Sid Haig was an American actor known for his parts in Jack Hill’s exploitation fare (Spider Baby (1968), Coffy (1973), Foxy Brown (1974)). He also had a part in THX 1138 (1971), the science fiction film directed by George Lucas in which in a dystopian future the populace is controlled through mandatory use of drugs that suppress emotions.
“Ugly, ruddy faced, usually bald, and occasionally bearded — he looks like an original member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention — Haig has been a seedy presence in low-budget, sex- and action-packed drive-in movies since the mid-sixties.”
Above is Spider Baby (1968) in which Haig is Ralph, one of three inbred, demented, and dangerous siblings. Ralph is a sexually advanced, but mentally deficient simpleton who moves through the house via the dumb-waiter. Unable to speak, Ralph communicates with only grunts and leers.
The siblings are introduced by their guardian as:
“Well, no. It’s more than a retardation. It’s sort of a regression, a progressive deterioration of the mental faculties, a rotting of the brain, so to speak. It begins in late childhood and progresses rapidly, ultimately resulting in physical deformity, rather like the last stages of paresis […] The unfortunate result of … inbreeding.”
I own ‘Designing Tomorrow ‘ the first of these booklets, in the magazine edition, in very good condition. I’m selling it for 100 euros, contact me if you are interested.
This is a good occasion to delve into the historiography of biomorphism:
The term biomorph was coined in 1895 by anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon in his book Evolution in Art, in which he stated that “the biomorph is the representation of anything living in contradistinction to the skeuomorph, which […] is the representation of anything”.
One year later, British writer Geoffrey Grigson uses the term biomorphism in two essays: in the short “Comment on England” (1935) he notes that “abstractions are of two kinds, geometric […] and biomorphic,” and observes that the way forward are the biomorphic abstractions; in the chapter “Painting and sculpture” in The Arts Today (1935), he describes the term biomorphic as “no bad term for the paintings of Miro, Hélion, Erni and others, to distinguish them from the modern geometric abstractions and from rigid Surrealism.”
Another year later, in 1936, New York art historian Alfred H. Barr Jr. in the catalogue of his 1936 exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art, borrowed Grigson’s term without acknowledgement and noted that there is a secondary current in abstract art wich stems from Gauguin and Matisse and is “intuitional and emotional rather than intellectual; organic or biomorphic rather than geometrical in its forms; curvilinear rather than rectilinear, decorative rather than structural, and romantic rather than classical in its exaltation of the mystical, the spontaneous and the irrational.” He mentions the work of Joan Miró and Jean Arp and concludes: “the shape of the square confronts the silhouette of the amoeba.” Barr elegantly points to the major faultlines in 20th century art, which run along the axes ‘straight lines vs curvilinearity’, ‘wit vs seriousness’, and ‘cult of beauty vs cult of ugliness’ (or sexuality vs asexuality).
For a historiography of these early beginnings of biomorphism, consult Biocentrism and Modernism (2017).
Colani is dead. The last persons in my database alive in 1928 are philosopher Noam Chomsky, anthropologist Desmond Morris, musician Ennio Morricone and photographer William Klein.
Of that book, which was criticized at the time with the words “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness” by mainstream media, a criticism that by the way, became the hallmark of a new aesthetic in photography: the new snapshot aesthetic.
My fave picture of that collection is the photo of three gay men, looking defyingly into the camera. Behind them is a sign which reads ‘Don’t Miss Mister Instin …’.
Johnston’s cult status was propelled when Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain wore a T-shirt at the 1992 MTV music awards that featured artwork from Johnston’s 1983 album Hi, How Are You, a T-shirt that music journalist Everett True had given him. Cobain listed Yip/Jump Music as one of his favorite albums in his journal in 1993.
Much of Daniel Johnston’s music has focused on the subject of unrequited love, revolving around his own experiences with Laurie Johnson, an early obsession. Notably is “Urge” (above) on 1981’s Songs of Pain.
He came to my attention via local left-wing thinkers such as Ico Maly, Stephen Bouquin, Mark Saey and Jan Blommaert.
Wallerstein is famous for his world systems theory, a grand narrative-type historiography.
I like grand narratives, so that’s not the problem.
But I have three objections. 1) Wallerstein appears to be an political activist just as much as a scientist, 2) Wallerstein suggests that imperialism is a purely European and capitalist phenomenon and 3) I do not believe that the pre-eminence of Europe and the west (the so-called “European miracle” or the “great divergence“) is only due to the exploitation of its colonies.
1) Wallerstein literally states:”I do not believe there exists any social science that is not committed.” —The Modern World-System, volume 1, 1974
To note that empires go back to the dawn of history may seem a truism, but in fact it is no trivial assertion. Some insist, for example, that “imperialism, which peaked around the end of the nineteenth century, is somehow an invention or by-product of modern capitalism—in Lenin’s words, “the highest stage of capitalism.” Building on this, they argue that empire was necessary (indispensable) to the prosperity and survival of modern capitalism. The tenacity of this belief can be measured by a copious literature averring that imperialism aimed above all at material gain, even where it manifestly cost and lost.History belies such intrinsic links to capitalism. Consider the ancient empires of Egypt, China, Assyria, Persia, Rome, etc.; or, in modern times, the late, unlamented Communist-Socialist empire of the Soviet Union. That so much ink has been spilled on this issue reflects the need to discredit the imperialists and capitalists by way of encouraging resistance and revolution. They’re in it for the money—what can be worse? Meanwhile bad definitions and explanations lead to bad conclusions.”
“Clearly, the common view of imperialism as a Western invention and monopoly visited on non-European peoples is wrong.”
3) While I do believe that colonization contributed to Europe’s wealth (and the “European miracle” or the “great divergence”), I doubt that it is the only reason for its wealth.
First a summary from Wallerstein’s world-system:
Immanuel Wallerstein characterised the world system as a set of mechanisms, which redistributes surplus value from the periphery to the core. In his terminology, the core is the developed, industrialized part of the world, and the periphery is the “underdeveloped”, typically raw materials-exporting, poor part of the world; the market being the means by which the core exploits the periphery.
To paraphrase: the world-system (the first world and the other countries) redistributes wealth from the periphery (the third world) to the core countries (the first world).
“The historians debate these matters [concerned with the “European miracle”], the questions “why” and “when,” but not the question “whether” — whether a miracle happened at all. Or, to be more precise, they do not even consider the possibility that the rise of Europe above other civilizations did not begin until 1492, that it resulted not from any European superiority of mind, culture, or environment, but rather from the riches and spoils obtained in the conquest and colonial exploitation of America and, later, Africa and Asia. This possibility is not debated at all, nor is it even discussed, although a very few historians (notably Janet Abu-Lughod, Samir Amin, Andre Gunder Frank, and Immanuel Wallerstein) have come close to doing so in very recent years.”
So “European superiority” results from “the riches and spoils obtained in conquest and colonial exploitation of American and, later, Africa and Asia?” I doubt it. I follow Landes and Jones in these matters, but not totally.
I sympathize with an in-between-model as proposed by Pomeranz in The Great Divergence (2000) as described by (P. H. H. Vries, 2001):
“that [The Great Divergence] pays more attention to connections than Landes almost goes without saying. Landes, in his magnum opus tends to completely neglect the role of “the rest” in the rise of the West. Pomeranz regards the part played by Europe’s periphery as crucial, without, however, simply rehearsing the kind of analysis that has become stock in trade of the world-systems school.”
While I do agree with critics of the West such as Wallerstein who state that we must not lose ourselves in self-aggrandizing theories of European superiority, we must also not do the reverse and wallow in oikophobia and conclude that Europe is a horrible place and eurocentrism is just as bad as racism (or its imaginary offspring cultural racism).
Another point I wish to make is that the limit of Wallerstein’s world-systems theory lies in its neglect of the cultural component. Like Marxism, it only factors in the economic components.
In fact, when I googled “Wallerstein” and “Huntington” I found this citation from Wallerstein’s The Decline of American Power (2003) which is not very consistent with his own world-system theory:
“We tend to think and to speak of Christianity as the “West” and Islam as the “East.” … Why? … We have had some answers recently that are well known to you. Samuel Huntington sees the West and Islam as two antithetical “civilizations” that are in long term political conflict. Edward Said sees Orientalism as a false construct erected for ideological reasons by the Western world, one both pervasive and pernicious in its effect. I prefer to approach the question another way and ask the question, why is it that the Christian world seems to have singled out the Islamic world as its particular demon, and not merely recently but ever since the emergence of Islam? Actually the reverse has probably also been true, that Islam has regarded Christianity as its particular demon.”
So, while Wallerstein says that he wants to approach the question answered by Samuel “clash of civilizations” Huntington in a different way, one would expect that he denies that there is a clash of civilizations. Yet, he simply says that the Christian world has singled out the Islamic world as its “demon” and that the Islamic world has chosen the west as its enemy. Is that not the same as saying that there is a clash of civilizations?
I want to conclude with an apocryphal dictum attributed to Leo Strauss who once suggested that if all cultures are relative, then cannibalism is a matter of taste.”
When I discovered Parliament-Funkadelic in the 1990s, part of the attraction was the visual style and the grand narrative holding the whole project together. This style was just as much due to George Clinton as to Pedro Bell.
A seminal text in his poetic oeuvre is from the sleeve notes of Standing on the Verge of Getting It On (1974):
“AS IT IS WRTTEN HENCEFORTH… On the Eighth Day, the Cosmic Strumpet of Mother Nature was spawned to envelope this Third Planet in FUNKADELICAL VIBRATIONS. And she birthed Apostles Ra, Hendrix, Stone, and CLINTON to preserve all funkiness of man unto eternity… But! Fraudulent forces of obnoxious JIVATION grew…only seedling GEORGE remained! As it came to be, he did indeed begat FUNKADELIC to restore Order Within the Universe. And nourished from the pamgrierian mammaristic melonpaps of Mother Nature, the followers of FUNKADELIA multiplied incessantly!”