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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Weekend links 390

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French poster by Basha (Barbara Baranowska) for Andrzej Zulawski’s extraordinary Possession (1981).

• “Alive from Off Center, renamed Alive TV in 1992, was an American arts anthology television series aired by PBS between 1984 and 1996. Each week, the series featured experimental short films by a mixture of up-and-coming and established directors. Notable episodes included As Seen on TV, starring comic actor Bill Irwin as an auditioning dancer who becomes trapped in a television, wandering among daytime dramas, MTV, and PBS’s own Sesame Street and the atmospheric puppet melodrama Street of Crocodiles, adapted by the Brothers Quay from the Bruno Schultz story. […] Arguably the series’ best-known episode was What You Mean We? a short film written by, directed by, and starring Laurie Anderson, which aired in 1986.” Alive from Off Center, 11 episodes at Ubuweb.

• “[Count] Stenbock was a homosexual convert to Roman Catholicism and owner of a serpent, a toad, and a dachshund called Trixie. It was said that toward the end of his life he was accompanied everywhere by a life-size wooden doll that he believed to be his son. His poems and stories are replete with queer, supernatural, mystical, and Satanic themes; original editions of his books are highly sought by collectors of recherché literature.” Of Kings and Things: Strange Tales and Decadent Poems by Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock will be published by Strange Attractor in March, 2018.

• Music news of the week (in this house, anyway) is a new song, The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra, by Anna von Hausswolff. A new album, Dead Magic, is due in March, and I’m doubly-thrilled to read that Randall Dunn of Master Musicians of Bukkake (and producer/engineer for Earth, Sunn O))), etc.) is involved.

• “Why do Texas prisons ban Freakonomics but not Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf?” asks Lauren McGaughy. On the banned list is the three-volume The Graphic Canon, edited by Russ Kick, which includes my adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

• “To understand how other planets are made, exogeologists are synthesizing those planets in miniature in the earthbound equipment in their labs.” BLDGBLOG on speculative mineralogy.

• “What does the Bardo sound like?” Lauria Galbraith on Éliane Radigue‘s Trilogie de la Mort, three hour-long electronic compositions based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

• And speaking of Earth, Joseph Stannard talked to Dylan Carlson (Earth) and Kevin Martin (The Bug) about their recent collaboration.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 630 by Hanz, XLR8R Podcast 519 by Setaoc Mass, and Secret Thirteen Mix 239 by Blush Response.

• The League’s seven deadly sins: Reese Shearsmith on the cinematic influences behind The League of Gentlemen’s TV series.

Donnie & Laurie, a jam from the late 1970s with Laurie Spiegel on Electrocomp 101 synthesizer, and Don Christensen on drums.

• Guests and dates for the Dublin Ghost Story Festival have been announced.

David Bowie sang for Devo, and Mark Mothersbaugh might have the tapes.

• The albums of the year according to The Quietus.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Isabelle Adjani Day.

Possessed (1979) by MX-80 Sound | Possession (1988) by Danzig | Possessed (1992) by Balanescu Quartet

 


Émile Bayard’s Histoire de la Magie

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Regular readers may have noticed my persistent urge to trace the provenance of certain images or designs. The latest candidate is the above illustration of a witches sabbat, a picture familiar to readers of occult histories in addition to appearing on at least two album covers. It’s the use in occult books which no doubt drew it to the attention of composer John Zorn who used it as a cover image in 2004 for his Magick album, one of a series of occult-themed recordings. The album credits the artwork to Gustave Doré, a plausible candidate given the engraving style but I’m familiar enough with Doré’s work to doubt that it was one of his.

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Earlier this week I was looking for more occult-related imagery so finally conducted a proper search for the sabbat picture. The origin is a French volume by Paul Christian, Histoire de la Magie, Du Monde Surnaturel Et de la Fatalite a Travers Les Temps (1870), and the full-page illustrations are by Émile Bayard (1837–1891). The Doré identification was partially correct since Bayard was a contemporary of Doré’s, and the drawings were engraved by François Pannemaker, an engraver who worked on many of Doré’s books as well as the Hertzel editions of Jules Verne. Émile Bayard is one of those artists whose name is unknown today even though people throughout the world would recognise one of his drawings; his illustration of Cosette from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables provided the face seen on all those posters and hoardings promoting the popular musical.

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“Paul Christian” was the nom de plume of Jean-Baptiste Pitois (1811–1877), and his study of occult history was a popular book when it first appeared. I can’t say much about its contents but the illustrations (of which these are a selection via this page) show a range that encompasses various myths and religions as well as the expected variants of Western occultism. I’d seen several of Bayard’s other illustrations in a more recent French history of the occult, where the pictures are uncredited. I’ve suspected for years that they might be by the same artist responsible for the sabbat picture so this discovery has laid another nagging question to rest.

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Histoire de la Magie isn’t among the scanned books at the Internet Archive, unfortunately, but a copy may be viewed at Gallica. It’s a shame this is one of Gallica’s older scans which spoils the artwork but you can at least seen the book in full. An English translation was published in the US in 1969, containing notes and additions by living occult experts, but I’ve yet to discover whether this edition retained Bayard’s pictures.

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Weekend links 389

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I Had Sweet Company Because I Sought Out None. Collage by Helen Adam.

• Readers of The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges continue to be compelled to either illustrate the impossible archive or create virtual equivalents. The Library of Blabber by nothke is a procedural version for home computers in which each volume on the shelves contains randomly-generated content.

• The Japanese American Toy Theatre of London presents: James Bonk in Matt Blackfinger (1987). Directed by Akiko Hada, with music by David Toop, and a song from Frank Chickens’ Kazuko Hohki (who also co-wrote the script).

• Music, Time and Long-Term Thinking—The Long Now Foundation (and a fair amount of Brian Eno) by Austin Brown, Alex Mensing and Ahmed Kabil.

• A Return to Normilcy: Bernie Brooks talks to post-punk group Normil Hawaiians about their 1982 album More Wealth Than Money which has just been reissued.

• Sound artist and theremin player Sarah Angliss has reworked music by Bernard Herrmann for an upcoming stage adaptation of The Twilight Zone.

• Does the world need another reissue of A Secret Wish by Propaganda? Not really but there’s a “deluxe” vinyl and CD edition on the way.

• “What Would [Bernard] Wolpe Do?” Talking Wolpe, Albertus and book cover design with the Faber & Faber Art Department.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 629 by Idle Hands/Chris Farrell, and XLR8R Podcast 518 by Cassy.

• At Phantasmaphile: Neglected collage artist Helen Adam (1909–1993).

Collectors’ corner: photos of book and music libraries

• The Black Meat (Deconstruction Of The Babel-Tower of Reason) (1994) by Automaton | Babel (2010) by Massive Attack feat. Martina Topley-Bird | Branching (2016) by The Library of Babel

 


Narraciones extraordinarias by Edgar Allan Poe

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Berenice.

Narraciones extraordinarias was the first commission that arrived from Spanish publisher Editorial Alma earlier this year but it’s the second one to be revealed here. (Copies of the pictures at a larger size may be seen on the main website.) I confess I was rather dismayed when the request came through for this. I was pleased to have the opportunity to illustrate so many stories but Edgar Allan Poe is a tough brief when Harry Clarke has already created the definitive set of illustrations. The challenge, then, became one of trying to successfully illustrate the stories without repeating anything by Clarke or the many other illustrators who’ve tackled Poe, not least my favourite collagist, Wilfried Sätty.

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Morella.

One advantage of the collection was the inclusion of several pieces that you seldom find in the common English reprints of Poe, stories such as A Tale of the Ragged Mountains. The style is Sätty-esque, of course, although less surreal in approach thanks to the flexibility of digital tools. I’ve been developing this engraving collage style over the past year or so to create a hybrid that blends drawn and collaged material into a seamless whole. When this works, as with The Man in the Crowd (below), you shouldn’t be able to easily tell which elements are drawn and which collaged. (And more importantly, it shouldn’t really matter.) This technique has been developed further in the most recent work I’ve done for Editorial Alma but you’ll have to wait a while to see the results.

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Ligeia.

Despite my initial misgivings, this job worked out better than I expected, not least because the deadline was so tight. Several of these pictures were created in a day, a work-rate common to many comic artists but not one that I’m used to (or happy with) at all. I’m still unhappy with MS. Found in a Bottle which lazily swiped a chunk of a Gustave Doré illustration; if I’d had the time I would have changed it, and if this series of pictures is ever reprinted that’s one I’ll be reworking.

As before, this is a Spanish-language hardback, and the only purchase link I have is an Amazon one. My next contribution to this series should be out early next year.

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The Fall of the House of Usher.

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Weekend links 388

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Still of an Alive Painting by Akiko Nakayama.

• “In what is a cross between performance art and installation, Nakayama uses a multitude of kitchen basters loaded with paint and water to add, mix, tilt, blow and add all sorts of extraneous effects to her paints, recording and projecting it all onto a large screen.” Continuously Changing “Alive Paintings” by Akiko Nakayama. There’s more performance video at the artist’s website.

• In January 2018 Song Cycle Records (UK) release Solaris, a “Collector’s Edition” of the Tarkovsky film and its soundtrack comprising vinyl/CD, blu-ray (no region details) and a book of photos, artwork and essays.

• Steve Davis may no longer be a snooker player but he’s still a Magma obsessive. This week he reviewed the new Retrospektiw collection for The Quietus.

What I was most thankful to TG for was leading me to Christopherson’s later band Coil with his partner, antagonist and lover John Balance (after they’d met in Genesis’ Psychic TV) whose music I fell for even harder. The arcane and homoerotic tragicomedy that underpinned their discography (and relationship) propelled me into new states, years before any first hand knowledge of the drug experiences they managed to intertwine so artfully with their music. Records like Scatology and Horse Rotorvator sexualised the male body for me for the first time—an awakening that’s hard not to find some amusement in when soundtracked by a romp called The Anal Staircase. From afar it seemed like their intense, exploration of electronic music as ritual was only possible as a result of the depth of the duo’s personal relationship and how it manifested spiritually, chemically and physically. The posture and machismo of the modern guitar music I listened to (and performed) with my friends could be tiring. The sound of Coil became a safe space in which to fantasise about manhood and Englishness and what it really meant, helping dismantle clichés I’d come to accept as reality. From medieval hymns to acid-house their music was unafraid and total. Though hard to define with any particular release I often play people their funereal takes on Tainted Love (of which all profits went to the Terrence Higgins Trust—a musical first in 1985 while AIDS was still very much taboo) and the Are You Being Served? theme tune, the basis of their transformative final track Going Up, completed by Christopherson after Balance’s death.

Fred Macpherson writing about Throbbing Gristle and Coil at new site The Queer Bible. This is the first appraisal of Coil I’ve seen on any site devoted to gay/queer issues, over ten years after the band expired following the death of John Balance. Better late than never, I suppose.

• Tom Phillips is helping support the National Campaign for the Arts by reworking a page of A Humument as a series of designs at CafePress.

• At Strange Flowers: The Secret Satan book list, a welcome alternative to the lists that fill the broadsheets at this time of year.

• Mixes of the week: Stephen O’Malley presents Acid Quarry Paris—A Hypnosis, and XLR8R podcast 517 by Davy.

• At the Internet Archive: 183 copies of Video Watchdog magazine (1990–2017).

• The TLS interview: Twenty Questions with M. John Harrison.

• At Unquiet Things: The solving of a family art mystery.

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The Hills Are Alive (1995) by Coil | Everyone Alive Wants Answers (2003) by Colleen | Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) by Jozef Van Wissem

 


 


 

Signed & numbered prints

    Blotter Art prints

 


 

Coulthart Books

    The Haunter of the Dark
    Reverbstorm

 


 

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