Art and Music After the Zombie Apocalypse

This week, I invited Cas (@_somnambulant_) to write a guest blog about art & zombies to go with my zombie-portrait of him. If you enjoyed today’s post, consider giving somnambulant some zombie klout, or share the love of brains on twitter. <3

Earlier this week I had a conversation online about where people would head first upon witnessing the onset of a zombie apocalypse. The usual zombie movie go-to’s were mentioned for collecting weapons, food, supplies.

Zombie Somnambulant - by @kdot
Zombie Somnambulant - by @kdot

I suggested a pharmacy for antibiotics and other medicine, since once the zombie infestation takes down civilization we want to be able to fight zombies without having to worry about common infections and viruses. Let’s face it: a sneeze in the wrong place at the wrong time could prove deadly.

The pharmacy trip wasn’t super high on anyone else’s list so I think I could probably snag all the good stuff first.

Of course it was countered that those who went to the gun shop could just take my pharmaceutical stash at gunpoint. That got me thinking about those questions about survival and humanity that The Walking Dead likes to make us think about. What would you be willing to do to protect your family? How far would you go? I can definitely see myself having to fight to keep my meds.

But what if it was something that was lower down on the priority chain. What if it was something not necessary for a person’s survival? What if it was music? A book? Art supplies?

On the surface it’s a bit of a desert island question, really. If you had to choose five books/albums/dvds/paintings to be stranded with on an island, which would you bring? A silly little exercise, sure, but put into the context of a zombie apocalypse (or any other type of post-apo scenario) it begs the question, why bring any of these things?

Well, entertainment certainly has value. When you’re not on zombie-watch and all the televisions are down, it might be nice to have packed a novel or two in with your rations. But more than that, art and music could provide a connection to the past, to remember better times. I still remember the scene early on in Lost (1.17 I think) where Hurley is once again listening to his CD player and the music he’s got on becomes the soundtrack for a touching montage. Only this time the music cuts out, the batteries dead. It was a sad moment watching him lose one more connection to the rest of the world. I’d love to see more moments like this in zombie stories.

What about creating art? Certainly it’s lower down on the priority list when posed with trying to survive and possibly rebuild human civilization, but we are creative beings and there would be a need for many of us to express ourselves. If only to help keep our sanity in an insanely hostile world. If all we do is shuffle from place to place, searching for food and fighting, then how different from the zombies are we?

The human need to leave a legacy would become especially attractive. Artist’s would leave a message to future survivors to let them know who had come before them. Not only that, but the utilitarian nature of life could even affect the artist’s message. Like the old songs of the underground railroad of the southern US with their coded instructions. Graffiti art on the side of a building that expresses the artist’s angst but also gives directions to the nearest safe house. Journal writing to keep an account of your travails would be useful as well as cathartic.

Certainly some artistic forms would be more practical than others. Playing musical instruments would probably drop off the list due to the danger of attracting nearby zombies. So quieter forms of expression and ones with less bulky instruments would be more prevalent.

Even still, I think a song that helped remind people how to fight zombies would be great (like this one), not only for teaching valuable fighting lessons but also for blowing of some steam.

Martial arts would certainly also be prized. Contests of skill to see who was the best with a weapon might be a bit too much of a waste of ammunition and a zombie attractor, but I could see it happening especially if using zombies as moving targets for the contest. Again this would also be valuable to help relieve tension which is undoubtedly going to be high.

Creative expression whether through art or music or writing or even in physical pursuits is a large part of what we are as human beings. Karl Paulnak, here in his welcome address,  comes to the conclusion that art is actually necessary for human survival when he discusses the amount of art and music that came out of Nazi concentration camps. Not only would art help distinguish us from zombies and relieve the stress of living through a zombie apocalypse, it would become a necessary pursuit in keeping up the human spirit.

So when the zombies come for you and your friends (or when you’re writing a story about it), maybe stuff your favourite novel into your backpack but better yet spare a little time for art.

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