Weekend links 226

na.jpg

Fly (2012, detail) by Zhao Na.

• This week in psychedelia: the UK now has its own Psychedelic Society (just in time for the mushroom season), and is using some of my psychedelic Wonderland/Looking-Glass artwork for its headers and things. Over at The Quietus John Doran asks what makes music psychedelic in 2014, while a number of the site’s writers offer suggestions for a survey of modern European psychedelia (bonus points for using the alien head from the cover of Heldon 6: Interface at the top of the page).

Rick Poynor looks at posters by Hans Hillmann for Jean-Luc Godard’s films while at the BFI site four directors pay tribute to Hillmann. “…poster art has stagnated over the last 30 or 40 years,” says Peter Strickland. “It’s an embarrassment for film when one considers how the music industry has completely embraced the graphic form.” Related: lots of Hans Hillmann at Pinterest.

• More psychedelics (and more of the usual suspects), neurologist Andrew Lees on William Burroughs’ experiences with yagé and apomorphine, and DJ Pangburn on a word-search puzzle containing “every word Borges wrote”. The life and work of William Burroughs is celebrated in London next month with a one-day event, Language is a Virus from Outer Space.

• At Dangerous Minds: Kenneth Anger – Magier des Untergrundfilms (1970), a 53-minute documentary by Reinhold E. Thiel. The subtitles are obtrusive but the material itself, which includes footage of Anger filming Lucifer Rising, is priceless.

• 73 minutes of Pye Corner Audio playing in Ibiza last month. More electronica: Colm McAuliffe talks to former members of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – August 6th 1983, an excellent story by Hilary Mantel who talks about her own assassination fantasies here.

• Mixes of the week: Cosey Fanni Tutti‘s 2014 Mix for Dazed Digital, and Secret Thirteen Mix 128 by DSCRD.

Pond i, a video for a new piece of music by Jon Brooks.

Tomorrow Never Knows (1966) by The Mirage | Tomorrow Never Knows (1976) by 801 | Tomorrow Never Knows (1983) by Monsoon

Patrick Bokanowski again

lange.jpg

“A prolonged, dense and visually visceral experience of the kind that is rare in cinema today. Difficult to define and locate, its strangeness is quite unique. That its elements are not constructed in a traditional way should not be a barrier to those who wish to cross the bridge to what Jean-Luc Godard proposed as the real story of the cinema—real in the sense of being made of images and sounds rather than texts and illustrations.”—Keith Griffiths

It was only two months ago that I enthused about Patrick Bokanowski’s extraordinary 1982 film, L’Ange, after a TV screening was posted at Ubuweb, and ended by wondering whether a DVD copy was available anywhere. Last week Jayne Pilling left a comment on that post alerting me to the film’s availability via the BAA site; I immediately ordered a copy which arrived the next day. So yes, Bokanowski’s film is now available in both PAL and NTSC formats, and the disc includes a short about the making of L’Ange as well as preparatory sketches and an interview with composer Michèle Bokanowski whose score goes a long way to giving the film its unique atmosphere. I mentioned earlier how reminiscent Bokanowski’s film was of later works by the Brothers Quay so it’s no surprise seeing an approving quote from the pair on the DVD packaging:

“Magisterial images seething in the amber of transcendent soundscapes. Drink in these films through eyes and ears.”

If that wasn’t enough, there’s another DVD of the director’s short films available. Anyone who likes David Lynch’s The Grandmother or Eraserhead, or the Quays’ Street of Crocodiles, really needs to see L’Ange.

Previously on { feuilleton }
L’Ange by Patrick Bokanowski
The Hour-Glass Sanatorium by Wojciech Has
Babobilicons by Daina Krumins
Impressions de la Haute Mongolie revisited
Short films by Walerian Borowczyk
The Brothers Quay on DVD

The art of Josiah McElheny

mcelheny1.jpg

Island Universe (2008).

Island Universe is a new work by American artist Josiah McElheny at London’s White Cube gallery. McElheny’s recurrent use of glass and mirrors would be enough to capture my attention anyway—I particularly like the Modernity piece below—but Island Universe also features a specially-commissioned sound accompaniment by one of my favourite musicians, Paul Schütze.

mcelheny2.jpg

Modernity circa 1952, Mirrored and Reflected Infinitely (2004).

McElheny collaborated with cosmologist David Weinberg for Island Universe to create abstract sculptures that are scientifically accurate models of Big Bang theory as well as illustrations of the ideas that followed the general acceptance of the theory. The varying lengths of the rods are based on measurements of time, the clusters of glass discs and spheres accurately represent the clustering of galaxies in the universe, and the light bulbs mimic the brightest objects that exist, quasars. Island Universe proposes a set of possibilities that could have burst into existence depending on the amount of energy or matter present at the universe’s origin.

I can’t help but compare that description of McElheny’s new work with another exhibition that opened this week, TH.2058 by Dominique Gonzales-Foerster which will be filling Tate Modern’s vast Turbine Hall for the next few months. Josiah McElheny extrapolates from documentary fact and creates something beautiful at the same time. Ms Gonzales-Foerster borrows from pre-existing works of written and filmed science fiction and has to rely on those works to sustain much of the interest:

It rains incessantly in London – not a day, not an hour without rain, a deluge that has now lasted for years and changed the way people travel, their clothes, leisure activities, imagination and desires. They dream about infinitely dry deserts.

This continual watering has had a strange effect on urban sculptures. As well as erosion and rust, they have started to grow like giant, thirsty tropical plants, to become even more monumental. In order to hold this organic growth in check, it has been decided to store them in the Turbine Hall, surrounded by hundreds of bunks that shelter – day and night – refugees from the rain.

A giant screen shows a strange film, which seems to be as much experimental cinema as science fiction. Fragments of Solaris, Fahrenheit 451 and Planet of the Apes are mixed with more abstract sequences such as Johanna Vaude’s L’Oeil Sauvage but also images from Chris Marker’s La Jetée. Could this possibly be the last film?

On the beds are books saved from the damp and treated to prevent the pages going mouldy and disintegrating. On every bunk there is at least one book, such as JG Ballard’s The Drowned World, Jeff Noon’s Vurt, Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, but also Jorge Luis Borges’s Ficciones and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666.

On one of the beds, hidden among the giant sculptures, a lonely radio plays what sounds like distressed 1958 bossa nova. The mass bedding, the books, images, works of art and music produce a strange effect reminiscent of a Jean-Luc Godard film, a culture of quotation in a context of catastrophe.

There’s a list of works used in the Tate installation, nearly all of which are far more stimulating artworks in their own right than the one which is hijacking them into its “culture of quotation”. I’m sure I can’t be the only person to think that the Tate would have been better served asking McElheny and Schütze to expand their work to fill the Turbine Hall instead. Those Island Universes could only get better if they were bigger.

mcelheny3.jpg

Studies in the Search for Infinity (detail, 1997-1998).

A PBS feature on Josiah McElheny

Update: Writer M John Harrison reviews TH.2058 for the Guardian and fails to be impressed:

It occurred to me that the biggest disaster in that room is the disaster for art. TH.2058 seems to finalise the hollowing-out of everything into the shallowest of semiotics. Foerster’s reading list is more powerful and important than her installation. Every one of the books on those bunk beds will give you a frisson that you don’t get from the show, so you would be as well just reading them for yourself.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth
The Garden of Instruments

CQ

cq1.jpg

A belated shout of appreciation for this film whose distribution appears to have been so limited that everyone missed it, me included. That’s a shame as Roman Coppola’s debut (he’s the son of Francis) has a lot to commend it although it helps if you’re familiar with pulpy European spy/science fiction/horror movies of the late Sixties and the po-faced works of auteurs such as Jean-Luc Godard and Michelangelo Antonioni. CQ pays loving homage to both styles of filmmaking which probably explains why the studio didn’t know what to do with it.

Continue reading “CQ”

Alex in the Chelsea Drug Store

drugstore.jpg

The Chelsea Drug Store, 49 King’s Road, London, circa 1970.

“I went down to the Chelsea Drug Store,”
“To get your prescription filled…”

The Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, 1969

How much Stanley Kubrick trivia can you stand? One of the delights of DVD over VHS tape is the ability to step frame by perfect frame through any given film sequence without the picture being disturbed by noise. This reveals a lot more detail should you wish to scrutinise a favourite scene such as the dolly shot in A Clockwork Orange where Malcolm McDowell makes a circuit of the “disc-bootick” before chatting up a couple of devotchkas.

The scene was filmed in the then very trendy Chelsea Drug Store on the corner of Royal Avenue and the King’s Road, London SW3. In 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) the world as it might be forty years was created with models and some elaborate and expensive sets. For the more satirical A Clockwork Orange Kubrick adopted the same approach as Jean-Luc Godard in Alphaville, with carefully-selected views of the contemporary world standing for a fictional future. There’s no attempt made in this scene to disguise any of the cultural products of 1970, the year it was filmed.

chelseadrugstore.jpg

The location as it is today, rendered safe and banal courtesy of McDonald’s.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s A Clockwork Orange was unavailable in Britain in any form due to a bizarre embargo by the director. This means that Kubrick enthusiasts like myself who were too young to have seen the film in the cinema had to rely on bootleg videos of depressingly limited quality (often copies of copies) that did no justice to John Alcott’s superb photography or to Wendy Carlos’s electronic soundtrack. Especially frustrating was spotting Tim Buckley’s Lorca album on one of the shelves in the record shop scene but not being able to make out what else might be there. This might seem like a rather fatuous complaint but there aren’t many places you find such a pristine snapshot of a British record emporium in the early 70s. More to the point, with a clearer view you have a chance here to enjoy some sly Kubrick humour. So what does the DVD reveal?

Before Alex appears we can see two albums in the racks, Livin’ the Blues by Canned Heat and The Time is Near… by the Keef Hartley Band.

01.jpg

01_1.jpg

albums1.jpg

When Alex wanders in he passes a large rack of albums, some of which elude my occasionally sketchy knowledge of 70s’ rock. I can recognise these: 1) U by The Incredible String Band, 2) Atom Heart Mother by Pink Floyd, 3) As Your Mind Flies By by Rare Bird, 4) Get Ready by Rare Earth and 5), the one that started it all, Lorca by Tim Buckley.

02.jpg

02_1.jpg

albums2.jpg

albums2_1.jpg

Alex passes a booth stacked with magazines and newspapers. The one at the lower right is a popular film magazine of the time, Films and Filming.

03.jpg

He passes the other side of the magazine booth, selects a magazine and leafs through it while he walks. I’d never paid much attention to this before until I was stepping through the scene again and recognised the cover as a copy of Cinema X (The International Guide for Adult Audiences), an exploitation mag that existed solely to show people stills of nude scenes in current films. This is Kubrick’s first joke since Cinema X is exactly the kind of title that would attract Alex’s attention even though he discards it a few moments later.

04.jpg

04_1.jpg

cinema_x_1970.jpg

Cinema X, vol. 2, #11 (1970). 

The magazine above is the issue Alex selects (minus the censored boobs). The logo was easy to spot because I own the issue (below), volume 4, no. 6, which has as its main feature…A Clockwork Orange.

cinema_x.jpg

Cinema X, vol. 4, #6 (1972).

Alex leafs through the mag and passes a poster for Ned Kelly, a film starring Mick Jagger who’d sung about the Chelsea Drug Store only a couple of years before. No idea how I recognised this, it was a lucky guess.

07.jpg

07_1.jpg

nedkelly.jpg

Two more Kubrick jokes: on the left there’s a copy of the soundtrack to SK’s earlier film 2001: A Space Odyssey at the front of the album racks. On the right there’s a gentleman who many people assume is the director although I believe this has been soundly refuted. Besides his face there’s another joke, the sleeve of the Missa Luba album by Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin, an album of gospel songs sung by an African school choir that was released in 1959. The ‘Sanctus’ song from side two was played throughout Lindsay Anderson’s film If…. which featured Malcolm McDowell in his first major role playing another figure of rebellion. It was this role that landed him the lead in A Clockwork Orange.

05.jpg

05_1.jpg

05_2.jpg

albums3.jpg

Alex ditches his Cinema X and passes a copy of the debut album by British rock trio Stray.

08.jpg

08_1.jpg

albums5.jpg

Arriving at the record booth we can see a number of albums on display. On the upper shelves there are copies of Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles and another copy of Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother. In the racks at the front there’s a more prominently displayed copy of the 2001 soundtrack (in a different sleeve) next to John Fahey’s “fake” blues album, The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death.

06.jpg

06_2.jpg

06_1.jpg

Might there be a reason for placing Fahey’s not-at-all futuristic blues record next to the 2001 soundtrack? How about this: one of the songs on Fahey’s album is Bicycle Made For Two (aka Daisy Bell), the very thing that the HAL 9000 computer famously recites when it’s being shut down.

albums4.jpg

Lastly, that big graphic swirl above the booth is the symbol of the Vertigo record label.

Places like the Chelsea Drug Store were the magical homes of music before the corporations moved in and turned high street stores into warehouses flogging albums in bulk. In this scene at least A Clockwork Orange serves less as a warning of the future and more as a window on a world that’s disappeared.

Update: All the images have been upgraded from a Blu-ray edition of the film.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive