Weekend links 356

toitoitoi.jpg

Im Hag by ToiToiToi will be Ghost Box 027, available from 12th May. Poster and album design, as always, by Julian House.

• The week in the electronic outer limits: The Haxan Cloak recorded a new piece of music using Moog’s Mother-32 modular synths; The Herzog Tapes is a new album by The Electric Pentacle; and Drew McDowell (ex-Coil, etc) has a new album, Unnatural Channel, out next month. (Vinyl-only, unfortunately, like his previous album.)

• More from Vinyl . Album . Cover . Art: The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue by Aubrey Powell: How to design a record cover in 1977. The feature is a duplicate of Storm Thorgerson’s account in the first Hipgnosis book but since that volume has been out of print for decades it stands repeating.

• Talismanic Bookseller: Erik Davis talks to occult-book dealer and musician Richard Bishop talks about modern grimoires, scorpion gods, Orientalist imagery, and hunting down physical books in the age of the Internet.

Arbery Books, “the UK’s leading online dealer in rare and secondhand books and ephemera of gay, lesbian and transgender interest”, is closing its website at the end of May so there’s a sale on.

Amours Secrètes: Dans L’intimité Des Écrivains, an art book about the secret loves of five French writers: Marcel Proust, Pierre Loti, Renaud Icard, Roger Peyrefitte and Jean Genet.

• Ancient Methods and Futuristic Visions: Mark Pilkington & Michael J. York of Teleplasmiste answer 15 questions.

• Mix of the week: Homer Flynn, spokesperson of The Residents, compiles a playlist for The Wire.

Adrian Searle on Queer British Art 1861–1967 at Tate Britain: “strange, sexy, heartwrenching”.

Strange Flowers on August Endell (1871–1925) and the trees of spring.

Urania (1995) by Panasonic | Pan Finale (2010) by Pan Sonic | 5′ 42” (2014) by Pan Sonic

Monsieur René Magritte, a film by Adrian Maben

magritte1.jpg

Until the end of his life, [Magritte] preferred to take the tram.

Now there’s an attitude I approve of. George Melly in his BBC film about Surrealism mentions visiting Magritte at his home in Brussels, and we see Magritte’s house at the beginning of Adrian Maben’s 50-minute film about the artist’s life and work. Maben’s film was made in 1978 as an Franco-German TV production but the narration, by Maben himself, is in English. Surrealism seemed to be back in vogue in 1978: as mentioned yesterday, the Hayward Gallery in London staged an exhibition of Surrealist art that year, the BBC commissioned George Melly’s film as a result of this, while over on rival network ITV there was the marvellous documentary about Surrealist patron Edward James who modelled for one of Magritte’s most famous paintings, La reproduction interdite (1937).

magritte2.jpg

Adrian Maben’s name will be familiar to Pink Floyd obsessives as the director of Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (1972), and if you’re familiar with that film you can recognise the same shooting style in his Magritte film which deploys similar slow zooms, tracking shots and images sliding in and out of the frame. The music is credited to a surprising combination of Béla Bartók (mostly piano) and Roger Waters, although some of the pieces from the latter are actually by Pink Floyd, there’s even some of the opening of Obscured By Clouds. In style and content the film is as good as anything the BBC were producing at the time, with extracts from a TV interview with the artist, and also some of Magritte’s high-spirited home movies made with his wife and friends.

Magritte and Pink Floyd are a fitting match, some of the Floyd’s album covers could be Magritte paintings rendered photographically: two men shaking hands, one of whom is on fire; a giant pig adrift over a power station. Storm Thorgerson always acknowledged the debt that Hipgnosis owed Magritte’s example, it’s there in the title of the first Hipgnosis book, Walk Away René, and in this short Tate interview from 2011 where he mentions the Wish You Were Here album as being a very conscious Magritte homage.

Previously on { feuilleton }
George Melly’s Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Surrealist
The Secret Life of Edward James
René Magritte by David Wheatley

Robert Fludd’s Temples of Music

fludd1.jpg

For the past week I’ve been downloading more of the books at the Internet Archive illustrated by Matthäus Merian. Among the hoard there’s a two-volume set of Robert Fludd’s Utriusque Cosmi, Maioris scilicet et Minoris, metaphysica, physica, atque technica Historia (1617–1626), a remarkable work which attempts to cover all the metaphysical, scientific and artistic knowledge of the time, opening modestly with a detailed description of the creation of the universe. The illustrations for these volumes by Merian and Johann de Bry are so good they’ve been plundered endlessly, not only in later books but in the general culture; I’ve swiped details myself on more than one occasion so—once again—it’s good to see an original printing with all the accompanying text, and also all the less familiar treatises and pictures.

fludd2.jpg

One area of Fludd’s study concerns music, a subject which Merian and De Bry illustrate using a variety of graphic devices, the most fanciful of which are the “Temples of Music” displaying the notes and divisions of the Pythagorean scale. The largest of the drawings was printed onto a fold-out sheet which explains the unfortunate tear in this copy. I love all the details on this one, some of which are rather unusual: who are the people underneath the temple in the room with the furnace? What are they doing, and why are they naked?

fludd3.jpg

fludd4.jpg

Continue reading “Robert Fludd’s Temples of Music”

The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson

aot1.jpg

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.

aot2.jpg

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.

aot3.jpg

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

Design as virus 16: Prisms

dsotm1.jpg

The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd. Design by Hipgnosis.

Dark Side of the Moon is one of seven or eight suggestions we submitted to Pink Floyd. It relates to the Floyd’s concerts and their use of light shows. Specifically it was sparked off by Rick Wright who wanted something very simple, clinical and precise. It’s not a particularly original design but I do feel it is very appropriate and highly effective.

Storm Thorgerson in An ABC of the Work of Hipgnosis: Walk Away René (1978)

Continuing an occasional series. Album cover designer Storm Thorgerson died in April, a month after the 40th anniversary of the release of The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. Thorgerson may have downplayed the originality of the cover design but it remains the most well-known of the many covers produced by Hipgnosis, a combination of the enormous commercial success of the album and the success of the design itself.

The variations below are post-Hipgnosis productions by Thorgerson and his various assistants for reissues of the album. I did have the idea of collecting a few of the better unofficial variants and pastiches but a quick image search turns up a daunting quantity of homages, parodies, imitations and other derivations. This is partly down to the way the internet stimulates an accelerated recycling of cultural signifiers, but it still shows how this simple design continues to affect people beyond its original application.

The 2011 Immersion Box Set featured further variations, some of which have been used to promote the 40th album anniversary. There’s a poster available with even more variations. If you’re still not sated after that lot then deviantART is the place to go for endless collisions between the Floydian prism and all the hottest emblems of pop culture. Just keep scrolling…

dsotm2.jpg

30th Anniversary reissue. Design by Storm Thorgerson & Peter Curzon.

dsotm3.jpg

The Dark Side Of The Moon: The Making of Pink Floyd’s Masterpiece (2005) by John Harris. Designed pseudonymously by Storm Thorgerson.

dsotm4.jpg

Immersion Box Set (2011). Design by Storm Thorgerson & StormStudios.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Design as virus 15: David Pelham’s Clockwork Orange
Design as virus 14: Curse of the Dead
Design as virus 13: Tsunehisa Kimura
Design as virus 12: Barney’s faces
Design as virus 11: Burne Hogarth
Design as virus 10: Victor Moscoso
Design as virus 9: Mondrian fashions
Design as virus 8: Keep Calm and Carry On
Design as virus 7: eyes and triangles
Design as virus 6: Cassandre
Design as virus 5: Gideon Glaser
Design as virus 4: Metamorphoses
Design as virus 3: the sincerest form of flattery
Design as virus 2: album covers
Design as virus 1: Victorian borders