Dark Dreams
Remembering HR Giger: More than Just Alien

Devan Sagliani | 1 Jan 2016 17:00
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History vindicated his confidence, and the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, who bestowed Scott with a Saturn award in 1980 for Best Director for Alien. Giger himself won an Oscar that same year for his work as a member of the visual effects team for the film. His designs continue to be incorporated into Alien sequels. Scott and Giger worked together right up until the end. Their last collaboration was in 2012, when Giger created murals for Prometheus. Although he might have been easy to work with, Giger was known for his draconian temper. An old industry rumor has it that after being left off the credits for Alien: Resurrection, Giger fired off an angry letter to the head of the studio that ominously ended, "as for those responsible for this conspiracy: All I can wish them is an Alien breeding inside their chests."

After the success of Alien, HR Giger quickly gained a reputation as the premier designer for all things darkly erotic and reviled. His unique artistic talents were featured in horror sequel Poltergeist II and the erotic sci-fi thriller Species, though he ultimately expressed dissatisfaction with how his work turned out in movies outside the Alien franchise. He even designed a conceptually redesigned version of the Batmobile in the shape of a crooked X for Batman Forever, that was passed over in favor of a more traditional design. Though lesser known, Giger also directed a number of movies himself, including Swiss Made (1968), Tagtraum (1973), Giger's Necronomicon (1975) and Giger's Alien (1979).

But Giger's work wasn't limited to film. The dramatic and controversial artist also designed several now iconic record sleeves as well as the cover for Emerson Lake & Palmer's 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery. On Debbie Harry's Koo Koo the singer appears with spears cutting through her face courtesy of Giger. His paintings also grace the covers of Celtic Frost's 1985 album To Mega Therion, Danzig's 1992 LP Danzig III: How the Gods Kill, and death metal group Carcass' 1993 record Heartwork. My old pal Jonathan Davis, lead singer of Korn, commissioned Giger to design a microphone stand for him that he still uses to this day and Blondie guitarist Chris Stein owns a guitar that incorporates Giger's artwork into its design as well.

On a darker note, his more infamous "Penis Landscape" poster insert for the Dead Kennedys' Frankenchrist (which depicts a repeating pattern of graphic sexual penetration) resulted in a landmark obscenity trial. In 1985, Jello Biafra, the lead singer of the punk band, included a poster insert of Giger's "Landscape XX" along with a sticker on the cover, warning that some might find the poster inside shocking, repulsive, or offensive. The unexpected political firestorm that ensued tested the limits of art and free speech, after nine police officers stormed into Biafra's apartment in San Francisco and his record label's offices, seizing copies of the album and demanding to know where Giger lived. Michael Guarino, the prosecutor, called the poster "pornography" in court and compared Giger to famed serial killer Richard Ramirez but fortunately the jury deadlocked and the judge was forced to declare a mistrial. Biafra and Giger became close friends afterward.

In 1998 Giger acquired the Château St. Germain in Gruyères, Switzerland, and opened the HR Giger Museum. It hosts the largest collection of Giger's work alongside the visionary's own private art collection, which includes works from Dali, Ernst Fuchs and Bruno Weber. In 2013 Giger was named to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2013. On May 12, 2014 HR Giger died in Zurich at the age of 74 after sustaining injuries from falling down the stairs. He was mourned by fans all over the world but his amazing and awe-inspiring work is still with us.

For more on the life and works of HR Giger check out http://www.hrgiger.com. There is also a new documentary on Netflix about him called Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World.

Until next time, stay scared!

Devan Sagliani


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