Category Archives: European culture

RIP Mel Gordon (1947 – 2018)

Research occasioned by the death of Adam Parfrey (see prev. post) brought to my attention that one of the writers who were often published by Parfrey, Mel Gordon, also recently died.

Mel Gordon was a theatrical historian. He wrote on 1920s BerlinGrand GuignollazziHanussenDadadrugs and Expressionism.

From left to right: Hanussen: Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant (2001) The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber (2006) Horizontal Collaborations (2015) Voluptuous Panic (2006) The Stanislavsky Technique (2000)

From left to right:

One thing leading to another

Reading Roger Scruton’s “Flesh from the Butcher” for my thesis I noticed the word Tafelmusik. My encyclopedia brought up “Tafelmusik für König Ubu“. Anything with the word Ubu in its title piques my interest. “Tafelmusik für König Ubu” appeared to be a German version of Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu (1966), a musical composition by Bernd Alois Zimmermann.

I played it [above], it’s wonderful, it’s a sound collage. Not really. It’s a musical composition filled with quotations.

YouTube’s autoplay is on.

The next track [above] starts very sweet and gentle. At 4:55 the most wonderful waltz waltzes in.

Waltzes have these pauses that remind me of weightlessness.

The composition appeared to be “Der Waltzer (1969) by Alfred Schnittke.

I ended up listening to Alfred Schnittke’s music for most of the weekend.

Rodin’s eroticism

Les dessins de Rodin, part 1

Les dessins de Rodin, part 2

While researching my thesis, I came across the text “Les Dessins de Rodin” (above), in which Arthur Symons says:

“The principle of Rodin‘s work is sex-a sex aware of itself, and expending energy desperately to reach an impossible goal.”

Also new to me was Rodin’s Iris, Messenger of the Gods  and “Rodin’s Reputation“, Anne Wagner’s deft article on it.

All my research on Rodin and eroticism can be found at Eros and Rodin.

 Spanish Still Life @ BOZAR

There is a wonderful exhibition in Brussels right now. Spanish Still Life – Velázquez, Goya, Picasso, Miró has two Cotáns, apart from Zurbarán, the crème de la crème of still life.

Sadly, behind glass, but seeing this is such a blast.

Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber (1602) by Juan Sánchez Cotán. This is the central piece of the exhibition. Jaw-droppingly beautiful. Below detail of the cucumber.

Still Life with Fruit and Vegetables (c.1600) by Juan Sánchez Cotán. Another Cotan, a little too full to my liking but still a top work.

Still Life With Bream, Oranges, Garlic, Condiments, and Kitchen Utensils (1772) by Luis Egidio Meléndez (detail)

Vanitas (Goya’s Skull) (1849) by Dionisio Fierros. This painting has a nice phrenology story behind it. Kind of similar to what happened to Sade’s skull.

There were two Goya’s: Still Life with Golden Bream and one with a bird (I was  unable to find the title, it’s this one). There were no Zurbaráns. I would have paid the price of the entrance for the two Cotans alone.

RIP Cecil Taylor (1929 – 2018)

Cecil Taylor was an American pianist and poet. Classically trained, Taylor is generally acknowledged as having been one of the pioneers of free jazz. His music is characterized by an extremely energetic, physical approach, producing complex improvised sounds, frequently involving tone clusters and intricate polyrhythms. His piano technique has been likened to percussion, for example described as “eighty-eight tuned drums” (referring to the number of keys on a standard piano). He has also been described as “like Art Tatum with contemporary-classical leanings”.

His composition Indent (1973) is on Thurston Moore’s Top Ten Free Jazz Underground (1995).

RIP Jacques Higelin (1940 – 2018)

Jacques Higelin was a French pop singer who rose to prominence in the early 1970s. Early in his career, many of Higelin’s songs were effectively blacklisted from French radio because of his controversial left wing political beliefs, and his association with socialist groups.

His song “Pars” (1978) was covered by Grace Jones on her album Warm Leatherette.

RIP Stéphane Audran (1932 – 2018)

Stéphane Audran was a French actress, known for her performances in award-winning movies such as The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and Babette’s Feast (1987) and in critically acclaimed films like The Big Red One (1980) and Violette Nozière (1978).

A well-known photo of the actress shows her sitting at a dressing table doing her toenails. It is from the film from the film La Femme Infidèle (1968).

Above is the clip of that film with Audran tending to her nails.

Of obfuscation and elucidation 

I finally hold a copy of Lequeu : An Architectural Enigma (1986) in my hand, a book on the oeuvre of French visionary architect Jean-Jacques Lequeu.

It is a strange mix of obfuscation and elucidation by its author Philippe Duboÿ.

It drew — among many other things — my attention to the satirical vignette against Bertrand Chaupy (above), an engraving better known as the “turd engraving by Piranesi.”

Regarding the obfuscation in this book, Robert Harbison says in The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable (1993):

“Recently the idea has infiltrated academic consciousness that the eighteenth-century crank Lequeu, one of the world’s fringiest paper architects, is really Marcel Duchamp inserting himself Trojan-horse-like into the musty tomes of the Bibliotheque Nationale, whiling away countless hours creating a large hollow space in which a few hundred pseudo-eighteenth-century beings can roost.”

See on elucidation and obfuscation the dictum by Cioran:  between the demand to be clear, and the temptation to be obscure, impossible to decide which deserves more respect.

Back from London …

I spent the day in London yesterday. I arrived at St Pancras railway station, headed for the University of London in Russell Square where there was a day on political myth and Hans Blumenberg. I skipped class and went to the National Gallery and saw:

Lady Standing at a Virginal by Johannes Vermeer, detail

The Vision of the Blessed Gabriele by Carlo Crivelli (left, the yoni detail), right other detail.

Witches at their Incantations by Salvator Rosa, full and cooking hag detail

Two Followers of Cadmus devoured by a Dragon by Cornelis van Haarlem, detail

Forgotten which this one is, I was quite impressed by it, I think it’s Dutch, detail

The Agony in the Garden by Andrea Mantegna, detail

The Fight between the Lapiths and the Centaurs by Piero di Cosimo, detail

The Death of Procris by Piero di Cosimo, detail

Meeting Place of the Hunt by Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli, detail

Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway by J. M. W. Turner, detail

Forgot, probably a Jupiter and Antiope, I loved the way the nipple was pinched, detail

Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, Cunera van der Cock by Frans van Mieris the Elder, very small and delicate painting, this one.

The Ugly Duchess by Quentin Matsys, cleavage detail

The Agony in the Garden by Bellini, detail of village in the distance

A Scene from El Hechizado por Fuerza (‘The Forcibly Bewitched’) by Francisco Goya, apparently a portrait of Charles II of Spain, detail

Still Life with a Nautilus Cup by Gerrit Willemsz. Heda, detail

RIP Austryn Wainhouse (1927 – 2014)

I only now became aware that Austryn Wainhouse (1927 – 2014) passed away. He was best-known for translating the work of Marquis de Sade and the novel Story of O.

It is of course the work of Marquis de Sade that interests us here. It so happens that one of the translations of Wainhouse, Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings is freely available online. And the most interesting item in that collection is “Yet Another Effort“, perhaps the first piece of writing anyone who wishes to acquaint himself with de Sade should read.

Here is that link[1].