Bruno Taut’s Glass Pavilion

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Some speculative architecture that for once isn’t from Paris in 1900. Bruno Taut (1880–1938) gets labelled an Expressionist architect although it’s always a hazardous business connecting people in other disciplines to whatever art movement may be around at the time. The Glass Pavilion was a showcase structure commissioned by the German glass industry for the 1914 Werkbund exhibition in Cologne. The colour photo is a model from this V&A page where we learn that:

Bruno Taut’s structure demonstrated the various ways glass could be used in a building, but also indicated how the material might be used to orchestrate human emotions and assist in the construction of a spiritual utopia. Taut’s interest in this aspect of glass (explored more intensively during the First World War and later in his book Alpine Architecture and in the Glass Chain letters) had been stimulated by the writer Paul Scheerbart whom he had met in 1912 and who argued for an earthly paradise based on a new architecture of glass and colour. Subsequently, Scheerbart wrote Glasarchitektur (Glass Architecture) in 1914, which he dedicated to Taut, while Taut produced his Glass Pavilion and inscribed aphorisms from Scheerbart on the lintels of the 14 side walls. […] The glazed walls were topped by a dome of reinforced concrete ribs and a double skin of glass: reflecting glass on the outside and coloured prisms inside. In the interior, the colour effects produced by sunlight were enhanced by the reflections of the pool and water cascade on the lower level, visible through a circular opening in the floor. Two flights of glass steps enclosed with glass walls produced the sensation of descending to the lower level ‘as if through sparkling water’. The cascade was made of yellow glass, while the pool was of its complementary colour, violet. A mechanical kaleidoscope overhead projected images, an early version of a light show, intensifying the overall impression on the visitor.

All of which makes one wish there were more colour photos available. There’s another photo of the model here which shows a very different arrangement of light and colour.

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Le Corbusier apparently disliked Taut’s obsession with vivid colours, accusing him of being colour blind. There’s more about Taut’s philosophy of colour here. Taut wasn’t the only architect at the time interested in glass, his contemporary Hermann Finsterlin designed a “dream in glass” in 1920 that still looks radical today, as do many of Finsterlin’s other designs, all of them a good reminder that biomorphic architecture isn’t exactly new, it’s just become easier to build.

See also: Lebbeus Woods on Taut’s plan to refashion the Alps into a range of crystalline buildings.

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The cascade.

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The dome interior.

Signals from Mars

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Raymond Taylor’s composition, A Signal from Mars (1901).

This sheet music cover turned up recently as one of the pieces of science fiction-related graphics which will be on display at the British Library’s Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it exhibition when it opens on Thursday. I don’t know what the music sounds like but the design is very familiar from a reworked version used for the cover of A Beacon from Mars, the second album by psychedelic band Kaleidoscope. It was always obvious that this cover had been copied from somewhere but I hadn’t seen the original until now. On the reissue CD there are no design credits so I’ve no idea who drew the cover; given its rather crude felt-tipped appearance that may be just as well. It’s a nice idea but poorly rendered.

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A Beacon from Mars (1968) by Kaleidoscope.

There are two Kaleidoscopes among the psychedelic groups of the late 60s so it should be emphasised that it’s the American one we’re dealing with here. The UK group were very good, especially on their second album, Faintly Blowing (1969), but the US band are in a different league altogether. I’d rate them as highly as any other group you care to name from the period 1967–69, including The Beatles. A troupe of formidable multi-instrumentalists, they started out as the Baghdad Blues Band (the name change was prompted by their manager), and played a unique blend of psych-rock, blues, bluegrass, English folk and Middle Eastern instrumentals. Jimmy Page called them his favourite band of all time, and it’s notable that Led Zeppelin adopted a similarly eclectic formula shortly after. The last of Kaleidoscope’s trio of 60s albums is aptly titled Incredible; the standout piece on that opus is Seven-Ate Sweet which can be heard in its full 11-minute glory here. For more about the band, this fan site is the place to go.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

The psychedelic art of Howard Bernstein

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Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (1967).

I made a post a while back about the work of Bob Pepper, an artist whose illustrations from the 1960s can also be described as psychedelic and who was equally visible in the music and book publishing worlds. Howard Bernstein (not to be confused with musician Howie B) wasn’t as prolific as Pepper but this post was prompted by the appearance at Sci-Fi-O-Rama of the swirling abstractions of his Roger Zelazny cover. Like Pepper, Bernstein produced album cover art as well as book covers although it’s possible the Zelazny piece may have been a one-off. This was the jacket of the first edition and a rather flagrant attempt by Doubleday to co-opt the trendiness of the psychedelic style for a science fiction readership. They tried something similar with the cover for Harlan Ellison’s landmark anthology Dangerous Visions in the same year, the art in that case being the work of Leo & Diane Dillon. The Zelazny cover caught my attention for another reason, the typography is a variation on the 19th century Kismet typeface by John F Cumming which I used for my two Alice in Wonderland calendars and which turns up regularly in psychedelic design. And while we’re considering conjunctions of music and science fiction, I ought to note that the Hawkwind song Lord of Light lifts its title from Zelazny’s novel.

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The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra, Vol. I (1965).

As for Bernstein’s music work, most of this appears to have been for Bernard Stollman’s eccentric ESP Disk label where the roster of artists included many free-jazz greats along with The Fugs, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary and fringe psychedelic groups such as Pearls Before Swine, Cromagnon, The Godz and others. Bernstein’s Cromagnon cover (below) exists in both monochrome and coloured versions but the monochrome one seems to be the original. In fact much of his art looks like it was drawn in black-and-white with the colours being created by separations at the print stage. His poster for The Godz is especially striking, so much so I’m surprised to find there isn’t more of his work around. Wolfgang’s Vault has a blacklight poster and there are some other blacklight works here. If anyone knows of other posters, please leave a comment although I suspect if there was much more then Wolfgang’s Vault would have the goods.

Continue reading “The psychedelic art of Howard Bernstein”

Len Lye

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Rainbow Dance (1936).

Fortunate Londoners can see a BFI screening of early film shorts by Len Lye (1901–1980) this Friday at the NFT. (Details here.) Lye is one of the pioneers of abstract cinema and his work still astounds for its inventiveness and playful interaction between synchronised image and music. Many of his works were created by painting directly onto the film strip, a technique later pursued by animators like Norman McLaren. Free Radicals has long been a favourite, created with nothing more than a drum track and scratches on black-and-white film; five minutes of hypnotic genius. The BFI programme list below features links to YouTube versions. Some are poor quality but worth watching all the same:

This slot is dedicated to Len Lye, a towering figure in experimental film. The films are: Tusalava (1929, 9min, silent); Peanut Vendor (1933, 2min); Kaleidoscope (1935, 4min); A Colour Box (1935, 3min); The Birth of a Robot (1936, 6min); Rainbow Dance (1936, 4min); Colour Flight (1937, 4min); Swinging the Lambeth Walk (1940, 4min); Rhythm (1957, 1min); Free Radicals (1958, 5min); Particles in Space (1966, 4min); Cameramen at War (1944, 14min); Everyday (dir Hans Richter, 1929, 17min). Approx 77min total.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Matrix III by John Whitney
Symphonie Diagonale by Viking Eggeling
Mary Ellen Bute: Films 1934–1957
Norman McLaren
John Whitney’s Catalog
Arabesque by John Whitney
Moonlight in Glory
Jordan Belson on DVD
Ten films by Oskar Fischinger
Lapis by James Whitney
Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood

Weekend links 27

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Annie Duels The Sun (2010) by Angie Wang.

I’m interviewed again, this time by James at Cardboard Cutout Sundown. Covering familiar subjects for {feuilleton} readers: art history, design, Lovecraft, the genre/mainstream seesaw, etc. Related: Jeff VanderMeer previewed my design for the forthcoming Steampunk Reloaded.

Battle over legacy of father of Art Nouveau. Prague authorities are demanding the paintings which comprise Alphonse Mucha’s Slav Epic be moved to the capital.

The films that time forgot. David Thomson on ten neglected works including a cult favourite of mine, Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End (1970).

The Viatorium Press: “Fine letterpress printing, digital typography, and hand painted illumination.” Among their recent productions is a poem by Clark Ashton Smith.

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À la conquête du pôle (1912); Georges Méliès vs. Jules Verne.

Taxandria, a feature-length collaboration between Raoul Servais, François Schuiten and, er, Alain-Robbe Grillet, is on YouTube. My earlier post about the film is here.

Salvagepunk, or (maybe) Post-post-modernism: “How a music micro-trend heralds an emerging, internet-enabled, aesthetic movement.” See also the latest issue of The Wire.

Drainspotting with Remo Camerota: documenting Japan’s creative manhole covers.

• Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of squid: a book devoted to Kraken Black Spiced Rum.

After Stanley Kubrick. Christiane Kubrick on life without Stanley K.

• Pills and penises and kissing boys: Tara Sinn’s Kaleidoscopes.

Found Objects: a hauntological dumping ground.

• Sandow Birk’s American Qur’an.

• RIP Frank Kermode.

Feuerland (1968) by Theo Schumann Combo; Feuerland (1977) by Michael Rother; Feuerland (2007) by Justus Köhnke.