Weekend links 399

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• “In the mid-Seventies the influential stop-motion animators, Stephen and Timothy Quay, embarked on a series of dark graphite drawings, conceived as imaginary film posters. They kept their first autonomous art project hidden for decades, allowing only a few glimpses to transpire in some of their animation classics such as Noctura Artificialia and Street of Crocodiles. In hindsight, the Black Drawings can be considered as a blueprint for their future work. This book offers a first in-depth exploration of this important graphic series that reveals many of the themes and techniques that would come to life in their celebrated animation films.” Quay Brothers: The Black Drawings 1974—1977 is a book by Edwin Carels and Tommy Simoens.

• The first of the BFI’s forthcoming blu-ray boxes of Derek Jarman films is now available for preorder. In addition to what I presume will be an uncensored presentation of Sebastiane (1976) the set also includes the digital premiere of In the Shadow of the Sun (1980) an “alchemical” blending/transmutation of Jarman’s early Super-8 films with a score by Throbbing Gristle. Related: Adam Scovell on another of the films in the set, Jubilee (1978), and one that Jarman disliked even though it incorporates many of his obsessions, especially in the punk-baiting sequences derived from Shakespeare and Elizabethan metaphysics.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 638: Circuit des Yeux, XLR8R Podcast 528 by Huxley Anne, Secret Thirteen Mix 246 by Hiro Kone, and drone works from Abby Drohne. And since the untimely death of composer Jóhann Jóhannsson was announced a few hours ago, a return to his sombre mix for FACT from 2015.

Nabokov’s ambitions weren’t interpretive. He “held nothing but contempt for Freud’s crude oneirology,” Barabtarlo explains, and in tracking his dreams he wasn’t turning his gaze inward. For him, the mystery was outside—far outside. Nabokov had been reading deeply into serialism, a philosophy positing that time is reversible. The theory came from JW Dunne, a British engineer and armchair philosopher who, in 1927, published An Experiment with Time, arguing, in part, that our dreams afforded us rare access to a higher order of time. Was it possible that we were glimpsing snatches of the future in our dreams—that what we wrote off as déjà vu was actually a leap into the metaphysical ether? Dunne himself claimed to have had no fewer than eight precognitive dreams, including one in which he foresaw a headline about a volcanic eruption.

Daniel Piepenbring reviewing Insomniac Dreams by Gennady Barabtarlo

• Gavin Stamp 1948—2017: a eulogy to the late architectural writer by Jonathan Meades. One of Stamp’s more offbeat assignments was providing illustrations for the George Hay Necronomicon in 1978.

Embassy of the Free Mind is the name of the new online library whose digitisation of rare occult volumes was financed by author Dan Brown.

• At Dangerous Minds: Meet Princess Tinymeat, the obscure genderbending trashglam post-punk goth offshoot of Virgin Prunes.

• “Why are film-makers obsessed with the story of doomed British sailor Donald Crowhurst?” asks Jonathan Coe.

• “Asian music influenced Debussy who influenced me—it’s all a huge circle,” says Ryuichi Sakamoto.

• At Spoon & Tamago: The birds of Tokyo beautifully illustrated by Ryo Takemasa.

Mark Pilkington is In Wild Air

Professor Yaffle

The Sun’s Gone Dim And The Sky’s Turned Black (2006) by Jóhann Jóhannsson | The Great God Pan is Dead (2008) by Jóhann Jóhannsson | A Pile of Dust (2016) by Jóhann Jóhannsson

Psychetecture

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And speaking of architecture… I wouldn’t usually punish the spine of a scarce paperback by subjecting it to trial by flatbed scanner but not all of these drawings have found their way to the web. The artist is Gavin Stamp, here masquerading as “GM Sinclair” for illustrations used in the appendices of the aforementioned Necronomicon (1978), edited by George Hay. The book was published in hardback by occult specialists Neville Spearman, with a paperback following two years later from Corgi Books.

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For a purportedly real Necronomicon this one always struck me as more plausible than the US equivalent by Simon; Hay and his collaborators, Robert Turner and David Langford, go to some lengths to describe the sourcing of rare manuscripts from the British Museum, and the process of cryptographic decoding that follows. But the part of the book that made the greatest impression was the essay contributions by Christopher Frayling and Angela Carter, and Gavin Stamp’s accompanying illustrations. In 1980 unless you knew an older book collector (which I didn’t) serious writing about Lovecraft’s work was hard to find. Hay’s book and Stamp’s illustrations were one of several discoveries that pushed me towards illustrating Lovecraft myself.

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The pictures above are taken from the paperback while the ones below are lifted from David Langford’s site. I borrowed the pentagonal labyrinth from the title page for the cover of the NecronomiCon convention booklet: two Necronomicons joined, and a nod to a group of writers who helped me along the way.

Continue reading “Psychetecture”

Ephemeral architecture

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The Royal Arch, Dundee, photographed by Edwin Smith.

It’s an odd thing to discover that a structure you’ve known about for years has been demolished for almost as long as you’ve been alive. It took a review of Britain’s Lost Cities by Gavin Stamp to inform me that the curious Royal Arch in Dundee, Scotland, built between 1849 and 1853, was no more. I only knew it from this photograph in an old Thames & Hudson book, Scotland (1955) by Edwin Smith and GS Fraser.

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Even though the arch had an official function—providing a ceremonial gateway for Queen Victoria—in its free-standing singularity and historical confection it’s not very far removed from the numerous follies that still litter the British countryside. Being a long-time fan of the pointless architectural confection, I like to know that these things are still around even if they’re not so good to look at; they make the world a more interesting place.

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The architect of this pastiche, which looks like a chunk of Norman cathedral dumped on the dockside, was one John Thomas Rochead whose oddly-shaped and frequently spectacular Wallace Monument still stands. I think it’s the incongruity I like about the arch, its setting and style are completely at odds and it has the fake ruin aspect of many follies, looking like a fragment of something larger. Monuments are often a sub-class of folly and Scotland has another fine example with the Scott Monument in Edinburgh.

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Rochead’s arch was demolished in 1964 to make way for the Tay Road Bridge, another victim of the Sixties’ purge of Victorian eccentricity. I don’t always disagree with those purges, the Victorians had no qualms about demolishing older buildings and some of the structures whose demolition Gavin Stamp complains about were pretty awful. Euston Station in London is a soulless glass barn but I can’t see how its exterior would be improved if the heavy and dull Euston Arch had been allowed to remain as its gateway. What we’re seeing today is a reaction to that reaction, with the concrete buildings that were raised on the rubble of their Victorian forebears suffering their own waves of demolition. What goes around, comes around, and even the most apparently permanent structure can be swept away when attitudes change.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lenin Rising
Dead Monuments
The Triangular Lodge
Pyramid mausoleum