{ feuilleton }

Avatar

• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Weekend links 231

advisory.jpg

Design by Julian House.

Always good to hear of a new release on the Ghost Box label, and a new album by The Advisory Circle (due on 5th December) is especially welcome. From Out Here is described thus: “Exploring darker territory than 2012’s more pastoral As The Crow Flies, The Advisory Circle hint at a Wyndham-esque science fiction story, where bucolic English scenery is being manipulated and maybe even artificially generated by bizarre multi-dimensional computer technology.” The Belbury Parish Magazine has extracts.

• Jon Hassell’s Fourth World Music Vol. I: Possible Musics receives a long-overdue reissue next month. Possible Musics was a collaboration with Brian Eno, and Eno has some of his own albums reissued again in expanded editions. Most notable is the first official release of My Squelchy Life, an album that was withdrawn in 1991 to be replaced by Nerve Net.

• Some Halloween theatre on Friday (the 31st) at the Museum of Bath at Work with a dramatisation of Ringing the Changes by Robert Aickman. There’s a repeat performance the following week (8th November) with added spectral atmospherics from the Electric Pentangle. Free admission.

The value of these books wasn’t anything wholesome they contained, or any moral instruction they offered. Rather, it was the process of finding them, the thrill of reading them, the way the books themselves, like the men they depicted, detached you from the familiar moral landscape. They gave a name to the palpable, physical loneliness of sexual solitude, but they also greatly increased your intellectual and emotional solitude. Until very recently, the canon of literature for a gay kid was discovered entirely alone, by threads of connection that linked authors from intertwined demimondes. It was smuggling, but also scavenging. There was no internet, no “customers who bought this item also bought,” no helpful librarians steeped in the discourse of tolerance and diversity, and certainly no one in the adult world who could be trusted to give advice and advance the project of limning this still mostly forbidden body of work.

Smuggler: A Memoir of Gay Male Literature by Philip Kennicott

• Getting in before the Mixcloud Halloween rush, mix of the week is Samhain Seance 3: Better Dead Than Never by The Ephemeral Man. My Halloween mix for this year is almost finished; watch the skies.

• For those who can’t wait until December for From Out Here, there’s a new Howlround album, Torridon Gate, out this week from A Year In The Country.

• Last week, Yello’s Boris Blank was choosing favourite electronic albums, this week he runs through a list of thirteen favourite albums.

Altered Balance: A Tribute to Coil by Jeremy Reed & Karolina Urbaniak. Richard Fontenoy reviewed the book for The Quietus.

Cut-Ups: William S. Burroughs 1914–2014, an exhibition of Burroughs’ typescripts at Boo-Hooray, NYC, from 7th November.

Brando, a film by Gisèle Vienne for the song by Scott Walker & Sunn O))).

NASA has a Soundcloud page

The art of leaves

Cobra Moon (1979) by Jon Hassell | Moon On Ice (1987) by Yello feat. Billy MacKenzie | Moon’s Milk Or Under An Unquiet Skull Pt. I (1998) by Coil

 


Igor Mitoraj, 1944–2014

mitoraj1.jpg

Testa Addormentata (photo by Dave Miles).

The first I saw of the work of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj was the serene bronze face, Light of the Moon, sitting outside the British Museum in the late 1990s. I’ve enjoyed seeing pictures of his other sculptures ever since so it was dismaying to read of his death earlier this month.

mitoraj2.jpg

Untitled (photo by Carlo Columba).

Mitoraj’s statuary often resembled the colossal fragments of a lost antiquity but there were contemporary touches: the bound faces are a recurrent feature you won’t find in the Classical world, and some of his statues are inset with miniature versions of themselves or similar figures. The Medusa head below shows the attention to detail: a small escutcheon on one of his winged figures that wears a tiny face on its brow.

mitoraj3.jpg

Light of the Moon (photo by Katie Mollon).

One benefit of his work being shown outdoors is the quantity of photographs. The selection here is from a Creative Commons search at Flickr. The site has many more examples.

• Obituaries: Guardian | Telegraph

Read the rest of this entry »

 


Knapp’s Egypt

knappegypt01.jpg

One last post about American illustrator J. Augustus Knapp. Egypt (1900) is a slim volume by Laura G. Collins that presents a poetic remembrance of an Egyptian visit with embellishments and drawings by Knapp. The text is hand-written in that peculiar tree-branch style you often find in 19th-century literature, while Knapp’s illustrations look to have been copied from photos; the Sphinx is a familiar enough sight for us to see that the artist takes liberties with the perspective. I have a couple of Victorian photo-books of views of the world featuring Egyptian scenes that are almost identical to some of these. An odd volume with a stylish binding that includes Knapp’s monogram under the author’s name.

knappegypt02.jpg

knappegypt03.jpg

knappegypt04.jpg

Read the rest of this entry »

 


The occult Knapp

knapp01.jpg

Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Norse mythology.

Following up the work of Etidorhpa‘s illustrator, J. Augustus Knapp (1853–1938), I realised that I’d already encountered some of his later paintings. After illustrating books by John Uri Lloyd, Knapp moved to California where he met occult historian, mystic and book collector Manly Palmer Hall. Knapp exchanged Lloyd’s fungi researches and weird fiction for Hall’s mysticism, illustrating The Initiates of the Flame (1922), and Hall’s magnum opus, The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928). Knapp’s 54 paintings for the latter volume have since proved convenient for the occult encyclopedias that followed, many of which plundered Hall’s study for its illustrations. Knapp’s depictions aren’t always very successful—Odin’s wolves look silly rather than fierce—but they served Hall’s purpose of fixing mythological characters and metaphysical schemes in a colourful manner for a contemporary audience.

knapp06.jpg

Mithra in the form of Boundless Time.

Hall and Knapp also produced their own Tarot deck (see here and here) which can still be bought today from the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles. The UPR was founded by Manly Hall, and has a collection of Knapp’s paintings. They also sell Hall’s books, of course, and you can browse a copy of The Secret Teachings of All Ages if you visit the library, as I discovered in 2005 when Jay Babcock and I paid the place a visit.

knapp10.jpg

The Key to Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Read the rest of this entry »

 


Etidorhpa by John Uri Lloyd

etidorhpa01.jpg

I wouldn’t usually post so many illustrations but these depictions by J. Augustus Knapp for Etidorhpa by John Uri Lloyd add a great deal to the attractions of this early work of science fiction. Lloyd’s book is subtitled The End of Earth; The Strange History of a Mysterious Being; The account of a remarkable journey as communicated in manuscript to Llewellyn Drury who promised to print the same, but finally evaded the responsibility. The novel was published in 1895, and shares features with similar works that concern travellers exploring the interior of the Earth. What sets it apart is a degree of imagination that generated enough interest for it to be reprinted many times.

etidorhpa02.jpg

Science fiction and fantasy evolved so rapidly in the early 20th century that the products of previous centuries often seem uninventive in comparison. Whatever hidden cities, lost continents or subterranean kingdoms are promised, too many of them reveal a race of pompous individuals, usually clad in Greek, Roman or Egyptian attire with little variety to their civilisations unless their world is also populated by the odd monster or two. The manuscript in Lloyd’s novel relates a journey to the Earth’s interior by a bearded, white-haired character variously named I-Am-The-Man and The-Man-Who-Did-It who reads his adventures in a series of visits to the irresponsible Llewellyn Drury. I-Am-The-Man is kidnapped by a secret society who take him to a cave in Kentucky where he’s eventually delivered into the care of a mysterious, unnamed guide from the subterranean world:

The speaker stood in a stooping position, with his face towards the earth as if to shelter it from the sunshine. He was less than five feet in height. His arms and legs were bare, and his skin, the color of light blue putty, glistened in the sunlight like the slimy hide of a water dog. He raised his head, and I shuddered in affright as I beheld that his face was not that of a human. His forehead extended in an unbroken plane from crown to cheek bone, and the chubby tip of an abortive nose without nostrils formed a short projection near the center of the level ridge which represented a countenance. There was no semblance of an eye, for there were no sockets. Yet his voice was singularly perfect. His face, if face it could be called, was wet, and water dripped from all parts of his slippery person.

The illustrations by J. Augustus Knapp show the guide as naked but conveniently sexless. The pair descend into the Earth’s interior where they encounter a succession of wonders, from giant fungi (possibly derived from A Journey to the Centre of the Earth) and a sea of “crystal liquid” which the pair traverse in a metal boat, to a variety of strange fauna and flora. Knapp’s illustrations make the journey seem much more interesting than it is on the page where Lloyd spends far too much time lecturing the reader—there’s a chapter about the evils of drunkenness—or having I-Am-The-Man relate his continual bewilderment. “Etidorhpa”, it turns out, is “Aphrodite” reversed, and Etidorhpa herself appears as the embodiment of love at the culmination of what has become a spiritual journey rather like a weak precursor of David Lindsay’s extraordinary A Voyage to Arcturus (1920). Lindsay had the good sense to write a continuous narrative whereas Lloyd frequently interrupts his story with scientific speculations that seek to qualify some of the less outlandish features of his interior world. There’s also a curious note from the author on page 276 about the various properties of intoxicating drugs, and the possibility that they might be combined by a chemist to create strange visions for a writer. Lloyd was a chemist as well as a writer so the speculation that he might have experimented on himself—and thus produced this book—is understandable. Speculation aside, L. Sprague de Camp dismissed the novel as “unreadable” (despite its multiple reprintings) whereas HP Lovecraft apparently enjoyed it. You can judge for yourself here.

etidorhpa03.jpg

etidorhpa04.jpg

Read the rest of this entry »

 


 




 

tracker

 


 

“feed your head”

 

Below the fold

 

Penda's Fen by David Rudkin