Weekend links 588

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Gerry Barney’s logo for British Rail. A page from the British Rail Corporate Identity Manual (1965).

• RIP Russ Kick, writer, editor, and founder of many websites/blogs such as Rare Erotica, Books Are People Too and (notoriously) the several iterations of The Memory Hole, a space dedicated to keeping visible information that successive US governments would have preferred to remain unseen. I’d known Russ remotely for many years, initially as a reviewer of the Savoy comics in Outposts. Savoy Books later helped find him a publisher for Psychotropedia: A Guide to Publications on the Periphery, a wide-ranging overview of alternative/underground print culture in the late 1990s. In 2004 his information activism gave him a fleeting taste of world-wide attention when he forced the Bush administration to make public the photos of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq. The scandal put his name on the front pages of newspapers that should have been finding those photos for themselves instead of cheerleading the war. A run of books for Disinformation presented his archival researches for the general reader, then in 2012 he edited The Graphic Canon, a massive three-volume collection of comics and illustrations based on classic works of literature. I was among the many contributors to the latter with an adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and would have worked on the follow-up collection of crime stories if I hadn’t been busy with other things. I had hoped that we might work together again in the future.

• “‘The new mainstream has attempted to erase the innovations of the avant-garde from jazz history,’ the film declares.” Geeta Dayal reviews Fire Music, a documentary about the jazz innovations of the 1960s.

• I don’t have the hardware to play this but Sable is a new computer game from Raw Fury whose design owes much to the desert landscapes seen in comics by Moebius.

• New/old music: Stealing Sheep and The Radiophonic Workshop reimagine the score for René Laloux’s animated science-fiction film La Planète Sauvage.

• At Spine: Savannah Cordova on how to perfect your book cover’s typography. Having recently designed an all-type cover design this is timely.

• Mixes of the week: Isolatedmix 113 by Sunju Hargun, XLR8R Podcast 714 by Soela, and Holograficzne Widmo ze Bart De Paepe by David Colohan.

• “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Gerry Barney, designer of the British Rail logo, doesn’t like the green reworking of his design.

• Scottish lord goes blood simple: a teaser for The Tragedy of Macbeth by Joel Cohen and some bloke called William Shakespeare.

• “It’s unmanageable.” Ellen Peirson-Hagger on how the vinyl industry reached breaking point.

Macbeth (1973) by John Cale | Rail (1994) by Main | Logotone (2013) by Steve Moore

Max Ernst’s favourites

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The cover for the Max Ernst number of View magazine (April, 1942) that appears in Charles Henri Ford’s View: Parade of the Avant-Garde was one I didn’t recall seeing before. This was a surprise when I’d spent some time searching for back issues of the magazine. The conjunction of Ernst with Buer, one of the perennially popular demons drawn by Louis Le Breton for De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, doubles the issue’s cult value in my eyes. I don’t know whether the demon was Ernst’s choice but I’d guess so when many of the De Plancy illustrations resemble the hybrid creatures rampaging through Ernst’s collages. Missing from the Ford book is the spread below which uses more De Plancy demons to decorate lists of the artist’s favourite poets and painters. I’d have preferred a selection of favourite novelists but Ford was a poet himself (he also co-wrote an early gay novel with Parker Tyler, The Young and Evil), and the list is still worth seeing.

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Poets: Charles Baudelaire, Friedrich Hölderlin, Alfred Jarry, Edgar Allan Poe, George Crabbe, Guillaume Apollinaire, Walt Whitman, Comte de Lautréamont, Robert Browning, Arthur Rimbaud, William Blake, Achim von Arnim, Victor Hugo, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Shakespeare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lewis Carroll, Novalis, Heinrich Heine, Solomon (presumably the author of the Song of Solomon).

Painters: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Giovanni Bellini, Hieronymus Bosch, Matthias Grünewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Georges Seurat, Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Baldung, Vittore Carpaccio, Leonardo Da Vinci, Cosimo Tura, Carlo Crivelli, Giorgio de Chirico, Henri Rousseau, Francesco del Cossa, Piero di Cosimo, NM Deutsch (Niklaus Manuel), Vincent van Gogh.

I’ve filled out the names since some of the typography isn’t easy to read. Some of the choices are also uncommon, while one of them—NM Deutsch—is not only a difficult name to search for but the attribution has changed in recent years. The list of poets contains few surprises but it’s good to see that Poe made an impression on Ernst; the choice of painters is less predictable. Bruegel, Bosch and Rousseau are to be expected, and the same goes for the German artists—Grünewald, Baldung—whose work is frequently grotesque or erotic. But I wouldn’t have expected so many names from the Italian Renaissance, and Seurat is a genuine surprise. As for Ernst’s only living contemporary, Giorgio de Chirico, this isn’t a surprise at all but it reinforces De Chirico’s importance. If you removed Picasso from art history De Chirico might be the most influential painter of the 20th century; his Metaphysical works had a huge impact on the Dada generation, writers as well as artists, and also on René Magritte who was never a Dadaist but who lost interest in Futurism when he saw a reproduction of The Song of Love (1914). Picasso’s influence remains rooted in the art world while De Chirico’s disquieting dreams extend their shadows into film and literature, so it’s all the more surprising that this phase of his work was so short lived. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Viewing View
De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal
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

Edmund Dulac’s Tempest

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This is a copy of The Tempest that I managed to miss when I was looking for illustrated editions a few years ago. When Edmund Dulac is away from his beloved (and mythical) Arabia or Persia his work tends to resemble that of Arthur Rackham, and that’s what you get in this volume from 1915, a series of Rackham-like colour plates with a handful ink vignettes. Dulac shows us Ariel in his harpy form, and as the more familiar fairy being, while Caliban is depicted as a bearded troglodyte. Of note near the end is Prospero’s sword—which has a moon-shaped hilt of a type only seen in modern-day witchcraft or ritual magic—and the plate for “We are such stuff as dreams are made on”, a suitably strange and almost abstract rendering of a dissolving cosmos.

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Continue reading “Edmund Dulac’s Tempest”

Weekend links 290

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The Royal Mint celebrates 400 years of William Shakespeare with new £2 coins. The “Tragedies” design gives Britain the Gothiest coin of all time.

• “I hate successful films that travel on an easy wave of ‘good taste’: for me, that is simply anti-culture.” Cinematographer Luciano Tovoli talks to Alexandra Heller-Nicholas about photographing Dario Argento’s masterwork, Suspiria.

• Mixes of the week: Für die Liebe II, an hour of ambient drift by Matthew Dekay, and Carwyn Ellis Mixtape No. 354 by The Voice Of Cassandre.

• Americans in Europe: Frances Mayes on the enduring mystique of the Venetian lagoon, and David Farley on the trail of Kafka in Prague.

“We’d read that Brion Gysin and William Burroughs had played around with some scientific equipment from Columbia University,” [Jim] Jarmusch recalls. It was “some kind of strobe light that they claimed, by placing eidetic pulses on the outside of your eyelids, could cause states of hallucination and trance. We found out how to check out this machine and experimented with … not fantastic results! In a way though, Luc [Sante] channels ghosts: he’s able to imagine and mentally reconstruct events and places from the past and weave them into stories. He can cross influences like Blaise Cendrars and JG Ballard with James M Cain and Raymond Roussel.”

[…]

If New York celebrates amnesia, perpetual transformation, accelerated obsolescence – and offers newcomers a blank slate, a chance to be born again – then Sante offers a mordantly heretical vision of the city. For him it’s full of layers and depths, of echoes and eerie reverberations, of occult whispers. “The tech crowd thinks that we can’t afford the past to be sitting on our shoulders. It’s a burden, a dead weight. We’ve got to innovate constantly. We have to … disrupt. But the 20th century is littered with valuable stuff – writers, ideas, daily certainties – that gets discarded and that needs to be picked up and looked at again.”

Sukhdev Sandhu profiles writer Luc Sante

The Edge Question for 2016: What do you consider the most interesting recent (scientific) news? What makes it important?

Bradley L. Garrett’s foreword for Secret Tunnels of England: Folklore and Fact (2015), a book by Antony Clayton.

Caitlin R. Green on the monstrous landscape of medieval Lincolnshire.

Mistaken Memories of Mediaeval Manhattan by Brian Eno.

Arche (live, 2013) by Master Musicians of Bukkake.

A Year In The Country returns for another year.

Kafka (1982) by Masami Tsuchiya | Manhattan (1984) by Seigen Ono | Tunnel (1997) by Biosphere

Painting the Henge

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Wiltonia sive Comitatus Wiltoniensis; Anglice Wilshire (1649) by Atlas van Loon.

Avebury doth as much exceed Stonehenge in grandeur as a Cathedral doth an ordinary Parish Church.

John Aubrey

John Aubrey (1626–1697) was the pioneering antiquarian and archaeologist whose interest in the ancient sites of southern England made him the first person to subject Avebury to any serious study. As a consequence his comparison between Avebury and Stonehenge may contain some bias—Stonehenge’s site on the desolate Salisbury Plain made its presence well-known even if it was little understood—but it should be noted that in Aubrey’s time there were more stones at Avebury than there are today, and the long avenues leading to and from the outer circle were still intact. The stones of Avebury were unfortunately small enough to be broken up by the locals for building materials.

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Stonehenge (1835) by John Constable.

The size of the stones, and the isolation of the site explains why Stonehenge has proved more attractive to the arts than other Neolithic monuments. William Macready in the 19th century added Stonehenge-like trilithons to his stage designs for King Lear, an addition that persisted for decades; Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) famously ends with a scene at the stones, while in the 20th century Stonehenge was shoehorned into Night of the Demon (1957), Jacques Tourneur and Charles Bennett’s film adaptation of Casting the Runes by MR James. James was an antiquarian himself so may well have approved of the inclusion, especially the way the stones are used in the opening scene.

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Stonehenge at Sunset (1835) by John Constable.

Painted renderings of the stones tend to be a mixture of archaeological studies and depictions like those featured here. The site had an understandable attraction to the Romantics, and drew both Constable and Turner there. (See Turner’s paintings and sketches here.) Constable’s watercolour of the stones against a turbulent sky is oft-reproduced. Some of the stones seen in 19th paintings and drawings lean more than they do today, having been restored to the vertical in the 20th century.

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Stonehenge – Twilight (c. 1840) by William Turner of Oxford (not to be confused with his more famous namesake).

Closer to our own time there’s Henry Moore’s marvellous series of lithograph prints from 1973 which study the stones from a variety of angles. These include close views, something few other artists seem to attempt. The photo print below shows the site as it was in the 1890s with cart tracks passing nearer to the stones than visitors today are allowed to venture.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Stonehenge
Stonehenge panorama