Max Ernst’s favourites

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The cover for the Max Ernst number of View magazine (April, 1942) that appears in Charles Henri Ford’s View: Parade of the Avant-Garde was one I didn’t recall seeing before. This was a surprise when I’d spent some time searching for back issues of the magazine. The conjunction of Ernst with Buer, one of the perennially popular demons drawn by Louis Le Breton for De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, doubles the issue’s cult value in my eyes. I don’t know whether the demon was Ernst’s choice but I’d guess so when many of the De Plancy illustrations resemble the hybrid creatures rampaging through Ernst’s collages. Missing from the Ford book is the spread below which uses more De Plancy demons to decorate lists of the artist’s favourite poets and painters. I’d have preferred a selection of favourite novelists but Ford was a poet himself (he also co-wrote an early gay novel with Parker Tyler, The Young and Evil), and the list is still worth seeing.

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Poets: Charles Baudelaire, Friedrich Hölderlin, Alfred Jarry, Edgar Allan Poe, George Crabbe, Guillaume Apollinaire, Walt Whitman, Comte de Lautréamont, Robert Browning, Arthur Rimbaud, William Blake, Achim von Arnim, Victor Hugo, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Shakespeare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lewis Carroll, Novalis, Heinrich Heine, Solomon (presumably the author of the Song of Solomon).

Painters: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Giovanni Bellini, Hieronymus Bosch, Matthias Grünewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Georges Seurat, Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Baldung, Vittore Carpaccio, Leonardo Da Vinci, Cosimo Tura, Carlo Crivelli, Giorgio de Chirico, Henri Rousseau, Francesco del Cossa, Piero di Cosimo, NM Deutsch (Niklaus Manuel), Vincent van Gogh.

I’ve filled out the names since some of the typography isn’t easy to read. Some of the choices are also uncommon, while one of them—NM Deutsch—is not only a difficult name to search for but the attribution has changed in recent years. The list of poets contains few surprises but it’s good to see that Poe made an impression on Ernst; the choice of painters is less predictable. Bruegel, Bosch and Rousseau are to be expected, and the same goes for the German artists—Grünewald, Baldung—whose work is frequently grotesque or erotic. But I wouldn’t have expected so many names from the Italian Renaissance, and Seurat is a genuine surprise. As for Ernst’s only living contemporary, Giorgio de Chirico, this isn’t a surprise at all but it reinforces De Chirico’s importance. If you removed Picasso from art history De Chirico might be the most influential painter of the 20th century; his Metaphysical works had a huge impact on the Dada generation, writers as well as artists, and also on René Magritte who was never a Dadaist but who lost interest in Futurism when he saw a reproduction of The Song of Love (1914). Picasso’s influence remains rooted in the art world while De Chirico’s disquieting dreams extend their shadows into film and literature, so it’s all the more surprising that this phase of his work was so short lived. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Viewing View
De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal
Max Ernst album covers
Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie
Max and Dorothea
Dreams That Money Can Buy
La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier

Symbolist Temptations

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The Temptation of St Anthony (1883) by Fernand Khnopff.

This should really be more Symbolist Temptations since Odilon Redon belongs among these artists. Redon may have devoted more of his time than anyone else to the saint’s travails but other artists also took up the theme. Fernand Khnopff seldom depicted religious subjects but his painting—an early work—is remarkable for the way it reduces the phantasmagoric pageants of previous centuries to a simple face-to-face confrontation.

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The Temptation of St Anthony (1878) by Félicien Rops.

Félicien Rops, on the other hand, can always be relied upon to be vulgar and blasphemous in equal measure. The Devil lurking behind the cross was probably added to balance the composition but that silly expression makes the picture seem more comical than shocking. Similar skull-faced cherubs may be found in other Rops prints.

Continue reading “Symbolist Temptations”

Made To Measure

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When you’ve sated yourself on a group’s back catalogue there’s always the solo albums. In the case of Tuxedomoon there are a number of these to choose from, thanks to several of the band members being both multi-instrumentalists and talented songwriters. Some of the more offbeat solo outings may be found among the albums released as part of the Made To Measure series, an offshoot of the excellent Belgian record label, Crammed Discs. Crammed have been Tuxedomoon’s label for some time, and seem increasingly unique in a world where independent labels tend to cater to narrow genres and small, select audiences. Crammed’s roster of artists is extremely eclectic, ranging from the expected Euro-pop and dance releases to a wide range of traditional and contemporary music from around the world.

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Made To Measure Vol. 1 (1984). Painting by Fernand Steven.

From 1984 to 1994 the Made To Measure series released over 30 albums that represent the more esoteric side of an already fairly esoteric label. All of the early releases were numbered, and Tuxedomoon happen to be on the first release, Made To Measure Vol. 1, together with Minimal Compact, Benjamin Lew, and Aksak Maboul. The series title refers to all of the music being “made to measure” some pre-existing work—film, theatre, dance performance, etc—although some of the later releases were simply an excuse to put out new music by an established Crammed artist. In addition to the first release, Tuxedomoon members Blaine L. Reininger, Peter Principle and Steven Brown were regular contributors to subsequent albums. Two of the Steven Brown albums, A Propos D’Un Paysage (MTM 15, 1985) and Douzième Journée: Le Verbe, La Parure, L’Amour (MTM 16, 1988) are marvellous instrumental collaborations with Benjamin Lew that are very different in tone to Tuxedomoon but well worth seeking out. Brown also recorded a soundtrack album, De Doute Et De Grace (MTM 22, 1990), with readings by actress Delphine Seyrig. The series has been discontinued in recent years but the MTM numbering was resurrected for the latest Tuxedomoon album, Pink Narcissus, which is MTM 39.

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Desert Equations: Azax Attra (1986). Photography by Georg Gerster.

I’ve still not heard all of the Made To Measure series, and I don’t like everything I have heard—I have to be in the mood for Hector Zazou’s quirkier moments. Aside from those mentioned above, the notable releases for me would include Desert Equations: Azax Attra (MTM 8, 1986) by Sussan Deyhim (here credited as Deihim) & Richard Horowitz, an album that led me to acquire almost everything Sussan Deyhim has recorded; If Windows They Have (MTM 13, 1986) by Daniel Schell & Karo; Nekonotopia Nekonomania (MTM 29, 1990) by Seigen Ono; Water (MTM 31, 1992) by David Cunningham; Sahara Blue (MTM 32, 1993) by Hector Zazou; Glyph (MTM 37, 1995) by Harold Budd & Hector Zazou. Sahara Blue exemplifies in miniature the eclecticism of Crammed Discs, being a tribute to Arthur Rimbaud featuring (among others) John Cale, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Gérard Depardieu, Khaled, David Sylvian, Bill Laswell, Lisa Gerrard, Sussan Deyhim and Tim Simenon.

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For those wishing to explore further without shelling out on mysterious, unknown quantities, I’d recommend The Made To Measure Résumé (1987), a compilation of tracks from the first 16 MTM releases, and an ideal introduction to the series.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Subterranean Modern: The Residents, Chrome, MX-80 Sound and Tuxedomoon
Tuxedomoon on La Edad de Oro, 1983
Tuxedomoon designs by Patrick Roques
Pink Narcissus: James Bidgood and Tuxedomoon

Weekend links 62

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A plate from Tales of the Amur by Dmitry Nagishkin, a 1975 edition illustrated by Gennady Pavlishin.

• The week in Surrealism: Opera of the surreal gives Dalí an encore: Yo, Dalí, a previously unperformed work by Xavier Benguerel, receives its premier in Madrid. Meanwhile Tate Liverpool’s summer exhibition, René Magritte: The Pleasure Principle, is profiled here. “René Magritte has inspired more book covers than any other visual artist,” says James Hall.

If Rimbaud anticipated the Surrealists by decades, Ashbery is said to have gone beyond them and defied even their rules and logic. Yet though nearly 150 years have intervened since Rimbaud’s first declaration of independence, many readers in our own age, too, still prefer a coherence of imagery, a sameness of tone, a readable sequential message, even, ultimately, what amounts to a prose narrative broken into lines.

Lydia Davis on Rimbaud’s Wise Music.

Umberto Eco’s glimpse into the art of the novel | Return to Wonderland: an essay on Lewis Carroll’s world by Alberto Manguel | Heavy sentences by Joseph Epstein: On How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, by Stanley Fish.

And then there’s the mystery of what happened to him for those four months in London when we have no trace of him. Rimbaud mentions Scarborough in “Promontory” and talks about “Hotels, the circular façades of the Royal and the Grand in Scarborough or Brooklyn.” Since there’s that missing period in England, people say he must have gone to Scarborough, and have even checked hotel registers for that period, but as far as I know nobody has ever found anything. Someone even checked railway and train schedules in order to pin him to this real place. I seem to remember a French writer admitting that Rimbaud was never in Brooklyn, but kind of wishfully thinking that he might have been. Which is very funny. “Rimbaud in Brooklyn”: there’s a project for someone.

A Refutation of Common Sense, John Ashberry on translating Rimbaud.

Robert Jeffrey posts a video of his nine-year-old self giving Madge a run for her money in 1991. As Boy Culture puts it: “Anyone who feebly clings to the belief that gay can be prayed away should take a look at this and give up already…” Amen.

• The mathematics of Yog-Sothoth: Richard Elwes on Exotic spheres, or why 4-dimensional space is a crazy place.

For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry by Christopher Smart (1722–1771).

Lesbian pulp fiction, 1935–1978 and Faber 20th century classics.

As The Crow Flies, a new album from The Advisory Circle.

New World Transparent Specimens by Iori Tomita.

79 versions of Gershon Kingley’s Popcorn.

Minor Man (1981) by The League of Gentlemen.

Passage 14

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It’s that time of year again when my good friend Ed Jansen unveils the latest edition of Passage, his Dutch-language webzine:

The 14th issue of Passage contains articles about language, the dreamachine of Brion Gysin, the collaboration of Gysin with William Burroughs and Ian Sommerville (The Third Mind), a recently discovered photograph of Arthur Rimbaud’s presence in Aden, lots of photos of exhibitions and performances of artists in and around The Hague, about the experiences of Louis-Ferdinand Céline in the First World War and the latest novel of Michel Houellebecq. The purpose behind everything we write and make is to give the reader a sense of direction towards the unknown, towards the North-West Passage that leads to a new world.

The cover picture is a photo of the audience at a Dreamachine-inspired presentation by Matthijs Munnik about which we’re told:

In my performance I also make use of the flicker effect, but I have more control over it. In my performance, the audience wears white plastic masks, this way they look into a ganzfeld, a totally white field during the performance. In my set up, I use beamers, projecting light on the audience’s masks, completely immersing them in the light and colors of the projection.

I play an 8 minute live composition, based on the varying effects of different frequencies of flicker, colour, binaural beats and sound. During the performance every spectator will see something different, varying patterns and colours, created within their own brains.

And speaking of the Dreamachine, Nick Hydra left a comment in an earlier post with the news that visitors to the Wellcome Collection’s High Society exhibition in London have the opportunity to trip out with one of Brion Gysin’s flicker machines until the end of February.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Brion Gysin let the mice in
Passage 13
Passage 12
Passage 11
Passage 10