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!)
Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall) (1946) by Joseph Cornell.
• Having been a Bernard Szajner enthusiast for many years it’s good to see his music receiving some belated reappraisal. David McKenna talked to Szajner about his Visions Of Dune album (which is being reissued by InFiné next month), laser harps, The (Hypothetical) Prophets, and working with Howard Devoto.
• Priscilla Frank posts some big views of Marjorie Cameron’s occult paintings as a preview of the forthcoming exhibition at MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles.
Those who set up oppositions between the electronic technology and that of the printing press perpetuate Frollo’s fallacy. They want us to believe that the book—an instrument as perfect as the wheel or the knife, capable of holding memory and experience, an instrument that is truly interactive, allowing us to begin and end a text wherever we choose, to annotate in the margins, to give its reading a rhythm at will—should be discarded in favor of a newer tool. Such intransigent choices result in technocratic extremism. In an intelligent world, electronic devices and printed books share the space of our work desks and offer each of us different qualities and reading possibilities. Context, whether intellectual or material, matters, as most readers know.
Alberto Manguel, lucid as always, on the act and import of reading.
• “Why do the covers of so many self-published books look like shit?” asks B. David Zarley.
• At Core77: Rain Noe chooses favourite skyscraper photos by Russian urban explorers.
• “O, Excellent Air Bag”: Mike Jay on the nitrous oxide fad of the early 19th century.
• Nick Carr goes in search of Manhattan’s last remaining skybridges.
• Lauren Bacall at Pinterest.
It’s not cheap but it’s rather tasty: The Changing Faces of Bowie, a limited print at the V&A shop produced for the forthcoming David Bowie exhibition. One hundred artists and designers were asked to choose or create a Bowie-related type design, the collection being printed on holographic paper. Creative Review looked at some details. Related: Bowie’s new album, The Next Day, is now streaming in full at iTunes.
• Marisa Siegel reviews The Moon & Other Inventions: Poems After Joseph Cornell by Kristina Marie Darling, “a fully enchanting if somewhat mysterious collection of poems, written entirely as footnotes”. BlazeVOX has an extract here.
• “[Clement] Greenberg came round to our house in Camden Square. He started telling Bill what he should do to improve a work. Dad lost patience and kicked him out.” Alex Turbull of 23 Skidoo on sculptor father William Turnbull.
“You get the impression that a lot of these young directors have never gained much experience of life outside their film schools or their video-rental stores.”
Anne Billson met Roman Polanski in 1995 to discuss Death and the Maiden.
• “Bring Back the Illustrated Book!” says Sam Sacks. Some of us would reply that it never went away but merely remains subject to much unexamined prejudice.
• The Forest and The Trees: A blog by Genevieve Kaplan about altered texts and book art by herself and other artists.
• The Homosexual Atom Bomb: Sophie Pinkham on gay rights, Soviet Russia and the Cold War.
• Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Zang Tumb Tuum? A blog devoted to the ZTT record label.
• Nigel Kneale’s TV ghost drama, The Stone Tape, is reissued on DVD later this month.
• The drawings of Victor Hugo.
Susan Sontag, Tony Curtis and Stan Brakhage all shared an appreciation for the work of American artist Joseph Cornell (1903–1972), and all appear in a 51-minute documentary Joseph Cornell: Worlds in a Box directed by Mark Stokes for the BBC in 1991. Susan Sontag was also the subject of one of Cornell’s collages, something she discusses here. Tony Curtis collected many of Cornell’s boxes and used to visit the artist when he was in New York; in Stokes’s film he discusses their relationship and reads from Cornell’s writings.
I’ve had a tape of this for years courtesy of Kerri Sharp who worked on the film (hi Kerri!) but it’s taken a while to turn up on YouTube. The value of films such as this isn’t so much the view they give of the works themselves—all of which are better judged in books or museums—but the way they function as mini-biographies which give a sense of the environment from which the art emerged. You can read in detail about Cornell’s life in Deborah Solomon’s Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell (1997) but a text description of his home lacks the immediacy of the views Stokes gives us of the Cornell house, and the room where he created so much of his work. The film also follows Cornell’s train journeys into New York City, and visits the locations of his short films. Extracts of the latter appear throughout the documentary but you can see them in full at Ubuweb.
If you’re looking for an arty (and costly) Christmas present this year, Thames & Hudson have just published Joseph Cornell’s Manual of Marvels: How Joseph Cornell reinvented a French Agricultural Manual to create an American Masterpiece; two books in a box with a CD, edited by Analisa Leppanen-Guerra and Dickran Tashjian. The NYT reviews it here.
Untitled etching by Briony Morrow-Cribbs.
• An interview with author Paul Russell whose new novel, The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov, concerns the gay brother of the celebrated Vladimir.
• Cormac McCarthy turns in his first original screenplay. I’d rather he turned in a new novel but any new Cormac is better than none at all.
• Melanie McDonagh asks “Where have all the book illustrators gone?”
• Margaret Atwood on writing The Handmaid’s Tale.