Rebel Ready-Made

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I think I spotted across this one while searching for more Robert Hughes, in which case I offer grudging thanks to the algorithms of the Great Panopticon. If you’ve ever seen Marcel Duchamp talking about his work in an arts documentary then it’s probable that the clip will have been taken from this film. (The Shock of the New is no exception.) Rebel Ready-Made was directed by Tristram Powell for a short-lived BBC arts series, New Release, and broadcast in June 1966 to coincide with a major Duchamp retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London. It’s fascinating for number of reasons, mostly the way that Duchamp is happy to talk about his sporadic art career, an occupation that in its mature phase consisted of spasms of invention followed by increasing boredom and a wandering off to do something else. The ease with which he did all this—the inventions which in other hands would have fuelled entire careers, and then the eventual abandonment of the whole art game—always made a sly mockery of the self-importance that sustained the art world in the 20th century.

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Elsewhere in the film you get praise for Duchamp from Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage, plus the artist’s friend Richard Hamilton, seen briefly painting the replica of The Large Glass that appeared in the Tate exhibition as a substitute for the fragile original. This has been my favourite of Duchamp’s works since I saw the replica in the Tate a decade later. Having a duplicate stand in for the original isn’t such an unusual thing for Duchamp when most of his ready-made sculptures are also copies, the “originals” having been lost or destroyed shortly after their first exhibitions. From the 1930s on, Duchamp had also been making multiple copies of all his works in miniature for the various iterations of the Boîte-en-valise, or portable museum.

Tristram Powell was lucky to capture the artist being so talkative at such a late date. Two years after this Duchamp was dead, although there was one last surprise in store. Jasper Johns referred to Étant donné as “the strangest work of art in any museum”. Duchamp never acknowledged the existence of this life-size peepshow while he was alive, preferring it to be announced to the public only after his death, which is what happened in 1969. There are no replicas of this one; if you want to see it (or the parts of it the artist allows you to see) you have to go to Philadelphia and peer through the holes in the door.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Televisual art
Chance encounters on the dissecting table
The Witch’s Cradle by Maya Deren
Audio Arts
8 x 8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements
Anémic Cinéma
Dreams That Money Can Buy
Entr’acte by René Clair
View: The Modern Magazine

Weekend links 613

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An engraving by Rafael Custos from Cabala, Spiegel der Kunst und Natur, In Alchymia (1615) by “Father C.R.C.”.

• “Writing is very subconscious and the last thing I want to do is think about it.” Cormac McCarthy responded to a handful of questions from a couple of lucky high-school students. Lithub’s list of McCarthy’s rare public manifestations missed this chatty encounter with the Coen Brothers from 2007.

• Strange Flowers celebrates Rosa Bonheur, “the most famous and successful woman artist of the 19th century, dressing in men’s clothing, smoking cigars, riding astride and living openly with female partners.”

A Secret Between Gentlemen by Peter Jordaan “details a British Government coverup of a gay scandal involving great names. Hidden for 120 years, it is a history that has never been told, and until recently could not be told.”

[Mark E. Smith] liked HP Lovecraft, whose monster of The Call of Cthulhu and The Dunwich Horror appears in the song N.W.R.A., “Body a tentacle mess”. He quite liked MR James’ Ghost Stories. He liked the more recent, seemingly disgraced, and by then unfashionable, occult fiction of Colin Wilson: The Black Room and Ritual in the Dark. But He LOVED the writing of early twentieth century Arthur Machen. “Machen’s fucking brilliant.” In his autobiography Renegade he comments, “He lives in this alternative world: the real occult’s not in Egypt, but in the pubs of the East End and the stinking boats of the Thames—on your doorstep, basically.”

Woebot goes deep into the grotesque and esoteric worlds of Mark E. Smith and The Fall

• “It sometimes seems as though inn signs are the symbols and the focus of some great alchemical experiment in the landscape of England.” Mark Valentine on inn signs and some of the theories about their origins.

• “…we’re going back into this shipwreck and, you know, pulling out the gold pieces”. Dennis Bovell on reworking the Pop Group’s incendiary debut album as Y in Dub.

• Mixes of the week: A Wendy Carlos mix by Erik DeLuca for The Wire, and a psychedelic/post-punk mix by Robert Hampson for NTS.

Landscapes is an exhibition of torn-paper collages by Jordan Belson at Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

• “A force entirely of itself”: Robert Fripp on the difficult legacy of King Crimson.

White Landscape I (1971) by Douglas Leedy | John Cage: In A Landscape (1994) performed by Stephen Drury | Primordial Landscape (2013) by Patrick Cowley

Weekend links 313

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The Sullen Son (1921) by Rose O’Neill from her Sweet Monsters series (also here).

10 hours of Popcorn (1972) by Hot Butter. Related (and linked here before) 79 different versions of Gershon Kingsley’s original. If that’s not enough, there’s at least 100 more out there.

• Mixes of the week: Touristica Mystica Sigillistica by Gregg Hermetech, FACT Mix 554 by The Body, and Secret Thirteen Mix 187 by Dalhous.

• Another electronic cover version: Trans Europe Express by Cobby & Mallinder.

In the 1950s people like Pierre Schaeffer and John Cage were saying: “But there are all these sounds in the world, and if you listen to them carefully enough you will hear the music that they speak.” This immediately opened up a new world; it’s enriching once you’ve educated your ear to that, because when you’re annoyed by the sound of the street you can make music out of it. You can make music out of almost everything!

Eliane Radigue discussing her career with Paul Schütze

Patricia Highsmith’s Snail Obsession and Two Weird Tales of Monstrous Mollusks.

Youth and Alex Patterson remember the making of Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb.

Strange Flowers pursues Sheila Legge and other Phantoms of Surrealism.

• Revealed: Cambodia’s vast medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle.

Alan Moore describes the cover of epic novel Jerusalem.

Ashgabat: the city of the living and the city of the dead.

• In praise of the tram by Christian Wolmar.

Taxidermists at DC’s

Brian The Snail (1982) by Pigbag | Slow Loris Versus Poison Snail (1996) by David Toop & Jon Hassell | Popcorn (2000) by Gershon Kingsley

Weekend links 240

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The Death of Chatterton (2014) by Kehinde Wiley.

• Mixes of the week (and the week before that): The Conjurer’s Hexmas: Second Rite by SeraphicManta; Secret Thirteen Mix 140 by Deaf Center; Best of 2014: A Highly Opinionated Mix by Robin The Fog.

• Never mind Music for Airports, how about Music for Neurosurgery? The Tegos Tapes Edits are extracts from “12 hours of unheard Vangelis music soundtracking films of various surgical operations”.

• “It was one of the first magazines that, with science-fiction and comics together, proposed comics for adults.” Aug Stone on 40 years of publisher Les Humanoïdes Associés and Métal Hurlant.

• Zinesters Do It on the Photocopier: Stephanie Schroeder on the Queer Zine Archive Project. Related: Holy Titclamps by Larry-bob Roberts.

A Year In The Country reached the end of its 365 posts. The archive is well worth a browse.

• “These people love to collect radioactive glass. Are they nuts?” asks Ben Marks.

• Think before you share: 86 viral images from 2014 that were totally fake.

• The Anti-Tolkien: Peter Bebergal on Michael Moorcock.

• Extracts from Alan Bennett‘s diary for 2014.

John Cage 4’33” Autotune

Alpha (1976) by Vangelis | Reve (1979) by Vangelis | L’Enfant (1979) by Vangelis

Subterranean Modern: The Residents, Chrome, MX-80 Sound and Tuxedomoon

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Subterranean Modern (1979). Sleeve art by Gary Panter.

As often happens, one post leads to another, and the next thing you know there’s a themed week happening, so here’s something more about Tuxedomoon. Subterranean Modern was a compilation album released by The Residents on their Ralph Records label in 1979. The idea was to showcase The Residents along with three other groups from contemporary San Francisco, all of whom were underground acts, hence the “subterranean” title. Three of those groups—Chrome, Tuxedomoon, The Residents themselves—have since developed cult followings; hard-rock outfit MX-80 Sound seem a little ordinary and out-of-place in this unique company but then that’s the nature of the compilation album. The Residents wanted each group to provide an interpretation of I Left My Heart In San Francisco but none of the others were very interested; Chrome’s offering, which lasts all of 27 seconds, is hilariously contemptuous of the idea, a squall of riff and vocals that fades in then quickly fades away. Cartoonist Gary Panter illustrated the cover which is also given the Rozz Tox seal of approval. For more about Rozz Tox, whose enigmatic presence can be found on other Ralph Records releases, see this.

I’d already heard Chrome and The Residents when I bought Subterranean Modern but this was first place I encountered Tuxedomoon’s music. Chrome, who appear on the back cover wearing their Clockwork Orange droog outfits, contribute two tracks that are as good as anything on their early records, Anti-Fade and the chugging Meet You In The Subway for which they made a video filmed on the city’s BART platforms. I listened to those tracks, and the Tuxedomoon ones, much more than the rest of the album. With the exception of the pieces by MX-80 Sound, everything on the album has since been reissued on other compilations (Tuxedomoon’s tracks are on the Pinheads On The Move collection).

The following is a two-page feature about the album and the four bands from the NME for 17th November, 1979. I don’t know whether this was Tuxedomoon’s first UK interview but it says it’s the first interview given by Chrome which gives it some vague contemporary relevance. Helios Creed recently re-formed Chrome, and played a show in London earlier this month. There’s also a new Chrome album, although for me Chrome proper requires Damon Edge, and he died in 1995. (Thanks to Gav for saving the pages!)

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I LEFT MY ART IN SAN FRANCISCO

Checking out the West Coast’s Avant Garde by Michael Goldberg

ralph.jpgSAN FRANCISCO—The true avant-garde is never accepted, barely tolerated. The public has no use for ideas which challenge society’s preconceptions.

Certainly the outright hatred which was heaped on The New York Dolls and, later, The Ramones and Sex Pistols—all groups who spat on the status quo of their times—attests to the difficulty of pushing a radical concept on the public. And those groups were merely returning to the basic, raw values which great rock and roll has always maintained.

So imagine the difficulty of developing and maintaining a style of music which has little, if any, solid tradition to fall back on. In San Francisco, a city where the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Starship and Steve Miller can sell out the largest of stadiums, an avant-garde underground has been hanging on, etching out the meagrest of niches so that it can continue a dogged pursuit of rock experimentation.

Carrying the torch for “outre” music is San Francisco’s Residents and their parent companies, Ralph Records and the nebulous Cryptic Corporation. For nine long years, the Residents have relentlessly persisted, bowing to no one as they explore a sonic universe of their own devising.

In the wake of The Residents’ relative success—though the group is still practically unknown in their hometown, they have been received by a rather large cult spread out across the U.S. and Europe—other equally unique and esoteric groups have been attracted to San Francisco.

Realising that there is strength in numbers, Ralph Records gathered together three of the most uncompromising bands in San Francisco (and possibly on the West Coast): Chrome (with roots in L.A.), MX-80 Sound (who migrated from Bloomington, Indiana, last year), and Tuxedomoon (whose core members came from Denver, Colorado and Chicago, Illinois), and convinced them to join The Residents (originally from Shreveport, Louisiana) in a joint project. The project is a compilation album, Subterranean Modern (Ralph).

Continue reading “Subterranean Modern: The Residents, Chrome, MX-80 Sound and Tuxedomoon”