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Salvador Dalí figurines
01.20.2017
10:02 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Salvador Dali


‘Soft Self-Portrait with Grilled Bacon’ by Salvador Dali

A few weeks ago I blogged about these amazing and affordable Hieronymus Bosch figurines. As I was looking for images of the Bosch toys, I stumbled across affordable Salvador Dalí figurines as well. I decided to wait a little bit before blogging about them, but there they are now!

Sadly, there’s not as many as there were in the Bosch collection. I looked high and low, and these were all I could find. They’re really cool nevertheless.

I’ve posted a range of different figurines and where to purchase below each image if you’re interested.

‘Burning Giraffe Woman with Drawers’ by Salvador Dali
 

Elephant from the ‘Temptation of Saint Anthony’ by Salvador Dali
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Lucifer, Satan & other Devils: The Occult art of Rosaleen Norton, the Witch of Kings Cross

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‘Lucifer and the Goat Mendes.’
 
The most notorious witch in Australian history was an artist named Rosaleen Norton (1917-79) who scandalized her ultra-conservative homeland with her outrageous bohemian lifestyle and strange occult beliefs during the 1950s.

The press dubbed Norton the “Witch of Kings Cross”—a low-rent artists’ quarter and red light district in Sydney, New South Wales. They claimed she was an evil Satanist who revelled in perverted Black Masses and unnatural orgies with her sex-mad coven. It was true Rosaleen (Roie to her friends) liked sex with both men and women. She enjoyed sex and saw no shame in admitting that she did. She also practised sex magick and made no secret of its powers. But Rosaleen was no Satanist. She was a pagan who followed her own particular belief in Pan.

From earliest childhood Rosaleen felt she was different—and felt compelled to prove this indeed was the case. As her friend and biographer Nevill Drury later recalled:

[Rosaleen] revelled in being the odd one out, purporting to despise her schoolmates. She argued continuously with her mother. She ‘hated’ authority figures like headmistresses, policemen, politicians and priests. She had no time at all for organised religion, and the gods she embraced - a cluster of ancient gods centred around Pan - were, of course, pagan to the hilt. She regarded Pan as the God of Infinite Being.

~snip!~

Pan was undoubtedly a rather unusual god for a young woman to be worshipping in Australia. But then Roie was different. And she was different in an age when it was quite a lot harder to be different than it is now. She was bohemian, bisexual, outspoken, rebellious and thoroughly independent in an era when most young ladies growing up on Sydney’s North Shore would be thinking simply of staying home, happily married with a husband and children. Roie was not afraid to say what she thought, draw her pagan images on city pavements, or flaunt her occult beliefs in the pages of the tabloids. To most people who read about her in newspapers and magazines she was simply outrageous.

Rosaleen was certainly outrageous. She was expelled from school for drawing pictures of vampires, pentagrams and demons during art class, which were claimed to have terrified her fellow classmates. In 1952, when a collection of her work was first published in book form as The Art of Rosaleen Norton three of the images contained therein—“Black Magic” (which depicted Rosaleen herself having sex with a panther), “Rites of Baron Samedi” and “Fohat” (which depicted a demon with a large muscled snake for a penis)—caused such offence that the publisher was prosecuted for obscenity and the pictures removed from all future printings. In America the book was deemed so pornographic that all imported copies were destroyed by custom officials.

Worse was to follow in 1955 when a woman named Anna Karina Hoffman was arrested for vagrancy. When questioned by police, Hoffman claimed she had participated in horrific Satanic black masses organized by Rosaleen. It was this accusation that led the tabloid press to dub Rosaleen the “Witch of Kings Cross” and promulgate the series of trumped-up news stories about her lurid (s)excesses.

However, the following year, one of her lovers, the highly respected composer Sir Eugene Goossens was arrested by Australian customs for attempting to bring some 800 pornographic images into the country—many of them marked “SM” for “sex magick.” The ensuing investigation by officials was heavily detailed by the press. It destroyed Goossens’ career and further denigrated Rosaleen’s character.

Still Rosaleen continued on her own way—painting pictures, following her own religious beliefs, enjoying a varied and active sex life and even dropping LSD to “induce visionary states” to enhance her awareness as an artist.

It was this visionary aspect which was at the heart of Rosaleen’s art:

From an early age she had a remarkable capacity to explore the visionary depths of her subconscious mind, and the archetypal beings she encountered on those occasions became the focus of her art. It was only later that Roie was labelled a witch, was described as such in the popular press, and began to develop the persona which accompanied that description. As this process gathered momentum, Roie in turn became intent on trying to demonstrate that she had been born a witch. After all, she had somewhat pointed ears, small blue markings on her left knee, and also a long strand of flesh which hung from underneath her armpit to her waist - a variant on the extra nipple sometimes ascribed to witches in the Middle Ages.

~snip!~

Roie’s personal beliefs were a strange mix of magic, mythology and fantasy, but derived substantially from mystical experiences which, for her, were completely real. She was no theoretician. Part of her disdain for the public at large, I believe, derived from the fact that she felt she had access to a wondrous visionary universe - while most people lived lives that were narrow, bigoted, and based on fear. Roie was very much an adventurer - a free spirit - and she liked to fly through the worlds opened to her by her imagination.

Roie’s art reflected this. It was her main passion, her main reason for living. She had no career ambitions other than to reflect on the forces within her essential being, and to manifest these psychic and magical energies in the only way she knew how. As Roie’s older sister Cecily later told me, art was the very centre of her life, and Roie took great pride in the brief recognition she received when the English critic and landscape artist John Sackville-West described her in 1970 as one of Australia’s finest artists, alongside Norman Lindsay. It was praise from an unexpected quarter, and it heartened Roie considerably because she felt that at last someone had understood her art and had responded to it positively. All too often her critics had responded only to her outer veneer - the bizarre and often distorted persona created by the media - and this was not the ‘real’ Roie at all.

Today no one would I doubt if anyone would bat an eyelid at Rosaleen’s lifestyle or beliefs—which shows how much our world has evolved. This year marks the centenary of her birth which should bring a new assessment of her life and work and introduce a new generation to the artist behind Australia’s most notorious witch.
 
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‘Black Magic.’
 
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‘Self Portrait with Occult Animals and Symbols.’
 
More of Rosaleen’s art, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Angry woman: Lydia Lunch’s gun is loaded
01.19.2017
02:12 pm

Topics:
Art
Feminism
Politics

Tags:
Lydia Lunch


 
During the decade of the 1980s, I saw Lydia Lunch perform maybe fifteen+ times and I caught some pretty seminal performances of hers, including the premiere of Fingered, the gleefully violent porn film she made with Richard Kern and South of Your Border, the two-person theatrical play she did with Emilio Cubeiro that ended in a blood-covered, naked Lydia trussed up on a giant “X” onstage pissing all over him!

To truly appreciate the aggressively confrontational nature of her powerful one woman shows—just her and a mic—you had to be in, or very near, the front row. As with fellow in-your-face monologists like Eric Bogosian and Brother Theodore, it was fucking scary and rather intimidating to be anywhere near the stage for one of her rants, but I always figured why not get all of the Artaudian benefits from having someone scream in your face for an hour at close range? If anyone can deliver on the cathartic promise of Theatre of Cruelty, it’s Lydia Lunch. Audiences leave her shows limp. I mean, what do you say in the cab going home about a show that unexpectedly ends in blood-stained golden showers? (Incidentally, she drank an entire six-pack during the play’s penultimate scene. What she unleashed on Cuberio the night I saw the show was not merely a trickle, I can assure you. Good times!)
 

 
Lunch’s The Gun Is Loaded video, an angry nihilistic rant about life in Reagan’s America, long out of print, is now available to watch free online via MVDVideo (who also put it out on DVD). I actually saw this show twice when she did this material at the Performance Garage space in New York (and yes, I was in the front row both times). Here’s how the filmmakers describe the project:

THE GUN IS LOADED is a 37-minute performance video featuring former punk rocker, political satirist and sexual provocateur Lydia Lunch.

This video trails Lydia in 1988 through a series of staged sets and location shots in New York City as she fires her spoken word manifesto directly into the eye of the camera, and in haunting voice-over.  Underscoring Lydia’s onslaught is cinema verité footage of bottom-rung Americana: racecar crowds, dead-end streets and meat packing plants effectively illustrate her ruthless examination of “the American dream machine turned mean.” J.G. Thirlwell’s ominous score magnifies this brutal desolation.

Identifying herself as “the average, all-American girl-next-store gone bad,” Lydia vivisects her own sustained damage as a product of this emotionally ravaging environment.

Co-director Joe Tripician wrote to me on about the piece:

This was partially shot at the Performance Garage, but without an audience. Lydia asked me and my former partner Merrill Aldighieri to record her show, but we wanted to expand the production from its theatrical base and exhibit her in an outside environment. So, this video is also a document of the ‘80s NYC street life—from the 14th Street Meat market to Wall Street. We called it a “video super-realization” of her spoken word performance.

In the video she fires her venom directly into the camera lens, and in an intimate voice-over. J. G. Thirlwell supplied the original music score - a one-of-a-kind aural onslaught.

It was released on VHS in the late 80s, but has never aired on TV. The one response we received was from PBS, who called the video in their rejection letter “exceptionally unacceptable.”

They were probably right about that…
 
Watch ‘The Gun is Loaded’ after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Modern love: Valentines featuring Grace Jones, Robert Smith, David Bowie & other pop-culture icons!


Robert Smith-themed Valentine by Matthew Lineham.
 
We’ve shared the work of New York-based artist Matthew Lineham previously on Dangerous Minds and I can personally vouch for the quality of his work. To say nothing of the reaction I’ve gotten from folks who have received one Lineham’s clever cards featuring images of 80’s horror movie slashers like Jason Voorhees or Re-Animator‘s deranged medical student, Herbert West.

Though I’m not trying shove the faux “holiday” of Valentine’s Day down your throat—it started as a marketing thing, there was nothing traditional about it—I couldn’t resist sharing Lindham’s 2017 cards. These old-school sheet cards contain the images of Robert Smith of The Cure, Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis and an entire collection featuring the many alter-egos of our dearly departed David Bowie. There are three sheets in each pack for a total of 27 cards that also contain amusing greetings that occasionally reference song titles from the artists’ catalogs, which makes them extra-special. Just like your funny valentine, right? You can order the cards now over at Lindham’s site which will ship them out on January 24th—just in time to send one along to someone who you think is “B-52 Cute!” Awww.
 

 

 
More funny valentines after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Sicko-Delic’: Luminous rednecks, grotesque goons and Day-glo freaks
01.18.2017
01:15 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Art

Tags:
psychedelic art
Hayley Arjona

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‘No Fun for Hayley’ (2014).
 
The writer, artist and critic John Berger was right when he said a viewer has to be in front of a work of art before they can fully appreciated it. Alas, we’ll just have to make do with digital copies of Hayley Arjona’s giant canvases—some reaching up to fifty feet in length—but I’m sure we can still appreciate her incredible talent and originality in producing beautiful, complex, trippy, comic, psychedelic pictures.

Hayley Arjona is an Australian artist based in North Central, Victoria. She works out of a converted hay barn on a farm where she raises free range pigs and sheep. Hayley studied for a Masters of Fine Art at the Victorian College of Arts, Melbourne in 1999, before beginning her career as an artist.

Apart from painting and raising pigs, Hayley works as a set painter on films (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) and TV productions. She paints in her studio while while blasting out “progressive psy-trance or Doom/Sludge metal and Psychedelic rock.” It helps her get into the right mood to produce such brilliant luminous near Day-glo canvases. To get the colors just right she mixes fluorescent dry pigment into oils—“Once bitten by these hyper colours its hard to look back!”

I never know what to say about my work, there is just so much in there. Some stuff I meant, some stuff which just happens and some stuff which happens because I don’t know what I mean yet.

~snip~

The grotesque and exaggerated characters and abundant use of colour serve to make light of an undercurrent of darkness. The darkness I believe inherent in our collective Australian psyche. Things too unbearable to consider without humour and satire. The degradation of our existence, our society, of people and the environment from greed, apathy and ignorance. Perhaps it is ridiculous to see beauty in any of this, but I am compelled to appreciate my surroundings. With the drastic changes in the landscape from season to season, sky watching for rain, there is much here to inspire.

Bodies swell out of trees and landscapes while breasts suckle and faces turn into genitalia as skulls erupt out of mouths and litter the ground. Her paintings contrast the rich fecundity of life with the fatal stupidity of humans. In A-Bomb Stigmata (2016) a man is seemingly masturbated while atomic clouds mushroom overhead. Is this the last biological imperative for life even at the moment of death—in the way when men who were executed by hanging were said to ejaculate at their extinction? Or merely fiddling while the world burns? It’s apparent there is a tremendous amount of humor and warmth in these paintings which makes them doubly appealing.

Hayley has exhibited across Australia and Europe with her most recent exhibition Sicko-Delic held at the Caspa Gallery in Victoria last year. You can follow Hayley on Instagram and Facebook.
 
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‘A-Bomb Stigmata’ (2016).
 
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Whole Lotta Rose’ (2014).
 
More psick psychedelic beauty, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Trust us, you’ve never seen ANYTHING like ‘We Are The Flesh’
01.17.2017
10:42 am

Topics:
Art
Drugs
Movies
Politics

Tags:
We Are The Flesh


 
One of the outstanding films of Fantastic Fest 2016 was also one of the most divisive. While audiences cheered the pasteurized mainstream sci-fi film Arrival and the sumptuous beauty of Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, Mexican director Emiliano Rocha Minter’s We Are The Flesh shocked audiences into stunned silence. Fest attendees inured to extreme gore and torture porn found something in We Are The Flesh that still retains the power to disturb and provoke: explicit sex. Like directors Gaspar Noé and Alejandro Jodorowsky and author George Bataille, 26-year-old Minter conjures images that take us deep into areas that were and are still taboo. He’s a pilgrim descending into darkness in search of light. If there is a God and God is everywhere then even in Hell there is rapture. And sometimes you gotta be the turd in the punchbowl to do Jesus right.

A film like We Are The Flesh uses cinema in the service of what movies do best: replicate dreams. In the hellish bardo that the movie plunges us into, plot and narrative take a backseat to a series of surreal images and a trance inducing soundtrack that insinuate and point to things beyond knowing. We see but we don’t completely understand what we’re seeing. Like ceremonial magic, film is a language that transcends symbol and gesture. We are often left at the celluloid door breaking holes in it with the fists of our eyes. In the case of We Are The Flesh, the plot, such as it is, is best described by the the press notes:

A young brother and sister, roaming an apocalyptic city, take refuge in the dilapidated lair of a strange hermit. He puts them to work building a bizarre cavernous structure, where he acts out his insane and depraved fantasies. Trapped in this maddening womb-like world under his malign influence, they find themselves sinking into the realms of dark and forbidden behaviour.


 

 
There was a great line in the ad campaign for George Romero’s masterpiece Dawn Of The Dead: “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.” Emiliano Rocha Minter was born in Mexico City, a city that until recent years had been spared the full brunt of Mexico’s drug wars. But drug-related atrocities have hit the streets of Mexico City and continue to grow rampant on the city’s outskirts. More than 100,000 Mexicans have died in the past decade in drug battles between warring gangs. How does a young artist channel what he is witnessing in his own home, when the serpentine line between waking and dreaming nightmare is constantly shifting? How does one maintain sanity in an insane world? You write. You sing. You make fucked up movies.
 

 
In the tradition of filmmakers like Alejandro Jodorowsky, Fernando Arrabal and Juan López Moctezuma, Minter has attempted to discharge the alchemy of film to transform and inflame the dark stuff with something one might call art…or perhaps something cruder, like exorcism. We Are The Flesh rages against the complacency of the viewer. It demands you sit up and pay attention. It screams at you and seduces you. The imagery veers from blunt, violent, angry in-your-faceness to fluid, swirling, mind shattering psychedelia. Sex organs in extreme close-up pulse to the beat of the heart, labial gates form portals to the ultimate question mark in the sky. Flesh is torn, blood flows. This is the meat pit of absolute reality. Minter takes you places you’ve only dreamed of… if your dreams were that of a man in the throes of some mad fever—all of it stunningly realized by cinematographer Yollótl Alvarado. At times, I was reminded of Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes. Brakhage filmed autopsies so close-in that film rendered flesh into land and seascapes. Alvarado does something similar with genitals. A close-up of a penis lounging on testicles looks like a bullfrog with inflated vocal sacs. The objectified view of the camera takes the erotic right out of the picture. We Are The Flesh is ripe with sex but it’s not sexy, though it is filled with life force.

“Eroticism is assenting to life even in death”—George Bataille.

Minter has made something of a masterpiece in We Are The Flesh. It is a search for meaning in a world that has lost its center. In its thrashing chaos, there is an artist trying to work things out. Like the elaborate structure of wooden sticks and plastic tape that the characters are building within their underground world, Minter has built his own makeshift reality. But Minter’s has better bones.

The film glows with crepuscular light. There are cum shots and penetrations lit in the heightened pastels and posed comic book architecture of F.X. Pope’s porn mindbender Cafe Flesh. And Minter, whether he knows it or not, has ventured into Gerard Damiano’s “dark night of the hole” melancholy of The Devil And Miss Jones. When Catholics do this shit , they go all the way, propelled by centuries of sexual repression. Pasolini’s Salo took us there only to drop us into a pile of fascist-flavored shit.
 

 
We Are The Flesh features one of the truly great performances of the past few years. Noé Hernández plays the role of the Manson-like madman who abducts the brother and sister. It is one of the most committed, naked, raw feats of acting you’ll ever see. Imagine Frank Booth crossed with a troglodyte spewing wisdom like “the spirit does not reside within the flesh, the flesh is the spirit itself! So I kindly ask that all you lowlifes devour me until nothing is left. Eat every bit of my rotten flesh. Drink my blood.” Jesus the thug in a sacramental heat while dressed in Member’s Only disco attire. I do my best, but words fail me in the face of such lunacy. Just see it…  because you’ve never seen anything like it.

Video after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Surreal paintings of Francis Bacon as ‘The Joker,’ Charlie Parker as ‘Big Bird’ & many more
01.16.2017
05:37 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Pop Culture

Tags:
Camargo Valentino


‘It was all a Dream.’ An oil painting depicting rapper Biggie Smalls as ‘Max’ from Maurice Sendak’s 1963 book, ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’
 
Artist Camargo Valentino is a painter whose beautifully mashed-up, pop-culture inspired oil paintings routinely fetch between $4,000 - $14,000 bucks a pop. Though he is self-taught when it comes to his preferred medium of oil-painting, Valentino graduated from the Art Institute of Houston and then went on to study under the tutelage of Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum in Norway and Iceland.

As a child, Camargo spent much of his time drawing pictures based on his toy collection. According to the artist, his creations can take anywhere from 40 to 200 hours to complete and the influence of masters such as Diego Velasquez and his mentor Nerdrum are vibrantly apparent in the composition and use of color to evoke mood in his dreamy oil paintings. Here’s more from Camargo on what inspires him to paint pop culture icons such as jazz great Charlie Parker clad in a “Big Bird” costume:

I paint what I am most attracted to; icons; comics; movies; history; art; sports figures; hip hop; my heritage and world myths. So my paintings are a combination of all these things rolled into one with a splash of myself.

I’ve included a nice selection of Camargo’s paintings below that I think you will love just as much as I do.
 

‘Bird Lives.’
 

Painter Francis Bacon as the Joker.
 

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Redesigned posters for cinema classics & cult films: Hitchcock, ‘Re-Animator,’ ‘They Live!’ and more

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Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ by Jonathan Burton.
 
As regular readers will know we have a love of movie posters here at Dangerous Minds. A film poster encapsulates in one single bound a shared memory, a liminal experience, an emotion (and our response) and some abstract of knowledge. A well-crafted movie poster can hit all the bases while still being aesthetically pleasing.

Always on the look out for new movie artwork I was more than tickled to find this selection of innovative and original takes on old pics by a group of young artists from across the globe. Apart from producing work for books, magazines, comics and what have you, the collective at Mad Duck Posters produce officially licensed artwork for a variety of classic movies.

What I like best about these posters for films by Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter and Stuart Gordon is how the artists have interpreted each film in a throughly imaginative and contemporary way while still remaining true to their source material.  Most of these posters are up for grabs—details here. Now I just have to find some more wall space…
 
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Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ by Jonathan Burton.
 
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‘Re-Animator’ by Stan & Vince.
 
More remixed movie magic, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Satan teens, blood, guts, LSD, murder and chaos: ‘Where Evil Dwells’ has it all but a plot

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“Ricky was of the devil. When he was on acid, he’d go back into the dark woods, up in Aztakea, and he would talk to the devil. He said the devil came into the form of a tree, which sprouted out of the ground and glowed. I tried to question him about it, but he said, “I don’t like to talk about it. People think I’m nuts.”

Ricky would take ten hits of mesc in a night. He would take three; ten minutes later he’d take another three; and two hours later he’d take four more. He’d figured it out in his mind how to take the most without ODing Ricky is the acid king. “

—Mark Fischer, friend of “Acid King” Long Island teen murderer Ricky Kasso, in Rolling Stone magazine.

What the fuck did I just watch? is often the response to Tommy Turner and David Wojnarowicz‘s cult 1985 no wave/transgressive film Where Evil Dwells. Not because some viewers of this splatterfest are uncool dickheads but because there is no real cohesive story or structure to Turner and Wojnarowicz’s film—and people really do prefer things like structure and stories. Just ask James Patterson. Our savvy public are none too appreciative of being buttonholed by a would-be weirdo rambling incontinently about conspiracy theories, Satan, murder and devil dolls—people get enough of that shit on the evening news.

Moreover, to give 28 minutes over to watching this is a considerable investment of time for something that may not be that good after all—especially true in a world that’s marked out in 140 characters or less. But wait, let’s not be too hasty or too cynical, for there’s a reason there is no real story to Where Evil Dwells. It is (apparently) because this is all that remains of a much longer intended feature length project which was lost in a fire. The only footage that survived was put together for the Downtown New York Film Festival in 1985, which makes Where Evil Dwells interesting for what it could have been. And it certainly does contain some very interesting things.
 

 
Where Evil Dwells was loosely based on the PCP-fuelled murder of young Gary Lauwers in Northport, New York, on June 16, 1984. His killer, 17-year-old hesher Ricky Kasso was painted by the press as an occult dabbling, drug-addled Satan freak, and not without good cause. In an attack that went on for longer than an hour, Kasso burned Lauwers, gouged out his eyes and stabbed him somewhere between 17 and 36 times. At some point during the attack, Kasso is said to have commanded Lauwers to “Say you love Satan,” but Lauwers is said to have replied, “I love my mother.”

After Kasso bragged about Lauwers’ murder to several of his friends, claiming the killing was a “human sacrifice” that Satan (via a black raven) had commanded him to carry out, even taking some of them to see the decomposing body, an anonymous tip was made to police. On July 7, two days after his arrest, Ricky Kasso committed suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell.

The Long Island Satan teen murder case was made famous nationally in a widely read 1984 Rolling Stone article (”Kids in the Dark” by David Breskin in the November 22 issue) and in the (nearly fictionalized) lurid “true” crime novel Say You Love Satan. Kasso—basically a troubled AC/DC loving idiot who became a very sucessful fuck-up—was almost made out to be the “new” Charles Manson by the likes of Sonic Youth, Big Audio Dynamite, the Electric Hellfire Club and the Dead Milkmen. Where Evil Dwells is not the only film or documentary to be made about Ricky Kasso, although it was the first.

More murder, LSD and Satan teens after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Probes’: Chris Cutler’s podcast is a free course in contemporary music
01.13.2017
11:31 am

Topics:
Art
History
Music

Tags:
Chris Cutler


Chris Cutler in Toronto, 1987 (via some old pictures I took)
 
The English percussionist Chris Cutler has been a member of Henry Cow, Pere Ubu, and Art Bears, to name just a few of his bands. He played on the Residents’ Eskimo and Commercial Album, founded Recommended Records (now better known as ReR Megacorp), and pioneered the use of electrified drums.

Cutler is also a scholar and theoretician of music, and his podcast Probes considers the present state of the art in relation to two crises, one having to do with the collapse of tonality, the other with the mechanical reproduction of sound. If that makes it sound boring, understand that Probes really amounts to a free college course in music appreciation and history. Broadcast by Ràdio Web MACBA, the online radio station of the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Probes illustrates Cutler’s lucid analysis with excerpts of records from his wide-ranging collection. Each episode is accompanied by a transcript and another PDF with the episode’s playlist and, when relevant, bibliography. This month’s episode “traces the immense impact Indian instruments and aesthetics had on both thinking and playing, across all forms of western music from Messiaen and La Monte Young to John Coltrane and the Beatles.”

Here’s Cutler introducing the series at the beginning of the first episode:

If you had asked anyone in the eighteenth century what music was, you would have met with broad consensus; music came in three basic forms then – as it had for at least six hundred years: church music, art music, and what we now call folk music – all three of them pretty closely integrated, with many of the same melodies migrating back and forth between them.

If you asked the same question today you’d be met with a tortuous attempt at an abstract definition, which would still fail to contain the vast mass of activities – and the diverse aesthetics – now aimed at our ears. Indeed, claims for music today have expanded to include not only anything that you can hear, but kinds of silence too.

Should we take this to imply that a once integrated culture is slowly degenerating into a chaotic and unregulated marketplace? That would certainly be the political reading. But actually I think something more interesting is going on, something quite unusual. What we are living through is a paradigm change. We just can’t see it because life is too short and such events normally take centuries to work through.

But here’s the argument: for the last hundred and twenty years or so, music and musicians, at least in the industrialised world, have been struggling to come to terms with two catastrophic and destabilising upheavals. The first is the collapse of tonality, which principally affects formal composition and art music; the second the brute fact of sound recording – which has so far utterly transformed everything it has touched.

To find an historical precedent for this, we would need to go back at least 700 years – to the last time European music had to deal with the emergence of a new memory technology. Then it was writing; today it is sound recording.

Memory has this power because it stands at the root of all systems of conscious communication. Without memory, music could not be produced or reproduced, circulated or understood. And different forms of memory will engender different forms of music – that is the underlying thesis of this series.

Cutler on The Residents, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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