As if reading In the Penal Colony wasn’t enough to give you Terry Gilliam-flavored nightmares, artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have brought the story’s gruesome execution device to life. Now visitors to Modern Art Oxford can watch the mechanical monstrosity rehearse its chilling dance of death while violins play ominously in the background.The Officer of Kafka’s story is obsessed with the artistry he sees in an elaborate killing machine, which carves the condemned man’s sentence into his chest as part of his twelve-hour execution. Cardiff and Miller invite viewers to appreciate or recoil from that same “artistry,” but from a much safer distance. The artists try to up the creep factor by adding a foreboding string soundtrack and a puzzling spray of lights from an overhead disco ball, but far more disconcerting is the way the machine’s flashlight-wielding arms inspect the slab first, as if sizing the victim up for evisceration. [via The Guardian]


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