Weekend links 548

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The Aurora Borealis by Charles H. Whymper.

• “In 1829, when the celebrated Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai was almost 70 years old, he created more than 100 drawings of a dazzling array of subjects: playful cats, serene landscapes, even severed heads. Hokusai’s fame continued to grow after his death in 1849, and the suite of small, elaborate drawings was last purchased a century later, at a Paris auction in 1948. Then it disappeared from the public eye.” The British Museum now has the drawings which may be seen here.

• The week in cover design: Emily Temple compares US and UK covers for the same books, while Vyki Hendy collects recent titles with objects as the main feature of the cover designs. One of my recent covers (which will appear here soon) is less minimal than these but also features an arrangement of objects.

• The compilation experts at Light In The Attic Records have put together another collection of obscure Japanese music. Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Sounds Of Japan 1980–1988 will be released in January.

“A Jamesian world is one of cursed artefacts, endlessly subsuming landscapes, forgotten manuscripts and tactile beings that punish the curious and intellectually arrogant.” Adam Scovell visits the grave of MR James.

• Dragons and Unicorns: John Boardley on the lost art of the Hieroglyphic Bible.

• I almost missed John Waters’ favourite films of the year.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Sade’s Castle, Cardin’s House.

Northern lights photographer of the year.

Aurora Hominis (1970) by Beaver & Krause | Aurora (1971) by Tonto’s Expanding Head Band | Soft Aurora (1979) by Tod Dockstader

Weekend links 547

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Anti-Vanitas (2018) by Carrie Ann Baade.

• RIP Richard Corben, an artist whose work I wasn’t always keen on but whose enthusiasm for pulp weirdness and cosmic horror was matched by a pulp vitality of his own. Corben’s Den was the first story in the first issue of Heavy Metal, a strip in which Den’s ever-present penis provided some rare equality of nudity in American comics. Corben was also a lifelong Lovecraftian; his 1972 adaptation of The Rats in the Walls is one of the earliest Lovecraft-derived comic strips.

• “Wit was the great man’s defence. Once, crossing Leicester Square with a friend, he looked up and saw a cinema marquee advertising a new film: Michael Redgrave and Dirk Bogarde in The Sea Shall Not Have Them. Coward turned to his friend and said: ‘I don’t see why not. Everyone else has.'” Philip Hoare on Noël Coward’s private lives: the photographs that could have landed him in jail.

• The end of the year brings the lists: Strange Flowers’ Secret Satan, 2020 is a guide to a surfeit of delectable volumes, while at 3 Quarks Daily Dave Maier selects his favourite ambient music of the year.

It’s not an easy life, but for Layne it is better than the alternative. “There is a generation of writers who think that it is a perfectly acceptable thing to accumulate a couple of hundred thousand dollars in student loan debt and go write “takes”—contrary opinion on things like ‘Why Dogs Are Actually The Worst Pet.’” None of it is new, he says, “it’s what people were doing when Rome burned.” But it has left us worse off, he says.

“I feel like we are post-language now,” he says. “Things are more symbolic. The relationship between words and facts and objectivity and their impact seems to have separated to the point where most of the writing that I see, especially on something like Twitter, is by people baffled that people don’t get what they are trying to say. It’s depressing.”

Dominic Rushe on how Ken Layne created an alternative to clickbait in the desert

• “Underworlds, otherworlds, so many passageways on this earth to elsewheres, especially during these weeks of the year.” Nina MacLaughlin on The Shadows below the Shadows.

Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2020. Thanks again for the link here!

• The week in strange worlds: The Strange World of Colossive Press, and The Strange World of Robbie Basho.

• The Images Wish To Speak: An interview with artist Carrie Ann Baade.

Jackson Arn on why so many filmmakers have paid homage to Pieter Bruegel.

Physicists nail down the “Magic Number” that shapes the Universe.

Dreams, Built By Hand

Shadow (1990) by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan | Shadows (1994) by Pram | Shadow Of A Twisted Hand Across My House (2001) by I.E.M.

The Spring Codex

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Lou Taylor Pucci in Spring.

It was good to finally see Spring (2014) at the weekend, the film that Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead made in between their connected time-twisters, Resolution (2012) and The Endless (2017). Halfway through Spring there’s a blink-and-you-miss-it moment of intertextuality when the poster above is shown among the pictures that cover the apartment walls of the mysterious Louise (Nadia Hilker). Most of the other pictures in the room are charts that depict the stages of animal evolution; Louise’s poster also depicts a process of evolution but one that occurs only within the pages of the Codex Seraphinianus (1981), the celebrated guidebook to an invented world by Luigi Serafini. If you’re familiar with Serafini’s drawing, which originally filled two pages of the Codex, then the reference is especially enjoyable. Spring‘s themes of sexual obsession and physical transformation are neatly paralleled here, as is the Italian setting of the film, Serafini being an Italian artist whose work is still more visible in Italy than elsewhere. Many other directors would give more attention to this but Benson & Moorhead leave the reference in the background.

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Spring is available on blu-ray in the UK from 101 Films. For more on the Codex Seraphinianus there’s this piece of mine written a few years ago for Fantastic Metropolis.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Codex Seraphinianus

Weekend links 546

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The next release on the Ghost Box label, Cosmorama is “tropicalia tinged psychedelic dream pop” by Beautify Junkyards. The album will be available in January. Design, as always, is by Julian House.

• Reading a review of John Gray’s Straw Dogs several years ago I remember thinking facetiously that Gray should write a follow-up about cats. (Straw Dogs isn’t a book about dogs.) The joke is on me with the publication of Gray’s latest, Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life. I should set up as a literary agent.

• All you need is doom: Plague Notes, Unnamed, Unknown, A Finger Dragged Through Dust, the debut album from My Heart, an Inverted Flame, is released on the 11th of this month. “Absolutely NO guitars were used in the casting of these drone metal voidscapes.” Excellent work.

• What a difference a week makes: “A Utah monolith enchanted millions and then it was gone, leaving mysteries behind.”

• En Pleine Mer: The underwater landscapes of Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez, 1867.

• Imaginative drawings of travel during a pandemic lockdown by Oscar Oiwa.

• The beauty of starling murmurations as photographed by Søren Solkær.

• Cosmic Dancer: Alice Finney on the strange world of Michael Clark.

• Mix of the week: Invaders by The Ephemeral Man.

Cosmos (1972) by Bruno Menny | Gliding Thru The Cosmophonic Dome (1981) by Bernard Xolotl | Radio Cosmos (1981) by Ippu-Do

Weekend links 545

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Colour wheel from The Natural System of Colours (1766) by Moses Harris.

• The Vatican’s favourite homosexual, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, receives the ludicrously expensive art-book treatment in a huge $22,000 study of the Sistine Chapel frescos. Thanks, but I’ll stick with Taschen’s XXL Tom of Finland collection which cost considerably less and contains larger penises. Related: How Taschen became the world’s most famous erotic publishers.

• “In a metaphorical sense, a book cover is also a frame around the text and a bridge between text and world.” Peter Mendelsund and David J. Alworth on what a book cover can do.

The Night Porter: Nazi porn or daring arthouse eroticism? Ryan Gilbey talks to director Liliana Cavani about a film that’s still more read about (and condemned) than seen.

What is important about reading [Walter] Benjamin’s texts written under the influence of drugs is how you can then read back into all his work much of this same “drug” mind-set; in his university student days, wrangling with Kant’s philosophy at great length, he famously stated, according to Scholem, that “a philosophy that does not include the possibility of soothsaying from coffee grounds and cannot explicate it cannot be a true philosophy.” That was in 1913, and Scholem adds that such an approach must be “recognized as possible from the connection of things.” Scholem recalled seeing on Benjamin’s desk a few years later a copy of Baudelaire’s Les paradis artificiels, and that long before Benjamin took any drugs, he spoke of “the expansion of human experience in hallucinations,” by no means to be confused with “illusions.” Kant, Benjamin said, “motivated an inferior experience.”

Michael Taussig on getting high with Benjamin and Burroughs

• “Utah monolith: Internet sleuths got there, but its origins are still a mystery.” The solution to the mystery—if there is one—will be inferior to the mystery itself.

After Beardsley (1981), a short animated film about Aubrey Beardsley by Chris James, is now available on YouTube in its complete form.

• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XXIII – An Ivy-Strangled Midwinter by David Colohan.

Charlie Huenemann on the Monas Hieroglyphica, Feynman diagrams, and the Voynich Manuscript.

Katy Kelleher on verdigris: the colour of oxidation, statues, and impermanence.

• A trailer for Athanor: The Alchemical Furnace, a documentary about Jan Svankmajer.

All doom and boom: what’s the heaviest music ever made?

• At Strange Flowers: Ludwig the Second first and last.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Krzysztof Kieslowski Day.

Ralph Steadman’s cultural highlights.

• RIP Daria Nicolodi.

Michael Angelo (1967) by The 23rd Turnoff | Nightporter (1980) by Japan | Verdigris (2020) by Roger Eno and Brian Eno