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

Weekend links 649

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Niijima Floats: Mottled Blue Black Float with Silver Leaf (1991) by Dale Chihuly.

• “Blue whale songs fall below the range of human hearing. If you want to listen to one, to actually hear its ethereal patterns of wobbly pulses and haunting moans, you have to speed it up by at least two-fold. But according to Hildebrand and McDonald’s instruments, the tonal frequencies of the songs had been sinking to even greater depths for three straight years. ‘This is weird,’ Hildebrand thought. To figure out if it was just an anomaly or something more, Hildebrand and McDonald embarked on a quest to find some really old songs. Eventually they got their hands on some of the earliest known recordings, created by the Navy in the 1960s and stored on analog cassettes. They were floored. The frequencies had declined by 30 percent over 40 years.” Kristen French on a mysterious development in blue whale songs.

• “She didn’t see it as a game, or for divination, but as a model of the universe.” Joanna Moorhead on the Tarot designs of Leonora Carrington.

• “A collection of blogs about every topic”: ooh.directory. (Ta to whoever added this place to the list.)

• New music: Pop Ambient 2023 by Various Artists, and Aeolian Mixtape by Quinta.

• At Public Domain Review: The Tanzmasken of Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on mazes and labyrinths. (Previously)

• At Spoon & Tamago: Paper-cut cityscapes by kirie artist Hiroki Saito.

• At Smithsonian Magazine: The Unrivaled Legacy of Dale Chihuly.

• Mix of the week: Neo-Medieval Mix by Moon Wiring Club.

• Old music: Back To The Woodlands by Ernest Hood.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jacques Rivette Day.

Weyes Blood’s favourite music.

(Gorgeous Curves Lovely Fragments Labyrinthed On Occasions Entwined Charms, A Few Stories At Any Longer Sworn To Gathered From A Guileless Angel And The Hilt Edges Of Old Hearts, If They Do In The Guilt Of Deep Despondency.) (2004) by Akira Rabelais | The Private Labyrinth (2008) by The Wounded Kings | Labyrinths (2018) by Jonathan Fitoussi & Clemens Hourrière

Weekend links 648

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The Twittering Machine (1922) by Paul Klee.

• “Thinking of ‘writer Twitter’ as more important than writers themselves is an insult to the profession. People have been trading words for money for thousands of years. They will continue to do so after the death of a platform built on manufactured outrage, social hierarchy, unfunny jokes, stale memes, pornography, and spam. I mention this Atlantic essay only because it echoes what so many people are saying in the ether right now, not to pick on its author. The piece reads like a parody of how writers overestimate the importance of Twitter to their work and careers. It’s frankly a little embarrassing. Your work is the product you sell! Not the shitty jokes you tell with people you want to impress.” Freddie deBoer on the kerfuffle du jour. For “writer” see also “artist” or anyone else working at the intersection between commerce and creativity. From what I’ve read this week about potential technical problems at the pestilential birdcage I’d be less sanguine about its immediate survival. Since I retreated from the place as an active user two-and-a-half years ago all I get from it is the inflated subscriber number you see on the right-hand side of this page, a combination of Twitter followers plus email subscribers. The latter currently stand at some 270 individuals so if you’re among that number you can consider yourself part of a more exclusive group. And thanks for subscribing!

• “…the books of the past, besides adding to our understanding, offer something we also need: repose, refreshment and renewal. They help us keep going through dark times, they lift our spirits, they comfort us. Which means that I also strongly agree with the poet John Ashbery, who once wrote, ‘I am aware of the pejorative associations of the word “escapist,” but I insist that we need all the escapism we can get and even that isn’t going to be enough.'” Michael Dirda makes a case for reading classic, unusual and neglected books. Kudos for the mention of Anthony Skene‘s Monsieur Zenith, a character few of Dirda’s readers will have heard of.

• “While Haeckel’s paintings turn the floating phantoms into baroque spectacles of colour and flowing form, Mayer’s medusae are more sober, their tentacles subdued, their umbellate bells transparent.” Kevin Dann on the jellyfish and other “floating phantoms” described in AG Mayer’s Medusae of the World (1910).

• “The passing of time has added potency to the images, giving this interpretation of the Dracula story the feel of a distant fairy tale, a myth emerging from the mists of time, erupting across the world of cinema, its shadow reaching everywhere.” Martyn Bamber on 100 years of Murnau’s Nosferatu.

• At AnOther: Camille Vivier talks about shooting nude models in the treasure-filled home of HR Giger.

• New music: In Concert & In Residence by Sarah Davachi, and Anglo-Saxon Androids by Moon Wiring Club.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Kimono portraits were popular souvenirs for sailors visiting Japan in the 1800s.

• Mix of the week: Saturnalia: Deep Jazz for Long Nights, 1969–1980 at Aquarium Drunkard.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Clouds.

Dark Clouds With Silver Linings (1961) by Sun Ra | Obscured By Clouds (1972) by Pink Floyd | Firmament (Cloudscape) (1995) by Main

Weekend links 646

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It’s that lethal book again. A sample of wallpaper impregnated with arsenic, one of many such pages in Shadows from the Walls of Death: Facts and Inferences Prefacing a Book of Specimens of Arsenical Wall Papers (1874) by RC Kedzie.

• “I like to spend time in the now because there I can create something new but in the past I cannot.” Damo Suzuki, former vocalist in Can, on creativity and his resilience in the face of long-term illness. Related: a trailer for Energy: A Documentary about Damo Suzuki.

• “I enjoy Carnival of Souls, but it is a dark form of enjoyment, with high stakes, because the enjoyment is predicated on me being able to shake myself free of the film after it is over, and that can be a struggle.” Colin Fleming on fear as entertainment.

• “Some people like fantasy epics or Regency romance or Sudoku or science-fiction world-building or the gentle challenge of cozy mysteries; I like the undead.” Sadie Stein on encounters with ghosts.

• “You’re now standing on the blocks of the Great Pyramid at Giza. For the first time ever you can explore the entire pyramid interior.” The Giza Project.

• “What do we think about when we watch films set in vanished decades that many of us experienced at first hand?” asks Anne Billson.

• At Bandcamp: Touch celebrates forty years of not being a record label.

• “Why scientists are sending radio signals to the Moon and Jupiter.”

• At DJ Food’s: Retinal Circus gig posters 1966–68.

• Steven Heller’s font of the month is Feneon.

The Pyramid Spell (1978) by Nik Turner | I Am Damo Suzuki (1985) by The Fall | Carnival Of Souls Goes To Rio (2001) by Pram

Weekend links 645

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Halloween (no date) by William Stewart MacGeorge.

• Couldn’t Care Less: Cormac McCarthy in a 75-minute conversation (!) with David Krakauer at the Santa Fe Institute, filmed in 2017 and recently posted to YouTube. Not a literary discussion, this one is all about science, philosophy, mathematics, architecture and the operations of the unconscious mind. McCarthy’s essay about the origins of language, The Kekulé Problem, may be read here.

• At Wormwoodiana: Douglas A. Anderson finds a 1932 reprint of an HP Lovecraft story, The Music of Erich Zann, in London newspaper The Evening Standard. The story had appeared a few months prior to this in a Gollancz book, Modern Tales of Horror which reprinted a US collection edited by Dashiell Hammett. The newspaper printing includes an illustration by Philip Mendoza.

• New Hollywood Vs Mutant Cinema: The flipside of US cinema, 1960s–80s. Joe Banks talks to Kelly Roberts, Michael Grasso and Richard McKenna about their new book, We Are the Mutants: The Battle for Hollywood from Rosemary’s Baby to Lethal Weapon.

• At Bandcamp: Rich Aucoin explains the army of synths on his new quadruple album. The battalion includes the bespoke modular setup known as T.O.N.T.O., a rig that few people get to play with.

• New/old music: Malebox, an EP of Patrick Cowley rarities coming soon from Dark Entries.

• Mix of the week: Samhain Séance 11: endleofon by The Ephemeral Man.

• The surreal photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard.

• “NASA team begins study of UFOs”.

Ghost Rider (1969) by Musical Doctors | Ghost Rider (1970) by The Crystalites | Ghost Rider (1977) by Suicide