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Kinky erotic portraits of Yukio Mishima
11.11.2016
10:00 am

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Art
Books
History
Literature
Queer
Sex
Unorthodox

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In 1961, a young photographer named Eikoh Hosoe was asked by writer Yukio Mishima to take his portrait picture. It was a humbling yet surprising commission. Mishima was then Japan’s greatest living novelist—the author tipped to one day win the Nobel Prize. Hosoe was relatively unknown. The commission made Hosoe deeply curious as to why the great Mishima had chosen him.

When they met in the small garden at Mishima’s house, the author anticipated Hosoe’s question:

“I loved your photographs of Tatsumi Hijikata. I want you to photograph me like that, so I asked my editor to call you.”

“Mr. Mishima, do you mean I can photograph you in my own way?” I asked.

“Yes, I am your subject matter. Photograph me however you please, Mr. Hosoe,” he replied.

All my questions and anxiety faded.

The photographs Mishima so greatly admired were the ones Hosoe had taken of the dancer Tatsumi Hijikata. 

Hijikata was an originator of Butoh—an apocalytpic dance form developed in Japan after the Second World War in opposition to western influence. Mishima had similarly broken away from the prevailing western influence that had altered Japan after the war and during the 1950s. Mishima wanted a return of the Emperor and the ancient samurai traditions.

Mishima had been a puny kid. As he matured he changed his body through rigorous exercise and weight-lifting to become toned and highly athletic. His books often deal with the theme of the split between intellectual ambitions and the man of action.

His first novel Confessions of a Mask examined the “reluctant masquerade” between the perceived and actual life. Mishima was bisexual. He was married with two children but had an intense and active gay life. He was a sadomasochist, who believed in the living of a life through force of will. A life that he claimed adhered to the strict codes of the samurai. His books were fixed in this tradition—though his subject matter was preoccupied with sex and death. This led many critics in the west to misunderstand Mishima. One of my collegues here label him as a cross between “Proust and Jeffrey Dahmer.”

That fine day in September 1961, Hosoe quickly realized Mishima did not want a banal author portrait:

In offering himself as the “subject matter” of my photographs, I thought he might have wanted to become a dancer himself. I was still in my twenties then, so I was naïve. I did not make the distinction between an international literary figure and a dancer.

Mishima’s father happened to be watering the garden, so I grabbed his hose, and I wrapped Mishima’s entire body in the hose and kept him standing in the center of the zodiac, where he was planning to erect a statue of Apollo.

I asked him to look up and concentrate on my camera, which I was holding from a ladder above. I shouted, “Keep looking at my lens very intensely, Mr. Mishima! Okay, that’s great, keep going . . .” He never blinked while I shot two rolls of 35mm film. “I am proud of my ability to keep my eyes open for minutes,” said Mishima.

“I have never been photographed like this,” he said. “Why did you do it in this way?”

“This is the destruction of a myth,” I replied.

“You should wrap the hose around Haruo Sato,” he laughed. Haruo Sato was considered to be a literary giant at that time. But what I really meant was that I wanted to destroy the preconceived ideas about Mishima’s image in order to create a new Mishima.

After the shoot, Hosoe thought he may have gone too far. Two days later, Mishima phoned him to say he loved the photographs and wanted to collaborate with Hosoe on some more.

Over a period of six months Hosoe worked with Mishima on a series photographs which he hoped would capture the writer’s soul. These were eventually published as a book—with text by Mishima—called Ba-ra-kei or Ordeal by Roses.

In November 1970, Mishima together with four members of his secret army attempted a military coup. They broke into the eastern headquarters of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces taking the commanding officer prisoner. Mishima demanded 800 soldiers gather outside the offices to hear a speech and a list of demands he had written. Mishima hoped this speech would inspire the troops to rebel against the corruption of western influence and join his rebellion. Mishima wanted an end of democracy and a return of the Emperor. His rebellion was a literal union of the artist and man of action changing history.

The troops laughed and jeered as the author spoke. The coup failed. Mishima returned inside where he committed seppuku (self-disembowelment) before one of his soldiers attempted to decapitate him. After several blows failed to remove his head, another of his soldiers eventually managed to decapitate Mishima.

Mishima’s biographer John Nathan suggested this military coup was only a pretext for Mishima’s ritual suicide—something he had long dreamed about. In his short story “Patriotism” Mishima described an idealized seppuku where the central character pulls a blade across his abdomen cutting himself open:

The vomiting made the fierce pain fiercer still, and the stomach, which had thus far remained firm and compact, now abruptly heaved, opening wide its wound, and the entrails burst through, as if the wound too were vomiting. . . . The entrails gave an impression of robust health and almost disagreeable vitality as they slipped smoothly out and spilled over into the crotch. . . . A raw smell filled the room.

Hosoe’s photographs of Mishima taken in 1961 and 1962 capture the author’s terrible beauty, eroticism and conflicted sadomasochistic nature.
 
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More of Hosoe’s photographs of Mishima, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Beyond Good & Evil: Behind the scenes of ‘The Night of the Hunter’
11.08.2016
01:30 pm

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Books
Movies

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Robert Mitchum played a “diabolical shit” in The Night of the Hunter. Mitchum was Harry Powell—a twisted serial killer who disguised himself as a fire and brimstone reverend to find the location of some stolen loot. In order to get to it, Powell has to marry Willa Harper (Shelley Winters) and become the stepfather to her children—John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce). It soon becomes obvious that Powell is not going to be married for very long.

Upon its release, The Night of the Hunter was reviled by critics and audiences alike. The press hated everything about it. They hated the script by novelist and poet James Agee. They loathed Robert Mitchum’s “hammy” acting. They denounced Charles Laughton for his weird, bizarre and utterly perverse direction. They decried his deliberate use of movie sets to tell his story. They also hated his use of black and white film. This was the Technicolor fifties, they said, the nuclear age of rock ‘n’ roll, hula-hoops, Cinemascope, and drive ins. This was no place for a ramped-up Southern Gothic melodrama. Audiences agreed and the film tanked at the box office.

It was actor Charles Laughton’s first and only film as director. The negative reviews hurt so much that he abandoned any hope of opening up a new career as Hollywood director. The screenplay was adapted by James Agee from the novel by Davis Grubb. Agee was the screenwriter of The African Queen and had written the text to accompany Walker Evan’s ground breaking photographs in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.  Agee died not long after the film was completed. The story of The Night of the Hunter had been inspired by the case of the real life serial killer Harry Powers who murdered two widows and three children in the 1930s. Powers sought out his victims through the ads in newspapers lonely hearts’ ads.
 
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Robert Mitchum was convincingly deranged as Powell in The Night of the Hunter. His hands were tattooed with “LOVE” and “HATE” above the knuckles—as his character explained in the film:

Ah, little lad, you’re starin’ at my fingers. Would you like me to tell you the little story of Right Hand-Left Hand - the story of good and evil?

H-A-T-E! It was with this left hand that old brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. 

L-O-V-E. You see these fingers, dear hearts? These fingers has veins that run straight to the soul of man. The right hand, friends! The hand of love!

Now watch and I’ll show you the story of life. These fingers, dear hearts, is always a-warrin’ and a-tuggin’, one agin’ the other.

Now, watch ‘em. Ol’ brother Left Hand. Left hand, he’s a-fightin’. And it looks like LOVE’s a goner. But wait a minute, wait a minute! Hot dog! LOVE’s a winnin’? Yes, siree. It’s LOVE that won, and ol’ Left Hand HATE is down for the count!

Many a young punk was said to have copied Mitchum’s homemade LOVE/HATE tattoos—no doubt as badge to their stupidity. Laughton originally wanted Gary Cooper to play the evil reverend—but he nixed the idea on the grounds it would damage his good guy image. Mitchum was far less precious. He jumped at the chance to play Powell—allegedly fighting off interest from both Laurence Olivier and John Carradine. Mitchum was unforgettable—a performance only rivalled by his later turn as Max Cady in Cape Fear.

Laughton cast Shelley Winters as the pivotal character Willa Harper—whose murder leads Mitchum to chase her children across the country. Winters gives a restrained performance that only emphasizes the horror of her misfortune. The children were played by Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce. Laughton had considered his wife Elsa Lanchester for the role of the old woman who protects the children from Mitchum. Lanchester suggested he try silent movie star Lillian Gish—a perfect choice for such a strange, disturbing and dreamlike movie.

Filmed in the Fall of 1954, Laughton created an unforgettable Expressionist style—imbued with menace and filled with allegory—along with the cinematographer Stanley Cortez—cameraman from Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons and later Sam Fuller’s classic Shock Corridor.  The film had a budget of around $800k which meant they were unable to film on location—hence the use of indoor film sets—something Laughton used to great stylistic effect. Today The Night of the Hunter is considered a classic—one of the Library of Congress’ films deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
 
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Robert Mitchum with director Charles Laughton.
 
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More behind the scenes photos from ‘The Night of the Hunter,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Hilarious & cringeworthy knitted sweaters of the 1980s
11.04.2016
09:42 am

Topics:
Books
Fashion

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It’s November, and the temperature in my neighborhood in northern Ohio reached 77 just two days ago. It felt like the start of September really, just a lovely day to be outside. Not at all cold.

One of the benefits of the balmy winters brought on by catastrophic climate change is that there’s no risk someone will trick us into donning one of the absolutely amazing sweaters featured in a remarkable book of knitting designs from the fashionable 1980s. Wit Knits, which presented “lively and original” knitted sweater suggestions by George Hostler and Gyles Brandreth, came out in 1986, and the photographs showing off the finished designs are simply jaw-dropping in their silliness.
 

 
There’s a website devoted to these pictures, but its proprietor, rightly sensing that the visual impact of these doozies is the primary appeal, therefore “won’t post patterns, buy the book if you want to make them.” Harrumph. The book is, like everything else, available on Amazon.

The really peculiar thing about Wit Knits is that virtually all of the models are well-known figures from 1980s British television. I don’t know how Hostler and Brandreth were able to sucker such famous personages into agreeing to be involved with this, but perhaps it was simply a paid gig like any other. Maybe they got to keep the sweaters?

For instance: I can remember watching, on WNET Channel 13 in New York back around when this book came out, a delightful British show called Good Neighbors (it was known as The Good Life in the U.K.), and Richard Briers, here wearing the light blue sweater with the “wee Scottie” on it, was the lead actor on that show. Meanwhile, Joanna Lumley—then perhaps best known for her stint in The New Avengers, who later became an icon of decadence in Ab Fab—here is shown wearing a ridiculous sweater with a horsey; she also has a different one with what is most likely an owl on it. Lizzie Webb, who presented morning exercise routines on TV, is wearing a sweater with a kittykat on it. Most of the people here are like that.
 

 

 
Much more after the jump…......

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The Indie Rock Coloring Book
11.02.2016
12:23 pm

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Art
Books
Music

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As anyone who’s visited a Barnes & Noble lately knows, one of the major publishing trends is adult coloring books. As the Washington Post reported earlier this year, sales of colored pencils rose 26.3% in 2015, and that’s not the only indicator of the trend. Late last year Walmart Walmart added a four-foot section for adult coloring books in several hundred of its branches, and Target added the books to its offerings around the same time.

Anticipating the trend, in 2009 the Yellow Bird Project, a Canadian charity project specializing in band T-shirts, unveiled The Indie Rock Coloring Book geared for fans of the Shins, the National, MGMT, and many other indie rock acts. The purpose of the Yellow Bird Project is to support Trekstock, a charity in Great Britain that seeks to raise funds for young adults with cancer.

Pierre de Reeder of Rilo Kiley penned the foreword. Matt Berninger of the National provided the following blurb: “This is the greatest coloring book since coloring was invented. I’ve decided to have kids just so I’ll have somebody to give this book to.”

Here are a few examples from the book, which is still available at Yellow Bird and also at Amazon.
 

MGMT
 

Bon Iver
 
Lots more after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The Museum of Modern Art has made a shit ton of rare & out-of-print museum catalogs available online
11.01.2016
02:05 pm

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Art
Books

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Cubism and Abstract Art
March 2–April 19, 1936

 
The Museum of Modern Art is one of the great museums of the world, it’s safe to say. Established in late 1929 on the eve of a global depression, MoMA has showcased and helped define the best in modern art for decades. In that 86-year span, MoMA has staged literally hundreds of exhibitions to delight New Yorkers and visitors alike, but the traces of those artistic and curatorial marvels have, for the modern student, been on the scarce side.

Until now, that is. MoMA has chosen 2016 to be the year that it made the vast majority of its exhibition catalogues available on the Internet free of charge. The vast digital archive has 33,000 images with a rich selection of catalogs, installation shots, exhibition checklists, and press releases.

The first MoMA exhibition was called “Cézanne, Gauguin, Seurat, Van Gogh.” There have been more than 3,500 exhibitions in the museum since, targeting a wide swath of subject matter including film, performance, design, new media, architecture, and photography.

Some of the most significant exhibitions of all time are here, including the 1936 show on cubism and abstract art, the 1936-37 dada and surrealism show, and the 1939-40 Picasso retrospective. More recently, exhibitions like the 1959-1960 show Sixteen Americans, which introduced artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Jasper Johns to a broader public, and the 1970 show Information, which controversially showcased recent polemical art, are also represented. 

Below we’ve put together a brief series of representative catalogs from the past decades.
 

Machine Art
March 5–April 29, 1934

 

Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism
December 7, 1936–January 17, 1937

 

Picasso: Forty Years of His Art
November 15, 1939–January 7, 1940

 
Many more after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Macabre, gothic illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Tales of Mystery and Imagination’
10.28.2016
12:42 pm

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Art
Books

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There are few volumes more suitably macabre for dipping into at this time of year than Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination. I had for many years an old Pan paperback of Poe’s stories—one I’d treasured since childhood—until this fine dog-eared friend started setting loose its pages. When I replaced it, I was fortunate to find a battered old volume with fabulous illustrations by Harry Clarke. Now an original edition of this book can set you back a few hundred bucks. Thankfully, the thrift store where I chanced upon my 1928 edition was more than charitable in its pricing and I paid no more than the cost of a latte.

Clarke’s beautiful, intricate—and yes, at times—rather grotesque illustrations are a perfect fit for Poe’s weird tales. Clarke (1889-1931) was a prolific artist and illustrator. An Irishman who produced over 130 beautiful and ornate stained glass windows for churches all over Ireland and in England and France. Yet, for all their magestic beauty Clarke’s greatest fame came from his book illustrations—most notably for the Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (1916), the Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault (1922), Goethe’s Faust (1925), and especially the two editions of Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination in 1919 and 1923.

The 1919 edition of Poe’s collected stories were accompanied by a series of Clarke’s monotone illustrations. The 1923 edition was further enriched by the addition of eight color plates. I never tire of looking at Clarke’s illustrations. They are incredibly rich and filled with small intricacies that delight even after far too many viewings. Sure, he may have dipped his pen in the well of Aubrey Beardsley’s blackest ink but Clarke’s penmanship and artistry are singularly his own.
 
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The Fall of the House of Usher.’
 
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The Fall of the House of Usher.’
 
More dark delights, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Oh So Pretty: Punk in Print 1976-80’: Essential collection of prime U.K. punk paraphernalia
10.28.2016
10:22 am

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Art
Books
Design
Punk

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Poster for Rock Against Racism Carnival, Victoria Park, David King, April 30, 1978
 
The U.K. punk scene represented one of mankind’s greatest explosions of populist mass art, as represented not only in the songs and the album covers the scene generated but also a well-nigh endless variety of punk clothing, handbills, flyers, posters, badges, fanzines, and who knows what all. The DIY and countercultural ethic of that moment reverberates down the decades to us today—and will for some time. We’re not done hearing the echo of that moment.

Oh So Pretty: Punk in Print, 1976-80, a new book from Phaidon Press, offers a detailed look at one of the world’s great agglomerations of U.K. punk ephemera, Toby Mott’s collection, which took decades to bring to its current state. This generous volume is bursting at the seams with punk energy, its whopping 500+ pages offering approximately that many riveting punk artifacts. The book is surprisingly affordable at $22.76.

Mott was in the thick of the action during the original U.K. punk era as one of the founders of the Anarchist Street Army, a late 1970s organization based in Pimlico that specialized in street disturbances. Later he appeared in Derek Jarman’s 1985 movie The Angelic Conversation, and the art collective he co-founded, the Grey Organisation, was responsible for the iconic day-glo cover art for De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising.
 

 
The Mott Collection includes essential punk artifacts such as Jamie Reid’s “ransom note” designs for the Sex Pistols, Linder Sterling’s astonishing “Orgasm Addict” art for the Buzzcocks, Barney Bubbles’ memorable work for Ian Dury, as well as grassroots fanzines such as Mark Perry’s Sniffin’ Glue.

The book features an essay by Rick Poynor, who writes:
 

One of the revelations of this collection is the unswerving focus on the bands. No matter how wild and thrashy the lettering and graphics may be, the pieces produced by fans mainly deliver pictures of the performers rather than other kinds of imagery. Punk was a highly sociable scene and it attracted people who loved to dress up and show off. They identified with the groups, and in fanzines like Sniffin’ Glue and Ripped & Torn they celebrated them as makers of their own grassroots culture. This is an illuminating departure from the usual picture of punk as an essentially political act of rebellion and the scene’s fixation on punk’s stars hasn’t been so obvious in previous surveys. Within only a few years, some post-punk groups would shun the spotlight and insist that the music was the essential thing, but the 1970s punks embraced the performer as an anti-glamorous star figure just as surely as earlier audiences embraced conventional versions of the pop star. The means of adulation were much the same. By 1977 Punk magazine was publishing a double-sided colour poster featuring all the favourite bands, the Clash were posing moodily for a pin-up in Oh Boy! magazine and punk was ripe for “punxploitation” in a picture publication titled Punk Rock Rules OK?

 
Here are some samples from Oh So Pretty:
 

Back side of flyer for Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Adverts, Motorhead, The Vibrators, Generation X and Buzzcocks at The Greyhound, Croydon, February/March/April 1978
 

Poster for X-Ray Spex’s single “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” October 1977
 

Poster for Siouxsie and the Banshees at Eric’s, Liverpool, May 14, 1977
 
Much more after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘TOTAL CHAOS’: An exclusive look at must-have Iggy Pop book that goes way in-depth on the Stooges
10.25.2016
09:29 am

Topics:
Books
Music

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Total Chaos
 
It’s a great time to be alive for fans of the immortal proto-punk wizards, the Stooges. Jim Jarmusch’s documentary on the band, Gimme Danger, hits theaters this week, and TOTAL CHAOS: The Story of the Stooges comes out in mid-November on Third Man Books. I can tell you, based on my preview, TOTAL CHAOS is phenomenal—a must-have for all fans of the group. The book is constructed around in-depth interviews with frontman Iggy Pop, and a slew of of rarely seen memorabilia, which together tell the story of the Stooges. Those praising the band via their own contributing essays include Johnny Marr, Joan Jett, and Jack White, as well as noted scribes Johan Kugelberg and Jon Savage.

We have exclusive excerpts for you from TOTAL CHAOS. The text and images revolve around the seminal Stooges LP Fun House, one of the greatest albums of the entire rock era. In the first interview excerpt, Iggy talks about the stage name he has used since the time of Fun House. The moniker appeared for first time within the album’s credits, the inspiration coming from a friend of Stooges bandmates Ron Asheton and Dave Alexander.

Jim P-o-p-p was one of the delinquent friends of Ron and Dave and one of the people that hung out with that group. He had sniffed too much glue and lost a lot of his hair early. And he just had such a great last name that one day I was in the Student Union [at the University of Michigan] sneaking some coffee and I thought about what a great name he had. He was laying there sleeping in one of the booths. Townies would go over there to get cheap food. Sneak into the Student Union and just hang. And later I thought, “Well, I don’t know. I wanna be…” It was really even before the first album came out I started calling myself Iggy Pop, and then they [the record company] just said Iggy Stooge. So yeah, I nicked it from Jim Popp.

 
Fun House poster
‘Fun House’ promo poster (Johan Kugelberg collection)
 
Writing the material for Fun House:

The groups we liked were starting to do really sophisticated things. At the same time, whether it was my personality or the fact that he was now getting laid regularly, or a little bit of the fact that everybody has their own rate of production and their own event horizon and Ron’s was slow; somehow from my point of view, Ron went into a tunnel at that point and I could not break him out. He came up with a few ideas that I thought sounded like our first album but not quite as good, and the one of them that was the best was “TV Eye.” So I got him to try an arrangement. He just had it as sort of a chord thing. I said, “How about if we get to that point, but start it out single string like a Booker T thing.” He knew that reference and he tried it, but to do that, I had to camp outside his door day and night. Hassle him.

So most of the rest of the record, I wrote on a Mosrite guitar with a fifty watt Marshall amp up in my room and only Ron could have played it so wonderfully, but most of that, I wrote. Now Ron tells me later, he said that Dave did the riffs to “Dirt” and “Fun House.” I would say I hope so, but I don’t remember it that way. But without that one “T.V. Eye” riff and without hearing how great it sounded when he played it, the single string with the resonance and then build up, I would have had nothing to build on, so he was the bedrock of that album.

Gay Power
Iggy on the cover of ‘Gay Power: New York’s First Homosexual Newspaper,’ 1970 (Jeff Gold collection)

When asked if it was his idea to record Fun House live in the studio:

I believe so. We came out and we were gonna do this our way and Don [Gallucci, the producer,] went along with it but we compromised in that they, for my vocal I believe they ran a double feed. To the board and to the other and mixed it. The engineer was a charming, cultured British individual. I’d never met anybody like this and I was instantly charmed and reassured and I trusted him and I believed in him. His name was Brian Ross-Myring and I didn’t know he did Barbra Streisand apparently, but he had an unflappable quality.

 
New Old Fillmore
The Stooges perform in San Francisco for the first time, 1970 (Jeff Gold Collection)

I just remember that in San Francisco some of the Cockettes
were in the front row and I was psychedelicized that night. More than several of the Cockettes were dressed up like Carmen Miranda gone wild and I was like, “what the hell is this”—and I loved it—“this is so cool and bananas and oranges and you know calico scarves and the whole thing.” The other big thing I remember about it was, when we were—it was either during sound check or maybe somewhere during the gig when weren’t playing—this strange kind of cocky hippie with granny glasses approaches me and he said, “Hi, I’m Owsley Stanley,” and he was real pleased, he was already pleased with himself, and he made some sort of comments, I can’t remember what, but I did meet [LSD kingpin] Owsley and talked with him a little bit. I mean that’s what you do if you go to San Francisco in 1970, you meet the Cockettes and at least one member of the Psychedelic Set.

 
Fun House master tape box
The ‘Fun House’ master tape box, with the track sequence the band wanted, which was altered slightly by Elektra (Jeff Gold Collection)

On audiences:

It was always better when you had some activity in front, always. It’s really hard without that, and sometimes we’d get, it ranged from violent activity to people thinking like “hey we get the joke” and come in with peanut butter or sometimes we’d have a lot of just female rock action—it just would depend really where we were. The one thing that always gave me heart was I was very aware that we were the only group I knew of, or entity, that had absolute—I never saw any audience movement while we played for the first, I’d say ’68, ’69 and ’70, nobody said, “Oh I’m gonna go check out the t-shirt stand,” or “I’m gonna walk around and see if I can pick up some chicks or go get a whatever.” No, uh-uh, everybody stayed in one place. So I knew we were onto something, you know?

 
Uganos
Iggy in the audience during a gig at Uganos, New York City, August 1970
(Photo: Dustin Pittman; Jeff Gold Collection)

TOTAL CHAOS author Jeff Gold first saw the Stooges in the ‘70s, and has been a fan ever since. He provided much of the memorabilia pictured in the book, and conducted the Iggy interviews that appear in it, along with Johan Kugelberg. He’s worked at various record labels, including A&M when Iggy was signed with the company in the mid-to-late ‘80’s. I asked Jeff a few questions via email.

I’ve only met a few people who can say they saw the Stooges back in the day. You saw them in 1973. What was that like?

Jeff Gold: It was the strangest “show” I’d ever seen. I’d heard of them, but didn’t really know who they were. I was a huge David Bowie fan and the fact that he’d gotten his management to sign them, and mixed the album was enough to get me to spend $2.50 to see them at the Whisky in Los Angeles. The whole show lasted maybe half an hour. I’d heard Iggy was a wild man who cut himself with glass, so I was prepared for something unusual. He was wearing only blue metallic bikini underwear—nothing else—which at some point he threaded through the microphone stand, humping it. He was definitely under the influence of something, and spent part of the show wailing about butt-fuckers in Hollywood, and after about 30 minutes, he started falling down and Ron Asheton, I think, had to help him off stage. It was total chaos, which is the title of the book, but completely compelling chaos, and unforgettable.

Being such a fan, I imagine it was a strange experience when you found yourself working with Iggy at A&M.

Jeff Gold: By that time I’d worked with many famous musicians, but Iggy was someone I was a big fan of personally, which wasn’t always the case. I’d seen him on the 1977 tour for The Idiot, with Bowie on keyboards, which was a much more “professional” affair. But still you never know what someone will be like offstage, so I was both excited and a bit wary. But Iggy was and is the greatest. He was friendly, had lots of good ideas about album covers, videos, and marketing, and was a real pleasure to deal with. I remember taking him out to lunch early on, and being sort of blown away—I’m having lunch with Iggy Pop!
 
Iggy, 1970
Iggy, 1970 (Photo: Robert Matheu)

How long have you been collecting Stooges memorabilia? What do you consider to be some of the more interesting items in your collection?

Jeff Gold: I began collecting records and memorabilia in the early ‘70’s and when I saw interesting Stooges stuff, I’d buy it. I left Warner Bros. in 1998, and got back into buying and selling music stuff full time, and that coincided with the dawn of eBay, so there was much more of it on the market, and I took advantage of that. As for the Stooges things I find most interesting, I bought copies of all of their original contracts from Danny Fields, who signed and later managed them. After my years working for record companies, it was wild to see what a late ‘60’s record contract looked like, and that they were signed for only a $5,000 advance. Iggy didn’t have these, and was very appreciative when I gave copies to his lawyer. Hidden amongst them was a letter from Elektra to Danny Fields attempting to pick up their option on Iggy as a solo artist, after they’d dropped the Stooges. Iggy never knew they wanted to sign him as a solo act, and it blew his mind to find out about it all those years later.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
An interview with the author of the world’s strangest book
10.24.2016
03:50 pm

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Art
Books

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This is a guest post by “undercover banker,” Em, an occasional contributor to Dangerous Minds. Born in NYC, he has lived all over the world. Em returned to the US in 2010 after working in London for 4 years. He’s currently making ready for Canada or France, just in case the lesser of evils does not prevail in November.

If you’ve been Dangerous Minds reader for a few years now, you might remember back in 2013, an article that I wrote—they tell me it’s one of the site’s most popular posts ever—about my decades-long search for what many people regard as the strangest book in the world, Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus. That book is both a figurative, as well as literal, encyclopedia of weirdness insofar as it describes in great detail the basic physics, flora and fauna, and even the vaguely human-like society of a world that doesn’t happen to exist. Well “describes” may be too strong a word as the entire volume is written in a language—and even a script—that no one to date has ever decoded.

During my research on the Codex, I discovered that in 1984 Serafini created an even more obscure volume (if you can believe that) titled the Pulcinellopaedia Seraphiniana. Unlike the Codex, the Pulcinellopaedia Seraphiniana has never been republished until Rizzoli put out a new version (with new drawings) last week. There’s apparently both a standard hardcover as well as a signed, slipcased version, the latter limited to just 900 copies worldwide (300 in France, 300 in Italy and 300 in the US) and including a signed print.

So, how does it compare, you might ask, to the infamous Codex Seraphinianus? Well, it’s similar insofar as there isn’t any text directly associated with the images or ideas therein, though there is a recent postscript (dated April 2016) describing in loose terms how the book originally came about (which Serafini discussed in more detail in my interview with him below.) And like the Codex this volume is filled with illustrations that defy category and some of which, when you take a second look, you could swear were not there before. (My explanation for that phenomenon is that some images just don’t map very well to anything in non-chemically-coaxed minds so that you forget some of them within minutes after you’ve turned the page.)

But that’s where the similarity with the Codex ends. Unlike the earlier book, the Pulcinellopaedia Seraphiniana kinda sorta has a narrative arc, as it appears to describe the coming of Pulcinella (aka “Punch” as he’s called in English) into the world, and the thousand-and-one things in the human realm that arise as a result of this classic trickster’s frolicking around in our collective unconscious (you know—it’s a Jungian thing). And Punch’s frolicking isn’t confined to puppets and plays and cute-but-slightly-annoying little tricks, but runs the gamut of human experience up to and including life and death. Who knows? Maybe even Donald Trump himself is a vast cosmic joke which some force beyond our ken is using to tempt us into self-annihilation, just for shits-and-giggles. Who can say from our lowly mortal perspective?

Visually the Pulcinellopaedia Seraphiniana is quite different from the Codex as well. First of all, the graphite images are rendered in a far more limited tonal palette, with black and white and some red making up the bulk of the colors. Second, the book is broken down into about ten sections that resemble movements in a musical piece, with each page usually containing a single image (though there’s a comics-like intro at the beginning that frames the rest of the book). This sets the pace and tone of the “narration” and kind of forces you to dwell on each image’s possible meaning before you turn the page. It’s a very different experience from “reading” the Codex and one where the physical medium of the paper book itself is put to essential use. Me, I love the thing and have been looking at it almost nonstop since they sent me the review copy (Do they expect to get this back? Well, they can’t have it ‘cause it’s, it’s… uh, lost…).

Did I mention I actually spoke to the mysterious Mr. Serafini over the phone at length a few days ago about the Pulcinellopaedia Seraphiniana? Well, I did. No, really. It was a wide-ranging and fascinating conversation that touched upon the history of Pulcinella and the Pulcinellopaedia and its origin in the Venetian Carnivale, masks, theater, Napoleon Bonaparte, Naples, Jungian psychology, Igor Stravinsky and even trickster modern artist Maurizio Cattelan. And let me state for the record that I truly believe that Serafini is both real (corporeal even) and not merely an incarnation of Pulcinella himself, despite the trickster-ish books he has created over the last several decades.
 

 
Here’s the heavily-edited interview, which was conducted in English

So Pulcinella spoke to you?

Luigi Serafini: Some people claim to have seen a ghost and nobody believes them. But then again I can say the same. I can say that I met Pulcinella…well obviously this was a fiction for my text, for my writing… but at the same time Pulcinella was a real part of the history Naples and indeed the first evidence of masks such as Pulcinella goes back to the second century A.D., or even before.

I didn’t know that.

Yes. The ancestor of Pulcinella was Macchus and the Atellan Farce in ancient Rome, and the character evolved over the centuries, finally appearing in its present form in approximately the 16th century in Commedia dell’arte. But an essential element was of course the mask, and only in recent times did actors perform on stage without masks.

It reminds me of the Carnivale in Venice. I guess all those people running around in masks are almost a holdover of something older that survived into modern times.

Well that’s very interesting because there is a connection between my book and the Carnivale of Venice. In 1982 I was invited to Venice because after two centuries the Carnivale started again, but very few people know this strange story. When Napoleon invaded Venice at the end of the 18th century, one of his first acts was to abolish the Venice Carnivale because all the masks were considered dangerous for the French army.

So the recent French prohibition of the niqab for Muslim women had a precedent?

Yes! And so after the Austrians came there was a treaty between Napoleon and Austria and they kept the same tradition of banning the Carnivale. So for two centuries there was no Carnivale… I mean in people’s houses they might celebrate, but in general there was no Carnivale for centuries in Venice in the sense we now know it. But in the late 70s, the director of the Biennale Theater thought that it was the time for a revival of the Carnivale. So after two centuries of no Carnivale at the end of it 1970s the Carnivale reappeared in Venice.

So in 1982 I was invited by in the city of Venice for this new Carnivale. It was a kind of a Carnivale which included a Napoli-type of carnivale and it was fate that I approached the Pulcinella mask. And I was fascinated by it so I built a huge mask of Pulcinella for the Carnivale and in the process I created so many drawings for the project that I had to make a book about Pulcinella and about what was bubbling up inside me. And at the same time it was kind of a challenge because after I did the Codex (the year before)—it was an incredible success for me. I mean I was completely surprised by it and everybody was waiting for some spinoff of the Codex and I said, no I want to do something completely different. While the Codex came more from my own conscious mind, the Pulcinellopaedia is based on what might be described in Jungian terms as coming from the collective unconscious, particularly as the character Pulcinella originates from the culture at large.

My feeling is that the Codex is about a different world than ours but the Pulcinellopaedia is about our world, except maybe showing these things that are happening behind the scenes.

Exactly. It’s the difference between the conscious and the collective unconscious—my unconscious in me is part of the collective unconscious which means it belongs to everybody while my fantasy belongs only to me. So there is something connected with Jung…

It almost looks like it has a story. But I can’t tell what the story is.

More than just a story it is a musical suite and like a suite in Western music it has separate pieces and separate movements that are tonally and semantically linked.

You mentioned Stravinsky’s Pulcinella piece in your book.

Yes. Exactly: It’s a work of mirrors. Now I referenced Stravinsky, Stravinsky referenced Pergolesi, Pergolesi looked at Naples because he worked in Naples. Everybody reflects something from a mirror to somebody else, etcetera etcetera… So it’s a game. It’s a mirror game to me. Stravinsky. Pergolesi. Naples. Masks, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Can you give us any clues as to how to understand the Pulcinellopaedia? Like what’s with the spaghetti? The Pulcinella character is often interacting with spaghetti.

Okay, to more deeply understand the Pulcinellopaedia, the best way is a seven day trip to Naples. So you go out there and you enjoy the lifestyle and the beauty of this very particular city which is dominated by the volcano Mt. Vesuvius. So you always have this image of life and death because of the volcano, the eruption and Pompeii as if everything is just on the border between life and death. So Pulcinella could only be formed there, you know, and he frames and represents the joy of life and naturally, food is an important part of our life. So at the same time spaghetti illustrates the poverty of Pulcinella and his genius to survive, even if he is poor. So his genius is using all the tricks of fantasy like this to find a kind of inner peace in life.

That makes sense. I think at some point in the book Pulcinella looks like he breaks into two, maybe you know, kind of a life one and a death one and they seem to be fighting, I guess, constantly, kind of a balance between the two that’s never fully resolved.

Pulcinella is strange because it seems that whatever he does he always makes another Pulcinella or some sort of image or reflection of him emerges. So in that he is unique and at the same time he’s lonely and like an actor, in the end it’s the theater actor who is close to the audience. The theater is really a serious place where loneliness and the audience meet. And so the actor assumes the problems of the collective unconscious. And at the same time at the end of the performance they’re alone and afterwards he goes back into normal life.

Even in a movie theater you’ve got hundreds of people there gathered in the dark who don’t know each other. And they are all sitting together watching the same show…

So I noticed at the end of the book it looks like you have newer drawings.
 

 
LS: Yeah. Because I drew Batman and Superman. Batman for me is a heritage of the Commedia dell’arte and the superheroes are masked people like in the Commedia dell’arte. And so they’re really specializing in something. And it may be that the heritage of Commedia dell’arte is in comics right now. This is where we can see all the masked people which embody some virtues or vices—both—of ourselves.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The expensive new David Hockney coffee table book is so big that you can use it as a coffee table
10.21.2016
11:28 am

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At the Frankfurt Book Fair this week, David Hockney, who is currently 79 years old, unveiled a new collection of his work published by Taschen called A Bigger Book that definitely lives up to its name. The book is more than two feet tall and weighs a whopping 77 pounds. If you placed it on a little stool, it would definitely be able to support the weight of a tea service, say.

Hockney is one of the most renowned British painters of the 20th century, and A Bigger Book is a limited-edition volume costing $2,500 that covers his career of more than 60 years.

Fans of Hockney’s work will recognize in the book’s title an echo of some of the artist’s earlier works and book releases. One of Hockney’s most famous paintings is of a swimming pool, the title of which is “A Bigger Splash.”
 
 
David Hockney, “A Bigger Splash” (1967)
 
Similarly, the major retrospective of Hockney’s work that landed at the Tate Modern in 2013 bore the title “A Bigger Exhibition,” and there is a volume with his work called A Bigger Picture (the title has also been used for a documentary about Hockney) as well as a book containing interviews with Hockney called A Bigger Message. You can even purchase a lithograph of one of America’s most famous landmarks that is called “A Bigger Grand Canyon.”

Taschen has a tradition of bestowing upon artists of a certain caliber mega-sized volumes in a line called SUMO. Taschen’s first SUMO edition was for Helmut Newton in 1999. In 2003 Taschen released a SUMO volume dedicated to Muhammad Ali under the title GOAT, which presumably stands for “Greatest of All Time,” and the company has also released “SUMO-sized” volumes for H.R. Giger, Sebastião Salgado, and Annie Leibovitz. In 2014 Taschen published a SUMO volume about the Rolling Stones.
 
More after the jump…....
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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