The Krampus is hairy devil-like figure from Alpine mythology said to accompany St. Nicholas as he makes his rounds each December 6. While St. Nicholas rewards good children with presents, naughtier types are traditionally scared straight by the frightful appearance of one or more Krampuses, waving switches, rattling chains, and clanking cowbells.
Beginning in Austria in the 17th century with costumed home visits, the Krampus tradition soon grew into large parade-like gatherings of devils known as Krampus Runs. Along the way, the practice mostly shed its moralistic purpose, evolving into something closer to Halloween, a carnivalesque chance to embody, and confront civilization’s inner demons.
Krampus has made inroads in the US too. Over the last decade or so, he’s particularly been embraced by countercultural types looking for holiday alternatives to the white-bearded red-suited patriarch of all things consumerist and paternalistic. In 2012, Philadelphia held its third annual Krampus Run in 2012, and Portland celebrated with its traditional Krampus Ball. Krampus now shows up in art galleries, album art, music videos, comics, video games, T-shirts, cards, crafts, and countless other tschotskes. He’s put in appearances on NPR, The Colbert Report, The Office, American Dad and more. He’s even been claimed as a mascot for the Occupy movement.
As a Mecca for creative types dissatisfied with the status quo, Los Angeles should be at the forefront of what could be a new countercultural holiday rivaling Burning Man. That’s why we are organizing the first annual Krampusfest, a multi-venue celebration incorporating free public street performances, a lecture or two, mask-making workshops, and a Krampus art exhibition. The art show will be held at Copro Gallery in Bergamot Station and curated by Monte Beauchamp, author of Krampus: The Devil of Christmas (and tastemaker behind alternative art & graphics magazine Blab!).
We are also planning several themed performance nights in clubs and art spaces. That’s where Center for the Arts comes in.
PROPOSED EVENT AT THE CENTER FOR THE ARTS
- THE KRAMPUS BALL
- Saturday, December 7
- Krampus-inspired costumes or other creative finery will be encouraged for this evening of theatrically outlandish music and traditional Bavarian entertainments. Performances will include the California Krautrock of KRAMPWERK, a behorned Ego Plum channeling the spirit of everyone’s favorite synth pioneers, as well as the shaggily costumed psychobilly of THE KRAMPS (featuring members of Rosemary’s Billygoat, The Radioactive Chickenheads, and others.) Alongside this, Bavarian cultural preservationist group, G.T.E.V. D’OBERLANDLER will present authentic folkloric dances in traditional costume, accompanied by accordion, cowbells, and a 16-foot alpenhorn. And of course the evening will include a visit from Saint Nicholas and THE KRAMPUS LOS ANGELES PERFORMANCE TROUPE. Costumes worn by the troupe at this and other events will closely follow traditional models, and in their rich detailing will reflect a sizable investment of time, resources, and skills of participating artists, many of whom work professionally in film industry art departments or other artistic fields.
WHO WE ARE
Krampusfest events are the creation of former members of The Cacophony Society, a national group of creative eccentrics, artists, and pranksters, which served as an key agent in creation of the Burning Man festival as well as inspiration for “Project Mayhem” in Chuck Palahniuk‘s novel Fight Club. Cacophony has also been the subject of a museum exhibition at Grand Central Art Center, a feature-length documentary, and a book to be published by Last Gasp this Spring.
While the Cacophony Society was known for a general attitude of cynicism and satiric manhandling of sacred cows, Krampusfest encourages an inquisitive and respectful regard for the practice of Krampus traditions (along with playful reinterpretations!) Krampus Los Angeles is in correspondence with Krampus groups overseas in an effort to ground our activities in authentic practice and understanding of the tradition.
Krampusfest is not just about traditions of a particular Alpine region, or the dozen of countries where variants or related customs can be found. We believe it’s a useful model wider cultural discourse and growth. We think we can lay the groundwork for something beyond any gallery experience or evening’s entertainment. We believe this can be a new sort of holiday anticipated every year, not only by artists or self-proclaimed outsiders, but the infinitely larger group of people who at one time or another find themselves unmoved by the arbitrary gaiety of Christmas. We think the real artistic experience will be the creativity this will prompt in garage workshops and kitchen table sewing projects as people make art that they will become part of their household’s annual experience, masks and costumes to be worn out on streets, things that will provoke curiosity and public discussion. Particularly provocative will be dichotomy between the riotous devilry of Krampus and the received notion of Christmas as a vaguely reverent time of domesticity and smug reward. And by simultaneously honoring old world holiday traditions while defying traditions of a more recent provenance, we’ll confound lazy dichotomies between conservative and revolutionary, encouraging fresh thinking about cultural growth and exchange.