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.”
Then, six years later, Huxley turned all of this upside down. He headed West, to Hollywood, the newest of the New World, where he took a stab at writing screenplays (with not much luck) and started experimenting with mysticism and psychedelics — first mescaline in 1953, then LSD in 1955. This put Huxley at the forefront of the counterculture’s experimentation with psychedelic drugs, something he documented in his 1954 book, The Doors of Perception.
Huxley’s experimentation continued right through his death in November 1963. When cancer brought him to his death bed, he asked his wife to inject him with ”LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular.” He died later that day, just hours after Kennedy’s assassination. Three years later, LSD was officially banned in California.
By way of footnote, it’s worth mentioning that the American medical establishment is now giving hallucinogens a second look, conducting controlled studies of how psilocybin and other psychedelics can help treat patients dealing with cancer, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug/alcohol addiction and end-of-life anxiety. The New York Times has more on this story.
Robert Hughes died on 6 August last year, aged 74. He was one of the best known art critics of his generation. His criticism ranged from the subtle and sensitive, as in his monographs on Auerbach and Lucian Freud, to the caustically dismissive—“Jeff Koons is the baby to Andy Warhol’s Rosemary” or “The presence of a Hirst in a collection is a true sign of dullness in taste”—for which he was best known.
With his trademark style, Hughes explores how museums, the production of art and the way we experience it have radically changed in the last 50 years, telling the story of the rise of contemporary art and looking back over a life spent talking and writing about the art he loves, and loathes.
In these postmodern days it has been said that there is no more passé a vocation than that of the professional art critic. Perceived as the gate keeper for opinions regarding art and culture, the art critic has supposedly been rendered obsolete by an ever expanding pluralism in the art world, where all practices and disciplines are purported to be equal and valid.
Robert Hughes, however, is one art critic who has delivered a message that must not be ignored. “Mona Lisa Curse” is unlikely to be released in the United States anytime soon. It’s been pulled from YouTube several times already. Watch it while you can.
‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.’
In her short life, Simone Weil (1909–1943) fought in the Spanish Civil War, worked as a machine operator and farm laborer, debated Trotsky, taught high school students and union members, and was part of the French Resistance. The daughter of affluent Jewish parents, she spent her life advocating for the poor and disenfranchised in France and for colonized people around the world, bravely organizing and writing on their behalf. A consummate outsider, who distrusted ideologies of any kind, Simone Weil left behind a body of work that fills fifteen volumes and establishes her as a brilliant political, social, and spiritual thinker.
In her writings, she analyzed power and its dehumanizing effects, outlined a doctrine of attention and empathy for human suffering, and critiqued Stalinism long before most of the French left-wing. She believed intellectual work should be combined with physical work, and that theories should evolve from close observation and direct experience. And, after three Christian mystical experiences, she began grappling with religious faith, its role in human history, and the shortcomings of organized religion. Her best-known works, all published posthumously, are Gravity & Grace, Oppression & Liberty, Waiting for God, and The Need for Roots.
Simone Weil died in obscurity in London in 1943. She was just 34. Her reputation rested mainly on her involvement in left-wing politics in France during the 1930s. Then after the war, she was discovered. T.S. Eliot introduced her to English readers, with the claim that she possessed “a genius akin to sainthood.” A lot of attention was focused on Weil’s extreme personality and her extraordinary life. Now, scholars and readers are paying attention to the enduring significance of her political and religious thought.
The New York Times described her as “one of the most brilliant and original minds of twentieth-century France.” But by far her biggest advocate was the existentialist philosopher Albert Camus who played a major role in getting her work published after her death. He even made a pilgrimage to her writing room before leaving for Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize in 1957. Yet, despite these luminary supporters, Simone Weil is a little-known figure, practically forgotten in her native France, and rarely taught in universities or secondary schools. Slowly that is starting to change.
Albert Camus described her as “the only great spirit of our times”.
Famous first American film of Czech director Milos Forman. It tells the story of a group of parents whose children have run away from home. The parents take the opportunity to rediscover their youth.
It features a number of memorable set pieces, including an open-mic record label audition which is weaved throughout the film, featuring a number of female singers (including a young Carly Simon and a haunting acoustic ballad by a then-unknown Kathy Bates) performing old standards, folk ballads, and rock songs; a meeting in which a group of generally middle-class conservative parents are taught how to smoke marijuana; and a raucuous but sweet game of strip poker played by the adults.
Whether Taking Off is caricature or dead-on is, presumably, all a matter of perspective and distance. But it’s definitely hilarious: A deadpan Buck Henry effortlessly dominates as a milquetoast, and the supporting weirdos are all aces. (In his first on-screen appearance, Vincent Schiavelli leads a pot-smoking tutorial for concerned parents wanting to understand their runaways better: “That’s called ‘bogarting’ the joint, and it’s very rude.”) It’s also a true New York movie.