The Monocle Culture Show

Why are we so morbidly fascinated?

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31 October 2016

Episode 264

28 minutes

We explore the theme of morbid fascination with collectors of weird and wonderful objects in New York and a professor who has been studying why we are so compelled to watch things that frighten or disgust us. Plus: We hear from artist Luc Tuymans, who has just put on a show of work by morbidly fascinated Belgian painter James Ensor.

31 October 2016

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Chapter 1

10 minutes

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Chapter 1

A whistle-stop tour of New York’s morbid collectors

Cover art for The Monocle Culture Show

For some people the morbid fascination of Hallowe’en is not just a once-a-year celebration. We delve into the oft-misunderstood world of taxidermy at the Museum of Morbid Anatomy and speak to shopkeeper Evan Michelson, owner of Obscura Antiques and Oddities, about her life’s work: a collection of human relics and medical artefacts. She tells us why they bring her great joy and why she looks forward to All Hallows’ Eve.

10 minutes

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Chapter 2

9 minutes


Photo: Kathryn

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Chapter 2

Bridget Rubenking’s study on disgust

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Bridget Rubenking is an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida and co-author of a study called ‘Captivated and grossed out: an examination of core and sociomoral disgust in entertainment media’. What is it that might drive someone to share a gruesome video online of, say, an Isis beheading? What motivates us to put ourselves through the perilous journey of a horror movie? Holly Fisher speaks to her to find out.

9 minutes

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Chapter 3

5 minutes

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Chapter 3

Luc Tuymans on James Ensor

Cover art for The Monocle Culture Show

James Ensor’s X-ray specs saw right through his subject matter: portraits and jolly groups that might, in different hands, resemble Rembrandt’s jolly, bourgeois burghers of “The Night Watch” but which by his hand are made skeletons, dancing towards the grave. It’s witty, weird, wonderful stuff. Ensor is beloved by another Belgian artist, the contemporary maestro of painting Luc Tuymans, who has curated a show of Ensor’s work that opened last week at the Royal Academy of Art in London.

5 minutes

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