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Prometheus' Chariot
(or Frankenstein Was Not A Monster):
An Interpretive Excorcism

Performance @ Cueto Project, Thursday, November 19, 2009 by David Colosi

(included in the exhibition
Cueto Project NYC Oct. 27-Jan. 2, 2009)

“Since you have preserved my narration, … I would not that a mutilated one should go down to posterity.”

Frankenstein (Or The Modern Prometheus), Mary Shelley Wollstonecraft
(spoken by Victor Frankenstein to Walton)

David Colosi - Chariot 2009

Stupid White Men segment from Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man featuring Iggy Pop, 1995
Frankenstein (or The Modern Prometheus) by Mary Shelley, 1818, 1831
Frankenstein by James Whales starring Boris Karloff, 1931
Prometheus Unbound, Aeschyus, circa 408-410 BC
Prometheus Unbound, Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1818-1820
The Tell Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe, 1843
The Tell Tale Heart, read by Iggy Pop, 1997
The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe, 1845
The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe read by Christopher Walken, 1997
The Raven, Lou Reed, 2003
The Raven, Lou Reed read by Willem Defoe, 2003
The Bells, Edgar Allan Poe, 1849
The Bells, Lou Reed, 1979
China Girl, Iggy Pop and David Bowie, sung by Iggy Pop, 1977
China Girl, Iggy Pop and David Bowie, sung by David Bowie, 1983
Sister Midnight, Iggy Pop and David Bowie, lyrics and sung by Iggy Pop, 1977
Red Money, Iggy Pop and David Bowie, lyrics and sung by David Bowie, 1979
Hop Frog, Edgar Allan Poe, 1849
Hop Frog, Lou Reed, sung by David Bowie, 2003


William Blake (1757-1827)
portrait by Thomas Phillips, 1807

William Blake (circa 1870s)
Johnny Depp in Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, 1995

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, oil on canvas
by Richard Rothwell, first exhibited 1840;
National Portrait Gallery, London.

Iggy Pop
promotional photo and cover image of
A Million in Prizes: The Anthology
, 2005

David Colosi - Chariot 2009

“We perceived a low carriage, fixed on a sledge…” (Letter IV, 20)
(Driven by Victor Frankenstein’s creation)

“It was in fact a sledge, like that we had seen before, which had drifted towards us in the night, on a large fragment of ice.” (Letter IV, 20)
(Driven by Victor Frankenstein)

“Why he had come so far upon the ice in so strange a vehicle?” (Letter IV, 21)

Frankenstein was not a monster

“If your wish is to become really a man of science, and not merely a petty experimentalist, I should advise you to apply to every branch of natural philosophy, including mathematics.” (spoken by M. Waldman to Victor Frankenstein, Chapter 3, 39)

Victor Frankenstein is a scientist

“Darkness had no effect upon my fancy; and a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm.” (Chapter 4, 41)

Victor Frankenstein is an artist

“I began the creation of human being.  As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hinderance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionally large.  After having formed this determination, and having spent some months in successfully collecting and arranging my materials, I began.  […] I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave… I collected bones from charnel-houses; and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame… The dissecting room and the slaughterhouse furnished many of my materials…” (Chapter 4, 43)

Victor Frankenstein made a found object sculpture

“I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.” (Chapter 4, 41)

“But this discovery was so great and overwhelming that all the steps by which I had been progressively led to it were obliterated, and I beheld only the result.” (Chapter 4, 42)

“I have marvelous demonstration of this proposition which this margin is too small to contain.”  Pierre de Fermat, 1637

“His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful.  Beautiful! – Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips.” (Chapter 5, 45)

The Creation


Only the blind man, De Lacey, considers him human:

“By your language, stranger, I suppose you are my countryman…”103

“I am poor, and an exile; but it will afford me true pleasure to be in any way serviceable to a human creature.”103

The creation is never named “Frankenstein” though Victor acknowledges himself as his creator.
Boris Karloff portrays a monster.
(In the James Whale film, the names of Henry and Victor are switched: Henry Frankenstein is the scientist and Victor (Clerval) is his best friend.
Victor Frankenstein’s creation is sensitive, intelligent, profound, literate, articulate, and demonstrates superhuman strength and agility.
Henry Frankenstein’s monster is stupid, dumb, stiff and weighty, has bolts in its neck, and short hair.
Victor’s creation’s killing spree is entirely human and motivated by human emotions.  He targets Victor’s family members as a means to blackmail Victor to make a female friend for him.
Henry’s monster kills a girl unrelated to the Frankenstein family only because he mistakenly thinks she might float.
Victor’s creation saves the life of a little girl because she is drowning and is repaid with a gunshot.


“One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire which had been left by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at the warmth I experienced from it.  In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain.  How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!” (Chapter 11, 81)

Prometheus molded man from clay and dust.
Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humans.

Victor Frankenstein makes man from clay and dust, from inanimate tissue.
Fire has both positive and negative effects: warmth to body and food and destruction.
Victor’s creation becomes destructive.
Victor is double-sided; he expresses warmth and love to his family but offers his creation only hatred and rejection based solely on his looks.
The creation is all good, pure from birth.  He only becomes destructive when Victor and the other characters in the book reject him.  Killing is his only way to get Victor’s attention.  Although his killing spree may be a bad decision, it is a human decision and made for human reasons.  Readers too are forced to call him a monster since this is the only name given to him.

“‘Since you have preserved my narration, … I would not that a mutilated one should go down to posterity.’” (Walton in Continuation, 160)

Explaining Sculpture to a Dead Fish

“The fragmentary character of Beuys’ objects is thus deceptive: although they mimic the allegorical form by inviting the beholder’s participation, their understanding is always already pre-established within the totalizing system of meaning that Beuys supplied for them.  It is within an interpretive discourse emanating from the artist himself that meaning is assigned to the individual works.”
Germer, Stefan. Beuys, Haacke, Broodthaers
Joseph Beuys: The Reader (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), 61.

The silence of Joseph Beuys’ objects is underrated.

The vocality of Joseph Beuys is overrated.

“Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore – ” Poe

“Open the door and see what “threat” is, - open the window” – Lou Reed
(Willem DeFoe, true to the line, stumbles but fights through it, but when Lou Reed sings it himself he adds “the” and thus the required syllable)

“Take thy beak from out my heart…” Poe (a beak both sticks and sucks)
“Take thy talon from out my heart…” L. Reed (a talon only sticks, plus it introduces an extra falling syllable).

Take my heart from out thy beak

The Bells

Edgar Allan Poe

The Bells

Lou Reed


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