Weekend links 536

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Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island. An illustration by Mervyn Peake, 1949.

• “Since it was 1967 when I became a teenager, I suspected that the Now would stir together rock ’n’ roll bands and mod girls and cigarettes and bearded poets and sunglasses and Italian movie stars and pointy shoes and spies.” Luc Sante on hs youthful search for The Now.

• “…in response to listener requests to play ‘more music like This Heat’, [John] Peel responded that he couldn’t because ‘nobody else sounds like them’.” Alexis Petridis on the mighty This Heat, the band who tried to change everything.

• “While I hesitate to deploy the overused and near-devalued word shamanic here, it does smell right. Or rite.” Ian Penman on the polychromatic delirium of Parliament and Funkadelic in 1970.

Anyway, we knew this new culture was there, we knew this phenomenon was occurring, centered in the Haight-Ashbury, so after this event, we dramaturges sat together and tried to think it out. What is this, in terms of breaking down the fourth wall? How is this a historical follow-through for Antonin Artaud on one hand and Bertrolt Brecht on the other? How did these two come together in this? What do you call this, when you provoke riots and use the audience as members of the cast? When you can stage events that brings the audience on the stage—but there is no formal stage? But it’s a theatricalized event…? It’s all new. So I called it ‘guerrilla theater.’ And Ronnie heard that phrase, and wrote an essay about doing Left provocative theater. That wasn’t what I saw. I saw it as being deeper than that. And I began writing plays that now were for sure plays except that a lot of the dialogue was spontaneously derived from the performers—we had some really great performers at the Mime Troupe at the time, I’d say there were at least a dozen good performers, and a couple who were really brilliant. Anyways, put these people together, I gave them a context, and we began improvising dialogue.

Peter Berg of the San Francisco Diggers talking to Jay Babcock for the sixth installment of Jay’s verbal history of the hippie anarchists

• “I love improvisation. I still do. For me it’s the way I like to be acting, you see.” RIP Michael Lonsdale, talking in 2015 about Jacques Rivette’s Out 1.

• “Would you find this bookstore beautiful or terrifying? Or both,” asks Jonny Diamond.

Yukino Ohmura uses stationery store stickers to create dazzling nightscapes.

• At Spine: Penguin Books celebrates 85 years with original artworks.

Strange Selectors by Various Artists on Werra Foxma Records.

Daisy Dunn on the gentle genius of Mervyn Peake.

• This Heat: Rimp Ramp Romp (1977) | Repeat (1979) | Makeshift Swahili (1981)

Man Ray and the Marquis

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Monument to D.A.F. de Sade (1933).

A slight return to the literary outlaw. Man Ray was more preoccupied by the Marquis de Sade than many of his fellow Surrealists, although he never took his interest as far as the obsessive Jean Benoît. His imaginary portraits were created after Sade scholar Maurice Heine complained that the only surviving picture of the Marquis was a drawing that could be of any other young aristocrat of the time.

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Imaginary Portrait of D.A.F. de Sade (1936).

Man Ray’s portraits ran through several variations, first as drawings, then as two paintings, finally as a bronze. These always seemed to me to be more representations of Sade’s character as it comes through his writing than portraits of the writer himself. The two paintings could easily depict the villainous Duke de Blangis from The 120 Days of Sodom, with the castle of the Bastille standing for the castle where Blangis and his colleagues conduct their murderous games. An earlier photo work, Monument to D.A.F. de Sade (1933), was used by Mary Reynolds in a metal binding she created in 1935 for the first print edition of the 120 Days. Penguin used the same photo on the cover of their new translation of the book in 2016. And it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the gay variation designed by Peter Christopherson for the CD release of Scatology by Coil.

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Imaginary Portrait of D.A.F. de Sade (1936).

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Imaginary Portrait of D.A.F. de Sade (1938).

Continue reading “Man Ray and the Marquis”

Ron Cobb, 1937–2020

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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1959.

The death of American illustrator/cartoonist/designer Ron Cobb was announced yesterday. All the obituaries are concentrating on the designs he produced for Hollywood feature films so here’s an alternative view of a long and varied career.

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After Bathing At Baxter’s (1967) by Jefferson Airplane.

Cobb’s first album cover is his most famous, and probably his most familiar work outside his film designs, but there were a few more, some of which may be seen below. The San-Francisco-house-as-aircraft always reminds me of the car/plane hybrid piloted by Professor Pat Pending in the Wacky Races cartoons.

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Some Of Our Best Friends Are (1968) by Various Artists.

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Ecology symbol, October 1969.

Cobb’s copyright-free design for an ecology symbol was published in the Los Angeles Free Press in November, 1969. The “Freep” also ran Cobb’s cartoons, some of which were later collected in The Cobb Book (1975). Satire has a tendency to date very quickly but many of Cobb’s barbs are still relevant today.

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Undated cartoon.

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Doctor Druid’s Haunted Seance (1973).

Continue reading “Ron Cobb, 1937–2020”

Weekend links 535

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The Wagnerites (1894) by Aubrey Beardsley.

• “Part of my problem with influence is that the concept is too univocal; most of us are impacted by many others during our lifetimes, but often in oblique ways. So many of the most interesting bits of cultural transmission happen nonlinearly, via large groups of people, and in zigzag mutations. Assigning influence can also have the unintentional effect of stripping artists of their own originality and vision.” Geeta Dayal reviewing Wagnerism by Alex Ross.

• “Buñuel stubbornly refused to have any group affiliation whatsoever. Even though critics always tried to categorize him, he never wanted to explain the hidden meanings of any of his films and often denied that there were any.” Matt Hanson on the surreal banality of Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel.

• Next month Soul Jazz release the fourth multi-disc compilation in their Deutsche Elektronische Musik series devoted to German music from the 1970s and 80s. The third collection was the weakest of the lot so I wasn’t expecting another but this one looks like it may be better.

James Balmont chooses the five best films by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who he calls “cinema’s master of horror”. I’ve yet to see any of these so I can’t say whether the label is warranted or not.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine in a two-part post here and here charts the emergence of an under-examined sub-genre, the metaphysical thriller.

• Power Spots: 13 artists choose favourite pieces of music by Jon Hassell. A surprising amount of interest in his first album, Vernal Equinox.

• At Spine: George Orwell’s Animal Farm receives new cover designs for its 75th anniversary.

• “Pierre Guyotat’s work is more relevant now than ever,” says Donatien Grau.

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 775 by Sarah Davachi.

May 24th by Matthew Cardinal.

• Ry Cooder with Jon Hassell & Jim Keltner: Video Drive-By (1993) | Goose And Lucky (1993) | Totally Boxed In (1993)

The hundred-year Voyage

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Today’s post at Wormwoodiana reminds me that David Lindsay’s unique novel of philosophical fantasy, A Voyage to Arcturus, was published a hundred years ago today. I designed a lavish reprint for Savoy Books in 2002, an edition which unfortunately used the re-edited text from earlier reprints instead of going to the original publication. This wasn’t done for lack of a first edition, it was more out of ignorance—nobody bothered to look into the history of the text—as well as convenience; Savoy’s earlier reprinting of Anthony Skene’s Monsieur Zenith the Albino had involved many weeks of text preparation, scanning pages from a photocopy of Skene’s very scarce novel, then running the copy through rudimentary OCR software and proofing the result. In Savoy’s slight defence, the reprint of Arcturus did correct a couple of typos that everyone else had missed.

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I still think the best feature of my design was the selection of Jean Delville’s remarkable Symbolist painting, The Treasures of Satan (1895), a picture used with the permission of the Brussels Museum of Fine Art. (They supplied us with a print of the painting together with a photo of Delville’s Angel of Splendour (1894) for the back cover.) With the exception of Bob Pepper’s artwork for the 1968 Ballantine paperback, previous reprints of the novel seldom reflected the contents on their covers. I’m no longer happy with the type layout on the rest of the dust-jacket, however, although the front cover looks okay. The Savoy edition included an introduction by Alan Moore, an afterword by Colin Wilson, a collection of philosophical aphorisms by David Lindsay, plus a couple of photos of the author which I don’t think had been published before. Despite its flaws, the book was well-received. The paper was heavier stock than is generally used for hardback fiction which made for a heavy and expensive volume but the edition still sold out.

Penguin are reprinting the novel next year in an edition which continues the tradition of unsuitable cover art. According to Lindsay site The Violet Apple the figure on the cover is from an illustration for a Dostoevsky novella, so what is it doing on Lindsay’s book? Cover art aside, the novel is in a class of its own, and very highly recommended.

Previously on { feuilleton}
The art of Bob Pepper
Masonic fonts and the designer’s dark materials