In 2003, Danish photographer Joachim Koester was invited to visit Romania, and decided to focus on Transylvania. There he portrayed the path that lawyer Jonathan Harker made through the Borgo pass to the Bargau valley, in the Carpathians, where Count Dracula’s castle is located. That trip was invented by Bram Stoker for his novel Dracula (1897), which introduced vampires in modern times. Stoker never set foot on the European continent, although he was right with his description of the Transylvanian forests. However, what Koester found was the landscape remains of a communist dictatorship, and a terrible deforestation. Where the Count’s castle was erected in the book, the Count Dracula hotel was built in 1982, another unfortunate display of gray urbanism of the communist regimes, surrounded by ruins of capitalist real estate investments. And Koesler reflects this in his photographs, records of that fictional historical memory. No trace of magic, mystery and eroticism of vampires in the cradle of his legend.
Instead, fans of bloodsuckers, incubus, succubus, revenants nosferatus Y nachzehrers will enjoy the exhibition Vampires (the evolution of myth), which today opens at the Madrid headquarters of CaixaForum. Co-organized by La Cinémathèque Française, the show, from Paris, will travel to Barcelona in July. Matthieu Orléan, curator of the show to which he has dedicated four years of work, explains that the first movie about vampires, Nosferatu (1922), by Murnau, is the perfect door to this universe: “When the protagonist crosses the bridge to the fortress, the ghosts come to him, a perfect parallel with the cinema, where ghosts, vampires, jump from the screen towards the viewer. “
The exhibition brings together 362 pieces of all kinds, including photos of Koester: the hypnotic red coat / coat worn by Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), by Francis Ford Coppola; the mask and hand gloves with which Klaus Kinski became the protagonist of the Nosferatu (1979), by Werner Herzog; a drawing by Tim Burton for Dark Shadows (2012); the handwritten notes of the adaptation to a play by the same Stoker of his novel … “With this tour we can see how the vampire’s iconography evolves, which goes from being a Romanian nobleman anchored in the old feudal traditions to more characters empathic, modern, almost belonging to the generation beat”, Affects Orléan. “Every decade has a big vampire movie. And in recent years the series have exploded. ” By the way, the commissioner explains that society uses vampires to project their fears. “In the eighties, HIV, directly related to blood, marked the cinema of this genre. Today the audiovisual on bloodsuckers focuses on the relationship with our bodies and the inclusion of minorities in society. ” Of the more than 400 audiovisual products that enter this world, in the exhibition there are fragments of some sixty grouped into 15 pieces. “Vampire stories have gone further to integrate into the political context,” says the curator. In the room dedicated to the Vampire / Politician, posters of A girl returns home alone at night (2014), by Ana Lily Amirpour, “the first spaghetti western of Iranian cinema ”, and of Only lovers survive (2013), by Jim Jarmusch, involves suggestive works, such as a cover of LA Weekly 2004 designed by Shepard Fairey (Obbey) with a George W. Bush as Dracula (including fangs, sardonic smile and blood drop) or a Basquiat painting, Beast (1983). The material of Vampires It comes from about thirty museums.
Connections between works
The exhibition starts with several engravings of the series Whims from Goya: You have to suck a lot or You will not escape They look like direct inspirations from later novels. “As curator,” says Orléan, “I like to play to find possible connections between works. If the eighteenth century is the triumph of vampire oral narratives, in the nineteenth century these stories go to literature and in the twentieth century Dracula leads the assault on audiovisuals ”.
Other rooms delve into the poetic face of this nocturnal race. A facet encouraged by performers like Theda Bara, a silent movie star who posed with skulls and snakes, or the mythical Bela Lugosi, which added to his presence a hard accent in English from his native Romania. Next to it appears one of Cindy Sherman’s artistic self-portraits, characterized as Judit holding the reaped head of Holofernes, and a cover of Harper’s Bazaar March 1943 in which the model Betty Perske, languid and pale at 18, waits to donate blood. The following year Perske would debut in the cinema with another name: Lauren Bacall.
In another room the Vampire / Erotic appears. Here, in a hidden room, you can see images of Vicente Aranda’s films, Jess Franco – Spanish cinema has explored this underworld fruitfully – sequences of The anxiety, Tony Scott … “If the ghosts are ethereal and the zombies, cataleptic, the vampires instead are sexual,” explains Orléan. There is also room for Carmilla, the lesbian vampire protagonist of Sheridan Le Fanu’s short novel of 1872, and painted by surrealist Leonor Fini.
Vampire / Pop remains, with Count Draco of Sesame Street, the pages of the comic Dracula, painted in oil by Fernando Fernández in 1982 … Or the photos of James dean in a coffin. They were made in 1955 by Dean Stock, seven months before the actor died and his legend made him immortal. Like vampires