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Monster Dialectics
Emanuel Röhss

Monster Dialectics is an experimental essay film combining archival and original material. It explores how the personal trauma that architect Frank Lloyd Wright ingrained in his 1920’s LA buildings resurfaces through the many Hollywood films and shows that utilizes his architecture in their set designs and as dramatic device.

The film examines the relationship between Wright’s Mayan Revival buildings and their presence in Hollywood cinema and TV. It draws on the thesis that the buildings embody Wright’s emotional wounds and served as an outlet for his repressed feelings following the brutal murder of his lover “Mamah” and her children.

This is considered in relation to Aby Warburg’s idea of how intense emotional expression manifests with a reappearing pathos and gesture throughout the Western history of art. The film aims to emphasize how Wright’s trauma resonates through the characters and narratives that inhabited his buildings throughout the last 90 years of Hollywood cinema.

In their life as locations and film sets Wright’s buildings have played anything from a haunted house, Yakuza mob mansion, and AI laboratory. “Monster Dialectics” features a wide range of material from productions such as: Female (1933), The Day of the Locust (1974), Blade Runner (1982), Game of Thrones (2011-19) and West World (2016-) — in combination with original material shot at Wright’s Hollyhock-, Freeman, Millard, and Ennis Houses in Los Angeles.

The particular position these buildings occupy in culture as well as in a certain realm of psychology is addressed through a screenplay that synthesizes the architect’s personal tragedy with Warburg’s concept of an image’s afterlife and references to narratives in the source films.
The central character, the monster, is the houses’ spirit and voice. He features within the architectural environments as well as the film’s voice over. Ultimately, the film aims to stress how these very odd houses operate as agents for intense emotion, memory, and trauma.

Keywords Essay, Architecture
Aspect ratio 1.78:1 (16:9)
Prod. format
Duration 00:12:08
Language English
Color Color+bw
Sound Stereo
Year 2021
Latest screening Nov 13, 2022
Nov 18, 2022
Rent this work for public screenings

About the artist

Emanuel Röhss

Emanuel Röhss (born 1985, Gothenburg) lives and works in Los Angeles. He studied at the Royal College of Art, London, where he received an MA in Painting, as well as at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, earning a BA in Painting.

Röhss recently received the Sten A Ohlsson Foundation for Research and Culture 2021 visual art award, on the occasion of which he staged an exhibition at the Gothenburg Museum of Art — his most extensive solo presentation to date.

The artist has been subject of solo shows at Galerie Nordenhake; Stockholm, Thomas Duncan Gallery; Los Angeles, Coma Gallery; Sidney, Issues Gallery Stockholm, SALTS; Basel, Carl Kostyál; Stockholm, T293 Gallery; Rome, Index Art Foundation; Stockholm and Project Native Informant; London as well as recognized international awards. He was included in group exhibitions at Sadie Coles HQ; London, the Thiel Museum; Stockholm, Anonymous Gallery; New York, Sven Harry’s Konstmuseum; Stockholm, Museo Capadimonte, Napels, Johan Berggren Gallery, Malmö, South London Gallery, Seventeen Gallery, as well as Rowing; London.