HR Giger’s Passagen

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HR Giger’s art books were always very thorough in detailing all the media manifestations of the artist’s work, including film and television appearances. For years this presented tantalising questions, especially regarding the lengthy pre-Alien documentaries that were listed there: what were these films, and when would we get to see them? Giger’s Necronomicon (1976) did finally appear on YouTube a few years ago, and now here’s the second of the pair thanks to an upload of what appears to be a Japanese laserdisc.

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Passagen was made in 1972 by Giger’s friend Fredi M. Murer, their third film collaboration after Heimkiller and High (1967) and Swiss Made 2069 (1968). The latter (which Giger co-directed) is still frustratingly absent from the web, and similarly tantalising for being a 45-minute piece of underground science fiction which features Giger’s first production designs for cinema. Passagen was less ambitious, a 50-minute documentary about Giger’s work made for the German TV station, WDR. As a documentary it functions as a companion to Giger’s Necronomicon, while both films complement the subsequent art books, especially Giger’s Necronomicon (the book) which features many of the paintings seen in the films, together with anecdotes about their origins and inspiration. One of these anecdotes, about the nightmares induced in the young Hans Rudi by a stairway in the hotel next door to the Giger family home, is recounted in Passagen alongside the vertiginous drawings the nightmares inspired. It’s impossible to consider this piece of child psychology, and to watch the artist walking up and down stairs and stepladders, without recalling that Giger died after falling down a flight of stairs in 2014.

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Giger’s Necronomicon is the more interesting of the two documentaries, especially now that the life and work is so well known; the art is taken more for granted, and we also get to see Giger at work on one of his big airbrush paintings. Passagen spends much of its time attempting to contextualise Giger’s drawings and paintings for an unwitting television audience, so a great deal of the running time is given over to newsreel footage of wars, riots, terrorism, atomic explosions and so on. A geneticist discusses the effects of atomic mutation while Giger’s earliest series of pictures, Atomkinder, is shown; psychoanalysts examine his paintings from a psychosexual angle.

Of more interest for Giger aficionados is the presence of his partner at the time, Li Tobler, the subject of several memorable portraits from this period. Among the working shots, the best shows Giger improvising a drawing with the same speed as Philippe Druillet in the Ô Sidarta film. Giger only started using an airbrush in 1972 so most of the works seen here are either early drawings or the paintings in the Passagen and Alptraum series, the style and colouring of which is much closer to the art world of 1972 than anything which would follow. For me the greatest revelation comes early on when Giger picks out a record to play while he’s working. The disc he chooses is just identifiable as Universal Consciousness by Alice Coltrane, an album which had been released the year before. (This isn’t the music heard on the soundtrack, however.) Alice Coltrane’s brand of ecstatic, pan-religious jazz would seem remote from Giger’s own universe but the choice isn’t so surprising if you know that he’d been a jazz enthusiast since the 1950s; in The Book of Alien (1979) his list of influences includes HP Lovecraft, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

As is evident from the screen grabs, the film is hard-coded throughout with Japanese subtitles. Unlike Giger’s Necronomicon there’s no English overdub either, the soundtrack is in German throughout. I can’t complain when I’ve been waiting so long to be able to see this at all. For those who watched the later film divided into four YouTube clips there’s now a complete version (also Japanese but with English overdub) here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Heimkiller and High
The Man Who Paints Monsters In The Night
Hans by Sibylle
HR Giger album covers
Giger’s Necronomicon
Dan O’Bannon, 1946–2009
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune
The monstrous tome

Weekend links 399

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• “In the mid-Seventies the influential stop-motion animators, Stephen and Timothy Quay, embarked on a series of dark graphite drawings, conceived as imaginary film posters. They kept their first autonomous art project hidden for decades, allowing only a few glimpses to transpire in some of their animation classics such as Noctura Artificialia and Street of Crocodiles. In hindsight, the Black Drawings can be considered as a blueprint for their future work. This book offers a first in-depth exploration of this important graphic series that reveals many of the themes and techniques that would come to life in their celebrated animation films.” Quay Brothers: The Black Drawings 1974—1977 is a book by Edwin Carels and Tommy Simoens.

• The first of the BFI’s forthcoming blu-ray boxes of Derek Jarman films is now available for preorder. In addition to what I presume will be an uncensored presentation of Sebastiane (1976) the set also includes the digital premiere of In the Shadow of the Sun (1980) an “alchemical” blending/transmutation of Jarman’s early Super-8 films with a score by Throbbing Gristle. Related: Adam Scovell on another of the films in the set, Jubilee (1978), and one that Jarman disliked even though it incorporates many of his obsessions, especially in the punk-baiting sequences derived from Shakespeare and Elizabethan metaphysics.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 638: Circuit des Yeux, XLR8R Podcast 528 by Huxley Anne, Secret Thirteen Mix 246 by Hiro Kone, and drone works from Abby Drohne. And since the untimely death of composer Jóhann Jóhannsson was announced a few hours ago, a return to his sombre mix for FACT from 2015.

Nabokov’s ambitions weren’t interpretive. He “held nothing but contempt for Freud’s crude oneirology,” Barabtarlo explains, and in tracking his dreams he wasn’t turning his gaze inward. For him, the mystery was outside—far outside. Nabokov had been reading deeply into serialism, a philosophy positing that time is reversible. The theory came from JW Dunne, a British engineer and armchair philosopher who, in 1927, published An Experiment with Time, arguing, in part, that our dreams afforded us rare access to a higher order of time. Was it possible that we were glimpsing snatches of the future in our dreams—that what we wrote off as déjà vu was actually a leap into the metaphysical ether? Dunne himself claimed to have had no fewer than eight precognitive dreams, including one in which he foresaw a headline about a volcanic eruption.

Daniel Piepenbring reviewing Insomniac Dreams by Gennady Barabtarlo

• Gavin Stamp 1948—2017: a eulogy to the late architectural writer by Jonathan Meades. One of Stamp’s more offbeat assignments was providing illustrations for the George Hay Necronomicon in 1978.

Embassy of the Free Mind is the name of the new online library whose digitisation of rare occult volumes was financed by author Dan Brown.

• At Dangerous Minds: Meet Princess Tinymeat, the obscure genderbending trashglam post-punk goth offshoot of Virgin Prunes.

• “Why are film-makers obsessed with the story of doomed British sailor Donald Crowhurst?” asks Jonathan Coe.

• “Asian music influenced Debussy who influenced me—it’s all a huge circle,” says Ryuichi Sakamoto.

• At Spoon & Tamago: The birds of Tokyo beautifully illustrated by Ryo Takemasa.

Mark Pilkington is In Wild Air

Professor Yaffle

The Sun’s Gone Dim And The Sky’s Turned Black (2006) by Jóhann Jóhannsson | The Great God Pan is Dead (2008) by Jóhann Jóhannsson | A Pile of Dust (2016) by Jóhann Jóhannsson

The Thing on the Doorstep

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Workwise, this year has been a major one for interior illustration. So far I’ve completed about 80 illustrations for different titles, and I’m still not finished. The majority of the work has been for a Spanish publisher, Editorial Alma, based in Barcelona. Earlier this year they launched a line of reprints of classic works of fiction, each of which is illustrated. To date I’ve worked on three of the titles, the first of which, Narraciones extraordinarias by Edgar Allan Poe, will feature in a later post.

The second title, La llamada de Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft, is a small collection comprising the rather odd pairing of The Call of Cthulhu with The Thing on the Doorstep, two very different stories that you wouldn’t usually expect to see together. I provided six illustrations, three for Cthulhu which are slightly reworked pages from my comic-strip adaptation of the story, and three new ones for The Thing on the Doorstep. This is a story I’d never considered illustrating before when so much of its horror is psychological. It does, however, feature two characters who (by Lovecraft’s standards) are well-defined: the ineffectual Edward Pickman Derby and his sinister future wife, Asenath Waite. So that’s what you see here: portraits of the two main characters plus a view of the climactic scene that gives the story its title. Ideally, I would have liked to have done a fourth picture showing Derby’s surprise awakening at a nightmarish ritual but the deadlines on these books have been tight and there simply wasn’t time.

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For those interested in this title, the only purchase link I have is an Amazon one. All the books are hardbacks (without dustjackets) complete with decorated endpapers—I provided a tentacle pattern for this one—and a bookmark ribbon. Deadlines aside, it’s been a very pleasant experience working for Alma. The next two books are the big ones so watch this space.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Leather Cthulhu unleashed
Leather Cthulhu
The Gods of HP Lovecraft
Lovecraftiana calendar
Providential
NecronomiCon Providence 2015
Yuggoth details
A Mountain Walked
Lovecraft’s Monsters unleashed
Lovecraft’s Monsters
JK Potter and HP Lovecraft
Cthulhu Labyrinth
Tentacles #4: Cthulhu in Poland
Cthulhu Calendar
S. Latitude 47°9, W. Longitude 126°43
Resurgam variations
De Profundis
H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction
Heavy Metal, October 1979: the Lovecraft special
Cthulhoid and Artflakes
Cthulhu for sale
Cthulhu God
Cthulhu under glass
CthulhuPress
The monstrous tome
Cubist Cthulhu

Weekend links 336

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Visit in Night (1951) by Toshiko Okanoue.

• Rhythms of the World: Bombay and All That Jazz; a 60-minute BBC documentary featuring Trilok Gurtu, L. Shankar, Don Cherry, Alice Coltrane, Zakir Hussain and others. The quality of the full-length copy is a little rough so it’s worth noting the six-part version here.

Adam Scovell talks to Leah Moore and John Reppion about adapting the ghost stories of MR James for the comics medium. Related: The Corner of Some Foreign Field, a short piece of folk horror written by Martin Hayes with art by Alfie Gallagher.

Callum James on the overtly gay nature of Films and Filming magazine (1959–1990). Having seen a few copies over the years I’d always suspected this but didn’t realise it was so persistent. Related: The Boy and the Wolf by Callum James.

• At Dangerous Minds: Lucifer Rising live in concert: Bobby Beausoleil and the Freedom Orchestra perform their Kenneth Anger soundtrack, 1978.

Simon Says: A rare cassette tape of instructions by Peter Levenda for using the Simon Necronomicon (1977) as a grimoire.

• Mixes of the week: Fact Mix 577 by Outer Space, and Incantations and Manifestations by Melmoth_The_Wanderer.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: _Black_Acrylic presents … Art Sex Music: A Cosey Fanni Tutti Day.

• Up from the Abyss: Brenda SG Walter on Rammstein, Lovecraft and Sea Zombies.

• Cinematic Alchemy: Christopher Gibbs on designing sets for Performance (1970).

• Magic carpets: the art of Faig Ahmed‘s melted and pixellated rugs.

• Drips, pop and Dollars: the music that made Ennio Morricone.

• At Bibliothèque Gay: Cocteau et quelques autres.

• “Sleepers Awake!” says Moon Wiring Club.

Can your city change your mind?

The Paul Laffoley Archive

The Ambivalent Abyss (2001) by Lustmord | Byss And Abyss (2004) by Espers | Dark Bullet From The Abyss (2010) by Pleq

Leather Cthulhu unleashed

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The beautiful leatherbound Complete Cthulhu Mythos Tales is officially published this Friday but the books are in Barnes & Noble stores already, and my complimentary copies arrived this week. Photos don’t do justice to the volumes in this series of classic reprints, you really need to hold one to see how well made they are. The leather is smooth and flawlessly printed—I was worried that I might have pushed the limits with some of the details in my cover design but every line and edge is where it should be. The pages of this particular volume are edged with gold, an effect applied to some of the books I’ve designed for Savoy but an uncommon thing in today’s book world.

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As I mentioned earlier, this edition also features endpapers showing details of my R’lyeh spread from The Call of Cthulhu, plus a poster of my Cthulhu Rising piece from 2004. Which leads to an important note for purchasers: the temporary glue that fixes the poster to the back endpapers, and the ad sheet (see below) to the back cover was stronger than intended so care needs to be taken when detaching these items from the book. I’ve been told that a warning about this will be added to the next batch of books, and the glue (which is that clear stuff used to fix things to magazine covers) will also be changed.

A couple more photos and a list of contents follow below. I’ve worked on a lot of books over the years but this one is up there with the very best; Lovecraft’s finest fiction in a single gorgeous volume, and all for $20.

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