Weekend links 518

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In Voluptate Mors (1951) by Philippe Halsman.

• “Equation to an Unknown (1980) is [Dietrich de Velsa’s] only film, and stands without a doubt as a masterpiece and the best French gay porn ever made.” Related (sort of): the US division of Amazon Prime had been showing a censored print of Francis Lee’s gay romance, God’s Own Country, until the director was informed and complained.

• “They lasted just one night as tour support for U2 before being thrown off. The outraged and hostile audience threw bottles of urine. The band responded by throwing iron bars back at them.” Daniel Dylan Wray on the wild times (and cookery) of Blixa Bargeld and Einstürzende Neubauten.

• “Japanese art evolved, in Saunders’s words, ‘from a distinctive alchemy of silk, soot, gold, fire, and fur,’ from a playful and curious fascination with the subject matter and tools provided by the natural world.” Tamar Avishai on art in isolation: the delicate paintings of Edo Japan.

To me, the Diggers were a phenomenon. I don’t know that there’s been anything like them in history—yes, history repeats itself, so there probably was somebody at some time, I’m just not aware of it—a situation where you have a group of people whose goal is to help other people, to bring them not just the basic necessities you need to survive but the things that you need for your imagination, your brain, your growth on other levels. It was like an opium dream or something.

Siena Carlton-Firestone (aka Natural Suzanne) talking to Jay Babcock for the fourth installment of Jay’s verbal history of the hippie anarchists

• A psychic has been ordered to pay the costs of exhuming Salvador Dalí’s corpse for a failed paternity test.

• Feel the crushing steel: David Bennun on Grace Jones and the Compass Point Trilogy.

Sleep Tones by Six Organs Of Admittance, name-your-price music for insomniacs.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 645 by Juan MacLean.

Playing the Piano for the Isolated by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

• David Lynch Theater presents: Fire (Pozar).

Fire (1967) by Koko Taylor | Fire (1984) by 23 Skidoo | Fire (2002) by Ladytron

Halsman and Cocteau

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A handful of the many photographs Philippe Halsman made with Jean Cocteau in 1949.

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The Dream of the Poet.

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The Blind Poet believes that he is the Emperor of China (Jean Cocteau with Birds).

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Cocteau with actress Ricki Soma and dancer Leo Coleman.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
La Belle et la Bête posters
The writhing on the wall
Le livre blanc by Jean Cocteau
Cocteau’s sword
Cristalophonics: searching for the Cocteau sound
Cocteau at the Louvre des Antiquaires
La Villa Santo Sospir by Jean Cocteau

The skull beneath the skin

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All Is Vanity by Charles Allan Gilbert (1892).

The surreptitious skull is another of those perennial motifs that recur in art from time to time and one which has become especially prevalent since the late 19th century. There seem to be a number of reasons for this, the most obvious being that if you’re going to show how clever you are by hiding one image inside another you may as well make the hidden thing something that everyone recognises. A secondary reason would seem to be the waning power of the vanitas theme. As painting became more pictorially sophisticated it wasn’t enough to simply show a skull and expect people to accept that and a stern moral as the principal content. Hence the development of death as a non-skeletal character in Symbolism and the reduction of skulls in pictures to a kind of playful game.

Holbein’s anamorphic skull in The Ambassadors is probably the grandfather of all the later versions but the more recent popularity of the hidden motif can be traced back to Charles Allan Gilbert whose 1892 picture, All is Vanity, drawn when he was just 18, was sold to Life Publishing in 1902 and subsequently spread all over the world in postcard form. Despite giving birth to a host of imitators, Gilbert’s picture is the one that still inspires artists and photographers up to the present day.

Continue reading “The skull beneath the skin”