Weekend links 421


The Death of American Spirituality (1987) by David Wojnarowicz.

Dau: “Art imitating life on an unprecedented scale”. Siddhant Adlakha on a colossal Russian feature-film project that sounds like a real-life equivalent of Synecdoche, New York. Adlakha’s piece, which claims that Dau is finished, was written a year ago but there’s still no sign of the film itself. Wikipedia has more details and links.

Metropolis Magazine from Phantasm Press is a facsimile republication of the 32-page theatre programme produced for the UK premier of Fritz Lang’s feature film.

Children Of The New Dawn is a preview of the score for Mandy by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson. From last year: The Drowned World (live) by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ’Round the World (1848) by Benjamin Russell & Caleb Purrington is the longest painting in North America.

• “This summer, there is only one book to take to the Terminal Beach”: Applied Ballardianism: Memoir from a Parallel Universe by Simon Sellars.

• “La série des Fredi en trois volumes est une étude sincère et consciencieuse de l’inversion sexuelle.”

• “The Book was Mallarmé’s total artwork, a book to encompass all books,” says Sylvia Gorelick.

• At BLDGBLOG: Graphic Inferno, art by Rico Lebrun based on Dante’s Divine Comedy.

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 549 by Hólmar, and FACT Mix 661 by Kelly Lee Owens.

• “Dealing with creative block? A deck of cards might help,” says Abigail Cain.

The Instagram account archiving exquisite interiors from vintage porn.

Polish composers report from Outer Space

Wind From Nowhere (1994) by Uzect Plaush | Slolooblade : The Drowned World (1994) by Mo Boma | Inner Space Memorial for JG Ballard (2014) by Janek Schaefer

Weekend links 35


Marian Bantjes designs the cover of the latest Creative Review and there’s a feature about her work inside.

• “…the question: ‘was Shakespeare gay?’ strikes me as so daft as to be barely worth answering. Of course he was. Arguably he was bisexual, of sorts, but his heart was never on his straight side.” Don Paterson throws the cat among the pigeons in an examination of the Shakespeare’s sonnets. Related (sort of): Shakespeare and Company: The bookshop that thinks it’s a hotel. Also related: Jeanette Winterson revisits Shakespeare and Company.

100 orbs of light float in the Schuylkill River. Also in Philadelphia: Animators Amok in a Curiosity Cabinet: the Brothers Quay are making a film in the Mütter Museum. Can’t wait to see it.

• More Alan Moore: Fossil Angels, a lengthy essay about magic and the occult, was written in 2002 but hasn’t been given a public airing until now.

Alberto Manguel is always worth reading:

As Borges was well aware even then, the history of literature is the history of this paradox. On the one hand, the deeply rooted intuition writers have that the world exists, in Mallarmé’s much-abused phrase, to result in a beautiful book (or, as Borges would have it, even a mediocre book), and, on the other hand, to know that the muse governing the enterprise is, as Mallarmé called her, the Muse of Impotence (or, to use a freer translation, the Muse of Impossibility). Mallarmé added later that all who have ever written anything, even those we call geniuses, have attempted this ultimate Book, the Book with a capital B. And all have failed.

• Here Comes Everybody: Wake In Progress is a self-described “foolhardy attempt to illustrate Finnegans Wake”. Easier to illustrate than make a film of the book, I’d have thought, and Mary Ellen Bute already attempted the latter.


Psychic Explosion: Adolf Hoffmeister’s illustrations for a 1967 edition of Lautréamont’s Poesies at A Journey Round My Skull.

Craig Colorusso’s Sun Boxes can be seen at Turner Falls, Massachusetts, during November.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins has a book and retrospective exhibition of his art due next year.

• A sneak peek into The Steampunk Bible to which I’m a contributor. And also here.

• “Human or other; depends who comes”: the Ballardian films of Paul Williams.

Transmission (1979) by Joy Division; Transmission (1995) by Low; Monkey (2010) by Robert Plant.



A=P=P=A=R=I=T=I=O=N is a collaboration between artist Cerith Wyn Evans and Throbbing Gristle, the once notorious Industrial music act now enjoying a resurgence of activity and attention. Evans and TG have an earlier connection via Derek Jarman, for whom Evans worked as an assistant. Given how much I enjoy seeing mirrors used in art, I’m very taken with these, and knowing that they function as drifting speakers transmitting specially recorded TG audio makes them doubly interesting. The mirrors-plus-audio aspect is reminiscent of Josiah McElheny’s recent Island Universes with Paul Schütze but that’s not to imply any influence, both artists have been following their individual paths for some time.

The title of this work comes from a poem by Stephan Mallarmé (1842–1898), a poet closely associated with the Symbolists. Looking at an English translation, the piece ends with the line “a snow of white bouquets of perfumed stars”; that final, impossible flourish—perfumed stars—is a very Symbolist touch. Claude Debussy, who took the title of his Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune from Mallarmé, set Apparition to music in 1884.

A=P=P=A=R=I=T=I=O=N can be seen at Tramway, Glasgow until September 27, 2009.

A=P=P=A=R=I=T=I=O=N test run on Chris Carter’s Flickr pages.

Previously on { feuilleton }
In the Shadow of the Sun by Derek Jarman
The art of Josiah McElheny

The art of Thomas Häfner, 1928–1985


Lucifer (no date).

…I find nothing fantastic in so-called fantastic art, it is an aspect of reality in search of sanity beyond the normal bounds. I believe that fantastic art is related to the protective dream, that it prolongs the healing dream and finds symbols that change dread into wonder, strangeness and beauty.

As in all figurative art, fantastic art must of course be judged not only by its intentions but by the quality of the execution, and by standards that have been almost totally lost in the turbulence of changing fashions, movements and politics on the art market. This has led to a noticeable helplessness among the critics, who seem to ignore a growing tendency toward the fantastic in the hope that it will fade away and die. I do not believe it will.

Thomas Häfner

Who was Thomas Häfner? Good question, because he’s virtually invisible on the web. The painting above is scanned from David Larkin’s excellent Fantastic Art (Pan/Ballantine, 1973) and was also used as a cover image for an edition of Blaise Cendrars‘ scurrilous masterpiece, Moravagine. The Demon Woman below is a watercolour original for sale on eBay. Häfner was a member of a group of German artists who called themselves the Young Realists, formed in Düsseldorf in the mid-Fifties. Significantly, another group of young imaginative painters was active at the same time in Vienna, the Fantastic Realists, who included the great Ernst Fuchs among their number. “Realism” here can be considered as referring to a style that favoured the hard-edged realistic approach of Surrealism; Häfner’s content certainly wasn’t realistic.

These people remain neglected or unknown because art critics like to pretend there’s only one story being told in the development of art at any given time when there are usually several, often with conflicting agendas. So we’re always being informed that the dominant movement in fin de siècle Paris was Impressionism and hear little of the Symbolists who were equally—if not more—popular, productive and influential during that period.

(This laziness carries over to other areas; Debussy is continually described as “an Impressionist composer” when one of his most famous works, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, was based on a Symbolist poem by Mallarmé. There are no fauns in Impressionist paintings.)

The prevailing trend in the mid-Fifties was the thin gruel of Abstract Expressionism, the complete antithesis of the kind of art being produced by Häfner, Fuchs and company. There’s a reason for the elevation of this type of work over others. Critics such as Clement Greenberg saw abstraction (which, ironically, grew out of Surrealism) as being a politically acceptable direction after the turmoil of the Second World War. The Nazis liked realism in their art, while the Soviets under Stalin and the Chinese under Mao had declared Socialist Realism to be the official art of the Communist Revolution, therefore realism of any variety was reactionary and bad. Further irony comes when the CIA agreed with this argument and secretly promoted Abstract Expressionism outside America. This has led us to the situation we have today where a Willem de Kooning painting, Woman III (1952–53), was recently sold for $137.5 million which means collecting this kind of work is now a game for billionaires. It really would be the final irony if the kind of realistic art that Clement Greenberg despised was elevated to a new popularity by over-priced Abstract Expressionism as collectors with fewer assets were forced to look elsewhere. Critics can protest all they like but these days it’s money that speaks with the loudest voice in the world of art.


Demon Woman (no date).

Update: added some additional works:


Marionetten (1964).


Szene mit Schädeln (1970).


Phantastische Waldszene (1971).


Masken in zerfallener Umgebung (1974).


Die Harpye (no date).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The fantastic art archive