Pete Townshend and the Auto-destructive art of guitar-smashing
04.10.2014
07:33 am

Topics:
Art
Pop Culture

Tags:
The Who
Pete Townshend
Gustav Metzger

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Pete Townshend said it was an accident the first time he smashed his guitar. He was playing with The Who in a small cramped room at the Railway Hotel in Harrow, west London. The ceiling was damp with condensation, the room smoky, a smell of sweat and stale beer. The Who were playing “Smokestack Lightning,” “I’m a Man,” and “Road Runner” when:

I scrape the howling Rickenbacker guitar up and down my microphone stand, then flip the special switch I recently fitted so the guitar sputters and sprays the front row with bullets of sound. I violently thrust my guitar into the air—and feel a terrible shudder as the sound goes from a roar to a rattling growl; I look up to see my guitar’s broken head as I pull it away from the hole I’ve punched in the low ceiling.  It is at this moment that I make a split-second decision—and in a mad frenzy I thrust the damaged guitar up into the ceiling over and over again. What had been a clean break becomes a splinter mess. I hold the guitar up to the crowd triumphantly. I haven’t smashed it: I’ve sculpted it for them. I throw the shattered guitar carelessly to the ground, pick up my brand-new Rickenbacker twelve-string and continue the show….

This is Townshend recounting the first time he smashed a guitar in his autobiography Who I Am. It’s an event that Rolling Stone magazine considered so important that it was included in their list of “50 Moments That Changed Rock & Roll.”

When The Who played the Railway Hotel the following week, the audience expected Townshend to give a repeat performance of his guitar smashing. He didn’t. The next time Townshend smashed his guitar was at the Olympia Ballroom, Reading, in April 1965. This time it was done as a piece of self-promotion. The Who’s manager Kit Lambert had “invited Virginia Ironside (Daily Mail) and writer Nik Cohn along to this gig and briefed Pete to create an impression by smashing his £400 Rickenbacker, despite the expense.”

This he duly did, and Keith joined in by smashing his drums. However, Lambert had been waylaid in the bar with the journalists when this grand spectacle occurred and was reportedly horrified to find he had been taken at his word.

It wasn’t until 1966 that Townshend’s trademark guitar-smashing regularly became part of The Who’s performance right up to a concert at the Yokohama Stadium, Tokyo, Japan, where he smashed a gold Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster.
 

 
Over the years, Townshend has given various reasons as to why he first smashed his guitar in September 1964. He has claimed he deliberately did it because he “was determined to get the precious event noticed by the audience.”

Pete: I proceeded to make a big thing of breaking the guitar. I bounced all over the stage with it and I threw the bits on the stage and I picked up my spare guitar and carried on as though I really had meant to do it.

And he has also said it was “really meaningless”:

“I’ve often gone on the stage with a guitar and said, ‘Tonight, I’m not going to smash a guitar, and I don’t give a shit.’ And I’ve gone on, and every time I’ve done it. Basically, it’s a gesture that happens on the spur of the moment. It’s a performance, it’s an act, it’s an instant, and it’s really meaningless.”

“I thought, ‘It’s broken’” said Townshend. “‘Might as well finish it off.’”

But in his autobiography, Townshend ties his guitar-smashing into a more political act:

I had no idea what the first smashing of my guitar would lead to, but I had a good idea where it all came from. ... I was brought up in a period when war still cast shadows, though in my life the weather changed so rapidly it was impossible to know what was in store. War had been a real threat or a fact for three generations of my family…

I wasn’t trying to play beautiful music, I was confronting my audience with the awful, visceral sound of what we all knew was the single abso lute of our frail existence—one day an aeroplane would carry the bomb that would destroy us all in a flash. It could happen at any time. The Cuban Crisis less than two years before had proved that.  On stage I stood on the tips of my toes, arms outstretched, swooping like a plane. As I raised the stuttering guitar above my head, I felt I was holding up the bloodied standard of endless centuries of mindless war. Explosions. Trenches. Bodies. The eerie screaming of the wind.”

All this from one smashed guitar?
 

 
It’s undoubtedly good copy, and gives the young Townshend’s actions considerable cultural cachet, as The Who at this time were still little more than a pop band singing songs about white boy angst—music for young white working class kids who thought they were missing out on something, but weren’t quite sure what. By 1965, there was nothing particularly new about their music or their obsessions with girls, dancing, or their generation. But the association with Mods, and Townshend’s guitar-smashing gave the band an edge, which counterculture figures like Mick Farren would later see as making Townsend and The Who revolutionary figures offering a kind of leadership in the fight against a police state.

In the early sixties, Townshend had been a student at Ealing College of Art, where he attended classes given by the auto-destructive artist Gustav Metzger. In his autobiography, Townshend says he was “Encouraged too by the work of Gustav Metzger, the pioneer of auto-destructive art, I secretly planned to completely destroy my guitar if the moment seemed right.”

So, who is Gustav Metzger and what was his “auto-destructive art”?

Find out after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
What the backside of album cover art might look like
04.08.2014
11:06 am

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
Cover art


King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King
 
Flickr user Harvezt imagines what the backside of album cover art might look like. Interesting concept. I’ve never really thought about it before, but I’m glad someone else has.

Harvezt’s series is titled “The Dark Side of the Covers.“


Iron Maiden: Killers
 

Sonic Youth Goo
 

Deep Purple in Rock
 

Kraftwerk: Computer World
 

DIO: Dream Evil
 

Metallica: Master of Puppets
 

The Exploited: Let’s Start a War
 
Via Laughing Squid

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Tokyo manhole covers remind us that US cities just do not give a damn, comparatively speaking
04.07.2014
08:30 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Japan
sewage


 
I love New York, but New York is truly disgusting, and a lot of it is unbelievably ugly. The infrastructure is crumbling (dear god, the subways), and what little public beauty that isn’t as dilapidated as a Dickensian wedding dress is relegated to the neighborhoods of the rich and powerful. Even Central Park is largely maintained by private donations—it’s their back yard, they just let us visit. Most of the time I can ignore this. I fell in love with New York through movies like The Warriors, so I expect a certain post-apocalyptic aesthetic. But when I see something like photographer S. Morita’s collection of Japanese manhole covers—there are nearly 6,000 on the Flickr, I get a little emotional.

Nearly every industrialized city in the world lives atop a sewage system—a literal, man-made river system of shit and filth. The Japanese have managed to make the access-point to their shit-rivers really pretty! (So has Milan, by the way. My admiration for this kind of attention to detail and investment in (functional!) public art is certainly tinged with jealousy. Okay, maybe “not tinged.” Maybe more like “infected.” I am riddled with jealousy. We have an absurdly wealthy nation! We have creative people! We should have nice things too!
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Hilariously crude Japanese ‘fart battle scrolls’ from the Edo period
04.07.2014
05:13 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art

Tags:
Japanese fart scrolls

Fart battle scroll
 
Well blow me down! These fantastical, bizarre, hilarious scrolls date from the Edo period in Japan, which spanned the years 1603–1868 for those too lazy to Wikipedia it (I know because I Wikipedia’d it). Authorship for them is unknown, which leads me to believe that they were a very refined form of bathroom graffiti, like those beautiful Japanese ceramic figurines that used to appear in Playboy under the heading “Ribald Art” or something that would reveal the figure’s naughty lady parts if you turned it upside down.

At any rate, these things are a positive treat, featuring fleshy Japanese folks using the awesome power of their flatulence to zap kitty cats or an uprooted tree (!), while potential victims use fans to redirect the stinky gusts back at the perpetrators. Fart power on horseback! Some poor dude and his rice cooker are tossed upside down. Some farts can even break through protective screens. Who knew?

“Japanese battle fart scrolls” sounds weirdly serious, and they look a little bit serious too. But of course they are not, they appear to have been a form of satire (no duh), a way to vent frustration over this or that popular outrage.  Kenneth Henshall, in his A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower, isolates an example in which the target was those damned foreigners:
 

In any event, the rule of the shoguns, which had lasted for almost 700 years, was at an end. The foreign devils were back, and did not look like leaving. When these devils had first appeared, a popular cartoon, based on the Japanese tradition of “farting contests (he-gassen), had shown westerners being blasted away by Japanese farts. But such a scenario was, so to speak, just so much hot air. The foreign devils were not blown away. On the contrary, it was the foreigners who metaphorically speaking, had finally blown open the doors of the closed country. Western fart power had prevailed.

 
A couple of the scrolls have those black boxes to protect innocent eyes from the glories of the naked human body, we tucked those two way down at the bottom for that reason.
 
Fart battle scroll
 
Fart battle scroll
 
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Fart battle scroll
 
In 1992 Christie’s auctioned off a few of these delightful fart scrolls; they went for £935 (roughly $1750 in 1992 dollars, which translates to about $3,000 in today’s dollars). Pretty good for a few doodles of people farting, don’t you reckon?
 
via Tombolare
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
‘Tokyo Compression’: These images of Japanese commuters are not for the claustrophobic
04.03.2014
01:16 pm

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Japan


 
I’ve never been to Japan. My husband—who’s been there before and loves it—is always trying to convince me we should take a trip there. The thing is, I’m someone who suffers from a mild to not so mild claustrophobia. I have to sleep with the window open every night (even if it’s 20 degrees outside). The thought of airlessness, stuffy rooms or crowded subway cars freaks me the hell out. New York City can be too much for me, so I’ve always been leery of what might await me in the Land of the Rising Sun.

After viewing these photos by German photographer Michael Wolf of Japanese commuters in Tokyo… they kinda sealed the deal: I ain’t going to Japan. Or at the very least, I’m not taking public transportation.

Wolf’s series is called “Tokyo Compression.”
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
‘Nothing is secret’: The Art of Niki de Saint Phalle
04.03.2014
08:38 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Niki de Saint Phalle

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Most days, I walk past the Gallery of Modern Art, on Royal Exchange Square, in the heart of Glasgow. The GOMA building was originally a library, but since 1996, it has been a gallery. Each time I pass the building, I always notice the beautiful glass mosaic made by Niki de Saint Phalle that glitters on the exterior, triangular pediment of the building, which changes with the movement and color of the (admittedly mostly gray) sky, the light of buildings opposite, and the shadow of the traffic below. It sparkles like a jewel, always makes me happy and reminds me of the beautiful, passionate art of Niki de Saint Phalle.

The daughter of an aristocratic French banker and an American mother, De Saint Phalle was educated in America, where she first showed an interest in art by painting the fig leaves red on the statues at her school—it was an early sign of her desire to rebel against bourgeois conventions. In her late teens she began a modeling career and was featured on the cover of several fashion magazines. Having eloped with her childhood sweetheart, the writer Harry Matthews, de Saint Phalle gave birth to a daughter in 1951. However, she soon found marital bliss to be stifling, and perhaps also suffering from post-natal depression, the young mother had a nervous breakdown.

As part of her recuperation, de Saint Phalle was encouraged to take up painting. She was taught and influenced by the painter Hugh Weiss. After the birth of her second child in Spain in 1955, de Saint Phalle continued to work at her painting, leading to her first exhibition in 1956.

Niki de Saint Phalle believed she was condemned to reveal “every emotion, thought and experience” in her work.

“Everything is used. My time, great joys, tragedies and pains—it’s all my life, nothing is secret.

The documentary Niki de Saint Phalle: Introspections and Reflections examines the life and art of the artist, from her earliest paintings, through her performance and film work, to her iconic sculptures, which all made Niki de Saint Phalle one of the best known artists of the twentieth century.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Polish prison tattoos preserved in formaldehyde
04.03.2014
06:14 am

Topics:
Art
Crime

Tags:
tattoos


 
Fresh off the heels of my post on Frederik Ruysch’s creepy embalming art comes this disgusting/fascinating collection of preserved tattoos from Polish prisoners. Even before you get to the whole “stolen chunks of flesh” part of this collection, I’m always disturbed by the “poke-and-stick” kind of tattooing that most of these appear to be. I’ve seen poke-and-stick done with everything from glass shards to nails, and the “ink” could be anything from ash to a ball-point pen—there’s obviously a high risk of infection. (Not to be a snob, but I had my tattoos done like a respectable person—in a sterile environment by an old biker.)

It’s a crude, primitive art-form, but it’s hard for me to see these pieces, which were a part of some one’s actual body, completely removed from their former humanity. Still, the images are kind of fascinating. There’s basic old school flash, of course, but the juvenile, coarse pornographic images are even more interesting. Not all tattoos, even ones done in prison, represent some deeper meaning or cultural affiliation, but with some of these you have to wonder what possessed some one to risk infection for a dirty little doodle.
 

 

 

 
More tattoos after the jump…
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Down the rabbit-hole with Salvador Dali’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’
04.01.2014
09:35 am

Topics:
Art
Books

Tags:
Salvador Dali
Lewis Carroll

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It seems like a perfect match, the master of Surrealist painting, Salvador Dali illustrating a classic of nonsense literature, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In 1969, Dali produced thirteen illustrations for a special edition of Carroll’s book published by Maecenas Press-Random House, New York. Dali made twelve heliogravures of original gouaches for each of the book’s twelve chapters, and one engraving for the frontispiece. Dali’s work is startling and beautiful, but at times seems slightly unrelated to the original source material. Even so, they are quite delightful.
 
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Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’

 
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The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

 
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`Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); `now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off).

 
More of Dali’s illustrations for ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Woman decorates dog shit with strawberries, cream and Nutella to shame lazy pet owners
04.01.2014
07:36 am

Topics:
Amusing
Animals
Art
Food

Tags:
Dog Poop
Desserts


 
Theresa Ritchie of Peterhead, Aberdeenshire is decorating random dogs’ poo with strawberries, whipped cream, icing and sometimes Nutella in a bid to get lazy dog owners to clean up after their pets. Theresa hopes that her arts and crafts dogshit food styling skills will make dog owners aware “that someone is watching them.”

People in Peterhead are regularly stepping on dog mess on the pavements. I wanted to highlight the problem in an amusing way.

This shows people are watching dog owners who can’t be bothered to clean up after their pets. The food idea has showed that dog poo wasn’t being cleaned up by the council. It sometimes lies on the streets for around eight weeks.

I’m not entirely sure Theresa thought this one through. A) wouldn’t this be rather confusing to a toddler or young child? Would they eat it thinking it was a tasty dessert they found on the sidewalk? B) I’m thinking dogs would it eat, too. C) Ants. Lots of ants. Ants would love this… shit.


 
Via Arbroath and Evening Express.UK

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
N.W.A. alumnus Ice Cube waxes philosophical on modern architecture
04.01.2014
06:56 am

Topics:
Art
Design
Hip-hop

Tags:
architecture
Ice Cube
Eames


Ice Cube reenacting this famous photo of Charles Eames
 
A few days ago, a friend and I were discussing the bourgeois assumption that the “lower classes” do not enjoy “high art.” Part and parcel to this snobbery, there’s the idea that the wealthy are automatically “cultured,” a myth easily dispelled by a quick glance at the nouveau riche so often paraded on reality TV. Anyone can be tacky, but rich people have the means to really take tacky to its highest heights—and I say this as a long-standing fan of “tacky!”

Still, it’s always nice to learn that a former hardscrabble member of the hoi polloi has staked their claim to the artistic traditions of the monied, so I was pleased as punch to learn that Ice Cube has a penchant for modern architecture, specifically for modernist husband and wife duo, Charles and Ray Eames. Apparently Ice left El Lay to study architectural drafting at the Phoenix Institute of Technology before his career with N.W.A took off. The video below is a promotion for “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980,” an exhibit that ran from 2011 to 2012 at the Getty Institute. As Ice opines the beauty and dynamism of Los Angeles, the parallels between the prefab design of the Eames and rap are made obvious, when he declares, “They was doing mash-ups before mash-ups even existed.”

Nowadays the name “Ice Cube” can illicit a little bit of disdain in a certain crowd—his acting in family-friendly movies apparently cost him some kind of mythical “credibility.” But from the looks of the man in this video, he’s clearly still just a guy who likes what he likes, and he doesn’t really give a fuck what anyone else thinks.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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