Selected Publications/Texts

All the Mystery, and Fear, and Terror...   2022
Essays for Interwoven Magazine   2017
Deviations from the Script   2016
One That Got Away   2014
From the Meinong Jungle Tribune   2014
Counterfeit Horizons   2012
Darkitecture   2012
I Cling to Virtue   2011
Things Uncommon   2010
The World Ending Object   2010

We Crave Blood

It’s alive, and yet it looks so dead…it’s alive and waiting out there for you, ready to kill you if you go too far…the sun will get you, or the cold at night, or the insects, or… there’s a thousand ways the desert can kill!

— from the film It Came from Outer Space (1953)

We Crave Blood is an installation addressing the pervasive imprint of settler mythologies and imaginaries onto desert landscapes. The ‘origin’ desert for the work is the Chihuahuan desert where the artist was born, a territory that encompasses present-day northeastern Mexico as well as the states of Texas and New Mexico.

Through mixed-media montage, personal memoir, and the haunted remains of a set, We Crave Blood materially, sonically, and cinematically explores the phantasmagoria of a region and landscape that exists within the Western European imagination more as ‘myth’ than as ‘place.’ In its literary, theatrical, and cinematic projections, this is a region whose topographies and ecosystems are framed as desolate and hostile, thus enabling and staging Anglo-European civilizational reproduction and rebirth. If the ‘desert’, according to this fabulated construction, is empty and threatening, a place of inward and outward brutality, it is also empire’s ever-expanding rehearsal space, nightmarishly, both its canvas and womb.

The work traces and evokes key encounters with the ‘American desert’ as a space of mythic and imperial projection, which include early depictions of European ‘contact’ with indigenous peoples of this region; Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show; the adventure stories of the German writer Karl May (beloved by Adolf Hitler); the imagery of Post-Hiroshima Horror and Science Fiction B movies of the 1950s; and contemporary first-person video games. This traversing and layering of genres, media modalities, and narrative forms reveals the ‘desert’ as a place of ideological projection, one that ‘travels’ allegorically, transnationally, across earth and space.

The installation, first displayed at the Rawart gallery in February 2023, appears as a kind of living, haunted set, perhaps from a low-budget movie where the production has gone decidedly bad and been taken over by spectral forces; a desert landscape comprised of facades and flats, painterly expressions of plants, animals, and geological formations, but also of deformed creatures, of eternally repeating historical moments and figures rendered in monstrous, mutated forms; a zone of material and sonic ruins and detritus that invoke a phantasmal geography. Nestled within the installation are commissioned works made by young artists and recent graduates from the schools where Toran teaches, adding new perspectives and aesthetics that further distort and complicate the ‘reading’ of the space. High and low cultural signs and symbols collide, repeat, and become misshapen in a mise-en-abyme of assembled images, hidden dioramas, fragmented film sequences, and GIFs. These distortions of scale, time, frequency, and perspective seek to rupture, caricature, problematize, and re-imagine this mythic space, in turn bringing the long and ongoing histories and continued power and violence of the settler imaginary into view.

Exhibited at RawArt Gallery, with commissioned works by Clara Schweers, Tanguy Benoit, Nick Williamson and Sam Conran. This text was written collaboratively by Maya Bamberger, Noam Toran, and Keith Jones.