Category Archives: avant-garde

Death by bisection or dismemberment (excluding decapitation)

The final frontier in cinephilia is silent cinema.

I just discovered Ménilmontant.


Opening scene of Ménilmontant (no intertitles, a flurry of quick close-up shots depicting an axe murder)

Ménilmontant (1926) is a silent film by Russian film director Dimitri Kirsanoff. His best-known work, it takes its name from the Paris neighborhood of the same name. The film is a silent, but does not contain any intertitles. It begins with a flurry of quick close-up shots depicting the axe murder (see death by bisection or dismemberment (excluding decapitation)) of the parents of the protagonists, two girls. As young women, they are portrayed by Nadia Sibirskaïa, Kirsanoff’s first wife, and Yolande Beaulieu; their mutual love interest is played by Guy Belmont. The film uses many other techniques that were relatively new at the time, including double exposure.

Tracing the European avant-gardes in intimate detail

Salopes by Paul Joostens by you.

“Salopes ou le quart heure de rage au soleil” by Paul Joostens

Part of the fun of having my own wiki is being to able to trace the things I find in intimate detail and thus not only arriving (as in this case) at the Antwerp underground, the Belgian avant-garde and abstract art in Belgium but eventually arriving at a European and even worldwide encyclopedia of the avant-gardes.

What came before.

Three weeks ago I discovered a cover illustration by Paul Joostens entitled Salopes (bitches in French) published by Belgian avant-garde publisher Ca Ira!.

Today I finished my entry on Ca Ira!, a who’s who of the Belgian avant-garde.

Ca Ira! was an Antwerp based Belgian publisher who published Clément Pansaers‘s L’apologie de la paresse [1] in 1922. The title Ça ira comes from a song of the French Revolution (Ah! ça ira, translated as: “We will win!”).

Ca Ira! also published work by Paul Neuhuys, Han Ryner, Paul Colin, Céline Arnauld, Picabia, René Arcos, Wies Moens, Charles Plisnier, Romain Rolland, Theo Van Doesburg, Stendhal, Pascal Pia, Renée Dunan, Frans Masereel, Piet Mondriaan, André Salmon and Jean Cocteau.

Ca Ira! was also the title of a monthly magazine that featured avant-garde art, literature and politics. It was founded by a group of young artists, who came out of the smoking war-wrecked world of 1919 with a new élan. Twenty editions were published between April 1920 and January 1923 under the direction of Maurice van Essche, Paul Neuhuys and Willy Koninckx.

The members (many of whom later achieved great fame and notoriety) included Paul Colin, Theo van Doesburg, the young poet Maurice Van Essche, Abel Lurkin, Paul Neuhuys, Arthur Pétronio, Charles Plisnier, Han Ryner, while very appealing dada and expressionist woodcuts and linotypes were added by Floris Jespers, Paul Joostens, Frans Masereel, Jan Cockx, Jozef Cantré, Karel Maes and Jozef Peeters. One finds incidental contributions by Paul Van Ostaijen, Paul Éluard, Francis Picabia, Ezra Pound, Iwan Goll, Blaise Cendrars and Lajos Kassák.

Placeholder for Icon of erotic art #34


La Fleuve (1913) – Leon Spilliaert

Ghent today, lovely work by Leon Spilliaert, very sensual, very erotic though not in a stroky way.

Unfortunately permission was not granted to photograph this work.

The work depicts a seated female, seen from behind left from a birdseye perpective. This point of view accentuates here pear-like voluptuousness. The tone is dark, reminiscent of Gauguin’s Tahitian ladies.

The woman is seated on a rock overlooking the sea. Just as the Danish Mermaid [1] protects the city of Copenhagen, this siren has been protecting the imaginary coast of the Belgian seaside since 1913.


Click for credits

One day I will find a decent online copy of this painting and point you to it. For now, please accept the substitute.

In the meantime, let me show you these:


Introducing Wim T. Schippers

Wim T. Schippers by Marco Raaphorst

Wim T. Schippers

This post is mainly intended for people living in Antwerp or the environs.

Tonight, “Pollens, wat een heisa!,” an homage to Dutch artist Wim T. Schippers starts at the Monty in Antwerp.

There are many things to be said about Wim T. Schippers, but since I write this blog in English and most of my readers are from all over the globe, these things will be of interest to few. Suffice it to start by saying that Schippers belongs to the Dutch Dada tradition.

Digression #1

I say Dada because Surrealism is to weak a word; and it can be agreed upon that surrealism was not but an insipid decoction of Dada; Dada having the chronological benefit of course. On the other hand, I realize there is no use bemoaning the insipidness of Surrealism, since Surrealism was its best possible replacement. Nevertheless, Surrealism to my liking has always been too formalistic and dogmatic.

In discussing Schippers, a number of comparisons are called for. In the Dutch language geographical area, we have Doctorandus P. whom I celebrated here[1] and [2] and who is most certainly a precursor of Schippers. Internationally, one can compare Schippers to Monty Python.

Famous banana clip (I can’t hear you, I have a banana in my ear!)

Now the force of Schippers resides in his mainstream influence, most Dutch-speakers know him without knowing him, he is voice actor of a number of voices of the local version of Sesame Street, most famously Ernie. In The Netherlands he is also known by face as the presenter of a popular science quiz show.

Outside of some dim recollections of his 1970s TV shows, he crossed my personal path each Wednesday afternoon when I listened to his radio show on VPRO (Schippers in the persona of Jacques Plafond (Eng: Jacques Ceiling) [3]. These shows were hilariously irreverent. It was love at first sight.

Garage, Haarleem by Andy Field (Hubmedia)

Shit, I forgot my car, from a Sjef Van Oekel comic

Later still, there were the comics of Sjef Van Oekel, the brain of which was again Schippers.

In Belgium, the Dutch-speaking part where I live, there are two soul brother of Schippers: Kamagurka and Herr Seele. And perhaps Hugo Matthysen.

To conclude: Schippers is the nobrow example and canonical to this blog, even if you’ve never heard of him, try to find his equivalent in your country.

Ernies Drol by Laurens Bontes

Ernie’s drol (Ernie’s Turd)

photo Laurens Bontes

Much better than the similar work of Paul McCarthy

Going to the Dogs -Part 01 – This is the famous play for dogs by Dutch Wim T. Schippers.


The song “Pollens, wat een heisa!,” from which the homage’s title was taken. Notice the naked ladies towards the end


Phil Bloom, reading the news naked, in 1967 on national television.

Happy 60th birthday Glenn Branca

Lesson 1 for Electric Guitar

Lesson 1 for Electric Guitar

American musician Glenn Branca turns 60 today.

Branca is an avant-garde composer and guitarist of the New York “downtown music” and “No Wave” scene. He first came to international attention with his early work on 99 Records such as Lesson 1 for Electric Guitar, his production of Theoretical Girls and his contributions to the soundtrack of The Belly of an Architect, a 1987 British film directed by Peter Greenaway.

See Branca live[1] in 1978.

See also Music of New York City.

Whither now, anarchitecture?


Some Office Baroque footage, Some footage similar to Office Baroque

Gordon Matta-Clark died thirty years ago today. He stayed in Antwerp for a while in 1977, just before his death, working with Florent Bex, creating Office Baroque, which he called anarchitecture. Pieces of his “building cuts” were sold around the world[1].

I like him, much as I like the near-contemporary and also short-lived Robert Smithson. Whither now, anarchitecture, and other visionary environments?

“Because he had a hairy backside”

Drowning in the Loire by Order of the Fierce Carrier

drownings of Carrier

Prompted by my post on the drownings of Carrier and esp. Paul Rumsey‘s gracious comments[1], Drowning by Numbers by Peter Greenaway is WCC #60.


Documentary (1/3) on Drowning by Numbers

Drowning by Numbers is a 1988 film directed by Peter Greenaway.

The film’s plot centers on three women — a grandmother, mother and daughter — each named Cissie Colpitts. As the story progresses each woman successively kills her husband, out of dissatisfaction with them, one Cissie stating: “Because he had a hairy backside“.

The structure, with similar stories repeated three times, is reminiscent of a fairy tale. The link to folklore is further established by Madgett’s son Smut, who recites the rules of various fictional games played by the characters as if they were ancient traditions.

The musical score is by Michael Nyman, and is entirely based on themes taken from the slow movement of Mozart‘s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, K364. Nyman had previously used this piece as the basis for part of the score for Greenaway’s The Falls. It is heard in its original form immediately after each drowning.

Greenaway himself says:

The pretence that numbers are not the humble creation of man, but are the exacting language of the Universe and therefore possess the secret of all things is comforting, terrifying, and mesmeric…Counting is the most simple and primitive of narratives – 12345678910 – a tale with a beginning, a middle and an end and a sense of progression – arriving at a finish of two digits – a goal attained, a denouement reached…The magic of the women – why do they come in threes? To mock the patriarchal theological Trinity? Three sirens, three graces, three muses, and three witches…The women count. They count as a protective talisman. It becomes a funeral chant, a palliative. Counting is like taking aspirin – it numbs the sense and protects the counter from reality. Counting makes even hideous events bearable as simply more of the same – the counting of wedding-rings, spectacles, teeth and bodies disassociates them from their context – to make the ultimate obscene blasphemy of bureaucratic insensitivity. Engage the mind with numbing recitation to make it empty of reaction. —Peter Greenaway

Manny Farber (1917 -2008)

Manny Farber is dead, reports the film blog Elusive Lucidity[1].

Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies (1971) – Manny Farber [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Manny Farber (1917, Douglas, Arizona, United StatesAugust 17, 2008) was an American painter and early nobrow film critic. He taught at the University of California San Diego alongside Raymond Durgnat, Jean-Pierre Gorin and Jonathan Rosenbaum.

His film criticism has appeared during stints at The New Republic (late 1940s), Time (1949), The Nation (1949-54), New Leader (1958-59), Cavalier (1966), Artforum (1967-71). He has also contributed to Commentary, Film Culture, Film Comment, and City Magazine. He contributed art criticism to The New Republic and The Nation during the 1940s through 1950s.

His 1957 essay “Underground films: a bit of male truth” coined the term underground film.

In his essay “White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art” originally published in 1962, he eloquently championed B film and under-appreciated auteurs and coined several terms, such as termite art and monsterpieces.

Postwar film critics and theorists of his stature have included Parker Tyler, Edgar Morin, Amos Vogel, Ado Kyrou and Raymond Durgnat while his closest ally in music criticism was the untimely departed Lester Bangs.

Most of Farber’s film writing has been collected in Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies (depicted above).

Sly as a fox, or, picaros avant la lettre

One more film for Paul Rumsey’s cinematheque: Le Roman de Renard.

The Tale of the Fox, as the film is known in English, was stop-motion animation pioneer Ladislas Starevich‘s first fully-animated feature film. It is based on the tales of Flemish picaro avant-la-lettre Renard the Fox.


Le Roman de Renard

Lords, you have heard many tales,
That many tellers have told to you.
How Paris took Helen,
The evil and the pain he felt
Of Tristan that la Chevre
Wrote rather beautifully about;
And fabliaux and epics;
Of the Romance of Yvain and his beast
And many others told in this land
But never have you heard about the war
That was difficult and lengthy
Beween Renart and Ysengrin