Wolstenholme Creative Space seems the perfect venue to host Liverpool’s screening of TRASH HUMPERS. A beautifully ramshackle, intriguingly chaotic warehouse space, more process than result, more externalisation of a developing idea than controlled and defined gallery environment, Wolstenholme seems to embody the possible, the unpredictable, and is therefore the perfect housing for what Wolstenholme’s curators, Priya Sharma and Caroline Smith, describe as ‘DIY Culture’, the ethic, according to Harmony Korine, behind Trash Humpers.
A cluster of old televisions sit awaiting function on a side wall, musical equipment for an after-film show draped across the back, and the floor of the largest upstairs space is filled with an odd collection of sofas, chairs, stools and rugs. A taped introduction to the film from Korine, dedicating this showing of Trash Humpers to “the scum, the lowlife of Liverpool, people on the street,” sparks the TVs into action. Filmed on VHS, Warp Films have elected for this screening to show the film on old equipment, channeling the ghosts of past technology, past dreams and ambitions, past vision for the future of film. Each television boasts slightly different dimensions, slightly variant colour tone, picture quality and position: a fractured and multi-perspective environment which is entirely appropriate for a viewing of Korine’s film.
A quick google will tell you more than enough to make a call on whether Trash Humpers is your kind of entertainment. Filmed in a deliberately lo-fi and DIY (or as DIY as an established and reputed film maker can ever be) manner on VHS by Korine, featuring his wife and local characters from suburban Nashville, his home, Trash Humpers details just that: a group of masked people who spend their waking hours humping dumpsters, rubbish bins and fences, fellating trees, spanking hookers, vandalising homes, talking shit with random invitees and misappropriating wheelchairs, prams and any other kind of transport they find. To say that the film is random, meaningless, repetitive, sensationalist and self-awarely ‘transgressive’ is probably quite accurate – but in a way misses the point. The film lacks a linear narrative, a moral code, a structured environment, a sense of society or family – it tears down both filmic and social structure, and audiences spend an hour and a half in a true vacancy of the spirit.
Deliberately devoid of overt product placement, or consumption, of force-fed television or institutional interaction, the characters wander, like inmates loose from an asylum, through their environment, speaking at random, humping on instinct, speaking in riddles and rhymes. They hump without orgasm, their babies are plastic, they murder arbitrarily and without motive or satiety, their friendship has no obvious signs of shared emotion or profundity of experience. Various characters entertain the three pensioner-masked protagonists with soliloquies lauding the outsider, the rebel, lawlessness, regarding the world beyond common expectation. They dress without thought, their friends are disheveled and seem to similarly lack a desire to entertain normal social mores: this is a film which at heart is a troubled paen to the misfit, to the socially unacceptable, to those who follow base instinct, reject law, reject consumption and seek not validation or acceptance.
Obviously influenced by David Lynch’s Inland Empire, the film keeps its petticoat showing, making the shaking hand, the tags and cut lines visible: Korine has said he wanted the audience to consider this a found tape: a home movie made by inbred rednecks: Deliverance as a reality TV show or video blog. It out punks Punk’d, out trashes MTV, out shocks Home Video programmes. Certainly it is not without its problems, in that Korine’s entitlement to attention comes from an established reputation to shock. If this had indeed been ‘found’ footage, released to youtube, it would be classed as, and lost within, the countless home-made mock-schlock constantly spewed forth into public space: what makes Korine’s vision different, what makes his puerile profound? According to him, nothing: the film is about nothing, about the cultural and emotional wasteland of contemporary suburban America…what is left to those living outside the law- not a Jesse James inspired rebel stampede, but a self indulgent trawl through the wastelands of the outer suburbs, with no purpose, no intention and no meaning. Questionable in its vision, it is. But also, hypnotic, visually compelling (in a car-crash kind of way) and sporting a breathtakingly uncomfortable sound design, with distortion and detuning turning the quiet of abandoned buildings into a claustrophobic tangible tension. Whether it works: whether it rises above the morass to perturb, amuse or astound you seems to be a matter for debate, and certainly for every viewer to decide. But as Sharma says in our pre-film conversation, “Korine’s films stay with you. Constantly.”