Weekend links 537

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“The dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet.” The Masque of the Red Death illustrated by Harry Clarke, 1919.

• 2020 is the year of enormous pink lady faces on book covers, apparently. As someone who spends little time following cover trends, the identification of a new variety of herd behaviour among designers or their art directors is always fascinating and bizarre.

Tomoko Sauvage plays her porcelain and glass instruments inside a disused water tank in Berlin for a new album, Fischgeist. The Wire has previews.

• At The Paris Review: Craig Morgan Teicher on the later work of Dorothea Tanning, and Daniel Mendelsohn on the rings of Sebald.

Unlike many of the rapidly forgotten [Nobel] “winners”, and despite the occasional sniffy critic wondering “who still reads it?” Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet has never been out of print since he published it in 1957. The centenary of his birth in 2012 raised a flurry of revived interest in Durrell. Indeed the whole Durrell family has been popping up regularly in reprints of Lawrence’s novels and poetry, in his brother Gerald’s popular tales of his “family and other animals,” and in several TV series about their life in Greece on Corfu island in the late 1930s. A BBC interviewer once asked Lawrence about the difference between his writing and brother Gerald’s. He replied: “I write literature. My brother writes books that people read.”

I’ve read Gerald and I’ve read Lawrence; I prefer Lawrence, thank you. Thomas O’Dwyer examines the chef d’oeuvre of the elder Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet

• Dark Entries shares Patrick Cowley’s cover of Chameleon by Herbie Hancock. The original is here.

• Saunas, sex clubs and street fights: how Sunil Gupta captured global gay life.

• Inside the Grace Jones exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary.

Rob Walker on how dub reggae’s beats conquered 70s Britain.

• Who invented the newspaper? John Boardley reports.

Spread The Virus (1981) by Cabaret Voltaire | Cut Virus (2003) by Bill Laswell | The Unexclusive Virus ~even our invincible religion “Technology” cannnot~ (2006) by Kashiwa Daisuke

Weekend links 456

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A Mrs Radcliffe Called Today (1944) by Dorothea Tanning.

Darran Anderson on how the Bauhaus kept things weird. “Many imitators of the famous art school’s output have missed the surreal, sensual, irrational, and instinctual spirit that drove its creativity.”

• Notes on the Fourth Dimension: Hyperspace, ghosts, and colourful cubes—Jon Crabb on the work of Charles Howard Hinton and the cultural history of higher dimensions.

• “[Edward] Gorey is slowly emerging as one of the more unclubbable American greats, like Lovecraft or Joseph Cornell,” says Phil Baker.

The label “homosexual writer” stuck for the rest of his career, with Purdy confined to what Gore Vidal called “the large cemetery of gay literature…where unalike writers are thrown together in a lot, well off the beaten track of family values”. In later years, Purdy moved further off the beaten track, as much by intention as circumstance. “I’m not a gay writer,” he would tell interviewers. “I’m a monster. Gay writers are too conservative.”

Speaking to Penthouse magazine in 1978, Purdy said being published was like “throwing a party for friends and all these coarse wicked people come instead, and break the furniture and vomit all over the house”. He added that, in order to protect oneself, “a writer needs to be completely unavailable”.

Andrew Male on writer James Purdy

• The Necessity of Being Judgmental: Roger Luckhurst on k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher.

Faunus: The Decorative Imagination of Arthur Machen, edited by James Machin with an introduction by Stewart Lee.

• More James Purdy: “His poetry displays a softness that readers of his fiction might not expect,” says Daniel Green.

Drag Star! is a 150,000-word interactive novel/text adventure by Evan J. Peterson.

• At Dangerous Minds: Dave Ball discusses his years as the other half of Soft Cell.

Daisy Woodward on the story of radical female Surrealist Dorothea Tanning.

• Inside the bascule chamber: photos of Tower Bridge, inside and out.

Tim Smith-Laing on the meaning of Miró’s doodles.

• Galerie Dennis Cooper presents…Emma Kunz.

rarecinema: a shop at Redbubble.

Apollo Press Kits

The Fourth Dimension (1964) by The Ventures | Dimension Soleils (1983) by Gilles Tremblay | Into The Fourth Dimension (1991) by The Orb

Temptations

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Exhibition catalogue.

In one of the many recent features about Leonora Carrington I noticed a mention of her Temptation of St Anthony painting from 1945 (see below). This was one of eleven works on the theme submitted by different artists for a competition staged to promote Albert Lewin’s The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947), a film adaptation of the Guy de Maupassant novel. Carrington is often mentioned when this competition is discussed, along with the other big names, Max Ernst (the winner) and Salvador Dalí. But you seldom see mention of any of the other competitors, hence this post, an attempt to find all of the competition entries.

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Leonora Carrington. St. Anthony is often shown with a pig companion but only Carrington depicted the animal for this competition. When asked why the saint had three heads, she replied “Why not?”

Albert Lewin didn’t make many films but he had a predilection for arty subjects, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami being preceded by adaptations of The Moon and Sixpence (1942) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). All three films star George Sanders, and all feature special colour sequences when a painting is revealed. 1945 was the peak of America’s brief infatuation with Surrealism (Hitchcock had Dalí working on Spellbound at this time) so Lewin asked a number of Surrealists to take up the challenge. I was surprised to find that Stanley Spencer was one of the entrants, a name you almost never see in this company; less surprising was Ivan Albright whose painting of the decayed Dorian Gray is one of the highlights of Lewin’s earlier film. Leonor Fini was also asked to take part but she didn’t produce anything. The judges were Marcel Duchamp, Alfred J. Barr, Jr, director of the Museum of Modern Art, and art dealer Sidney Janis. Ernst won a cash prize variously reported as $2500–3000, while the other entrants received smaller sums. The paintings toured the USA and Britain during 1946–7.

As to the film, I can’t say what this is like because it’s one I’ve yet to see but Self-Styled Siren’s witty review goes into some detail. Hollywood apparently had problems with the adult subject matter (Sanders’ character is described as a sexually predatory social climber), and Lewin was forced to tone things down.

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Ivan Albright.

Albright’s contribution is so frenzied and detailed it approaches psychedelia. Best seen in this large view at Flickr.

Continue reading “Temptations”

8 x 8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements

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Continuing the Cocteau theme, this fascinating film remains (for the time being) unavailable in a better copy despite its artistic all-star cast. 8 x 8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements (1957) can be regarded as a follow-up to Hans Richter’s Surrealist anthology Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947), the directorial credit this time being shared between Richter, Jean Cocteau and Marcel Duchamp. The latter famously quit the art world to devote more time to chess-playing so his involvement with a chess-based fantasy (self-described as “a fairytale for grownups”) isn’t so surprising:

It explores the realm behind the magic mirror which served Lewis Carroll 100 years ago to stimulate our imagination.

The cast comprises famous friends including Cocteau himself, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Paul Bowles, Fernand Leger, Alexander Calder, Duchamp, and, in the Venetian episode, Peggy Guggenheim in her favourite sunglasses. In places it’s closer to Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) than Dreams That Money Can Buy, especially since Anger’s film was another assemblage of unique personalities. One detail I’ve not seen remarked upon elsewhere is the presence behind the camera of Louis & Bebe Barron who assisted with the sound. The Barrons are better known today for their still astonishing all-electronic score for Forbidden Planet (1956). Watch 8 x 8 at Ubuweb or YouTube.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Dreams That Money Can Buy

Max and Dorothea

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Photo by Arnold Newman (1942).

I love this photo of Max Ernst by Arnold Newman, one of several pictures of the artist together with Dorothea Tanning in Max Ernst: A Retrospective, a catalogue for a 1975 Guggenheim Museum exhibition at the Internet Archive. The catalogue itself isn’t so revelatory (and most of the reproductions are monochrome) but it’s good to see a connection made between Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead and Ernst’s work. It’s an obvious parallel: all those porous landscapes and “fishbone forests” which offer a kind of mutated Symbolism. Browse the book here or download it here.

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Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson (1961).

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Photo by Frederick Sommer (1946).

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No photographer credited.

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Photo by Frederick Sommer (1946).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Dorothea Tanning, 1910–2012
Dreams That Money Can Buy
La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier
A Picture to Dream Over: The Isle of the Dead
Dorothea Tanning: Early Designs for the Stage