Film as a Subversive Art

Said Cocteau: “What one should do with the young is to give them a portable cam­era and for­bid them to observe any rules except those they invent for them­selves as they go along. Let them write with­out being afraid of mak­ing spelling mistakes.”

The doc­u­men­tary “Film as a Sub­ver­sive Art” tells the story of Austrian-born film his­to­rian and cura­tor Amos Vogel, who in 1947 estab­lished Cin­ema 16, America’s most impor­tant film club, and later the New York Film Fes­ti­val, as well as pub­lish­ing in 1974 one of the most leg­endary books on cin­ema ever, FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART, which Nor­man Mailer called “the most excit­ing and com­pre­hen­sive book I’ve seen on avant-garde, under­ground and excep­tional com­mer­cial film.”

The film has been screened on PBS and at many archives and fes­ti­vals world­wide, includ­ing Inter­na­tional House (Philadel­phia), Ciné­math­èque française in Paris, the Den­ver Film Fes­ti­val – where Vogel was awarded the Stan Brakhage Award for Poetic Film – and fes­ti­vals in Berlin, Tribeca, Jerusalem, PiFan (South Korea), San Fran­cisco, Van­cou­ver and Vienna, where Vogel‘s life and work was the sub­ject of a major retrospective.

Pub­lished in 1973, FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART is an oft-referenced, hugely influ­en­tial, land­mark text in the his­tory of film lit­er­a­ture. A book with no dis­cernible begin­ning, mid­dle, or end, it’s as ener­giz­ing, enter­tain­ing, and impor­tant a work of film crit­i­cism as any that has ever been writ­ten – a labyrinthine trek through world cin­ema via one man’s vision­ary cosmology.

That man was Cin­ema 16 and New York Film Fes­ti­val founder Amos Vogel (1922–2012), who ded­i­cated his life to sup­port­ing the pio­neer­ing efforts of inde­pen­dent artists and aes­thetic rebels. In its rad­i­cal, impas­sioned polemics and dialectically-placed film frames, FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART is the ful­crum of Vogel’s years as a film pro­gram­mer, fes­ti­val juror, lec­turer, and critic.

Cit­ing numer­ous films that have become increas­ingly dif­fi­cult to see due to the vagaries of dis­tri­b­u­tion, his book remains a Pandora’s box of cin­e­matic trea­sures and an astute elu­ci­da­tion of the artist’s role in con­tem­po­rary society.

Will we ever break out of the mold of Profit Motive, Com­mer­cial Imper­a­tive, Bot­tom Line, Prod­uct? Will the awe­some free spirit of humans ever be allowed to offer us splen­dif­er­ous visions instead of the cal­cu­lated spu­ri­ous anti-fantasies gen­er­ated by the cur­rent crop of Hol­ly­wood direc­tors and pro­duc­ers? What­ever the answers, I am con­tent know­ing that I con­tributed to the dis­sem­i­na­tion of such visions, pas­sion­ate cre­ativ­ity, and rad­i­cal chal­lenges. To ques­tion what exists and to rad­i­cally trans­form it remain our most com­pelling imperatives.”

– Amos Vogel, 1984

To be bad is good.…and to be good is simply boring!

We have repeat­edly men­tioned Mal­colm Mclaren one way or another on pre­vi­ous arti­cles like Chip­tune, Paris is Burn­ing and more recently Alan Moore’s Fash­ion Beast. For us, here at The Remains, every­thing Mal­colm said rings true. Mal­colm was an entre­pre­neur, musi­cian, pro­moter, band man­ager, designer, writer, and much more…but mostly a vision­ary, and it was time we ded­i­cated a post to him.

For the Punk move­ment of the70’s in Lon­don he was a GOD! He was the one who encour­aged Vivi­enne West­wood (his girl­friend at the time) in 1971 to join him and open the cra­dle for his rev­o­lu­tion, their own cloth­ing store in Lon­don called “Let it Rock”  spe­cial­iz­ing in teddy boy clothes. Mal­colm said later that they opened the store for  “the sole pur­pose of smash­ing the Eng­lish cul­ture of deception”.

He lat­ter renamed the shop “Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die” but the new style was not suc­cess­ful and he closed the shop, depressed and dis­il­lu­sioned about the future.

In 1975, McLaren reopened and renamed the shop SEX, sell­ing punk and S&M inspired cloth­ing. In Decem­ber 1976, Sex was renamed “Sedi­tionar­ies”. In 1980 it was reopened under the name “World’s End”.

They were spe­cial­iz­ing in rub­ber and leather fetish gear, sell­ing extra­or­di­nary T-shirts and the famous bondage trousers, all while defin­ing punk fash­ion for a new generation.

Mal­colm ven­tured into music, man­ag­ing the Amer­i­can “New York dolls”  and in 1976 he pulled together a band to go with the clothes in the store, a band that became the wildest punk rock band in his­tory  -  “The sex pistols”!

Accord­ing to McLaren “The sex pis­tols pro­vided the sound — Anar­chic, shrill, garage-like to the clothes. It was more impor­tant the way they dressed and how they looked”. Punk cul­ture took over and a new fash­ion era had begun with Mal­colm McLaren and West­wood lead­ing the way  with cloth­ing that was ripped, safety-pined and dis­tressed in any way pos­si­ble resem­bling the aggres­sion that British youth was look­ing to express! 

Malcolm’s influ­ence was best described by music jour­nal­ist Jon Sav­age, who wrote “With­out Mal­colm McLaren there would not have been any British punk. He’s one of the rare indi­vid­u­als who had a huge impact on the cul­tural and social life of this nation”. 

Over the years Mal­colm was con­tin­u­ously  involved with art (the medium he was
orig­i­nally trained in), movies (made few doc­u­men­taries), music (always seemed to have a new “hot” band), and off course fash­ion, while always see­ing the last two intertwined!

Malcolm’s per­sonal style was a true resem­blance of his per­son­al­ity, eccen­tric, bold  and eclectic.…mixing col­ors, pat­terns and unique cuts and textures.…somewhat Japan­ese inspired.
He lived by his grandmother’s motto:
“To be bad is good.…and to be good is sim­ply bor­ing!”.…..sounds like his grandma was the real vision­ary leader of punk culture!

Watch below a trib­ute to the inspi­ra­tional man­ager and artist who rev­o­lu­tion­ized the music busi­ness in the 1970s with the Sex Pis­tols and punk fash­ion. McLaren died on April 8, 2010.

Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon (Nigel Finch, 1991)

Nigel Finch’s 1991 doc­u­men­tary cov­er­ing many of the sto­ries from Ken­neth Anger’s sor­did Hol­ly­wood gos­sip book of the same name.

An inter­est­ing arti­fact on early Los Ange­les myth, glam­our, and tragedy — regard­less of rel­a­tive verac­ity of the stories.

The Journals of André Gide

Wilde’s affected aes­theti­cism was for him merely an inge­nious cloak to hide, while half reveal­ing, what he could not let be seen openly … Here, as almost always, and often even with­out the artist’s know­ing it, it is the secret of the depths of his flesh that prompts, inspires, and decides…

Wilde’s plays reveal, beside the sur­face wit­ti­cisms, sparkling like false jew­els, many oddly rev­e­la­tory sen­tences of great psy­cho­log­i­cal inter­est. And it is for them that Wilde wrote the whole play––let there be no doubt about it…

Try to let some under­stand what one has an inter­est in hid­ing from all. As for me, I have always pre­ferred frank­ness. But Wilde made up his mind to make of false­hood a work of art. Noth­ing is more pre­cious, more tempt­ing, more flat­ter­ing than to see in the work of art a false­hood and, rec­i­p­ro­cally, to look upon false­hood as a work of art… This artis­tic hypocrisy was imposed on him… by the need of self-protection.

— André Gide, on Oscar Wilde, from The Jour­nals of André Gide

On ne décou­vre pas de terre nou­velle sans con­sen­tir à per­dre de vue, d’abord et longtemps, tout rivage.”

One doesn’t dis­cover new lands with­out con­sent­ing to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore.“
― André Gide

Genesis P-Orridge’s Pandrogeny Manifesto

The Trans­for­ma­tion of Gen­e­sis P-Orridge and Lady Jaye.

This film fol­lows for­mer Throb­bing Gristle/Psychic TV leader, our beloved Gen­e­sis Breyer P-Orridge and his part­ner Lady Jaye through their “Pan­drog­yne” project, where they sought to become two parts of the same per­son through body mod­i­fi­ca­tion surgery. It is crazy, and amaz­ing, and a gen­uinely touch­ing por­trait of real love

Trapers — traped .giffiti


You have to check out this Tum­blr: I absolutely love it.


Based on John Geiger’s book Chapel of Extreme Expe­ri­ence, Nik Sheehan’s FLicKeR is a fas­ci­nat­ing voy­age into the life of artist and mys­tic Brion Gysin and his leg­endary inven­tion the dream machine, a device that projects stro­bo­scopic light, pro­vok­ing a “drug­less high” and cin­e­matic hal­lu­ci­na­tions. In this Hot Docs world pre­miere Shee­han cap­tures the dynamic, super­nat­ural world of Gysin, the queer cul­tural ter­ror­ist who fused sci­ence, magic and art to expand human con­scious­ness and tran­scend mate­r­ial reality.

Gysin’s biog­ra­phy is dif­fi­cult to con­dense, but he grew up in Edmon­ton before rein­vent­ing him­self as a bohemian glo­be­trot­ter who went on to become the unac­knowl­edged genius behind some of the most inter­est­ing devel­op­ments in the 20th-century avant-garde. He died in 1986. Shee­han casts him as a rad­i­cal artist intent on har­ness­ing “the vision­ary poten­tial of light” (as Geiger puts it) to rev­o­lu­tion­ary ends. Gysin was not a man but, like the machine, a way of per­ceiv­ing the world — pure energy. He even tried to make him­self invisible.

It’s incred­i­ble that nobody’s made this film before,” says Shee­han, whose pre­vi­ous cred­its include God’s Fool about writer Scott Symons and the ground­break­ing AIDS doc­u­men­tary No Sad Songs.

I was sur­prised how anx­ious peo­ple were to open up and talk about Gysin because peo­ple have so many dif­fer­ent views of him.” What is so com­pelling about FLicKeR is that Gysin remains mys­te­ri­ous and ephemeral through­out, no amount of talk­ing could ever explain him.

Sheehan’s film is pop­u­lated with a who’s who of pun­dits, coun­ter­cul­tural fig­ures and Gysin con­fi­dantes, remind­ing you that rock ‘n’ roll has always gone hand in hand with the most out-there shit: Mar­i­anne Faith­full, Iggy Pop, Ken­neth Anger and Gen­e­sis P-Orridge all wax poetic on Gysin, magic and their most mem­o­rable trips, as do younger devo­tees like Lee Ranaldo and DJ Spooky. How did Shee­han land all these stel­lar inter­vie­wees? “That’s the mag­i­cal ques­tion,” quips Shee­han. “It’s a very inter­est­ing group; they go back a long time. And because they’re cult fig­ures they’ve obvi­ously built up all these defences. So it was a very com­pli­cated and long and ded­i­cated effort to bring every­body online.”

The film is also chock full of bril­liant archival footage, par­tic­u­larly of Gysin, his art and his intensely fruit­ful and influ­en­tial col­lab­o­ra­tions with William S Bur­roughs. We visit the “Beat Hotel” in Paris where these sedi­tious kooks built a poor-man’s lab to trans­form the world through all man­ner of strange exper­i­ments in per­cep­tion. “That’s one of the things about Gysin and Bur­roughs and these guys, it’s this com­bi­na­tion of the silly and the sub­lime,” Shee­han says. “We have to remem­ber how incred­i­bly brave they were. They did not accept what soci­ety was offer­ing — it was all lies. And they were very moral, good peo­ple in their way. With Nazi Ger­many they saw what could hap­pen to a gov­ern­ment [if] we get a lit­tle too trusting.

That ele­ment of rebel­lion has some­thing really serious.”

Shee­han feels Gysin’s gay­ness was fun­da­men­tal. “A shaman to me is always a pan­sex­ual being,” says the gay Cana­dian film­maker. “These guys all came out of that period where queer was really hard­core, it was part of their rad­i­cal art — and of course it was illegal.”

Shee­han says his film “wasn’t so much a biog­ra­phy of Gysin or a story of the dream machine as a story of the dream machine as a biog­ra­phy of Gysin — the way the two fuse together. I think [the pro­duc­ers] were expect­ing it was just going to be this cute story about this spin­ning lit­tle machine, not these crazy queer mystics.

The dream machine is [Gysin’s] ulti­mate work, this end-of-art thing that went beyond some­thing you made to some­thing you cre­ated indi­vid­u­ally in your own head.”

One chal­lenge that Shee­han encoun­tered was how to rep­re­sent this inter­nal, neu­ro­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non on screen, so there are many shots of peo­ple pressed up close to the device, eyes closed, nar­rat­ing their expe­ri­ences in ecsta­tic tones. It calls to mind Eric Emer­son in Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls who just “groove[s] on myself” as coloured lights play over his body, a tran­scen­dence through nar­cis­sism. The dream machine isn’t much to look at — sort of like a twirling lamp­shade — so you have to take people’s word for it. But whether you can imag­ine what they are see­ing or not, the ideas behind the machine are what matter.

One of the things I really wanted to do is put things in the present tense, to give it some rel­e­vance,” says Shee­han. “The idea of try­ing to build a machine to change your world, we’re doing that all the time, aren’t we?

The Beats came to fruition in the late ‘50s in the Eisen­hower years where the world was pet­ri­fied by the bomb and con­for­mity was every­thing. Well, where are we now? We live in this time when we recently had this rightwing Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment, which turned into a tor­ture state. There are weird par­al­lels. It was the old mes­sage: Don’t trust the man, he doesn’t always have your best inter­ests at heart. And the dream machine is the per­fect metaphor for this: Get rid of tele­vi­sion, get rid of cin­ema, make your own inner movie, be your own per­son.”

In its enthu­si­asm for this long-gone cul­tural moment and its most beguil­ing cat­a­lyst, FLicKeR has great poignancy. At one point P-Orridge sug­gests that the con­trol that Gysin and his com­rades were fight­ing against is now dif­fuse and all-pervasive, and that rather than deserv­ing to be lib­er­ated by the ulti­mate mind trip, the inert pub­lic now “deserve to have their bot­toms smacked.”


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Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” The Whole Earth Catalog Now Online

Between 1968 and 1972, Stew­art Brand pub­lished The Whole Earth Cat­a­log an Amer­i­can coun­ter­cul­ture cat­a­log. It was essen­tially “a paper-based data­base offer­ing thou­sands of hacks, tips, tools, sug­ges­tions, and pos­si­bil­i­ties for opti­miz­ing your life.” For Steve Jobs, it was a “Bible” of his gen­er­a­tion, a life –trans­form­ing publication.

Click on the image above to go to the online ver­sion of the The Whole Earth Cat­a­log that is now avail­able online. The col­lec­tion of that work pro­vided on this site is not com­plete — and prob­a­bly never will be — but it is a gift to read­ers who loved the CATALOG and those who are dis­cov­er­ing it for the first time.

The title Whole Earth Cat­a­log came from a pre­vi­ous project of Stew­art Brand. In 1966, he ini­ti­ated a pub­lic cam­paign to have NASA release the then-rumored satel­lite photo of the sphere of Earth as seen from space, the first image of the “Whole Earth.” He thought the image might be a pow­er­ful sym­bol, evok­ing a sense of shared des­tiny and adap­tive strate­gies from peo­ple. The Stanford-educated Brand, a biol­o­gist with strong artis­tic and social inter­ests, believed that there was a groundswell of com­mit­ment to thor­oughly ren­o­vat­ing Amer­i­can indus­trial soci­ety along eco­log­i­cally and socially just lines, what­ever they might prove to be.

Steve Jobs, chief exec­u­tive offi­cer and co-founder of Apple Com­puter and of Pixar Ani­ma­tion Stu­dios, urged grad­u­ates at Stan­ford to pur­sue their dreams and see the oppor­tu­ni­ties in life’s set­backs — includ­ing death itself — at the university’s 114th Com­mence­ment on June 12, 2005.

Jobs explained why he drew inspi­ra­tion from this intel­lec­tual cre­ation of the 60s counterculture:

When I was young, there was an amaz­ing pub­li­ca­tion called The Whole Earth Cat­a­log, which was one of the bibles of my gen­er­a­tion. It was cre­ated by a fel­low named Stew­art Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960′s, before per­sonal com­put­ers and desk­top pub­lish­ing, so it was all made with type­writ­ers, scis­sors, and polaroid cam­eras. It was sort of like Google in paper­back form, 35 years before Google came along: it was ide­al­is­tic, and over­flow­ing with neat tools and great notions.

Stew­art and his team put out sev­eral issues of The Whole Earth Cat­a­log, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a pho­to­graph of an early morn­ing coun­try road, the kind you might find your­self hitch­hik­ing on if you were so adven­tur­ous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hun­gry. Stay Fool­ish.” It was their farewell mes­sage as they signed off. Stay Hun­gry. Stay Fool­ish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you grad­u­ate to begin anew, I wish that for you.”

You can watch the video below

Chad Sell’s Drag Race Illustrated


What bet­ter inspi­ra­tion could an artist ask for than a bunch of amaz­ing drag queens? They’re styl­ish, sexy, and sick­en­ing! My work cap­tures the fierce per­son­al­i­ties and per­for­mances of those fab­u­lous fake ladies in a clean, clas­sic style.’

With their larger-than-life pres­ences and glit­tery cos­tumes, the gender-bending stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race are the per­fect sub­jects for por­trai­ture. Illus­tra­tor and comics artist Chad Sell, best known for his his col­lab­o­ra­tion with Logo on RPDR web­comics, and his work on the upcom­ing iOS game Dragopo­lis,  pays awe­some, witty trib­ute to the ladies in an exten­sive series that cap­tures his favorite con­tes­tants’ finest moments.

Check out Chad’s work at



I Want Your Love Banned In Australia


I Want Your Love, is the first fea­ture film directed by Travis Matthews. It fol­lows the first sex­ual rela­tion­ship two male best friends embark upon one night in San Fran­cisco, before one of them leaves for the Amer­i­can Midwest.

I Want Your Love was meant to be screened at gay film fes­ti­vals in Aus­tralia, at the end of a global fes­ti­val tour, but the board has banned it from being shown any­where in the country.

James Franco recently col­lab­o­rated with this film’s direc­tor, on a film that explores sex as a story-telling tool in addi­tion to cen­sor­ship and per­sonal, sex­ual and cre­ative bound­aries, Inte­rior. Leather bar. A short film which pre­miered at Sun­dance fes­ti­val. It is based on the 1980 gay film Cruis­ing, which had 40 min­utes of graphic sex scenes cut, and aims to explore the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of gay sex and censorship.

Franco crit­i­cised the Board in a YouTube video, say­ing adults should be allowed to choose what they watch. He said: “I don’t know why in this day and age some­thing like this, a film that’s using sex not for tit­il­la­tion but to talk about being human, is being banned.”

Matthews issued a state­ment on the ban, say­ing that he wasn’t “shy­ing away from sex” in the film. He added that he used sex “as a tool to show char­ac­ter devel­op­ment, inter­per­sonal issues, inti­macy, play­ful­ness and some­thing over­all closer to the real­ity I’m famil­iar with.”

Six months ago the Board allowed Don­key Love, a doc­u­men­tary about a Colom­bian folk tra­di­tion where men have sex with don­keys to pre­pare them for rela­tion­ships with women, to screen at film fes­ti­vals in Syd­ney and Melbourne.

A peti­tion to remove the ban already has over 2,500 sig­na­tures. Aimed at Les­ley O’Brien, direc­tor of the Aus­tralian Clas­si­fi­ca­tion Board, it says that while the film con­tains “actual sex, it is shown within a non-violent, intel­li­gent and artis­tic narrative.”