Viewing View

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“Convulsive beauty” continues to be the order of the day around here. Reading Deborah Solomon’s Joseph Cornell biography back in April I was wishing again that there might be a way of seeing back issues of Charles Henri Ford’s View magazine, a heavily Surrealist art journal published in New York in the 1940s with an incredible list of contributors. (See this post.) Cornell was good friends with Ford and his artist-partner, Pavel Tchelitchew, and provided material for several issues of the magazine, including a substantial contribution to the Americana Fantastica special of January 1943. So I was delighted—convulsed, even—when the generous Mr TjZ of Connecticut offered to send me a copy of View: Parade of the Avant-Garde, a 290-page reader compiled by Ford for Thunder’s Mouth Press in 1992. Ideal reading just now. Thanks, Joe!

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Previously on { feuilleton }
View: The Modern Magazine

Hamfat Asar, a film by Lawrence Jordan

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I was reminded of Lawrence/Larry Jordan recently when reading Deborah Solomon’s biography of Joseph Cornell, Utopia Parkway, in which Jordan receives passing mention for helping Cornell with some of his film work in the 1960s. One of Jordan’s short films was featured here in 2014 but I’d not been very diligent in looking for more, a considerable oversight when he was an early and accomplished practitioner of animation using collaged engravings and illustrations. He wasn’t the only animator producing work like this in the 1960s, Harry Smith, Jan Lenica and Walerian Borowczyk also used these methods, but Jordan seemed to favour the idiom more than others.

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Hamfat Asar dates from 1965, and is immediately notable for moving its collaged figures over a shoreline landscape which remains fixed for the entire running time. The narrative, such as it is, concerns a stilt-walking figure attempting to cross from one side of the screen to the other but whose progress is continually impeded by a succession of figures, creatures and bizarre assemblages. The film has been described as representing “a vision of life beyond death” although this isn’t very evident at all. Jordan’s films are much more Surreal in the true sense of the word than many other collage animations which tend towards satire or comedy, Terry Gilliam’s work for Monty Python being an obvious example of the latter. The combination of Surreal engravings with black-and-white film stock gives Hamfat Asar a distinct Max Ernst flavour, which is no bad thing. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Carabosse, a film by Lawrence Jordan
Labirynt by Jan Lenica
Science Friction by Stan VanDerBeek
Heaven and Earth Magic by Harry Smith
Short films by Walerian Borowczyk

Cornell’s Constellations

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Untitled (Die Sternen-Welt), c.1950.

Among my current reading is Utopia Parkway (1997), Deborah Solomon’s biography of American artist Joseph Cornell (1903–1972). The book is very good for the factual data but I’ve been less enamoured by Solomon’s attempts to dredge biographical significance from Cornell’s hermetic and allusive work, or by her dismissive comments about other artists. Her account is most valuable when showing the evolution of Cornell’s art, the way he developed his often erratic and hesitant working methods. Most of Cornell’s works that I’ve seen in the past have been solitary examples, usually in books about Surrealism, so I wasn’t aware that so many of his celebrated and influential box assemblages were produced as themed series: Aviaries, Dovecotes, Hotels, and so on.

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Planet Set, Tête Etoilée, Giuditta Pasta (dédicace), 1950.

Astronomy was a Cornell passion which also provided the subject for another themed series, Observatories, a collection of boxes begun later in his career for which star maps and heavenly bodies were the dominant concern. By the 1950s his creations were much more refined than some of his earlier constructions, although the box contents include many familiar Cornell ingredients: antique maps and diagrams, glassware, spherical objects, etc. The examples here are a small selection of those to be found scattered around various websites. Another consequence of reading Solomon’s book is realising that I could do with a companion volume filled with Cornell’s artwork. There doesn’t seem to be a decent monograph as yet; if anyone has any suggestions (preferably with colour plates) then please leave a comment.

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Sun Box (1950). [Not a constellation, obviously, but from the same astronomical series.]

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Untitled (Celestial Navigation), 1956–58.

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Celestial Navigation (c.1958).

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Untitled (Canis Major Constellation), c.1960.

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Custodian—M.M. (1962).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Joseph Cornell: Worlds in a Box
Joseph Cornell, 1967
Rose Hobart by Joseph Cornell
View: The Modern Magazine

Weekend links 266

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Spine and cover art by John Schoenherr for the first American edition of Dune, 1965.

• “[Herbert] had also taken peyote and read Jung. In 1960, a sailing buddy introduced him to the Zen thinker Alan Watts, who was living on a houseboat in Sausalito. Long conversations with Watts, the main conduit by which Zen was permeating the west-coast counterculture, helped turn Herbert’s pacy adventure story into an exploration of temporality, the limits of personal identity and the mind’s relationship to the body.” Hari Kunzru on Frank Herbert and Dune, 50 years on. Related: “To save California, read Dune,” says Andrew Leonard. There’s a lot more Dune cover art at ISFDB.

• “Embedded in Adam’s footage were several dark forms, human-ish in outline, unidentifiable but unmistakable, visible within the leaves or the shadows.” Holloway is a short film by Adam Scovell based on the book by Robert Macfarlane, Dan Richards and Stanley Donwood.

The Library of the Lost: In Search of Forgotten Authors by Roger Dobson; edited and with an introduction by Mark Valentine. Roger and Mark were my first publishers in 1988 when their Caermaen Books imprint produced the large-format edition of The Haunter of the Dark.

• “…over the years he created a series of ‘Pharmacies’: rows of glass bottles filled not with medicines to cure the body…but objects to stimulate the mind.” Clare Walters reviews Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust, an exhibition at the Royal Academy, London.

• “The sound machines we build today are invariably one-offs, made from salvaged parts, with all the precariousness of a prototype.” Sarah Angliss on the art of making music machines.

Mission Desire is a new single by Jane Weaver whose video is “set to scenes from Marie Mathématique – the French 1960s mini-series about Barbarella’s younger sister”.

• Ghost signs, ginnels and hidden details: an alternative guide to Manchester by Hayley Flynn aka Skyliner.

• “I want to be despised,” says John Waters who has a new art exhibition at Sprüth Magers, London.

Sonic Praise, an album of “Krautprogbikermetal” by Ecstatic Vision.

• The Evolution of the Great Gay Novel: an overview by Rebecca Brill.

* At Bibliothèque Gay: more homoerotic drawings by Jean Cocteau.

Wyrd Daze Lvl2 Issue 3 is a free download.

Nicolas Winding Refn: vinyl collector.

Art With Naked Guys In It

Caladan (2011) by Roly Porter | Giedi Prime (2011) by Roly Porter | Arrakis (2011) by Roly Porter

Carabosse, a film by Lawrence Jordan

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Collage animators may not be as plentiful as collage artists but this branch of filmmaking has attracted a number of heavyweight talents including Harry Smith, Jan Lenica, Walerian Borowczyk and Terry Gilliam. Lawrence Jordan worked for a time as an assistant to Joseph Cornell but he’s been making short films since the 1950s, many of which involve animated collage. Carabosse (1980) is a brief and distinctly Surreal piece set to Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No. 4. (An earlier film is titled Gymnopédies.) Watch it here. (Thanks to Erik Davis for the tip!)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Labirynt by Jan Lenica
Science Friction by Stan VanDerBeek
Heaven and Earth Magic by Harry Smith
Short films by Walerian Borowczyk