The Fall of the Magician

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From contemporary Belgian Surrealism to an older variety (Dutch/Flemish rather than Belgian per se, but it’s close enough). I’d seen prints of The Fall of the Magician before but not the earlier picture from what turns out to be a two-part set depicting an occult encounter between Saint James and the magician Hermogenes. Both prints were engraved in 1565 by Pieter van der Heyden from drawings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the prints being published by the print-maker with the unforgettable name, Hieronymus Cock.

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Both pictures show an episode from the life of Saint James recounted in The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Varagine, a very popular collection of hagiographies compiled in the 1200s: the magician Hermogenes is hired by the Pharisees to put a stop to the miracle-working of the saint only to be confounded by the treachery of his demons. As usual with Bruegel, the drawings are replete with details that combine wild imagination with careful observation. (The confrontation of the saint and the magus is paralleled in the face-off between a toad and a cat). Seeing Bruegel’s art as engraved lines is a reminder that the comic profusion in his drawings is the start of a tradition that runs through the prints of William Hogarth to the crowded pages of early MAD magazine; the latter connection is reinforced by artist Will Elder who referred to The Fall of the Magician as a precursor of his own crowded splash panels.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Bruegel’s sins
Proverbial details
Babel details

Weekend links 480

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Tadanori Yokoo (1974) by Tadanori Yokoo and Will van Sambeek. A poster from the Colourful Japan exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

• The first decade of space-rock pioneers Hawkwind is explored by Joe Banks in Hawkwind: Days of the Underground — Radical Escapism in the Age Of Paranoia, coming soon from Strange Attractor Press. I created the wraparound cover for this one, and will be talking about it here in a later post. Those interested in the book should note that the special edition hardback will include an extra book, plus a print and postcards. Limited to 500 copies so don’t wait around.

• “What we look for in our formative years can be very different from the demands we make later as analytical adults, and it was certainly more important to me that representations of gayness were complex or colourful than that they were positive, whatever that meant.” Ryan Gilbey on 50 years of Midnight Cowboy.

• Mixes of the week: Through A Landscape Of Mirrors Vol. II – France I by David Colohan, and As Imperceptibly As Grief The Summer Lapsed Away by Haunted Air.

If we imagine the material world about us having a concealed component of the fictional and the fantastic, visions buried in its stones and mortar waiting for their revelation, then we may suppose that 18th-century Lambeth was a teeming hub of such imaginal biodiversity. Bedlam alone could account for this ethereal population boom, but then nearby was the Hercules Buildings residence of William Blake, which can have only added to the sublime infestation.

Alan Moore on the visionary art of William Blake

• At the Internet Archive: Ten issues of Ed Pinsent’s The Sound Projector Music Magazine (1996–2002), with bonus Krautrock Kompendium.

• “Like many dictators Franco considered himself an artist.” Jonathan Meades on how fascism disfigured the face of Spain.

Occulting Disk is a new album from the master of unnerving doomscapes, Deathprod, which will be released in October.

• Making MAD: Chris Mautner on the beginning and end of MAD magazine.

John Margolies’ photographs of roadside America.

Fair Sapphire by Meadowsilver.

Jarboe‘s favourite music.

Theme from Midnight Cowboy (1969) by John Barry | Astral Cowboy (1969) by Curt Boettcher | Dayvan Cowboy (2005) by Boards Of Canada

Weekend links 475

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Femme avec des fleurs (c. 1912) by Romaine Brooks.

• “Boring people tend not to exile themselves to rocky islands, but even among the intriguing personalities we encounter in Capri, some individuals prove more extravagantly memorable than others.” Steve Susoyev reviews Pagan Light: Dreams of Freedom and Beauty in Capri by Jamie James.

• “The Mad “idiots” subverted the comic form into a mainstream ideological weapon, aimed at icons of the left and the right—attacking both McCarthyism and the Beat Generation, Nixon and Kennedy, Hollywood and Madison Avenue.” Jordan Orlando on a world without Mad Magazine.

• RIP Sam Gafford, Paul Krassner and Rutger Hauer. Related to the latter: Hauer’s first role as Floris, the hero of a Dutch TV series directed by Paul Verhoeven.

I cannot tell you what it does to me to hear pre-Stonewall. And even in our literature, even in the art, pre-Stonewall, post-Stonewall. I wrote three books pre-Stonewall and a dozen more post-Stonewall. There’s no demarcation. Gay history is centuries and centuries from the Romans to the Greeks to Oscar Wilde to all kinds of outrages. And those seem to be put back and pre-Stonewall is passive. Post-Stonewall is brave and dignified. I actually have heard things like that. I’ve talked, I’ve lectured and I’ve been invited all the way from Harvard to USC. And I talk about what it was like, what we had to survive.

Look, pre-Stonewall produced Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Oscar Wilde, and I could go on. Post-Stonewall produced Bret Easton Ellis, who jumps out of the closet only now and then and then rushes back in, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, where we’re reduced to clowns for straight people. The husband of Mr. Buttigieg, he is so darling talking about the silver he’s going to be choosing for the White House. It embarrasses me, it embarrasses me very much because that’s what people expect a gay man to do, to be very precious, and that’s not what we are. A good solid queen I will protect forever, they are heroes.

A lot of people think that everything stopped, everything, all harassment stopped. Look, it’s still going on. It’s still going on, for god’s sake. The same tactics are often used in a different way.

John Rechy talking to Jason McGahan

• The genius of Barry Adamson: An exclusive interview by Paul Gallagher at Dangerous Minds.

Three hours of the Prophecy Theme from Dune (by Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois & Roger Eno).

Ed Sanders on why pop culture still can’t get enough of Charles Manson.

• Havelock Ellis takes a trip: Mike Jay on peyote among the Aesthetes.

Darren Anderson on why little works of architecture deserve respect.

• Mix of the week: Stephen O’Malley presents / Java / Apr 27 2017.

Phil Hine reviews Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd 1 & 2.

John Waters revisits “The Golden Age of Monkey Art”.

I Must Be Mad (1966) by The Craig | The Day My Pad Went Mad (1982) by John Cooper Clarke | Yesterday, When I Was Mad (1993) by Pet Shop Boys

Blivets

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It’s a short step from Escher’s perceptual games to optical illusions in general. Blivets are one of those curious cultural artefacts that appear everywhere but whose origin is a mystery. Even the name blivet isn’t settled (or, for that matter, the meaning of the word) since the impossible figure is also known as The Devil’s Tuning Fork (or Pitchfork), The Ambiguous Trident, the Mad magazine Poiuyt, and more. It was the Mad usage that prompted me to draw these things endlessly on schoolbooks. A friend had a collection of the paperback reprints of the magazine which I eagerly borrowed; Poiuyts are a running joke in issues of the 1960s, appearing on maps or diagrams, or simply sitting in the margin of a page.

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Undecidable Monument (1968) by Roger Hayward.

Wikipedia’s article on the blivet mentions the figure appearing in a 1964 issue of  Analog Science Fiction and Fact but I suspect it goes back much further. This is one of those simple jokes that could have been invented during an idle moment in a factory or office then spread meme-like among workers. Blivets are easy to remember, and can be quickly drawn anywhere which explains their staying power today. Glenn Jones’ T-shirt design is only one of many recent examples. There’s more to be seen at Mighty Optical Illusions.

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Escher’s Dogs by Glenn Jones.

Previously on { feuilleton }
False perspective
Trompe l’oeil

Screening Kafka

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Kafka (1991).

This week I completed the interior design for a new anthology from Tachyon, Kafkaesque, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly. It’s a collection of short stories either inspired by Franz Kafka, or with a Kafka-like atmosphere, and features a high calibre of contributions from writers including JG Ballard, Jorge Luis Borges, Carol Emshwiller, Jeffrey Ford, Jonathan Lethem and Philip Roth, and also the comic strip adaptation of The Hunger Artist by Robert Crumb. When I knew this was incoming I rewatched a few favourite Kafka-inspired film and TV works, and belatedly realised I have something of a predilection for these things. What follows is a list of some favourites from the Kafkaesque dramas I’ve seen to date. IMDB lists 72 titles crediting Kafka as the original writer so there’s still a lot more to see.

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The Trial (1962), dir: Orson Welles.

Orson Welles in one of his Peter Bogdanovich interviews describes how producer Alexander Salkind gave him a list of literary classics to which he owned the rights and asked him to pick one. Given a choice of Kafka titles Welles says he would have chosen The Castle but The Trial was the only one on the list so it’s this which became the first major adaptation of a Kafka novel. Welles always took some liberties with adaptations—even Shakespeare wasn’t sacred—and he does so here. I’m not really concerned whether this is completely faithful to the book, however, it’s a first-class work of cinema which shows Welles’ genius for improvisation in the use of the semi-derelict Gare d’Orsay in Paris as the main setting. (Welles had commissioned set designs but the money to pay for those disappeared at the last minute.) As well as scenes in Paris the film mixes other scenes shot in Rome and Zagreb with Anthony Perkins’ Josef K frequently jumping across Europe in a single cut. The resulting blend of 19th-century architecture, industrial ruin and Modernist offices which Welles called “Jules Verne modernism” continues to be a big inspiration for me when thinking about invented cities. Kafka has been fortunate in having many great actors drawn to his work; here with Perkins there’s Welles himself as the booming and hilarious Advocate, together with Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider and Akim Tamiroff.

Continue reading “Screening Kafka”