At this point the monster has moved the body off the shoulder into the woods. Just beyond a row of trees a fire is burning in a field. The music ends, a chomping sound is heard and then replaced by forest sounds. Turned upward, and splayed in the foreground the body can clearly be made out. The scavenger turns from the body, makes a circle and as the rain begins to fall again, howls. With a crash of thunder, as if in response to the howl, two bolts of lightning strike the body, revealing his skeleton and a leaving behind a smoldering corpse. Smoke rises out its crotch forming a dancing female figure and dissipates into the air.1
As a fresh fire breaks out beyond the trees, the body moves its hands. The reanimated artist rubs his eyes and slowly sits up, turning on his side and lifting his right leg for balance to stand. He coughs as he does so and says what the viewer is probably thinking, “What the fuck?” The scavenger comes in from the foreground acting more like a dog waiting for some command.4
In the distance a truck passes on the highway, lights streaming behind the trees. As the artist staggers to the road, toadstools grow up on the ground where his head had been.5
He turns and whistles at the doglike beast and the scavenger follows the artist’s path to the road and then spreading his wings flies off. Rain picks up and whitens the screen as another truck passes through the scene. Footsteps on snow are heard and the artist, now a wanderer dressed in winter clothing and holding onto a walking stick, walks towards us following the road. He turns before passing out of the scene. A car comes down the road in his direction. There is a pause and then a sound that seems like a cross between an animal snorting and a footstep or a body falling in the snow. There is a pause both in the soundscape and in the landscape. While the image remains stationary Whiteaker begins singing again. “I’ll have my misery to remind me of you.” The screen turns black. The song ends punctuated by thunder.
Criswell has opened up the narrative to a series of complex and interconnected relationships and references. Not just the scavenger and the artist play within this operatic scenario but also the golem and the spirit, sexuality and sensualism, the irrational and rational, sturm und drang
. As the relationships add on so do the references, and we find ourselves falling into another labyrinth - a labyrinth of history, self and myth. A cycle where it is never clear whether the beast is pursuing the wanderer or the wanderer is pursuing the beast, or both.
Speaking of this beast, the protagonist in Criswell’s drama, Criswell writes, “It doesn't have a name. The viewer will supply the name--or not. Everyone has their own monster. Schoenberg calls it a ‘winged hyena’ in his music drama Die glückliche Hand
where it appears at the beginning and end, a fatal cycle.” Criswell’s fatal cycle lies in the hiker, the wander, the homeless, who represents the artist using his materials to expand “the field of possibilities.” As Criswell puts it, “I can't search for discoveries because I don't know what I'm looking for, but by working in 2, 3, and 4 dimensions, maybe I'm expanding the field of possibilities. It's like what Faust said to the Devil: "When I've seen it all and done it all, to hell with it.
This is the primary artistic conundrum for Criswell and the basis for all his work: how to see it all and create it all and still have more to see and do. In the words of Beckett’s Unnamable, “I can't go on. I'll go on.