Category Archives: postmodernism

What the Butler Saw in Düsseldorf

The butler visited Diana und Actaeon – Der verbotene Blick auf die Nacktheit with a fellow butler and a maid.

He was thrilled to see Étant donnés[1] by Marcel Duchamp. And he did not realize it also looked like this[2]. He saw the famous metal doll sculpture[3] by Hans Bellmer and Bad Boy by Eric Fischl. He saw the most beautiful penis in post-war photography, yes he meant the Robert Mapplethorpe one[4].

He saw and liked photographs[5] of the Linley Sambourne collection, paintings by French figuratist Jean Rustin[6], paintings by Michael Kirkham[7], his first viewing of the fauvist Erich Heckel[8], Phryne[9] by French academic cult painter Jean-Léon Gérôme, waxworks by Belgian sculptor Berlinde De Bruyckere[10], and paintings by Roland Delcol[11].

The butler was also very much taken by Johannes Hüppi[12]; his first viewing of his fave John Currin[13]; his first real Félix Vallotton; and a Lisa Yuskavage[14]. But not that one.

Butler wants you to know that the works he pointed to are for reference only and may not correspond to the works at the exhibition. He also wants you to know that some of the links may be NSFW.

World Cinema Classic #70

In search of nonspace and unthought thoughts.

Sans Soleil

Sans Soleil

In search of nonspace and unthought thoughts.

I’ve been mulling over French director Chris Marker‘s Sans Soleil for four days now. The key scene for me was the shooting of the giraffe, which gave its origins away as far as genre-theoretics are concerned.

The key phrase was perhaps the “salute to all unposted letters,” but is safe to say that the film is brilliantly written throughout.

I saw the film at MuHKA on last Saturday, introduced by a Belgian scholar (who?). He stated that the film was unclassifiable, because the “film essay is not a genre but a small category”. However, in my opinion, the film fits the mondo film category, and functions as a highbrow counterpart to Mondo Cane. The film also begs a viewing of the masterwork Blood of the Beasts. But Sans Soleil is a different film altogether. It is a philosophical film that raises questions of medium specificity, multimedia, memory and authenticity.

I have a feeling that Sans Soleil can be invoked to clarify Gilles Deleuze‘s any-space-whatever (see B. C. Holmes – “The Deleuzian Memory of Sans Soleil” [1]), but to prove that would need some more studying of Gilles Deleuze on film.

Cross-pollinations such as BBC Radiophonic Workshop/Doctor Who and Studio di Fonologia Musicale/Death Laid an Egg

Maderna-Berio by U.S.O. Project.

Tape editing: Bruno Maderna (left) and Luciano Berio (right)

Simon Reynolds published the director’s cut of an article[1] he wrote at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which was founded in 1958 on an unknown date. Similar radio services were started at the various public radios in Europe, all of influence to the emerging fields of electronic music and acousmatic music. Paris had the Groupe de Recherches Musicales which developed musique concrète, Cologne had Studio für elektronische Musik which nurtured the talent of Stockhausen, Italy had Studio di Fonologia Musicale with Bruno Maderna.

I’m probably generalizing, mixing studios with projects and radio with art projects. However, all of these projects share common characteristics: they are state funded (this is post-war, Marshall plan funded Europe), they involve electronic music and are centered around tape editing and thus the development of non-linearity in music recording.

So far the history of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which was probably the biggest, as well as the other scenes mentioned above have been best documented. However, such studios and projects must have existed all over Europe. It would be interesting to get your feedback of the scene of your country. Scandinavia, Spain, Austria, the Balkan, everywhere, let’s hear it from you. I’m especially looking for cross-pollinations such as BBC Radiophonic Workshop/Doctor Who and Studio di Fonologia Musicale/Death Laid an Egg.

I’m collecting the notes for this project at European public radio and experimental music.

Cult fiction item #9: “Language is to the brain as the tapeworm is to the intestines”

Cities of the Red Night

Cover art of Cities of the Red Night depicting Brueghels  “The Triumph of Death“.

I read Cities of the Red Night this July while in Spain; I had to let it ferment for a while and unfurl it. it was a profound reading experience; and my first semi-sustained one after my first and only aborted attempt to read Burroughs by way of Naked Lunch.

I have the fondest memories of Burroughs in Drugstore Cowboy, and his Gus Van Sant-directed appearance on MTV with Thanksgiving Prayer[1] (unavailable in Europe).

Cities of the Red Night stated that spontaneous ejaculation is a heroin withdrawal symptom. This caught my attention. Today, I looked it up and it is apparently confirmed by medical literature. The novel is the perfect introduction to Burroughs’s whole language is a virus trope, later adopted by the likes of Laurie Anderson, Steven Shaviro and other postmodernists.

From my wiki:

Cities of the Red Night is a novel by William S. Burroughs. It was the first book in the final trilogy of the beat author, and was first published in 1981. Drugs play a major part in the novel, as do male homosexuality. The plot of this non-linear work revolves around a group of revolutionaries who seek the freedom to live under the articles set out by Captain James Mission. At the same time in near present day, detective Clem Snide is searching for a lost boy, abducted for some sort of sexual ritual. Another subplot weaved in thematically through the narrative is a world plagued by a fictional disease, Virus B-23, that destroys humanity and is sexually transmitted and sexual in nature, causing for example spontaneous orgasms. Addiction to opiates provides some resistance to it. The disease is viral, and, at first, it appears to be an allusion to AIDS, although, it must be remembered that the first case of AIDS was not discovered until after the book was first published.

See also:’the cities of the red night were six in number, alternate history, Dr Benway, Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted

Finally, whence the quote came:

Self-identity is ultimately a symptom of parasitic invasion, the expression within me of forces originating from outside. Language is to the brain as the tapeworm is to the intestines. Even more so: it may just be possible to find a digestive space free from parasitic infection, but we will never find an uncontaminated mental space. Strands of alien DNA unfurl themselves in our brains, just as tapeworms unfurl themselves in our guts. Not just language, but the whole quality of human consciousness, as expressed in male and female is basically a virus mechanism.” —Cities of the Red Night

Triumph of Death (1562) – Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Whither now, anarchitecture?

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4A5ybTAOWw&]

Some Office Baroque footage, Some footage similar to Office Baroque

Gordon Matta-Clark died thirty years ago today. He stayed in Antwerp for a while in 1977, just before his death, working with Florent Bex, creating Office Baroque, which he called anarchitecture. Pieces of his “building cuts” were sold around the world[1].

I like him, much as I like the near-contemporary and also short-lived Robert Smithson. Whither now, anarchitecture, and other visionary environments?

“I’m mad as hell”

To Lichanos[1],

In answer to your comment[2], yes, it feels sometimes as if I have reached the limits of appreciative criticism.

I dedicate to you, Lichanos, Network, WCC #61.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_qgVn-Op7Q]

Scrub to 2:48 for “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more

Happy birthday Luigi Colani

The earth is round, all the heavenly bodies are round; they all move on round or elliptical orbits. This same image of circular globe-shaped mini worlds orbiting around each other follows us right down to the microcosmos. We are even aroused by round forms in species propagation related eroticism. Why should I join the straying mass who want to make everything angular? I am going to pursue Galileo Galilei‘s philosophy: my world is also round. — Luigi Colani.

Car Styling 23 Luigini Colani special by you.

[Amazon.com]
[FR] [DE] [UK]

There is one available now at Amazon.de, 69 EUR.

European designer Luigi Colani turns eighty today.

I can’t remember the first time Colani came upon my radar, but it must have been in the various design books I read in my twenties, this was in the 1985-1995 period. He – and his celebration of curvilinearity (one of the faultlines in 20th century art) – remain paramount in my design canon.

Modern and contemporary designers in this tradition include Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Isamu Noguchi, Carlo Mollino and Marc Newson.

Connecting keywords are non-Euclidean geometry, ferrocement, organic design. [I must look into this non-Euclidean geometry thing, some interesting connections are bound to appear]

Also of interest is the survey of Eric Hunting, ‘The Classic Rock Realm of Ferro-Cement’[1].

Around that same period I bought a monograph of Colani’s work, a special issue of Japanaese Car Styling magazine, #23. Personally, I prefer his non-car styling designs and the issue of Car Styling aforementioned features some rare works of eroticism (ceramics, photography, drawings) and sanitary ware by Villeroy and Boch.

The cover of that magazine is noticeable for its Böcklin typeface.

Previously on Jahsonic: Lost and found: biomorphism

The golden age of television

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdX9IcpG8wg]

27 years ago today was the day of the first video clip every broadcast on MTV. The clip was “Video Killed the Radio Star,” directed by Russell Mulcahy, and it marked the debut of the channel on 1 August 1981, at 12:10 A.M. The single, a Trevor Horn (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) production, was already two years old, released in September 1979. The song celebrated the golden days of radio, talking of a singer whose career is cut short by television. Group member Trevor Horn has said that his lyrics were inspired by the J.G. Ballard short story The Sound-Sweep, in which the title character, a mute boy vacuuming up stray music in a world without it, comes upon an opera singer hiding in a sewer.

Up until today, MTV remains my favorite television station, along with Arte.

See Golden Age of Television and Ode to MTV and the contemporary grotesque

Icon of Erotic Art #31

It is time for Icon of erotic art #31

Truck Babies (1999) by Patricia Piccinini

Truck Babies (1999) by Patricia Piccinini presents a pair of infant trucks. It is Icon of Erotic Art #31.

“The Truck Babies are infantile not miniature; they have big cheeks and fat bottoms, little wheels and lovely big eyes. They are what I imagined to be the offspring of the big trucks that I saw on the road. I examined the relationship between babies and fully-grown animals and people and applied these developmental changes backwards to the trucks.” [1]

The eroticism of this work is not obvious, but derives from the fact that most procreation is derived from the sexual act. It is my basic tenet that the sexual act is not necessarily “natural“, my favorite quote in this regard is from Leonardo da Vinci:

“The art of procreation and the members employed therein are so repulsive that if it were not for the beauty of the faces and the adornments of the actors and the pent-up impulse, nature would lose the human species.”

A quote that also comes to mind is one by Susan Sontag:

Human sexuality is, quite apart from Christian repressions, a highly questionable phenomenon, and belongs, at least potentially, among the extreme rather than the ordinary experiences of humanity. Tamed as it may be, sexuality remains one of the demonic forces in human consciousness – pushing us at intervals close to taboo and dangerous desires, which range from the impulse to commit sudden arbitrary violence upon another person to the voluptuous yearning for the extinction of one’s consciousness, for death itself.” –Susan Sontag in the The Pornographic Imagination

The sexual act requires humans to gain intimacy to body parts which are “naturally” abhorred by humans, body parts which involve excrementation for example.

The sex drive, to which near all human animals fall prey, has often propelled us to engage in the sexual act with non-human animals. I surmise that the depictions of human-animal hybrids featured in bestiaries so popular in the Middle Ages (only second in popularity to the Bible), is derived from the fear that human-animal copulation would result in offspring.

It is within the context of these bestiaries that the work of Piccinini should be viewed. The uncanniness of Truck Babies is derived from a fear of ascribing animal qualities to machines, machines having become the nearest equivalent to domestic animals in the post-industrial age.

Truck Babies also provides me with an opportunity to announce the death of American science fiction writer Thomas M. Disch (1940 – 2008), author of Camp Concentration, The Brave Little Toaster and 334. The oblique link between Truck Babies and Disch is the anthropomorphism evident in Truck Babies and The Brave Little Toaster.

Mad love

On double coding, guilty pleasures and Roland Kaiser‘s “Santa Maria.”YouTube

Guilty pleasures is about liking things you shouldn’t be liking,  Roland Kaiser‘s “Santa Maria.”YouTube for example.

You shouldn’t like “Santa Maria” because it is in “poor taste”.

Another example of guilty pleasure would be a man who watches television shows marketed towards women such as Sex and the City. This is considered a guilty pleasure because it violates most western ideas what society views as masculine. For this reason the man in question may watch this show in secret because other members of the society may react negatively to a man watching a feminine television show.

The postmodern age is gentle towards guilty pleasures.

Double coding

Yet, I don’t agree with Umberto Eco when he says that in a postmodern world you can no longer say: “I love you madly”.

It’s is too Barbara Cartland-ish, say Eco. I don’t agree. Long live mad love. Although I don’t agree, Eco formulated his point beautifully, in a way that captures the voice of compatriot Alberto Moravia. Here is the quote:

“I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows that he cannot say to her “I love you madly”, because he knows that she knows (and that she knows he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still there is a solution. He can say “As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly”. At this point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly it is no longer possible to talk innocently, he will nevertheless say what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her in an age of lost innocence.” —Umberto Eco