Weekend links 565

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The Labyrinth of Crete from Turris Babel (1679) by Athanasius Kircher.

• “My self appointed tutors were, in the order I discovered them, Robbe-Grillet, Borges, Nabokov, and Burgess. All of them associable in one way or another with labyrinths, all practitioners of non-linearity, all happy not to explain, all precursors of Godard’s celebrated and liberating ‘a beginning a middle and an end but not necessarily in that order.’ Burgess, of course, also came from the provincial lower middle class, and gave the address at Benny Hill’s funeral.” Jonathan Meades talking to Owen Hatherley about (what else?) the tastes and opinions which were always to the fore in his long-running series of TV films about architecture, art, food, and culture in general. This time last year I rewatched Meades’ TV oeuvre thanks to downloads from MeadesShrine and YouTube. It’s no surprise to learn that he won’t be making any more of these films now that the increasingly useless BBC has decided that the arts-oriented BBC 4 will be an archive channel only. The days are long past when someone like Meades would be given a new six-part series, or an artist like Leonora Carrington 50 minutes of BBC 1 airtime.

• Food and film: “As with so much else in his life, [Alfred] Hitchcock’s accomplice in this peculiar gastronomic odyssey was Alma Reville, his wife, best friend, longest-serving creative collaborator, and, to quote Hitchcock, ‘as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen.'” Edward White on Alma Reville and the status of food in the Hitchcock household.

• Food and books: “The supply of hides for parchment was always dependent on the dietary preferences of the local population… For hundreds of years, the transmission of knowledge had depended on carnivorous appetites and good animal husbandry.” Ross King on the laborious process of bookmaking in the 15th century.

• At Wormwoodiana: Sphinxes & Obelisks, a new collection of essays “on rare books and recondite subjects” by Mark Valentine.

• New music: crystallise, a frozen eye by James Ginzburg, and Multiverse by Gadi Sassoon.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…Amos Tutuola The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952).

• At Spoon & Tamago: Step inside the miniature worlds of Tatsuya Tanaka.

• Mixes of the week: 30 years of People Like Us, and Fact Mix 803 by oxhy.

And all that jazz: innovative album covers from the 1950s on.

• In praise of Edward Gorey, style icon.

Labyrinthe (1995) by Zbigniew Preisner | Labyrinth (2010) by Chrome Hoof | The Seventh Labyrinth (2018) by Pye Corner Audio

Weekend links 562

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Teenage Lightning (Les Éclairs au-dessous de quatorze ans) (c. 1925) by Max Ernst.

• “There has never been another director who has lain in wait for us with the same wrath or disgust. He is so complicated that finally he became the very thing he was nervous of admitting, a true artist best measured in the company of Patrick Hamilton, Francis Bacon, or Harold Pinter. He saw no reason to like us or himself.” David Thomson on why Alfred Hitchcock’s films still feel dangerous.

• New music: “Habitat, an environmental music collaboration by Berlin based composer Niklas Kramer and percussionist Joda Foerster, is inspired by the drawings of Italian architect Ettore Sottsass. Each of the eight tracks represents a room in an imaginary building.”

• “You could describe Lambkin’s work as a rich sort of ambient music, but largely without the synthetic textures that ambient music often possesses.” Geeta Dayal reviews Solos, a collection of recordings by Graham Lambkin.

Tom of Finland: Pen and Ink, 1965–1989 is an exhibition at the David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, which runs to 1st May. The website includes a virtual tour.

• More revenant gay art: Bibliothèque Gay reviews a new Spanish translation of Baiser de Narcisse by Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen.

• Introducing Ark Surreal: “Surreal collages by Allan Randolph Kausch. Some cute and sweet, others dark and intriguing.”

• At Artforum: Albert Mobilio on Extra Ordinary: Magic, Mystery, and Imagination in American Realism.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Shizuoka is installing monuments inspired by their plastic model industry.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jordan Belson Day.

Museum of Everything Else

• RIP Bertrand Tavernier.

Teenage Lightning 2 (1991) by Coil | Teenage Lightning (1992) by Skullflower | Teenage Lightning (Surgeon Remix) (2001) by Coil

Weekend links 540

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A century before William Burroughs: The Wild Boys of London (1866). No author credited.

• “Acid, nudity and sci-fi nightmares: why Hawkwind were the radicals of 1970s rock.” I like a headline guaranteed to upset old punks, even though many old punks had been Hawkwind fans. As noted last week, Joe Banks’ Hawkwind: Days of the Underground is now officially in print, hence this substantial Guardian feature in which the author reprises his core thesis. Mathew Lyons reviewed the book for The Quietus.

• “Roy Ayers and Fela Kuti each explored Pan-Africanism and diasporic solidarity their own way before their meeting in 1979.” John Morrison on the Roy Ayers and Fela Kuti collaboration, Music Of Many Colours.

• “In 1938, Joan Harrison read a galley of Daphne Du Maurier’s masterpiece. She wouldn’t rest until she had the rights to adapt it.” Christina Lane on Rebecca at 80, and the women behind the Hitchcock classic.

Each page features a distinct moment, seen from one perspective on the front, and from a diametrically opposed angle on the back, occasionally pivoting, for instance, between interior and exterior spaces. This organizing principle is complicated by the fact that a given image might be a depiction of the physical environment surrounding the camera or, at other times, a photograph of a photograph. Midway through, the scene is inverted such that the volume must be turned upside-down to be looked at right-side up. The result is an elegant, disorienting study in simultaneity that allows the viewer to enter the work from either end.

Cover to Cover (1975), a book by Michael Snow, has been republished by Light Industry and Primary Information

• At Public Domain Review: The Uncertain Heavens—Christiaan Huygens’ Ideas of Extraterrestrial Life by Hugh Aldersey-Williams.

• Penny Dreadfuls and Murder Broadsides: John Boardley explores the early days of pulp fiction and what he calls “murder fonts”.

• The lesbian partnership that changed literature: Emma Garman on Jane Heap, Margaret C. Anderson and The Little Review.

The 10th Tom of Finland Emerging Artist Competition is now open to entries. (Titter ye not.)

• Death Barge Life: Colin Fleming on Gericault’s grim masterpiece, The Raft of the Medusa.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…The Grand Grimoire: The Red Dragon (1702).

Music To Be Murdered By (1958) Jeff Alexander With Alfred Hitchcock | Murder Boy (1991) by Rain Parade | Murder In The Red Barn (1992) by Tom Waits

Weekend links 524

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Letter M from Abeceda (1942) by Jindrich Heisler.

• At the BFI: Matthew Thrift chooses 10 essential Ray Harryhausen films. “This is, I can assure the reader, the one and only time that I have eaten the actors. Hitchcock would have approved,” says Harryhausen about eating the crabs whose shells were used for Mysterious Island. Meanwhile, Alfred Hitchcock himself explains the attraction and challenges of directing thrillers.

“Although largely confined to the page, Haeusser’s violent fantasies were even less restrained, his writings littered with deranged, bloodthirsty, scatological scenarios.” Strange Flowers on Ludwig Christian Haeusser and the “Inflation Saints” of Weimar Germany.

• Death, Pestilence, Emptiness: Putting covers on Albert Camus’s The Plague; Dylan Mulvaney on the different design approaches to a classic novel.

• A trailer (more of a teaser) for Last and First Men, a film adaptation of Olaf Stapledon’s novel by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…James Purdy: The Complete Short Stories of James Purdy.

Al Jaffee at 99: Gary Groth and Jaffee talk comics and humour.

Steven Heller on Command Records’ design distinction.

Czech Surrealism at Flickr.

Sisters with Transistors.

Solitude by Hakobune.

Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares (1974) by Tangerine Dream | Mysterious Traveller (Dust Devils Mix) (1994) by System 7 | The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra (2018) by Anna von Hausswolff

Chance encounters on the dissecting table

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In times of great uncertainty about our mission, we often looked at the fixed points of Lautréamont and De Chirico, which sufficed to determine our straight line.

André Breton, Surrealism and Painting, 1928

1: The metaphor, 1869

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You can’t read the history of Surrealism for very long before encountering some variation of the most famous line from Les Chants de Maldoror by the Comte de Lautréamont/Isidore Ducasse: “beautiful as a chance encounter on a dissecting table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella”. Translations vary, as do misquotations; the page above is from the Alexis Lykiard translation where you can also read the surrounding text. The context of the description is seldom mentioned when the quote is used, and reveals that the words are describing the attractiveness of an English schoolboy living with his parents in Paris. The insipid Mervyn is stalked, seduced and finally murdered by the villainous Maldoror. Lautréamont’s metaphor, like so much else in the book, carries a sting in its tail.

2: The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse, 1920

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Man Ray, like Mervyn, was a foreigner living in Paris when he created this artwork. The “enigma” may be taken as referring both to the wrapped object (a sewing machine sans umbrella) as well as to the mysterious author of Les Chants de Maldoror, who died at the age of 24 after writing his explosive prose poem, and about whose life little is known. I first encountered Ducasse’s name in art books showing pictures of this piece which is one of the earliest works of Surrealist art. For a young art enthusiast the enigma was more in the name itself: who was this Ducasse, and why was he enigmatic? The original of Man Ray’s piece was subsequently lost, like many of his pre-war sculptures, but may be seen inside the first issue of La Révolution Surrealiste. Editions of the work that exist today are recreations made in the 1970s.

3: An illustration for Les Chants de Maldoror, 1934

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Salvador Dalí created 30 full-page etchings and 12 vignettes for an illustrated edition of Lautréamont’s work published by Skira in Paris in 1934. Dalí must have seemed an ideal match for a book whose prose descriptions offer copious atrocities and mutations but, as with many of Dalí’s illustrations, the pictures owe more to his obsessions than to Lautréamont’s text, and could easily be used to illustrate something else entirely. Plate 19 does, however, feature a sewing machine.

4: Electrosexual Sewing Machine, 1935

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A Surrealist painting by Oscar Dominguez which emphasises the sexual nature of Lautréamont’s metaphor, or at least the Freudian interpretation of the same. Breton and company took the sewing machine for a female symbol, while the umbrella was male; the dissecting table where their encounter takes place is, of course, a bed.

[In Electrosexual Sewing Machine] the dissection appears to be under way. There is a strange abusive surgery being undertaken, the thread of the sewing machine replaced with blood which is being funnelled onto the woman’s back. The plant itself may even echo de Lautréamont’s umbrella. Domínguez has taken one of the central mantras of Breton’s Surreal universe and has pushed it, through a combination of painterly skill and semi-automatism, in order to create an absorbing and haunting vision that cuts to the quick of the movement’s spirit. (via)

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