Category Archives: underground

Lawrence Ferlinghetti @90

Lawrence Ferlinghetti @90

A Coney Island of the Mind by you.

A Coney Island of the Mind (1958)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born Lawrence Ferling on March 24, 1919) is an American poet, painter, Liberal, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. Author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration, he is best known for A Coney Island of the Mind.

A Coney Island of the Mind is a collection of poetry by Lawrence Ferlinghetti originally published in 1958 and dedicated to Carl Solomon. It contains some of Ferlinghetti’s most famous poems, such as I am Waiting, and Junkman’s Obbligato, which were created for jazz accompaniment (see jazz poetry). There are approximately a million copies in print of A Coney Island, and the book has been translated into over a dozen languages. It remains one of the best-selling and most popular books of poetry ever published.

Coney Island was written in the conservative post-war 1950s, and his poetry resonates with a joyful anti-establishment fervor.

Carl Solomon (1928-1993) was an American writer, artist and criminal. He was friend of Allen Ginsberg and an important inspiration for Ginsberg’s “Howl” (full title: “Howl for Carl Solomon.”). Ginsberg had met Solomon in the mental institution of Bellevue Hospital Center and became friends with him. Outside of being a member of the The Times Square Underworld, Solomon was a Dada and Surrealism enthusiast (he introduced Ginsberg to Artaud) who suffered bouts of depression.

Solomon wanted to commit suicide, but he thought a form of suicide appropriate to dadaism would be to go to a mental institution and demand a lobotomy. The institution refused, giving him many forms of therapy, including electroshock therapy. Much of the final section of the first part of “Howl” is a description of this.

Ginsberg admitted later this sympathy for Solomon was connected to bottled up guilt and sympathy for his mother’s condition (she suffered from schizophrenia and had been lobotomized), an issue he was not yet ready to address directly.

Although in style and theme Ferlinghetti’s  writing is very unlike that of the original New York based Beat circle, he had important associations with the Beat writers, who made City Lights Bookstore their headquarters when they were in San Francisco. He has often claimed that he was not a Beat, but a bohemian of an earlier generation. Over the years Ferlinghetti published work by most of the Beats, most notably Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs. He was Ginsberg’s publisher for over thirty years.

Nothing is true, everything is permitted

Grafitti subversion of the original phrase, from the photostream of Paul Neve

A post[1] by Valter on Lev Shestov’s influence on Georges Bataille leads me again to the aphorism Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted. I think I’ve known this phrase from my Wired days, but first absorbed it consciously last summer while reading Burroughs’s excellent Cities of the Red Night.

Research of the last hour:

“Nothing is true, all is permitted”: so said I to myself. Into the coldest water did I plunge with head and heart. Ah, how oft did I stand there naked on that account, like a red crab!Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted” is the famous aphorism attributed to Hassan i Sabbah.

The aphorism was first used by Friedrich Nietzsche in his 1880s work Thus Spoke Zarathustra (original German Nichts ist wahr, Alles ist erlaubt). Like Crowley‘s “‘Do what thou wilt’ shall be the whole of the law“, this phrase is often interpreted in its most literal sense to mean that objective reality does not exist (see relativism) and therefore that free will is unlimited. However, “Nothing is True and Everything is Permitted” is more widely interpreted to mean “there is no such thing as an objective truth outside of our perception; therefore, all things are true and possible”. It is a basic tenet in chaos magic and a core concept in discordianism and pirate utopias.

The aphorism is mentioned in the 1938 novel Alamut and in William Burroughs’s novel Cities of the Red Night. It is used as a credo on Axiom, Bill Laswell’s record label and alluded to in the title of Isis’s album In the Absence of Truth. Brion Gysin‘s biography is titled Nothing Is True – Everything Is Permitted: The Life of Brion Gysin.

P. S. Surya notes in his biography of Bataille that the phrase “nothing is true” originates with Dostoevski. There could be some truth in that since Dostoevski was born 20 years before Nietzsche.

“Sex Without Stress” is WMC #288

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OtuZjBc_H0

Sex Without Stress” by the Au Pairs

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. As I explained, I now do music on Facebook almost exclusively (join me there at Jan Geerinck with a brief note).

It’s been so long that I need to explain what WMC stands for: World music classics is an ongoing series of World Music Classics.

It had been a while since I’d heard “Sex Without Stress” by the Au Pairs.

Sex Without Stress” is a musical composition by the British post-punk band the Au Pairs first released in 1982. It was also released on their album Sense and Sensuality. The song is also featured on Stepping Out of Line: The Anthology.

From the lyrics:

“Would you like to express
your sex without stress?
Would you like to discover
physical conversations of different kinds?”

The Au Pairs were a post-punk band who formed in Birmingham in 1979. Musically they were very similar to bands such as Ludus, Gang of Four and the Delta 5. That is, the rhythm section was tight and funky (obvious influences were James Brown and Funkadelic), but the guitars were light and “scratchy” (like Subway Sect). All these bands shared a strongly left wing social outlook, but the Au Pairs stood out due to their frontwoman, Lesley Woods, being an outspoken feminist and lesbian: the band were greatly influential in this respect on the riot grrrl movement a decade later. Music historian Gillian G. Gaar noted in her history of women in rock (She’s A Rebel: The History of Women In Rock & Roll) that the band mingled male and female musicians in a revolutionary collaborative way as part of its outspoken explorations of sexual politics.

André Pieyre de Mandiargues @100

Yesterday would have been André Pieyre de Mandiargues‘s 100th birthday, had he not died in 1991.

Some quick finds:

Les Incongruités Monumentales by André Pieyre de Mandiargues by you.

Les Incongruités monumentales, Robert Laffont, 1948.

The Devil's Kisses, anthology edited by Linda Lovecraft

Featuring his story “The Diamond”Catelogue of Bellmer engravings prefaced by Les Incongruités Monumentales by André Pieyre de Mandiargues

Prefaced by Mandiargues

Le Merveilleux by Les Incongruités Monumentales by André Pieyre de Mandiargues

Arcimboldo le merveilleux, Robert Laffont, 1977.

His story La Marée and the 1967 novel La Marge were both made into film by Polish film director Walerian Borowczyk and it is de Mandiargues’s collection of pornographic items that is featured in Borowczyk’s Une collection particulière . He wrote several prefaces, amongst others to  Pauline Réage‘s Story of O and a catalogue raisonné of Hans Bellmer engravings.

La Motocyclette by Mandiargues

La Motocyclette

His novella La Motocyclette was the basis for Jack Cardiff‘s The Girl on a Motorcycle. He was also the author of works of non-fiction, such as a photography book devoted to Bomarzo entitled Les Monstres de Bomarzo and a book on Arcimboldo. His stories are collected in Le Musée Noir [The Black Museum] (1946) and Soleil des Loups [The Sun Of The Wolves] (1951).

His book Feu de braise (1959) was published in 1971 in an English translation by April FitzLyon called Blaze of Embers (Calder and Boyars, 1971).

One of his most controversial books is L’Anglais décrit dans le château fermé (1953).

Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye: the film

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daaKRAWTjJ8]

Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye is a 2004 American film adaptation of the 1928 novel by the French writer Georges Bataille. The film, directed by Andrew Repasky McElhinney, takes place in a seemingly abandoned house where a group of people engage in wordless acts of passion. The film covers a period from evening to morning, and the sexual couplings among the members of the house becomes increasingly harrowing as daylight arrives.

Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye began as a video installation before being reconfigured into a feature-length film. It had its New York theatrical premiere in September 2004, and its support was led by Dave Kehr of the New York Times, who wrote of the production; “This is transgression in a literal sense, an act of aggression that Bataille would no doubt have appreciated. This is not a movie for passive consumption, but a film that bites back.”

Stelarc’s third ear

Stelarc's Ear PORTRAIT taken by nina sellars by k0re.

Stelarc’s third ear, photo by Nina Sellars from the Flickr stream of  k0re

Stelarc’s third ear[1] is performance by Australian body artist Stelarc consisting of a subdermal implant of a cell-cultivated ear in his left arm, thus becoming a living example of transhumanism.

Alejandro Jodorowsky @70

Alejandro Jodorowsky (born 1929), Chilean artist and countercultural icon turns 70 today.

El Topo (1970) – Alexandro Jodorowsky [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Alejandro Jodorowsky (born 1929), Chilean artist and countercultural icon turns 70 today.

Like so many of us, we were first acquainted with Jodorowsky via a midnight screening of his psychedelic Western El Topo. In my case that must have been either at the Filmhuis Theater or at Cartoon’s. In fact, the film practically jumpstarted the genre of the midnight movie:

“In December 1970, Jonas Mekas was organizing one of his periodic festivals of avant-garde films at the Elgin, a rundown six hundred seat theater, not unlike the Charles, on Eighth Avenue just north of Greenwich Village. Although the program was laden with major avant-garde figures, the most widely attended screenings were those on the three nights devoted to the films of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The Elgin management took advantage of the hippie crowds to announce an added feature-Alexandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo to be shown at midnight because, as the first ad announced, it was “a film too heavy to be shown any other way.”” —Midnight Movies (1983)

El Topo[1]

El Topo (The Mole) is a 1970 Mexican allegorical, cult western movie and underground film, directed by and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky. Characterized by its bizarre characters and occurrences, use of maimed and dwarf performers, and heavy doses of Christian symbolism and Eastern philosophy, the film is about the eponymous character – a violent, black-clad gunfighter – and his quest for enlightenment.

El Topo was World cinema classic #28

Panic Movement

Researching Jodorowsky in the internet era, brought up the Panic Movement link.

The Panic Movement (Fr:Mouvement panique) was a collective formed in Paris in 1962 by Fernando Arrabal, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Roland Topor after casual meetings at the Parisian Café de la Paix. Inspired by and named after the god Pan, and influenced by Luis Buñuel and Antonin Artaud‘s Theatre of Cruelty, the group concentrated on chaotic performance art and surreal imagery.

In February 1962 Arrabal, Jodorowsky and Topor settle on the word panique. In September 1962, the word panique is printed for the first time: Arrabal publishes five récits “paniques” in André Breton’s periodical La Brèche.

The Panic Movement performed theatrical events designed to be shocking, as a response to surrealism becoming petite bourgeoisie and to release destructive energies in search of peace and beauty. One four-hour performance known as Sacramental Melodrama was staged in May 24 1965 at the Paris Festival of Free Expression.

Jodorowsky dissolved the Panic Movement in 1973, after the release of Arrabal’s book Le panique.

A flawed piece on the origins of dark cabaret

Hildegarde Knef

A flawed piece on the origins of the dark cabaret strain in the American entertainment industry, the roots of American cabaret in German cabaret and the aesthetics of death.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX30orkOScQ&]

Wieviel Menschen waren glücklich[1] is a 1970 musical composition interpreted by Hildegard Knef and released on Decca Records as the b-side to “Tapetenwechsel“.

Café Elektric

Click for credits

I’m cross-posting this from Facebook. It’s a very sad song and I associate it with boudoir noir[2] and dark cabaret traditions, along the current fad in music criticism: hauntology.

Hildegarde Knef, German actress, singer and writer, probably best-known outside of the Germanosphere for her interpretation of “Mackie Messer” and her performance in Die Sünderin. Along with Marlene Dietrich, she is most firmly associated with dark cabaret, a genre of music represented by The Dresden Dolls and Marilyn Manson(The Golden Age of Grotesque) but the aesthetics have older ancestors.

Hildegarde Knef in the German film Die Sünderin

Click for credits

Two iconic images illustrate dark cabaret: the album cover to Swordfishtrombones[3] and the Charlotte Rampling‘s cabaret scene in The Night Porter[4] [5], and here[6] in a Youtube clip. Note the suspenders both on Rampling and Waits.

In the history of cabaret, three or four local histories have been written: French cabaret (Le Chat Noir), German cabaret (Überbrettl) and American cabaret (Cabaret). British cabaret isn’t documented because in the United Kingdom cabaret has historically been called music hall and existed much longer, since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

The clearest mental image most of us have of cabaret is Liza Minelli in Cabaret with its iconic songs Willkommen[7] and “Life Is a Cabaret[8]. The imagery of this musical was inspired by German cabaret as witnessed by Anglo-American writer Christopher Isherwood in Goodbye to Berlin (1939) during the 1920s in Berlin.

Jo Steiner (1877-1935) - Manifesto per spettacolo di cabaret di Claire Waldoff, a Berlino, nel 1914.

Click for credits

So the archetypical American cabaret is rooted in German cabaret. German cabaret was the darkest of them all because it happened in 1920s Berlin, the birthplace of, literature (Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz, 1929), film (Lang, Metropolis, 1927 and M, 1931, Dietrich, Der blaue Engel, 1930 and German Expressionism), painting (Grosz, Circe [9], Dix, Großstadt-Triptych[10]), music (Weill, Threepenny Opera[11], 1928), criticism (Benjamin), philosophy/psychology (Jung), and fashion.

Most of these dark manifestations of Weimar’s culture were labelled degenerate and banned after Hitler’s rise to power.

Dietrich in The Blue Angel is the most iconic image of dark cabaret. The film was directed by Josef von Sternberg in 1930, based on Heinrich Mann‘s novel Professor Unrat. The film is considered to be the first major German sound film and it brought world fame to actress Marlene Dietrich. In addition, it introduced her signature song, Falling in Love Again (Can’t Help It). This song was originally entitled Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt[12] and was composed by Frederick Hollander for Der Blaue Engel. The English language words were written by Sammy Lerner, but are in no way a direct translation of the original.

Bettie Page (1923 – 2008)

Bettie Page, Bizarre nr. 14

If your interest goes just a little bit beyond vanilla sex, you’ve probably come across Bettie Page.

Bettie Page (April 22, 1923December 11, 2008) was an American model who became famous in the 1950s for her fetish modeling and pin-up photos, taken by Irving Klaw.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0Ynlp7sxZs]

American 2000s documentary

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysclVAOLOd8&]

Bettie’s Punishment

The whole of her is Icon of Erotic Art #38.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Poetry… But Were Afraid to Ask Timothy Leary

Goede Raad is Vuur

Goede Raad is Vuur (cover photograph: ‘De Toren van Babel‘ in Ruigoord by Marrit Dijkstra)

Goede Raad is Vuur is a Dutch language poetry anthology and at the same time a theory of poetry, first published by Simon Vinkenoog in 2004.

Simon Vinkenoog is the Dutch Timothy Leary, just as Jean-Jacques Lebel was the French Timothy Leary, see counterparts.

The book is the definitive guide to cult poetry and begs for a English translation.

These are the poets and theorists mentioned:

Gerrit Achterberg, Fadhil Al-Azzawi, Hans Andreus, Antonin Artaud, Charles Baudelaire, Hakim Bey, Breyten Breytenbach, C. Buddingh’, Remco Campert, Ernesto Cardenal, Hugo Claus, Jean Cocteau, Gregory Corso, e.e. cummings, Isidore Ducasse, Jan Elburg, Desiderius Erasmus, Clayton Eshleman, David Gascoyne, Guido Gezelle, Allen Ginsberg, Goethe, Jan Hanlo, Hermann Hesse, Johan Huizinga, Jos Joosten, Rutger Kopland, Gerrit Kouwenaar, D. H. Lawrence, Lucebert, Navaho, Ben Okri, Paul van Ostaijen, Brian Patten, Ilja Leopard Pfeijffer, Sybren Polet, Ezra Pound, Rainer Maria Rilke, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Rodenko, Jalal al-Din Roemi, A.Roland Holst, Nanao Sakaki, Bert Schierbeek, Hans Sleutelaar, Gary Snyder, Fritz Usinger, Hans Verhagen, Dominique de Villepin, Eddy van Vliet, Tito de Vries, Alan Watts, Lew Welch and Walt Whitman.

In this collection for example: “The Right Mask” by Brian Patten in a Dutch translation more powerful than its English original:

One night a poem came up to a poet.
From now on, it said, you must wear a mask.
What kind of mask? asked the poet.
A rose mask, said the poem.
I’ve used it already, said the poet,
I’ve exhausted it.
Then wear the mask that’s made out of
a nightingale’s song, use that mask.
Oh, it’s an old mask, said the poet,
it’s all used up.
Nonsense, said the poem, it’s the perfect mask,
still, try on the god mask,
now that mask illuminates heaven.
It’s a tight mask, said the poet,
and the stars crawl about in it like ants.
Then try on the troubador’s mask, or the singer’s mask,
try on all the popular masks.
I have, said the poet, but they fit so easily.

Read the rest of this sublime poem here.