Sorry, TypePad, I've being playing away. Topinambours is my new(ish) tumblelog, brought to you by the good people at Tumblr. I'm using it mainly as a catchall, without too much comment, for anything French - art, literature, whatever - so if you have any Gallic tendancies, any interest at all in the other half of the Entente Cordiale, pop across. You might, as they say, find something to your advantage...
Georges Perec, b. 7th March, 1936, d. 3rd March 1982.
Untitled 1963 Ink on paper Signed and dated “Il de Re, 63.” on recto
Unica Zürn (1916-1970) is a tragic and fascinating figure from the post-war late surrealist milieu. Surrealism's interest in tribal art and in the family psychodrama must have had very personal associations for her, as she had grown up surrounded by the exotic impedimenta acquired by her absent father, who was a cavalry officer stationed in Africa. Some sense of her personal tragedy may be gleaned from the first page of this article, though you'd need to have access to JSTOR to read the whole thing. It seems clear, that, despite everything, her relationship with the artist Hans Bellmer was creatively stimulating for her. Ultimately, unhappily, while on 5-day release from one of the institutions in which she was receiving treatment for mental illness, she committed suicide by jumping from the 6th-floor balcony of the Paris appartment she shared with him.
Untitled c. 1960 Ink on paper
Another aspect of Zürn's creative work that interests me is her writing, specifically her interest in anagrams. An early book, Hexentexte, consists of anagrammatic poems, and the later autobiographical books The Man of Jasmine and Dark Spring both include anagrammatic texts interspersed among the prose narratives. According to the Oulipo Compendium, she may be considered the inventor of the anagrammatical poem as a modern literary form - although she was never a member of the Oulipo itself. If you can read French, this post at the blog of French publishing house Cynthia 3000 offers a very good introduction to this side of her work, and includes three anagrammatical poems in German, with French "translations". Here's one:
DIE SELTSAMEN ABENTEUER DES HERRN K.
Es ist kalt. Raben reden um den See. Reh
und Amsel trinken Tee. Rabe, Seher des
Unheils am Abend. Erste Sterne. Rede, K. !
Die ernste Unke Starb sehr elend am
Hik. Nebenan redete der Esel’s-Traum. Es
blutete die Nase des armen Herrn K. See,
dunkler See der Raben. Atmen heisst
Leben, heisst rankendes Traeumen der
seltsamen Abenteuer. Die des Herrn K. ?
The first image here is taken from the exhibition at the Ubu Gallery in New York, who also make availble the full exhibition catalogue, which contains many more images, for download as a .pdf. The second is from an exhibition just coming to an end at the Halle Saint Pierre in Paris.
Incidentally, the phrase "entoptic effusions" comes from a review of the Ubu Gallery show by Elizabeth Schambelan, published in Artforum in May 2005 (which you can also obtain as a .pdf from the Ubu Gallery page). Schambelan says Zürn's
preposterously obsessive mark-making seemed to signal an intention not merely to document the workings of the subconscious ... but to register its entoptic effusions in real time - a subtle shift towards a conception of drawing "as a verb"
I thought at first she must have meant "entropic", but the word "entoptic" actually refers to visual effects whose source is within the eye itself, such as the well-known muscae volitantes or the less well-known blue field entoptic phenomenon. Some people even think that these phenomena lie at the origins of art itself, as the basis for images in Palæolithic art, while others (1), (2) aren't so sure. Entoptic or not, Zürn's skittery biomorphic imagery certainly hints at things we might fear to see out of the corners of our eyes.
See also The Chimeras of Unica Zürn at artnet.com, another review of the Ubu show.
Robert Deodaat Emile "Ootje" Oxenaar, designer of Dutch banknotes, at the Creative Review blog:
before I could make a design, I received a book about the size of a telephone directory containing all the notes on safety issues; the paper, the watermark, everything. When you read all that information you think you can't do it. Later on, I checked through it properly, and three years later came the first banknote...
I changed our war criminal – the grand admiral – to a snipe
He also concealed personal information - a fingerprint, and the names of three women in his life - within the notes. It's all in the details...I like the fact that there's a book about designing banknotes, a secret manual that you have to read before you start, and that it takes so long, and that the end product is something people carry around in their pockets on a day-to-day basis.
....in the old blog yet. Recently I've drawn sustenance from images like these, from an exhibition at the BNF :
I am thinking about ways to reuse old diaries, of which I am an inveterate buyer and non-user. I get to the second week of January, and, sad to say, the urge to record the minutiae of my daily whatever flags more than somewhat. Consequently I have diaries going back several years, after reading which one might think I'd fallen into a coma for the rest of the year. Yes, I know I could just wait until the dates fall on the same days of the week, but I evidently lack a single scrap of Pepysian genetic material - I don't think I have it in me to scrupulously record 365 days-worth of daily happenstance. Yet, they are such alluring objects in themselves - the moleskine ones, the Redstone ones, the Dutch architecture one from 2000 that has wonderful photographs from the Netherland Architecture Institute and the Netherlands Photo Archive (now housed at the Nederlands Foto Museum) - that it's a shame to leave them un(ful)filled.
I'm looking, and I'm not yet sure what I mean by this, precisely, for some off-diary, lateral-thinking, way of 'keeping' a diary.
Incidentally, while looking for the Netherlands Photo Archive site, I found this other Dutch photo archive, whence this up-until-recently festive image of 'Italian movie-star Scila Gabel.'
Grumpy Old Bookman directed me to The Diary Junction, a site to shame all diary-keeping recidivists such as myself, which has data about, and links to extracts from, the diaries of any kind of person one could think of, from Japanese priests to American esayists.
Then he threw on the deck before us whole handfuls of frozen words, which looked like crystallized sweets of different colours. We saw some words gules [red ermine in heraldry], or gay quips, some vert [green], some azure [blue], some sable [yellow], and some or [gold]. When we warmed them a little between our hands, they melted like snow, and we actually heard them, though we did not understand them, for they were in a barbarous language.Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel. Trans. J. M. Cohen. London: Penguin, 1955. First published in French in 1530-1534. p.569
And, after frozen words, some tumultuous ones:
- from A Tumultuous Assembly: Visual Poems of the Italian Futurists, an exhibition that's just finished at the Getty Center.