Saga de Xam by Nicolas Devil


Saga de Xam, a large-format comic book published by Éric Losfeld in 1967, is another example of French erotic psychedelia that remained off my radar until I got my hands on the exhibition catalogue for the Musée d’Orsay’s Art Nouveau Revival show in 2010. The glorious drawing below was used as the background for the exhibition poster, and appeared inside the catalogue with two more pages from this rare and sought-after book, described in the catalogue as “the best and most precocious example of French BD directly inspired by American psychedelia”.


Éric Losfeld is a fascinating character, a kind of pop-culture equivalent of Maurice Girodias, the founder of Olympia Press. Both men published erotic novels, and both had problems with the authorities as a result; but Losfeld also found a niche in art and graphics, producing albums of erotic comic strips—Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella, Guy Peellaert’s Jodelle and Pravda, Guido Crepax’s Valentina, Philippe Caza’s Kris Kool—and lavish portfolios from the weirder end of the erotic art spectrum, showcasing work by Raymond Bertrand, Jean-Marie Poumeyrol and others. It’s common for Brits to consider France a more enlightened nation where sex and comic-art is concerned but in the 1960s comics in France were considered an unsuitable medium for sexual material. Many of Losfeld’s comic-books of the late 60s and early 70s endured the kind of censure that was occurring in Britain and elsewhere. An early non-erotic title was Lone Sloane: Mystère des Abîmes in 1966, the first Lone Sloane story by Philippe Druillet. This no doubt explains Druillet’s involvement with Saga de Xam a year later.


Saga de Xam: les créateurs.

The comics by Forest, Peellaert and Crepax all featured attractive (often naked) woman as their lead characters. Saga de Xam continued the trend, a story in seven chapters that reads like an amalgam of all the comics Losfeld had published up to that point, Druillet included. The book is credited to Nicolas Devil, and based on a scenario by film director Jean Rollin. (Druillet would later design some posters for Rollin’s vampire films.) Devil, aka Nicolas Deville, was one of Rollin’s art directors who also worked for a time as a comic artist and illustrator. For Saga de Xam Devil was the principal artist in the first six chapters, and wrote most of the text and dialogue. In the final chapter other hands are involved: Jim Tiroff, an actor from Julian Beck’s Living Theatre, provided a poem in English, while the artwork is an unusual exercise in the Surrealist “Exquisite Corpse” technique with Devil, Druillet and several other artists—Barbara Girard, Merri, Nicolas Kapnist—collaborating on a series of improvised splash pages. The final chapter also features arrangements of text that resemble layouts from avant-garde art magazines. Druillet’s contributions are easy to identify since they resemble invasions from his Lone Sloane series, even including references to the Necronomicon.

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Tuxedomoon: some queer connections


UK poster insert by Patrick Roques for Desire (1981).

Yes, more Tuxedomoon: there’s a lot to explore. It’s always a pleasure when something that you enjoy one medium connects to things that interest you elsewhere. From the outset Tuxedomoon have had more than their share of connections to gay culture—to writers especially—but it’s more of an ongoing conversation than any kind of proselytising concern. This post teases out those connections some of which I hadn’t spotted myself until I started delving deeper.

The Angels of Light: Not the Michael Gira group but an earlier band of musicians and performers in San Francisco in the early 1970s. The Angels of Light formed out of performance troupe The Cockettes following a split between those who wanted to charge admission for their shows, and those who wanted to keep things free to all. Among the troupe there was Steven Brown, soon to be a founding member of Tuxedomoon:

The group began as an offshoot of The Angels of Light, ‘a “family” of dedicated artists who sang, danced, painted and sewed for the Free Theater’, says Steve Brown. ‘I was lucky to be part of the Angels—I fell for a bearded transvestite in the show and moved in with him at the Angels’ commune. Gay or bi men and women who were themselves works of art, extravagant in dress and behaviour, disciples of Artaud and Wilde and Julian Beck [of the Living Theater] … we lived together in a big Victorian house … pooled all our disability cheques each month, ate communally … and used the rest of the funds to produce lavish theatrical productions—never charging a dime to the public. This is what theatre was meant to be: a Dionysian rite of lights and music and chaos and Eros.’

Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds

(Special Treatment For The) Family Man (1979): A sombre commentary from the Scream With A View EP on the trial of Dan White, the assassin of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. White’s “special treatment” in court led to a conviction for manslaughter which in turn resulted in San Francisco’s White Night riots in May, 1979.

James Whale (1980): An instrumental on the first Tuxedomoon album, Half-Mute, all sinister electronics and tolling bells as befits a piece named after a director of horror films. Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is not only the best of the Universal horror series, it’s also commonly regarded as a subversive examination of marriage and the creation of life from a gay perspective. (Whale’s friends and partner disagreed, however.)


Cover art by Winston Tong.

Joeboy San Francisco (1981): The Joeboy name was lifted from a piece of San Francisco graffiti to become a name for Tuxedomoon’s DIY philosophy. It’s also a record label name, the name of an early single, and a side project of the group which in 1981 produced Joeboy In Rotterdam / Joeboy San Francisco. The SF side features a collage piece by Winston Tong based on The Wild Boys by William Burroughs, a key inspiration for the band which first surfaces here.

In one piece, the band cites its influences as: “burroughs, bowie, camus, cage, eno, moroder”. Can you say what you admired or drew on vis-à-vis these artists?

William S. Burroughs — ideas concerning use of media — tapes, projections, his radical anti-control politic in general as well as his outspoken gayness. Early on we duplicated on stage one of his early experiments projecting films of faces onto faces.

Simon Reynolds interview with Steven Brown

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Paradise Now available now


Arthur Magazine‘s second essential DVD release is now available.

“Life, revolution and theater are three words for the same thing: an unconditional NO to the present society.” Julian Beck (Living Theatre)

“Paradise Now … more relevant now because we’re closer to now than we ever have been.” Hanon Reznikov (Living Theatre)

Arthur Magazine proudly presents PARADISE NOW: The Living Theatre in Amerika DVD — a fulminating art-meets-life installation brought to you in collaboration with The Living Theatre, The Ira Cohen Akashic Project and Saturnalia Media Rites of the Dreamweapon featuring rare, never-before-distributed films and a bacchanal of revolutionary multimedia documents from The Living Theatre’s historic and influential ’68–’69 American tour.


Click here for full details, order info and YouTube preview

Previously on { feuilleton }
Paradise Now: The Living Theatre in Amerika DVD
William Burroughs by Ira Cohen, 1967
The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda

Paradise Now: The Living Theatre in Amerika DVD

julian_beck.jpgMost people today know Julian Beck, if at all, for a small but unforgettable film role at the end of his career. In Poltergeist 2 (1986) Beck plays the nightmarishly sinister Reverend Henry Kane and his one full scene in that film is far more unnerving than the rest of its rubber monsters and special effects. Beck, a bisexual radical who makes most contemporary theatre directors seem as challenging as civil servants, started out as a painter but moved into theatre in the late Forties, founding the legendary Artaud-inspired Living Theatre in 1947. The Living Theatre was to the stage what the Beats were to literature, intent on shaking up the medium, the audience’s complacency and—by implication—society itself, to the fullest extent possible.

It’s the tragedy of theatre that its nature as a medium dependent on performance leaves so little record of its works behind. But there is one major film of the Living Theatre at its most provocative and it’s fitting that this should appear on a new DVD from Arthur Magazine in the year of the company’s sixtieth anniversary.


the screams
the unchained soarings of a sincerity which is on its way
to this revolution of the whole body without which nothing can
be changed. – Antonin Artaud

Arthur Magazine proudly presents our newest release PARADISE NOW: The Living Theatre in Amerika DVD featuring rare, never-before-distributed films and a bacchanal of revolutionary multimedia documents from The Living Theatre’s historic and influential ’68–’69 American tour. A fulminating art-meets-life installation brought to you in collaboration with The Living Theatre, The Ira Cohen Akashic Project and Saturnalia Media Rites of the Dreamweapon.

DVD INCLUDES – PARADISE NOW: The Living Theatre in Amerika (1969) a film by Marty Topp, produced by Ira Cohen for Universal Mutant

EMERGENCY (1968) a film by Gwen Brown, featuring precious footage of Living Theatre productions Mysteries and smaller pieces, Paradise Now, and Frankenstein

• RARE PHOTOGRAPHS of Paradise Now at Brooklyn Academy of Music by Don Snyder

• THE MAP OF PARADISE NOW, a 14″ x 19″ double-sided, commemorative poster + ‘zine including texts by Antonin Artaud, Julian Beck, Judith Malina, Ira Cohen and Don Snyder


• Slideshow / Installation, The full theatrical script

Paradise Now: A Collective Creation of The Living Theatre as written down by Julian Beck and Judith Malina

• Video Interviews with director Judith Malina, Hanon Reznikov, Steve Ben Israel, and producer Ira Cohen

The Spinning Wheel by Steve Ben Israel, soundtrack to EMERGENCY sourced from agit-prop radio broadcasts

• Akashic Video Gallery of excerpts from current and forthcoming Arthur DVD releases


In 1968 The Living Theatre, led by Julian Beck and Judith Malina, triumphantly returned to America from years of self-imposed exile in Europe with their theatrical breakthrough Paradise Now. The play introduces the practice of collective creation, dissolving the boundaries of human interactions and forging a harmony between the actors and audience. Of this process, Julian Beck writes, “Collective creation is the secret weapon of the people… This play is a voyage from the many to the one and from the one to the many. It’s a spiritual voyage and a political voyage, a voyage for the actors and the spectators. The play is a vertical ascent toward permanent revolution, leading to revolutionary action here and now. The revolution of which the play speaks is the beautiful, non-violent, anarchist revolution.The purpose of the play is to lead to a state of being in which non-violent revolutionary action is possible.”

The result of this shared voyage is the spontaneous creation of a temporary anarchist collective – free from the enslavements of war, violence, the State, money and the self.


“Marty Topp’s beautiful film of Paradise Now reveals how the theories of revolutionary change and the experience of sexual liberation are not separate paths to the beautiful nonviolent anarchist revolution. Practiced together they are a single thrust, encompassing both political action and sensual joy, leading to the dreamed-of terrestrial paradise.” Judith Malina

“Paradise Now is possibly The Living Theatre’s greatest achievement – unsurpassable!” Ira Cohen

“This past spring, in a group art show at New York?s Swiss Institute, an old black-and-white television played a grainy print of bodies writhing to the tune of distant drumming. “As long as you have people working for money and not love, there will be violence,” intoned a tall, angular man on the screen. The bodies – women in scant bikinis and men in what looked like loincloths-piled together in an orgiastic tribal dance, some simulating (or perhaps actually having) sex as the voice continued: “Psycho-sexual repression is impeding the revolution.” What looked like an underworld-of the 1960’s counter-cultural variety, in this case- is the Living Theatre?s Paradise Now, as documented in the 1969 Ira Cohen-produced film Paradise Now: The Living Theatre in Amerika ? soon to be released on DVD from Arthur Magazine.” CAN THEATER STAGE A REVOLUTION – Traci Parks, Fall ’07 Preview, V MAGAZINE

“Joyous, brutal, exploding with the kinetic energies of psychic catharsis… Marty Topp’s PARADISE NOW: The Living Theatre in Amerika has captured the essence of this extraordinary theatrical experiment. It is unquestionably one of the finest artistic documentaries to come out of the United States cinema. Its heartfelt sincerity should be sheer inspiration to the many young people throughout the country who are struggling to make meaningful and influential work. It is the reverberation of a crucially important message that must not be neglected, for the consequences are too terrible to endure.

“Marty Topp’s achievement is not just in the making of a great film, but in making us remember again, Paradise as a reality.” PARADISE ON FILM – Don Snyder, July 1970, East Village Other

“Like an astonishing portion of the country’s popular music, the spectacles of The Living Theater proved to be in content and form outside the social system – not structured by it nor, except as outlet, implementing it: liberated territory.” Revolution at the Brooklyn Academy – Stefan Brecht, The Drama Review number 43: Spring 1969, The Living Theater Issue

Previously on { feuilleton }
William Burroughs by Ira Cohen, 1967
The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda