Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Bought a few items:

Camille Paglia - The Birds (BFI Film Classics), £2.73

Peter Brook - The Empty Space (Penguin Modern Classics), £3.87

Kai Althoff, Brandon Stosuy - Mirror Me (Dispatch), £2.98

Monday, 28 January 2013

Defcon Salon 1: Members’ Show 2013 @ Embassy Gallery - review

Anyone expecting the Embassy members’ show to observe the usual etiquette reserved for such functions might just be in for a surprise. Most artists can be relied upon to pitch in with a polite, discreet artwork that won’t hog too much of the limelight, but the Embassy 2013 vintage doesn’t quite observe protocol. They granted the Orton sisters Katie, Anna and Sophie and their three-way collaboration Ortonandon the license to install hundreds of red, blue, green and yellow vinyl spots all over the gallery's walls and floor. The resulting Twister homage, replete with wheel on a plinth, provides a dazzling 60s op/pop intervention that impresses by virtue of its sheer chutzpah. 

The accompanying gallery handout by Neil Cooper persuasively argues that Ortonandon weren’t seeking to upstage anyone else here. “Inclusivity is everything to Ortonandon” Cooper writes. What the installation does is tie all the various submissions together, from lo-fi to polished, everything in an exuberant game of give and take, a push-pull dynamic of influence and intra-artist dialogue.

Even in these most crowded of surroundings, certain works prove more than capable of holding their own. Deadrie Robertson’s assemblage of platform boot, wig and bleach bottle Karen's Night Out packs plenty of trashy glam strut, Chloe Winsor’s luminous untitled pyramid still retains an air of esoteric mystery and Claire Davies’s multicoloured Bommyknocker stick clings to the floor alone quite happily.

It’s the multitude of dots that the show will be remembered for, however, tying all the local scene together in joyous knots. As Cooper’s notes put it, “Ortonandon, then, are about more than just fooling around."

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Allen Jones - sculptures

Chair, 1969

Allen Jones RA (born 1 September 1937) is a British pop artist, best known for his sculptures. He lives and works in London.

Jones' exhibition of erotic sculptures, such as the set Chair, Table and Hat Stand (1969), are studies in forniphilia, which turn women into items of human furniture. Much of his work draws on the imagery of rubber fetishism and BDSM.

The sculptures in the Korova Milkbar from the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange were based on works by Jones after he turned down the request by Stanley Kubrick to design the set for no payment.

Jones designed Barbet Schroeder's 1976 film Maîtresse.

Table, 1969

In 1969 three female figures by Allen Jones each slightly larger than life size, ‘Hatstand’, ‘Table’ and ‘Chair’, were cast in fibreglass in editions of 6 by Gems Wax Models Ltd of Notting Hill, London, a firm of commercial sculptors who made (and make) shop window mannequins and sculptures for waxworks. Stylistically the figures are similar to those in Jones's paintings of c.1967–8. For the figures Jones made working drawings from memory, not in front of a model. From these drawings a professional sculptor, Dick Beech of Gems Wax Models, produced clay figures under Jones's direction; these clay figures were modified in accordance with his intentions. He wanted to make sculpture ‘without fine art marks, devoid of fine art clothing’. When the first, ‘Hatstand’, a standing figure, was finished he realized that it might be construed as a bizarre window mannequin and so he decided to process the figure so that it would not appear to be just a decorative object. This he did by giving the other two sculptures a more obvious function, that of being a table and a chair, so that the viewer's expectation of what could be fine art would be questioned and allow the viewer to perceive the figure anew as a subject in art.

In Jones's view ‘because these 3 sculptures of women are recognisably representational it is less obvious that the sculpture is not about being naturalistic. They are not so much about representing woman but the experience of woman, not an illusion’.
With reference to his work in general Jones considers that:

'The erotic impulse transcends cerebral barriers and demands a direct emotional response. Confronted with an abstract statement people readily defer to an expert; but confronted with an erotic statement everyone is an expert. It seems to me a democratic idea that art should be accessible to everyone on some level, and eroticism in one such level’.

Jones considers that the three sculptures ‘Hatstand’, ‘Table’ and ‘Chair’ are the most radical statements that he has made.

Hatstand, 1969

After all this time, for good or ill, it is those pieces of female furniture that his name is likely to bring to mind. They are, like Warhol's Marilyns, or Lichtenstein's comic-book paintings, emblematic of the spirit of the 1960s – although, some would say, of a distasteful aspect of it.

"Artists," Jones says, "don't live in a vacuum any more than politicians or writers or anybody else." When he made those sculptures, he was responding to a strand in Sixties culture and fashion. The specialist firm that made the leather costumes for Jones's sculptures also made the costumes Diana Rigg wore in the TV series The Avengers.

"I was living in Chelsea and I had an interest in the female figure and the sexual charge that comes from it. Every Saturday on the King's Road you went out and skirts were shorter, the body was being displayed in some new way. And you knew that the following week somebody would up the ante."

In retrospect, Jones feels, "I was reflecting on and commenting on exactly the same situation that was the source of the feminist movement. It was unfortunate for me that I produced the perfect image for them to show how women were being objectified."

Jones hoped that those furniture pieces would produce a strong reaction in the viewer, but he got more than he bargained for. In the ensuing decade his work was angrily attacked.

"Smoke bombs and stink bombs and God knows what were thrown at my ICA show in 1978. There was an incredible furore on the Mall. The Guardian suggested I should not be allowed to exhibit. It was tough stuff and I wasn't expecting it."

One irony is that Jones is, he protests, a card-carrying feminist himself. In person, he is a mild, articulate and rather intellectual man.

Nearly 40 years on, the Table and other pieces look less startling and more part of a tradition that now includes sexualised mannequins by Jeff Koons and the Chapman brothers. Jones certainly isn't apologising for them.

"More and more as time goes by, when someone tries to find an image to show how people were in those times, they might easily use one of my sculptures."
Martin Gayford

Apologists for Jones have argued that his representations of women are merely a lure, drawing the viewer into an aesthetic game, or else they have pointed to the artist’s interest in Jung and Nietzsche, arguing that his representations of the body are an attempt to reconcile the bisexual nature of the human psyche. Both arguments are disingenuous. Jones’ project is not primarily a formalist one. Moreover, although he sometimes shows male and female bodies merging, and his female characters are often extremely ‘masculine’ (the images in Shoe Box, for example, often look like men’s feet in drag), his work is concerned with sexual difference, not some mythical sexual homogeneity. Jones’ subject is the female body as it exists in the male imagination.

Feminists recognised this instantly. In an article on Jones published in 1973, Laura Mulvey analysed his use of fetishism in classic Freudian terms. Women’s bodies signify to men the possibility of castration: the fetishist is fixated by castration anxiety; hence, in his fantasies, the woman must be brought together with phallic substitutes (in an act of narcissistic completion) or punished for her lack of phallus (in an assertion of difference). Often these strategies coincide - the stiletto, for example, is both the wearer’s weapon and punishment.

It is hard to deny the relevance of this account of fetishism to Jones’ work. However, it is quite another thing to argue, as some did, that Jones’ work should be suppressed. This brings us smack into debates on pornography and censorship: at what point should we restrict the circulation of images? It is certainly true that Jones’ work seems tame now, but does this mean, as proponents of censorship seem to argue, that perversion is contagious? The wide response found by work like Jones’ since the 70s suggests that, at some level, fetishism is a normative, rather than a pathological, phenomenon in our society.
Mark Sladen

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Yuck 'n Yum - Deadline for spring issue approaching!

Look at the kitten! It’s asking, nay, begging for submissions to 2013′s first Yuck ‘n Yum issue. Check out our How To Submit guidelines to appease the kitten.

Defcon Salon 1 : Embassy Members’ Show 2013 25.01.13 - pictures

To the Embassy gallery in Edinburgh last night for their annual members' show. Ortonandon, the "triple whammy of sisters" Katie, Sophie and Anna Orton, created an installation inspired by a game of Twister. I took a few photos and here they are:

"Inclusivity is everything to Ortonandon"

"Ortonandon, then, are about more than just fooling around"

"Game, set and match, then, to Ortonandon"

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Zazou - All Things Pass Into The Night 22.02.13

The final chapter of Zazou!

Many thanks to all who supported and attended over the past 2 years.

If you fancy a last strut on the weird and wild side of the disco there....

Il Discotto/Stefan Blomeier & a dazzling array of full steam ahead obscure euro disco....... off piste italo smashes........ cosmic space party crashes......age of Aquarius weirdo guitar fuzz Charlie-don't-surf hotrods...... £5

Friday 22.02.13 from 11pm 

Kage nightclub, St Andrews Lane, Dundee 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

DAiR Reading Group: 'What is a Museum?' @ Generator Projects 23.01.13 - pictures

To the Generator this evening for an event hosted by DAiR aka Dundee Artists in Residence. Up for discussion was a text by Robert Smithson and the critic Allan Kaprow asking 'What is a Museum?' I took a few photos and here they are:

DAiR's Jonathan Baxter holds court

Tea and biscuits were served, all were welcome

DAiR detritus in the main gallery. Attendees were invited to select an item and discuss it.

My chosen object, a sock cut in two.

The Skinny - Estrangement preview

Fatma Bucak - Blessed are you who come - conversation on the Turkish-Armenian border, 2012

That's me back on board The Skinny train:

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Andy Warhol - Vinyl

Vinyl is a 1965 American black-and-white experimental film directed by Andy Warhol at The Factory. It is an early adaptation of Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, starring Gerard Malanga, Edie Sedgwick, Ondine, and Tosh Carillo, and featuring such songs as "Nowhere to Run" by Martha and the Vandellas, "Tired of Waiting for You" by The Kinks, "The Last Time" by The Rolling Stones and "Shout" by The Isley Brothers. 

A film that isn't understood by many, to my knowledge, but it is a great exercise in experimental film making. Warhol makes great use of cramped space and exhausted actors to capture a feeling of in the now, on the spot, film making. Based off of A Clockwork Orange, the cramped style feels like debauchery and recklessness, devoid of a point even when given one. Ultimately it's a fun film with some talent, and had it been prepared first and put on stage, it may be celebrated like we do Samuel Beckett.
Nelson Maddaloni

Warhol's adaptation (for lack of a more shambling word) of Anthony Burgess' A CLOCKWORK ORANGE begins with a giant closeup of the glowering droog antihero, then moves backward to reveal him narcissistically preening while a crowd of poshy socialites sits blithely by. If this sounds familiar, it's because it's the same opening Stanley Kubrick designed for his version of the book--except that Warhol, working on a sub-Z budget, could only zoom backward, not track.

VINYL is staged in what seems to be a corner of Andy's Factory loft, where a knot of S&M kidnappers, languid dilettantes, plainclothesmen and JD's act out Burgess' fable of a thug's "cure" through mind control. The moralizing of Burgess' novel gets instantly burned away in the wake of a kooky combination of elegant minimalist mise-en-scene, rough-trade heavy breathing, and the usual Warholian giggling at seemingly blithe freaks and damaged goods

Some of the picture lags under the burden of Ronald Tavel's clunky sixties-off-Broadway writing, but the first sequence is sheer amazement--climaxing with the droog Gerard Malanga's motto-delivering monologue (a pinnacle among Warhol is-this-supposed-to-be-bad? scenes) and his nutty chicken dance to Martha and the Vandellas' "Nowhere to Hide"--played all the way through, twice. (The start-up of rendition #2 gets the movie's biggest laugh.)

As always in Warhol, the stasis of the image gives the picture the feeling of a window onto eternity. And the combination of extreme glamour and fox-in-the-henhouse cruelty, framed in compositions that recall heads in a vise, suggests the excitement this work must have had for an ambitious young Bavarian actor-playwright named Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 
matthew wilder (

The 66-minute film is comprised of one shot, commencing with an extreme close up of Victor (Gerard Malanga) as his face moves mechanically from side to side. The only sound is his breath as it grows heavier and heavier. Slowly, the shot pulls back to reveal his golden, cherubic curls as they glisten in the light. A cigarette lingers between his full lips, and he is encased within fragments of denim and glistening leather. 

The claustrophobia is infectious, and relief comes as the camera pulls back to a medium shot of Victor lifting weights in the center of the frame. The foreground is blasted with light; a man in a suit sits in the bottom left corner of the screen and watches Victor silently. Vinyl marks the first significant appearance in a Warhol film by Edie Sedgwick, who remains perched on a trunk in the bottom right corner of the screen. Luminous in a black mini dress and leather thigh-high boots, Edie chain-smokes in a slight stupor. 

Because of the unblinking gaze of the single shot, one is able to jump around to different scenes while absorbing the entirety of what’s there. Sedgwick is lit the brightest, her curious, girlish demeanor juxtaposed against the fragmented, decapitated bodies in the background as they drip wax on the captured boy whose head rears back, mouth agape in pleasure. Masculinity ebbs and flows around Sedgwick; she gratefully accepts a bump as it finds its way around, then watches innocently as one of the men peels back the saran wrap and shoves his fist into the boy’s mouth. Edie flutters her colossal lashes, unmoved by the spectacle. One 2009 review states that Sedgwick steals the show. Of that I am unsure, though Vinyl would surely not function as it does without her. The film’s explicit images are softened by her juvenile, impish beauty.

The dreamlike pace and subdued energy of Vinyl is suffused with febrile, sadistic pleasure; it is pure vouyerism, most certainly Warholian as the faces of the cast shine, dazed, lacking any traces of inhibition. Now 40 years past the Stonewall riots, it is remarkable to watch Warhol and his entourage so at home in their sexuality.

It is a privilege to glimpse into this moment in time so rarely seen on film. Vinyl is an artifact of a progressive, avant-garde movement that needs to be seen.
Mary Hanlon

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Repulsion - Horrified

Ben Robinson - Lessons in Institutional Critique III, 2004

Horrified is the only full-length album released by the American grindcore band Repulsion. Although the album was originally recorded in 1986, it remained unreleased until three years later. It was originally released on Necrosis Records, a sublabel of Earache Records. 

Recorded in ’86, tape-traded for three years—beyond Repulsion’s demise—and released posthumously on Earache sub-label Necrosis in ’89, Horrified infected the burgeoning underground with an unheralded blend of hardcore and death metal, appealing to disparate scenes and transcending genre boundaries, effectively blurring them into a frenetic mess. It was a singularity, a leap in the evolution. Unpolished and unapologetic, its legacy of primitivism is just as relevant now in this digital age of perfection as it was back in the ’80s, when it was shocking enough to make tape decks tremble and listeners utter, “What the fuck is that?”
Matthew Widener

Review of B&Q Tate Colour Emulsion

Good Points
As above - covers well and stands head and shoulders
above some much more expensive paints. 
Bad Points
General Comments
B&Q Tate Colour is an excellent paint; low in emissions ie no nasty smells!

Thick, resilient, efficient - very good coverage.

Reminds me of New England Paint which had exactly the same factors.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Gilbert & George - Gordon’s Makes Us Drunk

Gilbert Proesch (sometimes referred to as Gilbert Prousch, born 17 September 1943 in San Martin de Tor, Italy) and George Passmore (born 8 January 1942 in Plymouth, United Kingdom) are two artists who work together as a collaborative duo called Gilbert & George. They are known for their distinctive and highly formal appearance and manner and also for their brightly coloured graphic-style photo-based artworks.

Gin and tonic became Gilbert and George's drink of choice in 1971. They picked Gordon's because it was 'the best gin'. For this film, they have added their names to the bottle's label, on either side of the Royal crest. The artists are shown seated at a table, getting drunk to a soundtrack of Elgar and Grieg. Their deadpan expressions and repeated declaration that 'Gordon's makes us very drunk' creates an absurd scene that ironically questions identity, nationality and 'good behaviour'.

In 1974, Tate employees, including Anne d'Offay, wife of the influential art dealer Anthony d'Offay, entertained the pair with a lunchtime binge. The artists drank "the majority" of three bottles of wine and 12 glasses of vintage port. The corresponding expense claim, 8 per cent of the Tate's annual budget for entertaining, angered senior figures at the gallery.

The 1974 meal's total bill was £31.27 (nearly £300 today). According to Tate curator Richard Morphet, the majority of the alcohol was consumed by the artists. "The lunch took place in order that we [three curators] could extract catalogue information from Gilbert and George under circumstances most likely to produce results, as these artists are well-known for their un-forthcoming response to enquiries about their work," added Mrs d'Offay.

"I should make it clear from the outset that this is not the normal way in which we go about cataloguing the collection," said Mrs d'Offay.
Rob Sharp

Big Gilbert & George fan here, and have been for years.
Seen a number of their exhibitions and have three framed and signed exhibition posters hanging here in the house - always make me smile.
I've always found them highly entertaining in interviews too. Hope you enjoyed meeting them.
I remember seeing Gordon's Makes us Drunk for the first time in the Tate and just laughing for ages. Thanks for posting the link to it here and giving me the giggles all over again!

‘Gordon’s Makes Us Drunk’ was recorded in the front room of ‘Art for All’, 12 Fournier Street, London E1 in the summer of 1972.

The sculptors were conscious that the tape was to a certain extent like a television commercial. The opening sequence was motivated in part by their wish to make a ‘super still life’.

Gin and tonic became the sculptors’ drink in 1971 and Gordon’s gin was selected because it is in their opinion ‘the best gin’. Furthermore, since Gordon’s supply gin to H.M. the Queen by appointment, the label conveniently bears the royal coat-of-arms, to which Gilbert and George have added their names in the manner to which they have been accustomed since their first printed pieces were made.

The music which accompanies the opening sequence of the video tape is part of Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No.1, in D, Op.39. Appropriately regal, the music has been used in a television commercial, but the sculptors were not aware of it. However, ‘Morning’ (from Peer Gynt Suite No.1) by Edvard Grieg, which follows, was chosen because it had been played in Song of Norway, a film based on the composer’s life, which the sculptors had seen at the Cinerama cinema in Old Compton Street. They had also heard it as the sound track for a tea or coffee commercial.

The voice of George which is heard repeating ‘Gordon’s makes us drunk’, ‘very drunk’, and so forth, was dubbed on afterwards, as were the pieces of music.

Before shooting began, Gilbert and George sought the assistance of neighbours to prevent passers-by from stopping in the street outside the window of ‘Art for All’ and staring at the camera during the recording.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Yuck 'n Yum - Announcing our 2013 cover artist: Cos Ahmet‏

Yuck ’n Yum are delighted to announce that our new cover artist for 2013 is Cos Ahmet.

Cos Ahmet describes his work as a ‘collective of body dialogue’. Themes of sexuality, identity & self are all principle themes in his work, exploring these through structures of the figure, form and self, constructing and reconstructing them into altered egos, meta-figurative beings & grafted self portraits.

In his current practice, he works and thinks across disciplines & practice boundaries, engaging a diverse range of media to create his work. The process results in the repetition of imagery. Echoes and trace elements emerge. As the personal element is shaped and shifted, the gestured, sexualised and fragmented personalities transpire.

Cos Ahmet studied BA Hons Constructed Textiles at Middlesex University. He currently lives & works in London.

We at Yuck ‘n Yum are incredibly excited to have Cos as our 2013 cover artist and are intrigued to see the direction in which Cos will take YNY in the year to come. Cos has been a recurring contributor to the zine, and you can view these works amongst others by heading to our zine archive.

Please check out his website where you can see a delightful array of work and projects.

 Image: Cos Ahmet, Homage to Leigh Bowery

We would also like to say a big thank you to Helen Flanagan who was our 2012 cover artist. Helen produced four incredible covers for us last year and we wish her all the best for the future.

And of course, a reminder that the deadline for the Spring 2013 issue is the 15th of March.

Lots of love from Yuck 'n Yum

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Yuck 'n Yum - You think you own your stuff but your stuff owns you


The latest edition of Yuck ‘n Yum will feature at tonight’s event at the BALTIC 39 space in Newcastle as part of Jim Shaw’s exhibition You think you own your stuff but your stuff owns you.  The event explore art fanzines, graphic novels and board games in association with Travelling Man, Newcastle. Yuck ‘n Yum will be amongst enthusiasts of unusual board games, comics and ‘zines who will give insights into their collections which will  also be on display. There will be a chance to play some unique board games and enjoy a beer/soft drink and American candies.  It looks to be a fun night!

Suicide - Frankie Teardrop

Suicide is an American electronic protopunk musical duo, intermittently active since 1970 and composed of vocalist Alan Vega and Martin Rev on synthesizers and drum machines. They are an early synthesizer/vocal musical duo.

Frankie Teardrop is a song by Suicide from their acclaimed first album Suicide. The song tells a story of a young father and poverty-stricken factory worker. He is very depressed about this, and eventually drifts into insanity. One day, Frankie comes home from work, murders his wife and child, and then commits suicide. The narrative then continues to follow him into hell. The music backing this is sparse, featuring just a simple keyboard riff, drum machine, and the vocal line, creating a chilling atmosphere. Singer Alan Vega's "Dark, inhuman screams" add to the claustrophobic nature of the piece.

"Frankie Teardrop," one of the duo's definitive moments, and one of the most harrowing songs ever recorded. A ten-minute descent into the soul-crushing existence of a young factory worker, Rev's tense, repetitive rhythms and Vega's deadpan delivery and horrifying, almost inhuman screams make the song more literally and poetically political than the work of bands who wore their radical philosophies on their sleeves.
Heather Phares

Suicide, made up of Alan Vega and Martin Rev, are rightly regarded as one of the most important and influential bands of the seventies. At the time of this song’s release (from their 1977 self-titled debut album), they were regarded as punks, although they sounded nothing like every other punk band out there. Their punkness, if you like, was much more about the attitude, the desire to do different, than it was about the actual music. Their sound was defiantly minimalist, based around Rev’s electronic keyboards, a tinny drum machine and Vega’s twisted Gene Vincent-ish vocals. Overall it was as if they were on a mission to update, and pay homage to, the strangeness, and menacing echo and claustrophobia, of Elvis’s Heartbreak Hotel. Which is not to say that they didn’t also have moments of lightness: as the lovely Cheree and a few other songs demonstrate.

Frankie Teardrop is almost the extreme expression of what they were trying to achieve. The stabbing rhythm of the drums, the repetitive and threatening keyboard, the odd sounds of horror in the background all serve to carry and reinforce the song’s story: of a young factory worker who, beaten down by poverty and futility, kills his wife and child. But what makes it genuinely terrifying is Vega’s extraordinary vocals: partly-sung, mostly spoken and fairly detached. That is, until, he lets out some horrifying screams that jolt us out of that similar feeling of detachment and make us aware not only of the terrible events but also of Frankie’s pain and insanity. It’s very disturbing, and difficult to listen to – but frighteningly compelling.
Paul Saxton

Clocking in at ten-and-a-half minutes, "Frankie Teardrop" is a musical journey that knows no peers, and in every aspect, it stands as one of the most disturbing, yet completely captivating songs ever recorded.  It is within "Frankie Teardrop," as well as much of the album, where one can see how the sound of Suicide was the catalyst for the entire "synth pop" movement, as keyboard player and drum programmer Martin Rev creates the entire blueprint for the style.  The tight, fast, repeated progression that dominates the first half of the song builds a completely uncanny sense of tension, and though it is a cyclical sound, it manages to keep digging deeper and getting darker with each repetition.  It is this unending rhythm that also sets the mood for the song, as the lyrics speak of the downfall of a man from over-work, and one can feel an almost mundane, tedious tone within Rev's simple sonic arrangement.  The level of complexity within the music is beyond simple, and the fact that it is able to carry so much power within the sound is perhaps the greatest proof ever of the idea of attitude being superior to design.  Though many saw the "core" of punk as loud, driving guitars, on "Frankie Teardrop," Rev proves that such instruments are not even necessary, and though it defies almost every musical convention, there is no question that "Frankie Teardrop" is a work of musical genius that knows no equal.
The Daily Guru

Laser 3.14 - the suicide of frankie teardrop

In 1978, the founders of D.I.Y. magazine Art-Rite, Edit deAk and Mike (Walter) Robinson, collaborated with video artist Paul Dougherty in creating this eerie film and video montage for Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop” in which ordinary images are suffused with dread.
“Frankie Teardrop” is a homicidal Punk epic. It’s a working-class ballad about Frankie who’s working from nine to five and can’t survive. His solution is to kill off his family and then himself. But it’s not done in an angry way. It’s done in a frustrated way so the film implies this frustration.”  Edit deAk
Shards of New York in the 1970s flutter like the wings of dying birds.
Marc Campbell

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse

Ben Robinson - Isidore Ducasse Memorial Plaque, 2009

Comte de Lautréamont was the pseudonym of Isidore-Lucien Ducasse (4 April 1846 – 24 November 1870), an Uruguayan-born French poet. His only works, Les Chants de Maldoror and Poésies, had a major influence on modern literature, particularly on the Surrealists and the Situationists. He died at the age of 24.

Les Chants de Maldoror is based on a character called Maldoror, a figure of unrelenting evil who has forsaken God and mankind. The book combines a violent narrative with vivid and often surrealistic imagery.

In April and June 1870, Ducasse published the first two installments of what was obviously meant to be the preface to the planned "chants of the good" in two small brochures, Poésies I and II; this time he published under his real name, discarding his pseudonym. He differentiated the two parts of his work with the terms philosophy and poetry, announced that the beginning of a struggle against evil was the reversal of his other work:
I replace melancholy by courage, doubt by certainty, despair by hope, malice by good, complaints by duty, scepticism by faith, sophisms by cool equanimity and pride by modesty.
At the same time Ducasse took texts by famous authors and cleverly inverted, corrected and openly plagiarized for Poésies:
Plagiarism is necessary. It is implied in the idea of progress. It clasps the author's sentence tight, uses his expressions, eliminates a false idea, replaces it with the right idea.

Man Ray - L’Enigme d’Isidore Ducasse, 1920, remade 1972

L’Enigme d’Isidore Ducasse consists of a sewing machine, wrapped in a blanket and tied with string. Man Ray’s idea of using a sewing machine was inspired by a simile used by the French writer, Isidore Ducasse (1809-87), better known as the Comte de Lautréamont, ‘Beautiful as the accidental encounter, on a dissecting table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella’. It was a phrase that was greatly admired by the writers in Paris with whom Man Ray was close friends and who formed the nucleus of the Paris dada and later surrealist groups. They saw it as paradigmatic of a new type of surprising imagery, as well as replete with disguised sexual symbolism. (The umbrella was interpreted as a male element, the sewing machine as a female element, and the dissecting table as a bed.). Man Ray’s wrapped object, however, was a mystery, and suggested not so much a sewing machine as some utterly undefined, and therefore potentially more disturbing, presence.
Jennifer Mundy

Glenn O'Brien: I've remembered an event and thought I'd said something when actually it was somebody else who said it or vice versa. I think, especially in writing, so much of plagiarism is completely unconscious.

Mike Kelley: I have experienced that often. I've stolen ideas, and people have stolen from me. I'm all for it. That's the way things get created. That's how culture grows. When there's an amazing idea, you take it and run with it. I mean, you're going to take it someplace else than the source anyway. There are a lot of artists who've worked at that specifically. One of my favorite writers is the Comte de Lautréamont, and much of his writing is constructed from plagiarized texts. Who would claim that his work is no different than what he plagiarized? 

Mike Kelley - Lumpenprole, 1991

On this day in 1870 the single greatest poetic influence on surrealism, Isidore Ducasse, died in Paris aged 24. He is better known by his colourful pseudonym, the Comte de Lautréamont, author of Les Chants de Maldoror (1868), which André Breton called "the expression of a total revelation which seems to exceed human possibility". André Gide claimed that reading the sixth book of Maldoror (which includes the celebrated simile "He is as handsome as ... the chance juxtaposition of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table") made him ashamed of his own work. "Ignorance of the circumstances of Lautréamont's death and of most of his life has opened the door to all kinds of speculation and a mystique has arisen around this mysterious, elusive individual," notes the translator Paul Knight. "History tells us, simply and sinisterly, that the death certificate was signed by the owner of the hotel and the waiter who brought him his meals," observed the former surrealist Antonin Artaud in 1946. "For a great poet this is a little brief and a little thin ... it smells of the unspeakable." Today a plaque at the site of Ducasse's death quotes from Maldoror: "Who is opening the door of my funeral chamber? I had said no one was to enter. Whoever you are, go away."