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.

Aubrey Beardsley’s musical afterlife

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Dilettantes by You Am I (2008). Illustration and design by Ken Taylor.

Dilettantes is the eighth studio album from Australian band You Am I which is released this week sporting a very creditable Beardsley pastiche by illustrator Ken Taylor. Sleevage has more details about the creation of the CD package, including preliminary sketches. Those familiar with Beardsley’s work may see in the cover drawing references to The Peacock Skirt and the colour print of Isolde. I like the way Beardsley’s peacock has been exchanged for a more suitably antipodean lyrebird. This isn’t Beardsley’s only influence in the musical world, of course. A few more examples follow.

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left: The Peacock Skirt from Salomé (1894); right: Isolde (1895).

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Revolver cover by Klaus Voorman (1966).

The over-familiarity of Klaus Voorman‘s collage/drawing for the cover of Revolver by The Beatles tends to obscure its Beardsley influence but that influence is certainly present in the stylised faces, the figure details and the rendering of the hair. The Beatles themselves were enthused enough with Aubrey to put his face among the pantheon of “people that we like” on the sleeve of Sgt. Pepper a year later. I’d thought for a while that Voorman might have been inspired by the landmark Beardsley exhibition which ran at the V&A in London from May–September 1966. Some correspondence with Raymond Newman, author of Abracadabra, a book about the album, disabused me of that when Raymond confirmed that Voorman in 1966 had already been a Beardsley enthusiast for a number of years.

As well as being possibly the first Beardsleyesque album cover, I wonder whether this was also the first major album release to drop the name of the artist from the front of the sleeve.

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Everyone went psychedelic in 1967, even tough mods like The Who. This Hapshash and the Coloured Coat promo poster for I Can See For Miles (incidentally my favourite Who song) is one of Hapshash’s more overt Beardsley borrowings. The sun (or moon) in the background is a variation on Beardsley’s The Woman in the Moon from Salomé (the face is Oscar Wilde’s) while Pete Townshend’s florid sorcerer’s cloak owes much to Aubrey’s incredible cover design (blocked in gold on the book) for Volpone.

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The Woman in the Moon (1894).

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Volpone (1897).

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From the sublime to the ridiculous. Cathy Berberian was the mezzo-soprano wife of avant garde composer Luciano Berio, with a long career as a singer of serious classical and contemporary classical works. Her rendition of Berio’s Thema (Omaggio a Joyce)–an electroacoustic setting of the “Sirens” prelude from Ulysses–was one of the tracks on the 1967 electroacoustic compilation Electronic Music III discussed here in April. She also had a separate career as an operatic interpreter of pop music and this collection of Beatles songs dates either from 1968 or 69, depending on which source you choose to believe. Whatever the year, the designer pulled off a decent enough copy of the Revolver sleeve. For a taste of the Berberian style, there’s a sample here. And if you’re desperate for the entire album, this page has a copy.

I’m sure this doesn’t exhaust the Beardsley influence in sleeve design, there must be others between 1968 and 2008. Once again, if you know of any further examples, please leave a comment.

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Humble Pie by Humble Pie (1970).

Update: Added Humble Pie’s self-titled third album. The illustration this time is Beardsley’s own, The Stomach Dance from Salomé.

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Dreams by Gabor Szabo (1968). Design by David Stahlberg.

Update 2: Therese discovered this great sleeve for an album by the Hungarian jazz guitarist. Closer in style to John Austen’s illustrations for Hamlet 1922) but Austen’s use of black-and-white at the time was very influenced by Beardsley’s work.

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Witchcraft by Witchcraft (2004).

Update 3: Another addition, the debut album from Swedish metal band Witchcraft which uses Beardsley’s Merlin vignette from the Morte Darthur. Thanks to Cyphane for the tip.

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Molly Moonbeam by Coach Fingers (2007).

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Ballade Of Tristram’s Last Harping by The 17th Pygmy (aka 17 Pygmies) (2007).

Update 4: Added a couple of new discoveries. The 17th Pygmy album apparently includes further Beardsley pieces in its booklet while the Coach Fingers single also has a label featuring designs by Beardsley’s contemporary, Sidney Sime.

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La Beale Isoud at Joyous Gard. (1894).

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Come Hell Or High Water by The Flowers of Hell (2009).

Update 5: Added the Flowers of Hell cover which is based on La Beale Isoud at Joyous Gard. from Le Morte Darthur. The band also has a video which works variations on the same picture.

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Procol Harum by Procol Harum (1967).

Update 6: Another one I’d missed, Procol Harum’s debut album doesn’t have a credit for the cover art which is perhaps just as well since it doesn’t stand comparison with some of the works above. The same artwork appeared on later reissues when the album was re-titled A Whiter Shade of Pale.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Look presents Nigel Waymouth
Aubrey by John Selwyn Gilbert
The New Love Poetry
The Avant Garde Project
Beardsley’s Salomé
“Weirdsley Daubery”: Beardsley and Punch
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé

Mark Beard’s artistic circle

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The Fencing Team by Bruce Sargeant.

Artists in the 20th century used to be multifarious in their activities, often taking their work through different stages or periods of evolution; Picasso and Max Ernst are two good examples of this. In today’s inflated art market this is no longer a wise move. As Brian Eno has noted in the case of the polymathic Tom Phillips, the pressure is there to establish yourself as a person who does one thing only, to turn yourself into a brand.

American artist Mark Beard isn’t happy with that situation. In order to satisfy a desire to create in whatever styles he chooses, he’s developed a number of distinct artist personalities, each with their own detailed biographies and even photographs (below). This isn’t entirely unprecedented, Marcel Duchamp famously had a female alter-ego named Rrose Sélavy, and was photographed by Man Ray in feminine attire, but offhand I can’t think of another artist going as far as creating six distinct personas. The painting above is one of a homoerotic sports-themed series by artist Bruce Sargeant who died, we’re told, in 1938 as a result of a wrestling accident. Examples of Beard’s other influences follow. For the complete artist biographies, see the Mark Beard pages at the Carrie Haddad gallery.

The artists

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top left: Mark Beard (b. 1956); right: Bruce Sargeant and model (1898-1938)
middle left: Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon (1849-1930); right: Brechtolt Steeruwitz (1890-1973)
bottom left: Edith Thayer Cromwell (1993-1962); right: Peter Coulter (b. 1948)

Their works

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Ideology: The Politically Correct Disdain the Frivolous by Mark Beard (1989).

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Avant la Fuite by Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon (1894).

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Swimmer Drying Himself, Berlin Olympics (1936), Young Athlete by Bruce Sargeant.

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On the Strand by Edith Thayer Cromwell.

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Das Krakenhaus by Brechtolt Steeruwitz (At the Hospital) (1923).

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Cabinet by Peter Coulter.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive