Weekend links 382

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Raven (2015), a metal sculpture by Taiichiro Yoshida.

• “Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light [at the Smithsonian American Art Museum] restores Thomas Wilfred (1889–1968) to his rightful place in the history of modern art.”

• At Brown Noise Unit: a fascinating, lengthy interview by Philip Kaberry with Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))) et al, with particular focus on O’Malley’s work with Japanese musicians.

• Erik Davis talks to scholar, writer, and mythographer William Rowlandson about Jorge Luis Borges, magical trees, Yankee mysticism, and the power of the weird and murky.

• The first issue of the world’s first magazine of fantastic art and literature, Der Orchideengarten (previously), has been reprinted in full with additional English translation.

• At Muddy Colors: the month in covers for September/October which includes my cover for Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng (and which is on sale now).

• At 3:AM Magazine: Adam Scovell talks to horror author Ramsey Campbell about the ghost stories of MR James.

Paralysis: Live at Silent Night #8, a new release on (limited) cassette and digital by The House In The Woods.

• At Dangerous Minds: Jozef van Wissem buries the dead in his new video, Virium Illarum.

PKD Files — A podcast about the life and work of Philip K. Dick.

• Russell Cuzner on The Strange World of Nurse With Wound.

Clark Collis on the rise and fall of Fangoria.

• The North Star Grassman And The Ravens (1971) by Sandy Denny | Flight Of The Raven (1979) by Emerald Web | Kill The Great Raven (1979) by Snakefinger

Philip K. Dick: A Day in the Afterlife

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Blade Runner turns up in Nicola Roberts’ television documentary but not for long. Back in 1994 it was still possible to discuss a popular writer by concentrating on the books alone rather than padding the running time with film and TV derivations. The BBC’s Arena strand excelled at these 50-minute biographies of significant cultural figures.

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The last time I watched this documentary was on a big TV screen in a house in Los Angeles. Stepping out into the California sun a couple of hours later was like stepping into a Philip K. Dick novel, a slippage between the real and the fictional that Dick himself might have appreciated. Among the luminaries discussing the author’s slippery narratives are Brian Aldiss, Jim Blaylock, Elvis Costello, Anne Dick (PKD’s third wife), Tessa B. Dick (PKD’s fourth wife), Thomas M. Disch, Terry Gilliam, Kleo Mini (PKD’s second wife), Tim Powers, Kim Stanley Robinson and Fay Weldon. There’s also video footage of Dick being interviewed in the late 70s/early 80s. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Blade Runner vs. Metropolis

Weekend links 238

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We Are The Water – Snow Drawings Project, Colorado (2014) by Sonja Hinrichsen with 50 volunteers.

• I don’t do end-of-year lists but Dennis Cooper does. My thanks to Dennis once more for including this blog among his selections. Also there is Jonathan Glazer’s film of Under the Skin, an adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel that impressed me as the most insidiously disturbing thing I’ve seen since Mulholland Drive. The Guardian‘s film critics agreed, making it their film of the year. I’d add to Peter Bradshaw’s appraisal by noting the superb score by Mica Levi, the refusal to spoon-feed the audience with explanations, and a refreshing absence of Hollywood gloss. Glazer’s film, like Kill List before it, shows that mundane British streets and interiors can still be a setting for serious horror.

• Related to the above: “I like Caravan, Coil—it’s very sad that they’re both dead now. In fact, Peter Christopherson, who was leader of Coil, contributed a song to a CD which I made for my wife for what we believed would be her last birthday.” Michel Faber talks to Hope Whitmore about Under the Skin and his new novel, The Book of Strange New Things. M. John Harrison recommends the latter on his own end-of-year list. In January Black Mass Rising will release a recording of The Art of Mirrors, Peter Christopherson’s homage to Derek Jarman from 2004.

David Bowie and band live on Musikladen in 1978: 40 minutes with Adrian Belew on squealing lead guitar, some Kurt Weill and an outstanding performance of “Heroes”.

• “Realism is a literary convention – no more, no less – and is therefore as laden with artifice as any other literary convention.” Tom McCarthy on realism and the real.

• Mixes of the week: The Best of the Best of the Best by TheCuriosityPipe, and Secret Thirteen Mix 138, a medley of post punk from Psyche.

• “We spent two weeks making the penises.” Livin’ Thing: An Oral History of Boogie Nights by Alex French and Howie Kahn.

• At Dangerous Minds: Seeing The Man Who Fell to Earth was one of the greatest experiences of Philip K. Dick’s life.

• Giving Voice to Our Pagan Past and Present: Pam Grossman on Witches, Women and Pop Occulture.

• Neglected last week (and linked everywhere but still a good one): The typography of Alien.

William Mortensen, the photographer who Ansel Adams called the Anti-Christ.

• Hear a track from analogue synthesizer virtuoso Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.

Rick Poynor on illustrations by Bohumil Stepan for Crazy Fairy Tales.

12 excellent features from directors who never made another feature.

Werner Herzog Inspirationals

The Devil in the Hedgerow

New Warm Skin (1980) by Simple Minds | Rapture Of The Skin (1996) by Paul Schütze | Take Me Into Your Skin (2007) by Trentemøller

Steampunk in the Tank

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Plague doctor mask by Tom Banwell.

Last month I wrote a little about the Steampunk: Art of Victorian Futurism exhibition that’s been running since the beginning of October in Beijing, this being the same event that was staged in Seoul earlier in the year. Five of my book cover designs have been featured in these shows, together with some very impressive artworks, designs and constructions by international artists. This week the organisers of the show, Artcenter IDA, sent their own photos of the event.

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Locomotive Square.

As mentioned before, the venue is an exhibition space in 751 D-Park outside central Beijing, an area I’ve been told was formerly an industrial complex manufacturing armaments during the Cold War. If we occasionally find that life these days imitates the fictions of JG Ballard or Philip K Dick, 751 D-Park strikes me as a very William Gibson kind of place: Cold War industrial complex transmuted into an international art space—Beijing Design Week is hosted here each year—that on this occasion is showcasing antique science fiction. The 751 website has a map of the area with links to photos and other information. I’m rather taken with “Crached Furnace Square” and “Locomotive Square“.

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Continue reading “Steampunk in the Tank”

The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson

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How does this sound? 100 minutes of solidly informative documentary about the use of drugs by artists from the early 19th century on; a production that calls upon a remarkable cast of contributors (see below), with music by David Gilmour, and the whole thing “devised and directed” by Storm Thorgerson, better known as one third of the great Hipgnosis design team.

The Art of Tripping was broadcast in two parts in 1993 during the Without Walls arts strand on Channel 4 (UK). David Gale was the writer, with actor Bernard Hill playing the part of the narrator and guide. The programme managed to deal with a contentious subject without indulging in hysteria or insulting the intelligence of the audience, a rare thing today. Twenty years ago it was still possible to make a documentary about a popular subject without having any low-grade celebrity-du-jour offering their wretched opinion. The contributors here who aren’t medical people are almost all writers of one kind or another; Thorgerson and Gale punctuate the proceedings with a few actors who impersonate various historical figures.

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Without Walls was a very good series on the whole but this for me was a real highlight (no pun intended). In addition to it being a rare example of Storm Thorgerson working in television, the direction showed how it was possible to match the theme without recourse to cliché or flashy visuals. There isn’t a single moment of archive footage either. Thorgerson’s history of “socially unacceptable” drugs is structured as a journey through the levels of a multi-storey building, from ground floor to roof; being familiar with the director’s free-associative working methods I can imagine this being a result of thinking about getting high. Bernard Hill encounters the various commentators in successive rooms, each of which is furnished and lit to suggestively imply the drug in question. The use of lighting as a key motif is a smart one, and another metaphor, of course, for literal and symbolic (or spiritual) illumination. Editing effects are also deployed to thematically correspond to the different substances.

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This would be very successful even without a wide range of contributors but Thorgerson and company assembled a stunning array of different writers, many of whom I’d never seen on TV before, and many of whom didn’t turn up again. Some of them fill dual roles, so JG Ballard is on hand to enthuse about Naked Lunch, and appears later talking about his bad LSD trip. Similarly, Brian Aldiss talks about Anna Kavan, and also about Philip K Dick. Below there’s a rough list of the drugs covered and the people involved. In the two decades since this was made many of the people involved have since died, the director included, so the film now has the feel of a historical artefact. The Art of Tripping can be see in full at YouTube. This is how good British television used to be.

Opium
Dr Virginia Berridge (author), Grevel Lindop (author), Marek Kohn (author), Dr EMR Critchley (author), Phil Daniels (as Thomas De Quincey), Dr Tony Dickenson (neuropharmacologist), Dr Ian Walker (author), Thom Booker (as Edgar Allan Poe), Dr Peggy Reynolds (author)
Hashish
Prof John Hemmings (author), Ronald Hayman (author), Patrick Barlow (as Theophile Gautier), John McEnery (as Charles Baudelaire), Jon Finch (as Gérard de Nerval), Bernard Howells (lecturer, King’s College, London), June Rose (author), John Richardson (author), Margaret Crosland (author), Danny Webb (as Jean Cocteau), Robin Buss (translator), David Gascoyne (poet), George Melly (collector, Surrealist art)
Mescaline
Prof Eric Mottram (University of London), Francis Huxley (nephew of Aldous Huxley), Jay Stevens (author), Laura Huxley (widow of Aldous Huxley),
Psilocybin
Brian Cory (as Robert Graves), Paul O’Prey (author)
Marijuana / Nitrous Oxide
Harry Shapiro (author), Carolyn Cassady (author), Prof Ann Charters (author), Allen Ginsberg (poet)
Kief
Paul Bowles (author)
Heroin
JG Ballard (author), Prof Avital Ronell (author), Hubert Selby Jr (author), Brian Aldiss (author)
LSD
Dr Oscar Janiger (experimental psychiatrist), Diana Quick (as Anaïs Nin), Prof Malcolm Lader (psychopharmacologist), Dr Timothy Leary (author), Todd Boyco (as Andy Warhol)
Amphetamine
Lawrence Sutin (author)
Cocaine
Robert Stone (author), Prof. Annette Dolphin (neuropharmacologist)
MDMA

Previously on { feuilleton }
Storm Thorgerson, 1944–2013
Hipgnosis turkeys
Enter the Void
Opium fiends
La Morphine by Victorien du Saussay
In the Land of Retinal Delights
Haschisch Hallucinations by HE Gowers
Storm Thorgerson: Right But Wrong
Demon rum leads to heroin
The art of LSD
Hep cats
German opium smokers, 1900