Mothlight, a film by Stan Brakhage

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One of the common methods of making a no-budget abstract film was to scratch or paint directly onto the film itself, a technique popularised by Len Lye in the 1930s. Mothlight (1963) by Stan Brakhage works a variation on the process by gluing broken moth wings, leaves and other bits of natural detritus to a length of film. It only runs for three minutes but it’s a classic piece of experimental cinema. As usual with Brakhage, the titles are hand-drawn, and the film itself is silent.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Walter Ruttmann’s abstract cinema
7362, a film by Pat O’Neill
Here and There, a film by Andrzej Pawlowski
Power Spot by Michael Scroggins
OffOn by Scott Bartlett
The Flow III
Chris Parks
Len Lye
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

Weekend links 97

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Illustration by Ermanno Iaia. Hard to believe that Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) is only now appearing on DVD in the UK. Arrow Films release a dual-format edition at the end of this month.

• The week in perfume: Perfumes: The Guide by Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez is reviewed by Emily Gould (“this is a golden age of perfume criticism”) and prompts a meditation on the art and process of scent from Rishidev Chaudhuri.

Electrical Banana by Norman Hathaway & Dan Nadel is “the first definitive examination of the international language of psychedelia, focusing on the most important practitioners in their respective fields”.

Sacred Monsters is a forthcoming collection of essays and criticism by Edmund White. Related: Colm Tóibín from 1999 reviewing A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods.

Medium, a video by Clayton Welham and Sam Williams for Emptyset whose imminent release (also entitled Medium) I’ve designed. Related: Dave Maier on music versus noise.

• Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy: the face of US presidential contender Rick Santorum rendered as a collage of (mostly) gay porn. More provocation: All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay.

• Coilhouse discovered a rough copy of Bells of Atlantis (1952), an experimental film which features Anaïs Nin, input from Len Lye and an electronic score by Louis & Bebe Barron.

• “The idea that we should have but two options when it comes to our gender presentation, male or female, has always felt ludicrous to me,” says LaJohn Joseph.

Bely paints “a universe of strange manifestations” which drifts across Apollonovich’s consciousness every night before he falls asleep. We are even shown congeries of images that are shards of events which took place that day for the senator: “all the earlier inarticulacies, rustlings, crystallographic figures, the golden, chrysanthemum-like stars racing through the darkness on rays that resembled myriapods”

Malcom Forbes on Andrei Bely’s masterwork, Petersburg (1916).

RIP Barney Rosset, publisher of Grove Press books and the Evergreen Review.

The Brothers Quay will be at work in Leeds city centre this May. Lucky Leeds.

Warm Leatherette, a short film by Analogue Solutions.

Cormac McCarthy, Quantum Copy Editor.

The importance of being axonometric.

Always Crashing In The Same Car (1977) by David Bowie | Crash (1980) by Tuxedomoon | Crash Dance (1983) by Yello.

Chris Parks

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Chris Parks created effects sequences for The Fountain and The Tree of Life. His showreel can be viewed here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Len Lye
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 40

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Manchester, August, 1819: yeomanry on horseback charge a crowd of demonstrators; London, November, 2010: Mounted police charge demonstrators; London, December, 2010: “…police horses have charged the crowd once and appear to be about to do so again.”

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable NUMBER!
Shake your chains to earth, like dew
Which in sleep had fall’n on you:
YE ARE MANY–THEY ARE FEW.

Percy Shelley, The Masque of Anarchy (1819).

• Amid the rest of the week’s tumult, discussion and activity around the censoring of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly film at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, continues to rumble on. I’d missed this appraisal of the exhibition at The Smart Set. Hide/Seek: Too shocking for America features an interview with Jonathan Katz, co-creator of the exhibition in the eye of the storm:

“When,” Katz asks, “will the decent majority of Americans stand against a fringe that sees censorship as a replacement for debate?” Hide/Seek sought to conquer what Katz calls “the last acceptable prejudice in American political life” – but the conservative right, rampant after last month’s midterm elections, won’t relinquish their prejudices without a fight. And so, “an exhibition explicitly intended to break a 21-year blacklist against the representation of same-sex desire,” says a dispirited Katz, “now finds itself in the same boat.”

Related: Q&A with Hide/Seek curators Jonathan Katz and David C. Ward. The Smithsonian Institution issued a fatuous statement saying they stand by the exhibition despite having forced the removal of one of its works. One of the NPG commissioners resigned in protest at the gallery’s capitulation to political pressure. Other protestors were banned from the Smithsonian after playing a video of the work on an iPad. There’s video of the iPad protest here and the protestors have their own blog. In my earlier post on the subject I noted that the actions of censorious Catholics have given Wojnarowicz’s work far more public exposure than it would otherwise receive. The LATimes has details of some of the galleries throughout the US showing the video as a result of its removal in Washington.

• Related to the above, Bruce Sargeant and His Circle: Figure and Form, a book by artist Mark Beard about the work of his “Bruce Sargeant” alter ego. Homotography has a preview.

• “We focus most strongly at the margins, on the music that others may be blind to. We don’t care whether it is electronic, metal, jazz, folk, classical, noise, world music or whatever. We are as excited by the experimental, as we are exhausted by the ephemeral. We listen. We mosh. We think. We dance. We write words. We capture images. We hope to do justice to the art which inspires us. We are The Liminal”.

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Rotary Signal Emitter, a vinyl zoetrope by audiovisual duo Sculpture.

Rest Easy Sleazy, a small mix dedicated to Peter Christopherson. Related: A Peter Christopherson tribute mix. Another mix: Mixhead was a 1997 promo CD by Portishead.

• Related to the above: What if we could touch our music again? (Hello? Some of us still play—and create—CDs and vinyl…) Is the mix tape as object-of-seduction a dead concept in a virtual world? “We traded connection for convenience,” says I Miss My Pencil. Their proposed solution, C60 Redux, is an RFID reader plus speakers, packaged in a smart 12-inch case.

• Iannis Xenakis: How an architect took music back to mathematical roots. Related: the Xenakis exhibition at MOCA, Los Angeles.

The Body Electric at Ikon, Birmingham, is the first retrospective exhibition in the UK of work by New Zealand artist Len Lye.

Hayley Campbell has a blog. This week you can read about her contribution to Jamie McCartney‘s Great Wall of Vagina.

More David Lynch: he really does love cherry pie but isn’t 100% sure how magnets work. I sympathise on both counts.

2019: A Future Imagined. Visual Futurist Syd Mead reflects on the nature of creativity and how it drives the future.

Quashed Quotatoes by Michael Wood, reviewing a new edition of Finnegans Wake.

New Weird Australia.

• Portishead’s 2008 performance for the Canal+ show Concert Privé is one of their best filmed concerts. YouTube has the whole thing.

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