31 August 2010

Rose's radio show

Tomorrow night, Daniel and I are taking over Rose's radio show. It's a showdown: Scott Walker vs Julian Cope.

I'm responsible for the Cope. He's great – completely mad and completely brilliant. It was hard to choose. There are so many good songs to choose from, especially from Autogeddon and Jehovahkill.

Fuck yeah!

30 August 2010

Julian Cope

29 August 2010

JK Huysmans

I'm reading some JK Huysmans at the moment. I've just finished Down there and With the flow, and have started on Against nature.

Down there was hilarious. It is, as the blurb declares, 'the classic of satanism'. It has a crazy bell-ringer, an astrologer, a cynical doctor, a bourgeois wife by day and succubus by night, a 15th century child murderer, graphic descriptions of Satanic practices and the Black Mass, and whopping great rants against Naturalism in art and literature, the Americanisation of modern life, and bad restaurant food (the last being the main subject of With the flow).

The rants against Naturalism are the best. I'm really fascinated by these kind of forgotten, irrelevant aesthetic arguments. I can't help but get involved and take sides. I've even got a couple of pictures out of it.

Here are the final lines of Down there:
'To think that a century of positivism and atheism has been able to overthrow everything but Satanism, and it cannot make Satanism yield an inch.'

'Easily explained!' cried Carhaix. 'Satan is forgotten by the great majority. Now it was Father Ravignan, I believe, who proved that the wiliest thing the Devil can do is to get people to deny his existence.'

Oh, God!' murmured Durtal forlornly, 'what whirlwinds of ordure I see on the horizon!'

'No,' said Carhaix, 'don't say that. On earth all is dead and decomposed. But in heaven! Ah, I admit that the Paraclete is keeping us waiting. But the texts announcing his coming are inspired. The future is certain. There will be light,' and with bowed head he prayed fervently.

Des Hermies rose and paced the room. 'All that is very well,' he groaned, 'but this century laughs the glorified Christ to scorn. It contaminates the supernatural and vomits on the Beyond. Well, how can we hope that in the future the offspring of the fetid tradesmen of today will be decent? Brought up as they are, what will they do in Life?'

'They will do,' replied Durtal, 'as their fathers and mothers do now. They will stuff their guts and crowd out their souls through their alimentary canals.'

Against nature is shaping up to be even better:
His contempt for humanity grew fiercer, and at last he came to realise that the world is made up mostly of fools and scoundrels. It became perfectly clear to him that he could entertain no hope of finding in someone else the same aspirations and antipathies; no hope for linking up with a mind which, like his own, took pleasure in a life of studious decrepitude; no hope of associating an intelligence as sharp and wayward as his own with that of any author or scholar.

He felt irritable and ill at ease; exasperated by the triviality of the ideas normally bandied about, he came to resemble those people mentioned by Nicole who are sensitive to anything and everything. He was constantly coming across some new source of offence, wincing at the patriotic or political twaddle served up in the papers every morning, and exaggerating the importance of the triumphs which an omnipotent public reserves at all times and in all circumstances for works written without thought or style.

Already he had begun dreaming of a refined Thebaid, a desert hermitage equipped with all modern conveniences, a snugly heated ark on dry land in which he might take refuge from the incessant deluge of human stupidity.

27 August 2010

The wonderfully named plagiograph

I came across this word while reading CĂ©line. It was so good that I had to stop and do a drawing right then and there.

23 August 2010

Another flagrant rip-off

Picabia's response to being outed for ripping off an engineering drawing continues:
Copying apples, anyone can understand that; copying turbines: that's stupid. In my opinion, what is even stupider is that The hot eyes, which was inadmissable yesterday, now becomes, through the fact that it represents a convention, a painting that is perfectly intelligible to everyone.

The painter makes a choice, then imitates his choice, whose deformation constitutes Art; why not simply sign this choice instead of monkeying about in front of it?

21 August 2010

Something in Auckland to go to

18 August 2010

Oh yeah

Here is Picabia's The hot eyes (on the right):

The inscriptions are 'Homage to Franz Jourdain' (one of the founders and the first president of the Salon d'Automne), 'Acknowledgements to the Salon d'Automne', and 'Out of onion comes strength'.

I do like that hand.

Not only did this picture make headlines because of its plagiarism of an engineering drawing but it also prompted Franz Jourdain to issue a press release reassuring the public that there was not, in fact, an explosive device behind it that was timed to go off during the opening, as was rumoured.

Picabia painted over this picture, with the appropriately named Fig leaf:

Interestingly, he didn't overpaint it with white first and then do the figure, but rather did it the other way around – the figure first, straight on top of The hot eyes, and then the background.

Here endeth the lesson.

17 August 2010

The hot eyes

This picture came from a Picabia quote:
Le Matin took great pride in showing on their front page my painting from the Salon d'Automne, The hot eyes, printing a diagram below it of an air-turbine brake published in a scientific journal from 1920. 'So Picabia invents nothing; he copies!' I'm afraid so, he copies an engineering drawing instead of copying apples!

16 August 2010

But wait, there's more!

Paris, 5 May 1924

My dear friend [Picabia],

I am leaving Paris for a few days, but could not help but tell you right here and now what a surprise it was for me to hear of 391's reappearance and how I perceive the terms of your communication to the papers.

I have no idea whatsoever of distracting you, or advising you; you know what reservations I have on your recent activities, on the very meaning of this activity (Montparnasse, the Ballets Suedois, a rather boring novel, Paris-Journal, etc). I would abstain from expressing myself so clearly on this subject, in view of the profound respect and affection that I shall hold for you despite everything, if this morning's Journal du Peuple had not inflicted your latest little ranking on me. I see no point in telling you that I decline your cordial invitation with all my heart, as I shall urge all my friends to do. May the old posturings of Satie, you have thus found Huelsenbeck, bravo Rigaut, etc, compensate you for our refusal.

Your friend:


Picabia published this letter in the next issue of 391, and included his reply directly underneath it:
When I smoke cigarettes, I'm not in the habit of keeping the butts.

And another

Paris, 4 December 1922

My dear Breton,

While you were away I sent you a registered letter addressed to the Gallimard Bookshop. Did you receive it? What are these stories people are telling and that you're telling? I've never told anyone you make money by selling my manuscripts to Doucet, because it is not what I think and because I know it was very kind of you and Aragon to have arranged this sale. If I've said anything on this subject it was only in that sense.

Apart from that, you know how I think of you: very badly. It's not a secret. I moreover wrote as much in my last letter to you. You also know that it has only to do with the encouragement you're giving certain people and an attitude I find unacceptable towards your old friends. – I decided to tell you all that so you know I'm not completely indifferent to the ambiguous interpretations you've given to my ideas about you.

If you were still capable of remembering me as you had once known me, you would know that I've been expecting with great curiosity (and for a very long time) that act of honesty from you, which will now be for me a confirmation or the opposite, depending on the use you'll make of my previous letter.

I hope to be able to conclude my letters in a less chilly manner in the future.


Quote of the day

21 May 1919

My dear Tzara,

I'm sorry you're not coming to Paris yet. Your presence would do me good because you are really not like all these men who turn art and intelligence into a profession, all these individuals who work at being great men and nothing more. My only aim, though, is foolish tenacity. Luckily I have my friend Ribemont-Dessaignes; he's working a lot right now and what he does is really what I like best. His works have an incomparable quality, ripples of himself and riches in the sun...

I'd be so happy if you could come. Please have my paintings sent to me.

I'm no longer working.

My best wishes, your friend,

Francis Picabia

My best regards to Arp.
We may have a beautiful gallery in Paris; he must send me his works.
Janco too.
The will brings life down on its knees; nine months later feigned euphoria crosses trivial thinking. F.P.
Matisse's exhibition. Very bad.
Negro exhibition. Good.
P. Guillaume has a review. Stupid.

Compare and contrast with this exchange between Tzara and Breton:
[Letter from Tzara to the surrealist group, 20 December 1932]

I ask that this be communicated to all the surrealists:
  1. It is unacceptable that I should be asked to come and defend myself against a very grave accusation, and that, even before the meeting takes place, I should be insulted over the phone.
  2. I believe I've acted with complete good faith toward the surrealists and that preventing me from explaining myself in this manner is a low, disgraceful act.
  3. I hold all those who pass judgement on me without knowing the material and psychological conditions behind the act of which I'm accused to be rotten individuals.
  4. Should any of you require the necessary explanations, I am at your disposal.

[Letter from Breton to Tzara, 21 December 1932]
  1. It is indeed regrettable that, despite my intentions, I lost my temper over the phone and insulted you: I will try to publicly explain which remarks led me to lose my composure on that occasion.
  2. It was never my intention to prevent you from explaining yourself – quite the contrary.
  3. I am waiting to be told about the material and psychological conditions of which you spoke so that I can form a definitive opinion.
  4. We ask you to come by tomorrow Wednesday at 6 o'clock sharp avenue Malakoff.

Okay, that's a little unfair, but fucking hell.

15 August 2010

The avant-garde

Two schools: Sainte-Vierge by Ingres in 1841 and by Picabia in 1920.

12 August 2010


The best anecdote in Dada in Paris is in a footnote.

Francis Picabia would ring up his friends, put on a fake voice, and tell them something like 'The game is up – your wife knows everything.' He'd then go visit them to observe their agitation.

What a cunt.

Some pics

There are some more images on Robert's website.

The cats

In the later hours of the evening, when everyone else has gone to bed, it's quite fun hanging out with the cats.

It's a pity they're so disgusting but.

It's funny. I grew up with cats. One even had kittens in my bed when I was a kid. But I much prefer the dog now. Fucking cats.

It's a bit after one, and I'm quite pissed. Not very abusive, as you'll notice. There's shit I could abuse – the opening I went to this evening, for example – but I'm not.

Goddamn mellowing with age.

11 August 2010

The opening

The reason I haven't posted about the opening last week until now is not because it's taken this long to recover. Well, not only because of that. It's because I've had computer problems.

It was a fun night. There was a good turn-out, including a goodly number of students from my class. No Massey staff-members bothered however. None.

I'm really pleased with how the show looks. I'll take some installation photos and post them in the next couple of days.

In other news, I've been reading Michel Sanouillet's Dada in Paris. It's the first English translation of the 1965 book, and contains an appendix of correspondence between Picabia, Tzara, and Breton. It's pretty indispensable.
visitors since 29 March 2004.