Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Fartwork: Sufjan Stevens' Peace

Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens Presents Songs For Christmas Vol V: Peace
(Athsmatic Kitty)

Christmas is just around the corner, and so it's only fair for our Friday Fartwork to dip its toes into some holiday fun.

Fun indeed, because in Sufjan Stevens' fifth volume of Christmas carols, Peace, we are treated to a scene of ghastly violence and robbing of innocence. Let's get right into it.

The main graphic shows Santa Claus, having transformed into a lion, attempting to devour a lamb - itself, a symbol of childhood and infancy.

Santa Claus, like all those werewolves in oldskool werewolf movies, has clearly just transformed into a ferocious lion - we know this not only from his posture (cradling the lamb/child on his lap) but especially from the Santa hat, which he/it is still wearing. In the place of his big white beard, Santa has grown a mane of fiery orange. What was once white is now the colour of the flames of hell. Indeed, the lamb in question is due for a bloodbath.

Of course, the lamb does not represent a specific kid, like a Donnie or a Polly, but childhood itself - nay, childhood and all that it represents: naivety, vulnerability, and most importantly, innocence. This disturbing visual in fact tells the story of Santa Claus robbing children of their innocence. More clues to this chilling message lie in the typography.

The album title, Peace, is set in a typeface reminiscent of hippie art from the late 1960s. But where hippie art was typified by psychedelic use of colours, the peace that lamb-eating Santa is offering is devoid of joy, displayed in washed-out white and furnished with a 130-degree drop shadow, creating a black and white effect reminiscent of film noir's chiaroscuro photography. This in turn hints at the dark side behind Santa's motives.

Beneath the word "Peace" are nondescript, informative words like "Sufjan Stevens" "Presents" and "2006 Vol V". But occupying a prominent position - on the same level as Santa's hat, the remaining clue to his true identity - is the word "Christmas", adorned with the wool of dead lambs. This wool, again, is not the wool of a bunch of kids who have died, but is the wool of ruined childhoods and robbed chastities.

All-in-all, what we have here is an impassioned warning against trusting your children with Santa Clauses, anywhere in the world. Sufjan's alarm bell is completed in his own, personal and stern response in the second track of the album, posted below.

Sufjan Stevens - Get Behind Me Santa! (from Sufjan Stevens Presents Songs For Christmas Vol V: Peace)

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