Dead Man's Curve
Friday, December 11th, 2015
Assaf Evron, Robert Burnier, Sarah Mosk, Josue Pellot, Todd Mattei, Ron Ewert, Vae Lee, Christopher Ottinger, Sarah and Joseph Belknap, Kevin Buzzell and Jason Knight.
Many towns in American have what is known as a “Dead Man’s Curve” —a fatal stretch of bent road. These perilous trajectories can also be wildly thrilling. “You won’t come back from Dead Man’s Curve,” warns the chorus of a 1960’s drag racing song by Jan and Dean. The saying “live fast and die young and leave a good looking corpse” became a part of pop culture through the film Knock at Any Door (1949). Similar expression can be found in the works of Nietzsche who believed in deliberately living dangerously and dying young.
No one embodied this archetype better than James Dean. A month after his infamous car crash his film Rebel Without a Cause opened to packed theaters. After only three films Dean became a symbol for rebellion and narcissism. Andy Warhol said it best: “He’s not our hero because he was perfect, but because he perfectly represented the damaged, but beautiful soul of his time.” In music this theme appears both in rock & roll and in hip hop. Rappers are immortalized for dying early and being gangster. Rockers, like Morison, Joplin, and Cobain, became part of the “27 Club” for the age they died at; mostly from drugs.
Risk taking and narcissism have become synonymous with the new YOLO (You Only Live Once) mentality. Climate change has produced apocalyptic pop and has fully revived the nihilistic “live fast, die young” mantra. The message is that we should party cause the world is going to end anyway. YOLO can be seen as a more hedonistic version of “carpe diem”, which is Latin for “pluck the day as it is ripe”. This philosophy goes back to ancient Greece where people never had the notion of a “human being”, but rather of “mortals and immortals”. If you dig deep enough you can find this mindset as early as 6th century B.C. in the teachings of Lao Tzu. “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”
60 years after James Dean’s death his crash site remains an altar littered with cigarettes, beers, and bras. Dead Man’s Curve is a metaphor for living in reckless abandon. This glamorized death show investigates what it means to live dangerously, to tempt fate, and to die beautiful.