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  • Pussy Riot’s ‘Straight Outta Vagina’: Female sexuality is bigger than any populist megalomaniac
    02:14 pm


    Pussy Riot
    Donald Trump


    “Don’t play stupid, don’t play dumb, vagina’s where you’re really from.”

    Russian feminist art pranksters (and political prisoners) Pussy Riot have released a new video for their catchy new Le Tigre-esque single “Straight Outta Vagina.” Shot at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles by director Phillip R Lopez, the project was inspired by a certain Putin-loving, pussy-grabbing billionaire vulgarian dick who happens to be the Republican Party’s candidate for President of the United States.

    Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova told the Guardian:

    “This song could be considered an answer to Trump. But I believe the idea of powerful female sexuality is much bigger than any populist megalomaniac man. Vagina is bigger than Trump.”

    Tolokonnikova has certainly noticed how Trump’s strongman act lines up with that of her own nemesis, Vladimir Putin:

    “Politicians are praising ‘strong leadership.’ Trump openly supports the authoritarian methods of Vladimir Putin. And it’s scary. It’s not the world in which I want to live.”

    The Russian activist described the “patriarchal and misogynist ideas” of Trump and Putin to a sexually transmitted disease. Pussy Riot have announced two additional upcoming videos commenting on US and Russian authoritarian and nationalist politics.

    Below, the Phillip R Lopez-directed video for “Straight Outta Vagina” by Pussy Riot, featuring Desi Mo & Leikeli47.

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    A massive Celtic cross has been secretly growing in an Irish forest
    01:31 pm


    Celtic crosses

    News station UTV Northern Ireland did a great report yesterday on a remarkable and decidedly man-made phenomenon that various airplane passengers have noticed in recent weeks: a 300-foot-long Celtic cross made up of thousands of trees that is only discernible from above, due to the differing coloration of the surrounding trees.

    Sadly, the cross is the handiwork of a man who is no longer around to enjoy it. He was a forester from County Donegal named Liam Emmery, and he died in 2010 at the age of 51 from complications after an accident. The accident left Emmery with some slight brain damage—his widow believes that this factor explains why even his closest relatives hardly heard anything about the project from him.

    The effect has been visible for several years, but Ireland has been experiencing a very dry autumn this year, and that has made the cross especially easy to discern, with the yellow Celtic cross nestled in a field of spruce green.

    “We’re going to be appreciating this for the next sixty or seventy years,” horticulturist Gareth Austin told UTV. As Gareth Wilkinson of UTV put it, Emmery singlehandedly created “a new landmark in this majestic, mystical landscape.”

    You can see the UTV Northern Ireland report here.
    via Atlas Obscura

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    The earliest known depiction of a witch flying on a broomstick
    11:46 am



    The Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF) possesses countless treasures, but one of the most intriguing is certainly the first known depiction of a witch flying on a broom. As with the trope of a stork bringing a family a newborn baby, the image has embedded itself so deeply in our culture that we seldom stop to ask what it means or where it originally came from.

    The marginal illustrations of the 1451 edition of French poet Martin Le Franc’s Le Champion des Dames (The Defender of Ladies), a manuscript of which currently resides in the BNF, include an image of two women levitating, one on a stick, the other on a broom. In Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History, history professors Alan Charles Kors and Edward Peters assert that this edition of Le Champion des Dames contains “the first such illustration in the pictorial history of witchcraft.” Elsewhere they call it “the first known illustration of women flying on broomsticks.”

    Le Franc’s lengthy poem on virtuous women (I almost wrote “nasty women”) features a section on witches, alongside of which the broomstick illustration appears. Fascinatingly, the two women have no physical deformity whatsoever and cannot be visually singled out as witches—but for the broomstick. Their covered heads is a sign that they are Waldensians, a kind of precursor to the Protestant Reformation.

    But why broomsticks?

    Definitely NOT the first depiction of a witch on a broomstick—it’s from 1910—but it was just too good not to use here.
    Busting out his Freudian playbook, Dylan Thuras at Atlas Obscura muses that the “broom was a symbol of female domesticity, yet the broom was also phallic, so riding on one was a symbol of female sexuality, thus femininity and domesticity gone wild.” Furthermore, pagan rituals of the day often incorporated phallic forms, and the image of a broomstick between a woman’s legs would have been quite unsettling to Catholics.

    The engine behind the power flight lay not in the stick, however, but in the “ointment” or “potion” that was applied to it, which might have included nightshade, henbane or fly agaric magic mushrooms. The Atlantic’s Megan Garber found this reference in the 15th-century works of Jordanes de Bergamo:

    The vulgar believe, and the witches confess, that on certain days or nights they anoint a staff and ride on it to the appointed place or anoint themselves under the arms and in other hairy places.

    “Other hairy places”—sounds like a veiled reference to genitalia, to which the levitating stick of course comes into close proximity.

    Matt Soniak found a 1477 reference from Antoine Rose, who, after being accused of witchcraft in France, confessed that the Devil had given her flying potions; she would “smear the ointment on the stick, put it between her legs and say ‘Go, in the name of the Devil, go!’”

    Now there’s that crazy witchcraft!
    Note: The information in this article derives from a better and longer post written by Allison Meier at Hyperallergic, posted yesterday. Highly recommended.

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    Solar system string lights
    11:18 am



    I’m always looking for cool indoor string lights and I think I’ve found them. These awesome solar system string lights are by ThinkGeek. There are 10 glowing glass orbs which includes the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

    Again, the orbs are glass, so if you accidentally break one (apparently they’re somewhat fragile) you can purchase replacements. I’ve included images of them lit and not lit. Obviously they don’t look as nifty without the power, but it gives you an idea of what they look like closer up and the quality of the craftsmanship.

    A string of solar system lights will cost you $29.99. If you want replacement bulbs too, that’s another $19.99. These are indoor only.





    Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
    Stray Cat Beat Girl: Meet the electrifying ‘Aretha Franklin’ of Japan, Akiko Wada
    10:40 am

    Pop Culture

    Akiko Wada

    Akiko Wada.
    The arrival of the “beat girl” archetype in Japanese culture back in the 60s came with numerous girl rockers taking the helm of bands, cranking out garage rock sounds and pop-inspired hits some of which would go on to sell more than a million copies (such as the 1965 smash sung in English by Emy Jackson “Crying in a Storm”). Of the many that were a part of this movement, one of the most notable was a woman often referred to as the “Japanese Aretha Franklin,” Akiko Wada.

    Born Akiko Iizuka (according to her website) to Korean parents, she soon adopted her maternal uncle’s name (Wada) and started skipping school (before dropping out of high school entierly) to enjoy the nightlife of Osaka. At the age of seventeen she had added “runaway” to her growing rebellious teenage resume after a trip to Tokyo. Wada’s “look” was perceived as “unconventional” even during her childhood. In elementary school Wada was already over five-feet tall and by the time she stopped growing she stood approximately 5’9. Not only did Wada sound more like a man she was also taller than most of her male counterparts on the hit parade. Due to her unique looks and vocal style she was often referred to as being “butch.

    It’s important to note here that being labeled as “butch” is a distinct inference of homosexuality. And being gay in Japan isn’t merely frowned upon, it is also considered an “unacceptable” lifestyle (though there has been some progress over the last two decades). Despite assumptions regarding her sexuality Wada has been married to a man (photographer Koji Iizuka) for the past 35 years.

    Wada would embark on her recording career in 1968, singing on an astronomical number of records (somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 singles) since the release of her first single “Hoshizora no Kodoku” (“The Solitude of the Starry Sky”). Fast-forward to 2016 and the unstoppable Wada shows no signs of slowing down. Her latest release “All Right!!!” came out in July of this year—three months after her 66th birthday.

    Wada also appeared in a few memorable films, a few which audiences outside of Japan may be familiar with such as the 1970 Japanese chick biker-flick (the first of the long-running franchise) Alleycat Rock: Female Boss where Akiko gets to play the cycle-riding biker girl “Ako.” Wada would reprise the role of “Ako” in the follow-up film, Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo. Wada has also hosted her own TV show, Akko ni Omakase (“Leave It To Akko”), as well as a radio show DJ Akko No Panic Studio. I’ve included a number of cool tracks from Wada’s vast catalog for you to listen to below and the groovy trailer for Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo (which was lovingly remastered back in 2014 by Arrow Films) that features Wada looking larger than life, rocking out in a sweet brown pantsuit.

    The trailer for the 1970 film ‘Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo’ featuring Akiko Wada.
    More Akiko Wada after the jump…

    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    ‘Do you have this octopus in my size?’ The surreal shoes sculptures of Costa Magarakis
    09:49 am


    Costa Magarakis

    These boots aren’t made for walking—they’re sculptures designed by Costa Magarakis—a Greek-born artist who is now based in “a Shoe Galaxy some ‘step years’ away…”

    Costa makes shoe sculptures because he believes every “shoe has its own personality and a story to tell.” His influences come from “everywhere” but the Victorian era is his favorite.

    His sculptures are produced thru a long and laborious process in which each shoe is made “suitable for molding.” Once the old boot is softened up, Costa adds fiberglass resin and a variety of diverse materials including bronze, glass, wood, paint, fantasy and love.

    The finished sculptures cost between $500 and $1,200+ each and can be purchased via Costa’s Etsy page—where he trades under the name SpiderJelly.

    Check out more of Costa’s work on his website.
    More surreal shoe sculptures, after the jump…

    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
    The Scorpions: Heavy metal gods bring the funky grooves, 1978
    09:42 am


    Uli Jon Roth

    The tame alternate cover of the Scorpions 1976 album ‘Virgin Killer.’
    This footage from German music show Musikladen features some seriously funky riffs from former Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth.  The impossibly lickey Roth departed the band shortly after the release of the live album Tokyo Tapes in 1978—the same year as their mind-melting appearance on the show.

    In the video the Scorpions sound kinda groovy as they chug through “The Sails of Charon” from their 1977 album Taken By Force with the help of Roth’s impeccable chops and some psychedelic effects. The influential guitarist got his start playing in a band called Blue Infinity back when he was only thirteen and drew inspiration from not only classical guitar masters such as Julian Bream but also disciples of the musical art of Flamenco like French guitarist Manitas de Plato. Both influences can be heard as Roth frets away in a trance-like state during the band’s appearance on the show. While I know not everyone has a special affinity for heavy metal like I do, I still think it’s nearly impossible to not appreciate the power and prowess of the Scorpions in this footage as it’s absolutely mesmerizing.

    If your record collection is a little light when it comes to Scorpions I’d suggest filling some of those gaps with any (or all) of the studio records that Roth appears on from the band’s early catalog—1974’s Fly to The Rainbow, 1975’s In Trance, 1976’s stellar Virgin Killer, and 1977’s Taken By Force. And if Roth’s epic jam sounds at all familiar to you it should as it was homaged by Metallica guitarist and self-professed Roth enthusiast Kirk Hammett on the track “Battery” from Master of Puppets.

    More after the jump…

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


    Iggy Pop

    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?

    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
    ‘Live Zabor,’ the essential document of Björk and the Sugarcubes from 1989
    09:11 am



    The Sugarcubes’ 1989 single “Birthday” represented the biggest Icelandic hit outside of Iceland up to that point, by far. The success of that song and the band’s three studio albums, in the opinion of Björk, the band’s memorable lead singer, had an adverse effect on Iceland’s literary development during that era.

    In 1989 the Sugarcubes released Live Zabor, a document of approximately a year’s worth of touring as a headlining act. The live clips, of which there are many, come from three gigs. The core of the footage are several tracks recorded in London in May 1988 when they were supporting their debut album Life’s Too Good—which are surrounded by footage from 1989 taped in Reykjavik, which include several cuts from Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! A single track, “Speed Is the Key,” was taped in Auburn, Alabama, in October 1988.

    Sprinkled in among the live cuts are individual interview clips with each member of the band. Keyboardist Margrét Örnólfsdóttir or “Magga” takes viewers on a tour of a typical Icelandic supermarket, while drummer Sigtryggur Baldursson or “Siggi” essays an imitation of an Alabaman preacher that is fairly cringeworthy. Björk’s contribution is a clip you may have seen in which she dismantles a TV set.

    More after the jump…

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


    Luigi Serafini

    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
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