Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Another year passed by, as years usually do. For me, this one was almost too intense and too high-paced. All my own fault though. However, almost all of the things that happened were good, so I shouldn't really complain!

TRAPART manifested a new web site and published Andrew McKenzie's " '''''''" " (being an exposition and elucidation of an eternal work by The Hafler Trio. Work on Tom Benson's book Visionary went well, as did the development of an amazing volume of photographs of Anton LaVey (both books are due in the spring). Join the Trapart mailing list so you won't miss out!

EDDA accelerated even more than during 2012, and published Hans Andersson's lovely self-titled book of art, Aleister Crowley's Snowdrops from a Curate's Garden with illustrations by Fredrik Söderberg, The Fenris Wolf issue no 6, my own novel Mother, Have A Safe Trip and Fredrik's incredible art book Haus CG Jung. Not bad for a hobby endeavour, methinks! Join the Edda mailing list so you won't miss out!

HIGHBROW LOWLIFE finally got off the ground in 2013 with a Phonofile partnership and a website with a store of its own. This was of course what was needed for Thomas Tibert and me to start digging deep in the audio archives. And then start releasing stuff on a regular basis. Now we're doing it! Loads to come!

The documentary series An Art Apart was brought to life in the spring and active work on that as a project has been most satisfying. Five documentaries are currently in production: Vicki Bennett, Gustaf Broms, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Andrew McKenzie and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge... And more are in the works for 2014. Many thanks to the willing "victims" and to my talented partners in the creative cluster AMP (Henrik Møll and Mikael Prey). Good times! Good times up ahead too! Movies are magic!

I published a novel that I'd been working on for a couple of years off and on: Mother, Have A Safe Trip. A most peculiar process and henceforth a true vocation. I'll begin writing the next novel on New Year's Day 2014.

I also finished editing the book Reasonances, which is an anthology of writings and lectures I've churned out over the years. It will first see the light of day in French (as Raisonances) in 2014, published by Camion Noir. More languages/countries will follow.

Beautiful trips to Poland, England, the US, Denmark, Norway, Estonia and Switzerland. Have art, will travel! Have books, will travel! Have lectures, will travel! Et cetera. There are too many people to thank in this cosmopolitical regard, so I'll just extend a general THANK YOU to everyone who has made this year such an exciting and successful adventure for me...

There was some good art around too, of course. I was too busy working most of the time so I missed out on a lot. Some highlights though:

The screening of Gustaf Broms' The Tree is my fave art event of the year!
The screening of Gustaf Broms' The Tree at Uppsala Konstmuseum in March. Probably the best film ever made. Impossible to describe. An ultra-ambitious triptych describing the life of a tree during one year's time, inclusive of nearby, strange goings-on with Broms' returning black-clad masked protagonist(s). Ferociously fractalising and re-assembling on synaptic levels. A masterpiece!

Wiktor Ericsson's documentary on Joe Sarno's life and work blew my mind: The Sarnos – A Life in Dirty Movies. It has everything a good docu should have: an interesting subject matter and a respectful approach to it. No pushing, no shoving, no fickle-filmmaker-filtering, just an intelligent porn-pot-pourri of interviews and fragments of life. Very inspirational for me in the An Art Apart series mentioned above.

Helmut Newton at Fotografiska in Stockholm. I feel a little bit jaded when it comes to Helmut Newton, having been a fan for some 30 odd years now. But it's remarkable how vibrant and powerful his images still are – even those within commissions for commercial work. Although he didn't agree with the label, Newton really was an exquisite artist, determined to create pictures in his own way. No exhibition will ever be able to match the one at Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 2000 of course, but this considerably smaller one was still nice to see.

The Hilma af Klint show at Moderna Museet in Stockholm was a blast. A major show in many ways. Although her paintings have been exhibited before in Sweden, this ambitious show was so well put together – and so well attended – that noone could no longer voice any doubts about that there's a very general interest in art and the esoteric nowadays. This was validated and/or amplified by a symposium at the museum towards the end of the exhibition called The Art of Seeing the Invisible.

Christine Ödlund's exhibition Musik för Eukaryoter at Galleri Riis in Stockholm. Living nettles took over the gallery space, beautifully structured around Christine's intricate Chi-based plantalisms and floralisations. A unique organic vision and a wonderful execution, as usual.

Fredrik Söderberg's exhibition Jag är den som begraver gudar i guld och ädelstenar at Galleri Riis in Oslo. Majestic! Edda produced the book Haus CG Jung, which is beautiful and majestic too, to coincide with the exhibition. But to see Fredrik's large paintings in the flesh is something else. The mix between his very two-dimensional architectural structures and his very four-dimensional soulscapes generates a third dimension inbetween: the cosmic (beyond) average. There are not many artists around who can generate this today.

Thomas Tibert, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and yours unruly.
Banging my own drum (or, rather, turning my own mixing desk knobs): the concert Cotton Ferox (disguised as White Stains) did together with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge at Nefertiti in Gothenburg on June 29th became something of a turning point for me. It's always such a hassle to be involved with the logistics of touring and playing, but even that couldn't stop me from actually feeling very elevated during the concert itself. Everything and everyone sort of disappeared when art took command. Thank you, art. Listening to a recording of the gig afterwards, I realize we have indeed come a long way. Thanks to Thomas Tibert, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Eriq Olin, Joachim Nordwall, Ryan Martin, everyone at Nefertiti and everyone at ESSWE4.

Cotton Ferox preparing to get ready to prepare Poland. Tak!
The Cotton Ferox concert in Warszawa in November was by far the best we've ever done. Can't explain it. Everything was just right. A magical night. Thanks and praise to Thomas Tibert, Bartek Samitowski, Monika, Dariusz Misiuna, Azja John, Monseigneur Gaap Kvlt, Johan Hamrin, everyone at Trans/Wizje and Laboratorium CSW, the Kosmos-Kosmos experience and most especially to post facto inspiratrix Helena Malewska.

I also have to add the setting free of the Mega Golem in this context. Over the past years I've built a magical creature entirely out of art, together with friends and fellow creators. The being was set free during the Cotton Ferox concert in Warszawa on November 17th, and it felt like a great relief. The Mega Golem was ripe and ready and is now doing what it's supposed to. I feel very proud and happy that the project has been such a great success so far. Many heartfelt thanks to those who contributed!

Some noteworthy demises this year: Colin Wilson, who wrote well and a lot, Al Goldstein, who fought for freedom of expression in his own peculiar ways, and Zbigniew Karkowski, who made loud music. Wilson and Goldstein were old, Karkowski was not. Remember that when it comes to death, there is no justice whatsoever. Memento Mori, folks!


All material on this blog is copyright © Carl Abrahamsson, unless otherwise stated.
WWW.EDDA.SE – Great books on subjects that matter and matters that subject!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Breyer P-Orridge: the quality of quantity!

Who ever said that quantity is not a quality? The past months' veritable floodgate of Breyer P-Orridge-related material deserves a closer look. Or are you perhaps already aware of all of these things?

The publishing of First Third's monumental memory lane volume Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, containing hundreds of images of Genesis in formal transition over the decades, is an impressive feat. Not only is the project as such highly interesting and revealing (transition and morphing being one of Genesis' main tools of the artistic trade). It's also such a beauty of a book, with standards of production worthy of a Steidl, Rizzoli or Taschen. The underground in an overground package, so to speak. Mind boggling stuff!

Dais Records in New York recently released an LP with COUM Transmissions. This isn't all music per se but recorded sounds from the COUM era. It's a nice release, and a must have for completists of course (read: Industrial Culture philatelists). Here's what Dais writes:

"The most recent installment of the rare & unheard archival recordings from the transgressive 70′s performance art group COUM Transmissions. Founded in late 1969 by Genesis P-Orridge, COUM Transmissions’s provocative performances mixed with visual art solidified the group as one of the most forward thinking breakthroughs within the 70′s conceptual art scene. Only in the past couple years has COUM’s recorded works seen the light of day. This release collects various selections spanning the years 1971 through 1975, including a rare live performance opening for Hawkwind, lost radio interview, obtuse poetry readings by early member Fizzey Peat, piano & violin compositions by Genesis P-Orridge and insightful field recordings. Limited to 1,000 vinyl copies."

Space Rock outfit PTV3 have also been diligent and at it recently, playing live and recording. Angry Love has released some inspired neo-Hawkwindean sounds that takes you to the bright side of the moons and back. Who'd ever thought that the P-Orridgean beatnik existentialism of yesteryear could house the seeds of Krautish riffing? No matter what, far out it is. And sounds.

Cold Spring have recently re-issued several Psychic TV concerts from the 1980s and 90s on CD. I've lost count of these, sorry. See for yourself at Cold Spring's website. Available there is also the highly recommended Psychic TV Themes box set of CDs. For a review of that, please see my blog post from July 2nd, 2012.

My own little digi-label endeavor with Thomas Tibert, Highbrow Lowlife, has also contributed to the avalanche. We have been active for four months now, and there are several GBPO-related releases in our budding catalog of aural adventures: The EP I Travel, some tracks on Cotton Ferox' debut album First Time Hurts and, most importantly, the full on collaboration between Genesis and Cotton Ferox in the album Wordship. Available now at Highbrow Lowlife's own web store. And available in many other places too, including streaming on Spotify and similar services.

A documentary film about Genesis in the An Art Apart-series is in the works. It's produced by yours truly together with the magnificent production team AMP, and so far we have shot material with Genesis in Stockholm, Gothenburg and New York. We aim to have this film ready by the end of 2014.

Another memory lane trip is the slim but interesting volume G.P.O. vs G.P-O., being a collection of reproduced documents from the infamous court case in 1976. This is a nice 2013 facsimile edition from Primary Information of the original 1976 Ecart volume. The case was the sensational one when Genesis was charged with sending "indecent" postcards/collages through the UK mail system (GPO=General Post Office). With a little help and support from William Burroughs and other friends, Genesis got away with a fine. And material for this compendium. Interesting to read as a document from an era of UK governmental oppression very hard to fathom today. 

For more "porridge with everything", please have a look at www.genesisbreyerporridge.com

Monday, December 23, 2013

Peter Beard, The Greatest

Taschen re-issues Peter Beard's mega volume with some added material and of course it's a feast for the eyes and the adventurous at heart. The American psychedelic multiversalist presents a life-loving tour de force that almost leaves you with a bad conscience for not having achieved as much as he has. Well, there's still time to change that, of course. And this magnificent book provides ample inspiration.

This is a heavy book, although it's shrunk in size from the original Taschen mega bumper XXL size that required a special table back in 2006. Now you can actually keep it on your lap, which will ache after a while though. There's something psychologically smart about that. Because if you take in everything at once, you're likely to be utterly swamped. Peter Beard's palimpsestic mind is a beautiful whirlwind of a filter that us normals best handle in adequate doses.

This is also a heavy book in the sense that it encompasses a lifetime of intense experiences. Beard has not only been in the midst of culturally significant people and environments. Quite often he has been their very center himself. Socially poignant names like Karen Blixen, Jackie Onassis, Francis Bacon, And Warhol & gang, The Rolling Stones, Salvador Dali and a million others in Beard's externalized memories become regular icons. Not in a distanced way like in paparazzi snaps but in tender, relaxed, endearing and vibrant ways. Non-ordinary people just like ordinary people. Because in many ways they are.

Destinies pass by in contemporary history but that doesn't really matter unless there is someone there to capture the moments and, more importantly, the related emotions. It makes no difference if it's a Kenyan hunter in the wilderness or a socialite hob-nobbing at Studio 54 in the gay 1970s New York. They're all part of the same life experience: Peter Beard's. That's one of the essential qualities of a real artist: to make the expressions unique and highly personal. It certainly helps if the impressions filtered and expressed are unique and highly personal too.

I make no secret of my admiration for Beard and his work. It's just phenomenal stuff and decidedly more honest in approach and execution than 99 % of the more successful art around today. Because of a massive dose of projections (and envy, I'm sure) of "jet setting" and "patrician" backgrounds, Beard has been unjustly reduced and often even vilified. But the art still remains as the substantial proof in the illusory and fickle art world pudding: three-dimensional, emotional, life affirming, life thickening and, not forgetting, truly beautiful. This magnificent new book is an overwhelming piece of evidence of a life well spent and well worked. Yes, I dare say it: this book is a must have.

In 2005, we hung out on a wonderful spring day in New York. Beard and his wife Nejma had completely forgotten about the interview I was so happy to have arranged, but still made time for me. To be in their beautiful Manhattan apartment was like being inside Beard's mind. Art was all over the place, in found objects, African items, drawings by Francis Bacon, photographs, collages, books, ink stains and thumb prints. It was literally like entering one of Beard's artworks.

I got some good Peter Beard moments that day that eventually ended up in my book (in Swedish) Olika Människor in 2007. What follows here is a translation of that piece.
Peter Beard, New York, 2005. © Carl Abrahamsson


With a new imposing mega book on Taschen and an amazing exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery in London, artist and photographer Peter Beard is au courant yet again. With his usual attitude of creative indifference, Beard can now at least see that the world is finally catching up on his fascinating and colorful life story.

After having studied art with Joseph Albers at Yale, Beard traveled out into the world in the 1960s. Inspired by Karen "Isak Dinesen" Blixen's Out Of Africa he went to Kenya already in 1955. And also to Denmark in 1961, where he met the then dying Blixen. He bought land next to her former estate just outside Nairobi. "Hog Ranch", Beard's own sanctuary of houses and tents there, is a place to which he has regularly returned and which has distinctly influenced his art.

The African years (that turned into decades) meant for Beard a photographic documentation of a critical and depressing phase in African history. Conservationism and the construction of compensatory habitats for elephants and many other animals led to a plethora of unwanted effects. Many species were almost made extinct, not so much by local shortsighted butchering but by Western misdirected altruism and insane compensations. Beard's two powerful books The End of the Game (1965, mainly about elephants) and Eyelids of the Morning (1973, about crocodiles) contributed to an increased awareness about this highly complex situation.

At the same time, Beard hung out with international society and artists in New York and other hotspots around the world. Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol are three central and influential figures in this stage of Beard's live (1960s-1970s). He married "Society Girl of the Year" Minnie Cushing and later on supermodel Cheryl Tiegs. Interesting, wild, beautiful, successful, wealthy and free people have constantly passed by in his life and Beard has preserved them all in photographs, collages and memories.

For decades, Beard hopped between Kenya and his place in Montauk outside New York. But it's mostly in Manhattan he acts when it comes to displaying his art and himself. From the 1960s' wild partying, over the 1970s' wild partying, over the 1980s'... And so on. But this is predominantly a media image that has been stuck with and perhaps also haunted Beard during all these years. The handsome, wealthy artist with the entire world at his feet and with all its demi-gods and goddesses as playmates. An (epi)center at Studio 54 who's charmed and inspired generations of esthetes and arrogants mondaines.

But one should never forget that Peter Beard already from the very beginning has taken his art seriously, unaffected by the media image mentioned above. In the form of diaries (rather ever swelling three-dimensional collage-collections), photographs and texts, he's documented his life and thereby indirectly many others' in a way that has created a new kind of esthetic: naked, non-edited, chaotic, irregular, violent, passionate and, lest we forget, painfully beautiful. All that a human life can handle, corroded by time, dented by experience and constantly redefined, in that new experiences are added to the old and represented again and again, forever.

The people who have questioned Beard's value as a serious artist are often stuck in their own class hate/envy or, at least, in their critique of supposed social privileges and benefits. Beard looks at this casually. He's pleased with his life and is in no way ashamed of it. And why should he be? 68 years old [This was originally written in 2006. Beard was born in 1938] and totally vital, he continues to create his enormous collage- and photo-based images, enhanced by quotes from his favorite books (in his own beautiful handwriting). If you'd want to illustrate the manic will of an artist to assemble loose fragments and create a new kind of external order – and at the same time document life as it passes right before the artist's eyes/camera – a Peter Beard image would be the perfect choice.

When you enter his Manhattan home you're swept away and into his mind frame and you can't really escape. And you certainly don't want to. The entire apartment is like a studio or a large, three dimensional sketch pad that spreads out on the floors and walls. Sheets, photos, images from other sources, glue, scissors, ink, books... Beard enthusiastically pulls out images to accentuate whatever he's talking about right then. Then, suddenly, on to something completely different. It can be a cut out image from a fashion magazine or an original drawing by Francis Bacon. The outer reflects the inner. Peter Beard can on the surface appear to be somewhat incoherent but once you've had a peek inside his creative chaos it's very simple to understand his greatness. It's not a simple, causal process but rather like a multiversal pulse.

– I'm up all night and try to avoid the daytime, he says as we sit down to talk.

Newly arisen but definitely awake he points at some of his own images and at some African objects in his living room. He's said many times before that the objects can tell stories much better than he himself.

– I’m a night person, Beard continues. I’m not into the day. It sounds pretty selfish, but that’s the way I am.

– I just did an inner scanning, looking for polyps and things inside my body. It’s kind of fun with inner scanning. It just shows you everything. I’ve got lots of plates and pins inside and broken ribs and I’m missing some bones too. Then they can put the muscles over that and the skin over that. It really is amazing. From the inside out, it’s unbelievable. It’s definitely the most interesting kind of photography there is. It makes regular photography a drag, which it is, really.

Despite the fact that Beard has belonged to a clique of the world's most respected photographers for a long time, he's often critical when it comes to medium itself. Photography is a tool that can document, but no more than that. In his own case, the integration of the photographic image itself into a larger context of painting, collage, mixed media and, not least, his own diaries has become his trademark. Only very seldom is a photo a mere photo.

– I’m not really into photography, Beard admits. It’s just so easy. I believe in common sense. If you take pictures, you parasite on subject matter. That’s it. If you pick better subject matter than the other guy, you’ll get better pictures.

– I’ll tell you one thing about photography though... It’s life thickening. You feel you are punctuating it all the time. Then you have a time capsule. I like the time capsule aspect. Life just becomes so short, so you might as well thicken it up. I liked to photograph my class mate, as we went through the horrible schools. Then of course you get some funny pictures by accident. And then I simply started to be interested in better subject matter. I’m still just interested in better subject matter.

– Picasso was a really artistic photographer, Beard continues. He did double exposures with himself against his abstract paintings already around 1910-11. Lartigue was a very artistic photographer early on. When he became an adult, it all became so boring. Then he started doing horrible paintings too. I photographed him on his 90th birthday and he took some funny pictures of me too. 

– I like Brassaï, Diane Arbus, Matthew Brady... The photography I like is like Weegee’s... Murder, suicide, accidents... ”L'hazard est le plus grand artist...” Astronauts taking pictures, weather photography, lunar photography, inner scans... Everything is better than what I do! Photography is supposed to be magic. But there’s not much magic in the photography I see around. It’s all cleverness and technology, lenses, assistants, equipment dangling over their necks... But no visual acumen whatsoever. All you get is technology photos.

– The girls are taking all the good photos now: Ellen von Unwerth, Deborah Turbeville, Bettina Rheims, Sally Mann... Paolo Reversi is very good. Guy Bourdin was good. Helmut Newton was good. But now it’s all cleverness, all manipulation. Irving Penn’s a good friend of mine but I’m not very excited by him.

– Avedon was the greatest manipulator in the world, so clever. He was actually the opposite of Diane Arbus. He hated his subjects and he put his hate of himself onto his subjects. He made Ezra Pound whince by asking him about anti-semitism. Avedon was an evil man. He was the best fashion photographer though, because he had a great early period when he was working to get into the business. He had enthusiasm then. He wasn’t pleasing the magazines with studio work.

– You have to push for better subject matter, and that's what Arbus did. She was a good friend of mine. We used to trade bondage pictures for animals. Unfortunately, everything I had from her burned. She was great.

The fire Beard refers to happened in 1977. His old mill on Long Island was destroyed and with it a number of Bacons, Warhols, African objects and books. Also many of his own works and diaries.

– The caretaker went to the movies, Beard remembers. The fire was started by the only piece of American equipment in the whole building, which was a 1928 mill. I got the call at 8.30 that the thing was burning down. The caretaker took those pictures, by the way (of the burning mill). I was just so busy with the deadline for the book I was working on... All my African books were on the second floor and there was a grand piano there too. I opened up the roof, which was fantastic. I found a piece of wood up there saying that”If anyone finds this, call my family. They built this building.” I did call the grandson who was still alive and living in Miami. Carl Fischer who was from Montauk actually built Miami.

– We were close to the deadline of the book. I was even doing the retouching right there and then. Everything was so last minute and we were just throwing together this hunting chapter. I didn’t get out until 3.30 in the morning. It was raining, it was July 28th... I was staying on my tax man’s sofa in New York. I had to walk back because I couldn’t get a cab in the rain. I thought about the mill then. I was lying down and started to feel the self pity and little tears started to fall... I had a realization then. I’ve only had two, one on Ecstasy and one at that moment. ”Well, you can do two things... Worry and regret it or just forget it!” I just took the forget-position. It just seemed terribly logical. Everyone thought I was pathological and didn’t care... But what can you do? All I can say to someone whose house has burned down is ”Forget it!” There’s nothing you can do. The firemen flooded the cellar with water, because the caretaker had told them that all my diaries were there. I did get a lot of burned pages. I had a show once in Japan of the burnt pages. There were a lot of good ones left.

In this attitude lies an important key to Beard's creativity. Life is no more than a palette and a canvas, if you will. Life is all about filling the canvas with colour. You use what you've got, regardless if it's super models on a leisurely safari in Africa or scorched old diaries from a burnt out mill. Beard photographs objects and other photographs and then uses these as images for new projects and collages. Which are in turn re-photographed. It never ends, like in an eternal creative loop where everything not only can be recycled but actually also is.

In Africa, Beard sometimes called his images and creations "living sculptures", something that in equal parts referred to the animals and nature itself and to his own visual formulations of them.

– There are so many animals that are sculptural, Beard explains. Originally, it was just the title of a show, with loads of elephants in there. But I did "Living Sculpture" with Salvador Dali too, years ago. We put shaving cream on Verushka over the FDR Drive at Riverview Terrace. Dali was so eccentric and I actually did a whole movie with him. The movie stretched over a ten year period. Every time something insane happened in New York, we picked him up at the St. Regis. We had a lot of fun together.

Peter Beard now pulls out old photos he's written on in his beautiful handwriting. Predominantly photos of elephants from Africa, either breathtaking aerial shots or snapshots very close up – dangeroulsy so (Beard was actually thrashed by an angry elephant in 1996, which actually killed him for a moment. A massive blood transfusion brought him back to life after a short while of being clinically dead.).

– Look at this, that’s 3000 elephants sweeping an entire area... We actually had to shoot a lot of them... That’s how I know that the separation of the sexes is the first effect of exceeding caring capacity... Overpopulation! We are having a huge separation of the sexes right now, an avalanche... Lots of limiting factors like mad cow disease and mad cowboy disease, sars, heart disease, etc... Every elephant we sampled had heart disease. It’s mentioned in the epilogue of The End of the Game.

Beard helped out in Kenya's national parks to document the elephant population and later also the crocodiles in the Lake Rudolf region. This not only meant invaluable opportunities to take pictures of a rapidly changing environment, but also laid the foundation for Beard's laconic misanthropy.

– That area was bigger than New Jersey and Israel... It was eaten clean by elephants. Of course, nobody noticed. They were too busy buying the elephants a drink!

I wonder if Beard thinks that attitude of overnurtuting and overcaring is something that is being applied on humans too.

– Well, you can really contemplate that, Beard replies. We are experts, not only at the libido for the ugly, but at wrecking whatever we touch... Now we wreck things through sentimentalism. Now that everything is almost out, we’re sentimentalising it like hopelessly religious people. It’s nauseating. It’s like photography. I think most photography is extremely nauseating, because they think it’s art. As far as I’m concerned, it’s subject matter. It’s a capture.

– My experience is that you don’t change anybody’s mind. The galloping rock goes further, and we make the same mistakes generation after generation. Because of desperation we’re becoming more compassionate. The slaughter is becoming more noticed, and more televised. That’s the good part... People are so scared of death. One hundred beds turned by one nurse. Gaga vegetables lying in their own excrement. We worship it. We have no interest in the quality of life because we’re obviously ruining it. 

– To be pro-life is to be emotional and politically correct according to these people. Every sentimental program on ”wildlife channels” is actually ruining the future of the wildlife, because it’s just irrational bunny-hugging.

– I actually like the horror of it, Beard continues. It’s like Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, my favourite book. When I was doing that piece over there I was listening to that book twice. Listening to it as an audio book is like music. Every sentence is magic. He was such a writer. It’s also very comic. ”The Horror” is not necessarily bad news.

I suggest that perhaps the USA of today is a better general metaphor of decay than the elephant population crisis in Africa ever was. Beard nods in agreement.

– There’s nothing healthy here, I’m telling you! Horrible looking people. Diversity, we’ve got that! I’m thinking of H.L. Mencken’s Libido for the Ugly... It’s home is America! We can do it!

Beard brings out a copy of a Mencken anthology and enthusiastically quotes the brilliant German-American journalist:

"Here is something that the psychologists have so far neglected: the love of ugliness for its own sake, the lust to make the world intolerable. Its habitat is the United States. Out of the melting pot emerges a race which hates beauty as it hates truth..."

Peter Beard doesn't deny that Africa has meant a lot of positive things for him, for decades. If he hasn't been on safari, he's been working on his diaries. If he hasn't helped out in reseach projects in the wildlife reserves and national parks, he's been philosophising about the meaning or possibly meaninglessness of development and progress.

A steady stream of friends visitied him in his "jungle camp" outside of Nairobi (Andy Warhol once described Beard as the "Tarzan of our times") and brought with them their own mythmaking stories about him to Europe or the States. The inspiration from Africa doesn't seem to end either. The exhibition at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London late 2006 is predominantly a collection of images taken in Africa. I wonder if the African experiences have perhaps been the central inspiration of his life?

– I don't know how to answer that actually, Beard replies. I would love to find some inspiration in Sweden. I'm actually a total scandophile. I longed to go to Scandinavia already during my first trips to Africa, in the late 50s and early 60s. Karen Blixen was inspirational in that sense also.

Karen Blixen, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali in all their glory... But the Irish-English painter Francis Bacon is probably the overall most important artistic inspiration for Peter Beard, who even modeled for Bacon a number of times. I ask Beard what he thinks of John Maybury's 1998 Bacon biopic, Love is the Devil.

– It looked so faggy and so camp that I just didn’t get into it, Beard laughs. But the guy who played Bacon actually looked just like him. But I did see the BBC movie. They sent that to me, because I’m in it. It’s embarrassing. They just love to emphasize the homosexuality, the S/M. That really had nothing to do with Bacon. On a personal level, sure, it had something to with him. But Bacon was major, like an oasis. An oasis of common sense. He liked photography very much too.

– My art teacher was Joseph Albers and his definition of art was ”the ratio of input to result”. All the lines in this Bacon drawing are very Zen, very economical. Bacon was very Zen. He himself hated his drawings usually and wouldn’t call them Zen at all. But he was such a great guy.

Now Beard lives with an incredible experience and history that make new generations look to him for inspiration in the same way as with his own relationship to Bacon. But in terms of general recognition, Beard often points out that he's genuinley tired of all the media projections and simplifications.

– It’s usually all of these clichés, he explains. They say things like ”Jet Set Socialite”. ”Portrait of a legend”... What is that? It was great to live in Africa and I got a lot of good subject matter. Of course I was very happy. It was great to be on safari. The common sense of it was that it was like the American West... It’s finished. We might as well watch the last chapter. Photography can record that. I’ve got all the pictures that won’t be able to be taken again. And I’m finding some good quotes to put on them. The other pictures I take give information about the main picture.

– I majored in old master drawings and I try to do artistic borders. Photography is decorative, but I’m not saying that’s necessarily good. Decoration is not necessarily art. If you’re Matisse, OK... Well, you try and get something that works. I use blood a lot and they think it’s sensational. Blood is thicker than water and better than ink. Better than paint. I’ve got a lot of blood in my shows.

Looking at Beard's art or at his books it's easy to get the impression that a lot in his creativity is totally intuitive and spontaneous. To an extent, that's correct, according to Beard. But I wonder if he ever reconstructs from dreams, daydreams, visions and ideas too?

– Sure... Then I just build them up and do them. Like this one, it's Danielle Luna lying on the diaries. I do set things up. Those diaries burned a few weeks afterwards, and she died soon after that too. She was kind of drugged out and she died from an overdose. She actually ruined my house and filled it with seaweed. But I didn’t care at all because I was planning this picture.

Peter Beard's visual style is unique. There are exceptions to the rule of course, but usually we see a central photograph with a group of smaller images creating a visual frame around it. Handwritten texts, glued in objects, other people's drawings or images and smeared out blood and/or ink as elaborate and violent frames. Primitive Africa meets the sophisticated Western esthetic mind. Quite often, psychedelic and mind expanding effects occur. I wonder if he comes across artists who try to emulate or plagiarize his style?

– All the time, Beard admits. But I don’t care. I went to art school. I never use the word though. I’m an escapist. If you go to art school, it takes you a long time to recover. They’re teaching you all the clichés that make them failed art teachers. Art teachers are failed artists. They’re giving you homework in art. And they all do the same thing. It all looks like Jasper Johns or somebody else. Even Jasper Johns looks like an art school victim to me. You can barely survive art school. It’s so full of clichés. I was so bored that I got into doing my diaries instead. I’m not trying to be superior but it was just so boring to be there.

– I liked my teacher Joseph Albers though. But the rest were all just homework people. They never teach you how to develop your own nervous system or any of your own individual things. I know they don’t know the definition of art. Albers had ”the ratio of input to end result”, which was quite good. I’ve read a lot about ”expressions”, but the one I like the best is from the art historian Bernard Berenson, who did the great collections for all the rich people. His definition was ”whatever is life enhancing”. They definitely don’t know that one in art school! They just fuck you up big time.

– My diaries were and are all about getting out into life and getting away from art school. They’re meant to be unartistic. People think they’re artistic because they’re expressionistic, but they’re basically just raging against the homework... I’m just collecting things that are fun. I’m an escapist. I’m just looking for subject matter and life enhancement.

– Duchamp’s interviews and Bacon’s interviews tell you everything you need to know about art, Beard sums up. The common sense of it, enlarging the bouquet, finding a niche, all the common sense obvious things... All the things they’ll never give you in art school. All they give you is their tragic lack of individuality. It's important... You’ve got to carve out a niche!

For more information about Peter Beard and his work, please see: www.peterbeard.com

For more information about the book, please go to www.taschen.com

All material on this blog is copyright © Carl Abrahamsson, unless otherwise stated.
WWW.EDDA.SE – Great books on subjects that matter and matters that subject!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Time Hurts the second time too

Today, Highbrow Lowlife re-releases Cotton Ferox' debut album from 2002, First Time Hurts. After Thomas Tibert and myself had decided in the year 2000 to make some more music after an almost ten year hiatus, this first album became a longed for, eclectic and truly weird record.

To balance my own acute logorrhea in this attempt at spoken-wordism, we made sure to include some better and more competent figures: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge on the tracks Snake Hiss and Amenema and Michael Moynihan reading his own translation of one of Ernst Jünger's early and highly poetic war texts. Not forgetting the finishing pièce de résistance Phantasmoplasm, written together with and sung by our dear friend and musical genius Krister Linder.

In all, the album is an ambitious attempt to leave the primitive but still powerful experimentalism of White Stains (1987-1994) and delve into more traditional musical structures. I think we succeeded quite well and I still enjoy listening to this album some 12 years down the road. We hope you will too, of course.

The Highbrow Lowlife web site is now fully active, by the way. There are still some beta glitches but they will be fixed soon. The store is up and running and offers a competitive price level if you compare with other online megastores.

First Time Hurts is now available at all major online music stores and streaming services. Enjoy as you see fit!
Cotton Ferox in Amsterdam, First Time Hurts-era. Photo by Braam Angstrom.
Krister Linder, 2002. A forest Phantasmoplasm!
Michael Moynihan in an Ernst Jünger state of mind, Vermont 2003.
Other Highbrow Lowlife news-quickies: there have been some additions to the video section of the site. New films by/with Sinnelag, The Mushroom Clouds, et al. Enjoy!

All material on this blog is copyright © Carl Abrahamsson, unless otherwise stated.
WWW.EDDA.SE – Great books on subjects that matter and matters that subject!