To celebrate the 50th anniversary of George A Romero’s landmark zombie film Night of the Living Dead 1968, composer and artist Lawrence English has created a new audiovisual work titled The Visitors. Drawing on the film’s iconic imagery, English melds a montage of moving images with a distinctive live soundtrack.
On October 1st 1968, George Romero premiered Night of the Living Dead at the Fulton Theatre in Pittsburgh. It was a film that would change modern cinema. The zombie, as a cultural artefact had appeared in the popular global psyche during the late 1920s following the publication of William Seabrook’s 'The Magic Island'. In this text he outlined his encounter with three zombies presented to him by a Haitian friend Polynice. Other critical texts such as Richard Matheson’s 'I Am Legend' cemented the zombie as a ever-present spectre of the modern human civilisation. It was Romero’s zombie however that came to typify the their role as undead agents of fear and terror. Framed as a critical analysis of modern American society, Romero’s film became a benchmark of subversive film making, anchored by the casting of an African-American lead; "Perhaps Night of the Living Dead is the first film to have a black man playing the lead role regardless of, rather than because of, his race,” Romero noted. The film has subsequently been awarded preservation status by the Library Of Congress for its cultural impact. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film, Lawrence English has created a new audio visual work titled The Visitors.
The Visitors is a 45 minute audio visual homage to Romero’s remarkable film. It is a mediation on the zombie as cultural phenomena. Using a series of the iconic zombie montages from the original film, each drawn out from a few seconds to minutes in length; the images on screen shift from objects of horror to a dreamlike light play. The faces and bodies of the undead become a focus of attention, something to be explored rather than shunned. Their on screen presence shifts from fear and disgust to a kind of glacial beauty. Matched with an embodied soundtrack of low frequency vibration and harmonic echoes, The Visitors is a work that celebrates Romero’s criticism’s of modern systems of economy and power and recognises the role and value of the body as more than just flesh for consumption.