Weekend links 729

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Phosphorus and Hesperus (1881) by Evelyn De Morgan.

• Mix of the week, or possibly the entire year: The Deep Ark, 167 tracks (over 8 hours of music), most of which are from the electronic deluge of the early 1990s. The download link may not work for all browsers—it didn’t for one of mine—but it is active. Via Simon Reynolds who has more about the Deep Ark project.

• At Nautilus: Betsy Mason on the use of stage magic to investigate animal behaviour. “By performing tricks for birds, monkeys, and other creatures, researchers hope to learn how they perceive and think about their world.”

• At The Daily Heller: Mad and the Usual Gang of Idiots. Meanwhile, Mr Heller’s font of the month may prove useful for this election season, a Jonathan Barnbrook design named Moron.

Looking back, you can see a pattern in those eras in which interest in telepathy boomed. Coined by Myers and his fellow psychical researchers in the 1880s, telepathy gained traction because it was formulated inside a moment of scientific and technological revolution, where uncanny transmissions proliferated across the visible and invisible spectrum, seeming to collapse the natural and the supernatural together. In the 1970s, telepathy returned, if under different names, as part of another moment of crisis. The Cold War arms race was an essential part of this, feeding a strange supplemental world of fantasy technologies, from mind control to brainwashing, and playing on an all-too-widespread psychological paranoia around being seen, infiltrated and manipulated by invisible agents.

Roger Luckhurst looks back at a century of psychic research

• New music: Portable Reality Generator by Field Lines Cartographer, and Sublime Eternal Love by Chrystabell and David Lynch.

• Coffee and Chocolates for Two Guitars: Robert Fripp interviewing John McLaughlin in July, 1982.

• Paintings by Ithell Colquhoun currently showing at the Ben Hunter gallery, London.

• At Public Domain Review: Eye Miniatures (ca. 1790–1810).

ESP (1965) by Miles Davis | ESP (1990) by Deee-lite | ESP (2002) by Comets On Fire

Fifteen ghosts and a demon

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The Secrets of Strategy (1853) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. “Yoshitsune with Benkei and his other retainers in their ship, beset by the ghosts of the Taira, some in the form of crabs, during a storm.”

Actually more than fifteen ghosts, and at least two demons, but you get the idea… There are many ghosts in Japanese prints, from the spectral variety which manifest in all shapes and sizes, to their theatrical equivalents in Noh and Kabuki plays. Some of the best examples are those by Hokusai and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi but since these have appeared here before I’ve gone looking for prints by other artists.

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Ghost (1922–26) by Shoen Uemura.

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Lady and Ghost – Edo Embroidery Pictures (1886) by Toyohara Chikanobu.

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Scene from a Ghost Story: The Okazaki Cat Demon (c.1850) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

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Nissaka Station from Fifty-three pairings along the Tokaido Road (c.1845) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. “Moonlit scene of a travelling warrior receiving a child from a ghost.”

Continue reading “Fifteen ghosts and a demon”

Les Maîtres de l’Affiche

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Alphonse Mucha.

Les Maîtres de l’Affiche was a multi-volume guide to the state of poster art in the 1890s, published in five volumes from 1896 to 1900. Being a French publication, the contents are mostly by French artists but other nations are represented—Britain, Germany, Italy, the United States—although fewer contributions than you might expect given the quantity of pages to be filled. The chief attraction of these books is the attention they give to each design, all of which are printed in colour on a full page, and the time of publication which coincides with the birth of Art Nouveau. In addition to the great Alphonse Mucha there are designs by Eugène Grasset, Henri Privat-Livemont, Georges de Feure, Will Bradley, Louis Rhead and others. There’s also a lot of cabaret stuff from Montmartre which has never been to my taste (although I like the Steinlen posters) but those designs were the typical ones of the period.

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Henri Privat-Livemont.

The first four volumes in this set may be found at Gallica (Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4) but not the fifth volume—isn’t a national library supposed to be more thorough than this?—which may be seen at NYPL. For those who prefer paper reproductions, there’s a reprint in Dover Publications’ Pictorial Archive series, The Complete Masters of the Poster: All 256 Colour Plates from “Les Maîtres de l’Affiche”.

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Louis Rhead.

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Will Bradley.

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Joseph Sattler.

Continue reading “Les Maîtres de l’Affiche”

Directions to Servants by Tenjo Sajiki

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Tenjo Sajiki was an avant-garde theatre troupe led by Shuji Terayama from 1967 to 1983. The name of the troupe is taken from the Japanese title of Marcel Carné’s Les Enfants du Paradis, a film I happened to be watching again this weekend. Terayama is known more in the West for his cinematic work than his many plays, consequently I never expected to see any of his theatrical productions until stumbling across this short TV documentary about a performance of Jonathan Swift’s Directions to Servants that Tenjo Sajiki were staging in Europe in 1978. (There’s actually a lot of Tenjo Sajiki footage out there once you start looking for it, including whole videos of original stagings.) The film has the additional attraction of being a rare early episode from the BBC’s Arena arts series, made during the period when the programmes were only 30 minutes long, with director Nigel Finch often acting as unseen commentator and interviewer. Regular readers will be aware that Arena has cult status on these pages but I didn’t get to see many of the earliest programmes, and usually don’t expect to find those from the late 1970s at all, video-recording only really becoming widespread a few years later.

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Whoever unearthed this film must have liberated it from the BBC archives since it has a time code running through it. The film is a curio more than anything else which makes me wonder why anyone went to this amount of trouble to find something that isn’t very revealing about its subject. The play was a difficult one for audiences, being performed in Japanese while the audience was forced to watch select views on TV monitors or sit inside black boxes being pushed around the performers by stage-hands. Terayama had treated the audience like this for other plays, the disruption being his way of reflecting our own disrupted view of real events. It’s a shame that Arena caught Tenjo Sajiki while they were touring this particular play. Shortly before this the troupe had staged an adaptation of Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin which was followed a few years later by Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, either of which would have been more interesting to see.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Les Chants de Maldoror by Shuji Terayama

Weekend links 684

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Playing cards designed in 1977 by Taro Okamoto.

• “This practice of looking does not prioritise academic or historical perspectives on art. It is divorced from the artist, the industry and the formal study of the arts. By paying attention to the form, title and other perceptible ‘clues’ in the work, this practice is primarily interested in using the intuitive, sensory, suggestive and aleatory to engage in conversation with a creative work. The point is not to develop an answer, an interpretation that ‘settles’ the ‘question’ of the painting, or to intellectualise the work in terms of form, style, history or the concerns of the artist. Rather, in this practice, a piece of art or writing becomes a test or opportunity for working one’s imagination—an exercise in making associations.” Aparna Chivukula on choosing art over wellness apps.

• “But with the discourse about the limitations of moralizing steadily growing, the question of an alternative naturally arises. The critics of self-righteousness and trauma mongering are for the most part not calling for a return to the amoral ironism that governed the Nineties and early Aughts—the sensibility that surely gave rise, at least in part, to the overgrowth of didacticism that followed. But if not this, then what? Where do we go from here?” Anastasia Berg on “the aesthetic turn”.

• “…by choosing ordinary creatures, the fabulist naturalises the stories in a world that is close to hand, which helps the writer communicate opinions that are often subversive.” Marina Warner on Kalilah wa-Dimnah and the animal fable.

• Coming soon from Strange Attractor: Austin Osman Spare, a revised and expanded edition of Phil Baker’s excellent biography of the artist/occultist.

• At Rarefilmm: The Marat/Sade (1967), Peter Brook’s film (previously) of the 1965 Broadway production of Peter Weiss’s play.

• New music: Hostile Environment by Creation Rebel, and Tone Maps by Field Lines Cartographer.

• Mixes of the week: Isolatedmix 122 by Mary Yalex, and XLR8R Podcast 810 by Zaumne.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Pierre Clementi Day.

Sade Masoch (1968) by Bobby Callender | On Sadism (1979) by Material | Sadistic (1995) by Stereolab