als ich kann

In the judgement of posterity - and no doubt also in that of contemporaries - the most refined representative of Ghent painting in the later 15th century was not Joos van Wassenhove, alias Justus van Gent, but his friend Hugo van der Goes, who, as we know, financed his journey to Italy. We have far more biographical information on Hugo van der Goes than of Justus van Gent; and the difference is more than quantitative. Goes is the earliest Northern European painter whose mental state is a matter of written record. This is because he had the misfortune to die insane. 

He had retired to a monastery, the Roode Clooster near Brussels, and a memoir written long afterwards by a fellow monk describes some of the symptoms of his illness. After spending several years there as a novice, he fell ill on his way home from a visit to Cologne and died not long afterwards, in the year 1482. The affinity between genius and madness is an issue to which modern students of artistic psychology attach great importance, so it is not surprising that an artist who lends himself to discussion of the phenomenon seems more approachable and even begins to look like a modern personality.

I should stress that the evolution that I shall try to outline does not agree with the chronology, or rather chronologies, given in the Goes literature. Not that I have any desire to presnet my own chronology as the one true way to salvation; this is rather more a case of Jan van Eyck's motto, 'As best I can' (als ich kann).

Otto Pächt

Why is this such an absolute masterpiece? Aside from the obvious Eyckian character of the left panel of this diptyque, van der Goes' Satan belies a humanity and a depth comparable to Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost. And for the late 15th century, when representations were considered excessively evidential and so potentially dangerous, this is no mean feat. 

William Blake writing about John Milton said that he was nothing other than "a true poet & of the Devils party without knowing it." Cecil B. DeMille was the most famous producer of early (20s-40s) Biblical Sword-and-Sandal films, who was a devout protestant and called the bible "the source of all drama - and the lexicon of human behaviour, good and bad." One critic pointed out, however, that "Mr DeMille's real interest is in the wicket Romans... with the enthusiasm of an artist... he paints the manifold nature of their sins, their cruelties, their decadent luxuries."

loving contorsions

HTRK - Love is Distraction

Shigeko Kubota, Vagina Painting, 1965, performed at the Perpetual Fluxus Festival in New York

Temperance in Séjour de deuil pour le trepas de Messire Philippes de Commines (hs. 76 E 13, fol. 8r), 1512, tempera and gold leaf on parchment.  The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek

Yasumasa Morimura, Daughter of Art History- Theatre B, 1990.

signaux alpha

Signaux alpha; part of a little book I printed a few years ago as part of my final work at ENSAD, Paris. 

a few bricks short of a load;

Micro-architecture: the medieval metaphor and the ultra-contemporary Westeros:

If anything is killing blockbuster cinema it would have to be the TV series. You can barely leave the house without hearing the mention of Game of Thrones. Is this what the Book of Hours did to the church service? Because once you started getting your scripture in take-home form, devotion becomes private. And the books are illustrated, the margins are lavishly decorated, peopled and animaled by loons, varmints, hellions, scalawags, madcaps, and all sorts of monstrous creatures. 

How you engage with the spiritus sanctus, whether it's in church or alone in your room, has an impact on two changing modes, your inner and your outer world. Isn't this the start of the revolution to come centuries later with Luther and the protestant ideal - no intermediaries, you can interact with God without having to go through a middle man. But what is the church if not a social space? So you lose out on something else, even if you read your Book of Hours with someone else. 

A parallel is obviously being drawn. The primary mode of watching TV is now online (the medium will soon likely exist only as a name and not a form), which means primarily home / bedroom bound. But technology has advanced beyond the limits of the book metaphor and it can no longer be argued that the internet makes us more solitary or socially isolated. Phone in hand, out in the street, the inner world is being extended into the outer world by the not-so-simple tools we use. We could quote Heidegger, but why would we? Technology neither necessarily causes the kind of distance he's talking about nor precludes the presence he's searching for. 

Before the intellectual groans of despair about Game of Thrones taking over the facebook feeds of friends' usually stand-up friends, think about how this book is made. It's mass-produced but not created by means of a computer. The guy who did belongs of a breed who refer to themselves as pop-up engineers - and it's in some ways just as crafty as all those goddamn creatures populating medieval manuscripts. And intellectual scorn is heaped in every age, against what was here before or against what is here now. The ultra-modern are 'bored' and the luddites are scandalised, or, intriguingly, disgusted, which implies physical rejection of the foreign substance, as well as more than a hint of moral condemnation. That being said, I'm not really into Game of Thrones and I've never been a lover of paraphernalia, but a lover of lovers of paraphernalia, internet addicts, hoarders, collectors, fan lit, and people who read those TV guides that wonder about the fates and futures of tv characters whose fates have already been written: Will Amber leave Johnny for Pedro?

These illuminations are at from a livre d'Heures, or Book of Hours, illuminated by the Frères Limbourg and belonging to Jean, duc de Berry, who was brother to King Charles of France. According to Emile Mâle, the late and great scholar of the late middle ages, these scenes reveal a 15th century desire to depict continuity between the Old and New Testaments. The buildings symbolise Jerusalem and the Old Law and from these crumbling edifices a building block is handed by a prophet to one of the apostles. The apostle, for his part, is neither holding the prophet's wedding train nor wrapping him in a winding sheet, but unveiling the truth in the ancient law. Eventually the building is handed off brick by brick and integrated into a new City of God.  Reminds me that in 1967 the 1831 London Bridge was dismantled brick by brick and moved to Lake Havasu in Arizona, USA, in another old 2 new world allegory. A friend told me last night that apparently they thought they were getting Tower Bridge. Maybe the Eiffel tower in China's Window of the World theme park should be mined for its meta-meaning: psycho/deep-architecture for those who won't plumb the depths of Freud's paddling pool. If anyone can tell me what can be read into this rendering of Westeros, I'm all ears.

there is something like the feeling of the idea of a fact

Composer Robert Ashley dies. I discovered him after a winter visit to Finland a few years ago. I was in Berlin and missing my friend Ukko, wandering aimlessly, and listening to Automatic Writing on repeat. Repeat back in Australia, sprawling angular, sinking into a lumpy bed on a stormy summer afternoon that lasted two months. Iron sky, mineral air, terrestrial rain, humid leaves, cool hollows in foundation brick, roots from a Moreton bay fig creeping up through strangling plaster, fine veins, and the layered creaks, whispers, the extra rooms, uninvited guests, the attic and the cellar friends of Robert Ashley. Watch Greenaway on Ashley, including Perfect Lives performed in London, here on ubu.

profitez pleinement de vos vacances...

A quite weird juxtaposition of danse macabre with ads (medical and non) in a July 1959 French medical history review. Histoire de la Médecine published a little rundown on the danse macabre en France et en Italie, par Maurice L.-A. Louis. The little illustrated leisure figures on rubber water craft take on a strange air when contrasted with their dancing deaths, and while the diarrhoea ad by Synerlac needs no foot-tapping double to be creepy, it is made more sinister by the cajoling dead. Profitez pleinement de vos vacances, because, as we all know, this is just a little holiday before real and eternal life begins.