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02/27/14 “Hiker Meat,” a Non-Existent Exploitation Film

If false memories can be created, couldn’t culture be imagined into history? Influenced by the low-budget exploitation horror films that flourished in the ‘70s, conceptual artist Jamie Shovlin created a movie that never actually existed. Using scenes from over 1,500 films, Shovlin collaged the beginning and end sections of Hiker Meat, which could have been one of the cheap gorefests he grew up watching.

With its own fictional Italian director, Jesus Rinzoli, the story of a hitchhiking damsel arriving at an American summer camp from hell was even supported by a full screenplay, soundtrack, and trailer. Shovlin’s collaboration with writer Mike Harte (his name, an anagram of “hiker meat”) and composer Euan Rodger certainly asserted the exploitation genre’s “potential for very idiosyncratic output” where, Shovlin says, “people believe the idea to the extent that they somehow make it happen, regardless of practicalities and funds.”

Hiker Meat (US One Sheet)

Five years after splicing Hiker Meat together, Shovlin presents a “remake” of the film through an exhibition at Cornerhouse, Greater Manchester’s center for film and visual art. Pushing the concept further, an actual making-of documentary titled Rough Cut has also been released, including production footage for a film that never was.

Shovlin’s previous exhibitions are similarly founded on actualized fiction, be it drawings from an imagined missing schoolgirl or memorabilia from Lustfaust, a non-existent German glam rock band. While contemplating a soundtrack by Lustfaust, the idea of a mock exploitation film had been conceived—proof of Shovlin’s sturdy sense of alternate reality.

Amid the divergence of fictitious cult artifacts, Shovlin got real with NOUS and discussed the creative freedom in horror and why pop culture today “doesn’t really exist.”

 

A fictional film born from the soundtrack of a fictional German glam rock band—please explain.

The film first appeared as a small part of the earlier Lustfaust project– as a short written piece outlining the content of Lustfaust’s 7th album, Überblicken/Überzeugen. Within the context of that project’s fictional timeline, the album appeared in the late 1970s, so exploitation and horror were becoming increasingly mainstream. The horror rather than exploitation genre is an ideal place to position a film that doesn’t exist, or that exists primarily in the imagination. As this particular iteration of the horror genre itself is so pared down and overfamiliar, a lot of the work is already done in suggesting what kind of film Hiker Meat might have been.

What do you think the significance of the exploitation film is today? Amateur video on the web, allowing people their filmed transgressions, seems to espouse the genre’s spirit.

I think exploitation cinema as a historical moment fulfills a contemporary cultural need: to remember that feature films that were created by a group of people with the lowest of means could at one point be impactful to mainstream culture. Nowadays, everyone has access to a recording device – a condition that Rough Cut heavily relies upon – and can record and propagate their own version of whatever event they wish. Pop culture, in terms of hegemonic division, doesn’t really exist. In turn, mainstream culture ceases to be, as it can’t be conversely defined by its opposite, counter-culture, which many of the films cited in the project could be defined within.

Was Hiker Meat also a means to glorify the camp we now identify in the exploitation genre?

I, like many others, had a primordial relationship with these films when I was in my early teens. Even then, most of the films the project references or steals from were over a decade old. So I only really know how fundamentally transgressive and challenging these films were through retrospective reading. I know what they mean to me as a cultural consumer of the early 1990s but nowadays, as an adult in my mid-thirties, their content seems almost charming in relation to the breadth of material that’s now available online with the click of a mouse.

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Does nostalgia or a child-like desire to create an alternate universe figure in when you conceptualize projects?

It’s impossible to say, it’s so mixed up in so many things. I also like the notion that a construct—a fabrication, with sufficient depth compiled through historical research and attention to detail—could be inserted into actual history. In doing so, that history could be considered more closely with its qualities and defects more apparent by the insertion of this device. It sounds benevolent in that description but the overall approach reminds me of a thing I did with Lego when I was a kid. I’d spend hours—in those days what seemed like years—building a detailed structure; a police station, for example. Then I’d destroy it in seconds. Even then I realized that the building wasn’t that important – it served to enable the breaking, which was always more enjoyable after a long build.

As a probable exploitation film expert now, what do you consider three best films in this genre? 

I’m no expert, merely an exploiter of the exploiters perhaps. And best is always a pejorative term in this context. Three to consider as very different to anything else you’ve seen and possibly one-of-a-kind cinema could be the following: The Sinful Dwarf, a Danish film from 1973; The Godmonster of Indian Flats, also from 1973 and directed by Fredric Hobbs; and Motel Hell, from 1980, which is supposedly being remade. Those three span a wide range in terms of quality and content but they’re each incredibly idiosyncratic, which makes them very worthwhile in my opinion.

Jamie Shovlin’s “Hiker Meat” exhibition runs at Cornerhouse until April 21, 2014

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