Weekend links 85


Group I (Convertible Series, 2010) by Monir Farmanfarmaian.

The four albums recorded by Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis under the name Dome are being reissued by Editions Mego together with Gilbert & Lewis’s Yclept album. I always preferred Gilbert & Lewis in their Dome incarnation (and Colin Newman solo) to the punk and post-punk stylings of their former band, Wire. Dome were (among other things) eccentric, awkward, noisy, hypnotic and experimental. Their recordings seemed to go largely unnoticed in the early 1980s so it’s good to see them being reissued.

A Children’s Treasury of American Cops Brutally Attacking Citizens: “…it takes quite a lot of tax money to keep a bunch of vicious thugs overfed and dressed like junior Darth Vaders with their portable hard-ons, on the off-chance some college kids might one day peacefully sit outside to protest this nation’s revolting descent.”

• “Stevenson, as has been said, was disarmingly candid about the material he borrowed for Treasure Island. One name, however, is missing from the extensive catalogue of self-confessed ‘plagiarisms’.” John Sutherland at the TLS.

• “Messiaen’s advice was revelatory. ‘You have the good fortune of being an architect and having studied special mathematics’, he told Xenakis. ‘Take advantage of these things. Do them in your music.'”

• “They always said punk was an influence. Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, what a load of old shit that was. It’s Thatcherite art care of Saatchi & Saatchi.” And don’t ask Jamie Reid about the Sex Pistols.

Dennis Cooper is interviewed at Lambda Literary. I was surprised last week to find my recent post about William Burroughs’ The Wild Boys linked on a feature about the novel at Cooper’s blog.

Cosmic Geometry: The art of Monir Farmanfarmaian at The Paris Review. Related: Monir Farmanfarmaian at the Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

• Paleolithic phallic art suggests that many early European men scarred, pierced and tattooed their penises.

FACT mix 301 is a selection of dub tracks, dubstep pieces and Middle Eastern songs compiled by Kahn.

Who left a tree, then a coffin in the library?

The Little Journal of Rejections (1896).

Clive finished another painting.

The Great Salt Desert of Iran.

Keep Drawing.

• Troisième (1980) by Colin Newman | And Then… (1980) by Dome | The Red Tent pts I & II (1980) by Dome) | Jasz (1981) by Dome.

The biter bit


For the Love of Disruptive Strategies and Utopian Visions in Contemporary Art and Culture No.2 by James Cauty.

I usually wouldn’t bother writing about the over-rated and over-valued Damien Hirst—I’ll leave that to heavyweights such as Robert Hughes—but one story this week toasted the cockles of my black and cynical heart. Before we get to that, some context is required.

Hirst unveiled his diamond-coated platinum skull, For the Love of God in June 2007. Later that month, artist John LeKay complained that Hirst swiped the idea from LeKay’s series of crystal skulls made in the early Nineties. Hirst certainly knew LeKay at that time and interviewed him for a gallery catalogue in 1993.

(LeKay) said: “I would like Damien to acknowledge that ‘John really did inspire the skull and influenced my work a lot’. Damien’s very insecure about his originality. He used to say, ‘You’re a better artist than me’.

“He can be affectionate and is fun to be around, but he struggles to come up with ideas. It takes years of work to develop something. My stuff with crystals took a lot of research. You don’t just get there. He’s impatient. He’s a lazy artist.”

This wasn’t the first time Hirst was accused of laziness or even plagiarism. In 2000 he was sued for breach of copyright by Norman Emms after he made Hymn, an over-sized copy of Emms’ model for the Young Scientist Anatomy Set. That dispute was settled out of court only to be followed in 2006 with an accusation of theft by computer artist Robert Dixon who claimed that his geometric model of a flower, True Daisy, had been copied by Hirst for a piece entitled Valium. Judge the similarity for yourself.

Fast forward to December 2008 when a teenage graffiti artist who calls himself Cartrain created a collage which includes a photo of Hirst’s skull. The £200 that sales of this netted him also drew the attention of the Design and Artists Copyright Society and Hirst himself who demanded both the money and the artwork. Cartrain said:

I handed over the artworks to Dacs on the advice of my gallery. I met Christian Zimmermann [from Dacs] who told me Hirst personally ordered action on the matter.

I think this is the point where one has to start using the word hypocrite, don’t you? Others think so too, among them Jimmy Cauty (ex-KLF) and Sex Pistols sleeve designer Jamie Reid whose website Red Rag To A Bull describes itself as “a radical institution dedicated to the pursuit of “FREEDOM, TRUTH and JUSTICE in the art world and BEYOND”. And also overblown statements.” Inspired by Cartrain’s treatment, Cauty and co have been producing their own riffs on Hirst’s skull as a deliberate act of provocation. Cauty says, “Unlike Cartrain and his gallery, we are not intimidated by lawyers and if an injunction is issued, we will simply ignore it on the grounds of freedom of speech.” Reid calls Hirst a “hypocritical and greedy art bully”. There’s some funny stuff on their site, all of which is for sale as limited edition prints.

All of the works below are for sale and once TWENTY MILLION POUNDS has been raised ALL the proceeds will go to make an exact copy of a sculpture known as “For the Love of God”. This will then be sold for FIFTY MILLION POUNDS and the THIRTY MILLION POUND profit will then be used to repay the Street Urchin his 200 quid, help other Street Urchins and also feed starving children in Africa and Sussex.

Hirst will no doubt be grudgingly amused by the attention even if it is for behaving more like a grasping corporation than an artist. He’s also become the subject of another artwork by Eugenio Merino, For the Love of Gold, which depicts the corporate entity inside one of his vitrine tanks shooting himself in the head. All of which is silly and juvenile but then the only response much contemporary art deserves is a silly and juvenile one. People are naturally tempted to wave a red rag in the face of the pompous or the hypocritical. More power to them.

Update: Damien Hirst in vicious feud with teenage artist over a box of pencils

Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray


Dorian (Richard Winsor) photographed by Bill Cooper.

Matthew Bourne‘s new dance version of Dorian Gray opens today at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London, and I’d have been interested in this production even without visions like the ones above and below; the eye candy merely adds an additional frisson and, let’s face it, there’s always been an erotic component to dance and ballet however high-minded the intention. Bourne famously gave the world the a Swan Lake with male swans and in Dorian Gray updates Wilde in a very contemporary manner (following Will Self’s Dorian: An Imitation and Duncan Roy’s recent film adaptation) with the gay subtext made an overt text.

Set in the image-obsessed world of contemporary art and politics, Matthew Bourne’s ‘black fairy tale’ tells the story of an exceptionally alluring young man who makes a pact with the devil. Amongst London’s beautiful people, Dorian Gray is the ‘It Boy’ – an icon of beauty and truth in an increasingly ugly world.

The destructive power of beauty, the blind pursuit of pleasure and the darkness and corruption that lie beneath the charming façade; the themes behind Oscar Wilde’s cautionary tale have never been more timely.


Richard Winsor again, photographed by Murdo Macleod.

Dorian Gray continues the gender-reversals with Lord Henry becoming Lady H, while Sybil Vane is transmuted to Cyril. I like the stage design detail where the customary nightclub glitterball becomes a version of Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted human skull, the expensive artworld bauble finding its own level at last as a piece of decoration. Updating stories in this way often provokes a feeling of ambivalence—removing the subtext can have the effect of diluting the tension which lies at the heart of the work—but the continual refashioning of Wilde’s fable has confirmed its status as a contemporary myth, something I’m sure he’d be very pleased about. In that respect, it gives the creator the immortality through art which his creation, in the closing pages of the story, is denied.

Because Wilde’s worth it | Matthew Bourne discusses the production
Review in The Independent
Bill Cooper’s production photos
Wilde at heart: Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray | Another photo gallery

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive