Weekend links 650

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A detail from Tom Phillips’ cover design for Starless And Bible Black (1974) by King Crimson.

• RIP Tom Phillips. The term “polymath” is often used by monomaths to describe people who are proficient in two areas instead of just one. Tom Phillips was a model polymath, an artist whose work ranged wherever his curiosity took him, from conventionally realist portraiture to abstract painting and computer art, from collage, sculpture and stage design to 20 Sites n Years, a long-term photographic work. When Phillips decided to illustrate Dante’s Inferno he first translated the book himself; the Dante project subsequently evolved into a TV/film production made in collaboration with Peter Greenaway and Raúl Ruiz. As for A Humument, this is the artist’s book by which all others should be judged, a unique reworking of a Victorian novel which now exists in multiple editions and sub-works. Humument extracts became a kind of Phillips signature (you can see one at the top of this post), a series of often cryptic fragments and pronouncements that appeared in prints and paintings while also supplying the libretto for Phillips’ first opera, Irma, one of his many musical compositions. Some years ago I posted a quote by Brian Eno about his former art teacher; those words (from A Year With Swollen Appendices) are worth repeating:

It’s a sign of the awfulness of the English art world that he isn’t better known. Tom has committed the worst of all crimes in England. He’s risen above his station. You can sell chemical weapons to doubtful regimes and still get a knighthood, but don’t be too clever, don’t go rising above your station.

The smart thing in the art world is to have one good idea and never have another. It’s the same in pop—once you’ve got your brand identity, carry on doing that for the rest of your days and you’ll make a lot of money. Because Tom’s lifetime project ranges over books, music and painting, it looks diffuse, but he is a most coherent artist. I like his work more and more.

• “The most radical thing about Ever So Lonely is the instrumental when it breaks down and for eight glorious bars you’re dancing to a classical raga and loving it, whoever you are.” Sheila Chandra again on the fleeting pop career of Monsoon.

• Something to look forward to for next summer: Worlds Beyond Time: Sci-Fi Art of the 1970s, a book by Adam Rowe, curator of 70s Sci-fi Art at Tumblr.

• Mix of the week: Groove Orient: South Asian Elements in Psychedelic Jazz at Aquarium Drunkard.

• “Physicists create a wormhole using a quantum computer.” Natalie Wolchover explains.

Pattern Collider is a tool for generating and exploring quasiperiodic tiling patterns.

• “Infernal Affairs is still Hong Kong’s greatest crime saga,” says James Balmont.

Secret Satan, 2022, the essential end-of-year book list from Strange Flowers.

• Also no longer with us as of this week, comic artist Aline Kominsky–Crumb.

• New music: Violet Echoes by Subtle Energy.

Il Trio Infernale (1974) by Ennio Morricone | Firebird Suite: Infernal Dance Of King Kastchei (Stravinsky) (1975) by Tomita | Infernal Devices (2011) by Moon Wiring Club

Kafka’s machine

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In der Strafkolonie (In the Penal Colony, 1919), a short story by Franz Kafka

“Yes, the harrow,” said the Officer. “The name fits. The needles are arranged as in a harrow, and the whole thing is driven like a harrow, although it stays in one place and is, in principle, much more artistic. You’ll understand in a moment. The condemned is laid out here on the bed. First, I’ll describe the apparatus and only then let the procedure go to work. That way you’ll be able to follow it better. Also a sprocket in the inscriber is excessively worn. It really squeaks. When it’s in motion one can hardly make oneself understood. Unfortunately replacement parts are difficult to come by in this place. So, here is the bed, as I said. The whole thing is completely covered with a layer of cotton wool, the purpose of which you’ll find out in a moment. The condemned man is laid out on his stomach on the cotton wool—naked, of course. There are straps for the hands here, for the feet here, and for the throat here, to tie him in securely. At the head of the bed here, where the man, as I have mentioned, first lies face down, is this small protruding lump of felt, which can easily be adjusted so that it presses right into the man’s mouth. Its purpose is to prevent him screaming and biting his tongue to pieces. Of course, the man has to let the felt in his mouth—otherwise the straps around his throat would break his neck.” “That’s cotton wool?” asked the Traveler and bent down. “Yes, it is,” said the Officer smiling, “feel it for yourself.”

He took the Traveler’s hand and led him over to the bed. “It’s a specially prepared cotton wool. That’s why it looks so unrecognizable. I’ll get around to mentioning its purpose in a moment.” The Traveler was already being won over a little to the apparatus. With his hand over his eyes to protect them from the sun, he looked at the apparatus in the hole. It was a massive construction. The bed and the inscriber were the same size and looked like two dark chests. The inscriber was set about two metres above the bed, and the two were joined together at the corners by four brass rods, which almost reflected the sun. The harrow hung between the chests on a band of steel.

The Officer had hardly noticed the earlier indifference of the Traveler, but he did have a sense now of how the latter’s interest was being aroused for the first time. So he paused in his explanation in order to allow the Traveler time to observe the apparatus undisturbed. The Condemned Man imitated the Traveler, but since he could not put his hand over his eyes, he blinked upward with his eyes uncovered.

“So now the man is lying down,” said the Traveler. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs.

“Yes,” said the Officer, pushing his cap back a little and running his hand over his hot face. “Now, listen. Both the bed and the inscriber have their own electric batteries. The bed needs them for itself, and the inscriber for the harrow. As soon as the man is strapped in securely, the bed is set in motion. It quivers with tiny, very rapid oscillations from side to side and up and down simultaneously. You will have seen similar devices in mental hospitals. Only with our bed all movements are precisely calibrated, for they must be meticulously coordinated with the movements of the harrow. But it’s the harrow which has the job of actually carrying out the sentence.”

(Translation by Ian Johnston)


An authorless construction for The Bachelor Machines, 1975–77, an exhibition curated by by Harald Szeemann

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Kafka: The Execution (1989), a comic strip by Leopoldo Duranona

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Read the full strip.


A page from Introducing Kafka (1993), an illustrated biography of Franz Kafka by David Zane Mairowitz and Robert Crumb

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In the Penal Colony, 1920, from Franz Kafka: Dreams, Diaries, and Fragments (1994), a print by Robert Andrew Parker

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Zoetrope (1999), a short film by Charlie Deaux

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Franz Kafka: The Peculiar Apparatus from the Story In the Penal Colony (undated), a sculpture by Martin Senn

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Previously on { feuilleton }
The Metamorphosis of Mr Samsa, a film by Caroline Leaf
Kafkaesque
Screening Kafka
Designs on Kafka
Kafka’s porn unveiled
A postcard from Doctor Kafka
Steven Soderbergh’s Kafka
Kafka and Kupka

Weekend links 647

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A local dispute on the planet Mars. Art by Kevin O’Neill from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

• “…this image has puzzled enthusiasts of the scientific mystic’s works, both for its obscure provenance and cryptic symbolism. With its pastiche of Renaissance visual style and medieval caption — “A missionary of the Middle Ages tells that he had found the point where the sky and the Earth touch” — the illustration was once thought to have originated centuries before Flammarion published his text.” Hunter Dukes on the enduring mystery of the “Flammarion Engraving”.

• “For Spare, radio, and the waves that carried the music he loved to listen to, were more than just a metaphor for the spirit world. They were an active mode of conveyance for occult energies and vibrations – the swirling, ectoplasmic tendrils from which odd figures emerge in some of his most dense and haunting work.” Mark Pilkington explores Austin Osman Spare’s influence on the world of music.

• At Spine: Design studio Milk & Bone’s designer Alicia Raitt re-imagines all 14 of Kurt Vonnegut’s book covers to celebrate his 100th birthday.

• Farewell to Kevin O’Neill and Nik Turner, both of whom headed to the Western Lands this week.

Mean, moody and magnificent: film noir studio portraits – in pictures.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 773 by Roméo Poirier.

• New music: Evergreen by Patrick Shiroishi.

Brainstorm (1972) by Hawkwind | Hurricane Fighter Plane (1985) by Inner City Unit | Brainstorm (1993) by Monster Magnet

Weekend links 636

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Untitled painting by Oliver Frey based on The Wild Boys by William Burroughs.

• RIP Oliver Frey, a prolific illustrator and comic artist whose art for UK computer magazines in the 1980s made a lasting impression on a generation of games players, hence this obituary at Eurogamer. On this site, however, Frey is also remembered for his artistic alter-ego “Zack” (previously), an equally prolific creator of comic-strip erotica for Britain’s few gay-porn mags at a time when any such material being sold in the UK ran the risk of police seizure or even a court appearance. For a while, Zack’s Rogue and Tom of Finland’s Kake were rare examples of assertive, unashamedly lustful gay characters with strips of their own, which makes Oliver Frey something of a pioneer, and a daring one at that.

• “The title characters were a trio of boys named Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews, who live in the fictional California town of Rocky Beach, not far from Hollywood, on the coast…” Colin Fleming on the satisfyingly spooky adventures of Robert Arthur Jr’s Three Investigators. I was never as obsessive as Fleming was but I read all of the books about the trio that I could find in our local library.

• “Though its inimitable visual style has safeguarded it as a quintessential cult film most at home behind a shroud of pot smoke, the influence of Koyaanisqatsi has been sweeping.” Josef Steen on 40 years of Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi.

• “Putting it simply, coincidences and curiosities and chance encounters happen when people go looking for zodiacs.” Mark Valentine on Britain’s terrestrial zodiacs.

• At Literary Hub: Marguerite Duras on writing the screenplay for Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour.

• New/old music: a reissue of Solar Maximum by Majeure.

• New music: Kerber Remixes by Yann Tiersen.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Ingrid Caven Day.

• Threnody To The Victims Of Hiroshima (1959-61) by Krzysztof Penderecki | Memory Of Hiroshima (1973) by Stomu Yamash’ta | Hiroshima Mon Amour (1977) by Ultravox!

Weekend links 631

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Soap Bubble (1882) by Alexandre-Blaise Desgoffe. Via.

• “…there is not now, has never been, and will never be a single Platonic form of the paragraph to which all others must conform.” Richard Hughes Gibson on the history of the paragraph.

• At Spoon & Tamago: imaginary covers by international illustrators for The Tokyoiter, a New Yorker-style magazine about the Japanese capital.

• New music: tick tick tick by Stephen Mallinder, and A Vibrant Touch by Aleksandra Slyz.

The Kat had a cult following among the modernists. For Joyce, Fitzgerald, Stein, and Picasso, all of whose work fed on playful energies similar to those unleashed in the strip, he had a double appeal, in being commercially nonviable and carrying the reek of authenticity in seeming to belong to mass culture. By the thirties, strips like Blondie were appearing daily in roughly a thousand newspapers; Krazy appeared in only thirty-five. The Kat was one of those niche-but-not-really phenomena, a darling of critics and artists alike, even after it stopped appearing in newspapers.

Amber Medland on George Herriman, EE Cummings and Krazy Kat

35mm.online: Polish feature films, documentaries and animations, all free to view.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…Georges Bataille Erotism: Death and Sensuality.

• Inside the Espai Corberó, the home/gallery of the late Xavier Corberó.

Strange Attractor Journal Five.

• RIP Claes Oldenburg.

Krazy Kat (1928) by Frankie Trumbauer & His Orchestra | Krazy Kat (1949) by Artie Shaw | Krazy Kat (1975) by Teddy Lasry