Monday, December 11, 2017

FIFTY FREAKIN' YEARS of the FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS

Published by Knockabout Comics
                                                           
Almost certainly the best-selling  underground comics books in the world, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers are back and celebrating their 50th Anniversary. Conceived in Austin, Texas intially to promote a short film, now lost, the Freak Bros along with Fat Freddy's Cat have since amused and delighted generations of hippies, dope fiends and ne'er do wells with their wacky ways and adventures. This new compendium of fresh stories that highlight Phineas, Franklin' and Fat Freddy in turn, are accompanied by Parodies, a collection of posters, ephemera and  Official (ish) merchandise + the Authorised History by the man himself Gilbert Shelton. We learn, amongst other things, that the Brothers were inspired by the Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges. THE GENERALIST is hoping to bring you much more about Mr Shelton in the near future. Watch this space.

Knockabout Comics which has been run by Tony Bennett since the 1970s are now the sole English language publishers of the Freak Bros. According to Forbidden Planet International:
Knockabout Comics is a UK publisher of the finest underground and alternative comics. Founded in 1975 to publish Gilbert Shelton’s hippy-slacker masterwork The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Knockabout has carried on publishing legendary comic talents such as Alan Moore, Hunt Emerson, Robert Crumb, Eddie Campbell, Brian Bolland, and many more, as well as translations of some of the best award-winning European creators.“Not only has Knockabout been instrumental in pioneering the market for challenging underground material, it has also been at the forefront of legal battles over censorship; it is probably no exaggeration to say that the increased leeway enjoyed in the medium today is thanks in no small part to the cases Knockabout has fought out with The Man so we could have the right to decide what we wanted to read for ourselves.” 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

VIRTUAL REALITY / JARON LANIER


Published by Bodley Head, who have wittily adapted their
company logo for this one book
 Back in the February before last THE GENERALIST published a detailed post entitled:
 VIRTUAL REALITY IS GOING BIG IN 2016
It began:

'This story of 'virtual reality' (VR) should perhaps start with the man who is credited with coining the term - Jaron Lanier. In the 80s/90s, he became the spokesman/ philosopher/ poster boy of the VR movement,

  It featured this pic of Jaron Lanier, published by Mondo 2000 in 1992.
 *
Now aged 57, comes the publication of his book 'Dawn of the New Everything', an autobiographical trip through his life, work and thought streams. It's a multi-dimensional package, containing the story of his extraordinary early years, the early hacker/entrepeneur scene in Silicon Valley, his own development of VR and the technology and thinking behind it. From the current day perspective he looks back on the process whereby the utopian visions of the digital world were taken over by corporate interests. There are numerous levels of text and fonts, footnotes, appendices, essays and critiques.

He believes strongly in the value of VR and emphasises the fact that the technology is still in its teens if not its infancy but has already found several valuable real-life applications. He told Tim Adams, in a phone interview for The Observer: 'With virtual reality, I think there are cases where  it has already demonstrated its value, in treating post-traumatic stress, for example, or helping people overcome addictions. I think it will  eventually become a proper medium of art and culture but you can't put a schedule on that.'

These days Lanier has an innovation lab at Microsoft and and has become a prominent critic of the way social media and digital technology has shaped our society. 'The priority was always clear to me. Virtual worlds can be a part of real life, but this notion that they could be on an equal footing is abhorrent.'


The full humanity of Jaron Lanier's personality shines through in this fascinating book which will inspire new generations of innovators and create a valuable debate about the future direction of the digital world.
*

GROWING UP

Jaron Lanier grew up in the westernmost corner of Texas, outside El Paso at the juncture of New Mexico and Mexico proper (where he went to school). His mother Lilly was born to a Jewish family in Vienna. She was very light skinned and blond and talked her way out of a 'pop-up concentration camp' and rescued her father from captivity. Most of her family were murdered by the Nazis. His father Ellery's family were mostly wiped out in Ukranian pogroms. They were both in the car the day it flipped out of control on their journey home after his mum had just passed her driving test. Lilly died and his father was severely injured. He recovered but Jaron was traumatised, contracted a number of near fatal infectious diseases, and spent a year immobile in the same hospital. 

His mother had been the breadwinner of the family - trading stocks on the New York Exchange. When she died, Ellery managed to get certified as an elementary school teacher. 

 Ellery's father was an architect and his son studied architecture and joined his business building skyscrapers. He also had a job designing window displays at Macy's.  Both parents were painters. Ellery also had a mystical bent, having lived with both the mystic spiritual teacher Gurdjieff in Paris and Aldous Huxley in California as well as studying with Hindu and Buddhist teachers. In the 1950s, he wrote columns for some of the leading science fiction pulp magazines and hung out in the SF social circle in New York

His parents had bought a house, which was under construction but, while Jaron was in hospital, it was completed but then burned down the following day. They were unable to retrieve the money his mother invested in the project. Ellery managed to buy an acre of 'throwaway land' in New Mexico and, for the next two years or more, they lived in tents.

Amongst their neighbours were scientists and engineers who worked at the White Sands Missile Range. Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet Pluto taught Janier how to grind lenses and mirrors and let him use his mazing backyard telescopes.

The border region was  crawling with spiritualists. Lanier writes they were 'living next to the largest missile test-range in the world so peculiar debris fell from the sky all the time'. Kids at his school at 'show and tell' time would bring in what they claimed were bits of alien spacecraft.

In his early teens his father came up with a big plan. He told Jaron he would let him design their new house which they would build together. It consisted of one large and one medium sized geodesic domes connected by a passageway and augmented with two nine-sided pyramids and two 20-sided icosahedrons. When Jaron moved out, his father stayed there for a further 30 years.

DRUGS


The question he says he was asked more than any other in the early 1980s was how VR and LSD are related. He writes: 'VR is sometime compared to LSD, but VR users can share a world objectively, even if its fantastical,  while LSD users cannot.' This is the opening sentence of the book's 23rd VR definition. He tells us that 'LSD was common in tech circles. Steve Jobs would go on and on about it'.

Is this man on drugs? Lanier writes: 'I used to come under tremendous social pressure to use drugs, LSD especially, and pot at the very least. As it happens I have never tried them, not even marijuana. It was burdensome to constantly have to constantly explain myself. My choice was taken as an affront. My intuition is that drugs weren't for me. Simple. Am not judging anyone else. The recent pressures one feels to  join social networks feel similar. My answer is the same'

Timothy Leary was keen on VR and his nickname for Lanier was "the control group". Lanier says Leary became a great friend 'with whom I disagreed'. 
'Once I found myself speaking at a conference in Spain where Albert Hoffman, LSD's invetor, also spoke. He came up to me and said: "You have inherited Tim." A sly glance. I was speechless.'
Lanier was also fond of Sasha Shulgin, the astonishing chemist who invented and tried  hundreds of new psychedelics.

[For more on this topic see Previous Post: What The Dormouse Said: Counter-Culture and Computing August 28th 2005]


 *
FILM

'The Lawonmower Man'  was a science fiction film that used real VPL gear as props. It was about a VR company being taklen over by a shadowy conspiracy. Pierec Brosnan played, approximately, me.

'The movie started out as an adaptation of a Stephen King novel but ended up as a tale of intrigue that was inspired by what might have been the truth about VPL [according to director Bret Leonard.] I don't really know how true it was, to this day.'

MUSIC

Lanier describes 'a personal eccentricity that blossomed in me once I had my own house in Silicon Valley, I call it "organomania", a need to always be learning to play a new musical instrument.' He started with just a  shakuhachi, clarinet and zither and rented a little upright piano.

'Organomania is apparently incurable. Today there are well over a thousand instrumnent in our home, maybe two thousand, and I have learned to play each one  at least well enough to enjoy.' He says that
in order to play these instruments you have to adopt the same body postures as the original musicians who played them many centuries before thus creating a connection through time.

'As a musician, Lanier has been active in the world of new classical music since the late 1970s. He is a pianist and a specialist in many non-western musical instruments, especially the wind and string instruments of Asia. He maintains one of the largest and most varied collections of actively played rare instruments in the world. Lanier has performed with artists as diverse as Philip GlassOrnette ColemanGeorge ClintonVernon ReidTerry RileyDuncan SheikPauline Oliveros, and Stanley Jordan. Recording projects include his acoustic techno duet with Sean Lennon and an album of duets with flautist Robert Dick. Lanier also writes chamber and orchestral music.' 
*
VIRTUAL REALITY

Lanier writes that 'VR was actually birthed by a long parade of scientists and entrepeneurs. One of he most important was Ivan Sutherland who started up the whole field of computer graphics. In 1965 he proposed a head mounted display and in 1969 built one.

VPL's data glove on the cover of
Scientific American. The gloves
became one of the icons of
computing in the 1980s
[Generalist Archive]
'There is not one single detail of the story of VR that doesn't involve a priority dispute'.

'It is often said that I coined the term "virtual reality"...There's a wonderful argument that I did not. Before World War  II, the radical dramatist Antonin Artuad used the French phrase réalité virtuelle. 
Lanier also references Susanne Langer who came up with the phrase "virtual world" in the 1950s.

'I wish I could remember the precise moment when I started using the term "virtual reality".  It was in the 1970s before I came to Silicon Valley and it served as both my North Star and my fledgling calling card.'

Lanier and friends established the first VR start-up, VPL Research Inc. in 1984. He left it in 1992.

In one memorable afternoon he gave demos with his first VR headsets to Terry Gilliam, the Dalai Lama and Leonard Bernstein.

*
Source: publishingperspectives.com

Friday, November 24, 2017

THE FUTURE IS FEMALE3: JUDY CHICAGO / ARTIST AND TROUBLEMAKER




The Dinner Party

Judy Cohen (b. Chicago 1939) began
exhbiting under the name Judy
Gerowitz but,in 1971,
changed her name to Judy Chicago,
a nickname given to her by an art dealer
because of her distintive accent.  Picture
above was used in an advert in the
influential magazine ArtForum for
her 1971 solo exhibtion at the Jack Glenn
Gallery
JUDY CHICAGO is back on the scene in a big way. One of the most controversial pioneers of feminism in art in America, her extraordinary life and career is being celebrated in three exhibitions and her early career and her struggles as a woman artist are being turned into an Amazon tv series directed by Jill Soloway, based on Judy's autobiography 'Through the Flower'.




She told The Art Newspaper that the writer Anais Nin was her mentor and that Nin "used to call me her radical daughter. That's kind of how I feel about Jill."


Her first solo show in San Francisco since 1979, is 'Judy Chicago's Pussies,'  a title that references both her early vaginal art but also her series of watercolours of her seven cats.

Two others concentrate on her most famous work 'The Dinner Party'. Produced in the 1970s, this extraordinary installation piece is now permanently housed in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in New York Their exhibition 'Roots of the Dinner Party: History In The Making' explores its creation (until March 4th). 'Inside the Dinner Party Studio' an exhibit at the National Museum of Women In Arts (NMWA) in Washington DC  is open until January 5th.

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago is an icon of feminist art, which represents 1,038 women in history—39 women are represented by place settings and another 999 names  of mythical and historical women of achievement are inscribed in the Heritage Floor on which the table rests. This monumental work of art is comprised of a triangular table divided by three wings, each 48 feet long. The open triangle is a symbol of equality.

Judy Chicago is an extremely prolific artist, sculptor and creater of installations who also did pioneering work as an educator and organiser, co-founding the Feminist Art Program at Cal State Fresno as well as 'Womanhouse', an installation and performance space. Her work encompasses a huge range of techniques, skills and materials. The book 'Judy Chicago: An American Vision' by Edward Lucie-Smith [Watson-Guptil. 2000] is a wow - a great introduction to her work, which is truly impressive. [Amused to discover it was conceived, designed and produced by Ivy Press in Lewes where I live!]

 FINE OUT MUCH MORE ON HER WEBSITE: www.judychicago.com/

One-third scale clay maquette for Find It In Your Heart. 1999
*

Happily, by chance, I discovered that Judy Chicago had created a book on Frida Kahlo, coauthored with art historian Frances Borzello, in which the two converse over a selection of Kahlo's work.

In an interview by Kerensa Cadenas in Ms magazine ['Judy Chicago on Frida Kahlo, Feminism and Women’s Art' / 30th Nov.2010]


Why do you think Kahlo became so iconic within the feminist movement?
I think there have been successive waves of interest. The first were among women: Her story appealed to women, her images appealed to women. In the second wave, in the Chicano and Hispanic movements, her interest and valorization of Mexican culture appealed to people who were claiming their heritage, just like women were claiming our heritage. Then the third wave was among gay and lesbians because of her shifting gender [roles] and open sexuality. That all coalesced, of course, when … the film came out, and she was propelled into the stratosphere.
What drew you to this project?
I was interested in trying to do something for her that I don’t think is done enough for women artists, myself included, which is looking at our overall body of work. I was interested in trying to see if we could approach Kahlo’s work without constant reference to her biography, which I found annoying. I find a lot of the imagery very, very powerful. Those are the things I was most focused on: looking at the imagery, understanding her work in a larger context and creating a new context in which to see her work.
Do you see an improvement in the representation of women artists today?
'Women can be themselves and do their work as women, which was not possible when I was young. That’s true of artists of color also, and gay and lesbian artists. That is to be celebrated...Sadly, the institutional change has lagged very far behind... I would say what we see in the art institutions is a reflection of political [power]...[in the art world]–there are a lot more women showing, but institutionally there has been very little change over 40 years of activism. If you go to most major art institutions you still see the same white, male Eurocentric narrative. If you look at the history books, history is still taught primarily from a very particular perspective and it’s a very male perspective. What men did was important and there are a few women thrown in. That’s not enough.'

Thursday, November 23, 2017

THE FUTURE IS FEMALE2: WOMEN ARTISTS and SURREALISTS / WHITNEY CHADWICK / FRIDA KAHLO


THE GENERALIST is fascinated with the history of art and has accumulated a substantial library on the subject. The official version of art history has always seemed flawed and male dominated. Women artists have consistently been overlooked, underplayed or deliberately ignored.
Here is a round-up of books that address this issue, provide an introduction to 50 women artists you should know and the Hidden work of Frida Kahlo.
The "all male" Surrealists


Whitney Chadwick is one of the most pre-eminent figures in this field with numerous important titles to her credit. 'Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement' was first published in 1985 and I bought it second-hand in the late 80s/early 90s. [A new edition with Frida Kahlo on the cover came out in 1991] As a fan of the Surrealists I was mainly unaware the role women artists had taken in the movement until reading this book. It opened my eyes to the bigger picture and lead me to Chadwick's seminal work 'Women, Art and Society'. The revised 2nd edition I have has a Paulo Rego painting on the cover. The book has now reached a 5th Edition (pub. 2012) with a suitably modern cover. Both books are published by Thames & Hudson. Read this and your views on the history of art will be changed forever.

Newly republished with a new cover is '50 Women Artists You Should Know' by Christiane Weidemann, Petra Larass and Melanie Klier [Prestel.2017]. This is a good introductory book which simply and effectively profiles many of the the usual suspects - Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keefe, Camille Claudel, Berthe Morisot for example - but also introduces some remarkable unfamiliar names. It stretches from Catharina van Hemessen [1528-1587], the first Flemish woman painter who is known today (her work represented by a self-portrait when she was 20) to a range of modern artists including performance artist Marina Abramovic, Cindy Sherman, Tracey Emin and lesser known figures like Iranian photographer Shirin Neshat and video artist Pipilotti Rist. There is beautiful and fascinating work shown and the accompanying essays whet the appetite for learning more. 
Three Sisters Playing Chess by Sofonisba Anguissola. 1555
Barbara Kruger. 1989

*

In a Previous Post: THE FUTURE IS FEMALE I reviewed a great graphic novel on Kahlo which led me to view the brilliant movie 'Frida' [2002] directed by Julie Taymor and starring Salma Hayek as Kahlo and Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera.


During her lifetime, Frida Kahlo's work was rarely exhibited. She had her first and only one-woman show in 1953, the year before she died. Her home La Casa Azul (the Blue House) in Mexico City  was opened as a museum in July 1958. For many years her work was neglected.

The first modern  recognition came in 1978 with exhibitions in Mexico and Chicago and interest in her work and life was renewed due to the feminist movement for whom she has become an icon. In 1982 an exhibition of her work alongside photos by Tina Modotti was shown in London, several European countries and New York. In 1983, an acclaimed biography by Hayden Herrera drew further public interest. Since the film's release in 2002, that interest has escalated and has been dubbed "Fridamania". Kahlo is now one of the best-known women artists in the world.


All of which makes the publication of this superb new book  'Hidden Frida Kahlo' by Helga Preignitz-Poda [Prestel. 2017] of great interest. The author has spent 40 years absorbed with Kahlo's work and her catalogue raisonné was published in 1988. It contained 270 items of which around 145 were small format oil paintings.

The exhibitions that have been staged worldwide, which have each generally attracted some 300,000 visitors, are based entirely on only two large collections in Mexico.

Fortunately almost all Kahlo's work was photographed by Lola Alvarez  Bravo, a close friend responsible for also organising her one-woman show. Other work was photographed by Kahlo's father.

This books, says the author, is about the works that are known to exist but cannot be borrowed and shown because they are lost, are destroyed, or are in collections that are inaccessible or with collectors who refuse to lend them.The Frida Kahlo museum were unable to grant permission to print even works from its holdings that have been published elsewhere.

Ocal Self-Portrait c.1938, Private collection
The author's purpose is 'to increase the public's access to works by Frida Kahlo that have never been exhibited or can only be seen in private.' So here are 125 works that are non-loanable: 26 are lost oil paintings and roughly 50 are in inaccessible collections. Eighteen drawings have been lost and at least fifteen are in inaccessible collections. So for the first time these works can be seen and discussed to add new facets to the public perception of this important artist. The author points out that these missing works are being copied by forgers. Forgeries, she says, are already an 'unbelieveable nuisance' with new ones appearing daily.

Helen Preignitz-Poda is a world authority and the intensity of her research is stimulating. She explains that Frida's paintings are packed with symbols, metaphors and rebuses that need to be decoded if we are to understand the true meaning she was bringing to the subject. The author writes in a highly readable and incredibly well-informed style. She brings the images to life, introduces the reader to the numerous individuals and subjects that Kahlo chose to paint.

Her frustration at not being able to examine many of these paintings "in the flesh" so to speak is palpable, as photos or reproductions of the works can be misleading. She challenges many of the existing theories with her superbly detailed knowledge. She has a lot to say about Kahlo's poems. Kahlo read widely and her work draws inspiration from multiple sources including James Joyce's 'Ulysses'and Homer's 'Odysseus'. She was steeped in the magical realism of Mexican culture and pre-Hispanic symbolism. Everything in her pictures means something if you understand the key. Above all, the paintings were about herself. She said: 'I paint my own reality'. The book ends with this powerful conclusion:
Frida Kahlo - whose work always revolved around herself - is perhaps so popular today, as queen of the selfie, because her constant self-reflection and loneliness represent the fundamental issues of our time, In the attempt to overcome overcome loneliness, in search of passion and love, and in the longing for closeness, the constantly questioning gaze directed towards the viewer is the driving force of her work. To this end she deployed a wealth of symbols and metaphors to articulate her desires. Just as selfies today - no matter which background they are taken against - generally document only the loneliness of the photographer. Kahlo's art is a deeply personal one, which in the triumph over pain touches universal human feelings. In this, her many self portraits are only the most striking examples of a widespread longing to be known understood and remembered.
This large-format book is beautifully produced on fine paper with strong reproductions. Each chapter opens with a striking full-page black and white photos that are themselves works of art.

*
For Kahlo completists, another important title for the library is 'The Diary of Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait [Bloomsbury /1995] This facsimile is wonderful, full of striking drawings, writings and paintings, which are explained in an appendix at the back by Sarah M. Lowe. Apart from the diary itself, the other valuable part of the book is a marvelous essay by the Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes who saw her only once at a concert in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, when her entrance drew all eyes. It's a poetic and deeply understood vision of an extraordinary artist.

 See also Previous Post: THE FUTURE IS FEMALE: FRIDA KAHLO / RADICAL WOMEN /  LATIN AMERICAN ART



Monday, November 20, 2017

THE FACE1: THE STORY OF THE MAGAZINE THAT CHANGED CULTURE / PAUL GORMAN

Published by Thames & Hudson
Some six years in the making, this oversize 350+ page paperback volume captures the story of 'The Magazine that Changed Culture'.

It's a lavish production, replete with covers and spreads, complemented by a fastidious narrative -  based on numerous interviews - that attempts to pay proper tribute to  the various staff line-ups and the multitude of contributors, to document the history and contents of the magazine and set both in a wider social context. Choices have to be taken, judgements made, a narrative assembled.

Paul Gorman has form and experience of these kind of complex tasks. Two of his previous books - 'The Look : Adventures in Rock & Pop Fashion' [Adelita. 2006] and 'Reasons To be Cheerful: The life and work of Barney Bubbles' [Adelita.2008] - are valued additions to the GENERALIST ARCHIVE.

The key figure in the whole story is of course the inventive Nick Logan, founder, editor and publisher of 'The Face' from the first issue (May 1st 1980) to his last (July 1999) - just under two decades of determined, detailed work, obsessively seeking the new. A Mod of modest habits (a complete contrast to Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone (see Previous Post), Nick didn't seek the highlife. His focus was the work - supervising every aspect of the production process, constantly pushing the paper forward, alert to the changing tones and styles of the time. Nick hated the world 'lifestyle' but loved the notion of 'style' which, of course, he would.

Nick worked his way up through local papers to the NME where he succeeded on taking the paper to sales of a quarter of a million copies a week, with its fresh, irreverent, totally informed journalism. sharp design and the best in music photography. The pressure of the job finally got to him, he suffered mental exhaustion and left.

Soon after, he got back in the saddle with a raft of new independent ideas.'Smash Hits' was a pop smash that shifted shedloads but Nick's ambition lay in creating something more grown-up, a vehicle for the best photography and for his passion in fashion. I love the story of him reading Beat International  on the Rolling Stones. He hated the live photos but loved the ones that allowed him to scrutinise their cuban heel boots and other dead cool fashion touches.

Enter stage left Neville Brody, whose breakthrough designs for two spreads in issue 23 (March 1982) formalised 'a contemporary design language at the magazine'. Several young designers at the time (Malcolm Garret for instance) were into their modernist predecessors like El Lissitsky.

Gorman reports that Brody's 'fresh and innovative ideas of page layout and type design, attracted a following'. He writes: 'Among his trademarks, according to academic Catherine McDermmott, were the use of symbols and logos 'almost as road signs to guide the reader through the page, creating a vocabulary for  magazine design of the period using handwriting marks and type that ran sideways'.

Brody was only the second designer in London that I met who was working with computers. The first was George Snow, a pioneering artist of the British underground. Traditional analog forms of layout and print production were still running alongside early Amstrads. Note is made in the book somewhere about the first fax machine coming into the Face office.

I spent most of yesterday working through the first 100 issues of The Face in my Archive, the period when I was an occasional contributor [see next post]. The 80s flow through these pages - a river of moments, incidents, feelings. This was Thatcher time (1979-1990). She left an indelible mark and triggered several smart waves of stylish (and political) reaction, beginning with the wonderful Two-Tone movement.

The book has introduced me to The Face of the 1990s, with which I was less familiar. Sheryl Garret at the editorial helm ensured the magazine was right on the hunger and wildness of the rave culture, Brit Pop, grunge and  Kate Moss. These spreads have zing, colour and energy.

It was during this period in 1992 that The Face was imbroiled in the infamous legal battle with Jason Donovan over a story they ran which the courts believed implied he was gay. He was awarded £200,000 damages and court costs. The fact that the magazine (and the staff) did not go under came from the way they adressed the issue, with grace and style. Friends emerged from all over the world and support and money poured in, Big name figures made their voices heard, fundraising events and records swelled the ranks. Donovan, in a welcome gesture reduced his claim to £95,000 which was paid over eighteen months. He later considered it the biggest mistake of his life.

The Face book is not Facebook. How far we have come. It is very much of the period and will always provide a valuable source for that very reason, to students in a wide variety of creative disciplines. It will be pored over, drawn on, digested and expanded by the new bright sparks into indie mags of the future.

With reluctance (and some relief?) Nick sold his stable of magazines - The Face, Arena, Arena Homme and others  - to media group Emap. Their last issue of The Face came out in April 2004. It's great to see his achievement properly recognised and celebrated.







THE FACE2: PERSONAL CONTRIBUTIONS.

Having digested Paul Gorman's history book, THE GENERALIST decided to try and track down all the contributions I made to the mag over what period.

My name was on the masthead [from Issue 10/ Feb1981] for several years as one of the many freelance contributors. I was very much an outrider, contributing shorter pieces to the Intro and review sections. Whatever reputation I had at this time came mainly from my work at the NME as 'Dick Tracy' where I'd staked out some territory. I got on well with Nick Logan but I was never one of his star writers. It was great to hang out at the various Face offices [Mortimer Street and The Old Laundry] and to pitch in stories to Paul Rambali and Lesley White.

I wrote three features that made it into print:



⧫A three-page piece on Montgomery Clift - now one of this blog's perennial and most popular posts [THE FACE No 9/Jan 1981]










⧫ An exclusive feature on the great Polish foreign correspondent Ryszard Kapuscinski based on original interviews. Full text on this blog.
[THE FACE No 76/August 1986]


⧫ A significant feature on the fashion designer Katherine Hamnett which helped establish her radical credentials, reprinted for the first time in FACE3 post to follow.

I was also selected by Nick to travel to Paris and represent The Face at the Actuel office for the European issue, organised by the late Jean-François Bizot (1944 – 2007). See FACE 4 post
*




PREVIEW SPREAD ON 'RAGING BULL' [THE FACE No 10/Feb 1981]


THE FACE 16/August 1981]


THE RIGHT STUFF  
" . . the world was divided into those who had it and those who did not. This quality, this IT, was never named, however, nor was it talked about in any way."
THE Right Stuff is the mythic essence of America and who better to write about it than New Journalist Tom Wolfe, who has spent an entire career observing the social mores, the trends, the styles of USA as viewed from the perspective of bizarre social, private groups like bikers, surfers and acid heads.Wolfe may be the only living writer who can handle fashion and technology with equal ease. He observes the cut of an astronaut's cuff while delineating the technological statistics of a Saturn launcher. He revels in the incongruity of it all, the specialised language: the words, baby, the words.
In essence, this shimmery paperback is a history of the American drive into space, from the postwar world of the test pilots to the end of the Mercury programme, ending before the Man on the Moon became reality. For those who lived through this Space Race, here is a completely new view of events, a startling revisioning of information previously only made public through the sanitary sieve of LIFE magazine, which airbrushed out all warts and blemishes.
This is the only book that will actually give you the experience of an orbital flight round this planet, in a superb chapter that can only have been constructed from endless hours of conversation. Or was it?
Wolfe's technique is flawless, his prose propelling you along like high-octane fuel—and there are no joins. Here is a class performer at work, a showman with a serious bent. He lays bare what it meant to be an astronaut. The Flying & Drinking and Drinking & Driving cycle. What it feels like to inhale pure oxygen to cut through a hangover, and then charge out into the stratosphere to break the sound barrier in prototype needleplanes that bend and strain. What it feels like to be strapped in a centrifuge, spun at unbelievable speeds, with clusters of wires up your rectum. What it feels like to be sitting in an armchair which fits like a glove, sitting on top of an ocean of explosive fuel and pointing at the stars.
Reading Tom Wolfe in full flight is an EXPERIENCE. He lights an afterburner under your imagination—and the korker is it's all true. Don't miss this.
*

THE FACE No 21/January 1982



Sadat is shot. The Pope is shot. Reagan is shot. The Yorkshire Ripper is caught and caged. Operation Bright Star sees American paratroopers playing war games in Egypt. Russians stage massive invasion rehearsals on the shores of the Baltic. Thousands die and are dying in the deadly and frightening Spanish cooking oil disaster. Youth riots in Zurich, Berlin and Amsterdam are followed by Brixton, Toxteth, Moss Side. The Springboks trigger riots in New Zealand. CND grows and grows and grows. The dole queue grows and grows and grows. Bob Marley dies, a cadet tries to shoot the queen, and the Royal Wedding brings millions of royalists onto the streets. Abel Gance and William Holden die. One by one the hunger strikers die and bombs return to London. Afghanistan grows into Russia's Vietnam. Libya plays chicken games with the White House. Europeans discover themselves to be living in the next nuclear target zone and take to the streets. The Oi! cult meets the Orange People. El Salvador. The deathly duo Haig and Weinburger. The year of Tony Benn and the SDP. Solidarity and the Space Shuttle. The Commander of Nato forces in Europe misses terrorist bomb death by inches. Voyager has a close encounter with Saturn. Lech Waleska keeps on shining. Meg leaves the motel. 1982 promises to be exciting. ■ DICK TRACY 

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THE FACE No 30/October 1982 was a good issue for me: three stories in the Intro Section and a full spread at the back of the magazine which I was proud of . Great layout. 




One of the highlights of the financially ill-starred WOMAD festival was African Expo, a blend of traditional and modern pieces in all mediums out of which Martin Lovis' pictures on the South African regime stood as one of the best contributions. They force the spectator to face this fascist reality, to see with new eyes a situation which time and familiarity have accustomed us to. Lovis' skill at blending imagery and his development as an artist stem from three sources; his training as a photo-retoucher in a South London printing company, his time at Bromley Art College where he discovered colour theory and four years spent working in advertising and marketing. This combined experience enables him to produce seamless paintings in a photo-realist style. Lovis, now 28, lives in Ladbroke Grove but we met in the dim basement bar of the Africa Centre where the sound of Soul and Lovis' naturally soft speaking voice combined to thwart detailed enquiry. However some facts did emerge: notably that all the proceeds from the sale of reproductions of the 30 paintings he produced on South Africa during 1979-80 have been donated to Medico International, a Frankfurt-based organisation which promotes basic health programs in the Third World. Anxious not to be dubbed as solely a political artist, Lovis' work will move in new directions in the future. He has produced book jackets and has just completed the cover for a Zounds compilation album on Rough Trade. Living in the material world means paying the phone bill. Art directors take note.  
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Bert Stern was at one time the highest paid photographer in the world, producing startling advertising shots and personality profiles, fashion portfolios and photo exclusives that were original, imaginative and distinctive. He wanted to make a movie before he was 30 so he took film cameras to the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival and the result is called 'Jazz On A Summer's Day', the godfather of all music documentaries, rated by Scorsese and Altman as one of the best films ever made. Featuring the first footage of Chuck Berry alongside Thelonius Monk, Louis Armstrong and a host of lesser-knowns, Stern took his skill as a photographer and applied it to the motion picture with great force. Looked at 25 years later it has a modern feel and retains its power intact. Packed with incidental detail, beautifully observed, it stands as one of the great music films.

Stern went on to photograph Twiggy in 1967, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Marisa Berenson and Marilyn Monroe- his pictures of her being featured in the recently published 'The Last Sitting' (Orbis £12.50). He was a patient of the legendary Dr Feelgood, who gave him B-12 shots with amphetamine and is credited as being the man who gave Cary Grant LSD. His empire collapsed, everyone thought he was dead, but his fortunes have recently revived. [Stern died on June 26, 2013. See Wikipedia]

THE FACE No 32/ Dec 1982

A less lucky legendary American is featured in 'Lenny Bruce Without Tears', a startling black and white film compiled from newsreels, interviews, snatches of his club act and intimate footage - spliced together with talking heads like Kenneth Tynan, Paul Krassner and Malcolm Muggeridge. If you've never seen Lenny in action this will hit you between the eyes. It's a powerful and disturbing document from the underground which raises the question as to where the radical protesters of the  Eighties are hiding. Both films are available through Nikon Video, an independent distribution company. Ask for them at your local video dealer. You will not be disappointed.'







THE FACE3: DRESSING FOR THE APOCALYPSE / KATHERINE HAMNETT



THE FACE No 41/September 1983.
 Interview conducted July 6th 1983
I am not in the habit of interviewing fashion designers but Katherine Hamnett sounded enough like Dashiell Hammett to interest even the most hard-boiled scribe. The fact is that when I read her rap about her next collection being inspired by the women at Greenham Common I had to know more.

Ever since, I keep running into outlying branches of the Katherine Hamnett fan club. They are everywhere and mention of her name inspires an enthusiasm in the unlikeliest people. In person she is a blast, a burst of energy and ideas, self-deprecating and autocratic by turns, loose and with a sense of humour.

She is also rated internationally alongside Yves St Laurent and Kenzo and cannot produce enough clothes to keep up with the demand. This woman is HOT and very central. She runs a thriving export business on the products of her imagination and she is anti-nuclear and anti-pollution. Her language is a mixture of the London of Mary Quant ("fabby French cigs") and the argot of advanced science ("doing a quick scan").

She says: "Now I'm 35 this is the age when you are in your strength. One's got to start doing something. When I feel good now I'm so angry."

Her workplace is in Islington, a two-floor design studio/production office behind a metal yard, reached by ascending an iron staircase. The decor is white with black rubber floors. Katherine isn't here yet so I take a seat and browse through the press clippings.

She was born in Gravesend, Kent in 1948. Daughter of an air attache, she grew up in European embassies, Cheltenham Ladies College and graduated to fashion design at St. Martin's School of Art under Bernard Nevi11. She freelanced for two years, then established a company called Tuttabankem with Ann Buck. Unfortunately her husband owned half the company and, when their marriage split, so did the firm. She freelanced further afield for a while in Rome, Paris and Hong Kong until her son William was born in 1976. Hibernation in the household lasted three years but in 1979 she was forced by circumstances back to work since when she's gone from strength to strength.

Suddenly here she is coming up the iron stairs, arms by her side, tall and elegant, wearing an African print duster coat with matching tapered trousers of her own design. We sit down on two old airline chairs in the middle of the room and pretend that there is a bubble round us so none of the other ten people in the room can hear what we're saying.

She's already checked me out on the phone with someone to see whether my affidavits stand up to scrutiny. She sends out for Special Brew and the conversation begins. I want to know why she thinks a designer is in a position of power.

"I suppose it means you dress the elite. You could say intelligent, powerful people wear our clothes, wear our message — in the end, that's what it boils down to. You can decide what they're going to look like basically and that means a lot. If they're read off totally as the clothes they're wearing, as the person they are, you're creating their persona.

"So I say let's make peace and ecology very fashionable. Everybody thinks, What can I do? You look at the situation in the world at the moment, the politicans aren't really representing the people. You've got a chance to let people represent themselves to an extent. If you change the face, if you change what it looks like, people are going to feel it really, aren't they. That's where I think my area of responsibility lies.

"I think you are in a position of power that you can just come out with a look which changes the world for six months on a certain level."

That's quite an opening speech but she apologises and says she'll get into it in a minute. She is fascinated by the relationship between the clothes you wear and the attitudes you adopt. She says: "What you represent in your clothes is your values — what you think is nice, what you think is beautiful, where you'd like to be at. Your hair can be wrong but if your clothes are saying that, you will be saying that. It's like a disguise isn't it but it's more than that. It's a complete statement about where you stand in the materialist world."

For Katherine fashion comes out of the ground, from the collective subconscious which she tunes into and sketches out the results like automatic writing. She mentions some research she read at college which has obviously stuck in her mind by a guy called Stephen Black. He showed his subjects a range of fashion garments, put them in deep trance hyponosis and then told them what they were wearing and asked them how they felt. The result was a flood of precise feelings.

She obviously relishes the business of fashion. "The reason we've been successful," she says, "is we don't just do anything. There's a terrific discipline it's got to fit into. I work very much with applied psychology, market research and then you have to think what you can bear to see. One extraordinary garment is marvellous but you can't imagine selling two thousand of them because it would look stupid.

"So it's a particular kind of garment you've got to produce which is going to look different on anybody, that you can wear different ways, that different age groups can wear. You can dress it up or you can dress it down. You can look one thing one week and another thing another. It fits everybody — which is quite difficult. That's really what's quite nice about designing clothes for mass production, the fact that it's so hard."

She works fairly constantly, always planning a year ahead always thinking and sketching. When an idea reappears three or four times she begins to shape it up, works with a pattern cutter to produce a prototype which is then "shaved down" until it's right. When everyone's happy it goes into sampling, it's shown, orders are taken and it goes into production.

Her work is very hot in the USA and Italy but over here she keeps her outlets limited because she doesn't want to see them all over the Kings Road. They would become stale and odious.. She is trying to be good, free, unrepressed, flexible, honest and eager. She admits that clothing is a youth thing and that the older you get the harder it becomes but she says "our backup is to try and produce what was English quality. Down to the nail!"

And here we have one of the taproots of Katherine Hamnett's beliefs and ideas, her concern for this country and for its future. "My father was in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp for three years. His two brothers —fighter pilots — were killed in the war. Without being sentimental those people gave their lives for what they considered was this country. Look what's happening to it now. I feel because they're dead, if I am to go on working it's because of a debt I owe them.

"Britain is one of the most uncomfortable places to he. I think it is repressive and people are very tense here. At the same time it's also the most creative place to be. Something's got to happen because it's either going to go positive or negative."

On the positive side she ranks Malcolm McLaren, a "great Englishman. He's completely inverting the system and they're lying there with their legs open, lapping it up." She obviously shares his fascinations and obsessions but brings a different insight to bear. She would have voted SDP if she hadn't moved and lost her voting papers but realises now they've got no strength.

The daughter of very ambitious upper middle class parents, she was aware of the class system from an early age and of the international power trips that go on. She says: "People think there's three classes; it's more like 300. In every class, if you get into it, there's incredible subdivisions. It's extraordinarily stratified. Bernard Shaw said: 'One Englishman can't open his mouth without making another despise him.' It's true, we've all got this awareness and fear.

"I think here we're more aware of class than any other country. I think President Carter said we invented racism and it's something that comes out of it because basically, every class hates every other class and would murder them quite happily."

But Katherine Hamnett has more than class on her mind. She begins to sound like Doris Lessing, for God's sake. "It's getting so much worse I don't see that we're going to avoid some apocalypse." That's the talk of a woman with two sons (aged seven and two) who doesn't like the look of the future and the point where she connects with the voices of Greenham Common.

Her talk is scattered with references to the Parent Teachers Association she's involved with (strong on getting lead out of petrol) and her anxieties have been increased by the fact that she's just taken her seven-year old to a second educational psychologist. He told her that the boy is above average and yet he's innumerate, basically illiterate and still reading mechanically. This has obviously coloured her views and adds energy to her attack.

"We're destroying all our future. The only thing a country's got is its youth. If you cannot afford education you get a decline in civilisation. From what I see of what they're picking up in the State Schools it's just aggression and defiance. To an extent you can't blame them. If this is all we're prepared to dish out to them, why shouldn't they?

"According to people in established positions, anybody under 25 is rubbish and ought to be killed. They don't give a shit about them. They give less than shit. They just want to keep them quiet. It's the most selfish thing you've ever seen. And for who, for what?"

At this point Katherine decides we should go downstairs and talk some more. Her brother comes in to ask about the arrangements that evening for their mother's birthday. She says she rescued him from the army and he's now working for her.

Geoffrey, the man she lives with who was also inadvertently drawn into the business, comes in to close the windows and lock up. She goes for him: "Out. Get out, you guys. I'm just doing a very crucial thing on a copyright which he might print. Please go away for two minutes. Simply fuck off." There's a hint of a smile but only a hint.

Here's Katherine Hamnett on copyright: "The Italians are founder members of the EEC which is supposed to be free trade. Their clothing industry is the size of Fiat. Our clothing industry would be considerably larger than it is if it was handled sensibly. They're copying all our styles and selling them all over Europe. We've got no comeback. We've got no right of injunction on copy, no copyright laws whatsoever.

"I think there should be because I think the creative areas in this country — whether it's music, painting or fashion design — we're stronger than anybody else in the world and we could be exploiting it. We are categorically better than they are. We could be turning it to the good of the country.

"The strongest export from this country is ideas. The guys in Silicon Valley are all English. Creativity, genius, talent and ideas —the growth industry we've got in this country right now."

The conversation takes its final turn, back to her deeper concerns. She wants to express this feeling in as strong a way as possible, burn it into the tape so that you will read it.

"I think we've got to go for world government. I think there's no other way to eliminate war. We all face extinction, our children face extinction. Nobody wants to feel that babies are dying from lack of food when they've got butter mountains, meat mountains, milk lakes. This is the only obscenity.

"People who have children are the only people that care really. Single people don't care. They have it whammed home to them that the individual, the child, the baby is the most colossal thing that anybody can produce. It's so much greater than any artefact or empire.

"Science fiction is another consumer tool, a tool of the armaments industry. It has to be. If you accept that there's no life in the entire continuous billions of galaxies — that we're the only life that exists — it's far healthier.

"The only thing that's important is survival, and it's possible. There's enough land, enough sea that everybody should be able to live on this planet and just enjoy this extraordinary gift that is life. We are stardust. This is the Garden of Eden."

Later, on the train home, I listen to snatches of the tape. I'd asked her about Radical Chic. "What was that, I missed it." I explained it was where fashion adding energy to a movement it merely sucks it off and sells it to the High Street.

Her reply is revealing: "Quite a fightening thought, really. It hadn't occurred to me before. Well we're going to do it very blatantly. I'm just going to do t-shirts. If people think they can't make a stand, at least they can wear one."
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Katherine Hamnett has revealed how Margaret Thatcher let out a 'shriek of horror' when she realised the legendary fashion designer had hijacked a 1984 Downing Street reception for fashion designers to make an anti-nuclear protest. Hamnett smuggled one of her infamous slogan T-shirts into the event, putting it on when she was inside and approaching the Prime Minister for a chat. The garment was emblazoned with the words '58% don't want Pershing', in reference to the then Prime Minister's decision to allow U.S. Pershing missiles to be stationed in Britain despite the majority of the British public being opposed.


THE FACE 4: EUROPEAN ISSUE / ACTUEL / JEAN-FRANÇOIS BIZOT


One of the most interesting issues of The Face in the 1980s was the European issue, which I became closely involved with.

Paul Gorman's writes: 'The "New Life in Europe" issue was a joint venture with like-minded Continental magazuines that shared stories or aspects of European culture as well as the cover image of a child by photographer Margit Marnul'.

The initiave came from Jean-François Bizot who had founded Actuel in Paris in 1967. The other particpants were Wiener in Austria, Oor in Holland, Etc in Sweden, Frigidaire in Italy, Tip in Germany and El Vibora in Spain.
Bizot's proposition was that each title would produce a major feature and these eight features would be shared between the magazines as would a section entitled '70 Great Ideas From Europe'.

In addition, each magazine carried out an opinion poll about their citizens'  knowledge and contacts withe other European countries. In an opening statement, The Face reported that the UK Gallup poll of 1,000 young people showed that Brits had the lowest rating. What the respondents throughout Europe shared was a longing for security, freedom and opportunity.

'These yearnings seem to be on alll of our minds at a time when we face the same economic and cukltural decline and share the same deep fears - not least of the imminent NATO build-up that threatens to turn Europe into a battleground for the superpowers.'

'Europe is a fragile idea, but not a new one. The bulk of this issue is about Europe, not somewhere we pay much attention to...but an abundance source of ideas, whether quaint, foolish, diverting or inspired.'

The then Features Editor Paul Rambali, told Gorman that The Face believed that Britain should embrace a more continental lifestyle. "We were actively militating for that. At the time pubs closed in the afternoon and at 11pm. We were living a noctural life in Soho which was much more cosmopolitan and that's what we wanted for the UK as a whole."

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Around this same time period, Gorman points out the effect The Face had on other publications. The Sunday Times magazine, for example, was enlarged to the same dimensions as The Face. He writes: 
'By November 1985, the all-encompassing interest in areas of design identified by Logan's magazine was one of the factors in the founding of British architectural magazine Blueprint by writer Peter Murray and design authority Deyan Sudjic. In tone and emphasis on presentation, Blueprint tooks its cue from The Face.'
 The following year, I was commissioned by Blueprint to write a profile/interview with Jean-Francois Bizot, published in March 1986, who I had come to know as a result of my work liasing between The Face and Actuel. It is reprinted here for the first time.




In November 1983 an historic publishing first took place when eight European photomagazines collaborated to give birth to "un gros bébé européen". For one month newsstands across the continent were decorated with the irreverent image of an upside-down mischievous child poking its tongue out.

The architect of this costly but worthwhile escapade was Jean-François Bizot, publisher and part-editor of Actuel which every month continues to disseminate its own brand of lively photojournalism to 260,000 buyers in many countries. Even if you don't read the language you get the message. Reports from Bangladesh next to Japanese style. The New Age network inside Gorbachev's Russia. Piss-takes of the leading French magazines. Serious investigations into right-wing fascist groups.

Bizot was an engineer, then an economic planner before turning to writing and journalism, turning out two novels and a book of essays before his life became Actuel. Now he owns 80 per cent of the company and surveys the rooftops of Paris from the magazine's customised offices (produced by the young architects Canal), all smooth, cream curved staircases and banks of windows, exotic plants and an air of creative business.

It is 3.30 in the morning, Paris time, and Bizot is midway through yet another all-night session. Yet he takes the time out to speak at length over the phone about the views his magazine so strikingly represents.

The current magazine is a third-generation product which has its roots in1968. Bizot says: "Out of the cultural revolution in France came the idea of the counter-culture, designed to create space and freedom for a new generation. The idea was to subvert bourgeois culture which we did for five years. Then the counter-culture became counter-productive, like a ghetto. So we stopped the magazine. It had been written, so we had to go somewhere else — further."

In the 1970s, he says, their main focus was towards England, Germany, the USA and Amsterdam where the creativity was coming from. French culture was seen to be behind the times. In search of new horizons Bizot and a small team kept publishing but in a new form, book-length almanacs composed of personal manifestos. "By the end of the 1970s we noticed a few things," Bizot continues. "French feelings were not behind the times anymore but the main media were still owned by old people and still very backwards. We wanted to go on. We had the idea that Paris could pretend to be the centre of the world and we could talk about things first. Information belongs to everyone; perspective is everything."

The "we" is important here. The final editorial decisions on the magazine are not taken by autocratic methods as in the comic books or movies, but by a group of four or five people who have worked together for a long time and who also have always written books as well. That kind of editorial depth and experience has no rival in England. Bizot says: "It is not possible to make the magazine alone.

Centre of the World 


People have special interests. We have a group who wouldn't work in other places. When it works it's better than other places. Sometimes they're demotivated by lack of space.

At the turn of the decade this team were looking for their new perspective. They wanted a magazine that would be able to tell stories at length in the way that Rolling Stone did. But as Bizot astutely observes their "new" journalism wasn't new. That kind of realistic and detailed style was a 19th century way of telling a story before television, a style of which Balzac and Victor Hugo had been exponents.

Of course Hunter S. Thompson was different as Bizot admits "He influenced us. There was more freedom there with more modern words but we wanted to adopt a less macho attitude, without the bragging."

"We decided we would tell stories at length but with a post-tv attitude. You had to tell stories with pictures then they'd read them. We had a cinematic attitude towards storytelling. The writers would live the stories like actors."

This new approach characterised the Actuel of the 1980s and won them a wide and enthusiastic readership, not least for the originality of the magazine's design. But their innovations were quickly aped by others and, says Bizot, "things we had started became vulgar or cliched. We had to start looking around for more classical ways of handling things." So Actuel became an institution and then turned that to their advantage by using the solidity to tackle big problems journalistically in a new way others couldn't match.

Now new things are happening again. "Paris is getting interesting. We have waited 15 years for our generation to become creative again. More and more people are staying here rather than going to New York or London. A new style is emerging," Bizot claims. He believes a whole historical cycle is at an end. "Paris was the centre of the main force in Occidental culture — Cubism and the rest — until 1939. For the French, losing the War lasted 40 years. They were ashamed and self-denigrating. That self-defeatism is now over."

Looking to Africa 


Pausing only to light a cigarette he adds force to his argument. "Creativity is not coming from you anymore. We still eat a lot of your products but now we are looking to Madrid, to the Arabs, to Africa, to the South. We are just at the borders." 

It is clear that this will be a major preoccupation of Actuel in the next few years. Bizot says: "If you look at demographic projections we are the only country in Europe that will be expanding in population over the next 30 years and those people will be from the South. There are some racial problems but there is also much stronger interracial contact. We have less ghettos, certainly nothing like Brixton. Only Marseille looks like disintegrating. All that energy from countries with emerging ambitions will make things very healthy if the battle is to be won." 

Bizot looks back to the European issue with regret, regret that the experiment didn't continue, as he believes it is our only chance to get rid of a tribalism that is worse, or at least as pronounced, as Africa's. As to the future Bizot is characteristically full of hope and ideas. "Our strategy is to be very visionary. I think we have to go on defending new forms, emerging cultures, the evolution of attitudes, supporting what is important, what needs to be expressed. The future leaves us with a lot of work to do."