Online Talk · Westworld: Anton LaVey’s Total Environments, Gamification and Ghosts in the Machines with Anders Lundgren and Caligula as a Dionysian Affirmation of Life with River

Westworld: Anton LaVey’s Total Environments, Gamification and Ghosts in the Machines with Anders Lundgren and Caligula as a Dionysian Affirmation of Life with River, An Online Presenation


Date: Sunday, April 16
Time: 2 pm EDT

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Westworld: Anton LaVey’s Total Environments, Gamification & Ghosts in the Machines
By Anders Lundgren

Westworld was originally the brainchild of blockbuster maven Michael Crichton who both wrote and directed the 1973 motion picture. The idea of immersive theme parks where rich people could let off steam by living out fantasies of a violent and/or sexual nature without fear of judgment and consequences proved to be a commercial success. 

The inevitable sequel Futureworld (1976) and the short lived tv-series (only three out of a total of five episodes were aired originally before cancellation) Beyond Westworld introduced the concept of android doppelgangers and further expanded the ideas presented in the first film. One person who took notice of these was Church of Satan founder Anton Szandor LaVey who referred to Westworld when presenting his ideas for total environments. After lying dormant for most of the 1980s Crichton revived parts of the concept for his novel Jurassic Park in 1990, later turned into yet another record breaking film franchise by Steven Spielberg and others. Westworld returned briefly in the form of video game Westworld 2000 (1996). Despite using then hot CD-ROM technology, sub par graphics and gameplay kept this title from setting the gaming world on fire. This blip was followed by twenty years of silence before a new tv-series premiered on HBO. Easily the most ambitious iteration to date, this version of Westworld leans heavily into previously merely touched upon moral and philosophical implications of the original idea. What would happen if humans were able to create extremely life-like machines that in most cases do not even know that their lives are scripted sequences catering to the enjoyment of others?

Caligula (1979) as a Dionysian Affirmation of Life
By River

The movie Caligula from 1979 is arguably one of the most infamous movies of all time, much like its titular emperor. Mixing lavish sets, Shakespearean guild actors, shocking violence and pornography. The involvement of Bob Guccione and Penthouse caused such conflicts within its creative team that neither the writer, Gore Vidal, nor the director, Tinto Brass, wanted anything to do with the final product. Yet it endures as a cult movie of legendary status. As Helen Mirren said, it is ”an irresistible mix of art and genitals.”

This talk explores the movie and its compelling history through the lens of Dionysian paradox and life affirmation. From a deeply personal perspective it examines trauma, healing and the surprising places the ancient Gods may show up in our modern lives.

Anders Lundgren is a Swedish writer and connoisseur of the uncanny with a background in literature, esthetics and film studies. He has organized numerous film screenings and festivals, domestic and international, as part of Klubb Super 8. He also served as the co-founder and co-curator of the film programme for Serieket (The Comic Book Library) in Stockholm. Working at the latter establishment he has been on the production team for The Stockholm International Comics Festival since 2002. In 2010, he started the podcast Hög av Serier (High on Comics) with co-hosts Anton Bjurvald and Freddie Kaplan. In 2012, he established The Stockholm H. P. Lovecraft Festival. He has been widely published with his main output being the film criticism found in Hemmabio (Home Theater Magazine) and writings on comics in Bild & bubbla (Image & Thought Bubble). He has also contributed to anthologies like The Fenris WolfMignolaverse: Hellboy and the Comics Art of Mike Mignola and Judge, Jury and Executioner: Essays on the Punisher in Print and on Screen. He is a Priest in the Church of Satan.

River is a Swedish artist based in Stockholm. Her work is multidisciplinary with an emphasis on the visual arts. Always drawn to the intersection of art and magic she treats her creative process as a ritualized exploration of her unconscious. In genre terms, she works primarily with the weird and with horror. With an emphasis on craftsmanship, Rivers’ work explores the tension between a brushstroke and what it may represent. The tension between what is real and unreal, where we draw that line, and if there even is a line to draw.

The Psychoanalysis, Art & the Occult series of events, curated by Dr. Vanessa Sinclair and Carl Abrahamsson, is dedicated to exploring the intersections and integration of psychoanalytic theory, the creative arts, occult practices, and folk magic traditions. By inviting psychoanalysts, philosophers, artists, writers, and occult practitioners from a variety of theoretical orientations and worldviews to discuss their work, personal experiences, and areas of research interest with one another, dialogue is opened up between practitioners in fields of study that traditionally rarely engage with one another though often operate in similar and complementary ways. Join them at Patreon!

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