I recently finished reading The Library of America’s collection of four of Philip K. Dick’s novels from the 60s: The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (which was later adapted to make the film Blade Runner) and Ubik. It’s been many years since I last read P.K. Dick, & I slipped back into his prescient, idea-crammed, black-humored & metaphysical prose with much, much delight & warm sense of homecoming. It was all there just as I’d left it, all those hallmark Dickian elements: Breakneck chapters bursting with remarkably imaginative visions of earths to come. A proper amount of mundane (as described, not relative to our experience) day-to-day detail that helps stabilize those imagined future earths and render them believable. Characters who are all a bit too hysterical & over-emoted, but whose very ‘loudness’ emotionally helps ground the narrative when the metaphysical & ontological conundrums that arise become a challenge to untie. A fascination with the idea of spirit-fusion to create intersubjective unity; a fascination with the theme of the real/authentic vs. the facsimile. Dystopia and how humankind adjusts to cataclysm. A zest for depicting how marketing and commodification affect what we know to be intangibly human (memory, a felt sense of spiritual oneness, various emotional responses) & thereby render these things purchasable, customizable products. A recurring focus on telepathy, predictive talents & general psionic powers. And most importantly, a passion for the classical philosophical (and science fiction) questions of the nature of underlying objective “reality” (to the extent we can say it exists) vs. all the ways that objective reality can be mimicked: drug trips, subjective simulations, memory, technological constructs, dissociative/mystical experiences, etc. [CLICK TO READ MORE . . .]
Hello readers. As usual with the Abandoned Storage Unit format, I present to you a fat clutch of subject matter – most of it arts-related, as usual. Don’t know what I’m talking about? For prior examples of this kind of post, see here and here.
So, lots on the docket today. Let’s start with this friend from Etsy vendor BeatUpCreations:
Naturally I am most drawn to this anthropo-molluscan mixed-up critter. If it had crow wings I’d probably custom order two dozen. I like its one bent antenna, it’s widow’s peak of gold candyshell, and its chipped up face. He is not happy, he is not upset. He is not for eating. He does not respond to salt. He is just a scuffed, dirty snailchild, let him wriggle and explore. He has the power to dissolve stone & most metals with his slime. He is telepathic.
Eric Sloane (b.1905 in NYC, d. 1985) Corn Bin, date unknown, Oil on Masonite
This is “Corn Bin” by American artist Eric Sloane. The glimpsed corn aglow & about to be revealed like a treasure chest slightly ajar. Like a beautiful grin just beginning. Beams cross posts cross slats cross floor cross the glorious portals of morning. A bin of pure reaped corn. The glorious morning firing it radiant. The earth’s bounty. The sweet ripe earth’s bounty washed in glorious light from the white portals of morning. Sweet ripe gold sparking out of the dark interior lit only by two white portals. This is a silent place. No human has to be present to witness and thereby validate. The universe alone can revel in the austere majesty of its own construction.
Albert Gabriel Rigolot (1862 – 1932) Les Petites Filles de Bou Saada, date unknown, oil on canvas
This is “Les petites filles de Bou Saada” (“The pretty girls of Bou Saada”) by French artist Albert Gabriel Rigolot. Bou Saada (which means “place of happiness”) is an Algerian oasis town that has historically been an important trading center & marketplace.
I love this painting. The composition is mesmerizing, with its neat tetris interlock of L-shaped whitespace below and roughly tesselated L counterpart of dark above. The grate and glimpse of sky in the top right prevent the diagonal symmetry from being too neat. Rough jumbled stairs slope up to the watching girls. Hay or straw or something like it tufts over some gap in the wood-ceiling. What does the rough lumpy stone wall in the foreground conceal or contain? A fine rusty dust on the rockheap-stairs spills down & transfers the color from the girls’ faces and garments, finding echo in the orange straw/refuse in the top left. This painting transports you: to shuffling dust, cries from the marketplace, bustle of livestock, and the sudden sense of having trespassed in this peculiar slumping interzone. A masterwork of beguiling mystery and compositional harmony.
I saw Charles Bradley headline the House of Vans show in Brooklyn on a delicious cusp-of-summer nite in June. After strong instrumental opening numbers by the airtight Menahan street band, & after some expert crowdwork by the MC (doubling as organist), Mr. Bradley emerged, resplendent in his sequined, monogrammed hot cherry red on red on red ensemble. Colors of blood & passion, befitting his MC’s introduction of him as the Victim of Love. There he stood by turns coy & overcome with emotion, smiling graciously to the waves of applause from his hometown crowd, wide eyed, arms wide, then hamming it up for the crowd with a salacious finger-lick. The band took it from there, snapping into place & Mr. Bradley proceeded to sing the night to flaming shreds. From the first few bars you could tell that the man had the pain of a lifetime stored up in him, and a scorching, raspy scream to match it.
Charles Bradley, Brooklyn, House of Vans show
from unARTigNYC, June 12, 2014
Goddamn. I hadn’t heard a note of the man until that night, & I just stood there in beery disbelief, jammed up about one row from the front. Only a couple of teenagers and the photog’s row were closer. I didn’t have my earplugs in and I both regretted it and thanked myself for my good subconscious planning every time he pulled back to annihilate the microphone. Lord how he worked it; everything was white-hot commitment. He fell to his knees, mic stand over his back like Jesus & his cross. He pulled James Brown moves on his mic stand, flinging it forward and yanking it back, startling one of the photographers. He hip-gyrated and tried splits. He worked odd tai chi maneuvers & fluttery-armed backpedals. He mugged and finger-licked and lewdly grinned. He let it all out for us in a way I haven’t seen a performer do in years. His face streamed sweat as he grimaced in the grip of those impassioned songs as if he had just instants ago discovered their melody and message.
Bradley ended his set by coming down to the front row, with some assistance from security, where he was rapidly mobbed, held, embraced by those of us lucky enough to be close by. I patted him & held his damp head & felt vast thanks. Greil Marcus once said of the music of Chester Burnett, aka Howlin Wolf: “This is where the soul of man never dies.” On June 12 2014, in a packed warehoused crowd full of twenty somethings cheering for music of a bygone generation, I saw another spark from that great universal soul Marcus saw in the Wolf. & my my my how bright it shone.
For more information about Eric Sloane, please check out his site here.
For more about Albert Gabriel Rigolot, please check out this online gallery at Rehs Galleries, Inc..
For more information about Charles Bradely, please check out this indispensable 6-part interview series sensitively conducted by FaceCulture.
Alfred Klinkan (1950-1994, Austrian) Opended chest of a garage, 1982-83 Oil on canvas
Ah, what lovely riot of color. The hot acrid yellows and oranges and fuchsia, reminiscent of the work of Emil Nolde, arrest and divert the eye no matter where you’d like to direct it. Especially the yellows and oranges: There’s a fire at the base of the throat of that hill. That open goldbox is sticky with warm nectar. That orange tiger is straight from the elemental plane of fire, shrivels grass and leaves in a 3 foot radius around it. It casts its glow upon the face and neck of the human figure behind the leaping dog. Golden speckles everywhere: in the water, in the foliage; yolk in the sky. The vibrant palette feeds off of and is threatened by the impact of those yellows and oranges, creating a delicious, active interplay. Something will be boxed & trapped, or something has been unboxed, freed – & everything surrounding will know, will feel, will glow, will change.
Perfume by Patrick Süskind. What a riveting novel. I read it in a day, which I can’t remember ever having done before; a breathless binge, gulping chapters and chapters, forgetting to swallow.
The novel’s about a scent-prodigy, Grenouille, who grows up in Paris in the late 18th century. He’s not only a gifted man, but a supernaturally gifted man, one who can identify odors by even their remotest traces, find them in the dark, and track them expertly through the stenchy, dense heart of the City of Lights circa 1750. Industrious, obsessive, mole-like, Grenouille is forever seeking new scents to experience. He processes everything around him nose-first, like an animal; all other modalities a distant second. He’s also a sociopath of the highest order, from an early age decisively cut off from humanity, from all empathy and fellow feeling, living only through his eerie gift for detecting, tracking, identifying & mixing scent.
What’s more, he casts no discernible odor himself, which makes this already strange being even more supernatural, alien, wraith-like. Combine Grenouille’s odorlessness with his endless thirst for new scents, for sucking up experience through his nose, and what you have for a protagonist is a kind of scent-vampire (think of the classic description of the vampire casting no reflection in a mirror).
As the novel unfolds, Grenouille comes more and more into his own, realizing the extent of his powers and how he can use them to achieve greater and ghastlier ends. He stops at nothing to learn all he can about alchemical extraction of scents from matter, willingly enduring an apprenticeship to a washed-up talentless rich perfumer, Baldini, who takes credit for all his new underling-savant’s astonishing creations. Eventually, having fine-tuned his scent-extraction skills under Baldini (whereas his talent for identifying and mixing scents, being already virtuosic beyond measure, needed no further refinement), he realizes the olfactory sense is the most primitive, most direct channel to the brain, and that the way to influence and dominate others to meet his own ends is through nostrils. He will do this by extracting & making use of the rarest, most potent scent of all, regardless of what heinous acts he has to commit to obtain it. [CLICK TO READ MORE . . .]
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