Abrahadabra

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01 First (1985).

I’ve linked to so many publications at the Internet Archive I’m a little surprised it’s taken me this long to find something featuring my own work. Abrahadabra was a Dutch periodical covering subjects familiar to readers of the esoteric magazines of the 1980s (RE/Search, Rapid Eye, etc): Industrial music of the TG/Psychic TV/Coil variety, transgressive writers such as Burroughs, Ballard and Bataille, weird fiction of the Lovecraft/Machen school, and a heavy emphasis on occultism. My friend Ed was one of the contributors which is how my Pan drawing ended up in the Witches issue in 1987.

For a publication with minimal resources the production was often impressive, the drawing on the cover of the Austin Spare issue, for instance, being printed in silver ink on black paper. The contents were mostly in Dutch but each issue featured interesting and often original graphics. I also drew a small Horus head for issue 11 (which I’d forgotten about until I saw it again), whose title design was used on the cover of issue 12. Some of the other issues I hadn’t seen before so it’s good to find them scanned and easily available. The 1980s was the last time print was used as the primary medium for underground culture to talk to and disseminate itself. By the end of the decade many of the small magazines had either evolved—both RE/Search and Rapid Eye turned into books—or expired. The final Abrahadabra is dated 1990.

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02 Second (1985).

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03 Third (1985).

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04 Sex (1985).

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05 Derangement (1985).

Continue reading “Abrahadabra”

Secret Societies and Spirit Boards

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Komposition für einen Rhombus (2007) by Fabian Marti.

Fabian Marti’s print is one of the few works that stood out for me in the press materials for the Secret Societies exhibition which has just opened at the CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art, Bordeaux:

[Secret Societies] deals with the general theme of secret societies through the prism of contemporary art in the current context of media super-exposure – from WikiLeaks to Credit Rating Agencies (CRA), just to quote two current examples. Artists have always been fascinated by the unknown and the occult. But unlike journalists who are mainly focused on investigating present-day news, artists work around the mechanisms of the secret and are better equipped to question the very limits of the ideology of transparency in our era of super-exposure.

Unfortunately many of the works look like the customary state of affairs, with a bunch of contemporary artists doing their usual schtick and not really questioning (familiar gallery buzzword) anything much at all. On the plus side they have a screening of Kenneth Anger’s Invocation of My Demon Brother, and also a contribution from Cerith Wyn Evans whose Acephalé reworks in neon the André Masson design for Georges Bataille’s Surrealist secret society. Gary Lachman has created an audio guide for the exhibition which is curated by Cristina Ricupero and Alexis Vaillant, and which runs until February 26th, 2012.

For a more determinedly occult showing this month, there’s Spirit Board curated by JL Schnabel at the Articulated Gallery, San Francisco. And elsewhere I’d recommend the work of Scott Treleaven and Jesse Bransford.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Scott Treleaven

Sibylle Ruppert, 1942–2011

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La Bible du mal (1978).

Another painter gone, and a really extraordinary one at that. I wrote something about German artist Sibylle Ruppert two years ago, and only heard about her death this week following an email from Leslie Barany of Barany Artists. Leslie also sent copies of recent exhibition material from a Ruppert show last year at the HR Giger Museum in Gruyeres, Switzerland, from which these pictures have been taken. The picture above gives some idea of the intensely visceral nature of her paintings and drawings. Giger owns (or owned) the picture below as he reproduces it in one of his books, along with other works from his personal collection.

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Hit Something (1977).

There was an official site for Sibylle Ruppert’s work but, as is often the case with artist sites, it appears to now be defunct. This is frustrating since her work isn’t very visible on the web at all. Anyone interested could start with this set of Flickr views of the Giger Museum exhibition. She was a fantastic artist in all senses of the word.

The following is a note credited to Alain Robbe-Grillet and some biographical details taken from the gallery materials. They’re presented here as printed:

Je m’avance avec un croissant malaise, apprehension peut-etre, avec lenteur en tout cas, dans une sorte de souterrain tres encombre (engorge, meme, en depit de ses dimensions sans doute considerables), que j’imagine bourre de pieges. (J’allais dire pourri…) La lumiere est vive par endroit, sans que l’on puisse deviner d’Oll elle tombe, laissant tout a cote des plages d’ombre dense, et comme visqueuse. Cependant, meme dans les zones bien eclairees, la precision des lignes est suspecte, car on aurait du mal a rattacher ces fragments trop nets, trop dessines (le trace sans bavure d’une pointe aigue), a quelque figure d’ensemble nommement identifiable. L’impression qui domine, au milieu de cette dangereuse incertitude, est qu’il doit y avoir la une grande quantite de chevaux eventres, des etalons a musculatures massives, avec des herses, et des crocs de boucher, et des socs de charrues, avec aussi des femmes nues aux formes splendides, melees au carnage. Je pense a la mort de Sardanapale, evidemment, mais la scene qui m’entoure se situerait plusieurs minutes apres l’instant fragile immobilise par Delacroix, Oll toutes les courbes du desir sont encore rangees aleurs places diurnes. Tandis qu’icl, devant moi, derriere moi, sur ma droite ou sur ma gauche, et presque sous mes pas, ce qui s’offre aux sens revulses ce sont les hontes secretes de l’anatomie : les orifices ecarteles, les entrailles repandues, les secretions, les pertes. Une pointe aigue, ai-je ditQ Oui, le gluant et l’acere semblent, maintenant, s’engendrer en cercle l’un l’autre, le fin couteau du supplice appartenir au meme monstre que la chair ignominieuse qui s’ entaille (se debonde), les sexes s’invertir, insidieusement, et s’invaginer l’arme du crime. Parvenant non sans peine a vaincre mon horreur, ou bien au contraire enfin vaincu par elle, je me decide a toucher… J’approche une paume tendue, doigts ecartes, vers cette substance innomable… Ma surprise est immense : tout cela est en metal poli, sec, luisant mais dur, et froid comme de la glace. Non, je ne suis pas surpris : je le savais deja, bien entendu.

—Alain Robbe-Grillet

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Sibylle Ruppert was born during an air raid on September 8th, 1942. It was the night of the first massive bombing of Frankfurt during World War II. With a numbered tag around her neck, Sibylle was, immediately whisked from the maternity ward down to the bomb shelter in the basement, while her mother was moved to safety under a supporting column of the hospital staircase.

She spent her infancy between the nursery and an improvised bomb shelter in which plaster fell from the ceiling whenever the bombs hit the neighborhood. In spring 1944 her parents decided to flee Frankfurt for the countryside. Sibylle’s first memories were of the shoving and screaming crowds on the platform of the train station desperately trying to climb into the overcrowded wagons.

Although the family spent the remainder of the war in relative security, they were subjected to mistreatment and greed at the hands of the farmers who gave them shelter. After the war they were taken in by an aristocratic family who owned a castle and Sibylle spent her early childhood years as if in a dream world. Her father was a graphic designer and young Sibylle spent hours upon hours near his desk watching as he drew. One day she seized his hand and promised him that she would paint nice colourful pictures just like him. Her first drawing surprised everyone, it was a brutal illustration of a fist stricking the middle of a face – she was 6 years old.

At age of 10 she had a religious enlightment and she insisted on becoming a nun. Only the great efforts of her parents managed to dissuade her from taking up a novitiate. In school she was not the best, except in her art classes where she far surpassed all the other students to such an extent that her instructors could not believe that she painted the pictures by herself. Secretly she took the entrance examination of the Städel Akkademie and passed brilliantly.With the support of Prof.Battke she worked relentlessly and created up to 20 drawings a day.

Sitting immobile, continuously, behind the drawing board caused her to gain quite some weight, so her mother enrolled her in the neighborhood ballet school. Sibylle tackled her new activity with the same energy and will-power as she did drawing which prompted the school authorities to give her a choice: either art or dance, but not both at the same time. As soon as she turned 18 she solved the problem her own way by escaping to Paris, the city of her dreams, where she enrolled in a dance school in Clichy. During the day she followed the strict regimen of dance classes, but at night she roamed the notorious streets of Pigalle and Montmartre, fascinated by the ambiguous characters in these neighborhoods.

As she was too tall for classical ballet she joined the famous dance ensemble of Georges Rech. This was the beginning of an adventurous life as a revue dancer touring all over Europe and the Middle East. But while her colleagues relaxed Sibylle visited all the local museums and galleries and continued drawing her every free minute. Then all of a sudden, in New York, she decided to give up on her dancing career. She returned to her family in Frankfurt and started working as a drawing instructor at the art school founded by her father.

In addition to her teaching, at night she pursued her own personal work, inspired by the „divine“ Marquis de Sade and his frightful universe. Encouraged by notable German intellectuals like Peter Gorsen, Theodor Adorno and Horst Glaser whom she later married her drawings start to become well known. The exhibitions organised by the Sydow – Zirkwitz Gallery in Frankfurt consternated as much the traditional art audience as they produced raised eye brows among the intellectuals.

In 1976 she moves to Paris and exhibits her large format charcoal drawings, inspired by the writings of de Sade, Lautréamont and Georges Bataille, her collages and paintings at the Gallery Bijan Aalam. French intellectuals and great thinkers like Alain Robbe-Grillet, Pierre Restany, Henri Michaux and Gert Schiff show interest and are fascinated by and try to interpret her infernal work. When the gallery closes in 1982 she returns to teaching drawing and painting. She starts giving art classes in prisons, psychiatric institutions and drug rehabilitation centers. Today, Sibylle Ruppert lives a cloistered life, withdrawn from the public, in Paris.

• See also this later post for more artwork: Sibylle Ruppert revisited

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The fantastic art archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Sibylle Ruppert

Weekend links 60

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Jean Genet (1950) by Leonor Fini.

• Bibliothèque Gay looks at a series of erotic engravings made by Leonor Fini for La Galère (1947) by Jean Genet. The author reciprocated with Mademoiselle: A Letter to Leonor Fini. At the hetero end of the erotic spectrum, Tate Liverpool will be showing a series of drawings by René Magritte produced for a proposed edition of Madame Eduarda by Georges Bataille. René Magritte: The Pleasure Principle opens next month.

George Clinton will be appearing with Nona Hendryx at the British Library on 18th June, to talk about “all things galactic”. In addition there’s a screening of John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History, a documentary about Afrofuturism and black science fiction. See an introduction to that here. Related: the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has acquired the Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership for its collection.

• RIP Gil Scott-Heron. “Why does this colossus remain relatively unknown? Is he too political? Too uncompromising? Too angry? Too satirical? Too painful? Too playful? Too alive? Too black? Too human?” Jamie Byng in Gil Scott-Heron: poet, campaigner and America’s rough healer.

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Le Fils du Maçon (1950) by Leonor Fini.

China Miéville examines alternative histories in Brian Aldiss’s The Malacia Tapestry, David Britton’s Lord Horror and Richard Curtis’s chilling dystopia, Notting Hill.

• What happened to Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser and Gille Lettmann when the Kosmische Musik dream collapsed? Find out here.

• Mlle Ghoul interviews Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction about horror paperbacks, good and bad.

• Another Surrealist woman: Claude Cahun at Strange Flowers.

The Key of Hell: an eighteenth-century sorcery manual.

Partitura 001: realtime sound visualisation.

Scientific Illustration: a Tumblr.

Cosmic Slop (1973) by Funkadelic | Cosmic Slop (1991) by Material.

Surrealism at the Hayward

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Something I’ll definitely be going to see, especially given the emphasis on Georges Bataille. Above: André Masson’s cover design for the first issue of Bataille’s Acéphale (1937).

UNDERCOVER SURREALISM: Picasso, Miró, Masson and the vision of Georges Bataille. The Hayward Gallery, London, 11 May–31 Jul 2006.

This major Surrealist show, curated by Surrealism specialist Dawn Ades, documents the extraordinary cross-currents of Paris in the late 1920s, through painting, film, sculpture, music, photography, masks, ritual objects – all subject to the provocative vision of Georges Bataille.

Featuring works by Miró, Dalí, Giacometti, Brancusi, Boiffard, de Chirico, Arp, Nadar and Ernst, and an entire room of works by Picasso, it brings together loans from major collections around the world.

Bataille waged war on the “idealism” of the Surrealist movement, using his famous magazine DOCUMENTS as his weapon. Undercover Surrealism takes his magazine’s subversive juxtapositions as its starting point, and shows how Bataille unflinchingly exposed the raw underbelly of the human creative impulse.

The Hayward Gallery first explored Surrealism almost 30 years ago in its legendary 1978 show, Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, co-curated by Dawn Ades. Ades, now regarded as one of the world’s greatest Surrealism experts, returns to curate this exhibition.