Weekend links 427


Inside an O’Neill Cylinder, an orbital megastructure. Painting by Don Davis, 1975.

• RIP Lindsay Kemp: dancer, actor, choreographer and (if we have to drop names) mentor to David Bowie and Kate Bush. Kemp’s work has been featured here on a number of occasions, particularly his landmark productions of an all-male Salomé, and Flowers, A Pantomime for Jean Genet. There was also considerable overlap with Kemp’s troupe and the films of Derek Jarman via appearances by Kemp himself, David Haughton and the irrepressible Jack Birkett. The Genet production was filmed in 1982, and is now available on DVD. (There’s also a rougher copy with unmatched audio and video.) From 1970: Pierrot in Turquoise, or The Looking Glass Murders, a Commedia dell’arte performance for Scottish TV featuring David Bowie. And reversing roles, Mick Rock’s video for Bowie’s John, I’m Only Dancing featuring Kemp and company.

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis in conversation with activist and writer David Nickles about “the DMT Nexus, psychedelic militancy, extraction tek, the Statement on Open Science for Psychedelic Medicines, MAPS, and the trouble with for-profit psilocybin companies”.

• From the end of August to January 2019: Spellbound at the Ashmolean; “Spellbinding stories, fascinating objects…from crystal balls and magic mirrors to witch bottles and curse poppets”.

On Earth, as on the International Space Station, the collective misperception of a flat plane helps build community and culture. We are all equal in our geometric relationship to one another. The reality, of course, is that we do not stand parallel. Each of our bodies corresponds with a distinct radial vector on the surface of a sphere, pointing away from a common center that we can never perceive or occupy. Our vectors diverge by imperceptible angles.

In “inside-out” worlds like the Bernal Sphere and the concave Earth, the situation is reversed. Our feet all point outward, into an inaccessible, but technologically habitable void, while our heads point inward, some of us apparently “upside-down.” Standing, we rise toward a visible center, which can be reached simply by climbing a hill, strapping on wings, and jumping into the air, as low-tech as Icarus.

The Shape of Space by Fred Scharmen

Michael Moorcock again, interviewed this time by Bernard Braden in 1968. I think this one was for a Braden TV series which was never broadcast.

• “Stupid things are best”: Neil Fox on Conny Plank: The Potential of Noise, a documentary about the great music producer.

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 556 by Helios, and An Ode to Eris with An Other Ode to Eris by The Ephemeral Man.

• A monstrous primer on the works of HP Lovecraft by Emma Stefansky. With illustrations by Michael Bukowski.

Silent Agents by Julius-Christian Schreiner: photographs of hostile architecture from around the world.

• Back to the Futuro: Mark Hodgkinson on the spaceship house that landed in Yorkshire.

• The Great Chinese Art Heist by Alex W. Palmer.

Rhizome: a new recording by Drew McDowall.

The Starman Tarot

Mad Pierrot (1978) by Yellow Magic Orchestra | Spellbound (1981) by Siouxsie And The Banshees | Sphere (2011) by Emptyset

Pierrot in Turquoise, or The Looking Glass Murders


A final Bowie post included here as much for its connections to Derek Jarman. Pierrot in Turquoise was a pantomime by Lindsay Kemp based on the characters of the Commedia dell’arte, and broadcast by Scottish Television in 1970. David Bowie is “Cloud”, a non-commedia character who provides songs while perched atop a step-ladder. The smaller independent TV stations like Scottish often used to fill out their end-of-day programming with oddities such as this, the kind of thing that would have been screened once to a bewildered audience then forgotten.

Kemp’s production reverses some of the commedia traditions by having his Pierrot challenge Jack Birkett’s Harlequin, the exchange of roles taking place after a Cocteau-like journey through a mirror. Pierrot lacks a hat but otherwise his costume resembles the one that Bowie wore in the Ashes to Ashes video. Two years and a gulf of reinvention separate this little pantomime from Kemp and Bowie’s next encounter in Mick Rock’s video for John, I’m Only Dancing, a film the BBC found too weird and/or queer, and refused to show.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Flowers: A Pantomime for Jean Genet
Lindsay Kemp’s Salomé again

Flowers: A Pantomime for Jean Genet


Flowers (1986) by the Lindsay Kemp Company. Photos by Maya Cusell.

Weidmann appeared before you in a five o’clock edition, his head swathed in white bands, a nun and yet a wounded pilot fallen into the rye one September day like the day when the world came to know the name of Our Lady of the Flowers. His handsome face, multiplied by the presses, swept down upon Paris and all of France, to the depths of the most out-of-the-way villages, in castles and cabins, revealing to the mirthless bourgeois that their daily lives are grazed by enchanting murderers, cunningly elevated to their sleep, which they will cross by some back stairway that has abetted them by not creaking. Beneath his picture burst the dawn of his crimes: murder one, murder two, murder three, up to six, bespeaking his secret glory and preparing his future glory.

A little earlier, the Negro Angel Sun had killed his mistress.

A little later, the soldier Maurice Pilorge killed his lover, Escudero, to rob him of something under a thousand francs, then, for his twentieth birthday, they cut off his head while, you will recall, he thumbed his nose at the enraged executioner.

Finally, a young ensign, still a child, committed treason for treason’s sake: he was shot. And it is in honour of their crimes that I am writing my book.

(Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet. Translation by Bernard Frechtman, 1963)

Lindsay Kemp’s all-male version of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé has been the subject of several earlier posts, a production staged in the mid-70s with Kemp himself playing the part of Wilde’s femme fatale. Kemp’s company produced a related work in 1974, Flowers: A Pantomime for Jean Genet, a stage adaptation of Genet’s first novel, Our Lady of the Flowers (1942), in which Kemp played the part of drag queen Divine. Wilde and Genet aren’t so far removed from each other artistically although I can’t imagine them getting on in person. Both men were prisoners, of course, and Our Lady of the Flowers was famously written in prison, the first copy being discovered by a warder and destroyed. There’s a more direct connection in Fassbinder’s Querelle during the scenes where Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau) sings “Each man kills the thing he loves”, the most famous line from Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol which refers to (among other things) one of Genet’s obsessions: the prisoner condemned to death. Wilde would no doubt appreciate Genet’s poetic reimagining of his fellow prisoners, and his use of flowers as symbols; what Genet would have made of Lindsay Kemp’s typically extravagant and rather camp stage creation is anyone’s guess. He did write several plays but in later years evaded questions about them or his novels by claiming to have forgotten all his works. By the 1970s Genet was much more interested in the political struggles of the Black Panthers and the Palestinians.

Much as I like Wilde’s play, given the choice I think I’d prefer to see the Genet staging. Salomé is familiar enough from various stage and film adaptations whereas Flowers was unique. There is a video record of the latter from 1982 but the copy uploaded by Lindsay Kemp has had its soundtrack removed following the usual annoying copyright complaints about the music. So there’s the frustrating choice of watching the whole thing with no sound or watching this 28-minute video compilation of still photos by Maya Cusell from a 1986 performance with music that may be the original live score. One thing the photos show is how close in appearance is Kemp’s Divine to his dancer at the beginning of Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane (1976). In 2012 Kemp talked to Paul Gallagher about his film and stage career, Flowers included.

Update: As noted by radioShirley below, there is a copy of the 1982 performance with full soundtrack!

Previously on { feuilleton }
Querelle de Brest
Jean Genet, 1981
Un Chant d’Amour (nouveau)
Jean Genet… ‘The Courtesy of Objects’
Querelle again
Saint Genet
Emil Cadoo
Penguin Labyrinths and the Thief’s Journal
Un Chant D’Amour by Jean Genet

Lindsay Kemp’s Salomé again


The NYPL digital library has recently upgraded its website (thanks to BibliOdyssey for the news), adding some features that make searching (and random browsing) an easier business. At first glance the contents seem pretty much the same but I definitely hadn’t seen this set of photos by Kenn Duncan before. The all-male production of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé staged by Lindsay Kemp in 1975 was the queerest of them all but pictures and a few films clips are all the record we have. The production was also vividly coloured, a quality that’s lost in these shots. There’s a lot more at NYPL by Kenn Duncan, many of them photos of film, television and theatre performers taken for After Dark magazine in the 1970s.



Continue reading “Lindsay Kemp’s Salomé again”

Sebastiane by Derek Jarman


Sebastiane Opens
October 1976: Sebastiane opened at the Gate cinema in Notting Hill last night after a day of record attendances and good reviews. At the opening Barney James, who plays the centurion, sat next to my parents. At the end of the film he turned to Dad and said, “I don’t suppose forces life was ever like that.” To my surprise Dad replied, “I was out in the Middle East before the war and it’s really quite accurate.”

After its opening at the Gate, where it played for four months before moving into the West End, Sebastiane opened all over the world to wildly different reviews. The Germans found our Latin untuned to their ears, and the French, at least so I was told, panned it. In the States it was classed S for Sex and we were unable to advertise it – so the audiences turned up expecting hardcore and were disappointed. However in Italy and Spain it was a stunning success with lyrical reviews. In Rome, Alberto Moravia came to the first press show and praised the film in the foyer saying that it was a film that Pier Paolo would have loved.

Derek Jarman, Dancing Ledge (1991)

Pasolini would indeed have loved Sebastiane (1976) which owes much to the Italian director’s historical films, especially Oedipus Rex (1967) and Medea (1969). The film was Jarman’s first feature (co-directed with Paul Humfress), produced on a very small budget, and filmed on the coast of Sardinia. Brian Eno provided the music, and Lindsay Kemp has a memorable cameo appearance in the opening scene. The events which lead to the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian (Sebastianus) are dramatised from the point of view of a group of Roman soldiers who have Sebastianus among their company. The film is notable for its all-Latin dialogue, and for being the first non-porn film to feature a male erection, although that detail is often missing from prints which judiciously crop the lower portion of the screen.

The copy linked here has somehow turned up at the Internet Archive, and is the same erection-free version which has circulated for some years on DVD. The sneaky censorship would have been justified ten or more years ago but makes no sense today when far more explicit films are easily available. But if you haven’t seen Sebastiane then you have an opportunity for as long as this copy remains available…which may not be for long since I’m sure its copyright can’t have lapsed.

The late, unlamented and very reactionary British film critic Leslie Halliwell once complained that Pasolini’s “Trilogy of Life” films featured “a forest of male genitalia”. The same might be said of Sebastiane which, judging by the intemperate comments one sees on review sites, provokes a similar splenetic reaction. “It’s just gay porn!” they shriek, to which the obvious response is “No, it isn’t”, and “So what if it was?” A century of cinema has paraded the bodies of women for the gaze of the heterosexual male, the same male who chokes on his dudgeon when faced with the very thing he carries between his legs. Grow up, boys. Also at the Internet Archive (for the time being) is Derek Jarman’s The Garden (1990), the most personal of his later films until his final feature, Blue, in 1993.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Journey to Avebury by Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman’s music videos
Derek Jarman’s Neutron
Mister Jarman, Mister Moore and Doctor Dee
The Tempest illustrated
In the Shadow of the Sun by Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman at the Serpentine
The Angelic Conversation
The life and work of Derek Jarman