Weekend links 624

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An alphabet designed by Ben Griffiths. Via.

• “From the cellular to the galactic, via Paleolithic cave markings to the trace impressions left by drone photography on our mind’s eye, incorporating dancing plagues, communist psychedelic witches, hyper-sexual fungi, chthonic descents, and skyward ascents, The Neon Hieroglyph weaves together a series of painterly and poetic considerations on a feminized history of the rye fungus Ergot, the chemical basis of LSD.” Coming soon from Strange Attractor: The Neon Hieroglyph, a book, LP and folio of prints by Tai Shani.

• “3rd From The Sun was the last album of Chrome’s imperial phase, and it cemented their status as one of the most inhuman and superhuman rock bands that America ever produced. More people need to recognize.” Agreed. (previously)

• “People often say, ‘How can you be so disciplined?’ It’s easy. Otherwise, I would have to go work for somebody else!” John Waters (again). Also here.

I’ve always thought that literature should be entertaining as well as instructive—a very old-fashioned idea but one that I adhere to. When I set out to write in this way—particularly in this way, a political way, if you want to call it that—I intend to make a donation, to try to give something. There doesn’t seem to me to be any point in giving more misery or exacerbating unhappiness through some kind of hyper-intellectual, pyrotechnical writing about unhappiness and the shit that we all find ourselves in. That’s been done plenty. I think first of all that it doesn’t need to be done any more and second of all there’s a kind of reactionary aspect to it which is that the emphasizing of misery without any anti-pessimism, as you put it, would be simply seduction into inactivity and political despair. In other words, to do politics at all on any level, especially on a revolutionary or on an insurrectionary level, there has to be some anti-pessimism—I won’t say optimism because that sounds so fatuous, futile; but anti-pessimism is a nice phrase. And there’s a deliberate attempt at that in the writing. Then again it’s a matter of my personality, I guess, inclined towards the notion of the healing laugh to some extent. We have an anarchist thinker in America, John Zerzan, who wrote an essay against humour which maybe is one of the things I was reacting against. Even if irony is counter-revolutionary which I think it might be to a certain extent I don’t see any way in which you could say that laughter itself is counter-revolutionary. This doesn’t make any sense to me unless you mean to get rid of language and thought altogether, which is just another form of nihilism. So as long as you’re going to accept culture on some level you’re certainly going to have to accept humour. And as long as you’re going to have to accept humour you might as well see humour as potentially revolutionary.

Peter Lamborn Wilson aka Hakim Bey, who died last month. Many of Wilson’s writings are available at The Anarchist Library. From 2008: A poem for Leonora Carrington

• “It’s such a fundamental question,” says Midori Takada, “why do humans need to make rhythm, and the space that structure creates?”

• “14 Warning Signs That You Are Living in a Society Without a Counterculture” by Ted Gioia.

• A trailer for Earwig, the new film from Lucile Hadzihalilovic, based on a story by Brian Catling.

• New music: Aura by Hatis Noit, and Warmth Of The Sun by Pye Corner Audio.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…SE Hinton Rumble Fish (1975).

• “Hear tracks from the 1980s Peruvian electronic underground”.

Intermittent Eyeball Fodder at Unquiet Things.

West Tulsa Story (1983) by Stewart Copeland | Kála/Assassins Of Hakim Bey (1997) by Coil | Neon Lights (2000) by Señor Coconut Y Su Conjunto

Weekend links 622

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Testa Anatomica (1854) by Filippo Balbi.

The New School of the Anthropocene is “…an experiment. But it is also an act of repair. In partnership with October Gallery in London, we seek to reinstate the intellectual adventure and creative risk that formerly characterised arts education before the university system capitulated to market principles and managerial bureaucracy… (more)”

• “Every once in a while, you come across old music that generates a shock of new excitement.” Geeta Dayal on Oksana Linde whose electronic compositions are being released in a retrospective collection next month.

• More Walerian Borowczyk: Anatomy of the Devil, a collection of Borowczyk’s short stories, newly translated into English by Michael Levy, and with a cover design by the Quay Brothers.

• Washing machines, garden snails, and plastic surgery: A stroll through the Matmos catalogue. Related: “Why scientists are turning molecules into music.”

• Coming soon from Strange Attractor: Boogie Down Predictions, Hip Hop, Time and Afrofuturism, edited by Roy Christopher.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Exploring Japan’s historical landmarks and shrines in the middle of streets.

• New music: Adrian Sherwood Presents: Dub No Frontiers, music by female dub artists.

Winners of the 2022 Milky Way Photographer of the Year.

• A Vision In Many Voices: The art of Leo and Diane Dillon.

Molecular Delusion (1971) by Ramases | DNA Music (Molecular Meditation) (1985) by Riley McLaughlin | Pop Molecule (Molecular Pop 1) (2008) by Stereolab

Hidden Hands: A Different History of Modernism

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I thought I’d finished with the arts documentaries until I remembered this four-part series from 1995. Hidden Hands was based on researches by Frances Stonor Saunders who also co-produced. As the subtitle suggests, the programmes examined aspects of Modernist art and architecture that weren’t exactly unknown but were often downplayed (sometimes deliberately ignored) by the art establishment. The episodes were as follows:

1: Is Anybody There? The occult roots of abstract painting, especially the influence of Theosophy on Vasily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. Kazimir Malevich and Frantisek Kupka are also mentioned at the beginning of the programme but we don’t hear anything more about them.

2: Art and the CIA. A history of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a CIA front for channelling money to avant-garde exhibitions and literary magazines during the Cold War.

3: A Clean White World. Modernist architecture as a reaction to, and proposed solution for, the squalor of 19th-century city life. Also the similarity between the impulses that drove the Modernist architectural ideal, and the later health and purity obsessions of European fascist states.

4: Painting with the Enemy. The inadvertent way in which the animus towards “degenerate art” shared by the Nazis and the Vichy regime in occupied France helped sustain Modernism during the war years.

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This is a very good series on the whole, informative and with a roster of authoritative interviewees. The narration overstates the contrarian angle in places but that’s television for you. Much of the history under investigation wasn’t necessarily hidden, more sidestepped by general discussions of 20th-century art. Even so, fifteen years earlier in the architecture episode of The Shock of the New, Robert Hughes covered similar territory and with similar criticisms, following the development of what would become known as the International Style while noting Mussolini’s adoption of a Modernist idiom for the architecture of Fascist Italy.

Elsewhere, when Hughes reviewed a major Kandinsky retrospective he paid sufficient attention to Kandinsky’s Theosophical beliefs; this was in 1982 for TIME magazine, not exactly an obscure publication. Theosophy’s ectoplasmic tentacles are all over the art of the late 19th century so you’d expect some crossover into the art of the new century, as there was in the careers of the artists themselves. (Matisse was a pupil of Gustave Moreau, for example, an inconvenient detail that often irritated critics.) Given the amount of artists swayed by Madame Blavatsky’s writings, a more interesting argument might have been to propose Theosophy as the prime cause of early abstraction rather than another inconvenient factor in its development. Hilma af Klint’s pioneering abstract paintings were as much products of her Theosophical studies as were those of Kandinsky but in the 1990s nobody was paying her very much attention.

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Mondrian’s mysticism: Evolution (1910–1911).

As for the CIA, the agency’s clandestine cultural adventures were exposed by a leak in the late 1960s—Stephen Spender famously resigned in shame from his editorship of Encounter magazine—so this could almost be classed as old news. What you wouldn’t have had in the past, however, is the agents involved in the scheme openly discussing their activities.

Continue reading “Hidden Hands: A Different History of Modernism”

Weekend links 619

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A Moog on the Moon by P. Praquin, 1977. And a space helmet reflection to add to the list being accumulated by 70s Sci-Fi Art.

• RIP Klaus “Quadro” Schulze. I’ve owned many of his solo albums over the years, and while they’re historically important for the part they played in developing the kosmische sound in the 1970s I’ve never been very enthusiastic about the music. The albums I prefer are the ones where he was working with others, whether as a drummer in Ash Ra Tempel, an inadvertent member of the fake Cosmic Jokers supergroup, or part of the genuine Cosmic Couriers supergroup that made Tarot. The Tonwelle album credited to “Richard Wahnfried” benefits considerably from the presence of Manuel Göttsching and Michael Schrieve (also a rumoured Carlos Santana); I recommend it. For a taste of the synth-doodling Schulze, here he is in analogue heaven.

• Next month, Luminous Procuress, a film by Steven Arnold (previously), is released for the first time on blu-ray by Second Run: “Exploding out of San Francisco’s vibrant late-60s counter-culture, Luminous Procuress is a psychedelic odyssey of unabashed hedonism. The only feature film by artist, mystic and polymath Steven Arnold, the film celebrates gender-fluidity and pan-sexuality in a voyeuristic phantasmagorical journey towards spiritual ecstasy.”

• “Whereas [Bernard] Herrmann worked predominantly with strings and [John] Carpenter with synths, Anderson wanted to evoke a similar atmosphere with guitars.” Greg “The Lord” Anderson talks to Dan Franklin about making an album of night music.

I am troubled by how often people talk about likability when they talk about art.

I am troubled by how often our protagonists are supposed to live impeccable, sin-free lives, extolling the right virtues in the right order—when we, the audience, do not and never have, no matter what we perform for those around us.

I am troubled by the word “problematic,” mostly because of how fundamentally undescriptive it is. Tell me that something is xenophobic, condescending, clichéd, unspeakably stupid, or some other constellation of descriptors. Then I will decide whether I agree, based on the intersection of that thing with my particular set of values and aesthetics. But by saying it is problematic you are saying that it constitutes or presents a problem, to which my first instinct is to reply: I hope so.

Art is the realm of the problem. Art chews on problems, turns them over, examines them, breaks them open, breaks us open against them. Art contains a myriad of problems, dislocations, uncertainties. Doesn’t it? If not, then what?

Jen Silverman on the new moralisers

• “The website is colorful and anarchic, evoking the chaotic sensory experience of exploring a crammed, dusty shop.” Geeta Dayal explores the Syrian Cassette Archives.

• New music: The Last One, 1970 by Les Rallizes Dénudés; Untitled 3 by Final; Blinking In Time (full version) by Scanner.

• Why was erotic art so popular in ancient Pompeii? Meilan Solly investigates.

• You’ve been reframed: Anne Billson explores the history of split-screen cinema.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Japanese era names illustrated as logos.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 745 by Wilted Woman.

Fun type

Split, Pt. 4 (1971) by The Groundhogs | Split Second Feeling (1981) by Cabaret Voltaire | Splitting The Atom (2010) by Massive Attack

Weekend links 614

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Uncredited cover art for the forthcoming Ghost Power, the debut album from the group of the same name, a collaboration between Jeremy Novak (Dymaxion) and Tim Gane (Stereolab, Cavern Of Anti-Matter).

• Objective correlatives: “In compiling the following list of influences and inspirations for my memoir, Modern Instances: The Craft of Photography, I had a certain, specific range of aesthetic experiences in mind,” says Stephen Shore.

• “Smoking toad has been likened, in one guide to psychedelics, to ‘being strapped to the nose of a rocket that flies into the sun and evaporates.'” Kimon de Greef on The Pied Piper of Psychedelic Toads.

• “I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that before there was language there was music,” says Meredith Monk.

• Coming soon from Strange Attractor: Obsolete Spells – Poems and Prose from Victor Neuburg and the Vine Press.

• “…scepticism is not simply about knowledge or language. It is a way of life,” says Nicholas Tampio.

• Life during wartime: Jonathan Wright on Radio Tisdas and the roots of Tinariwen.

• Mix of the week: A Hallow Ground mix for The Wire.

Volunteers rally to archive Ukrainian web sites.

• The Strange World of…Ahmed Abdul-Malik.

I Put A Spell On You (1965) by Nina Simone | Cast A Spell (1969) by The Open Mind | Spinning A Spell (1970) by Mystic Siva