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, FILMAS A SUBVERSIVEART, 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, FILMAS A SUBVERSIVEART 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, FILMAS A SUBVERSIVEART 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.”
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.…mixingcolors, 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.
“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
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
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.”
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.”
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.”
Take a look at the public art of Paris-based Swiss artist Felice Varini. The paintings have one vantage point where its form can be viewed. From any other angle, the illusion fades into abstract lines and fragmented pieces. His anamorphic illusions can be found on a variety of urban settings both indoor and outdoors.
Varini has been creating illusions of flat graphics superimposed on three dimensional spaces since 1979 using the same eye-deceiving technique called anamorphosis. The complete shapes can only be seen when viewed at certain angles, otherwise the viewer will only see some random broken pieces.
Over the course of 30+ years, Varini has created many great optical illusions, however the most remarkable work is probably “Cercle et suite d’éclats” where the artist took on the challenge of working at the scale of the village, superimposing perfect circles on the town of Vercorin in the Swiss Alps.
“In fact” says Spare, “I’m almost a ghost myself. However, the bones go last.”
“There is more truth in our erotic zones, than in the whole of religions and mathematics.”
“I Believe What I Will and Will What I Believe”
“Spare Places” is a Psychogeographical film by Jamie Gregory. Made in 2006, “Spare Places” takes us to where Spare lived and breathed, exploring the history of those areas and in doing so offering glimpses into possible inspirations for Spare’s life and works. The film highlights the creativity, diversity and ever changing face of of South London. Layers of fascinating history shudder behind grey buildings as Jamie’s jerky digital lense probes for traces of Austin.
“And remember, you shall suffer all things and again suffer: until you have sufficient sufferance to accept all things.”