An astonishing golden outfit made from the silk of spiders goes on display at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum on Wednesday, the largest example of the material in the world. The four-meter-long hand-woven textile, a natural vivid gold colour, was made from the silk of more than one million female Golden Orb spiders collected in the highlands of Madagascar by 80 people over five years.
It was made by Englishman Simon Peers and American Nicholas Godley, both of whom have lived and worked in Madagascar for many years, and inspired by 19th century illustrations detailing the largely forgotten art. The last known spider silk textile was created for the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, but no examples remain.
The spiders are collected each morning and harnessed in special contraptions which allow handlers to extract their silk, 24 spiders at a time. At the end of the day, the spiders are returned to the wild.
The golden spider silk was carefully harvested and spun onto wooden bobbins. Simon Peers designed garments and Nicholas Godley, a designer-entrepreneur found the money. It has been done before, believe it or not, but over a century ago and as it took the silk from 23,000 spiders to weave 25 grammes of silk alone, and there are 1.5kg of silk in the shimmering cape it’s not surprising that there are no plans afoot to put this silk into commercial production.
SEMINA SERIES / Stewart Home
No. 1 Index by Bridget Penney (2008)
No. 2 One Break, A Thousand Blows! by Maxi Kim (2008)
No. 3 Bubble Entendre by Mark Waugh (2009)
No. 4 Rape New York by Jana Leo (2009)
No. 5 The Dark Object by Katrina Palmer (2010)
No. 6 HOE #999: Decennial Appreciation and Celebratory Analysis by Jarett Kobek (2010)
No. 7 Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie by Stewart Home (2010)
No. 8 ??
No. 9 ??
… and the Briefing was:
We are looking for artists and writers interested in experimental prose fiction, who transgress all the boundaries separating art and literature. Think of the ways in which Paul Gilroy theorised the history of modernism through the rubric of the Black Atlantic, W.E.B. Du Bois and double-consciousness, and the inescapable links between race and class: Anthony Joseph, Kathy Acker, Amiri Baraka, Samuel R. Delany, Darius James, Ishmael Reed, Ann Quin, Clarence Cooper Jr, Claude Cahun, etc. Above all we’re looking for artists and writers willing to take risks with their prose and who demonstrate total disregard for the conventions that structure received ideas about fiction.
Semina takes its inspiration from a series of nine loose-leaf magazines issued by Californian beat artist Wallace Berman in the 1950s and 1960s. The series is commissioned and edited by artist and writer Stewart Home. The series will publish nine books, six of which will be selected from open submission, two commissioned by the editor, with Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie by Stewart Home the final title in the series.
The selection from open submissions will be made by Stewart Home and Book Works.
The series is designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio.
Wallace Berman (1926-1976) & Semina
The quintessential visual artist of the Beat era, remains one of the best kept secrets of the late twentieth century. A crucial figure in California’s postwar underground, Berman was a catalyst who traveled through many different worlds, transferring ideas and dreams from one circle to the next.
Semina, a loose-leaf art and poetry journal that Berman published in nine issues between 1955 and 1964. Although privately made and distributed to a mere handful of friends and sympathizers, Semina is a brilliant compendium of the most interesting artists and poets of its time. Showcasing the individuals who came to define a still potent strand of post-war beat counterculture, Semina Culture subtly outlines the energies, values, and foibles of this fascinating circle. Also reproduced here are works by various artists and writers who appear in Berman’s own photographs-approximately 100 of which were recently developed from vintage negatives, and will be seen here for the first time.
Why does the art world hypocritically promote female creative talent but simultaneously fail to accord women artists the respect given to their male counterparts? Why are women so under-represented in top curatorial posts? Just what has happened to the feminist movement?
Using pornographic spam emails, and replacing the generic ‘he’ and ‘she’ with the names of leading feminist artists, Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie delivers a vicious feminist assault on the pretensions and hypocrisy of the London art world.
With walk-on parts by Martha Rosler, Sam Taylor Wood, and Tracey Emin, sensational lost Belle de Jour transcripts, and missives from the underbelly of the blogosphere, Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie reads like SCUM manifesto remixed by The Bomb Squad. Rushed to Malcolm McLaren for an endorsement, legend has it his final croak was, ‘feminism with balls’.
From 2007–10 Stewart Home worked for Book Works as the commissioning editor of Semina, a series of acclaimed experimental novels. Published as part of Book Works’ Semina series (No.7).
From January 27 through May 20, 2012, BAM/PFA will feature a group of approximately forty of these photographs, including portraits of Caroline, Princess of Monaco; Diane von Furstenberg; and O.J. Simpson.
In 2007, to commemorate its twentieth anniversary, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts launched the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program. Designed to give a broad public greater access to Warhol’s photographs, the program donated over 28,500 of Warhol’s original Polaroids and gelatin silver prints to more than 180 college and university museums and galleries across the country. Each institution received a curated selection of over one hundred Polaroids and fifty black-and-white prints.
From 1970 to 1987, Warhol, armed with his Polaroid Big Shot camera, captured a wide range of individuals – the royalty, rock stars, executives, artists, patrons of the arts, and athletes who epitomized seventies and eighties high society, but also as many unknown subjects. Andy Warhol took scores of Polaroid and black-and-white photographs, the vast majority of which were never seen by the public. These images often served as the basis for his commissioned portraits, silk-screen paintings, drawings, and prints. Warhol was interested in a new definition of ”Society” that emerged in this period. In the introduction to the 1979 publication Andy Warhol’s Exposures, the artist wrote:
“Now it doesn’t matter if you came over on the Mayflower, so long as you can get into Studio 54. Anyone rich, powerful, beautiful, or famous can get into Society. If you’re a few of those things you can really get to the top.”
Warhol’s images not only documented, but participated in, the creation of this new social world, satisfying both the need of his subjects to be seen and the desire of the viewer to gain access to this milieu through the act of looking.
Warhol’s Polaroids are strikingly intimate, an effect achieved in part by his personal relationship with the sitters and in part by formal aspects of the images. The artist often provided a luncheon in advance of the photo session, establishing a bond with his subject and a tone for the shoot. In the resulting Polaroids, the sitter is in direct eye contact with Warhol and the camera. The strong sense of immediacy created by the sitter’s open gaze is enhanced by the tight compositions in which the subject, pressed up close to the picture plane, is isolated from any context. A feeling of vulnerability appears in some of the portraits (as suggested by the bared shoulders of Unidentified woman (blond with bangs), for example), indicating a willingness to be exposed as well as the seductive nature of the artist and the photo shoot itself. The closeness forged between photographer and sitter and captured by the camera offers an illusion of sharing these private moments and of entering into Warhol’s circle of beautiful people and their glamorous lives.
Warhol embossed his name in capital letters in the lower right-hand border of most of the Polaroids, marking them as a painter would sign a canvas. For Warhol, coming from the world of advertising, this was also a kind of branding. He wrote of Jade Jagger: “She never calls me Andy always Andywarhol, as if it were one word – or a brand name, which I wish it were.”
Full Article: ART BLART
PDF 01 at: Andy Warhol Foundation
PDF 03 at: Andy Warhol Foundation
Page 1: Great Expectations is an unusual typographic experiment designed to explore the relationship between graphic design, typography and the reading of a page.
Crafted to engage the culturally curious, Page 1: Great Expectations collects the responses of 70 international graphic designers when posed with the same brief – to design and lay out the first page of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, a text chosen in part because it directly references lettering as Pip searches for clues about his family from the letterforms inscribed on their tombstone. The brief encouraged the 70 contributors to explore, challenge or celebrate the conventions of book typography. Each layout is accompanied by a short rationale explaining the designer’s decision-making process.
Page 1 is not just a book for graphic designers, it reveals the power typography has to influence and affect the way we all interpret a text. Many readers will be surprised by the attention to detail and level of engagement with the narrative on display, and aficionados of Dickens will be charmed by the idiosyncratic approaches to this much-loved text.
“The what-if runs through Raimundas’s writing like the Woody Allen runs through Woody Allen—effective and contagious. It’s a pull as fervent and wistful as a hot lemon drink sloshing off of words that demand to be experienced. Speakers, objects, subjects, tenses, readers and editors are freed of their conventional roles and move around in their paragraphs like in a piece of music written, say in C Major where they’re drifting around in various other keys of course. With as much sovereignty granted to the reader of Paper Exhibition as to all other players in the essays of the book you now hold, the reader has also become the editor. Sixteen in fact. Sixteen readers have been invited to add, comment on, correct and leave their mark boldly in the margins, or way at the back, as another means of carefully replaying these words written by someone else. In this ‘book that belongs to no one and is not needed by anyone,’ according to its first author, Raimundas Malašauskas.”
text by Maxine Kopsa
Raimundas Malašauskas, born in Vilnius, is a curator and writer.
From 1995 to 2006, he worked at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius, where he produced the first two seasons of the weekly television show CAC TV, an experimental merger of commercial television and contemporary art that ran under the slogan “Every program is a pilot, every program is the final episode.” He curated “Black Market Worlds,” the IX Baltic Triennial, at CAC Vilnius in 2005.
From 2007 to 2008, he was a visiting curator at California College of the Arts, San Francisco, and, until recently, a curator-at-large of Artists Space, New York. In 2007, he co-wrote the libretto of Cellar Door, an opera by Loris Gréaud produced in Paris. Malašauskas curated the exhibitions “Sculpture of the Space Age,” David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2009); “Into the Belly of a Dove,” Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City (2010), and “Repetition Island,” Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2010).
His writings are concerned with contemporary phenomena, biographies and stories, addressing the parallel worlds of science, media, film, literature, and mass culture.
John Huston’s Wise Blood is a film without a memory. Early on, its protagonist, Hazel Motes — played like a lit matchstick by Brad Dourif — declares, “I’m going to the city, to Taulkinham. I don’t know nobody in Taulkinham.…I’m gonna do some things I ain’t never done before.” This line is one of the few accurate predictions in a story chock full of sham prophets, disappointments, and deceptions: once in the city, Motes will do an awful lot that he’s never done before. He will preach a new, nihilistic faith (“The Church of Truth without Christ Crucified”), be seduced by a preacher’s teenage daughter, kill a man, blind himself with lime, die. But the line might also serve a tag for the film itself, which operates in a shocked present tense, treating everything that happens as an event with neither precedent nor consequence. The individuals of Wise Blood are apparitions that speak to each other with intensity, even conviction, but little sense of history or motivation — as though everything they said were a non-sequitur.
Taulkinham is a purgatorial freak show, a livid surface upon which characters swirl and react, but do not interact. There is a sense of history that flecks around its edges, but the prevailing impression is that Taulkinham is a place where everyone flares into being and diminishes without leaving a mark. Even Motes’s death comes lightly, falling with barely a shiver at the end of the film.
Huston’s film makes no attempt to evoke Motes’ interiority. The chief difference between the book and the movie is the obvious one: the novel deals in depth, the film with surfaces. Huston takes this basic difference and applies pressure to it, forcing his adaptation into a subtle but thorough-going subversion of its source material, and bringing it in line with the lost-man movies of 1970s existential American cinema: Five Easy Pieces, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Taxi Driver, etc. Wise Blood is a novel that asks us to plunge inside and back in order to find meaning, but it is a film that wants us to glide along its surface and discover that nothing lies inside.
text by Spencer T. Campbell
Review by Ray Frenden
Monoprice makes graphics tablets? I thought they were just an outlet for cheap cables. It was news to me that they sell all sorts of audio, video, and computer accessories. Their studio monitor headphones are highly rated by customers. As are their monitor arms. And their capacitive iPad styli. Hell, they even have USB-rechargeable portable speakers that are far better than they have any right to be given the price. I’ve bought, and liked, all of the above. And Monoprice’s fans are justifiably earned. They make good stuff, cheap, including graphics tablets. But, on those, I never bit.
When reviewing the Yiynova Cintiq alternative, I researched all of Wacom’s competition, learning that Yiynova uses a Waltop digitizer (digitizers being the flat hardware panel that interprets pen movement and translates it onscreen). I decided to buy a Monoprice stylus to see if it would work on a Waltop digitizer. It didn’t. This roused my curiosity. If the Monoprice wasn’t a Waltop based tablet, what was it? My guess then was the Monoprice tablets used a Hanvon digitizer. Hanvon creates a full range of graphics tablets, most of which claim feature parity with their Wacom equivalents. Prices also tend to match their Wacom counterparts closely, so I see little reason most would take the leap of faith required to spend money on the less known brand, opting instead for the known quantity of Wacom tablets.
The Monoprice tablets are available at a price that doesn’t scare one away. Less than $50 nets you a 6.25“x10” tablet and around $80 will get you a larger 9“x12”. With those prices, and my inclination to try any tools I can, I ordered the 6.25“x10” tablet with low expectations. Something so cheap can’t possibly be good, right? After spending a week with the 6.25“x10” Monoprice, my Yiynova and Cintiq remain unplugged and I gave my Intuos away to a friend. The Monoprice tracks subtle pressure variances and small movements with less lag and more crisp fidelity than any of the others. It is, put crudely, fucking awesome, in both OSX Lion and Windows 7 x64. It holds accuracy at obscenely small levels even when zoomed way out, which is where most tablets falter. The following screen recording in OSX shows how stable the Monoprice tablet is in both pressure variance and fine detail. The Monoprice performed flawlessly in OSX. This is welcome news. With most tablets, Wacom included, OSX has long felt a second class citizen with slightly less accuracy and more lag present in the drivers.
In the product description, on some of the tablets, the following is stated, “Note that the included software is not compatible with Mac OSX at all, while some are only compatible with Windows 2000/XP.” That statement is misleading. That text applies to the bonus software, not the drivers. You don’t want their Windows-only handwriting recognition shovelware anyhow. The drivers included on the CD installed without a hitch and the process to get the tablet running in OSX and Windows was painless. I suspect the above verbiage has scared off a few prospective purchasers and it’s a shame it’s worded so murkily on their site.
Hardware-wise, the stylus is a bit shorter and narrower than Wacom’s and is about the same weight. It rests comfortably in my oversized meat-paw. The pen requires a battery, but has no on-off switch. It turns on when you use it and off when idle. The battery has lasted over a week with constant use and shows no signs of giving up. The battery slot inside of the pen feels a bit cheap, but is soon forgotten after closing the pen back up and represents the singular negative aspect of the hardware. An aftermarket stylus is available for around $8. I found myself using the pack-in stylus more. Ten replacement nib packs are available for less than a dollar.
The tablet has a slightly textured surface and drawing feels tactile and a bit toothy. The hardware buttons worked fine and were fully customizable. Eight buttons is a lot to keep track of and I found myself using my keyboard more often than not when jamming on hot keys.
Drawing on the Monoprice leaves me feeling a bit punk rock. It’s better than it has any right to be – better than any of the other hardware I own. Its drivers outperform Wacom’s in OSX and I found myself making excuses to sit down and draw with it.
Nothing is given which is not taken.
Little or nothing is taken which is not freely desired,
freely, truly and fully.
“You would not seek me if you had not found me”: this is
true of all that is supremely desired and admired…
“An enigma is an animal,” said the hurried, harried
And a horse divided against itself cannot stand;
And a moron is a man who believes in having too many
wives: what harm is there in that?
O the endless fecundity of poetry is equaled
By its endless inexhaustible freshness, as in the discovery
of America and of poetry.
Hence it is clear that the truth is not strait and narrow but infinite:
All roads lead to Rome and to poetry
and to poem, sweet poem
and from, away and towards are the same typography.
Hence the poet must be, in a way, stupid and naive and a
Unless ye be as a little child ye cannot enter the kingdom
Hence the poet must be able to become a tiger like Blake; a
carousel like Rilke.
Hence he must be all things to be free, for all impersonations
a doormat and a monument
to all situations possible or actual
The cuckold, the cuckoo, the conqueror, and the coxcomb.
It is to him in the zoo that the zoo cries out and the hyena:
“Hello, take off your hat, king of the beasts, and be seated,
And hence the poet must seek to be essentially anonymous.
He must die a little death each morning.
He must swallow his toad and study his vomit
as Baudelaire studied la charogne of Jeanne Duval.
The poet must be or become both Keats and Renoir and
Keats as Renoir.
Mozart as Figaro and Edgar Allan Poe as Ophelia, stoned
out of her mind
drowning in the river called forever river and ever…
Keats as Mimi, Camille, and an aging gourmet.
He must also refuse the favors of the unattainable lady
(As Baudelaire refused Madame Sabatier when the fair
blonde summoned him,
For Jeanne Duval was enough and more than enough,
although she cuckolded him
With errand boys, servants, waiters; reality was Jeanne Duval.
Had he permitted Madame Sabatier to teach the poet a greater whiteness,
His devotion and conception of the divinity of Beauty
would have suffered an absolute diminution.)
The poet must be both Casanova and St. Anthony,
He must be Adonis, Nero, Hippolytus, Heathcliff, and
Genghis Kahn, Genghis Cohen, and Gordon Martini
Dandy Ghandi and St. Francis,
Professor Tenure, and Dizzy the dean and Disraeli of Death.
He would have worn the horns of existence upon his head,
He would have perceived them regarding the looking-glass,
He would have needed them the way a moose needs a hatrack;
Above his heavy head and in his loaded eyes, black and scorched,
He would have seen the meaning of the hat-rack, above the glass
Looking in the dark foyer.
For the poet must become nothing but poetry,
He must be nothing but a poem when he is writing
Until he is absent-minded as the dead are
Forgetful as the nymphs of Lethe and a lobotomy…
(“the fat weed that rots on Lethe wharf”).
PS: I discovered this author thanks to Ana Cristina Leonardo and her blog Meditação na Pastelaria (http://wwwmeditacaonapastelaria.blogspot.pt/)
Edouard Roditi was born in Paris 1910 of American parents. In 1929 he abandoned his studies of the Latin and Greek classics at Oxford and, until 1937, was associated with the Surrealist movement in Paris, as contributor to transition and as partner in Editions du Sagittaire, which published Andre Breton’s Surrealist manifestos and a number of books by Crevel, Desnos and Tzara. During the war years, he worked in the French shortwave broadcasting section of the Office of War Information in New York and as an interpreter. Since 1944, he has been employed, mainly on a freelance basis, as a multilingual simultaneous interpreter at international conferences. He has also published a number of translations from the Dutch, French, German and Turkish.
Bradford Morrow Tell me about the autobiographical book you are at work on now.
Edouard Roditi It’s an enormous project, because each time I start writing it I find I get involved in total recall. All sorts of thing come out that I’d forgotten for decades. And the more deeply I become involved with it the more I feel that the world has changed so much since my childhood and my adolescence, so that all sorts of things I experienced then have to be described and explained. To the average reader of today they’re utterly strange. It’s as if I’m writing about the 18th century or the Romantic era.
BM The art, and literary world?
ER No, the social world. I mean, the way people lived, the upper-middle class to which my family belonged has changed entirely. I was brought up in Paris. I was born in Paris of American parents. Probably now, I’m the oldest American resident in Paris, the oldest member of the American colony, which, in the ‘20s when Mussolini was demanding colonies. American humorists proposed that the American colony of Bohemians in Paris be given to him. Now everybody who is older than I and who had been living in Paris at that time—Gertrude Stein, and the rest—are all dead. So I’m the oldest survivor with the possible exception of Eugene Jolas’ widow.
BM When did you know that you wanted to become a serious writer, when did you get involved in the literary world?
ER When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a painter, and my father, who was a businessman, was absolutely horrified. He thought all artists died of hunger. He tried to discourage me thoroughly. Whenever he found me drawing or painting, he’d fly into a rage. Then I discovered that one could write in secret. A sheet of paper is much easier to conceal than an enormous canvas, a large watercolor or drawing hoard.
My first publication was in transition and a couple of other advance garde magazines. My first poem was published when I was seventeen, which was shocking; I could almost compete with Rimbaud in that respect. The youngest contributors to transition besides myself were Paul Frederick Bowles (who is I believe one year younger than I am) and Charles Henri Ford (who is one year older). They looked at us askance, thought we were completely weird creatures. We were all three involved in the Surrealist Movement and associated to some extent with the French Surrealists. I more than the others, because my knowledge of French was more considerable than Paul’s or Charles Henri’s. I was writing in both French and English.
BM The three of you were living in Paris at the time?
ER Paul was studying music in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. Charles Henri had been publishing Blues in Columbus, Mississippi and had come over to Paris,
BM Were the Surrealists in Paris a tight-knit circle at that time?
ER Well, the French Surrealists were very tight-knit because they were very ignorant of any literature except French literature, and not particularly knowledgeable in French literature for that matter. They knew French literature back to around 1840 and that’s about all.
BM Given certain Surrealist principles, like autonomous immediacy and non referentiality, was it important that they know anything before that aside from source materials?
ER Yes. They didn’t realize for instance, that Horace Walpole in the 18th century, had been the first to try automatic writing in English, when he wrote the Hieroglyphic Tales. He explains this in his Preface. That they didn’t know. There are examples of various kind of automatic writing in the Middle Ages. Cocteau knew his Greek and Latin classics to some extent and French classical 17th century literature. He was much more widely read than Breton.
BM So your roots are in Surrealism?
ER Yes, but I very quickly drifted out of it, because I discovered that automatic writing can produce, sometimes, woefully surprising results in that you think you’ve done something very original but on second glance it turns out that some of your readings have come out. Subliminal memories of other writers’ work.
BM You equate automatic writing with Surrealism?
ER At the time, they were considered the same. Automatic writing was their main activity until the early 1930s, at which time they became more involved with politics, Trotskyism specifically. They broke with the Communists when Eluard and Aragon joined the Communist parry. Breton broke with the Communists. They also became much more involved with mystical theories. Breton started reading all sorts of pseudo-Kabbalists of the 19th century, but I didn’t accompany him in that pursuit. Then I became acquainted with Eliot in 1931. He exerted a very considerable influence on me. He cleaned up my mind.
BM In terms of prosody, or religion, or what?
ER Just generally. He made me much more keenly aware of what it means to write and to be a writer. He encouraged me a lot and published some of my poems in The Criterion, when I was all of 24, which I regarded as a little victory.
BM What has happened with Surrealism? Does it have any viability at the present?
ER It has practically no viability in French literature. Its current practitioners are all repeating themselves and each other. Here in America it took a very long time to surface. Of course, in the ‘30s, no publisher even among the small presses would even consider anything Surrealist. Now it’s become very widespread and all sorts of people claim to be Surrealists. But what they really are, I don’t know. I’ve had connections with many Spanish Surrealists, Germany seems to have escaped Surrealism altogether. I’ve known some English Surrealists: David Gascoyne, Nicholas Moore and a couple of others. And also with Dylan Thomas, who has admitted that he was influenced by Surrealism.
BM To return to your autobiography for a minute, having read several chapters in typescript, I can see that one of the binding elements of the book will be growing up under the triple curse of being a Jewish, epileptic and homosexual writer.
ER I’m now rewriting it. I realize I have to make it even more objective. I realize I must describe society and the people I met. It’s a world that no longer exists.
BM Where has the world got to now in terms of the art community? And based on where we’ve been and where we are now, what do you think the future holds? What function do you think the artist will have in the world?
ER One of the most remarkable things is that artists that were considered avant-garde, but who financially, never really made the grade, have ended up as millionaires. Picasso ended up a multi-millionaire. Chagall is a multi-millionaire. I remember when I was sixteen, I bought a Picasso signed lithograph for less than thirty dollars. My father had friends who were buying Picasso and Braque in the ‘30s and serious businessmen like my father thought they were crazy. If nothing else, they’ve turned out to be marvelous investments. A lot of what was considered crazy and avant-garde is now thoroughly acceptable. It’s the same with literature and music. Advance-garde art developed primarily as a revolt against the academies. Now that the academies teach it, it’s become an entirely different kettle of fish. They are no longer revolting against anything in particular, revolt has become a tradition, it’s become trite.
BM A friend of mine who wants to be a biographer has told me that the present generation of poets and fiction writers will in forty years make for some of the dullest literary biographies ever produced. It will be an endless procession of parochial events that commences with graduation from Iowa, proceeds through various grants, writer’s conferences and residencies. To try and derive any art through such lives is preposterous.
Conversation was here suspended. It resumed several minutes later.
BM I can think of a kind of recent art that’s both non-academic and yet very explicit: Graffiti art. Yet the public doesn’t flock to it, unless of course they happen to be in an IRT subway.
ER There’s good, bad and indifferent Graffiti art. We’ve had something like it in Europe for quite a while. It was first started around 1905. In Russia by Lanonov who did it for a period. Dubuffet’s been doing it in France for over thirty years now.
BM Not in the streets on walls.
ER No, no. On canvases, admittedly, but inspired by what was on walls.
BM But canvas doesn’t have the same political implications as subway walls and railroad cars.
ER Then they did it in Amsterdam about fifteen years ago on haldings, haldings wherever they were putting up a building.
BM Any artists specifically?
ER All kinds of young artists, mainly disciples of the Cobra group, Appel and the other Cobra artists. It has its own special flavor here, especially the way it’s come out of the subways to the surface. But it too has quickly become mainstream. The walls they now paint on have become detachable and are for sale. It’s a legitimate art form when it’s good. The trouble is that the moment a trend becomes popular a lot of less gifted young artists get on that bandwagon. It then becomes more and more difficult for the uninitiated audience to distinguish what is good from what is bad, because they’re all imitating each other, or the better ones.
BM Throughout the various trends and fads in art you’ve seen over the century, what artists in your opinion will survive into the next? Which writers?
ER Well that’s very difficult to say. Because sometimes when I get depressed I wonder whether anybody’s even going to crack a single book open in the next century. And with this nuclear threat hanging over us, who the hell is going to be alive to read it anyway. But then recently, somebody in Paris brought to my attention the last issue of the American Book Review which had a panning of my book Thrice Chosen (Black Sparrow Press, 1982) together with a panning of Paul Goodman at the same time for his Preface. The author of this article described Goodman as an “absolutely dreadful writer” which I found rather camp. And I wrote a letter to the editor, which he must have received this week, pointing out that in his appreciation of my poetry the reviewer quotes a couple of lines and objects to the bathos. And I said, well, bathos is a perfectly legitimate rhetorical trope. Pope used it, Samuel Butler in Hudibras used it. And in this particular poem it was intentional. It’s supposed to he a parody of journalism. They’ve missed the point once again because of historical ignorance. What varieties of historical ignorance may afflict unborn generations of readers I couldn’t begin to guess. And as for Goodman being a perfectly dreadful writer, Thomas Paine was considered dreadful in his day, George Washington couldn’t stand Philip Freneau, whom we should respect as the first American writer to have defended the rights of Blacks and the Indians. Melville, Thoreau and Whitman were all considered dreadful writers by most of their contemporaries. But we read them and why do we read them? Because they make us think. Paul Goodman makes us think. Goodman may not write as perfectly as the author of this review, but America has always had a plethora of perfect writers. Great writers there is always a shortage of; great writers can have their faults.
BM We met at the house of a great writer some years back: Kenneth Rexroth. What do you think of his writing?
ER Well, I’m in love with Kenneth as a writer. I have been in love with Kenneth as a writer for thirty or forty, years. I’m totally uncritical of him. He awakens a chord in me that practically no other American poet does. He is unique. Oh, there are other American poets of the past thirty or forty years that I like and poets that generally Kenneth liked too. Kenneth had a sense of language: something that’s become increasingly rare. And a marvellous vocabulary.
BM Which post-war American writers have had the most influence on European writers of the same period, if any?
ER Oddly enough, during the immediate post-war, a certain number of Americans, Nelson Algren and Faulkner and several others had influence upon French literature. The French were more influenced by German writers such as Kakfa and Mann. I think the influence of Kafka is still increasing today in France.
BM What is the “art scene” like in France right now, who are the painters getting attention?
ER There are an enormous number of rather mediocre painters and sculptors working in Paris at present who are being promoted by the dealers and critics.
BM Is the restaurant-as-art-gallery still a popular way of vending paintings, as it was several years ago, even a decade ago?
ER It’s not so much that they show in restaurants, but the restaurants have invested in art. There are restaurants like La Mediterrane on the Place de e’Odeon that have their walls plastered with Bernard Buffet and other artists. There’s a tremendous amount of an produced in Paris. More varied, in a way, than in New York, partly because until very recently it was very easy for foreign artists to conic and settle in Paris, and inject, so to speak, some totally new or exotic element. The immigration procedures were not as complicated then. Among the up and coming artists in France there are also gifted, young Israelis, Turks and so forth.
BM Are these artists grantsmen and women on a par with Americans, or do they manage to make their own way?
ER Not, certainly, to the extent that it exists here in America. There’s the Fondation de France, which doesn’t have the funds to grant much. There are a couple of foundations in Germany. There’s the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. But nothing like what is found here.
BM Nathaniel Tarn elucidated among other things the possible perniciousness of grants, in an Open Letter to Montemora several years back, and started what was called the PoBiz controversy. One of the fundamental ideas behind his theory was that by funding the production of too much art, a democratization takes place, a kind of leveling out. Because of the din that is created, the best work tends to get lost in the shuffle, at least for a period of time, longer than what is historically usual (and that’s plenty long in itself). It’s a multifaceted argument, too complex to go into here. It is admittedly frightening to think of the artist as a ward of the state; on the other hand what little money artists can manage to wrest away from the government goes to a better cause than ninety-nine percent of what Capitol Hill cooks up everyday. But do you think this lack of governmental grant-giving has hurt or benefited art in Europe?
ER Benefited it, absolutely. The grants remind me always of that lovely old American story about the upstate New York farmer who is taken to the zoo and shown a camel, and who looks at it and says: “That’s a compromise reached by a committee. Ain’t no such thing.” The thing is that grants are always given after a committee’s agreed, and there is always a compromise that excludes from the whole grant machinery most of the truly gifted. Exceptional, eccentrics never get them.
BM James Joyce goes to Yaddo? Well, an argument can be put forth that grants bail you out of the responsibility of having to confront practical problems in life. Henry James had to do one hell of a lot of talking to keep those 250 dinner invitations flowing in each year! A declining economy may reverse it whether one likes it or not.
ER Yes. Well, you see the grant system worked beautifully in the Renaissance when it was an individual patron who decided he was going to grant money to Raphael or Michaelangelo or whoever it was, and they didn’t have to consult a dozen others to agree on a compromise.
BM Making use of your own historical perspective, tell me more about some of the artists you’ve encountered during a lifetime immersed in the arts.
ER I’ve met a great number of writers and painters who were considered famous or great. But my own impressions have often been that most of the very great whom I’ve met lacked certain human qualities. So, the number of those I respected both as artists and as human beings is very limited. Rexroth was obviously one. Joseph Conrad, who was of course very paternal when I met him because I was obviously young. Joyce was a complete disappointment: he was totally uncommunicative and a bore. Eliot was sweet to the point of being an absolute saint. His manner was extremely kindly. Pound I met very superficially at Sylvia Beach’s store and I found him unbearable. His tone when he spoke was very contemptuous of anything and everything. William Carlos Williams was a very sweet man. Musil was somebody I found extremely intelligent, although reticent; obviously a man who knew what he was all about. He had very sound common sense. Politically he was also sound. And I found Paul Valery to be a man of really rare intelligence and balance.
BM Did you meet Thomas Mann?
ER Yes, but under such circumstances that I’d rather not speak about it.
ER Auden was very difficult. Shortly before Auden’s death, a couple of years before his death, a friend of mine had been to New York and had come back to Paris, and I asked him who he’d seen. He said, “Oh, well I dined with Auden.” And I said, “How is he?” “He’s in a great state of excitement. He’s just received a letter from Stockholm stating that he is going to get the Nobel Prize.” And I said, “Well, more power to him.” A couple of days later I met Sasha Andreyev, who is the grandson of the great Russian Realist writer Leonid Andreyev. Sasha had just come back from Geneva where he’d seen Nabokov. And I said, “Oh, what does Nabakov say?” “Oh, Nabokov’s in a great state of excitement, he received a letter from Stockholm staring that he is going to get the Nobel Prize.” Within a week the announcement for the Nobel Prize came out and it was Beckett. Auden died of bitterness.
BM You both live in Paris. Do you know Beckett?
ER Well, Beckett I’ve known on and off for a very long time. He is extremely withdrawn. It’s extremely difficult to communicate with him, because he doesn’t want to communicate socially. But he is very pleasant when I do meet with him, because we have known each other since transition.
BM What was the general opinion, what did people think, when Whoroscope came out?
ER It wasn’t noticed. It wasn’t noticed at all.
BM And then when Murphy came out?
ER When it was published in France, it had a considerable success.
BM Do the French consider Beckett their own, or do they perceive him as an Irish exile?
ER Beckett is a major French writer as far as they’re concerned. He’s written everything in French. When I was young, and this is something I will include in my autobiography, the French Academy was extremely nationalistic and would never elect as members Jews or foreign born writers. They made a great exception in the case of Bergson, because they couldn’t avoid it. And Andre Maurois. This was before the war. Now, about ten percent of the French Academy are foreign born or Jewish, for lack of any other candidates,
BM Not to mention the horror of electing Marguerite Yourcenar who is a woman.
ER Yes, and an American citizen. They now say that in the French Academy building they have two toilets: one marked “gentlemen,” the other marked Marguerite Yourcenar.
interview by Radford Morrow