Yeah sure, we like to believe that utopian vision that the creation of art is for the betterment ("good") of society. That it offers us hope for humanity and its survival by allowing insights into mind, body and soul that build bridges between cultures and identities; that puts a positive spin on the capabilties and freedom inherent in the world. But what if it were actually the reverse? What if, in its execution and thematics, it made us feel more uncomfortable about the role of art in sharing with us the absymal nature of life - the painful struggle that leads to...what? What if art were a struggle - an act of "ultra-violence" that doesn't bridge but heightens the ingrained divisions.
Many of these questions have been proposed over time by underground movements in art, music, film, and the like, but it's only been recently when they've peaked their heads into the ostensible mainstream, ie. work operating on a production & socio-cultural level that is pitched to an audience beyond the fringe. In these works, the envelope of commercially palatable strategies is pushed far (sometimes too far) in a last ditch effort to shake up the dramatic comforts that cocoon. They are further instigators in a cause for a reflection of "evil" which must parallel and ultimately transcend "good." And to accomplish this, they impose strategies that are both reflexive and not, Exploitation and exploitative of the same.
I'm going to highlight three recent thrillers from South Korea, Serbia, and Japan, that I believe operate in this territory, issuing troubling ultimatums about the representation of mankind's deepest fears and desires. Each solves them in different ways - sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully. There may be a great morality at play, but it is continually squashed by the immoral progress depicted. Each unspools as a sort of post-modern riff on Dante's Inferno - the honorable innocent descending into a morass of sin, slime & sleaze - though more often than not, it is a rite of passage not exactly of their own design.