Weekend links 627

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Cover art by Alan Aldridge for The Secret Life of Plants, 1975. Via.

• At Aquarium Drunkard: Alice Coltrane and band in a furious live performance at the Berkeley Community Theatre, 1972. The audio is on YouTube, and was also released on (unofficial) vinyl a couple of years ago, but you can download the whole set at Dimeadozen. (Free membership required.)

• “Black Square is tragic; it’s absurd; it can be bewildering or funny; it’s certainly metaphysical; and now it serves as a precursor for works and projects yet to be imagined.” Andrew Spira on the precursors of Black Square by Kazimir Malevich.

• “The possibility of plant consciousness cuts two ways, depending on whether you see plants as friend or foe, benevolent or threatening.” Elvia Wilk on the secret lives of plants.

• New/old music: Robot Riot by Stereolab. A previously unreleased recording from the mid-90s which will appear on the fifth instalment in the Switched-On compilation series.

• “Dare’s good, but Love And Dancing broke the mould and kicked off the whole modern dance scene.” Ian Wade on 40 years of remix albums.

• Coming soon from Strange Attractor: Arik Roper: Vision of The Hawk.

• At Unquiet Things: Deborah Turbeville’s unseen Versailles.

• “Thinking like a scientist will make you happier”.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Karel Zeman Day.

Plantasia (1976) by Mort Garson | Musik Of The Trees (1978) by Steve Hillage | The Secret Life Of Plants (1979) by Stevie Wonder

Weekend links 626

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Czech poster for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist. Art and design by Miroslav Pechánek, 1972.

• “Acknowledgements are not part of the novel; in fact, they break the spell the author has spent 200 or more pages weaving. We should take a book on its merits, knowing as little about the author as possible. As one reader put it to me, ‘the end of a book is time for thinking about the book, not for an acceptance speech’.” John Self on dedications and acknowledgements.

• Mixes of the week: a Power Ambient mix by A Strangely Isolated Place, and a mix for The Wire by Nexcyia.

• At Spoon & Tamago: 3D-scanned stones create vessel for human-made interventions.

Weeks turned into months. Slowly it dawned on me that I was performing the role of Boswell for a man who might be: a) a put-on maestro or arcane troll; b) a fiction writer slash performance artist; or c) a lunatic. But by his own admission King had tagged me with a familiar spirit. Whether or not he was telling the truth was irrelevant at this point. I could feel something squatting on my soul. I needed to see what it was.

Kent Russell on looking for demons in a disenchanted world

• A trailer for Mad God, Phil Tippett’s 30-years-in-the-making animated feature.

• New music: Vesta by Azu Tiwaline, and Right, Right, Right by Nils Frahm.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Max Hattler Day.

• “Marcel Duchamp was not a thief.”

• RIP Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Demons Of Rage (1972) by Nik Raicevic | Shall Come Forth The Demons (1991?) by Yuri Morozov | Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light (2011) by Earth

Weekend links 623

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A symmetrical ink blot from Gobolinks, or Shadow Pictures for Young and Old (1896) by Ruth McEnery Stuart & Albert Bigelow Paine, a book where the blots are much more interesting than the interpretative verses that accompany them.

• “…within a year, they were on The Tube, performing their German-language extrapolation of Throbbing Gristle’s Discipline to a visibly nonplussed audience.” Alexis Petridis on the return of Propaganda. The group’s debut album, A Secret Wish (previously), has long been an obscure object of desire round here.

• RIP Alan White, drummer in Yes for much of the 1970s (see Sound Chaser for details), and also—although nobody mentioned this at the time—the originator of the drum sounds sampled on a Fairlight for Beat Box by the Art Of Noise.

• “For the anthropologist Stewart Guthrie, pareidolia is not a fringe phenomenon: it is at the core of religious experience.” Hunter Dukes on the interpretation of ink blots.

• “…self-righteousness is the one thing that I don’t agree with,” says John Waters. “We used humour to fight when I was young.”

• New music: October Cut Up by Black Glass Ensemble, and New Witness by Michael Begg.

• Also RIP Shiv Kumar Sharma, master of the santoor.

• “Scientists recreate Cleopatra’s favourite perfume.

Simon Fisher Turner’s favourite albums.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Len Lye Day.

Cleopatra’s Barge (1962) by Alex North | Cleopatra’s Needle (1963) by Ahab And The Wailers | Cleopatra King Size (2002) by Jah Wobble & Temple Of Sound

Art on film: The Beast

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The Beast: Lisbeth Hummel, Elisabeth Kaza and Marcel Dalio.

In which Polish director Walerian Borowczyk places a little-known Symbolist painting in the background of The Beast, his strange sex film (or should that be strange-sex film?) from 1975. I’ve spent the past week or so working my way through Arrow’s box of Borowczyk films, of which The Beast is the last in the collection. It’s also the one film by the director that many people may be aware of even if they’ve never seen it, thanks to a historical reverie in which an 18th-century woman has a very graphic sexual encounter with the beast of the title, a bear-like creature with a fully-functioning phallus. This episode is framed by a somewhat farcical modern-day story set in a French chateau, with the bestiality flashback being the culmination of a parade of sexual antics that include equally graphic scenes of horse-breeding, female masturbation, and thwarted attempts by the daughter of the house to have sex with one of the servants.

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Frenzy aka Frenzy of Exultations (1893).

And this is the painting that Borowczyk shows. I said that it’s little-known but it happens to be the most visible of all the paintings by Polish artist Wladyslaw Podkowinski (1866–1895), with a popularity in Poland that extends to reproduction on postcards and jigsaw puzzles. (That huge area of shadow must cause puzzle-solvers some headaches.) I only recognised the picture because Michael Gibson includes it in his wide-ranging study of Symbolist art, although he doesn’t have much to say about it apart from its having caused a minor scandal when it was first exhibited. This isn’t too surprising; prior to the 20th century there were few Western artworks that were so overt in their depiction of erotic delirium without tipping into outright pornography. Given this you’d expect Borowczyk to make more of the reference but he keeps the picture in the background, a reward for the small percentage of the audience who can identify the thing at a distance.

Frenzy is dramatically different to Podkowinski’s other paintings, most of which are Impressionist studies, and is further distinguished by having been attacked by its creator when the artist slashed the canvas with a knife while it was still being exhibited. Paintings and sculptures have been subject to attacks by members of the public for many years but this is the first I’ve heard of an artist attacking their own work while it was on display. The scandalous history suits the film as much as the salacious subject matter; The Beast was almost subject to an obscenity prosecution when an uncensored print was shown in London in the 1970s. For a long time it was one of those troublesome features that you’d be more likely to read about than to see.

Continue reading “Art on film: The Beast”

Le cinéma épinglé

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In yesterday’s mail, the DVD collection of Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker’s animated films. I ordered this after watching the Norman McLaren film about the operation of the pinscreen, not realising that the same documentary is included here, together with a shorter film from 1960 that shows the pair creating still illustrations for an edition of Dr Zhivago. In addition to five pinscreen films by the couple there’s also Mindscape (1976) by another pinscreen animator, Jacques Drouin, together with two reels of technical experiments.

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Most surprising of all is a lengthy collection of Alexeieff’s advertising films from the 1930s. These were made for French products such as Evian water, Renault cars and Gauloises cigarettes, with all of them photographed in a pre-Technicolor single-strip process, Gasparcolor, whose limitations made it difficult to use for live action but ideal for animation. The films are also surprising for being much more traditional animations of physical objects, there’s even a puppet adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. In the notes Alexeieff says:

We were the first to make colour films (Gasparcolor) in France, and immediately obtained a reputation for quality on the market. We established, I believe I am justified in saying, a class of films without precedent in this domain, and for which a certain number of progressive and powerful advertisers were ready to pay more and more… We made ourselves the champions of three-dimensional object animation. Into such one or two minutes film we decided to introduce, if only in one of its sequences, some sort of experiment, and never hesitated to invest time or money in inventions because an advertising film must strike by the novelty of its form.

The use of light and colour is indeed striking, especially when seen beside the monochrome pinscreen films, while some of the hazy, prismatic light effects are precursors of similar imagery being produced decades later by people like Jordan Belson. Alexeieff was too old to contribute to the psychedelic avant-garde but I wonder what he might have achieved if he’d been a generation younger.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Animating the pinscreen
The pinscreen works of Alexandre Alexeieff & Claire Parker
The Nose, a film by Alexandre Alexeieff & Claire Parker
Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker