Today’s pretentious book picture is brought to you by The Mad Hatter’s Tea Room in Southend. May you also stare intellectually into space whilst sampling their seriously amazing cakes. Honestly, I mean it, go.
Alice in Wonderland has meant different things to me at different times, much like it has throughout history. When I first read it as a child I hated it, it ‘didn’t make any sense.’ Slowly I was drawn back in and I remember my excitement when I realised my imagination was free – cue many stories in Primary school where the teachers probably thought I’d had some sort of breakdown but were afraid to ask.
The first filmed version in 1903:
Then, of course, I re-read it as a student, this time aware of Carroll’s possible opium use (not unusual for the time, it was sold freely in shops) and the links to psychedelia owing to homages such as this:
Recently I entered Wonderland once again, this time with all kinds of knowledge (though not as much as I’ll have in the future). I’m aware now of the possibly disturbing relationship between Lewis Carroll and the real Alice (see the documentary below, also featuring writer Will Self among others).
However I’m also aware that it unlocked fantastical and unrestrained worlds in my own brain and doubtless did for many other creative types. The pace is quick, the dialogue fun and the characters iconic. I’d like to see a new film version of the original story done well, but for now I’m perfectly happy using my own imagination when reading the weird words of Carroll.
Documentary The Secret World of Lewis Carroll. Keep watching to see the eerie discovery towards the end:
There’s something about the idea of a live, or even filmed, artistic portrait which excites my brain. Is it the blend of real and unreal? Is it the idea of a human being as an art piece? Clearly it’s something that’s interested artists for quite some time too from Piero Manzoni, who signed a live girl in the sixties, to Gilbert and George (see video below).
Let’s have a quick look at Warhol’s portraits, filmed in the 60s, also known as screen tests although they weren’t being tested for any films. Screentest.warhol.org says “Many of Warhol’s Screen Tests fit the standard formula—the subject and the camera almost motionless for the duration of the film, with the result as close to a “living portrait” as possible.
However, within this format, there are subtle variations. Starkly lit with a single lamp, a glowering Paul America and the intense Susan Bottomly are sharply contrasted by the dark background, while Ann Buchanan and Edie Sedgwick’s Screen Tests were fully lit, allowing the viewer to notice every subtle change in their almost unmoving faces.”
In a way, by candidly filming his followers, Warhol created not only the first reality stars but turned their often crazy and turbulent existences into lifelong portraits.
Also in the sixties playful British and German artists Gilbert and George, who have never quite been accepted by the establishment, became living, singing sculptures. Whitecube.com says “in their films and ‘living sculpture’ they appeared as figures in their own work. The artists believe that everything is a potential subject matter for their work, and they have always addressed social issues, taboos and artistic conventions.”
Avant garde artist and theatre director Robert Wilson, who has worked the likes of Tom Waits and Willem Dafoe (and now Lady Gaga), filmed his Voom Portraits in 2007. The actors used, including Steve Buscemi, Johnny Depp, Winona Rider and Isabella Rossellini, were told to “think of nothing and move slowly and steadily to collaborate in Wilson’s vision of who they might be.”
Winona Rider apparently appeared as “Winnie, the main female character in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, buried up to her neck in sand” while Robert Downey Jr was “a dreaming corpse in a Rembrandt painting.”
William Pope L:
In 2009 Antony Gormley was to create something for the fourth plinth, a stand in Trafalgar Square, London, which sports a different sculpture each year. He decided to make his piece us, to “see through a lens what the UK is really like.”
One and Other was a project which saw the public apply to stand at the top of the plinth for an hour each, for “100 consecutive days, 24 hours a day.” We became the artwork. One lady threw affirmations down as paper airplanes, another did science experiments, another blew bubbles, others made art while another did a burlesque routine. The possibilities were endless and apparently 2,400 people took part.
Man booing BNP:
This lady…wore pink and drank pink champagne. And why not?
Here’s a dancer and choreographer:
Ekow Eshun is the artistic director of the ICA and chairman of the Fourth Plinth commissioning group. He’s also quite hot (apologies for my objectifying eyes). Here he talks about why he chose the project:
Which brings us up to the Pageant of the Masters, which I only heard about the other day. Sounds like my cup of tea though. Apparently paintings have been re-created for two months each summer in Laguna Beach, California, since 1933.
The Festival of Arts website says “Over 500 volunteers from Laguna Beach and surrounding communities are transformed into life-sized re-creations of some of the world’s most famous paintings, sculptures, and other works of art.” Have a look at the video:
Right, I’m off to paint myself green and stand nude in the garden. Bye!
These two bands essentially reflect two sides of the same late sixties counter culture. The Velvet Underground of course were moody heroin addicted speed freaks and Jefferson Airplane believed psychedelics had the power to make everyone cuddle forever. Two good bands from a fascinating era.
Here’s Velvet Underground’s Waiting for the Man:
And as an added bonus here’s a very short clip of them playing Venus in Furs live while Edie Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga frolic in the background (beginning might hurt your ears, careful):
I watched a rather peculiar documentary today called Party Monster, The Shockumentary. It’s quite a deliberately bad taste film about the Club Kids in late 80s New York – young people who dressed outlandishly and included fashion designer James St. James– and their party organiser Michael Alig who ended up murdering someone and putting the chopped up body in a trunk. Obviously it got me thinking about fashion. And murder I suppose but that’s no change.
I love art from Francis Bacon to Lempicka to photographers of the unusual like Diane Arbus, but I also love fashion. The outfits at the Bizarre Magazine Ball for example are truly bizarre and great, so here I shall include some of the things that make me weep with joy and perhaps you will find something of interest.
Most people complain that catwalks are full of designs people would never wear in the street, but to be honest that’s the thing I enjoy seeing, mainstream or underground. Regular fashion bores me but anything a bit fantastical, gothic, odd or grunge I love.
First off I have to include my favourite online shop, Joe Brown’s, as its something people will actually be able to afford. There’s some regular stuff but look around, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised.
The fashion pics of artist Man Ray are beautiful – as shown here on author Matthew Revert’s blog. They’re very imaginative of course.
Newish designer Jared Gold’s gothic and historical clothes are great, they have a similar Alice in Wonderland feel to Bill Gibb.
Tokyo is known for its ‘avant garde’ fashion and I’d love to go there. I particularly like the punk and Gothic Lolita styles.
Keeping in the fantastical realm I definitely recommend looking out for alternative models/designers out there such as Ophelia Overdose and Audrey Kitching. Also have a look at Bizarre magazine’s alternative model website Ultra Vixens for more ladies of the odd and artistic variety, or become one of them if you like. Plus Spitalfields market in London is host to the annual Alternative Fashion Week (presented by Alternative Arts), 16-21st April. Exciting! Colourful! Imaginative!
I have a book I love containing alt glamour/pin up pictures (piercings, tattoos etc) taken by Octavio Winkytiki and Lithium Picnic (my favourite). They’re pretty and unusual, but be warned, some of the content on their sites is not for children’s eyes.
My good friend Emma Bailey is a photographer in Brighton and has done a number of burlesque shoots. Burlesque is fun, the women often have normal sized bodies and I love vintage glamour. Fancy Chance is very funny to watch live and Banbury Cross is lovely too.
I’m also drawn to the pictures of a model known as Scar, they’re creative and apparently she makes headresses too, which is nice. Another artistic model is Allison Harvard, who reminds me of a Tim Burton character, and gothic model Apnea is jolly too.
Finally, I know it’s such a cliche that a person who likes Neil Gaiman and alternative models such as the Suicide Girls would also like the outfits in Tim Burton films but I do, so there. I’m not a goth but Alice in Wonderland and the White Queen had me searching for my dark lipstick, as did Lilly Cole in Terry Gilliam’s Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
Here’s a video of a creepy mechanical doll themed photo shoot by Tim Walker for Vogue Italia 2011
Here’s a video of a Jared Gold fashion show in 2008: