follow us in feedly
Androgynous aerial acrobat & 1920s female impersonator, the great ‘Barbette’


Vander Clyde as the captivating ‘Barbette,’ early 1920s.
 
Vander Clyde (aka “Barbette”) was born in Texas around 1898. Though there is some dispute about Clyde’s actual date of birth, there is no debate about how the influential Vaudeville acrobat and female impersonator was to artists such as Jean Cocteau (who wrote an essay in 1926 based on Clyde’s alter-ego as a female impersonator called Le Numéro Barbette). It’s even said that Clyde’s incredible transformative abilities helped inspire Blake Edwards’ gender-bending 1982 film, Victor/Victoria.

As a young child, perhaps as young as eight, Clyde attended a local circus with his mother in Austin and was so moved by the show (especially the aerial acts), that he later confessed to his horrified mother that he intended to run away and join the circus and become a “wire-walker.” Clyde didn’t make good on his threat and instead stayed home and got a job picking cotton for several years so he could earn enough cash continue attending circus shows. After graduating at the top of his class at the age of fourteen Clyde would develop his self-taught aerial skills by using anything he could including the clothing line in his backyard. Shortly after he graduated and according to the 2012 book The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville he responded to an ad in Billboard Magazine placed by the “World Famous Aerial Queens” a group from Italy known as the “Alfaretta Sisters.” Tragically one of the sisters had recently died and the act was desperately looking for a replacement. However the job came with a catch.

The surviving members of the Alfaretta Sisters insisted that one of reasons their act was so popular was because people preferred to watch women swinging around on a trapeze rather than a man. So in order to get the gig Clyde would have to dress up like a girl. Which he happily did. It wouldn’t take long before Clyde would launch his solo career dressed in drag as “Barbette.” When his show premiered in New York at the Harlem Opera House in 1919, The New York Dramatic Mirror (now there’s a publication I’d love to see come back, wouldn’t you?) called Barbette “not a bad looking girl at all” and praised his “thrilling stunts.” The magazine also noted that at the end of Barbette’s act that Clyde dramatically removed his wig stunning the audience to silence.
 

 
In 1923 Clyde took to the stage of the Folies Bergère, a cabaret music hall located in Paris dressed in full drag as Barbette. During the show Clyde performed incredible acrobatic stunts such as walking a high wire and dangerous trapeze-related tricks. Clyde’s appearance was so convincing that it left people to ponder the ambiguous performer’s true sexual identity. Members of the French avant-garde community were captivated by Clyde’s portrayal of Barbette including one of France’s most influential creative minds the great Jean Cocteau, who was allegedly linked to Clyde romantically. Cocteau was so taken with Barbette that he commissioned surrealist photographer Man Ray to take a series of photographs showing Clyde’s metamorphosis into the ethereal, androgynous Barbette.

In 1938 Clyde contracted pneumonia which led to his early retirement from the stage though he would continue to work with up-and-coming circus acts as well as on films by Orson Welles and the legendary multi-talented producer and director, Billy Rose. I’ve included some remarkable photos of Clyde as Barbette and some images from his shoot with Man Ray. If you’d like to learn more about Clyde he is the subject of a fantastic looking book called Wildflower: The Dramatic Life of Barbette—Round Rock’s First and Greatest Drag Queen. Though there is no nudity, some may be considered NSFW.
 

Vander Clyde as ‘Barbette.’ Photography by Man Ray.
 

‘Barbette’ on the trapeze.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
And then Andy Warhol took another one of Man Ray
03.17.2015
03:11 pm

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Andy Warhol
Man Ray


Andy Warhol, Portrait of Man Ray
 
This is easily the best thing I’ve seen all day. In 1976 Andy Warhol was conducting a photo shoot in the Paris apartment of the legendary photographer Man Ray. A camera crew was present and asked for a description of the goings-on, which were apparently fairly recursive in nature. Warhol in his semi-witting way, uncorked a mesmerizing batch of verbiage. It’s truly something to behold.
 

 
There’s a transcript of the interview in Kenneth Goldsmith, ed., I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, 1962-1987, which I’ve taken and brushed up just a touch here and there. Here’s the chunk of the video that’s been embedded below:
 

And then he took a picture of me again and I took another Polaroid of him and then we had the Super X… the camera 70… Super 70-X uh… And then I took one of um… ahhh… And then I took another picture of Man Ray and then I took another one of Man Ray and then I took another one of Man Ray. Then I took another with my uh… uh… with my funny camera, what’s it called? The funny camera? It’s called the uh… the portrait camera. And so I took another one of Man Ray and I took another one of Man Ray and I took another one of Man Ray. And then I think he signed one… one of them, and then I took another one of Man Ray. I took another picture of Man Ray, another Polaroid portrait of Man Ray and another Polaroid portrait of Man Ray, another Polaroid portrait of Man Ray and then another Polaroid portrait of Man Ray and then I took another Polaroid portrait of Man Ray and then I took another Polaroid portrait of Man Ray. And then I took another portrait. And then I think he took another portrait of me and then he signed that one for me and I put it in my sss… my Brownie shopping bag.

 
Amazingly, this is only a small portion of what he said…. you can see a full transcript of Warhol’s remarks here.

Just watch it, you won’t regret it.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Three Dadaist recipes from Man Ray
12.10.2014
09:54 am

Topics:
Art
Food

Tags:
Man Ray
Dada


 
If you happen to see an affordable copy of The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook in a bookstore—assuming there are any bookstores left—grab it. It looks like most online booksellers’ copies are going for between $100 and $200 this holiday season, but I found one for just $8.50 a couple years back, so there must be other affordable copies out there.

Published in 1961 by Contact Editions in Sausalito, the cookbook collects John Keats’ recipes for pike and duck, Isak Dinesen’s oysters au naturel (not much of a recipe, really), Marcel Duchamp’s steak tartare, Lillian Hellman’s shrimp creole, Edgard Varèse’s boeuf bourguignon, Pearl Buck’s spare ribs, Robert Graves’ yellow plum jelly, Paul Bowles’ recipe for majoun—the Moroccan cannabis candy that fueled The Sheltering Sky and Let It Come Down—and much else. I can’t say I’ve used the book much for cooking, mainly because the recipes are so heavy on meat. But even if, like me, you don’t plan to whip up a batch of Enid Foster’s brains in beer anytime soon, where else can you come across things like Man Ray’s “Menu for a Dadaist Day”? Here are three mouthwatering, kitchen-tested Dadaist favorites that will have your family clamoring for seconds.

Le Petit Dejeuner. Take a wooden panel of an inch or less thickness, 16 to 20 inches in size. Gather the brightly colored wooden blocks left by children on the floors of playrooms and paste or screw them on the panel.

Déjeuner. Take the olives and juice from one large jar of prepared green or black olives and throw them away. In the empty jar place several steel ball bearings. Fill the jar with machine oil to prevent rusting. With this delicacy serve a loaf of French bread, 30 inches in length, painted a pale blue.

Dîner. Gather wooden darning eggs, one per person. If the variety without handles cannot be found, remove the handles. Pierce lengthwise so that skewers can be inserted in each darning egg. Lay the skewered eggs in an oblong or oval pan and cover with transparent cellophane.

Mmm! Just like Mom used to make.

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
A pencil of light: The Surrealist films of Man Ray
09.25.2014
11:14 am

Topics:
Art
Movies

Tags:
Man Ray

01010maraya.jpg
 
Apart from his glittering career as a photographer, painter and “maker of Surreal objects,” the American artist Man Ray was also a filmmaker of considerable skill and originality.

Born Emmanuel Radnitzky in Pennsylvania on August 27th, 1890, Man Ray was the first of four children born to Russian immigrants. When he was seven, the family moved to Brooklyn where he shortened his first name from “Manny” to “Man” and because of the anti-semitism rife in New York at the time, the family changed their surname from Radnitzky to Ray—hence Manny Radnitzky became “Man Ray.” From an early age he assisted his parents with their work in the garment trade—his father was a tailor, his mother made simple designs—and it was hoped the eldest son Manny would follow in the family business. But Man Ray had other ambitions and he taught himself to draw by spending time in museums and art galleries, and eventually won a scholarship to study architecture, but he rejected it in favor of being an artist. This decision was confirmed for Man Ray after he saw the Armory Show in New York, 1913.

In 1915, Man Ray had his first solo exhibition. He then decided he wanted to be a part of Dada—the “anti-art movement” to this end he became friends with Marcel Duchamps, and the pair worked together on early examples of kinetic art.

In 1921, Man Ray moved to Paris, where he lived in the artists’s quarter of Montparnasse, and fell in love with the famous model, singer, budding actress and well-known Bohemian Kiki de Montparnasse (aka Alice Prin). Kiki became Man Ray’s lover and muse, who he began to photograph, which in turn led him to his first experiment as filmmaker Le Retour à la Raison in 1923. 

Man Ray aligned himself with the Cinéma pur movement, which focussed on taking film away from narrative and plot and returning it to movement and image. Its proponents were René Clair, Fernand Léger, Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling, amongst others, and their short films were the beginnings of what was to become “Art Cinema.”

Adhering to Cinéma pur‘s loose manifesto, Man Ray’s early films, Le Retour à la Raison (Return to Reason) in 1923 and Emak-Bakia (Leave me alone) in 1926, focussed on creating startling textural patterns through the representation of objects within rhythmical loops. The experimentation of Le Retour à la Raison was repeated and developed in Emak-Bakia, and many of the techniques Man Ray developed (double exposure, Rayographs and soft focus) were later co-opted by animators and filmmakers during the 1940s to 1960s.
 

‘Le Retour à la Raison’ (‘Return to Reason’)
 
More of Man Ray’s Surrealist cinema after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Surrealist masters, dada directors & avant-garde all stars in ‘Dreams Money Can Buy’


 
Dreams Money Can Buy is a 1947 anthology film made by artist/author Hans Richter and collaborators like Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Leger, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst and others. There is music from John Cage, Paul Bowles and a number by scandalous bisexual torch singer Libby Holman and popular African-American singer Josh White (who was later caught up in the “Red Scare” and black-listed) on the original soundtrack titled “The Girl with the Pre-Fabricated Heart” that plays during Leger’s segment.

Richter’s goal was to bring the avant-garde out of the museum and into the movie house and the results, predictably, are rather unique. Certainly Dreams Money Can Buy must have been a stunner at the time and it still is. With no spoken dialogue, the plot, such that there is one, revolves around a man who rents a room where he can peer into the mirror and see people’s dreams. He sets up shop and we meet his clients and see their interior lives in the dream sequences. As you can imagine with the above list of collaborators, the film is a dizzying treat of audio-visual creation.
 

 
Marcel Duchamp’s contribution “Discs” is especially interesting. Here we see Duchamp’s famous Rotoreliefs in action, with a “prepared piano” soundtrack performed by John Cage. [I was once offered a box of glass and wood reproductions in miniature of Duchamp’s kinetic sculptures—at a good price, too—and like a fucking idiot I passed on it].
 

 
Below, Dreams Money Can Buy in its entirety on YouTube. If you want to watch with the original soundtrack, it’s here. The “modern” soundtrack in the version embedded below was recorded by The Real Tuesday Weld and is pretty faithful to the original music. This is one of those films that demands to be screened outside at night under the stars. You can buy the DVD (which has both the original and modern soundtrack) here.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Dreams Money Can Buy: Surrealist feature film from 1947

image
 
Dreams Money Can Buy is a 1947 film made by artist/author Hans Richter and collaborators like Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Ferdinand Leger, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Paul Bowles, Max Ernst and others. There is a number by scandalous bisexual torch singer Libby Holman and popular African-American singer Josh White (who was later caught up in the “Red Scare” and black-listed) on the original soundtrack titled “The Girl with the Pre-Fabricated Heart” that plays during Leger’s segment.
 
Richter’s goal was to bring the avant-garde out of the museum and into the movie house and the results, predictably, are rather unique. Certainly Dreams Money Can Buy must have been a stunner at the time and it still is. The plot, such that there is one, revolves around a man who rents a room where he can peer into the mirror and see people’s dreams. He sets up shop and we meet his clients and see their surreal interior lives in the dream sequences. As you can imagine with the above list of collaborators, the film is a dizzying treat of audio-visual creation.
 
image
 
Marcel Duchamp’s contribution, “Discs,” is especially interesting. Here we see Duchamp’s famous Rotoreliefs in action, with a “prepared piano” soundtrack performed by John Cage. [I was once offered a box of glass and wood reproductions in miniature of Duchamp’s kinetic sculptures—at a good price, too—and like a fucking idiot I passed on it].
 

 
Below, Dreams Money Can Buy in its entirety on YouTube. If you want to watch with the original soundtrack, it’s here. The “modern” soundtrack, in the version embedded below, was recorded by The Real Tuesday Weld and is pretty faithful to the original music.
 

 
Thank you Vanessa Weinberg!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Man Ray: Home Movies

image
 
Home Movies of Man Ray and Ady Fidelin from 1938, present a simple and intimate portrait of the man behind the artist.
 

 
With thanks to Angie Lane
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Marcel Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema
10.19.2011
08:05 pm

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Marcel Duchamp
Man Ray
Anemic Cinema


 
Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema is recalled as a collaboration between Duchamp and Man Ray, but it was really a collaboration between May Ray and Duchamp’s female alter ego Rrose Selavy (c’est la vie, geddit?). It was made with Duchamp’s kinetic sculptures, the Rotoreliefs, which I have written about before here. The title Anemic Cinema is a near palindrome.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:

Dreams Money Can Buy: Surrealist Feature Film from 1947

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment