Goodfellow and Borges

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Last week’s story search had me looking through this handful of Penguin volumes again, all of which have cover illustrations by Peter Goodfellow. These were the first Borges books I bought, beginning with the Labyrinths collection in 1985. The Book of Sand is two volumes in one—The Book of Sand and a late poetry collection, The Gold of the Tigers—with cover art suitable for both. I used to think that the covers of the other books were pastiching or quoting well-known artists but now I’m not so sure. Two of them definitely are quotes or pastiches: The Book of Imaginary Beings is a play on the weird growths you find in Hieronymus Bosch, while Doctor Brodie‘s contemplative skeleton is from the famous anatomical engravings in De Humani Corporis Fabrica by Andreas Vesalius, with some Chinese or Japanese landscape details added to the background.

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Two positive artistic references suggested that the other covers might follow suit, so I used to take the Labyrinths cover as a vague reference to the anomalies that Salvador Dalí would situate in his desert vistas, while A Universal History of Infamy was de Chirico, perhaps, although this no longer seems certain at all. Those columns look like Bernini’s double colonnade from Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, not a Turin arcade, and the picture lacks the disjunctive perspectives you find in de Chirico’s “Metaphysical” paintings. The pastiche thesis is further diluted when you discover that Goodfellow had been quoting from Bosch as far back as his cover for Ursula Le Guin’s Rocannon’s World in 1972, while he borrowed another skeleton from Vesalius for Structures by JE Gordon. Sometimes you can reach too far for meaningful connections.

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The Bosch-like cover does seem to have had an enduring influence, however. When Penguin published the Collected Fictions in the UK in 1999 they used a detail from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights for the artwork. Bosch details turned up on a later edition of A Universal History of Infamy, and have subsequently appeared on a series of Turkish Borges editions. Not a bad choice for a writer whose fictions offer universes of possibility.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Rejected Sorcerer
The Immortal by Jorge Luis Borges
Borges on Ulysses
Borges in the firing line
La Bibliothèque de Babel
Borges and the cats
Invasion, a film by Hugo Santiago
Spiderweb, a film by Paul Miller
The Library of Babel by Érik Desmazières
Books Borges never wrote
Borges and I
Borges documentary
Borges in Performance

Luminous Procuress

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How to describe this one? Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, pt 2? Bargain-basement Satyricon? The latter is probably more apt, Kenneth Anger’s longer films are more formal than Luminous Procuress. Steven Arnold’s only feature film resembles something made by the extras from a Fellini extravaganza after they’ve stayed overnight at Cinecittà; a series of artfully-arranged tableaux (artful arrangement being Arnold’s forte), together with a hardcore sex-scene (hetero) that seems out of place beside the relatively chaste antics elsewhere:

Luminous Procuress is an altogether extraordinary, individualistic phantasmagoria. It was filmed entirely in San Francisco over a two-year period, and describes the adventures of two wandering youths in San Francisco who visit the home of a mysterious woman, the Procuress. She is an elegant emblem of sorcery, her vivid features glowing under bizarre, striking maquillage, and one is not certain who she is or where she intends to lead the protagonists. Although the language she speaks is vaguely Russian, it appears that the Procuress has psychic powers. She discerns a sympathetic response to her on the part of the youths, and by magical means, conducts them through fantastic rooms, on a psychic journey. Through strange passageways, one voyages with the Procuress and her charges, glimpsing hidden nightmares and panoplied chambers of revelry, where celebrants, ornately festooned, dance and make love before unseen gods… (more)

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Arnold’s film follows the low-budget form by being shot without synchronised sound, so the dialogue, such as it is, has been dubbed on later. Rather than try and match words to the improvised scenes Arnold instead gives his characters foreign voices, most of which are mumbling and may not even be saying anything intelligible in their own language. This spares us any Warhol-like amateur theatricals while augmenting the dream-like atmosphere. The music by Warner Jepson is the icing on a very unusual cake. Jepson was a serious electronic composer whose rather abrasive debut album, Totentanz, was included in the Creel Pone catalogue of electronic obscurities in 2005. For the film Jepson provides swathes of synthesizer doodling interspersed with arrangements for keyboards and voices. All this and the Cockettes too. Salvador Dalí loved it.

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Continue reading “Luminous Procuress”

Weekend links 592

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Cover art by Gray Morrow; design by Henry Berkowitz, 1967.

• “Dial-a-Poem received more than a million calls before it lost funding and ended in 1971. There were complaints of indecency, claims that the poems incited violence. The FBI investigated…” Ralf Webb on John Giorno’s Dial-a-Poem project which is still active at the US and UK numbers on this page.

• Mixes of the week: Halloween approaches so for those who require themed mixes you can take your pick from these selections by Kaptain Carbon; at The Wire there’s a Halloween-free mix by Kuunatic.

• New music: New Moon by Laetitia Sadier, and The Reinterpretation Of Dreams (Remixed) by Tomoroh Hidari; not-so-new music: Velocity Of Sleep by Kali Malone.

The activist’s whole identity is tied up in him being denied, as opposed to him manifesting. Nobody can give you your freedom. You ARE free. It is your natural state, okay? You can give it all away if you want, but: no. I can’t GIVE you your rights. I can’t give you your freedom. And to go and beg the Man for your rights and BEG the Man for your freedom? LIVE your freedom.

One of Berg’s phrases was “life actor.” “Theatre of the streets.” All of this as theatre. As opposed to in a different arena you would call politics or activism or so on. But using theatre as a way to open doors that might not be opened if someone was approaching it in other ways. Out of that comes this whole sense of “create the reality you want to live in.” Which is a powerful, profound concept. People are trapped in the paradigm: you can’t even think there is an outside of the box. Just that notion of thinking, and living outside that paradigm, was real powerful stuff.

Claude Hayward of the San Francisco Diggers talking to Jay Babcock for the eighth installment of Jay’s verbal history of the hippie anarchists

Joanna Moorhead on the creation of the Mae West lips sofa, a collaboration between Salvador Dalí and Edward James.

• The latest book from Rixdorf Editions is Papa Hamlet by Arno Holz and Johannes Schlaf.

• At Sweet Jane’s Pop Boutique: Op and Pop | Art Forms in Furnishing (1966).

Denis Bovell’s favourite music.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Coffins.

Love At Psychedelic Velocity (1966) by The Human Expression | Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow) (1982) by The Birthday Party | The Art Of Coffins (2002) by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore

Gioconda of the Mausoleum

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“MAGIC REALISM • Like the video technique of “keying in” where any background may be electronically inserted or deleted independently of foreground, the ability to bring the actual sound of musics of various epochs and geographical origins all together in the same compositional frame marks a unique point in history. • A trumpet, branched into a chorus of trumpets by computer, traces the motifs of the Indian raga DARBARI over Senegalese drumming recorded in Paris and a background mosaic of frozen moments from an exotic Hollywood orchestration of the 1950’s [a sonic texture like a “Mona Lisa” which, in close up, reveals itself to be made up of tiny reproductions of the Taj Mahal], while the ancient call of an AKA pygmy voice in the Central African Rainforest—transposed to move in sequences of chords unheard of until the 20th century—rises and falls among gamelan-like cascades, multiplications of a single “digital snapshot” of a traditional instrument played on the Indonesian island of JAVA, on the other side of the world.” — Jon Hassell

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Jon Hassell’s text is part of the sleeve note for his Aka—Darbari—Java (Magic Realism) album which was released on Editions EG in 1983. The description of a picture of the Mona Lisa made from tiny reproductions of the Taj Mahal always intrigued me even though it’s only a shorthand metaphor for the sampling process, as well as being an encapsulation in miniature of one aspect of Hassell”s “Fourth World” concept: the blending of East and West, the sacred and the profane. Nevertheless, 20 years ago—17th May, 2001, according to the date on the file—after realising that Photoshop allowed the creation of just this kind of mosaic imagery, I decided to try and bring Hassell’s metaphor to digital life.

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The end result in its full-size version looks at a distance like an ordinary halftone rendering of the painting but it really is made of tiny images of the Taj Mahal, albeit very rough ones since the process always resulted in a bitmap image. So much time has elapsed I’ve forgotten the procedural details although I do recall the involvement of one of those legacy features of Photoshop that most people ignore, possibly the Apply Image function. And I only did this at all because I’d found a tutorial somewhere that described how to create a mosaic image in this manner. The resulting picture wasn’t particularly satisfying but as a proof of concept it did at least work.

Continue reading “Gioconda of the Mausoleum”

Max Ernst by Peter Schamoni

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The English version of Peter Schamoni’s feature-length documentary from 1991 has finally reached YouTube. I think copyright reasons may have prevented it from doing so in the past in which case the usual caveats apply: if it’s of interest then watch it while you have the opportunity, it may not be there for long. The German version of the film has a longer title, Max Ernst: Mein Vagabundieren—Meine Unruhe, which auto-translates to “my vagabondingmy restlessness”, a reference to Ernst’s peripatetic life as well as to his artistic wanderings.

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I mentioned in the previous post my having spent some time last year watching a number of documentaries about Surrealism. This was one of them, and it’s the film about Max Ernst. Films about Salvador Dalí are plentiful but other Surrealist artists are lucky if they receive a single worthwhile appraisal. Peter Schamoni had filmed Ernst in 1966 for a short, Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie, so was already sympathetic to the artist’s work. Max Ernst resembles one of the BBC’s classic Arena documentaries in being a biographical account threaded with documentary material and pictures of significant artworks. Detail is supplied by actors reading from writings by Ernst, Dorothea Tanning and others.

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There’s a lot of interview footage here, mostly from TV appearances in later life, in which Ernst’s intelligent conversation makes a striking contrast to Dalí’s bluster and evasions. Schamoni interleaves the historical footage with shots of the various locations of Ernst’s wanderings: the south of France, New York City, California, Arizona, Paris. Several of the Dalí documentaries note the degree to which the coastal landscape of Cadaqués informed Dalí’s painting; Schamoni makes a similar comparison between Ernst’s American paintings and the desert landscapes of Arizona. It’s good to see some of the Microbes that he painted while he was there, a series of tiny landscape pictures that books about Ernst don’t always mention, let alone depict.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The nightingale echo
Max Ernst’s favourites
Viewing View
Max Ernst album covers
Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie
Max and Dorothea
Dreams That Money Can Buy
La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier