This week I’m electrically possessed by Stereolab, thanks to the arrival of the fourth volume in the Groop’s Switched On series of compilation albums. As with the earlier releases, the new album collects deleted EPs, singles and other scarcities. I already had a third of this one on the First Of The Microbe Hunters EP but it’s good to finally have on disc B.U.A. (aka Burnt Umber Assembly), a previously unreleased piece from the Amorphous Body Study Centre recordings, together with more of the tour singles such as The Underground Is Coming and Free Witch And No-Bra Queen. The latter may well allude in its title and cover art to Pravda, La Survireuse, Guy Peellaert’s freedom-loving biker-hippie whose persona was modelled on Françoise Hardy. (Stereolab’s borrowings are frequently overt but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.) Pravda or not, the animation that Peellaert produced with Gallien Guibert would have made a great video for the song if it was a little longer. Guibert has an updated version of the film here.
• One of the earliest posts here concerned The Suite of the Most Notable Things Seen by Cavaliere Wild Scull, and by Signore de la Hire on Their Famous Voyage from the Earth to the Moon (1776) by Filippo Morghen, a series of prints which depict the fantastic inhabitants, fauna and flora of the Moon. Morghen shows the Earth’s satellite to be a tropical place very similar to 18th-century conceptions of the New World or the Far East. Back in 2006 you couldn’t see copies of the prints as large or as detailed as this set at The Public Domain Review.
• “Last Call preserves the poignant irony that the trust and vulnerability that once made gay bars synonymous with gay community were also vectors of death, both in the form of murder and, later, HIV/AIDS.” Jeremy Lybarger on Elon Green’s study of the murders of four gay men in New York City in the 1990s.
• Old music with no literary associations: The first of the forthcoming releases of live recordings by Can will be a 1975 Stuttgart concert.
• The Joy of Circles: Vyki Hendy looks at some recent concentric cover designs.
• At Spoon & Tamago: Sculpted sushi made entirely from natural polished stones.
• My Hungry Interzone: Brian Alessandro on coming out and reading Naked Lunch.
• Andy Thomas maps Jah Wobble’s interdimensional dub.
• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 684 by Ben Bondy.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jim Jarmusch Day.
Margit Schwarcz, 1923.
From Art Nouveau (see previous post) to Deco…almost. These posters are more Austrian Moderne, or Plakatstil, most of them being too early for Art Deco which only became an identifiable trend in the mid-1920s. The design above by Margit Schwarcz appeared here last August when I wrote an appreciation of the weird fiction of Stefan Grabinski. Schwarcz’s poster had been reworked as a cover for The Motion Demon, a collection of Grabinski’s rail stories, and I wanted to see the original. The same design appears in Poster Art in Vienna (1923), an introduction to work from the Julius Klinger school of poster art which seems to have been produced to promote the work of the Klinger artists (and Klinger himself) in the USA. The Schwarcz poster is very typical of the Klinger style, with bold shapes, bright inks, spiky serifs and cartoon-like drawings. Klinger’s earlier illustration work was very much in the post-Beardsley style, albeit with a similar cartoon-like approach, so there’s a trace of Beardsley still present in some of the figures.
Julius Klinger, 1922.
This is a great book even if it provokes the melancholy thoughts that tend to arise when looking at something bright and inventive from Austria or Germany in the 1920s. I always find myself wondering how the artists fared during the storm of Nazism and war that would bear down on them in the following decade. Klinger was Jewish, and didn’t manage to escape to his beloved America; he was prevented from working after 1938, and was killed in Belarus in 1942. His name lives on in the Julius Klinger fonts which were based on his type designs. More of Klinger’s poster and illustration work may be seen at Vienna Secession.
Julius Klinger, 1923.
Julius Klinger, 1909.
Julius Klinger, 1923.
My work this week is more Deco than Nouveau but I enjoy looking at Art Nouveau graphics even when I don’t have any immediate use for them. Typographische Jahrbücher was a German publication for typographers and printers whose pages are filled with samples of the latest type styles and print decorations, together with many adverts that use the same graphics. The examples here are from issues for the year 1902 when Art Nouveau (or Jugendstil as it was in Germany and Austria) had reached its peak as the predominant European style. This is the kind of book I love to see, one with a wide variety of borders, letterforms and motifs for print use alone, not designs for textiles or other crafts. Of note are the pages below promoting a pair of recent typefaces, Eckmann and Siegfried. Both designs soon fell out of fashion but returned to prominence in the 1960s among the typefaces of the occult revival. It’s a shame the quality of this book isn’t better—it’s another poor Google scan—but I’m happy to find it. 750 pages; dig in here.
Poster by Milan Grygar for the 1969 Czech release of Fellini’s Juliette of the Spirits.
• “By encouraging composers to engage with sound as something more than just ‘notes on a keyboard’, the result [of the Buchla] was the kind of intricate sound design last heard in musique concrète. Works such as Morton Subotnick’s, Silver Apples of the Moon (1967) show a futurism completely absent on Wendy Carlos’ otherwise highly influential Switched-on Bach (1968), which used the keyboard-controlled Moog modular as if it were merely a glorified organ.” Oli Freke on the evolution of the synthesizer.
• “As humans began settling more consistently in one place to grow and thrive, the penis—or, more specifically, its erect form, the phallus—often came into use as a protector of fields that would prove fertile. In contrast to the comparative prudery of today, the phallus adorned everything from gods to shrines to personal homes and jewellery.” Emily Willingham on penial evolution in the animal kingdom.
• “The Trumpets of Jericho is, in part, so uniquely unsettling because it allows the woman in question to narrate her own horror. She is eager to give birth not to meet her child but so that she can go ahead and kill it.” Reed McConnell on the writings of Unica Zürn and (once again) Leonora Carrington.
At the center of it all, there was one director whom everyone knew, one artist whose name was synonymous with cinema and what it could do. It was a name that instantly evoked a certain style, a certain attitude toward the world. In fact, it became an adjective. Let’s say you wanted to describe the surreal atmosphere at a dinner party, or a wedding, or a funeral, or a political convention, or for that matter, the madness of the entire planet—all you had to do was say the word ‘Felliniesque’ and people knew exactly what you meant.
In the Sixties, Federico Fellini became more than a filmmaker. Like Chaplin and Picasso and the Beatles, he was much bigger than his own art. At a certain point, it was no longer a matter of this or that film but all the films combined as one grand gesture written across the galaxy. Going to see a Fellini film was like going to hear Callas sing or Olivier act or Nureyev dance. His films even started to incorporate his name—Fellini Satyricon, Fellini’s Casanova. The only comparable example in film was Hitchcock, but that was something else: a brand, a genre in and of itself. Fellini was the cinema’s virtuoso.
Martin Scorsese on “Il Maestro”, Federico Fellini
• At Dennis Cooper’s: For Your Crushed Right Eye: The instrumental films of Takahiro Iimura, Tetsuji Takechi, Toshi Matsumoto, Masao Adachi and Takashi Ito.
• “We wanted people to see that we exist.” Joan E. Biren, the photographer who recorded lesbian life in the 70s.
• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 683 by Laila Sakini.