Category Archives: grotesque

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:

RIP Adam Parfrey (1958 – 2018)

Adam Parfrey was an American writer, editor, and publisher whose work centered on unusual, extreme, or “forbidden” areas of knowledge. He is perhaps best known for Rants and Incendiary Tracts (1989), which he co-edited with Bob Black.

Rants and Incendiary Tracts (1989)

Rants and Incendiary Tracts (1989)

Rants and Incendiary Tracts (1989, above) is an anthology of 56 pieces of invective in the style of An Anthology of Invective and Abuse (1929) by Hugh Kingsmill.

Thanks to the death of Adam, I watched The Hate That Hate Produced (1955, above)

By the way, can anyone illuminate me on the cover photo of Rants?

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 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)

 

The eeriness of hanging, dripping mosses

Following my previous post[1], Paul Rumsey identifies the mystery print[2] as one from the hand of Georg Lemberger, an Austrian artist so obscure he does not even have an English language Wikipedia page.

One of Lemberger’s paintings, Saint George Freeing the Princess (Lemberger)[3], has an Italian-language Wikipedia page, which I’ve partly translated and partly augmented:

The scene takes place in a fantastic forest. St George is preparing to face the monstrous dragon, hitting him with a spear, while the horse rears its head and front legs, according to the traditional iconography.

On the left the princess kneels in prayer.

Despite the small size of the work, it is emblematic of the role of landscape in the German art, full of fantastic effects and symbolic meanings, which characterizes the Danube School.

The trees are particularly elongated, and seem to germinate the one above the other, waving their spectral fronds, like in a dream vision.

The forest has a feeling of great mossy humidity and the branches of the trees seem to be covered with hanging, dripping mosses, like Spanish moss.

The feeling of being lost in the dark forest prevails and the work conveys a sense of the unknown, dominated by mysterious forces of nature.

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili + Bomarzo + elephant = bible illustrations

It’s funny on how returning to the blogosphere after saying goodbye to it for quite some years, I bump straight into an old virtual friend when searching for “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili + Bomarzo + elephant”. The friend in question runs the fascinating culture blog Journey to Perplexity [1].

The reason I googled the words above was that my Dutch edition (translated by Ike Cialona) of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili claims that Colonna’ work inspired these works of architecture:

One thing leading to another, as they usually do, I found this [2] fascinating woodcut, of which the colour palette reminds me of Japanese woodcuts.

I wonder if the plate is part of Cranach’s illustrated version of Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible? Anyone?

The ‘fantastique naturel’: the weird axolotl

 

The Weird (2012) – [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

I’m into weird stuff and anthologies. So I’m happy with the new book The Weird, dedicated to 20th century literature in the category weird fiction, a book I discovered while researching Dino Buzzati (check out this [1] and this [2]). It was put together by Jeff VanderMeer and his wife Ann.

But…

Yes, there is a but.

The cover of this anthology is ugly beyond belief.

Beyond belief is perhaps putting it too strongly and I don’t like negative criticism without at least providing an alternative.

So why not have put an axolotl on the cover? A good choice since there is also a short story by my favourite author Julio Cortázar in the anthology titled “Axolotl” and the axolotl is a creature like the star-nosed mole and the baby armadillo by Dora Maar which belongs in the category ‘fantastique naturel‘ and the fantastique is the natural precursor of weird fiction.

The fascinating and revolting love lives of gastropoda

Having recently seen the documentary film Microcosmos (to be viewed in its entirety on Vimeo here[1]), I’d like to share these two pictures of snails mating.

These images are instances of zoological horror or the zoological fantastique, depending on your view.

Both horror and the fantastique are just as much rooted in fascination as in revulsion, ergo in ambiguity of emotions. And what could be more ambivalent and cause more ‘mixed feelings’ than slimy slugs and snails ‘getting it on’, an act which may involve hermaphroditism, firing love darts (a source of the Cupid myth, state some sources), apophallation (gnawing at stuck penises) and even sexual cannibalism?

Of course, the attentive reader will have noticed that in the photo of ‘Courtship in the edible snail, Helix pomatia’ the soft bodies of the snails look exactly like the labia majora of an adult female human mammal.

It needs not to be said that the whole field of animal sexuality is highly fascinating and has been represented in art not often enough. Apart from Microcosmos, there has been Green Porno and the magnificent films of Jean Painlevé (Acera, or the Witches’ Dance[2] comes to mind).

In praise of uncertainty

Of all the works I re-examined while reading Hans Holländer‘s Hieronymus Bosch: Weltbilder und Traumwerk, the detail of The Last Judgment (Bosch triptych fragment) is the one that caught my attention most. Just look at this delightful brightly coloured critter!

Ultimately, I find it very satisfying that nothing of the work of Bosch can be said with certainty.

So: in praise of uncertainty!