International Artscum Blog

Hellbourne (Interview with Dan Verkys)

8. September 2012 | Comment

Appears in INSIDE artzine #13, #14, #15 & #16 (with other stuff) buy online


I was completely down and out when there was this call. Evacuated by the steel hail of a relentless life. Not able to jump on one of the trains racing across my head. The others’ laughing faces tore past me in an amorphous beam. Sometimes I thought they waved at me. In a friendly way. Just as if to wave goodbye. But that was impossible. They didn’t even have the slightest idea that, deep below them in the track bed, my desperate life trickled into their black shadow. Not interested.

In the night before the call, I’d had a confusing dream. Confusing because dreams usually never descended on me through the thick, impenetrable, black cloak of sleep. Hard to tell whether this truly apocalyptic vision was prophetical or just a mentally vomited cry for help. As usual I didn’t listen to it. I had staggered past a long, dead straight alley of red monoliths. The chunky hewn stones were fully ablaze. It was completely silent. Except for my rattling breath struggling in irregular jerks out of my nicotine-sticky lungs. Coal-black people were crouched between the stones. The dancing flames seemed to be unable to harm them. Burnt out. Or flameproof. Brutally wise eyes were sparkling out of their wrinkled faces. They were placed so deeply inside their heads that you could think their eye sockets were just peepholes to peep out. Their blockish, padded end plates were painted with white, teeming snakes. The unholy reflection of the rage of fire surrounding me was dancing on their coal-black, shiny skin like the thin threads of pouring-out power current, when a skyscraper collapses. Despite the consciousness of being in a nightmare, an infernal feel of thirst punished my petering-out organism. The heat had vaporized any drop of liquid in my cells. As my heart was about to announce a longer respite with six tumbling beats, I heard something race up the alley with a booming sound and part my head from the body with a clean cut. As I jerked up from sleep I could still hear the booming sound curve away elegantly, and disappear in the spots of mould above the destroyed hotel television in the wall. Damn. How is it possible that only 3 hours after that the head editor of ART-REKTUM called, and with the question “Have you ever been to Australia” spoilt my chance to spend a one-dimensional, soothing, semi-conscious day? Of course I never had been to Australia before. The last 3 weeks I hadn’t even once left this abandoned hotel room. If he hadn’t sent me a taxi with the air ticket, an advance, and the order to move my arse to the airport this hadn’t changed essentially, I’m afraid. I suppose he couldn’t stand it any longer to watch his best man slowly rot in his own filth. The guy didn’t have the slightest knowledge of how long a desperate man could hold his breath in a pool of shit. When it was necessary. A portrait of Melbourne as art capital. Fuck. I wasn’t a travel reporter, was I?! Was I the right person to recommend something to people who would always be strange to me? The highlights? Fuck it. My whole life had been a low-point. The look through a gully cover from below. Worm’s eye view. Knocked flat. But did I have a choice?! I couldn’t stay in this miserable room forever, dazed by the moody violence you usually only use against yourself. One aim was just like the other one. As we turned off at the exit to the airport I realized again at last in which city I was. While I, after the check-in, slowly put the 3 bottles of vodka into the duty-free carrier, my rotating think tank briefly remembered something like luggage. Well, it was too late for that anyhow. Like usually. As the plane departed it was raining cats and dogs. Just like a farewell of a familiar dreariness, off we go into a twisted hell fire, filled with sweating, bursting Australians. Flooded, charred brains. A merciless neutron star in the ozone-free sky. Why, the usual job… At least with a minimal shred of effort I wanted to try not to break the mould of human conditions too much in that decent long-distance flight, so I drank the first bottle of vodka on the neon flooded plane toilet. The music there soothed me. Somehow. If this was still possible at all in my life. I still had no plan of how to do this job. The head editor of ART-REKTUM had imposed, along with the ticket, a journalist pass, and some leaflets of the “Melbourne International Arts Festival”, on me. In my view, which became clouded again at last, colourful pictures mixed, of big and very small paintings, of black and white photographs of vases in the desert, of performances in skin-tight jerseys, of visual arts, and of design. World premiere. Media centre. Young lads with fabric scarves around their necks and a facial expression as if they had paintbrushes transversely stuck in their arses. I was tired and clueless. Since I couldn’t stay on the toilet for the whole eternity of the flight to be awaited, and since the vodka was already finished over Romania, I decided to prepare for my destination, and ordered some cans of Foster’s. Despite the bad reputation of the brew (“the Aussies only brew Foster’s to export it”) it was quite a good drop. I liked the big red “F” on the can. “Know your limit, mate,” the back of the can said. Someone to look after me at last. A woman beside me gazed at me with a blank fish look as I tried to bite the “F” out of the emptied cans (what failed, of course – as an only result I began to bleed heavily out of my mouth). It was time to leave this part of the world now. I opened the second bottle of voddy. An unpleasant joggle of my body finally finished my plastered coma and fatally made some clots of blood from my thrombosis-ragged legs to wander straight up towards my think tank. Marching straight up to the light. Like fat flies filled with blood. I tried to find my bearings. Despite my heavily staggering sight, my arse seemed to have landed. From the right, a dark red sun was shining in through a window not bigger than a thumbnail. Like a wicked, glowing eye controlling who had dared to enter its continent. I had no choice. I had to acknowledge to myself that the reason for the unpleasant joggle of my body was the stewardess who more and more desperately was trying to bring me back into the world of the living dead. The plane was just emptying, and so was my mind, swimming deeply anxiously in an alkalinely charged, acidic sea made of a fading-away drunkenness and a sardonically brooding hangover. I could hear her thin voice whirr from far away, and as I dragged that ton weight called skull up to her, the first tentacles of the Australian nightmare were twining themselves around my shaking legs. And pulled me down rigidly. I don’t know WHAT the stewardess saw, I hadn’t been able myself to look at my image in the mirror for the last 3 years. But it was definitely enough that every cell of her body blew up in panic fits and, after a period of frantic swelling and going down, collapsed again. Her colourless eyes widened like Old Almighty Nick’s sulphurous arsehole on Judgement Day. She had opened her baggy mouth wide, it was a Siren flooded abyss, and she poured this completely vibration-free, endless scream directly into my baffled death mask. Like a nightmare being stuck at the wrong passage, the hours of this really ear-splitting screaming fit were expanding endlessly, and my mind was longing for the silence of the preceding bingeing coma. Then, with growing horror, I saw her screaming head swell alarmingly and her skin change into a lucent yellow. As the clear, clinking sound of her scream began to die away with a burble, due to the blood that entered her windpipe, I finally had to break through the leaden air around me, and act. In the moment her skull exploded with an incredibly smacking crash, I jumped over the three rows before me, kicked the emergency exit door along with some other skulls, tumbled, besmirched with blood, onto the wing, and bounced in a mixture of embryonic and bungee pose 8 metres down to the concrete track. During the fall I briefly thought that I might have had a fatal accident aboard the long distance flight directly over the Indian Ocean but the hard concrete of the Melbourne landing strip put me right. Yeah, welcome to Australia! When I regained consciousness again I was lying on a long bench in a dirty, windowless room. A heavy-weight something sat on my breast and worried me. Something that was going to clasp my balls in the following hours of my inner darkening, just like God’s controlling hand: heat. The door, probably locked from without, said in big white letters “Melbourne Airport.” Aye barry, so at least I had already arrived at the destination of my sponsored staggering. This hadn’t been always like that. Whether the blood in my face had to do with too many cans of Foster’s or with my present whereabouts couldn’t be stated for sure. I felt the torrent doors of reality open. On my left, there was a guy with a red Mohawk. He stared at me. Blankly. Spiral labyrinths rotated in his eyes. Very slowly and as if they were illuminated from within. On my right, there was a crouched figure lying on the floor. It wore something like braided straps. His head was hidden behind some kind of a gas mask which obviously sucked in his face with a high barometric pressure. Wasn’t it possible, only once in a while, that things were completely normal when I returned from a blackout? A partly incomprehensible reality had again taken possession of my plans. What, regarding the minimal content of my plans, wasn’t fair in my opinion. I had to expect a charge of destruction of the flight crew. Drunkenness, rioting, pessimism. One more file reference in the legal expenses trust of Art-Rektum. Again I had managed to mess a job up completely. I was as far away from Melbourne’s art scene right now as George Bush was from the whipping he deserved. Or wasn’t I? But I couldn’t have known that yet. So I delivered myself up to Australia’s reality and allowed my mind to fill the sweating body around it with energy. “It smells of burnt flesh here,” I arose beside the Mohawk man. Most often I begin a conversation with pretending to be a lunatic. Or a misanthropist prophet. In this case unconsciously, though. “It’s this heat, man,” there was something brooding in his eyes. Something that usually could be found merely in putrescent carcasses at the very bottom of the Amazon or in the most outward inside of rotting suns. „At it’s hottest the city burns, the dry heat can play tricks with your mind, it really effects an artist, it either sets the mood for some angry, venomous art, or it can become so intense that all you can do is find some kind of dark cool sanctuary to escape it. Melbourne isn’t the hottest city in Oz, however it’s rolling greenery can lull you into a false sense of security. The main problem here during the hellish dry heat are the fires, terrible, raging fires that in recent times has killed hundreds as they race across the landscape like a screaming demon incinerating entire towns and leaving vast black death in its wake. The scary thing is most of the fires are lit by crazy fuckers who are excited by flames.“ He had made one good point there. This heat had nothing to do with climate, or nature. It was wicked, abysmally devious. It wanted to finish you off, to decoct you until there was only a wee bit of lunatic decoction left that trickled out of your wrinkled butt. Fireproof. “Listen mate… within the next 12 hours I have to present the distilled balls of Australian art on a cocaine-sandblasted high gloss tray to a self-righteous arts elite in Germany. If this fails I’m fucked,” to give more points to my words I noisily choked on some flakes of gastric acid, “and all I’ve seen on this continent so far is a half-dead madman in straps,” as if to confirm this, the crouched figure honoured us with some panting sounds through his gas mask, “a jailed guy with a red Mohawk, and this scorching heat here.” My despair made him sick. This was obvious as he stretched out his paw, “I’m Dan. Dan Verkys. I can show you the only cold place in this city… if you want to,” he grinned sardonically, “man from Germany.” I didn’t know whether it was due to the heavy-weight pressure of his hand or to my soft, mouldering flesh. His squeeze travelled like a fleshly compression wave through my arm which was suddenly shaking as if hyped up towards my brain. Amazed panic went with it towards my cerebellar cortex. As the amorphous slub was widening my constricted throat threefold, the cell door popped open in a bright white explosion, flew across the room, and came to a standstill in the crouched, strapped figure. A burning cop in a shaking cloud of dark blue flames staggered in and fell down onto the floor in front of us. He seemed to scream like mad, his cheeks had been burnt between his teeth. But no sound at all. Only this extraterrestrial noisy hissing, as if fat was heated in a pan. While I was paralyzed with fear from the neck down, Dan didn’t seem to be impressed in any way. We didn’t want to deliver ourselves up to either the consequences or the verisimilitude of this pumping nightmare, so we dodged and ran. The buildings seemed to be deserted, the smouldering burn marks in the hallways and on the desks were no more but signs of my own dying fantasy. Just to make sure. Finally, after we had reached the airfield in front of the building, my circulatory, distorted by hangover, collapsed, and I fell on the seething concrete ocean which, blowing bubbles mighty fine, spread out to the oh so alluring horizon. This was the end. Me, the job, time. A complete failure. Having been shot halfway around this teetering, cretin world to conk out now, inside one’s own Ground Zero. Of lack of life-sustaining substances. Melbourne Airport at the curved horizon, viewed from my familiar perspective, looked like a stinking gathering of painted tin huts rammed into the inevitable red ground. Surrounded by jet-black boomerang throwers and bouncing nuisances, and spanned by an unindebted hole in the sky through the core of which the invisible cosmic emission vaporized the topside of every Australian skull. And this massive heat was inherent to everything, boiling out every organism to the last cell. The happenings around me were gleaming in bizarre blackouts. The next snapshot that was jammed into my emptied organism was the littered-up footwell of a compact car barrelling along. The stinking streaks of a stomach-controlled outburst were smiling at me from the outside of the front seat window. I was on the well known way down. There was nothing that could go flooey anymore. We raced down Tullamarine Highway to the city centre which seemed like a dark, smoky skyline at the horizon. It was actually convulsing, as if with pain. “Dan,” my saviour was stuck behind the wheel as if seized with massive convulsions, his Mohawk-armed skull popped up and down onto the plastic paneling of the special Japanese model a small black Honda to the destroying, guttural death metal beat of ELRAZOR from the CD player, “who the fuck are you?” „Artist, purveyor of dark digital art seen on numerous CD and DVD covers, books, posters, in magazines, on the net, anywhere that I can release my locked away at times insane moments that seem to make my brain cry out for a silence that never comes.“ My mind stopped. The familiar feel-ing of hope in a strange environment. Somehow. Hope for the survivability of an alien element. I was staggering through an unintelligible nightmare called job as usual, and in all the chaos I had met up with an artist of the city – unfortunately he was completely daft, but he knew about things. “Is your art exhibited at the Melbourne International Arts Festival?” I admit, this was a very silly question indeed, but in the state of panic hangover I suddenly remembered my return ticket. „The Melbourne Art scene, is filled with vibrant colours and packed with wonderfully talented and eccentric artists, artwork that appeals to me is usually slightly odd, lets face it not everything needs to be boring images of fucking Eucalyptus trees and kangaroos and farmlands, nor should it consist of the continual vomiting out pretentious portraits of the ridiculously ‘beautiful people’ who grace our beautiful garden city. What I find really sad is the amount of talent that seems wasted or unappreciated. I see people struggle with life everyday. You can turn any corner in the city to find a scraggy looking artist on the pavement, not begging, but creating the most beautiful art using coloured chalks or pastals, I like to stop, appreciate their efforts, perhaps drop a few coins in their hat if I can spare them, then step back just in time to have a business man with mobile phone in one hand and a chai soy latte in his other hand, stand straight on the artists work oblivious to what he is doing, and with no apology or recognition walks off, leaving the artist to silently repair the damage done. Any one who appreciates art and how personal it is would understand just how difficult it is to fight the temptation to grab the business man, beat the shit out of him, drag him back to the artist and have him deliver his apology, just so he can respect what he missed while he was on his phone with his head up his own ass. Artistically I find it hard to relate to people, but my eyes have been opened in many ways by a fellow artist who’s conversations have inspired me to look at the things I do in different ways than I have in the past. Melbourne artist Josh Lord, who’s work, to me, is a terrific Frankenstein like combination of traditional painting, commercial, stencil, pop, sci-fi, and wartime propaganda, an odd list of ingredients that he makes work, and the results, Andy Warhol himself would admire.  Oddly he has made me understand or appreciate how my own art works in my head, and although I personally don’t think I could make a living off of my own crass work, Josh Lord is evidence that this city does produce some of the finest artists in the world who certainly can. Melbourne has a fairy diverse population however the alternative art market here seems to be in its infancy, there doesn’t appear to be many outlets for dark art, with the exception of newer places like Grim Fandango’s.  It is really seen as a novelty, one that certain art houses would prefer to exploit to their own amusement at Halloween etc.  Which in turn causes many people like myself who work in the dark/horror genre to seek other outlets such as band CD cover art or web galleries etc.  We can only continue and hope for darker days, awaiting people’s views to change, not only to digital art, which seems to be the unappreciated bastard son of the art world, but to all forms of dark art in general.“ Damn, how could such a depraved, depressed journalist like me be so lucky? The man knew the ropes. He knew where he was. This was the essential difference between him and me. For ever. “Is this overheated place in the middle of a burning stoma of an angry, red divinity inspiring for an artist like you? „I love Melbourne, and its alternative arts really appear to be growing, we are blessed with awesome talent, from our beautiful burlesque dancers like Miss Nic to our fire eating, angle grinding stars like Kerri Neven from Fireworks Dance Company, all artists who all provide excitement and entertainment that is definitely not tedious and mainstream, these are the types of people who continually inspire me, make me laugh and make me feel less alone out there. I don’t have Idols, I don’t believe in them, They’re just people like me, no better, no worse, however I do appreciate the talent of artists like HR Giger, Zdzislaw Beksinski and Mike Bohatch. I prefer to appreciate the everyday things in my life that are important to me, like my family, my daughters Hayley and Natasha, my beautiful wife Julie, who has saved both my mind and my life countless times, and my dear friends like Kris, Jasmine and Cat. These people I love, they make me feel comfortable and worthwhile, these are people who ask for nothing from me and are just happy with me being whatever it is that I’m supposed to be hahaha. Truthfully these people inspire me everyday in positive ways, keep me alive and creating art, I couldn’t ask for more.“ The highway drilled with architectural obsession in a dead-straight line into Melbourne’s city centre. Meanwhile, the traffic consisted of nothing more than burning car accidents. Distorted brass seeming to melt in the merciless sun, producing big, poisonous mercury puddles beneath the wrecks. Meanwhile, my alcoholic turkey had reduced me to a bibulous German tourist. The big red “F” of a neon sign of a plundered gas station in front of us appeared to me like a bleeding Madonna in an isolated monastery after Assumption Day. “Hey boss, we need booze.” Aye, sometimes my logic was as pure as it was simple. “Our consciousness needs expanding!” „Everyone has experimented with drugs, my past is no different. However for quite a few years now I’ve not partaken in the use of drugs and alcohol, I’ve actually discovered that I don’t need to alter the way my mind works, lets face it, it’s fucked up enough as it is hahaha.  Some people dig drugs, which is fine, that’s their own personal business, as long as they keep it to themselves and it doesn’t interfere with me or my family I don’t really care. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not holier than thou, I too have had my fair share of partying, I just choose to keep my focus now on less destructive pastimes.“ Nevertheless, his car came to a standstill with screeching brakes directly in front of the smashed window of the gas station. The prospect of a cool drink with ice cubes and a cocktail umbrella made me find unsuspected reserves of strength. Despite the complete lack of any fluid, I heaved my mummified body out of the car. Like a zombie in trance I rummaged through the heap of heated bottles and charred porno magazines lying on the pavement. Just as I was holding up two bottles of my beloved Russian abyss, a girl bounced through the remnants of the window. I could see her pigtails, her striped overknees, I saw that she was burning. Her face consisted of one single, sewed-up scream. I staggered back in horror. Despair gripped my throat, but I had no choice: I clobbered her with one of my holy bottles and dived with my tongue into the foam of skull smithereens, shards of glass, and vodka that arose like in slow-motion, to catch some drops. For lack of success, and because of sharp-edged, indefinable smithereens in my mouth, my addiction grabbed at a six-pack of Foster’s that had been bloated by the heat and jumped with me back into Dan’s car which, with spinning wheels, was waiting to jackrabbit for at least 5 minutes already, so I thought. But all’s well that ends well, or: at the end it doesn’t matter anymore. Though the redeeming liquid, after having delivered its BAC, was directly running out of my body again – it did me so immensely good. It reminded me of the happy years in my hotel room which I had left about 666 hours ago. “Fuck, that was close, man,” I left it unexplained whether I was talking about the burning girl or about the last chance of satisfaction of my addiction, “I really wouldn’t like to die like that, though!” „When my time comes, be it sooner or later in life, I would prefer it to be painless, silent and quick, like falling asleep. I’ve thought about death constantly from a young age and I have a healthy respect for death and sickness, but I’m fascinated by death and how it affects everyone and everything. I think it’s this bizarre fascination that fuels a lot of my art, it certainly fuels my anxiety and mood swings. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love it, I fear it, most people do, but it is interesting. I don’t like to see the realities of death. I don’t get turned on by seeing real photos or video of people or animals being killed, if I keep it a fantasy it keeps its ok. I guess that’s what I recreate in my art, vast images of death but the images are pure fantasy and my way of coping with my day to day fears and knowledge that everyday could indeed be my last. I can be pretty opinionated on a lot of things, but basically if people enjoy something, whatever it is and they don’t try and cram it down my neck, I’m happy. You see, just like drugs, religion is a personal thing that holds different meanings for everyone. It doesn’t appeal to me personally, but I do like its artistic aspects, particularly how Christian beliefs are transferred into the visual form. Images of crucifixion and the concept of sacrifice for a cause are both elements that frequent my art, but that’s as religious I get. If organized religion focused on the good things they do out there such as helping those in need etc, it would be great, these are tasks of merit, stick to them and stop preaching about the evils of the world and it would be happier place for all. At the same time, this goes for the endless list of young dudes out there (who may or may not be in metal bands hahaha) with the outlook of ‘fuck god’, ‘fuck religion’ etc, it really is tiresome, seriously, give it a rest and concentrate on getting your music sounding better then you can scream about the injustices of Christianity all you like.  For all of your posturing and chest beating, you are basically doing the same thing the Christians are, trying to convert the gullible to your own views or agendas. I see it like this; If that’s your belief, good for you, keep it to yourself and to your life, but don’t judge me, because there is only one judge in my life and his name is Dan Verkys, I am the one who decides what I do, good or bad.“ The quickly vaporized six-pack and the irksome heat conjured the delusion of a multi-handed Godzilla onto my aching retina. Like in a bad Japanese monster film, the towering monster seemed to rage about between the skyscrapers. The merciless emission of the Australian central star made the heaven-assailing steel facades look like melting fuel rods. A heap of heat-caked shit, consisting of banking districts, commercial fascism, and tourist crap. I opened the remaining bottle of my girl’s skull splitter. It would be very hard. Melbourne’s skyline was threatening us in the noon sky which was interspersed with black wads of smoke. Some of the glass-armed steel church towers were in full ablaze. Meanwhile, the heat around us had set fire to the last remnants of metropolitan grass. Sparks were driving across the street like electrical snow and were chasing after the people. Some seemed to run for their life, others just sat there, others still had a random go at each other. Dan seemed to approach his destination, the place where it was really cold. I didn’t care anymore where I would die. I was pretty plastered again, so at least I wouldn’t have to die sober. We had reached the Docklands, and in front of us the torches of the financial district were rising. Convulsive lava was streaming out of holes in the ground and when you looked down the streets you’d think you were looking into tapped furnaces. I would finish this job as a heap of agglutinated ash. Burnt out. In the job. How embarrassing. I felt so immensely sorry for myself. In the very moment my watering eyes were watching the Australian conflagration collapse on us, a black abyss beneath Rialto Tower in front of us opened. The blue black glass of the swaying sides of the skyscraper was spalled at many spots, and endless clusters of human bodies were pouring down to safeguard their end in the chasm of their fall. Meanwhile, the car had reached maximum speed again. Like a wingless death plane, violated by terrorists, we whirled towards the bending building. The bonnet seemed to bend forward; the race seemed to change into an unbridled fall. Everything began to spin faster and faster. The surges of the malady gave me some lucky punches into my stomach, and just as I was vomiting the last remnant of gall dust against the screen in front of me, the car burst through the barriers of the six-storeyed underground car park of the Rialto and flew, in a parabola with no ground contact at all, into the apparently dimensionless, concreted darkness. Silently, nobly, beautifully somehow. In the fiery glow of the burning engine, I saw Dan smile. We seemed to have all the time in the world. „Ok jenz… time to die…. hahahahahahahaha……..“

Are you curious about how this interview ends? Do you really wanne know the whole, fucking truth about the coldest place in Melbourne? The complete storie in INSIDE artzine #14 (buy online)
Interview: Translation:  © Ní Gudix, 2010
Appears in INSIDE artzine #13, #14, #15 & #16 (with other stuff) buy online
Dan Verkys:
art gallery on

Ink 696 Gallery:
Josh Lord:
Miss Nic:
Grim Fandangos:
Fire Works Dance Company:
Melbourne International Arts Festival:
The Rialto Tower:

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