February 18th, 2005


The dancing squid

In a late piece of banter added to yesterday's entry, Yasser Mohammed Apoplipo (nice name) asked whether Yoko Ono's Cut Piece was "where she would invite spectators to snip off pieces of her clothing as she sat and calmly smoked a cigarette?" and continued: "I had a professor who knew her and told me she based this on ikezukuri sashimi preparation." Sparkligbeatnic replied "I've had this once. The hardest part is the feeling of being watched by the fish while you are consuming its flesh."

Well, last night I went out with a big bunch of academics to an isakaya in Hakodate. In fact, it was the one whose window I photographed last month, fascinated by the phallic sake bottles on display there. The restaurant was called The Dancing Squid. I was sitting there discussing Gadamer's misinterpretation of Heidegger (as you do) with Hans Diebner, a media professor from Karlsruhe's ZKM Center for Art and Media, when the reason for the restaurant's name was brought to us on a plate. It was a living dead squid. It was both living and dead, and doing a grim twitchy totentanz, staring at us with a single terrifying, wretchedly stretched eye. Everybody else at the table seemed delighted, and started prodding the squid with chopsticks to make it dance. Hans and I, though, winced and recoiled in horror. Finally I decided that only mediation could save me from throwing up. I grabbed my camera and shot a little video of the creature's death spasms (as you do). I felt better watching it dying on TV than right in front of me in real life. Its reproachful dying eye seemed to fix millions of viewers all over the world rather than single me out. Its televised death became a moral exemplum, a lesson in something or other. Dying on TV, it did not die in vain. (It also helped a lot that I forgot to focus.)

A waiter soon came and asked us how the squid should be cooked. I opted for frying on humanitarian grounds; it seemed the best way to put the beast completely out of its misery. When it arrived back on the table, it was crispy and chopped into small foot-stalks. Hardly anyone paid it any attention this time. Now it was food. Delicious food, actually. I ate a few poddy tendrils and washed them down with beer. The Japanese professor to my right leaned over and said "Maybe you were revolted, but it's good to remember about death sometimes." Bearing his words in mind, and in order to make you share my guilt, and perhaps to elevate the animal's death to something meaningful, salutory, even salvational, I am linking here to my video piece The Death of the Squid (Quicktime movie, 5.9MB). I've slowed the film down to communicate better the horror. If you enjoy this as some kind of snuff pornography you are a sick squid-hating fuck and can never be my friend.

To cleanse your palate of the bitter taste of death, I'd like to leave you with some fresh Flash films and funny programming, courtesy of Otogai.