“It true, Bigfoot career been in hole lately. Bigfoot mania of the ‘70’s and ‘80’s but distant memory. I famous for ability to not be see but don’t think I not notice you not notice. I blame music television and internet. People too lazy and stupid to appreciate conceptual artist like Bigfoot who appeal is absence” ― Graham Roumieu, Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir
If reality television has taught us nothing else it has certainly demonstrated that if you go looking for monsters, you’re not going to find them, or at least not trap a flesh and blood specimen. They are slippery bastards. People who see ghosts, extraterrestrials, and Bigfoot generally aren’t seeking them out. Monsters loom large in our imaginations precisely because they are an elusive spectacle. A spectacle of absence, if you will.
The undiscovered monster is a void of representation, and whereas its presence is destructive to dearly held paradigms, philosophies, and ideologies, its absence is a direct address to our fundamental fear and anxiety about the unknown or unknowable, a test of our carefully patrolled boundaries of knowledge.
One cannot see the monster, as this empties its monstrosity of meaning. Guy Debord, in The Society of the Spectacle said, “The spectacle cannot be understood as an abuse of the world of vision, as a product of the techniques of mass dissemination of images. It is, rather, a Weltanschauung which has become actual, materially translated. It is a world vision which has become objectified”. Yet the monster can perform and shed light on gaping chasms in our conception of the universe and belief in the coherence of our current reality, in ways that it would not if it simply shed fur for us to find or rudely deposited samples of DNA for us to sequence.
The relative absence of the corporeal monster is a subject of great mirth for the skeptic, and a validation for the true believer, but what does the absent spectacle represent? The absence is the horror of uncertainty, where we wish to see, but recognize that in seeing we must cast aside the safety and security civilization affords. The unseen monsters guard the edges, but if seen push the limits of our social constructions that make us feel safe a little further out into the dark forest, or deeper into the night. Yet in comprehending our human limitations, our fabricated society, we are torn between gestalt and turning away, just as Sophocles wrote in Oedipus, bemoaning, “O spectacle of horror which none can bear to see! The saddest that ever I beheld. Miserable prince, what madness hath seized you? What cruel god hath plunged you in these seas of woe? Alas, alas, unhappy man! I cannot look on thee though I have a strong desire to see you, to speak to you, and to hear you, such horror dost thou give me”.
So stare into the abyss. The abyss craves your attention, as its vanity is a reflection of our own. You may not be able to invite the monster to a party and expect his attendance, but don’t let that diminish his art. The absent monster is the “impossible real” that pokes holes in the ideologies that encapsulate us, marshalling his absurdity and incorporeality as tools to challenge our consciousness, demonstrating our reliance on categorization as a means to cope with uncertainty. What a grim universe we would live in were monsters merely undiscovered realities, or as Chris Van Allsburg said, “The inclination to believe in the fantastic may strike some as a failure in logic, or gullibility, but it’s really a gift. A world that might have Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster is clearly superior to one that definitely does not”.