the mythology makes it real. I want to have more, or should of stopped at the point where that spoke more about the production of the myth surrounding a film, how the fans create a fiction around another fiction.
Throughout my time in Hiker Meat I’ve been thinking about Boards of Canada last album ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’. I think about this because the music was influenced by the electronic soundtracks of the era that Hike Meat is supposed to come from. In essence Tomorrow’s Harvest offered a narrative and soundtrack for a non-existent film. What Tomorrow’s Harvest offers that I feel that Hiker Meat doesn’t is an I guess a space to be filled by the viewer’s imagination.
That may be unfair I’ve spent more time with Tomorrow’s Harvest then I have with Hiker Meat.
The fictional film at the Hiker Meat is most successful when it is fictional. When its promise lies within the salacious (and quite beautiful posters) and within the details the goes into creating the ephemera that supports the myth. Maybe like the exploitation films that inspired it the film that is Hiker Meat can’t live up to its promise. Which, maybe paradoxically, makes its absolutely right.