Category Archives: Uncategorized

RIP Robert Venturi (1925 – 2018)

Robert Venturi was an American architect, best known for his book Learning from Las Vegas (1972).

Learning from Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form (1972) [above] is a book by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour.

On the book’s cover was a billboard advertising “Tan Hawaiian with Tanya”[1].

The book had a major impact on the emergence of postmodernism.

Major Jean-Jacques Lequeu exhibition coming up

Bâtisseur de fantasmes” (Phantasm builder) is the title of an exhibition of the work of personal hero Jean-Jacques Lequeu.

It is to be held at the Petit Palais in Paris from December 11, 2018 to March 31, 2019.

It probably hasn’t been since 1964, at the occasion of Les architectes visionnaires de la fin du XVIII° siècle curated by Jean-Claude Lemagny at the Bibliothèque Nationale, that the work of Lequeu was shown.

Illustration: “The Big Yawner

See also: phantasm

Michel Houellebecq praises “The World as Will and Wallpaper”

“Artichoke” wallpaper[1], by John Henry Dearle for William Morris & Co.

As I’ve mentioned[1], I travelled to China over the holidays, to visit my daughter Bonnie.

On holiday , and practically only then, I read.

My finest read this trip was Michel Houellebecq‘s De koude revolutie. One of the most enigmatic essays in that collection is “Sortir du XXe siècle” (2000), the title of which translates as “Leaving the 20th Century”, but which has, to my knowledge, not been translated into English.

The essay starts as a diatribe against the left, against 20th century social sciences (Pierre Bourdieu) and thought (Jean Baudrillard). It criticizes the nouveau roman and praises New Wave science fiction (“BallardDischKornbluthSpinradSturgeon and Vonnegut…”).

Most of all it praises American writer R. A. Lafferty and extols the virtues of the short story “The World as Will and Wallpaper” (1973), the title of which references Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation and manages to weave William Morris (English artist, writer, socialist, activist and designer of wallpaper) in the story, both as character and as author of The Wood Beyond the World, which in this story has become a place which cannot be reached.

Kristeva and Volksgeist

I am quite fond of texts that make broad sweeping generalizations.

Last Sunday, I came across one such generalization in the Dutch translation of Kristeva’s Strangers to Ourselves (at the Sint-Jansvliet flea market in Antwerp).

“Nowhere is one more a foreigner than in France. Having neither the tolerance of Anglo-American Protestants, nor the absorbent ease of Latin Americans, nor the rejecting as well as assimilating curiosity of the Germans or Slavs, the French set a compact social texture and an unbeatable national pride against foreigners.”

The above generalization is one of national character, one of the hardest to make and the least respected, the category basically came into being with Hegel and Herder‘s Volksgeist and fell out of favor with Nazism.

RIP France Gall (1947 – 2018)

Jazz À Gogo (1964) – France Gall

France Gall was a French singer. She is famous for such songs as “Teenie Weenie Boppie” (on LSD), “Zozoi” (Brazilian), “Ella, elle l’a” (on Ella Fitzgerald) , “Laisse tomber les filles” (on Lotarios), “A Banda (Ah Bahn-da)” (Brazilian), “Poupée de cire, poupée de son” (Eurovision song winner) and “Pauvre Lola” (which only features her giggle).

Of personal interest is her collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg.

Notorious is the fact that she ignored that the “lollipops” in  “Les Sucettes” could mean more than just mere lollipops, despite her being already 19.

2018 in the public domain

2018 is around the corner. As always, I check the new authors/painters/musicians whose work becomes public domain in 2018.

Nude Against the Light by Pierre Bonnard

Major names this year include:

RIP Alain Jessua (1932 – 2017)

Alain Jessua was a French film director and screenwriter who directed ten films between 1956 and 1997.

Léon la lune (1956), a film documenting the life of the ‘clochard‘ of the title, was Alain Jessua’s first film and it won the influential Prix Jean Vigo in 1957. The short film was inspired by Jean-Paul Clébert’s book Paris insolite (1952), the first of a series of realist photojournalistic books depicting the underworld in Paris. Clébert’s friends Jacques Yonnet and Robert Giraud wrote their own tales of the vagabond life on the streets of Paris; Yonnet wrote Paris Noir (1954), and Giraud’s Le Vin des rues (1955). The three frequented the same haunts as the youths of Letterist International, and this scene would become the subject of Ed van der Elsken’s photonovel Love on the Left Bank (1956), the most popular depiction of Parisian bohemian bar life.

Jessua first came to my attention for his “pop art film” The Killing Game (1967, above), a collaboration with the late Belgian illustrator Guy Peellaert.

Even small Belgian museums have nice collections of fine art

Beached Fish (1643), a painting by Frans Rijckhals

Beached Fish (1643), a painting by Frans Rijckhals


Over the weekend, while visiting a Robert Doisneau exhibition (he also did montages/collages![1]), I wound up in the permanent collection of the Museum of Ixelles and was surprised by Beached Fish (1643) by Dutch painter Frans Rijckhals (above). The painting is somewhat surreal as the fish (and the lobster to its right) is clearly oversized in comparison to the people in the left hand bottom corner.

See Surrealism avant la lettre.

Also see Stranded Sperm Whale by Dutch artist Jan Saenredam (1565–1607), satirized in Le Phallus phénoménal.