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


 

Mikhail Viesel’s Invisible Cities

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Thin Cities 2: Zenobia.

I’ve a lot of work to get through this week so the theme will be illustrated Calvino, and that means looking at various renderings of the Invisible Cities. Calvino’s novel has many attractions for illustrators, at least superficially: all those descriptions, the endless variety and invention. Whether the book should be illustrated at all is another matter. The conversations between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan that bracket each chapter return continually to the veracity of the Venetian’s descriptions; this in turn places each city in a nebulous zone where the reader may see the places described as being simultaneously an actual place and a fabrication. And then there’s the question of Calvino’s anachronisms, with mentions of railway stations and the like… Visual adaptations of elusive fictions have a tendency to literalise the subject in a manner that isn’t always to the benefit of the book.

With that proviso in mind, this first selection of drawings are by a Russian artist, Mikhail Viesel, who illustrates each of the cities. All may be seen at this page with section titles in English although the text for each picture is in Russian.

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Cities and Eyes 3: Baucis.

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Thin Cities 5: Octavia.

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Hidden Cities 4: Theodora.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Bookmark: Italo Calvino
Crossed destinies revisted
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
Tressants: the Calvino Hotel

 


Weekend links 265

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The White House, Washington DC, on the evening of June 26, 2015.

I can remember that after the cops cleared us out of the bar we clustered in Christopher Street around the entrance to the Stonewall. The customers were not being arrested, but a paddy wagon had already hauled off several of the bartenders. Two or three policemen stayed behind, locked inside with the remaining members of staff, waiting for the return of the paddy wagon. During that interval someone in the defiant crowd outside called out “Gay Power”, which caused us all to laugh. The notion that gays might become militant after the manner of blacks seemed amusing for two reasons—first because we gay men were used to thinking of ourselves as too effeminate to protest anything, and second because most of us did not consider ourselves to be a legitimate minority.

At that time we perceived ourselves as separate individuals at odds with society because we were “sick” (the medical model), “sinful” (the religious model), “deviant” (the sociological model) or “criminal” (the legal model). Some of these words we might have said lightly, satirically, but no amount of wit could convince us that our grievances should be remedied or our status defended. We might ask for compassion but we could not demand justice. Many gays either were in therapy or felt they should be, and the words gay liberation would have seemed as preposterous to us as neurotic liberation (now, of course, Thomas S. Szasz in the United States, RD Laing in Britain and Felix Guattari on the Continent have, in their different ways, made even that phrase plausible enough).

What I want to stress is that before 1969 only a small (though courageous and articulate) number of gays had much pride in their homosexuality or a conviction that their predilections were legitimate. The rest of us defined our homosexuality in negative terms, and those terms isolated us from one another. We might claim Plato and Michelangelo as homosexuals and revere them for their supposed affinities with us, but we could just as readily dismiss, even despise, a living thinker or artist for being gay. Rich gays may have derived pleasure from their wealth, educated gays from their knowledge, talented gays from their gifts, but few felt anything but regret about their homosexuality as such. To be sure, particular sexual encounters, and especially particular love relationships, were gratifying then as now, but they were explained as happy accidents rather than as expected results.

Edmund White writing on The Political Vocabulary of Homosexuality (1980). Reprinted in The Burning Library: Writings on Art, Politics and Sexuality (1994).

• “…after seeing Don’t Look Now, The Wicker Man looked just so dull and flat. What Don’t Look Now has that The Wicker Man doesn’t is a complete mastery of cinema. Don’t Look Now is almost a silent movie, a brilliant, coherent, original and fantastic film that has an enormous emotional impact.” Bernard Rose emoting at length about Nicolas Roeg. Related: Wild Hearts Run Out Of Time, the Roy Orbison video that Rose mentions directing.

• “The male sex organ is depicted not so much as a body part, but more as a fetish object in its own right—a thing independent of the male body, worthy of intense, delirious veneration.” Jason Farago reviewing Tom of Finland: the Pleasure of Play. Related: Same-sex desire through the ages at the British Museum.

• “Sphinx is a typical love story only in the way that it’s the tale of two people who have fallen in love, and things don’t go smoothly. Beyond that…as reader, you have no idea of the gender of either half of this romantic equation.” Chris Clarke reviewing Sphinx, a novel by Anne Garréta.

• “To give space to the musical elements was really a thrill—how far can you get without using too much stuff?” Moritz von Oswald on “the sounds of emptiness”.

• “The problem is not always Helvetica but that Helvetica is all too often the default, the fall-back, the I-really-can’t-be-arsed choice,” says John Boardley.

• Mix of the week: Shaft’s Old Man: An Imaginary Soul Jazz Soundtrack by Aquarium Drunkard.

• “What is the Cut-Up Method?” Ken Hollings explains in a BBC magazine piece and radio feature.

• Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass, the final TV serial, will be released on Blu-ray next month.

• Relevant to the week’s reading: an archived Italo Calvino site.

Drÿad: a Tumblr.

Sphinx (1989) by Syd Straw | The Sodom And Gomorrah Show (2006) by Pet Shop Boys | Pattern 1 (2009) by Moritz Von Oswald Trio

 


Lichtspiel Schwarz-Weiss-Grau, a film by László Moholy-Nagy

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A beguiling short from 1930 made by the Hungarian artist to demonstrate the patterns of light and shade created by his Light-Space Modulator (aka Light Prop for an Electric Stage, 1922–1930), an early kinetic sculpture. The film could have worked well enough as a series of documentary shots but Moholy-Nagy compounds the effects with superimposition, lens fragmentation and even a brief negative sequence. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ballet Mécanique

 


English printers’ ornaments

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As a book designer you can never have too many printers’ ornaments, especially if you’re required to mimic period designs. These are from a historical overview, English Printers’ Ornaments (1924) by Henry Robert Plomer. Ideally I’d prefer several volumes gathering hundreds of these things from different periods but such a hoard seems a distant dream. Collections like this, and contemporary ones by Dover et al, usually have to suffice instead.

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Read the rest of this entry »

 


The recurrent pose 56

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A pair of literary poses for this increasingly sluggish series. Both these titles are gay-themed to a greater or lesser degree. James Purdy (1914–2009) received much praise from contemporaries while he was alive but, like Angus Wilson, he’s one of those writers’ writers you don’t hear about today. Outsiders were a favourite Purdy theme, and he wrote several novels about gay characters, of which Narrow Rooms is considered something of a classic. I’ve not read it but going by descriptions the use of Flandrin’s painting on this cover from 1980 would seem a little lazy. This later use on the cover of Teleny (another gay classic) at least suits the French theme. (Thanks to Sander for the tip!)

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The second volume hasn’t been published yet but Callum James posted the cover proof on Twitter a few days ago so I hope he doesn’t mind my showing it here. The book is a collection of letters by Frederick Rolfe aka Baron Corvo. I don’t know whether this is one of Rolfe’s own photos but he enjoyed photographing naked youths so even if it isn’t his work it suits the book. Further news about the publication should be announced at Front Free Endpaper.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The recurrent pose archive

 


 



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Penda's Fen by David Rudkin