Category Archives: theory

One man’s junk is another’s man treasure

Researching Learning from Las Vegas occasioned by the death of Robert Venturi made me stumble upon God’s Own Junkyard [above].

Two pictures of that book are reproduced in Learning from Las VegasGod's Own Junkyard

God’s Own Junkyard is a work of cultural pessimism which laments the uglification of the United States landscape.

As happens so often, one man’s junk is another’s man treasure and the scenery decried in God’s Own Junkyard is glorified in Learning from Las Vegas.

RIP Paul Virilio (1932 – 2018)

Paul Virilio was a French theorist, urbanist, and aesthetic philosopher.

He is best known for his book Bunker Archeology (1975), a book I discovered one lonely night in Brussels spent with a young woman at her place. She had acquired it that same afternoon.

One of the bunkers of the Atlantic Wall was photographed by myself in 2007 [1].

I’v yet to hold a copy of this book in my hands.

“War is good business – invest your son.”

GET UP, STAND UP![1] is the title of a wonderful exhibition held at the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art in Brussels, featuring numerous posters of the 1968-1973 civil protests across the West.

A sampling:

       

“Gone with the Wind, the film to end all films”, showing Reagan and Thatcher, a criticism of the atomic bomb.

“War is good business – invest your son”, a criticism of war.

“Milk in such containers may be unfit for human consumption”, a criticism of DDT.

“The age of nations is past, the task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the earth.” —Teilhard de Chardin, a criticism of nationalism.

A Roland Topor graphic on censorship used by Scanlan’s, criticism of Nixon.

A poster mentioning the “Chicago Seven trialG. Harold CarswellThe Cattonsville 9Jackson StateInvasion of CambodiaKent StateMy Lai MassacreAlaskan pipelineITT scandalWatergate Caper, 20,000 Americans dead, ? Asians dead, 26,000,000 bombs, General LavalleWheat ScandalUnemployment.”

Histoires d’A, On ne mendie pas un juste droit, on se bat pour lui (W. Reich), criticism of anticonception.

“Jesus was an only child”, criticism of anticonception. Correction: Jesus was apparently not an only child, he had brothers.

RIP Tom Wolfe (1930 – 2018)

Tom Wolfe was an American author and journalist widely known for his association with New Journalism, a style of news writing and journalism developed in the 1960s and 1970s that incorporated literary techniques.

The Painted Word (1975)

From Bauhaus to Our House (1981)

His best-known works are The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff but of interest to me are his essays.

The Painted Word (1975) and From Bauhaus to Our House (1981)

He wrote The Painted Word (1975) and From Bauhaus to Our House (1981), both critical of  high modernism and avant-gardism to the extent that they have been connected to the death of the avant-garde meme.

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:

Why I like the rhetoric of censors so much

Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography (1981) is one of the best anti-pornography documents around, better than Perversion for Profit (1965).

I found Not a Love Story while researching my paper and being sidetracked into feminist antiporn rhetoric.

The most blatant variety of this rhetoric is the part where they say that pornography leads to rape, first expressed by Robin Morgan in 1974 when she said “pornography is the theory, and rape is the practice“.

Recent feminists such as Anne W. Eaton have toned down their statements from the once virulent rhetoric of women such as Robin Morgan, but Rae Langton, a well respected source in the current debate, still references Ed Donnerstein in “Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts“, her much-cited paper of 1993.

Researching Ed Donnerstein brought this film to my attention. He is interviewed on the effects of violent porn.

New to me was a soundbite uttered by Robin Morgan who states that “the first things that the Nazis did when they moved into Poland was to engineer a huge proliferation of pornography.”

The statement baffled me and I knew right away that I would not be able to find whether this was true or not, the only thing I could hope to discover is who first spread this piece of information.

After some googling I found this information cited in Take Back the Night (1980) by Laura Lederer. Some more googling and I discovered that it can be pinpointed to Pamela Hansford Johnson’s statement “when the Nazis took on the government of Poland, they flooded the Polish bookstalls with pornography” recorded in On Iniquity (1967), an attack on permissive society occasioned by the Moors murders.

I’ve previously mentioned why I like the rhetoric of censors so much but must write more about it, see in praise of censorship. This documentary is up here in its entirety but for how long considering the amount of explicit imagery?

PS 1. There is another explicit video on censorship, which has escaped the YouTube censor, I’ve written on it here and the video is still there.

PS 2. If you know where Pamela Hansford Johnson got her info from, I’d love to hear from you.

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.

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].