Weekend links 640

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Aquarius (1910–1914) by Ilna Ewers-Wunderwald.

• “…they created a unique Afro-Caribbean soundscape—Battiste’s exceptional skills saw him use the studio as an instrument, voices flutter in and out, instruments shiver and shriek, over which Rebennack mutters and chants, a shaman of sorts.” Garth Cartwright on the life and works of Mac Rebennack, better known to the world as Dr John.

• Issue 3 of Man Is The Animal: A Coil Zine is now available for pre-order. I contributed to this one with a piece entitled “Singularities of Art and Nature”, an examination of the Coil discography via the Wunderkammer concept and the Musaeum Clausum of Thomas Browne.

• Among the recent arrivals at Standard Ebooks, the home of free, high-quality, public-domain texts, is Arthur Machen’s episodic and influential horror novel The Three Imposters (1895).

Media History Digital Library: “A free online resource, featuring millions of pages of books and magazines from the histories of film, broadcasting, and recorded sound.”

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Shall I, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, conjurer, introduce myself to you, viewer? And why not?

• At Public Domain Review: The Blood Collages of John Bingley Garland (ca. 1850–60).

• Mix of the week: Endymion, an autumnal ambient mix by The Ephemeral Man.

• “New Webb image captures clearest view of Neptune’s rings in decades.”

• New music: Of Endless Light by Cleared.

• RIP jazz giant Pharoah Sanders.

Conjuration (1977) by Tangerine Dream | Necronomicon—Conjurations (2004) by John Zorn | A Boy Called Conjuror (2020) by Teleplasmiste

What A Life! An Autobiography by EVL and GM

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In last week’s post about Norman Rubington/Akbar Del Piombo I said that Rubington’s collages “were probably the first to use the form developed by Max Ernst for explicitly humorous purposes.” That “probably” was well-placed since it turns out that Rubington wasn’t quite the first to reuse engraved illustrations to comic effect, something I was unaware of until a few days ago. What A Life! An Autobiography (1911) is a short book credited to “EVL & GM”, or Edward Verrall Lucas and George Morrow, in which Lucas wrote captions for illustrations selected by Morrow from a catalogue for Whiteley’s, one of the first London department stores. The “autobiography” recounts the upbringing and adulthood of an English aristocrat, Baron Dropmore, with much of the humour being derived not from the text itself but from the mislabelling of various household items. Lucas and Morrow both worked for Punch magazine, and the humour is very much in the older Punch mode but given a fresh twist by the use of pre-existing illustrations.

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In addition to the mislabelling there’s also some rudimentary collage work from Morrow which is easy to overlook after a century of similar examples. Whiteley’s catalogue seems to have been a more fertile source for this than the publications produced by the store’s rivals. I have a facsimile reprint of the 1895 catalogue for Harrod’s, a literal doorstop of 1000 pages. It’s a useful reference if you want to know how much the upper classes were paying for their goods in the Victorian era but it’s never been very good for collage purposes. This smaller Whiteley’s catalogue has many more illustrations plus a number of those florid title designs festooned with combination ornaments that you often find in 19th-century books.

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The pages here are taken from a scan at the Internet Archive but What A Life! has been reprinted several times, including an edition published by Dover in 1975 for which John Ashbery provided an introduction. Ashbery enjoyed this kind of pictorial eccentricity; one of his art essays is The Joys and Enigmas of a Strange Hour, an appraisal of A Glove (1881) by Max Klinger, a series of etchings that prefigure the Surrealists in their dreamlike strangeness. Ashbery also made collages of his own, one of which, Summer Dream (2008), contains a detail borrowed from What A Life!

(Thanks to Allan and Andrew for the tip!)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Fuzz Against Junk & The Hero Maker
Nathaniel Krill at the Time Node
Initiations in the Abyss: A Surrealist Apocalypse
Wilfried Sätty: Artist of the occult
Illustrating Poe #4: Wilfried Sätty
Metamorphosis Victorianus
Max (The Birdman) Ernst
The art of Stephen Aldrich

Fuzz Against Junk & The Hero Maker

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This is another of those posts in which I brag about finding an old book in a charity shop for a lot less than you’d have to pay for it online. But it does give me the opportunity to say something about American writer/artist Norman Rubington and his alter ego Akbar Del Piombo, something I was sure I’d done already. One of the weekend posts linked to an article about Rubington’s work but my discussion of his collages is in the essay I wrote about Wilfried Sätty for the Strange Attractor Journal, a piece which isn’t available here.

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The engraving collages of Norman Rubington (1921–1991) were probably the first to use the form developed by Max Ernst for explicitly humorous purposes. They’re certainly among the earliest to take the lead from Ernst while aiming themselves at an audience outside the art world. There is humour in some of Ernst’s collages, of course, but it tends to be the black variety favoured by the Surrealists (and actually defined by them; André Breton’s 1940 Anthology of Black Humour was a pioneering study). Rubington’s small books exploit the comic potential of antique illustrations by repurposing them as the primary content in a series of absurd narratives; these aren’t “graphic novels”, they’re more like heavily-illustrated comedy routines. There were four books in the original series—Fuzz Against Junk (1959), The Hero Maker (1959), Is That You Simon? (1961) and The Boiler Maker (1961)—with a fifth title, Moonglow, appearing in 1969. Olympia Press published the books in France, with US editions appearing around the same time under the Far-Out imprint used by Citadel Press. My charity purchase is the 1966 New English Library reprint of an Olympia Press collection of the first two volumes. The olive-green Olympia covers always provoke a Pavlovian grab response when I see one on a shelf although I’ve yet to find a copy that wasn’t an NEL reprint.

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Continue reading “Fuzz Against Junk & The Hero Maker”

Weekend links 628

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Collage art by Alex Eckman-Lawn at Unquiet Things.

• “…I love those niches and fringes in the creative world. I believe they deserve our support. But in most instances, this support must be driven by our generosity, philanthropy, and commitment to our core values—and not merely by profit seeking. Because as soon as profit maximization enters the picture, these outliers on the distribution curve don’t make the cut.” Ted Gioia explores the myth of “the Long Tail”.

• “Here we were, an Italian, an Englishman and an American in Munich, three foreigners in a foreign land—it was an accident we got together in the first place.” Pete Bellotte talking to Jude Rogers about the recording of I Feel Love by Donna Summer, a cult item in these quarters. Most of the history is very familiar but I didn’t know that Bellotte is a Mervyn Peake obsessive.

The radical, revolutionary homoerotic art of Sadao Hasegawa. Writing about the artist in 2007 I said that “a decent collection of his work for a western audience is long overdue”; we finally have such a thing courtesy of Baron Books.

• At Wormwoodiana: Undefined Boundary: The Journal of Psychick Albion, a magazine by the creators of the Coil zine, Man is the Animal, that “aims to celebrate the visionary, psychedelic and numinous in Britain”.

Dennis Cooper’s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2022 so far. Thanks again for the link here!

• New music: Devotional by The Lord + Petra Haden, Dreamtides by Field Lines Cartographer.

Fall Into Sleep by K Of Arc.

Psychic Fire (1975) by Master Wilburn Burchette | The Psychic (1995) by David Toop | Psychic Wounds (2020) by Trees Speak

Ghost Power

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This week I’ve been enjoying the Ghost Power album, a collection of groovy instrumentals from Tim Gane and Jeremy Novak. A heavier use of synthesizers and samples than you usually hear from Gane, together with trace elements of his previous project, Cavern Of Anti-Matter. The highlight is the final track, Astral Melancholy Suite, a 15-minute synth odyssey that includes an extended sequencer run of a kind usually associated with the Berlin School.

The comic-book details that decorate the packaging are credited to Samplerman, whoever they are. There’s further continuity here with Stereolab who borrowed graphics from French comics for the artwork on some of their singles and EPs. I’ve never been a fervent collector of Duophonic releases so it was years before I realised that the graphic on this cover for Instant 0 In The Universe

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…was swiped from this page in the fabulously rare Saga de Xam.

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Update: Samplerman is here. Thanks, Dave C!