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Artist profile: H.R. Giger

From Wired1940: Cyborg surrealist Hans Rudi Giger bursts out of his mother like a fearsome Alien, unleashing an influential torrent of monochromatic body horror, night terrors and art bedeviled by sex, tech and death.

The Skull Beneath the Skin

Born in Chur, Switzerland, H.R. Giger (pronounced Gee-ger with two hard g’s) followed a different path from his chemist father. But his admittedly idyllic childhood in mountainous Chur was nevertheless shot through with dread and darkness. Giger’s vivid imagination created early nightmares that morphed into night terrors as his life wore on.

Seven decades after his birth, Giger’s uncanny merge of human and machine has crept outward like a cultural virus. There is probably no other artist alive whose work is as instantly recognizable. And, for that, we have Giger’s itinerant fears to thank.

Like David Lynch — whose brilliant feature-length debut Eraserhead, Giger admitted, was the closest that cinema ever got to his tortured art — the Swiss-born icon has capitalized on his nightmares and visions like few others. Mapping the territories of the unconscious and its dark mash of birth, sex, death and technology, Giger has created a legacy as substantial as that of his inspiration Salvador Dali.

Thanks to his monstrous Alien, seductive Brain Salad Surgery and more, we’ve been terrified and titillated by it again and again.

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Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.