Four short films by Vince Collins

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The expressions “psychedelic” and “surreal” are often so casually applied that they lose any useful definition, but in the case of these early films by American animator Vince Collins “psychedelic surrealism” is an accurate description. All have somehow managed to evade my weirdness radar until now, despite being superior examples of the endlessly mutating dream-landscape which animation can do so well. The last of them, Malice in Wonderland, is a breathless run through Lewis Carroll scenarios which Collins made in collaboration with his wife, Miwako Collins. That punning title has been overused in the music world but the pair ought to be given sole ownership of it, their bad-trip film is the most grotesquely nightmarish reworking of Alice themes that I’ve seen.

Vince Collins’ YouTube channel contains many more recent works done with computer animation. The hand-drawn films are more to my taste but it’s good to see him still being active and creative.

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Gilgamish (1973).

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Euphoria (1974).

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Fantasy (1976).

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Malice in Wonderland (1982). (Or avoid YouTube’s adults-only policy by going here.)

Previously on { feuilleton }
The groovy video look

Weekend links 725

Springtime in Paris (1923) by Georg Kretzschmar.

• I’ve been asked to mention that the tribute book put together for Alan Moore’s 70th birthday, Alan Moore: Portraits of an Extraordinary Gentleman, is still available. As before, the book features contributions from many well-known comic artists, a foreword by Iain Sinclair, and this piece of my own.

• “I never posted any lecture of mine on Tumblr, even though Tumblr would seem to have plenty of elbow-room for hour-long, learned, European public lectures (with many lecture slides).” Utopian Realism, a speech by Bruce Sterling.

• Reading the Signs: John Kenny in conversation with Mark Valentine about Mark’s new collection Lost Estates.

There remains something suspect about blotter, a stain that is both a blessing and a curse. As the blotter producer Matthew Rick, who started selling sheets as non-dipped ‘art’ collectables at festivals in 1998, puts it: ‘[B]lotter is the last underground art form that’s going to stay underground, simply because you’re creating something that looks like and functions like a felony.’ In other words, blotter is ontologically illicit; it is, as Rick says, ‘drug paraphernalia by its very existence’.

Erik Davis (again) on LSD and the cultural history of the printed blotter

• At Colossal: Uncanny phenomena derail domestic bliss in Marisa Adesman’s luminous paintings.

• Standing stones, urban hellscapes and male nudes: Andrew Pulver on Derek Jarman’s Super-8 films.

• “ [breaking news] An anomaly on earth has brought the cats to over 150 meters. Please be patient.”

• At We Are The Mutants: Alien Renaissance: An interview with illustrator Bob Fowke.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…René Crevel My Body and I (1926).

• At Public Domain Review: The Little Journal of Rejects (1896).

• Steven Heller’s font of the month is Sandhouse.

• RIP Steve Albini.

Sandoz In The Rain (1970) by Amon Düül II | Bon Voyage Au LSD (2001) by Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. | Careful With That Sheet Of Acid, Eugene (2019) by Jenzeits

Max Ernst, estampes et livres illustrés

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And speaking of Max Ernst… These are pages from a catalogue for a exhibition of Ernst’s prints and book illustrations held at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris in 1975. Ernst was such a versatile and prolific artist that any collection can only show a small sample of the available work which here ranges from Dadaist collages and Surrealist frottages, to pages from his three collage novels plus later works like Wunderhorn which featured illustrations based on the writings of Lewis Carroll. Some of the captions erroneously assign collages from Une semaine de bonté to La femme 100 têtes, not the kind of thing you expect from a national library. Several of the images towards the end are from Maximiliana or the Illegal Practice of Astronomy, an art-book that Ernst created in 1964 which features the curious hieroglyphic figures that proliferate in his drawings and paintings from this period. Peter Schamoni made a short film about the project which may be viewed here.

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Continue reading “Max Ernst, estampes et livres illustrés”

Visite à Óscar Domínguez

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Another artist portrait, this short silent film is one of the earliest cinematic efforts by Alain Resnais, following some amateur experiments which are now lost. Resnais made several of these artist films in 1947, before embarking on the longer documentaries that brought him to the attention of the French film world. Visite à Óscar Domínguez was followed by Visite à Lucien Coutaud, Visite à Hans Hartung, Visite à Félix Labisse, Visite à César Doméla, Portrait d’Henri Goetz, and Journée naturelle (Visite à Max Ernst) but the Domínguez, which was apparently unfinished, is the only one I’ve been able to find so far. The Max Ernst is the one I’d most like to see even though Ernst didn’t lack for documentaries—he was filmed regularly in later life, and also turns up as an actor in L’Age Dor and Dreams that Money Can Buy—but I’m curious to know what he was doing when Resnais paid a visit.

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Óscar Domínguez (1906–1957) was a Spanish artist who was affiliated with the Surrealists for a while although this connection was over by the time Resnais arrived. In the 1930s, Domínguez gave the Surrealist artists a new spur for their imaginations, decalcomania, a technique which Max Ernst in particular used to great effect in his paintings of the early 1940s. Domínguez himself produced a number of decalcomania paintings but by 1947 he was settled into a period where all his work looks like an imitation of Picasso. It’s good to see him painting all the same—films of artists at work have never been very common—but I would have preferred to see him doing something that wasn’t so indebted to somebody else’s work.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Monaco on Resnais
Providence on DVD
Art on film: Je t’aime, Je t’aime
Art on film: Providence
Marienbad hauntings
Les Statues Meurent Aussi, a film by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais
Toute la mémoire du monde, a film by Alain Resnais

Ballard’s sextet

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Cover artist unknown.

A selection by JG Ballard of six favourite Surrealist paintings, or five Surrealist ones and a Metaphysical picture if you want to be strict about the definitions. These were described but not shown in an essay, “The Coming of the Unconscious”, that Ballard wrote for issue 164 of New Worlds magazine in 1966, something I was re-reading yesterday. I have quite a few of the Moorcock-edited Compact editions of New Worlds, being paperback-sized they used to be a common sight in secondhand bookshops. Issue 164 also includes a guest editorial from Ballard which he fills with a report from his recent viewing of La Jetée, the influential time-travel short by Chris Marker which was receiving its first London screenings.

Ballard’s essay is ostensibly a review of two books about Surrealist art but he doesn’t really bother with these, being more concerned with exploring his own thoughts about the paintings which inform so much of his early fiction. It’s a very good piece, especially for the way it interleaves Surrealist theory with the Ballardian concerns found in the “condensed novels” that were eventually published together (with Dalí cover art) as The Atrocity Exhibition in 1970. The following list comes near the end of the piece, and shouldn’t be taken as a definitive selection on Ballard’s part. There’s no Yves Tanguy, for example, even though Tanguy’s art is referred to in The Drought. And no Paul Delvaux either, an artist who Ballard liked enough to commission Brigid Marlin to recreate the two Delvaux paintings that were destroyed in the Second World War. A still-extant Delvaux painting, The Echo, is mentioned in The Day of Forever, a story that Ballard was probably writing around this time and which was published in New Worlds 170.

“The Coming of the Unconscious” was reprinted several times after this: in a story collection, The Overloaded Man (1967), in the first RE/Search Ballard book in 1984, and in the essay and reviews collection A User’s Guide to the Millennium (1996).


The Disquieting Muses (1916–1918) by Giorgio de Chirico

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“These mannequins are human beings from whom all transitional time has been eroded, they have been reduced to the essence of their own geometries.”

I’m guessing that this is the original painting. De Chirico was perpetually frustrated that everyone preferred his “Metaphysical” paintings of the 1910s to the endless self-portraits and other dull works he insisted on producing in his later years. In order to keep the income flowing he painted many copies of his older pictures, at least 18 of which are versions of this one, with several backdated to the time of the original. As Robert Hughes put it: “Italian art dealers used to say the Maestro’s bed was six feet off the ground, to hold all the ‘early work’ he kept ‘discovering’ beneath it.”


The Elephant Celebes (1921) by Max Ernst

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“Ernst’s wise machine, hot cauldron of time and myth, is the tutelary deity of inner space, the benign minotaur of the labyrinth.”


The Annunciation (1930) by René Magritte

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“This terrifying structure is a neuronic totem, its rounded and connected forms are a fragment of our own nervous systems, perhaps an insoluble code that contains the operating formulae for our own passage through time and space.”

An interesting choice mainly because Ballard didn’t usually mention Magritte; Dalí, Delvaux and Ernst were the painters he returned to the most. It’s typical, however, for him to choose a landscape.


The Persistence of Memory (1931) by Salvador Dalí

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“The empty beach with its fused sand is a symbol of utter psychic alienation, of a final stasis of the soul.”

The one painting that even Dalí’s many detractors tend to like. Ballard, like Dawn Ades and a handful of others, developed his own opinions about Dalí’s oeuvre instead of following the consensus opinion (which often seems more like an unexamined prejudice) that everything the artist did after the 1930s was of little value.


Decalcomania by Óscar Domínguez

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“These coded terrains are models of the organic landscapes enshrined in our nervous systems.”

Decalcomania is a process, not a picture, an addition by Domínguez to the many techniques of pictorial automatism (frottage, grattage, fumage, etc) developed by the Surrealists. With this entry you can make your own selection from the Domínguez paintings that use the technique. I chose Untitled (1936).


The Eye of Silence (1943–44) by Max Ernst

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“The real landscapes of our world are seen for what they are—the palaces of flesh and bone that are the living façades enclosing our own subliminal consciousness.”

My favourite Max Ernst painting, and also a definite Ballard favourite. The Crystal World had just been published when this essay appeared, and both the UK and US editions used this painting on their dustjackets. Panther books followed suit when the UK paperback appeared two years later.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Surrealism archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Echoes of de Chirico
Max Ernst’s favourites
Ballard and the painters