Monthly Archives: April 2008

Eye candy #12

Yaccov Agam- Night over Jerusalem,silkscreen on plexi, 40X52 cm

Night over Jerusalem (1980s) by Yaacov Agam

It only rarely happens that a living artist releases work into the public domain. Yet it is precisely what happened to the work displayed above. Agam is an Israeli artist born in 1928, known for his kinetic art pieces.

This work brings up visions of Tati’s Playtime.

Tip of the hat to A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes, which arrived in the mail this morning and the artists of which I am adding to my wiki. Lots of “concrete poetry” and “sound art” artists in this book.

I’m normally not very much into the rectangular modern art stuff, but this is a very “warm” piece, what do you think?

Cult fiction #4

[FR] [DE] [UK]

Horror Panegyric is a 2008 book by Keith Seward which looks at the Lord Horror stories published by Savoy Books (David Britton and Michael Butterworth). The cover design is by British illustrator John Coulthart.

Lord Horror is the most recent work of literature after Last Exit to Brooklyn to be banned in England and obliged Britton to serve a term in a British prison.

Colin Wilson, in a review of the Lord Horror series remarked:

“I think that, as an exercise in Surrealism, Lord Horror compares with some of the best work that came out of France and Germany between the wars, for example Georges Bataille. The book has some brilliantly funny passages, particularly about Old Shatterhand. Britton is undoubtedly brilliant, but when I came to the bit about Horror hollowing out a Jewess’s foot and putting it over his penis, I started skipping. With the best will in the world, I couldn’t give his brilliant passages the attention they deserve because I kept being put off by this note of violence and sadism. No doubt it is because I belong to an older generation that is still basically a bit Victorian.”

Tip of the hat to Paul Rumsey.

What Andrew Keen does not understand

Via a local newspaper last Friday I was introduced to the reactionary thought of Andrew Keen (a self-proclaimed “leading contemporary critic of the Internet”) who is doing a book tour through Europe to launch his 2007 book The Cult of the Amateur in which – among other things – he states that “real” writers do not blog. A conspirator of thought of Keen, Marshall Poe, states that Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia, but a repository of common knowledge.”

Both Andrew Keen and Marshall Poe completely miss the point of blogging, Wikipedia and the nature of the internet in general. Even more, it’s not just that they don’t understand. The fact is is that they are fundamentally and ethically wrong.

1) A. Keen and M. Poe underestimate the importance of information access in the third and fourth worlds (and poor people everywhere) to a repository of books, encyclopedias and common knowledge:

Extremely knowledgeable people are paraphrasing information from a canonical list of books into Wikipedia, towards a new and yet unseen educational perennialism . People in such countries as Chad, Burkina Faso now have access to verifiable info and would not have it, if it were not for Wikipedia.

2) A. Keen and M. Poe underestimate the importance of common knowledge.

Common knowledge is good. We need common ground when discussing subjects. An encyclopedia=common knowledge copied from books (or from expert’s own minds). When Marshall Poe states that “Wikipedia is … not an encyclopedia, but a repository of common knowledge,” he forgets that people such as David Hume before him stated that “nothing is more usual than for philosophers to encroach on the province of grammarians, and to engage in disputes of words, while they imagine they are handling controversies of the deepest importance and concern.”

3) A. Keen and M. Poe fail to see what makes Wikipedia an interesting place for people who do have access to physical libraries:

For those of us who live in the First World, who do have access to the physical books, Wikipedia discloses info on the nature of knowledge and the social construction of knowledge via such features as the “what links here” and “disambiguation” pages.

I do not feel that strongly about points 2 and 3, which is intellectual nitpicking which makes no difference to the stomachs of people in the world, but point one, information access in the third and fourth worlds, is something I feel very strongly about and leads me to conclude that Keen and Poe do not have their hearts in the right places.


Jan, Joost and our stuffed dog

Me, my brother and our stuffed dog

Reminiscent is one of my favorite adjectives. It says all and so little. To describe something as “reminsicent of” always requires the reader to know the item it reminds one of. Auctorial descriptives belong in the category “reminiscent of.”

This post’s meaning of reminiscent falls in to the category: memoirs. The photo was taken by Janice, the sister of my then-girlfriend Mireille and it portrays me, my brother Joost and our stuffed dog.

My brother and I got the stuffed dog at the auction house we worked at, we were in our very early 20s at the time and we lived in a small apartment in the Bestormingstraat, Antwerp, which we rented for very cheap, about 100 Eur per month. We used to put the dog outside on the window sill of our apartment, people thought it was real dog and sometimes signaled us that we had accidentally forgotten our dog “outside” on our second-floor apartment.

My heart is made of asbestos

Madam Satan French poster

Madam Satan French poster

Madam Satan

Madam Satan American poster

I love apparent antonyms and verbal incongruities combined in one little phrase, tucked close to each other as tiny juxtapoems.

Two examples that come to mind are Madam Satan and Monsieur Vénus.

I’ve mentioned Monsieur Vénus before.

Today, a little about Madam Satan.

The film came first my attention via the French poster depicted at the now offline French site dedicated to “le fantastique” in film. The superb dress was designed by Adrian.


Watch out honey, you’ll get burned.

Don’t worry, my heart is made of asbestos.

Erutarettil, or, Treasures from the Antwerp library

I went to the Permeke library in the center of Antwerp yesterday evening and loaned these:

Two of these books I had already loaned, the work by Rachleff, which is excellent, and the sublime Sade / Surreal, which I’ve mentioned before here. Sade/Surreal is a pricey book (a French bookseller currently wants more than 300 EUR for it, but a German vendor is currently letting it go for less than 40 Euros, which is a bargain, if you have deep pockets, consider buying it for me as a present). For the last hour of so, I’ve been updating my wiki with the names found on the opening and closing pages of the book (pictured below), which reads like a who’s who of Sadean thought, a summa sadeica, as it were.

Sade Surreal inside page

Opening and closing page of Sade/Surreal

There were only a couple of names I could not identify, any help is welcome: Retz (either Gilles de Rais, or the cardinal with the same name, Young (perhaps Mr. Young of Night Thoughts?), de Saint Martin, Bertrand (probably Aloysius Bertrand ?) and Constant (Constantin Meunier?). The rest is indentified.

Also in the same book is the engraving below, which I find lovely, like a cake-building or a building of collapsing blubbery wet clay.

Tomb of Pompeii by Jean-Baptiste Tierce, 1766

Tomb of Pompeii by Jean-Baptiste Tierce, 1766

American academics down on their knees kissing French bums

[FR] [DE] [UK]

I am re-reading Sex, Art, and American Culture by Paglia after my brother salvaged a copy from the dustbin. It must have been 4 years since I first read it and I understand a lot more. The vehement attack on “French theory” now surprises me in the sense that she mainly focuses on Foucault, Derrida and Baudrillard without mentioning what are imo the truly great French theorists: Barthes, Deleuze, Bataille. I know from a Salon q&a[1] that she doesn’t even like Bataille. Really! Re-read him Camille! In that short 1997 q&a she notes that she “was deeply disappointed in Bataille from the moment I picked up his books. His themes are my themes, his influences (in many cases) my influences.” She does confess to like Sade, Gautier, Balzac, Baudelaire, Huysmans, Sartre (whom I find difficult to stomach), de Beauvoir, Genet and Bachelard.

Of course her style is offensive (and I suspect it has had some re-writing in subsequent editions). As a European I find the following derogatory remarks on the French post-wwii-climate difficult to swallow (but funny anyhoo):

“Of course the French felt decentered: they had just been crushed by Germany. American G.I.’s (including my uncles) got shot up rescuing France when she was lying flat on her face under the Nazi boot. Hence it is revolting to see pampered American academics down on their knees kissing French bums.”

Nevertheless, Paglia strikes me time and time again as a great intellectual with an amount of books read which seems astronomical and a very astute power of analysis: how she equates Foucault’s taxonomy to Primitive Classification by Mauss and Durkheim and Foucault’s Discipline and Punish to Durkheim‘s The Division of Labour in Society.

This reading also brought Arnold Hauser‘s The Social History of Art to my attention.

Sex, Art, and American Culture is a sensible buy for someone who wants to brush up on cultural history from an irreverent but yet well-read perseptive.

On a different note, and only for a Dutch-reading public: the publication of Hermans-Reve correspondence is imminent. Hermans was brilliant and Reve a bit of a bore, at one point Hermans decided not to continue the correspondence. Read more at The Paper Man.