“Beautiful! beautiful! I never saw any-thing more perfectly beautiful than this, even in my dreams!” If only you knew
“Think so? I don’t see anything particularly beautiful in it”
-Crispin Hellion Glover, Oak Mot
Crispin Hellion Glover is an American actor, director, screenwriter, recording artist, publisher, and author. Although he is better known for his acting roles in Back to the Future (1985), Friday the 13th: The final Chapter (1984) and Alice in Wonderland (2010) (to name a few), Glover has built an impressive backlog of self-funded experimental film and literature, which appear to wrestle popular preconceptions culminated by the very industry that brought him towards commercial success.
Glover has released a variety of found-fiction novels through his publishing and production company Volcanic Eruptions. I was lucky enough to catch Glover a the ICA in London in 2015 on his Big Slideshow, which included a showing of It is Fine! Everything is fine! (Part 2 of the It? trilogy), alongside a readings of his written work, an intimate Q and A and a book signing.
Glover explained to the viewing audience that much of his commercial work in the industry is conducted with the sole purpose of funding his own smaller and more experimental self-funded projects.
Glover explained that his self-funded cinematic work intends to interrogate the viewer’s worldview; the It? trilogy confronting a variety of preconceptions regarding both disability and the treatment of those suffering from disability.
In the case of It is Fine! Everything is Fine! Glover used funds collected from his role in Epic Movie to fund a film written by writer and actor Steven C. Stuart. Stuart had been born with severe cerebral palsy, and had spent 10 years of his life confined in a nursing home where he was labelled mentally retarded. This misdiagnosis led to a decade of mistreatment and abuse, which likely brought him to write the psycho-sexual script for It is Fine! Everything is Fine. as a form of escapism from the misery that his life had then become.
The film interestingly follows the journey of Stuart, who plays himself, as he seduces and murders a long line of women. Stuart stated that the film is autobiographical, telling the story of his life as he saw it. Glover explained that his intention above all with the film is to honour Stuart’s creation and portray his humanity through psychotic exploits; showing that those with disability experience equally as transgressive and basely human desireds as those able bodied. Watching the film from this perspective was a sensational and closely intimate experience – Stuart and Glover had successfully come together to create an unapologetic and honest piece, serving as a byproduct of Stuart’s abuse. Stuart died in 2001, merely one month after principal filming for the film had finished. In his Q and A, Glover explained that he was honoured to have worked with Stuart, and felt the film was a perfect encapsulation of his humour and writing talent.
In addition to the thought provoking story behind the film, sets and cinematography are incredibly striking. The entire film was shot in the sound stage of David Brothers, who directed the film alongside Glover. The rich density of contrasting colour is deeply reminiscent of pornographic material from the 70s, which enhances the taboo and transgressive tone of the film. Shots are often wide and open, making use of all the space provided by the sound stage bringing about an intense sense of isolation and emptiness in the film’s world.
Glover’s approach to film appears to be to subvert the viewer and leave them uncomfortable with their own questionable morality. Those that view It is Fine! Everything is Fine as discriminatory against those with disability appear only to do so out of an expectation that media must present those with a disability with unrealistic moral purity. However, as Glover explained, in doing so the disabled are patronized, and presented as less human than those with a realistic ambiguous sense of morality.
In 1989, Glover released an album titled The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let it Be. Glover intended for the album to be a puzzle, including a mobile phone number with the album requesting that they who solve the puzzle call and inform him of their answer (however, this phone number has since been gone offline). The album includes a variety of covers and readings from Glover’s writing. To this day I have not come close to solving the mystery.
There is a clear cohesive style across Glover’s work, that being the world from the perspective of the outsider. The album appears to construct a surreal and hostile world, falling on similar themes of exploitation of the less abled to bring forward a bleak presentation of human nature. Much of the instrumentation is repetitive and simple, echoing eerily beneath Glover’s frantic vocal performance.
The majority of the album consists of readings from Glover’s books, which broaden the body of Glover’s work massively. Concrete Inspection, similar to Glover’s other written work, employs the style of a found narrative, using cut-ups from a manual on concrete inspection released in 1909. Glover has described these as ‘art books’, as they focus more on illustration than language. The language is surrounded by an oppressive black page, occasionally penetrated by a small grey illustration. The tone of Glover’s novel is incredibly eerie, as the found form presents an uncanny, not quite accurate portrayal of reality. In the case of Oak Mot, the illustrations appear supernatural, depicting grainy black and white portrayals of surreal suffering and abuse. I found that the novels were the most effective and striking pieces of Glover’s work, as he has constructed an incredibly rich and human portrayal of the darker tendencies and experiences of human nature.
I recommend investigating the work of Crispin Hellion Glover if only to engage with his genuinely interesting and original work. Few other bodies of work have left such a profound impression on my own approach to both creating and observing art. Glover’s work feels both oppressive and liberating, interrogating you before releasing you from the clutches of a surreal and menacing world.