Tag: 20th century

“ARTIFICIAL, ESPERANTO ART” AND ITS DISCONTENTS

“ARTIFICIAL, ESPERANTO ART” AND ITS DISCONTENTS

CAREER SUICIDE

20150327OUTSIDER-slide-44G0-jumbo Costumes by Vahad Poladian. Photo by Hiroko Masuike, The New York Times

Some gems from Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond by John Maizels. Regular readers of this blog will know that I like a bit of O/outsider attitude.

“What country doesn’t have its small sector of cultural art, its brigade of career intellectuals? It’s obligatory. From one capital to another they perfectly ape one another, practising an artificial, esperanto art, which is indefatigably recopied everywhere. But can we really call this art? Does it have anything to do with art?” Jean Dubuffet in L’Art brut préferé aux arts culturels, 1946.

This was in 1946 and it’s still just as true seventy years later. Very, very depressing. This tale of masterful gallery fucking-uppery is much more comforting:

“Scottie Wilson (1888-1972)… had been a junk dealer, making a living by salvaging what he could from the bits and pieces that…

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Retire the future archaeologist

Retire the future archaeologist

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Some good advice for writers who would like to get better and a comprehensive demolition of clichés by bad writers in William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well. As I point out every single damn time I do a post about good writing, forty years on from this book’s original publication, people are still making all the mistakes Zinsser pointed out as ancient and trite even at the time. Many a supposedly professional author or journalist is still allowing themselves to be “a writer lives in blissful ignorance that clichés are the kiss of death, if in the final analysis he leaves no stone unturned to use them, we can infer that he lacks an instinct for what gives language its freshness. Faced with a choice between the novel and the banal, he goes unerringly for the banal. His voice is the voice of a hack.”

Old never meets…

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CONFUSING ART WITH ARCHAEOLOGY

CONFUSING ART WITH ARCHAEOLOGY

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Kakuzo Okakura, 茶の本 (The Book of Tea, 1906):

“We must remember, however, that art is of value only to the extent that it speaks to us. It might be a universal language if we ourselves were universal in our sympathies. Our finite nature, the power of tradition and conventionality, as well as our hereditary instincts, restrict the scope of our capacity for artistic enjoyment. Our very individuality establishes in one sense a limit to our understanding; and our aesthetic personality seeks its own affinities in the creations of the past. It is true that with cultivation our sense of art appreciation broadens, and we become able to enjoy many hitherto unrecognised expressions of beauty. But, after all, we see only our own image in the universe, – our particular idiosyncracies dictate the mode of our perceptions.”

“Another common mistake is that of confusing art with archaeology. The veneration…

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Lookbook for Autumn 2015 season

Lookbook for Autumn 2015 season

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Congo Ngbende initiates, North Congo, late 20th century. Photo by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher.

Samburu Young Samburu woman with nubility necklace stack, Kenya, late 20th century. Photo by Angela Fisher.

MaasaiWoman1960 Maasai woman with neck coils, 1960s, Kenya. Postcard by S. Skulina, Pegasus Studio, Nairobi.

Padaung1979 Padaung woman with brass neck coils, Burma, circa 1979. Photo by Jorgen Bisch.

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“Good-bye, dead-wide Dick!”

“Good-bye, dead-wide Dick!”

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HotspurDeadWideDick The Hotspur, October 1944. “GOOD-BYE, DEAD-WIDE DICK!”

Two accidental forays into surrealism by British boys’ paper The Hotspur, which amazingly lasted until 1981. I say amazingly, although on the other hand there were lots of British colonial era things that inexplicably carried on into the 1980s and beyond. Not to mention that The Hotspur‘s first issue had on its cover a plane-sized eagle attacking an actual aeroplane, and came with a free “Black Cloth mask” for no immediately apparent reason, so they definitely started as they meant to go on.

The cover above is almost certainly not referring to the fact that this football player has a feature likely to make him popular with the ladies and about 10% of the gentlemen, but instead that he scores goals by kicking unexpectedly wide. As for how and why somebody decided to counter this tactic by installing a gung ho…

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Relax (Don’t do it)

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Some bonkers choreography with Heather Parisi, from the 80s Italian variety show Fantastico. Firstly, Frankie Goes to Hollywood never seemed so… confusing? It looks a bit like a toned down, bowdlerised high school production of Cruising. Still molto gay, though. If Heather’s dance partner is thinking about relaxing, doing it or coming, I very much doubt it involves her. Put some trousers on Heather, love. You’ll catch your death of cold.

Even better, here’s Heather again doing some way-ahead-of-their-time Gangnam Style ridiculous dressage pony moves and gurning to Tullio De Piscopo’s nail in Italo Disco’s coffin, Stop Bajon (Primavera). The smoke in these bubbles must be what the choreographer was inhaling when they came up with this number. Watch out for a random, drunken, camp fellow enjoying his big acting break at 11:48, a bit of very irresponsible chiropraxy at 12.49, some very unsexy from 13.35, and–…

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Maya Deren: Inside Out (Inside)

Maya Deren: Inside Out (Inside)

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MayaDeren2 Maya Deren.

(Let’s pass silently over the fact that I haven’t posted anything new for more than a month.)

The experimental films made by Ukrainian-American Maya Deren in the 1940s and 1950s are incredibly influential, whether most people know it or not. Once you’ve seen them you’ll notice reflections of them all over the place, in everything from art photography to pop videos. Her work has also definitely had a huge effect on me, particularly 1943’s Meshes of the Afternoon, whose haunting imagery– and imagery of haunting– is done an injustice when it’s described as merely surreal or dreamlike, even though it is surreal and dreamlike among many other things. It’s actually as if time has been turned inside out like a glove, but when it turns right side out again it’s a different glove, belonging to someone or something else entirely. It’s particularly fitting that reflections or decontextualised…

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???est posts of 2014

???est posts of 2014

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Otherwise known as the now traditional lazy retrospective listicle

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We all know by now don’t we my little blackguards my pretty roadside fartflowers of the friggingfields my dearest filthy fuckbirds yes we know yes yes yes oh yes that the top pages on the site are invariably James Joyce’s paeans to using the tradesman’s entrance and the translation of Hokusai’s tentacle hentai. Tens of thousands of you, constantly, from all over the world, day and night. You must have massive right arms by now (if you’re right handed).

But there is so much more to explore, and some of it doesn’t even involve sexual fetishes. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

JANUARY

I have no idea what's going on in this picture.“What a shocking bad hat”, and other stupid 19th century memes.

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Dystopian Nostalgia

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It’s been bubbling up for a while, but until now I couldn’t put a name to it. I’m calling it Dystopian Nostalgia; the undeniable affection and nostalgia that people in their 20s and 30s have for tropes of their 80s and 90s (i.e. pre mass adoption of the internet) childhoods, deliberately and perversely spiked with adult animus. It finds particularly vivid expression in online videos, and frequently goes viral. There’s probably a book or a PhD paper in pulling apart the reasons for it. Possibly it’s television itself taking the sublimated flak for the parents who left so many children to be babysat by the CRT. If so, get ready for some really vicious dystopian nostalgia when the touch screen babies come of age. Or perhaps optimism and hope for the future have finally died and this is a generation’s revenge on the medium that seemed so intent upon instilling…

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ROMANCING THE STONERS

ROMANCING THE STONERS

CAREER SUICIDE

OR: PEOPLE WHO THROW STONES SHOULDN’T LIVE IN GOVERNMENT HOUSES

The Louvre is shortly to open a new facility in Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel and looking like some kind of Logan’s Run shit that nobody who knew anything about art would ever want to show art in, as is usual for 21st century art silos. Talk about sterile. An outpost of the Guggenheim is also in progress, which will probably be equally austere, inhumane, architect-cool and ghastly. Having realised that they probably need some art or something– even if most of the walls are wonky or fifty meters from floor level– the gold-plated Arabic Louvre flagship store just announced the loan of 300 art works from French institutions. So let’s explore beautiful Abu Dhabi as it uses up the Earth’s precious resources to water lawns in the desert, let’s check out some of the art works being…

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All work and no play makes Sue a dull girl

All work and no play makes Sue a dull girl

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“Danny doesn’t want to think about it any more, Mrs Torrance”

Thanks (?) to Verso Books I became aware of this splendid photograph by Annie Leibovitz, of Susan Sontag dressed as a bear. She just is, OK?

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The bear costume, the hard stare, the keyboard. It immediately reminded me of something.

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Now we know why Wendy was so freaked out. How the hell did Susan Sontag get in here? Forever more I will involuntarily associate her with evil ghost bear BJs at The Overlook Hotel. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of my favourite films, for one thing because of scenes like this where Kubrick– in contrast to the story’s original author, Stephen King, whose prose allows no dead horse to remain unflogged and leaves nothing that goes without saying unsaid– evokes vast realms of back story and untold narrative riches with just a few shots and one ineradicable image.

Even…

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America…

America…

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BAISE OUAIS!

BaudrillardAmerica

I’ve been reading Postmodernist patriarch Jean Baudrillard’s book about the USA, called America (Verso 1988, new edition 2010). Although it’s occasionally mired in the kind of obscurantist, elliptical wittering that he’s rightly condemned for by some people– the gobbledygook blindly imitated to devastatingly stupid effect by many academics, critics and artists since the 1990s– it also has some incredibly sharp observations about a country and a populace that at heart he obviously enjoys a great deal. He often unfavourably compares his native France to the USA, although this is not as funny as his bullseye hits on US culture; these are not very far from what (postmodernist) native writers like Chuck Palahniuk and David Foster Wallace would be doing ten years or so later.

Writing in the mid 1980s, Baudrillard also makes some incredibly prescient and accurate observations about where Reaganism, Thatcherism and the whole greed-is-good yuppie privatisation…

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“Drugs and psychological brain-washing”

“Drugs and psychological brain-washing”

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Just two more images I scanned from the old British boys’ magazine/comic Eagle, posted here very belatedly purely because I just found them on an old HD and I don’t know why they never got published.

Coincidentally, the “colour-reflex conditioning” to which Mike is being subjected (above) looks very much like the Zoom ice lolly being advertised below. It’s like he’s being frontally aggravated by the business end of a massive Zoom lolly, which can happen when you’re tripping your tits off like young Michael here. Mike Lane = Migraine?

Perhaps some of those special sugar cubes on the coffee table made their way into the Lyons Maid factory. It might explain where they got the idea that being Commander in Chief of the Galaxy Patrol would be fab. Only Zoom fans are in it, baby. Fab was (and I think it still is, in Britain) another…

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Yank Beetles

Yank Beetles

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AmikaeferAn East German propaganda leaflet issued during the Berlin Airlift (1948-1949), when Stalin attempted to blockade the already geographically surrounded people of West Berlin into submission. American and British crews flew in food and other supplies, thereby demonstrating both the superiority of Western air capabilities and the extremes they would go to in order to check Soviet politicking. And so began the Cold War.

This leaflet about Amikäfer (“Yank Beetles”) claims that the airlift is just a pretext for ruining East German farming by dropping “imperialist weapons”: potato-devouring Colorado beetles (Kartoffelkäfer). The back cover warns about confusing them with harmless Marienkäfer (ladybirds).

Ridiculous propaganda even by the standards of ridiculous propaganda, but I have to admit that the adaptation of the beetle’s markings into the Stars and Stripes is pretty good.

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Barely a bear

Barely a bear

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Jukamari3 Jukumari, Musée du quai Branly, Paris. Photo by Alistair Gentry.

Final selection of bizarre, beautiful costumes from the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. The museum’s text:

The Andean “bespectacled” bear, the Jukumari, lives at different ecological levels of the Andean cordilera. For this reason he is seen as a mediator between different entities, god-like and human, or different human groups. He is present in several dances from the Andes in Bolivia, in particular the Diablada and the the Morenada. In the Diablada he has a playful role: he is the character that chats and interacts with the public. The Jukumari evolved into a polar bear.

No kidding. Other additions in the category of artistic license include the dainty yellow hanky (er… don’t look up hanky codes if you don’t know what they are already. You’re OK not knowing), the strings of pearls (stop it)…

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The giver of gifts

The giver of gifts

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NaupaD02 Ñaupa Diablo, Musée du quai Branly, Paris. Photo by Alistair Gentry.

More excellent masks from the Musée du quai Branly in Paris… and these ones come with splendid matching outfits. In the previous post on this subject, there was an early twentieth century carnival mask from Oruro, Bolivia. This time I have some relatively modern masks and costumes from the same carnival for you. All the photographs are mine. Here’s a translation of the museum’s blurb:

Performed during the carnival in the mining town of Oruro, the Diablada dance fuses Catholic and indigenous beliefs, depicting Lucifer escorted by a legion of male and female demons, and the Archangel Michael as the leader of the angel host. The characters in the dance are derived from the Catholic religion’s struggle between good and evil, which ends in the victory of the angels. However, in this dance, the “devil” in all his…

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There’s a method* in his madness

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* J. Karwowski’s Method of Preserving the Dead

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Found on an old hard drive. In 1903 a gentleman named Joseph Karwowski (“a subject of the Czar of Russia, residing at Herkimer”, New York) took out a patent on “certain new and useful Improvements in Methods of Preserving the Dead”, to wit encasing them in cubes of glass. He claimed that excluding the air would preserve them “for an indefinite period in a perfect and life-like condition.” The process would involve encasing the body in a layer of sodium silicate which was dry heated to solidify it, then further surrounded by a cube or cylinder of molten glass. Evidently a man of thrifty instincts, he also allowed for the cheaper and less labour-intensive possibility of preserving just the head “if preferred”, Futurama style.

Not that I or anybody else in their right mind is considering actually carrying out this operation, but…

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What to do if it happens

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CivDefence1 Advising the Householder on Protection against Nuclear Attack. Ninepence!

Scans from a nuclear war information booklet issued by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office in 1963. People of Britain, gather your Vaseline, paper handkerchiefs, teaspoons and aspirin so we can get on with a proper British apocalypse. I’m more into the mod design than the details of people being killed instantly. “HEAT”, “BLAST” and “FALL-OUT” each have exciting logos. Which is nice.

CivDefence2 “There still remains some risk of nuclear attack”

CivDefence3 “Seek safer and more comfortable surroundings before the fall-out comes down.”

I haven’t scanned them, but some of the other pages mention living in a hole in your back garden with a dustbin lid as a hatch, or building a “fall-out room” made of doors and sandbags inside your house. It’s grim. The booklet’s main achievement is making it seem lucky if you’re one of the people vapourised or incinerated during the…

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Hiding in public, part three

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Easy, tiger

Final selection from the book Masks: Masterpieces from the musée du quai Branly. I apologise for the Devil Son mask I showed you last time. Hopefully you’ve recovered now. How about a sort-of cute tiger?

MexicoTiger Lacquered wood mask of a tiger, State of Guerrero, Mexico, circa 1970.

This mask was made using the rayado technique. Two layers of lacquer are superimposed, then one is partially removed to produce this two-tone effect. If you look closely you’ll see that the markings aren’t random; they form the shapes of birds, rabbits, deer and other animals.

BoliviaMoreno Plaster and cloth moreno mask from Oruro, Bolivia, early 20th century.

Moreno masks represent the exhausted, sickly African slaves who worked in the plantations and mines of Bolivia. They’re worn during the mining city of Oruro’s carnival. The masks, I mean. Not Africans.

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