Weekend links 422

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Wu Ming, a communist writing collective known for its historical fiction, sees Kolosimo as using pseudohistory as a tool to shake people from their belief that capitalist society is natural and transhistorical, opening minds to other possibilities for how humans can live. They regret that popular proponents of his theories today, like Graham Hancock and Erich von Däniken, are unable to recognize the political motivations behind his project: “Nothing of his radicality survives in today’s copycats… Every corner has been blunted, the heresy has become telegenic, but we know that the revolution will not be televised.”

The secret history of Marxist alien hunters by AM Gittlitz

I received the Sphere edition of Peter Kolosimo’s book as a Christmas present in 1974, and being 12 years old at the time took its theories fairly seriously. As a work of pseudohistory it’s as poor as the books of Erich von Däniken but I always liked the title, and it happens to be the place I first encountered the mysterious words “Popol Vuh”, a name that would acquire a very different significance a few years later. Kolosimo also joins Kenneth Grant in taking HP Lovecraft’s work as a thin fictionalisation of supposed fact. For a serious dismantling of Not of This World see this review (the first of three parts) by “skeptical xenoarchaelogist” Jason Colavito.

• The Archons are back: Erik Davis talks with Gnostic scholar Matthew Dillon about religious mourning, the Nag Hammadi library, sex-magick Jesus, the Gnostic Eden, David Icke’s lizards, and the power of the Archons as an allegory of contemporary technological and political power.

Crystal Voyager (1973) is a surfing film by David Elfick that ends with a 23-minute sequence of slow-motion waves set to Echoes by Pink Floyd. Some of the same footage later appeared in the final scenes of Peter Weir’s The Last Wave (1977).

• Sweet artifice: “Dandies in the age of decadence favoured synthetics over nature, nowhere more so than in perfumery’s fabulous counterfeits,” says Catherine Maxwell.

• Now for a lampshade solo: Pascal Wyse on how the Radiophonic Workshop built the future of sound.

• Wilde about Paris: Alex Dean on the sex, drink and liberation of Oscar Wilde’s “lost” years.

Bee in the City: the vanguard of an invading army from Planet Bee.

• Five books that most inspired Alexander McQueen.

Colin Newman‘s favourite albums.

Echoes (1969) by Leon Thomas | Echo Waves (1974) by Ash Ra Tempel | Not Of This World (1988) by Danzig

Form and Austin Osman Spare

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The University of Heidelberg‘s scanning programme continues to be a source of delight for those of us without professional or financial access to rare book collections. Having recently made the entire run of Der Ochideengarten available, they’ve added scans of another journal that was on my list of magazines I’d been hoping would eventually turn up online. Form was the first of two short-lived publications edited by Austin Osman Spare from 1916 to 1924, the second being The Golden Hind. Spare and co-editor “Francis Marsden” (Frederick Carter) published two issues of Form before Spare was conscripted in 1917. After the war, publication resumed with two further issues. Spare aficionados have long been familiar with the drawings in these publications, many of which have been reprinted over and over in collections of Spare’s art but often with no indication of their original context.

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Seeing the drawings in situ like this not only restores the context but also sets them beside the accompanying work by Spare’s fellow writers and artists. Some of the other contributors need no introduction—WB Yeats, Robert Graves—while others have been neglected or even forgotten. Most descriptions of Form mention its following in the lineage of The Yellow Book, publisher John Lane having been responsible for both publications. But looking through the first two issues I’d say the model is as much The Savoy, the magazine that Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Symons put together after The Yellow Book kicked out Beardsley in the wake of the Oscar Wilde trial. Yeats was a contributor to The Savoy, and two other artists present in Form—Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon—were friends and publishers of Wilde.

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The samples here are mostly Spare’s work, and only a small selection at that. Enthusiasts are encouraged to download the PDFs for themselves. I had seen one of these issues before (Alan Moore has an enviable collection of Spare publications) but the rest were magazines I’d been waiting decades to see in full. I’m hoping now that the excellent staff at Heidelberg may have copies of The Golden Hind waiting for similar treatment.

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More Spare things

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A couple of Austin Spare-related news items arrive in the same week so it’s worth linking again to Earth: Inferno (2003), a short film by Mor Navón & Julián Moguillansky based on the book by Austin Osman Spare. This is a production I have to damn with faint praise by being pleased that Spare is the focus of the work while being disappointed in the film as a whole. Despite the elaborate costumes, careful tableaux and copious nudity, Earth: Inferno confirms that an occult film needs to be more than a record of people dressing up and gesturing hieratically. If nothing else, occult rituals transform the perceptions of those involved, and this quality should be represented or implied in any film dealing with magical operations. The films of Kenneth Anger and Derek Jarman show different approaches, with the raw image transformed by superimposition, exaggerated grain, accelerated/decelerated motion, and so on. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and In the Shadow of the Sun are examples to follow. And now the news:

Lost Envoy: The Tarot Deck of Austin Osman Spare, edited by Jonathan Allen & Mark Pilkington. Out later this year from the fabulous Strange Attractor.

Surrealism, Austin Osman Spare and the Occult Underground of 1890s and 1990s London:

Nadia Choucha discusses the context and evolution of her ground-breaking book, Surrealism and the Occult, first published in 1991. The book traces the evolution of Surrealist ideas and situates them within the occult currents of fin-de-siècle European culture, revealing how these currents infused the work of various thinkers and artists in their quest for the ‘marvellous’. The work of Austin Osman Spare is also discussed as a way of comparing and contrasting his methods and techniques with those of the Surrealists. With the 25th anniversary of the publication of the book approaching, this evening will also present an analysis of the work as occurring within a unique historical and cultural moment.

Jun 23rd, 6:30 pm–8:00 pm at the Last Tuesday Society, London.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Book of Satyrs by Austin Osman Spare
Spare things
Dreaming Out of Space: Kenneth Grant on HP Lovecraft
MMM in IT
Abrahadabra
Murmur Become Ceaseless and Myriad
New Austin Spare grimoires
Austin Spare absinthe
Austin Spare’s Behind the Veil
Austin Osman Spare

A Book of Satyrs by Austin Osman Spare

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The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the word “satire” is

Formerly often confused or associated with satyr, from the common notion (found already in some ancient grammarians) that Latin ‘satira’ was derived from the Greek ‘satyr’, in allusion to the chorus of satyrs which gave its name to the Greek ‘satyric’ drama.

The word derives from “satura”

in early use a discursive composition in verse treating of a variety of subjects, in classical use a poem in which prevalent follies or vices are assailed with ridicule or with serious denunciation (OED)

but Austin Osman Spare’s A Book of Satyrs deliberately confuses satyr with satire, being a collection of satirical drawings among which may be found a small number of satyrs. Spare’s book was published in 1907 in an edition of 300 copies; it was reprinted by John Lane in 1909, and has been reissued since but any edition of Spare seems fated to vanish almost as soon as it appears, hence this unauthorised scan at the Internet Archive. Technically, these are some of the most detailed drawings that Spare produced so it’s to their benefit that the copies are a decent size; the meaning may not always be clear but you can at least wander among the accumulations of body parts, masks and bric-a-brac. Most are dated 1906, Spare’s 20th year.

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Continue reading “A Book of Satyrs by Austin Osman Spare”

In the Mind’s Eye

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One of the posts last December concerned a short TV film by Alan Garner, To Kill a King, the final entry in the Leap in the Dark series which the BBC ran from 1973 to 1980. Each half-hour episode concerned the supernatural, presented in either drama or documentary form, which for me would have meant prime viewing but I don’t recall ever seeing the series. The Garner film was a strange piece of drama whereas In the Mind’s Eye (1977) is a documentary about ghosts presented by writer Colin Wilson. The film is almost more interesting for its production details than its subject, the Phantom Vicar of Ratcliffe Wharf, an alleged spectre whose murderous life is shown in a piece of unconvincing dramatisation. The Phantom Vicar was the invention of writer Frank Smyth who needed a supernatural story for the Frontiers of Belief section of Man, Myth and Magic during its publication as a part-work in the early 1970s. Smyth and friend describe hatching the tale then we hear a number of subsequent reports which show the story quickly became an East End legend. Between the interviews you get to see bits of the docklands area before the spirits of old London had been exorcised by redevelopment.

Previously on { feuilleton }
To Kill a King by Alan Garner
Dreaming Out of Space: Kenneth Grant on HP Lovecraft
MMM in IT
Terror and Magnificence