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


 

Weekend links 336

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Visit in Night (1951) by Toshiko Okanoue.

• Rhythms of the World: Bombay and All That Jazz; a 60-minute BBC documentary featuring Trilok Gurtu, L. Shankar, Don Cherry, Alice Coltrane, Zakir Hussain and others. The quality of the full-length copy is a little rough so it’s worth noting the six-part version here.

Adam Scovell talks to Leah Moore and John Reppion about adapting the ghost stories of MR James for the comics medium. Related: The Corner of Some Foreign Field, a short piece of folk horror written by Martin Hayes with art by Alfie Gallagher.

Callum James on the overtly gay nature of Films and Filming magazine (1959–1990). Having seen a few copies over the years I’d always suspected this but didn’t realise it was so persistent. Related: The Boy and the Wolf by Callum James.

• At Dangerous Minds: Lucifer Rising live in concert: Bobby Beausoleil and the Freedom Orchestra perform their Kenneth Anger soundtrack, 1978.

Simon Says: A rare cassette tape of instructions by Peter Levenda for using the Simon Necronomicon (1977) as a grimoire.

• Mixes of the week: Fact Mix 577 by Outer Space, and Incantations and Manifestations by Melmoth_The_Wanderer.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: _Black_Acrylic presents … Art Sex Music: A Cosey Fanni Tutti Day.

• Up from the Abyss: Brenda SG Walter on Rammstein, Lovecraft and Sea Zombies.

• Cinematic Alchemy: Christopher Gibbs on designing sets for Performance (1970).

• Magic carpets: the art of Faig Ahmed‘s melted and pixellated rugs.

• Drips, pop and Dollars: the music that made Ennio Morricone.

• At Bibliothèque Gay: Cocteau et quelques autres.

• “Sleepers Awake!” says Moon Wiring Club.

Can your city change your mind?

The Paul Laffoley Archive

The Ambivalent Abyss (2001) by Lustmord | Byss And Abyss (2004) by Espers | Dark Bullet From The Abyss (2010) by Pleq

 


Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

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Here at last is the small hardback book I spent most of February and March working on. Pirate Utopia is published this week, and I’m pleased that it’s been very well received, with reviews drawing attention to the illustration and design as well as the text. This is a dieselpunk alternate history which begins in 1920:

WHO are these bold revolutionaries pillaging their confused European neighbours? The Futurists! Utopian outlaws of Italy’s tiny Regency of Carnaro, unlikely scourge of the Adriatic Sea!

It is the end of the Great War, and yet there is unrest in newly formed Carnaro. Carnaro is utterly in thrall to all things new, no matter how impractical or improbable. Futurism unites artists, pirates, propagandists, veterans, scientists, and libertines alike; military innovation and unabashed gratification rule the day. No one will rest until they crush Europe’s communists, capitalists, fascists, and bewildered coastal townsfolk.

But some have theorized that the Soldier-Citizens of Carnaro are not completely sane. At the dawn of mutiny, they are led by on ever-changing, passionate coterie, which may include:

* Lorenzo Secondari, the infamous Pirate Engineer, leader of ferocious Croatian raiders (and theatre enthusiasts)
* Blanka Piffer, staunch patriot and smartly clad Syndicalist manager of a torpedo factory staffed exclusively by women
* The Prophet, charismatic warrior-poet ruthless dictator, and very active proponent of free love
* The Ace of Hearts, dashing aristocrat spy, yogi, drug pusher, and combat pilot
* The Art Witch, the compelling Milanese millionairesse in the inner circle and mysterious, avid occultist

Two infamous Americans have arrived in Carnaro offering a Faustian bargain. Will HP Lovecraft and Houdini betray their own nation, and lead the Futurists to international glory?

No need to emphasis the pertinence of a story of global political turmoil appearing at this point in time. Back in March the traumas of Brexit and the US election were mere possibilities rather than the unavoidable facts they are today. Pirate Utopia doesn’t necessarily reflect the present moment but some of the resonances are, shall we say, suggestive. Bruce Sterling, as noted earlier, is a futurist (as distinct from a Futurist), and had this to say recently about the current state of affairs.

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The chapter spreads and other interior graphics run variations of the works of Fortunato Depero and others. Depero was an ideal choice not only because his work tends to the cartoonish—this is a humorous book about serious matters—but much of it is bold and monochromatic, ideal for deployment as black-and-white graphics. Ordinarily I’d write a little more about the art influences, but since I already did so inside the book itself it seems better to encourage those who want to know more to buy a copy. You can, however, see a few more of the page layouts here. A book about Interesting Times for Interesting Times. Join the Futurist Revolution!

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Futurismo!

 


Weekend links 335

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The Expectation (1936) by Richard Oelze.

Richard Oelze, 1900–1980 is an exhibition of paintings and drawings at the Michael Werner Gallery, London, which runs until January 2017. More Surrealist works by Oelze may be seen at But Does It Float and Ubu Gallery.

Will McMorran on the problems of translating the Marquis de Sade’s most obscene work. Related: Jay Sina on Sexistential Horror: HP Lovecraft and the Marquis de Sade as perverse peers.

• Mixes of the week: More Halloween horror at No Condition Is Permanent, Secret Thirteen Mix 200 by JK Flesh, and a mix for The Wire by Botany.

The Chronicles of Clovis (1911), a story collection by Saki (HH Munro) who died 100 years ago this week.

• “Jack is 24, sometimes he’s a drag queen named Sabrina.” The Queen (1968).

• The Mindset of the Macabre: An interview with Abigail Larson.

• “The world is full of bloviators,” says MAD cartoonist Al Jaffee.

Ginette Vincendeau on how the French birthed film noir.

• How to throw a dinner party like Salvador Dalí.

Sastanàqqàm, another new song by Tinariwen.

• At A Year In The Country: more Quatermass.

• Photographs by Klaartje Lambrechts.

Paul Bailey on Pasolini’s lost boys.

Adam Shatz on Leonard Cohen.

Subterranean London

Joan Of Arc (1986) by Jennifer Warnes with Leonard Cohen | Who By Fire (1986) by Coil | The Future (1992) by Leonard Cohen

 


The mystery of trams

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Chateau de Labonnecuyere (c. 1970s) by The Brothers Quay.

Trams are a recurrent feature in the early drawings of the Brothers Quay, and they’ve also appeared in the Quays’ earliest animated films and in some of their designs for the stage. I respond to this fetishisation on the deepest level having been born and raised on the Fylde coast of Lancashire, an area which was for many years the only place in Britain that kept its tramways after the rest of the country had given over the streets to buses and cars. Trams are so ingrained in my consciousness that I still dream about the trams of my childhood, many of which were rattling, streamlined things dating back to the 1930s. Manchester was tramless when I arrived in the city in 1982 but a few years later the council embarked on an ambitious and far-sighted scheme to return trams to the city’s streets. The first routes opened in 1991, and the network has been evolving ever since, pushing out of the centre along disused rail lines.

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La Rue du Tramway (1938–1939) by Paul Delvaux.

The Quays aren’t alone in being attracted to this form of public transport. Trams haunt a certain type of oneiric European imagination, and I often wonder where the attraction lies. I think it’s something to do with their small scale and the way they remain bounded within the cities they serve. Trains have a romance and mythology of their own but are wide-ranging and far more common, as are buses whose presence on a city street is a reminder that the tram can be replaced. The Quays are Europhiles so they no doubt see the trams of the Continent as another feature of European city life that’s more arresting to American eyes. This post gathers some of the Quays’ uses together with other notable (and favourite) examples.

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Tram nocturne (1950) by Paul Delvaux.

Several of the examples listed here are Belgian which either means that trams exercise the Belgian imagination more than that of other nations, or I happen to pay more attention to Belgian art. (Probably a little of both.) Paul Delvaux put trams into several paintings but seems to have been the only Surrealist to do so.

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The trams that haunt my imagination are the cream-and-green vehicles that trundled for decades up and down the Fylde coast between Blackpool and Fleetwood. These machines used to run along the line at the end of the street I grew up in so there’s never been a day I can remember when I wasn’t aware of the tram—and of these vehicles in particular—as a viable mode of public transport. Looking at the websites of tram enthusiasts reveals the different names for each generation of Blackpool trams; so I now know that the bow-ended ones (which I always liked) are known as Brush Railcoaches, while the double-deckers are known as Balloons. None of these names were ever used by locals.

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Back to Belgium, and the comics and illustrations drawn by the marvellous François Schuiten are filled with trams. I’ve written at length about the Obscure World mythos of Schuiten and Peeters so rather than repeat myself I’ll point to the mystery of Tram 81, a recurrent and unexplained presence in Schuiten’s work.

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Nocturna Artificiala.

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Nocturna Artificiala.

Trams for the Brothers Quay are the small European variety rather than the streetcars seen in some American cities. One of the brothers’ Black Drawings, Chateau de Labonnecuyere, features a pantographed vehicle that glides through their later animated films. The first of these, Nocturna Artificiala (1979), is a wordless masque involving the yearning relationship between the solitary puppet character and an empty, nocturnal tram. The film is an animated extension of Chateau de Labonnecuyere which not only features the drawing itself but also includes a unique moment where the tram glides through the vast cathedral seen in the background.

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Leos Janacek: Intimate Excursions.

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Leos Janacek: Intimate Excursions.

The power-line supports seen in Chateau de Labonnecuyere are a recurrent motif in the Quays’ works. They appear together with the Nocturna Artificiala tram in Leos Janacek: Intimate Excursions (1983), and may be glimpsed among the faded detritus in Street of Crocodiles (1986).

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Avalon.

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Avalon.

I don’t know what the Quays would make of the science-fiction scenario of Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon (2001) but the recurrent scenes of a nocturnal tram journey would probably appeal, especially since the tram in question is a Polish one. Mamoru Oshii is the director of many SF-oriented animations, not least The Ghost in the Shell (1995). Avalon was a surprise when it appeared (and then seemed to vanish all-too-quickly): a live-action drama concerning the players of a virtual reality game which can have lethal consequences for the contestants. The film was made in Poland with a Polish cast, and the scenes are heavily processed throughout, with everything given a sepia wash. Coming after The Matrix, Dark City et al, the virtual reality aspect wasn’t so much of a surprise but I loved the juxtaposition of a futuristic story in a run-down European setting. And the trams, of course. The dream-like atmosphere of the film’s mundane scenes brings everything back to Delvaux and his tram nocturnes.

I was going to add Tramway (1966) to this list, a short student film directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski, but it’s not especially mysterious. It’s worth a look if you like Kieslowski, however, and may be watched here. If anyone has suggestions for other mysterious trams then please leave a comment.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Paul Delvaux: The Sleepwalker of Saint-Idesbald

 


Weekend links 334

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Pixel Forest (2016) by Pipilotti Rist.

• “Think about it: gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people were almost completely invisible in the movies or on television, or even in newspapers and magazines. It wasn’t until LGBT people started producing their own media that we started to see consistent, positive images. But it would take until very recently for TV and cinema to catch up with what happened in books and magazines decades ago. In other words, nearly all LGBT culture only existed in print or at the bar. So when the queer bookstore disappears, where else can you find 40+ years of LGBT culture? (Hint: it’s not on Netflix.)” Ken White on starting Query Books and republishing classic LGBT literature.

• Related to the above: David Shariatmadari reviews a new edition of Coming Out, Jeffrey Weeks’ history of gay emancipation in the UK; Modern Harmonic is reissuing Love Is A Drag, a collection of “love songs by men, for men”, first released in 1962; Your Daily Male 2017: 52 international artists, 365 pages of full-colour male art; erotic portraits of Yukio Mishima by Eikoh Hosoe.

A Year In The Country revisits The Touchables (1968), a film about four Swinging Sixties girls who live in a huge plastic bubble in the countryside (must be a nightmare in winter); the quartet kidnap a rock star as “a temporary solution to the leisure problem”. Script by Ian La Frenais from a story by David & Donald Cammell. No DVD but it’s on YouTube.

• Mixes of the week are still in the Halloween zone: FACT mix 575 by Fenriz, and Resting Lich Face by SeraphicManta.

• War, love and weirdness: Brian Dillon on Powell & Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death, 70 years on.

• Bringing back the magic: a conversation with Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions.

David Toop listens, finally, to the legendary John Latham recordings of Pink Floyd.

The Synth Sounds of John Carpenter: Halloween, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13.

• “Creep or craftsman? Hitchcock was both,” says Tom Shone.

The Dazzling Designs for a New York That Never Existed

Photography by Harry Gruyaert

The Untouchables (1959) by Nelson Riddle | The Touchables (All Of Us) (1968) by Nirvana (UK) | The Touchables (1980) by The Human League

 


 



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Penda's Fen by David Rudkin