Weekend links 560

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The Fallen Angels Entering Pandemonium, from ‘Paradise Lost’, Book 1 (c.1841) by John Martin.

• “Hergé’s heirs sue artist over his Tintin/Edward Hopper mashups.” The complaint is that the paintings of Xavier Marabout besmirch Tintin’s character by making him seem…human? Silly. I’d sooner complain that Hergé’s ligne claire drawing style is an awkward match for Hopper’s realism. And besides which, isn’t Tintin gay? There’s a lot of wish-fulfilling slash art showing Tintin and Captain Haddock in a closer relationship than Hergé ever would have wanted. This Canadian magazine cover by Normand Bastien dates from 1987.

• “Everyone wanted to make products that looked fast and angry and maybe wanted to lay eggs in your brain.” Alexis Berger tells S. Elizabeth how she avoided years stuck in a design office by becoming a jeweller instead.

• New music: Chiaroscuro by Alessandro Cortini, and Frequencies For Leaving Earth Vol. 4 (One-Hour Loop) by Kevin Richard Martin & Pedro Maia.

The Willows is less a flight of fancy and more an attempt to articulate the ways in which what we dubiously still call “nature” is at once an object of human systems of knowledge and yet also something that undermines those same systems. Thus if The Willows is indeed a classic of “supernatural horror” (as HP Lovecraft would famously note), we might also be justified in calling it “natural horror” as well. In Blackwood’s wonderfully slow, patiently constructed scenes of atmospheric suspense, there is the sense of an impersonal sublime, a lyricism of the unhuman that shores up the limitations of anthropocentric thinking, as well as evoking the attendant smallness of human beings against the backdrop of this deep time perspective.

Eugene Thacker on how Algernon Blackwood turned nature into sublime horror

• Women of Letters: John Boardley talks to Lynne Yun, Deb Pang Davis, Coleen Baik and Duong Nguyen about their typographic designs.

• At Google Arts & Culture: Music, Makers & Machines: A brief history of electronic music.

• At The Public Domain Review: The Universe as Pictured in Milton’s Paradise Lost (1915).

• Beyond the Perseverance drone: Chloe Lula on the sounds of space.

• At Wormwoodiana: Colour magazine (1914–1932).

Wyrd Daze Lvl.4 FOUR STAR is here.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Hell.

O Willow Waly (1961) by Isla Cameron And The Raymonde Singers | Cool Iron (1972) by The Willows | The Willows (2005) by Belbury Poly

Duggie Fields, 1975

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RIP Duggie Fields, seen here in 1975 courtesy of Derek Jarman’s Super-8 camera. The occasion was an exhibition at the Kinsman-Morrison Gallery of Fields’ paintings, many of which are seen throughout the film, although the low light and poor quality of Super-8 stock doesn’t do them any favours. Fields and Jarman were both constituents of the mid-70s London art crowd known as “Them” so it’s no surprise to see other Them faces at the gallery, notably Andrew Logan interviewing all the attendees (the film is silent, unfortunately), and an insistently bare-breasted Nell Campbell, aka Little Nell, either just before or just after her appearance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This wasn’t the first or last time that Fields and Campbell had appeared before Jarman’s roaming lens, they’re both in an earlier Super-8 short, Ulla’s Fete, and in also Jubilee, while Fields may be found reclining in a toga during the opening scene of Sebastiane. For a better look at Fields’ paintings, plus some comment from the man himself, there’s this recent visit to his Earl’s Court studio.

Squirm: Drew Struzan versus Gustav Klimt

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This poster by Drew Struzan turned up in my RSS feed courtesy of 70s Sci-Fi Art. So Struzan did the US poster for Squirm, thought I, …who knew? Wait a minute…are those Klimt figures?! Closer scrutiny confirmed that, yes, Struzan does indeed appear to have swiped a handful of figures from Gustav Klimt as victims for the carnivorous worms. Squirm (1976) for those who haven’t seen it, is described by The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film as:

Pretty bad film about electrified earthworms in Georgia that have teeth and make noises like horses. It does have an amazing scene with long worms burrowing through a man’s face. Whole rooms are filled with what looks like thick spaghetti. Don Scardino is the studious young hero. The ads claimed there were “250,000 real worms” in the film. From the director of Blue Sunshine.

Michael Weldon’s book has a very lenient attitude towards this kind of nonsense so for a film to be labelled as bad is always a warning. Having seen Squirm, I agree with Weldon’s appraisal. There were a lot of animals attacking humans in the cinema of the 1970s, thanks in part to the success of Jaws, so a story about worms on the rampage is merely another addition to the trashy pile. (The Japanese poster even managed to emulate the famous Jaws poster.) Squirm is especially ridiculous when the humble earthworm is so resistant to being any kind of menace unless its size is dramatically increased, as in Dune or Tremors, the latter being a much better horror film with its own Jaws-like poster.

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Jurisprudence (1907) by Gustav Klimt.

Struzan’s figures are based on those in Jurisprudence, one of the paintings that Gustav Klimt worked on from 1900 to 1907 for the ceiling of the Great Hall at the University of Vienna. There were three pictures—the others represented Philosophy and Medicine—but all were deemed too pornographic for public display. The paintings were subsequently destroyed in 1945 by retreating Nazi troops after having been seized from their Jewish owners and moved with other loot to the Schloss Immendorf.

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Klimt’s Jurisprudence is the strangest of all his works, with three Furies presiding over the cowed figure of a man ensnared by evil, represented here by an octopus. Philippe Jullian in Dreamers of Decadence declares Klimt’s symbolic cephalopod to be “unique in European Art”. I alluded to the Furies, and thereby surreptitiously alluded to those tentacles of evil, when I put a Klimt-like figure into my adaptation The Call of Cthulhu in 1988.

Continue reading “Squirm: Drew Struzan versus Gustav Klimt”

Weekend links 555

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I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928) by Charles Demuth.

• “Reading the new edition in 2021, I’m struck by his dismissal of CD-ROMs, of VR, of interactivity; how he anticipates contemporary debates about algorithmic bias…his prescient exhaustion.” Sukhdev Sandhu reviews Brian Eno’s diary for 1995, A Year with Swollen Appendices. Meanwhile, Eno himself says “Artists like me are being censored in Germany—because we support Palestinian rights.”

• “Kink is often pathologized in popular culture: it’s shamed, used as a punchline, and, on the whole, relegated to the margins of desire.” Greg Mania interviews R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell about Kink a collection of new stories about unorthodox desires.

• “This album is the king of hauntology. From where I’m sitting, I’m going back to the past, listening to an album imagining the future, imagining the past.” Tom Herdman on the fabulous Time (1981), a science-fiction concept album by the Electric Light Orchestra.

Cavafy, the ultimate Alexandrian, gave us an Alexandria that was already not quite there in his own lifetime. It kept threatening to disappear before his eyes. The apartment where he had made love as a young man had become a business office when he went to revisit it years later; and the days of 1896, of 1901, 1903, 1908, 1909, once filled with so much eros and forbidden love, were already gone and had become distant, elegiac moments that he remembered in poetry alone. The barbarians, like time itself, were at the gates, and everything would be swept in their wake. The barbarians always win, and time is hardly less ruthless. The barbarians may come now or in a century or two, or in a thousand years, as indeed they had come more than once centuries earlier, but come they will, and many more times after that as well, while here was Cavafy, landlocked in this city that is both the transitional home he wishes to flee and the permanent demon that can’t be driven out. He and the city are one and the same, and soon neither will exist. Cavafy’s Alexandria appears in antiquity, in late antiquity, and in modern times. Then it disappears. Cavafy’s city is permanently locked away in a past that refuses to go away.

André Aciman on the poetry of Cavafy and the Alexandrias of memory

DJ Food on the package design for The Superceded Sounds of…The New Obsolescents, which uses a similar foil card to the “Héliophore” stock used by Philips in their cult series of electroacoustic compositions, Prospective 21e Siècle.

Onlyou by Can, is “A relaxed studio session, recorded on a mono taperecorder in 1976 at the Innerspace”. Released in 1982 on a 34-minute cassette sealed inside a can (geddit?), and limited to 100 copies.

Olivia Rutigliano ranks 45 films containing prison escapes. I’d put the Bresson at number one but otherwise, yes.

• “…some kind of future unrealised time…” Mix of the week is a mix for The Wire by Muqata’a.

• RIP Christopher Plummer. Never mind the musical, watch him in The Silent Partner (1978).

• At Ubuweb: short films by Erkki Kurenniemi soundtracked by his own electronic music.

• New music: Neurogenesis by Robert Rich.

Kinky Boots (1964) by Patrick McNee & Honor Blackman | David Watts (1967) by The Kinks | The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight (Dominant Mix) (1984) by Dominatrix

More Isles of the Dead

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Die Toteninsel by Georg Janny.

Arnold Böcklin’s masterpiece, The Isle of the Dead, is a perennial source of fascination here, in part for the way the picture has fascinated other artists, writers, film-makers, etc, for the past 140 years. Something about the image compels people to rework it according to their own predilections, or to incorporate it into a narrative. Böcklin began this process himself, painting five different versions from 1880 to 1886, one of which was lost during the Second World War. The final version, which is now at the Museum der bildenden Künste in Leipzig, seems to be the favourite among the copyists. Toteninsel.net is a site devoted to cataloguing the influence of the picture but despite considerable thoroughness they don’t seem to have added this watercolour homage by Georg Janny (1864–1935), an Austrian artist and scenic designer.

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Toteninsel (c. 1905) by Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach.

They do have an entry for Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach’s painting but not the painting itself which is a surprising reworking of the Leipzig version. An ostensibly Greek island has gained a domineering portico in an Egyptian style. Böcklin was Swiss but his paintings made a huge impression on the younger generation of German and Austrian artists.

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Toteninsel (nach Böcklin) (1975) by HR Giger.

Diefenbach’s picture reminds me of a favourite variation by another Swiss artist, HR Giger, who painted two homages to the Leipzig version in the 1970s. One of these is a fairly close copy, albeit without the funeral boat, and with the addition of Giger’s usual biomechanical details. The other version adds an industrial structure to the stand of cypresses. This is a hatch from the rear of a German refuse vehicle which had provided Giger with a subject for several paintings in his Passagen series. The Surrealist juxtaposition is worthy of Magritte (who also alluded to Böcklin in The Annunciation), drawing a parallel with bodily interment and waste disposal.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Isles of the Dead
A Picture to Dream Over: The Isle of the Dead
The Isle of the Dead in detail
Arnold Böcklin and The Isle of the Dead