Roots of the “Tree of Life”

August 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

Animation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Tree of Life by artist Daryl Alexsy.

Many in the “Martin House community” are well aware that the famed “Tree of Life” art glass design bears a popular name, one not given by Frank Lloyd Wright or Darwin D. Martin. The term first appears in print around 1968, coinciding with a major exhibition and sale of art glass from the Martin House complex through the Richard Feigen gallery, New York (1968-70). The Feigen gallery bought a number of pieces of Martin House art glass (including one or more “Tree of Life” windows) from John Crosby Freeman, then Curator of the nascent Maltwood Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia, Victoria, BC. Freeman had the enviable task of assembling an “Arts and Crafts” collection for the Maltwood, and had obtained 21 pieces of Martin House art glass from a dealer who most likely acquired them from Darwin R. Martin.

As to the burning question of the origin of the “Tree of Life” term (alternately written “tree-of-life”), Freeman has stated that he thinks the Feigen gallery may have come up with the name as a marketing device – a way to boost sales of the Martin glass by applying an evocative, romantic name. We may never know exactly when the term was first applied, or by whom, but one thing is clear: it stuck. The “Tree of Life” window soon became one of the most iconic of Wright’s Prairie house art glass designs, and this “brand” has been sought by major collections of decorative and fine arts world-wide.

Ira Cohen & the Moroccan Beat Circle

August 29, 2014 § 4 Comments

From 1923 to 1956 Tangier was an International Zone, governed separately from the rest of Morocco by a loose collection of foreign governments. Known as the ‘Interzone’, the promise of cosmopolitan freedom attracted Western artists and writers in the 50s and 60s.

Ira Cohen (1979) by Gerard Malanga.

Ira Cohen (1979) by Gerard Malanga

One of the most prolific – yet little-known – Tangier figure was the American poet, photographer, and artist Ira Cohen (1935 – 2011), who lived there during the 60s. Cohen published a literary magazine titled Gnaoua, meaning exorcism. It contained early writings from the  including William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Jimi Hendrix and other artists were portrayed in his “Mylar Images” and he created many record covers. Shamanistic and tantric experiences were technically and conceptually integrated into his photographic work and his work as a poet, musician and filmmaker began at the latest in the 70’s. A work by Ira Cohen was recently presented at Art Basel 38 / Kunst+Film by John Armleder. In 1970 Cohen moved to Kathmandu where he lived for ten years and built up an artist’s colony.

The pictures shot by chance, in spontaneity and irony, refer not only to Dadaism and its nonconformism but also to the anti-authoritarianism and social criticism of the Beat Generation, which also broke many taboos and developed new experimental ways of life. Cohen’s work reflects these influences in a most impressive way.

A sense of cosmic pranksterism pervaded his work; a line in one of his poems pronounces that “subtraction is only a special form of addition”. He was the author of the underground hit volume The Hashish Cookbook, a collection of hash recipes written under the pseudonym of Panama Rose (a twist on Panama Red, a then popular type of marijuana), which was published, inevitably, in 1967 by his own Gnaoua Press. His ‘Gnaoua magazine’, started in Tangiers three years previously, ran to only one edition; significantly, a copy of it is visible in the cover image of Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home LP. Named after the Moroccan black African sect known for ecstatic dancing and possession trances, it was devoted to Beat poetry and showcased the work of Brion Gysin, William S Burroughs, and Harold Norse. “It had great Burroughs stuff, as well as Ian Sommerville talking about the dream machine, which he and Brion Gysin co-invented,” the writer Barry Miles recalled. In Morocco Cohen also produced an LP of Moroccan trance music.

Ira Cohen made phantasmagorical films that became cult classics and published works by authors like William Burroughs and the poet Gregory Corso. He wrote thousands of poems himself. He called himself “the conscience of Planet Earth.” But his  most amazing work of art was inarguably Mr. Cohen himself.

German authors — Did Jörg Fauser deserve such a prosaic death?

August 27, 2014 § 5 Comments

Jörg Fauser was a prolific novelist, essayist and journalist. Born in Frankfurt/Main in 1944, he broke off his academic studies to work and travel, with longer stays in Istanbul and London, working as a casual labourer, airport baggage worker and night watchman. He also supported himself as a journalist, and was acquainted with Charles Bukowski.


He developed a heroin habit which he was able to shed at the age of 30, and spent much of the rest of his working life with an alcohol addiction. Fauser was heavily influenced by Beat literature and American crime stories, producing three successful novels, including ‘Der Schneemann’ (The Snowman), and a plethora of short stories. Fauser also translated English works by John Howlett and Joan Baez, and as well as translating Rolling Stones lyrics into German. Acclaimed as the best crime thriller ever written in German, The Snowman sold over 200,000 copies and was made into a film starring German rock musician Marius Westernhagen. Fauser also wrote and recorded music – one of his songs made it into the German top ten in 1981. But like his contemporary Hunter S. Thompson he was also deeply disillusioned by the failure of the ideals of the 60s, and his writing remained that of a driven man searching for something that is always just a few inches from his grasp.

On 16 July 1987, Fauser had been out celebrating his 43rd birthday in Munich. At dawn, instead of going back home, he allegedly stripped naked and wandered down a stretch of highway where, by chance or by choice, he was struck by a heavy-goods truck. He died instantly.

Germany may only be renown for their high brow writers such as Grass and Hesse, but there is no denying the talent of Borche, Ledig and Fauser. With their writing embodying the worse of human conditions, these writers manage to represent Germany in it’s best with all the worse that has happened.

William Blake’s Illuminated Books

August 25, 2014 Comments Off

William Blake is one of the most significant and celebrated figures in western art and poetry. His illuminated book, Europe: a Prophecy, the second of Blake’s Continental Prophecies (alongside America: a Prophecy and The Book of Los), is frequently acknowledged as one of his most obscure, complex and elusive pieces.

The title page of Europe: It has been argued that the serpent, representing Orc, is quite deliberately placed opposite Urizen in the frontispiece.  Urizen represents Creation while Orc represents the Fall.

The title page of Europe: It has been argued that the serpent, representing Orc, is quite deliberately placed opposite Urizen in the frontispiece. Urizen represents Creation while Orc represents the Fall.

Blake’s illuminated books, produced from 1783-1795, are remarkable examples of complex syntheses: of form – poetry and painting; and of subject – the real with the mythical. This complexity has resulted in more than a century of debate regarding their interpretation. How do the text and images interact? Are the mythical characters veiled descriptions of real people? Or, is the work just a fantastical and diverting journey through Blake’s vivid imagination? Their compelling and fascinating nature has led William Vaughan to comment of the books: they are “really at the heart of Blake’s thinking. For Blake scholars they are where he begins and ends.”

Glasgow University Library

Good science fiction is good fiction

August 22, 2014 Comments Off

Re-reading Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Translated from Russian by Antonina W. Bouis — MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc, New York


In the highest echelon of Soviet science-fiction writers stand the names of Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. I first encountered these talented brothers in a novel called Hard to Be a Cod Remarkable, purely as a novel, for structure, characterization, pacing, and its perceptive statements of the human condition, it touches also on almost every single quality most avidly sought by the science-fiction reader. It has space flight and future devices; it has that wondrous “what if…?” aspect in its investigation into sociology; by its richly detailed portraiture of an alien culture it affords a new perspective on the nature of ours and ourselves; it even has that exciting hand-to- hand conflict so dear to the hearts of that cousin of science fiction called swords-and-sorcery. And among its highest virtues is this: though there are battles and fights and blood and death where the narrative calls for them, the super-potent protagonist never kills any- body. Writers everywhere, keeping in mind in these violent times their responsibility for their influence, should take note. It can be done, and done well, at no expense to tension and suspense.

Read the entire article here

Romain Slocombe — Prisoner of the Red Army

August 19, 2014 Comments Off

Prisoner of the Red Army is the debut output of a scandalous 25 year old illustrator who signs his name only, Romain. A re-edition of the original book which was published in 1978 by Humanoïdes Associés.


This clever punk spirit, very close to the band Bazooka, captured the dark side of Japan and invented a new genre of SM, the “bondage surgery”. Since Romain Slocombe digs an obsessional and single rail, embodying his monomaniacal fantasy world in various art forms with talent.

Prisoner of the Red Army made the generational leap, many monsters have been killed by the uncontrolled flow of daily images.

One can finally read these redrawn photographs of Japanese women bound, wounded, tumefied, bandaged like real life, revealing the tragicomic atmosphere of the late ’70s, the spirit icy detachment of the chemical eye, with much as the talent as an artist in the middle of the world and already completely singular.


A Virtual Wunderkammer: Early Twentieth Century Erotica in Spain

August 16, 2014 Comments Off


This Website is a companion to the book, Cultures of the Erotic. Spain 1898-1939 (Maite Zubiaurre, Vanderbilt University Press, 2011), in the same way in which the book is a companion to the Website. They enhance each other when they work together.

The main purpose of the book/website is to unearth the wealth of popular erotic materials that animated the urban life of Spain during the first half of the Twentieth Century, and which was later forcefully repressed and thus “forgotten” during the Franco era. By erotic materials I mean a multifarious collection of cultural artifacts, from the erotic novelette, the philosophical essay, the sexological treatise, and the nudist manifesto, to the erotic postcard, the risqué illustration in erotic magazines, and the first manifestation of pornographic cinema.

Creating a New Language: The Poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé

August 14, 2014 Comments Off

Stéphane Mallarmé is renowned as being one of the most influential poets in the French Symbolist movement. Born in 1842, his creative and critical work inspired many of the radical artistic movements in the 20th Century, including Futurism, Dadaism and Surrealism.


Notoriously misunderstood, obsessively ‘difficult’, accused of obscurity, pretence and genius: still, Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) was arguably the greatest, and most innovative, of the French Symbolist poets. His story is not as passionate as that of Verlaine and Rimbaud’s scandalous love affair. Neither were his habits as decadent as Baudelaire’s penchant for opium, women and the senses. No; Mallarmé lived in financial and matrimonial modesty, writing as a means to escape and to nourish himself.

With the 19th century being a time of great excitement, and a paradigm shift in French poetry, it is no wonder that ever since his adolescent years Mallarmé had envisaged a life as a poet. Baudelaire had just published his revolutionary Flowers of Evil (1857), free-verse was cracking the shell of traditional versification, and some of the greatest voices of French literature – Hugo, Flaubert, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Valéry, Zola, Balzac – were publishing one masterpiece after another. Mallarmé had married out of some higher sense of responsibility, and he disdained- yet maintained- his job as a provincial teacher. He wanted desperately to take part in this explosive creation.

  • Confession Intime

    This blog can be considered as an handpicked medley of inspirations, musings, obsessions and things of general interest.
  • qease

    Are you a socially engaged filmmaker?

    The 13th edition of the Paris Human Rights International Film Festival will be held during spring 2015. You can now submit your film!

    Read and accept the rules and regulations.

    Complete and approve the submission form (click to download).

    Once the submission form has been filled out, a confirmation email will be sent to the participant. If the submission meets our requirements and the film synopsis matches with the Festival artistic criteria, we will watch the video link (sent by mail with the submission form) or we will ask you for the DVD to be sent to the following postal address : Alliance Ciné, 7 impasse de Mont-Louis, 75007 Paris.

    Information about the submission:

    The film must have been produced after January 1, 2013.
    The submission deadline is September 31st, 2014.
    The submission is free of charge.
    The Festival screens principally documentary films. But, for the first time this year, you are allowed to submit your fiction and animation movies.
    Feature films must last a minimum of 52 minutes. There is no maximum duration limit.
    Short films must last a maximum of 20 minutes.
    For the selection process, the film will be watched in French, French subtitled, English or English subtitled version only.
    A notification of selection will be sent to the participant in the course of October 2014.

    Thank you in advance for your participation!

  • Uncategorized News

    1. It’s the end of the world as we know it and Slavoj Žižek feels fine.

      (Image: Art Threat)

    2. The “back-to-nature” movement for mothers is an ideological effort to “reawaken the slumbering mammal inside women” and turn them into “chimpanzees,” argues French feminist Elisabeth Badinter in thisinterview with Spiegel. The success of this movement, she suggests, is partly a matter of generational backlash:

      The current generation of young women is made up of the daughters of the feminists of the 1970s. They don’t want to be like their mothers — torn between their job and their family, constantly stressed, constantly tired. They think it must be much more satisfying to devote themselves entirely to their children.

    3. An interview with Lewis Hyde, the author of The Gift. His new book,Common as Air, has just been published. (Image: Reuben Cox)

    4. The Bluestockings of the late 1700s were among the first public female intellectuals in Britain. They were hectored out of existence by the turn of the century. Two books (reviewed in the TLS) consider their fate: Were they out to prove that reason could be sexless, or precisely the opposite?

      (Image: National Portrait Gallery)

    5. “Is emerging adulthood a rich and varied period for self-discovery…? Or is it just another term for self-indulgence?” asks Robin Marantz Heinig in this New York Times Magazine article.

      Maybe 20-somethings, with their elongated period of “emerging adulthood,” are realizing incrementally the promise of what Marx called species being — a freedom from social alienation and the duress of the struggle to survive, and the emancipation into total personhood. Maybe as long as it seems that way, it is.

      (image: Ryan McGinley)

    6. What we call “natural” is often ideological, and the supposedly spontaneous joy we take in nature must be learned, as historian Claude Fischer notes. Such pleasure is a product of privilege, not our human birthright, and has become a status marker defined by the conspicuous rejection of convenience.

      Food has lately become an egregious example of the nostalgia for pure nature; as historian Rachel Laudenpoints out in an essay about what she calls culinary luddism: “For our ancestors, natural was something quite nasty.”

      Werner Herzog concurs with the ancestors: in nature he sees only “the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder.” There is “no kinship, no understanding, no mercy” in nature, only “overwhelming indifference.”


    7. “Look, noir is about losers. The characters in these existential, nihilistic tales are doomed. They may not die, but they probably should, as the life that awaits them is certain to be so ugly, so lost and lonely, that they’d be better off just curling up and getting it over with. And, let’s face it, they deserve it.”

    8. John Waters is one of the great eccentrics of the latter 20th century; and those who influenced him most were a motley (albiet endearing) crew indeed.

    9. Keith Gessen taps the wisdom of Wall Street—but isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

    10. Daphne Merkin’s body of work has always been exceptional for her unflinching personal disclosure— this take on life in therapy is no exception.

      Good Readings at —click the mammoth, s’il vous plaît.

  • Alternative Media

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    • Independent Media Center
    • - A collective network "for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth." Formed at the time of the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle.

    • The New Republic
    • - Not all that alternative, but it's from the liberal side of the spectrum

    • Project Censored
    • - Picks the top 25 censored (i.e., neglected) news stories every year. In the meantime, points out stories the mainstream media are currently missing or avoiding.

    • Tom
    • - Original articles and reprints from other sources, in the tradition of one of America's great revolutionaries

      • Truthout
      • - Other views on the news, often from liberal politicians and columnists

  • Sites we simply like

    Curbed LA Real estate talk without all the usual bullshit.
    Speak Up. Great graphic design roundtable.
    Mat Gleason rant. Coagula editor's journal.
    X-Tra. Somewhat thinky publication of art and criticism out of L.A.
    Jay Ryan. The website for a poster artist whose work we really enjoy.
    The Morning News. See above.
    Coudal Partners. A graphic design firm with interesting interests.
    Edward Gorey's "The Gashleycrumb Tinies"
    L.A. Observed. Interesting overview of insider L.A. media news.
    McSweeney's. Pretty darn clever.
    Mr. Picassohead
    Los Angeles County Public Library
    L.A. County Health Department's Restaurant Closures
    Make Ready. Typography, art books, whatnot.
    Huffington Post. Arianna at her best.
    Talking Points Memo
    Defamer. Trashy, addictive.
    Daily Doonesbury.
    Design Observer
    City of Sound
    Strange Harvest
    Tiny Gigantic
    One Plus One Equals Three.
    The Nonist.
    Moon River.
    Swiss Miss.


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