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 215

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Julian House artwork for Other Voices, a new singles series on the Ghost Box label. Other Voices 01 is a collaboration between Sean O’Hagan of the High Llamas and Jon Brooks of The Advisory Circle.

Last week I linked to a copy Zadie Smith’s new introduction for Crash by JG Ballard. That piece could only be read in full by NYRB subscribers but this week the Guardian has the full text:

I was in college when the Daily Mail went to war with [David Cronenberg’s] movie, and found myself unpleasantly aligned with the censors, my own faux-feminism existing in a Venn diagram with their righteous indignation. We were both wrong: Crash is not about humiliating the disabled or debasing women, and in fact the Mail‘s campaign is a chilling lesson in how a superficial manipulation of liberal identity politics can be used to silence a genuinely protesting voice, one that is trying to speak for us all.

Related: Thomas Jones in 2008 reviewing Miracles of Life:

Despite all the bodily fluids spurted and smeared onto wrecked dashboards, the problem isn’t that it’s too pornographic but that it isn’t pornographic enough: the novel is too conscious of the deeper meaning of the sex and violence for the sex and violence to work as elements in themselves.

The fetishisation of Ballard’s novel (and Ballard’s fetishes) show no signs of abating: B-Movie (Ballardian Video Neuronica), is a short film by John Foxx, Karborn and Jonathan Barnbrook.

• Last Thursday I was watching a live performance by Pye Corner Audio and Not Waving, so it’s good to find this mix by the pair surfacing in the same week. Kudos to the latter for choosing something by Chrome. More mixes: FACT mix 468 by Throwing Snow, and Secret Thirteen mix 120 by Drøp.

• Ellen Datlow’s horror anthology, Lovecraft’s Monsters, continues to gather plaudits. Among recent reviews there’s Matt Barone at Complex who included the book in his Year’s Best Genre Fiction Books (So Far) list, and also praised my illustrations.

In recent years, many of the people on book covers have been women without faces. So prevalent is this visual cliché that the publishing industry has cycled through at least two well-documented iterations. The first, the Headless Woman, features some poor thing cut off above the neck, like the swimsuit-clad beachgoer on Alice Munro’s story collection “The View from Castle Rock.” The website Goodreads’s Headless Women page has 416 entries. Last year, the Headless Woman was supplanted by the Sexy Back, in which a woman is shown from behind, often gazing out over a vista.

Eugenia Williamson on the packaging of books for a female readership.

• The latest Taschen volume from Dian Hanson, editor of (among other titles) The Big Penis Book, is My Buddy. World War II Laid Bare, featuring photos from the archives of Michael Stokes. World of Wonder has pages from the interior.

I Have Walked This Body by Jenny Hval and Susanna is a track from a forthcoming album inspired by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid’s Meshes of the Afternoon. It sounds fantastic so I’m looking forward to hearing more.

• If you have a spare half-million dollars, and don’t mind the possibility of possession by murderous supernatural entities, the Palmer house from Twin Peaks is for sale.

• Read an extract from Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll by Peter Bebergal.

The Stars and Their Courses: over six hours of the Nevada night sky in 4k definition.

Lee Siegel on the fraught friendship of TS Eliot and Groucho Marx.

Harmony Korine talked to Kenneth Anger for Interview Magazine.

New Scientist: How magic mushrooms induce a dream-like state.

• 3D-print your own Marcel Duchamp chess set.

Scott O)))

Crash (1980) by Tuxedomoon | Burning Car (1980) by John Foxx | A Crash At Every Speed (1994) by Disco Inferno | Burning Car (Dubterror Remix, 2008) by John Foxx

Weekend links 202

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Figuras Miticas: Bailarin II (1954) by Leonora Carrington.

• The 26th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists have been announced. Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam; Gay City: Volume 5 made the LGBT Anthology list, so congratulations to editors Evan J. Peterson & Vincent Kovar, and everyone else involved. I illustrated and designed the cover of that volume which also contains a piece of my fiction, Study in Blue, Green, and Gold.

Music in School (1969), episode 4: “A New Sound”. Amazing BBC TV programme for schools showing children playing avant-garde compositions using bowed metal sheets, tape loops, and primitive electronic equipment. I was at school then, and can’t help but feel a little jealous. Related: Delia Derbyshire Day approaches.

Voices Of Haiti (1953), recorded during ceremonials near Croix Des Missions and Petionville in Haiti by Maya Deren.

These days it’s hard to remember that Whistler’s Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl caused a bigger uproar at the Salon des Refusés of 1863 than Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe, or that Monet was more influenced by Whistler than vice-versa. The delicacy of Whistler’s perceptions and his willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of harmony make for an art less bracing than that of Degas or Pissarro. And yet how much life there is in his little Thames riverscapes. Perhaps we need another major exhibition—there hasn’t been one for twenty years—to re-evaluate him.

Whistler’s Battles by Barry Schwabsky

• Mix of the week (and a very good one it is): Abandoned Edwardian Schoolhouse by The Geography Trip.

Morton Subotnick tells Alfred Hickling how recording Silver Apples of the Moon blew his mind.

• The fantasy artwork of Ian Miller. A new book, The Art of Ian Miller, is published next month.

Queen for a Day by Alison Fensterstock. A look at the Mardi Gras Queens of New Orleans.

Tex Avery (1988): A 50-minute BBC documentary about the great animation director.

• The Gentle Revolutionary: Peter Tatchell talks to Joseph Burnett about Derek Jarman.

The Soaring and Nearly Forgotten Arches of New York City.

Dennis Hopper‘s photos of American artists in the 1960s.

Vodun at Pinterest.

Litanie Des Saints (1992) by Dr. John | Dim Carcosa (2001) by Ancient Rites | Far From Any Road (2003) by The Handsome Family

Weekend links 80

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Niels Klim’s descent to the planet Nazar from the 1845 edition of Nicolai Klimii Iter Subterraneum (Niels Klim’s Underground Travels) (1741) by Ludvig Holberg.

BibliOdyssey posts illustrations from different editions of Ludvig Holberg’s satirical fantasy, appends the usual informative links and draws our attention Stories of a Hollow Earth at The Public Domain Review. I’d not come across the latter site before but it’s now bookmarked.

• While the economy of Europe continues to circle the toilet bowl it’s good to know that our Prime Minister is focusing on the important issues such as…limiting access to internet pornography. “Look at the implementation, and no matter where you stand on porn, I think you’ll see this plan is going to cause a lot of problems on its way to the eventual fail bin,” says Violet Blue. I was wondering how the four targeted ISPs would feel about a filtering plan that would drive many new customers elsewhere. The Register reports their response which comes down to offering guidelines rather than attempting the difficult and contentious task of filtering millions of websites.

• Related: Won’t you fuck off, Reg Bailey, in which the report by the small Christian pressure group that started all the fuss is eviscerated. | Elsewhere: Porn is good for society says Anna Arrowsmith, while Tristan Taormino asserts that “writing and publishing erotica, especially for minorities, is a political act.” Then there’s Pornsaints, “an artistic approach to porn, a pornographic approach to art, a pornartistic approach to religion.”

• In the music world: Richard H Kirk and Peter Care discuss Cabaret Voltaire and Johnny YesNo, Roy Harper talks to Alex Petridis, and soundtrack composer Cliff Martinez is interviewed (and pictured playing a Cristal).

Witch’s Cradle at Strange Flowers (Maya Deren, Marcel Duchamp and Peggy Guggenheim), The Ghosts of Senate House, London, and Aleister Crowley’s Abbey of Thelema as it is today.

• RIP Frank Kameny, co-founder of the Mattachine Society, and a tireless gay rights advocate from the early 1960s on.

Bruce Weber photographs some of the dancers from Matthew Bourne’s Dance Company.

Terry Gilliam says “I used to think I could will things into existence. Not any more.”

• Charts at Business Insider: What the Wall Street protesters are so angry about.

Five From…: assorted wit and wisdom in the Tumblr labyrinth.

• Glass art by Jasmine Targett.

Ballard Geocoded.

Porno Base (1982) by 23 Skidoo | Kylie Minogue (2003) by Satanicpornocultshop | Tantric Porno (live) (2009) by Bardo Pond.

Entr’acte by René Clair

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One of the best—and most entertaining—films to come out of the Dada/Surrealist period, Entr’acte (1924) is also worth watching for the appearance of notable figures such as Francis Picabia (who initiated the project), Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Erik Satie.

This extraordinary early film from director René Clair was originally made to fill an interval between two acts of Francis Picabia’s new ballet, Relâche, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris in 1924. Picabia famously wrote a synopsis for the film on one sheet of note paper, headed Maxim’s (the famous Parisian restaurant), which he sent to René Clair. This formed the basis for what ultimately appeared on screen, with some additional improvisations. Music for the film was composed by the famous avant-garde composer Erik Satie, who appears in the film, along side its originator, Francis Picabia. The surrealist photographer Man Ray also puts in an appearance, in a film which curiously resembles his own experimental films of this era.

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Entr’acte is a surrealistic concoction of unrelated images, reflecting Clair’s interest in Dada, a fashionable radical approach to visual art which relied on experimentation and surreal expressionism. Clair’s imagery is both captivating and disturbing, giving life to inanimate objects (most notably the rifle range dummies), whilst attacking conventions, even the sobriety of a funeral march.

Entr’acte can be watched and downloaded at Ubuweb. Tate Modern is running a major exhibition of the works of three of the participants, Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, until 26 May, 2008.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Alexander Hammid
Impressions de la Haute Mongolie revisited
Short films by Walerian Borowczyk
The South Bank Show: Francis Bacon
Rose Hobart by Joseph Cornell
Some YoYo Stuff
Beckett directs Beckett
Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren
Not I by Samuel Beckett
La Villa Santo Sospir by Jean Cocteau
Un Chant D’Amour by Jean Genet
Borges documentary
Film by Samuel Beckett
Towers Open Fire