Category Archives: 1001 things to do before you die

RIP André S. Labarthe (1931 – 2018)

André S. Labarthe was a French actor, film producer and director.

He starred alongside Anna Karina in the 1962 film Vivre sa vie and was a celebrated television documentary maker.

He directed the documentary Georges Bataille – À perte de vue (1997) and David Cronenberg: I Have to Make the Word Be Flesh (1999).

Georges Bataille – À perte de vue (1997)

David Cronenberg: I Have to Make the Word Be Flesh (1999)

 

On twilight zones, transition areas, liminal states, limbo, shadow- and borderlands

Alle Weissheit ist bey Gott dem Herrn... (1654), informal title of a calligraphy of the Sirach by an anonymous artist

Alle Weissheit ist bey Gott dem Herrn… (1654) by an anonymous artist

There is something fascinating about twilight zones, transition areas, liminal states, limbo, shadow- and borderlands. I love objects and regions which are unresolved in nature, even impure.

Ah … classificatory disputes about art!

Is the above an example writing or visual art? Is it poetry or calligraphy, art or decoration?

Visual poetry is perhaps its best description.

Whatever it is, it is one of my World Art Classics, #294 to be exact.

On Umberto Eco’s ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’, unreadability and the ‘cacopedia’.

My copy of 'Foucault's Pendulum' overlooking the Pigeon Valley from the rooftop at Has Konak in Cappadocia

My copy of ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ overlooking the Pigeon Valley from the rooftop of Has Konak in Cappadocia

As is often the case, the most salient bits of a book only become apparent a while after finishing it.

So it was only after a week or so after digesting the 600+ pages of Foucault’s Pendulum that the phrase “urban planning for gypsies” suddenly sounded in my ears:

‘Listen, Jacopo, I thought of a good one: Urban Planning for Gypsies.’

‘Great,’ Belbo said admiringly. ‘I have one, too: Aztec Equitation.’

‘Excellent. But would that go with Potio-section or the Anynata?’

‘We’ll have to see.’ Belbo said. He rummaged in his drawer and took out some sheets of paper. ‘Potio-section…’ He looked at me, saw my bewilderment. ‘Potio-section, as everybody knows, is the art of slicing soup. No, no,’ he said to Diotallevi. ‘It’s not a department, it’s a subject, like Mechanical Avunculogratulation or Pylocatabasis. They all fall under the heading of Tetrapyloctomy.’

‘What’s tetra…?’

‘The art of splitting a hair four ways. Mechanical Avunculogratulation, for example, is how to build machines for greeting uncles.’

As it turns out, “urban planning for gypsies, the art of slicing soup, Morse syntax, the history of antartic agriculture, the history of Easter Island painting, contemporary Sumerian literature, Montessori grading, Assyrian-Babylonian philately, the technology of the wheel in pre-Columbian empires, and the phonetics of the silent film” and other nonsensical endeavors are part of what Eco has termed the cacopedia.

What baffled me while reading Foucault’s Pendulum, is the commercial success of the novel, a book full of esoteric references to the Kabbalah, alchemy and conspiracy theories.

It makes you wonder what the owning/reading ratio is. Just imagine the number of people who bought it or got it as a gift but left it unopened on their shelves.

The book is unreadable for the uninitiated, the name-dropping is so extensive that critic and novelist Anthony Burgess suggested that it needed an index. In fact, Wikipedia produced two of them: Concordance of Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and Concordance of Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum (2).

A book about nothing, or, in praise of plotlessness and the antinovel

I’m rereading Writing on Drugs by Sadie Plant, a book which is brilliant in its lateral connections, arguing amongst other things that the Industrial Revolution in England goes hand in hand with the legal use of opium as recreational drug.

Speaking of opium, I’ve published a photo of an oozing, exuding, secreting and leaking poppy seed head.

But that’s not what I wanted to show you.

On page 47 in Writing on Drugs is Flaubert and he is cited stating his desire to write ‘a book about nothing‘ (‘un livre sur rien’), in other words a plotless novel, an antinovel as it were.

“What strikes me as beautiful, what I would like to do, is a book about nothing, a book with no external tie, which would support itself by its internal force of style, a book which would have hardly any subject or at least where the subject would be almost invisible, if that can be so.” (Flaubert, Letters 170).

Amazing.

Did Flaubert fulfil his ambition?

Maybe he did. The closest he came to writing about nothing was in his Bouvard et Pécuchet and Dictionary of Received Ideas.

In praise of pornosophy

Art/Porn: A History of Seeing and Touching (2009) – [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

I want to read Art/Porn: A History of Seeing and Touching (2009) by Kelly Dennis.

Besides that pornosophy is my area of expertise, the book looks rather more clever than many porn studies that have recently flooded the American market and finding smart sentences such as the following has whetted my appetite:

“We can now see that the “sister arts,” the paragone, the hierarchy of genres, and even ekphrasis are all rooted in an opposition between word and image, between an acceptable literary pictorialism and a less acceptable pictorial literacy.”

I found this book while googling paragone and ekphrasis mentioned in my previous post on Baudelaire[1].

On the cover of Art/Porn is one panel from the Every Playboy centerfold, by decade series by Jason Salavon.

Once more, one thing leads to another

Encore” is a musical composition by Nicolas Jaar.

As usual, one thing leads to another.

This particular Youtube upload (above) features the photo “Dancers Wearing Gas Masks In England On February 1940“.

The photo stems from the Edward George Warris Hulton collection and features girls wearing gas masks and dancing a can-can-like dance.

The sample at the beginning of the song:

“from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing”

is from an audio recording of “The Creative Act,” a speech by ‘mere artist” Marcel Duchamp given in 1957.

In view of its non-elitist (although it can also be read as a defence of Duchamp’s own greatness) point of view (considering bad art also as art); its emphasis on reception and audience participation; its view as the artist as a mere medium, I pronounce “The Creative Act” to be a nobrow manifesto of sorts.

“Encore” by my poulain Nicolas Jaar is World Music Classic #699.

A specter is haunting the world: the specter of capitalism

I finally watched Cronenberg’s latest film Cosmopolis and understand why it was top ten film for both Cahiers du cinéma andRichard Scheib.

Memorable moments: the rats, the prostate that has to “express itself”, the Jenny Holzer-like LED screen with the slogan “A specter is haunting the world: the specter of capitalism ” (above), the Nancy Babich-scene, Robert shooting a hole in his hand[1]and of course the prostate examination in itself.

The film is World Cinema Classic #139.

It’s a political film and a philosophical film.

The anthropomorphic landscapes of Joos de Momper

The Four Seasons are a series of four paintings by Joos de Momper, allegorically depicting spring, summer, autumn and winter in the form of anthropomorphic landscapes. As of 2013, all four of these paintings are in private collections. At least one of them is believed to be in the collection of Robert Lebel. I saw all four of them over the weekend in Lille, France at the superb exhibition Flemish Landscape Fables. This weekend is your last chance to get a look at them.

Spring

Summer

Autumn

Winter

See also