Monthly Archives: July 2014

World Art Classic #462

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the work and person of Marina Abramović, but yesterday, while leafing through a book titled Love I stumbled upon a photo of Rest Energy, a 1980 performance piece by Marina and Ulay.

I was immediately taken by it.

I’d seen it before, but had forgotten about it.

I do think it works better as a photo than as a film.

It is World Art Classic #193.

I shop therefore I am

It makes little sense to talk about consumerism since consumerism is a pejorative (a third of the -isms are) and implies anti-consumerism.

So all talk of consumerism is talk of anti-consumerism.

Which brings me to the film above, which I suspect to feature strains of anti-consumerism. I speak of a Russian film about the Paris Commune which was titled The New Babylon.

I once[1] posted a lovely still of this film of a woman with a gun and a mannequin.

The New Babylon of the title of this film refers (I just learned) to a shopping mall, with the same title.

Shopping malls are paradises of consumerism.

The earliest shopping malls were arcades, admirably staged by Walter Benjamin in the Arcades Project and exemplified by The Crystal PalaceWindow shopping without getting wet! A feast of artificialitySociety of the spectacle!

I shop therefore I am.

A full version of The New Babylon is now on YouTube (above).

A milestone in the history of subversion

Discovering Amos Vogel‘s Film as a Subversive Art (1974) was a blast and leafing through the book today still is a thrill (see for example a still I posted on my new NSFW tumblr blog). The book is a milestone in the history of subversion.

Now online is Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16 (UK, 2003) , a documentary about Amos Vogel (1921 – 2012) and the film society Cinema 16.

On vandalism


The Wikipedia bio of Guy Debord says “Guy attended high school in Cannes, where he began his interest in film and vandalism.”

I wonder where that came from.

But the Wikipedia article is right, of course, Debord was a vandal, whether he practiced it or not. For example, his movement was the seat of organizations like the Scandinavian Institute of Comparative Vandalism. Moreover, in The Society of the Spectacle, Debord praised “General Ludd”.

I used to be a practicing vandal too when a malcontent teenager.

And I’m still in favor of creative destruction.

I started thinking about vandalism when I researched dérive, which revolves around the “improper use” of certain city quarters, using them for something they were not intended for; and détournement, which is just one step away from vandalism.

I was also reminded of the surrealist architectural project Experimental Research into Certain Possibilities of Irrational Embellishment of a City.

And then the story of Gustave Courbet and the Vendome Column came to mind, “the century’s most radical artistic art,” according to the pamphlet “The Revolution of Modern Art and the Modern Art of Revolution“.

But the ‘Vendome Column’ episode was a tragic one for Gustave Courbet, really.

It ruined Courbet.

Just before he died.

‘In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni’ by Guy Debord is ‘world cinema classic’ #187

In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (1978, Guy Debord) is world cinema classic #187

I watched all of this film yesterday, sparked by a renewed interest in Guy Debord, who I probably discovered in June 1994 (exactly 20 years ago) via the Wired article by R. U. Sirius on French theory, back in the day when Wired was a cool magazine.

There are several reasons why the life and work of Guy Debord should quicken your imagination:

  1. The cover of his book Mémoires is made of sandpaper to maximize damage to neighboring books when placed in and out the library shelf.
  2. His anti-film Howlings in Favour of de Sade consists of black and white screens (no images) during 52 minutes.
  3. His citing of Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity.
  4. He is the protagonist of the excellent read Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century.
  5. He defined the term psychogeography and practiced la dérive and détournement.

I also posted two ‘Debord’ photos[1] [2] on Tumblr.

American grotesque

American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen (2014)
[] [FR] [DE] [UK]

I discovered the work of American photographer William Mortensen in May 2005 via the photo Human Relations. It is the photo of the face of a man whose eyes are gouged out by the pointing fingers of one hand.

Coming November Feral House is to publish American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen.

A fitting title.

Although it could also have been named American Surrealism …

When I think about the American grotesque, I think of Poe and Bierce, of Weegee and Arbus, of Ren and Stimpy.

And perhaps now of William Mortensen.

PS. On the cover is L’Amour, an offshoot of the dark fin de siècle fascination with human female/ape contact.