Weekend links 626

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Czech poster for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist. Art and design by Miroslav Pechánek, 1972.

• “Acknowledgements are not part of the novel; in fact, they break the spell the author has spent 200 or more pages weaving. We should take a book on its merits, knowing as little about the author as possible. As one reader put it to me, ‘the end of a book is time for thinking about the book, not for an acceptance speech’.” John Self on dedications and acknowledgements.

• Mixes of the week: a Power Ambient mix by A Strangely Isolated Place, and a mix for The Wire by Nexcyia.

• At Spoon & Tamago: 3D-scanned stones create vessel for human-made interventions.

Weeks turned into months. Slowly it dawned on me that I was performing the role of Boswell for a man who might be: a) a put-on maestro or arcane troll; b) a fiction writer slash performance artist; or c) a lunatic. But by his own admission King had tagged me with a familiar spirit. Whether or not he was telling the truth was irrelevant at this point. I could feel something squatting on my soul. I needed to see what it was.

Kent Russell on looking for demons in a disenchanted world

• A trailer for Mad God, Phil Tippett’s 30-years-in-the-making animated feature.

• New music: Vesta by Azu Tiwaline, and Right, Right, Right by Nils Frahm.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Max Hattler Day.

• “Marcel Duchamp was not a thief.”

• RIP Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Demons Of Rage (1972) by Nik Raicevic | Shall Come Forth The Demons (1991?) by Yuri Morozov | Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light (2011) by Earth

Rebel Ready-Made

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I think I spotted across this one while searching for more Robert Hughes, in which case I offer grudging thanks to the algorithms of the Great Panopticon. If you’ve ever seen Marcel Duchamp talking about his work in an arts documentary then it’s probable that the clip will have been taken from this film. (The Shock of the New is no exception.) Rebel Ready-Made was directed by Tristram Powell for a short-lived BBC arts series, New Release, and broadcast in June 1966 to coincide with a major Duchamp retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London. It’s fascinating for number of reasons, mostly the way that Duchamp is happy to talk about his sporadic art career, an occupation that in its mature phase consisted of spasms of invention followed by increasing boredom and a wandering off to do something else. The ease with which he did all this—the inventions which in other hands would have fuelled entire careers, and then the eventual abandonment of the whole art game—always made a sly mockery of the self-importance that sustained the art world in the 20th century.

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Elsewhere in the film you get praise for Duchamp from Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage, plus the artist’s friend Richard Hamilton, seen briefly painting the replica of The Large Glass that appeared in the Tate exhibition as a substitute for the fragile original. This has been my favourite of Duchamp’s works since I saw the replica in the Tate a decade later. Having a duplicate stand in for the original isn’t such an unusual thing for Duchamp when most of his ready-made sculptures are also copies, the “originals” having been lost or destroyed shortly after their first exhibitions. From the 1930s on, Duchamp had also been making multiple copies of all his works in miniature for the various iterations of the Boîte-en-valise, or portable museum.

Tristram Powell was lucky to capture the artist being so talkative at such a late date. Two years after this Duchamp was dead, although there was one last surprise in store. Jasper Johns referred to Étant donné as “the strangest work of art in any museum”. Duchamp never acknowledged the existence of this life-size peepshow while he was alive, preferring it to be announced to the public only after his death, which is what happened in 1969. There are no replicas of this one; if you want to see it (or the parts of it the artist allows you to see) you have to go to Philadelphia and peer through the holes in the door.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Televisual art
Chance encounters on the dissecting table
The Witch’s Cradle by Maya Deren
Audio Arts
8 x 8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements
Anémic Cinéma
Dreams That Money Can Buy
Entr’acte by René Clair
View: The Modern Magazine

Chance encounters on the dissecting table

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In times of great uncertainty about our mission, we often looked at the fixed points of Lautréamont and De Chirico, which sufficed to determine our straight line.

André Breton, Surrealism and Painting, 1928

1: The metaphor, 1869

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You can’t read the history of Surrealism for very long before encountering some variation of the most famous line from Les Chants de Maldoror by the Comte de Lautréamont/Isidore Ducasse: “beautiful as a chance encounter on a dissecting table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella”. Translations vary, as do misquotations; the page above is from the Alexis Lykiard translation where you can also read the surrounding text. The context of the description is seldom mentioned when the quote is used, and reveals that the words are describing the attractiveness of an English schoolboy living with his parents in Paris. The insipid Mervyn is stalked, seduced and finally murdered by the villainous Maldoror. Lautréamont’s metaphor, like so much else in the book, carries a sting in its tail.

2: The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse, 1920

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Man Ray, like Mervyn, was a foreigner living in Paris when he created this artwork. The “enigma” may be taken as referring both to the wrapped object (a sewing machine sans umbrella) as well as to the mysterious author of Les Chants de Maldoror, who died at the age of 24 after writing his explosive prose poem, and about whose life little is known. I first encountered Ducasse’s name in art books showing pictures of this piece which is one of the earliest works of Surrealist art. For a young art enthusiast the enigma was more in the name itself: who was this Ducasse, and why was he enigmatic? The original of Man Ray’s piece was subsequently lost, like many of his pre-war sculptures, but may be seen inside the first issue of La Révolution Surrealiste. Editions of the work that exist today are recreations made in the 1970s.

3: An illustration for Les Chants de Maldoror, 1934

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Salvador Dalí created 30 full-page etchings and 12 vignettes for an illustrated edition of Lautréamont’s work published by Skira in Paris in 1934. Dalí must have seemed an ideal match for a book whose prose descriptions offer copious atrocities and mutations but, as with many of Dalí’s illustrations, the pictures owe more to his obsessions than to Lautréamont’s text, and could easily be used to illustrate something else entirely. Plate 19 does, however, feature a sewing machine.

4: Electrosexual Sewing Machine, 1935

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A Surrealist painting by Oscar Dominguez which emphasises the sexual nature of Lautréamont’s metaphor, or at least the Freudian interpretation of the same. Breton and company took the sewing machine for a female symbol, while the umbrella was male; the dissecting table where their encounter takes place is, of course, a bed.

[In Electrosexual Sewing Machine] the dissection appears to be under way. There is a strange abusive surgery being undertaken, the thread of the sewing machine replaced with blood which is being funnelled onto the woman’s back. The plant itself may even echo de Lautréamont’s umbrella. Domínguez has taken one of the central mantras of Breton’s Surreal universe and has pushed it, through a combination of painterly skill and semi-automatism, in order to create an absorbing and haunting vision that cuts to the quick of the movement’s spirit. (via)

Continue reading “Chance encounters on the dissecting table”

The Witch’s Cradle by Maya Deren

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It’s taken a while for Maya Deren’s less familiar films to drift into YouTube’s Sargasso Sea so I hadn’t seen this one until now. The Witch’s Cradle (1943) isn’t really a film like Deren’s other short works, more a collection of fragments for something that was left unfinished. But the Surrealist tenor of the piece means that the diverse shot sequence and unusual imagery can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Pajorita Matta is the woman wandering like a Cocteau heroine through the darkened rooms of one of Peggy Guggenheim’s galleries where we catch glimpses of sculptures and a Max Ernst painting, Blind Swimmers (1934). Prior to this there are brief shots of Marcel Duchamp with this fingers tangled in a cat’s cradle, and later on we see that Pajorita Matta has a pentacle drawn on her forehead, a precursor of Deren’s subsequent occult explorations in Haiti. Disjointed as it is, I prefer this to the solo films that Deren produced after her collaboration with Alexander Hammid, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), most of which were filmed dance performances. The Witch’s Cradle offers another taste of enmeshed mystery.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Alexander Hammid
Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren

Weekend links 384

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Sultans of Swing by Samantha Muljat.

• Pain & Pleasure, Indivisible: Mat Colegate talks to Stephen Thrower (Coil, Cyclobe) about the meeting between Coil and Clive Barker that would have led to Coil scoring Barker’s Hellraiser if the studio hadn’t rejected the music.

• “From Arsedestroyer to Zoogz Rift: 50 underground albums you’ve never heard of” The usual presumption—I’ve been listening to The Groundhogs since the mid-1980s—but it’s a good list.

• More magazines at the Internet Archive: an incomplete run of British science-fiction monthly Interzone; and a complete (?) run of the film magazine for horror (and gore) obsessives, Fangoria.

• “…it’s background music, is what it is. But there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m very proud of it.” John Carpenter discussing his soundtrack music and his new album, Anthology.

• Mixes of the week: Aral Mix 05 by Ellen Arkbro, Secret Thirteen Mix 234 by FOQL, and Samhain Séance Six: Triffid Witch by The Ephemeral Man.

• Dallas Killers Club: Nicholson Baker reads a stack of books about the Kennedy assassinations then draws his own conclusions.

Michael Flanagan on searching for LGB histories of Neopaganism, the paranormal and the occult in San Francisco.

• At Lounge Books: author Amelia Mangan on horror, old and new, and her favourite things.

• At Monoskop: the (almost) complete works of James Joyce in one convenient epub.

Jillian Steinhauer on Duchamp’s last riddle.

Hell Raiser (1973) by Sweet | Hell’s Bells (1989) by Rhythm Devils | Hell’s Winter (2011) by Earth