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Well my idea of posting more has gone nowhere this year so here’s something I’ve been collecting in recent years. Most of us probably browse past these records thinking ‘oh it’s a cheesy 60’s Latin take on Bond themes, probably won’t play it more than once’, but we’ve missed out on some great arrangements, playing and production! At least 80% of the compilations have been hugely entertaining to my ears, not sure what the rest of the tenants in my building think ha ha.

Not to mention the usually glorious covers! The rule seems to be to include as many as the art department can afford scantily clad ‘Bond-type’ women striking action poses in imaginary spy or crime films and TV shows. I think this ‘imaginary’ aspect actually allows for more interesting visual interpretations of the tunes than the usual screen shots used from productions. The Basie Meets Bond, Thunderball and Senor 007 covers are particularly striking, or ridiculous, depending on your point of view. Others like the Al Caiola and Bang Bang Bang records feature more imaginative design work.  I have found roughly half of these so far, which means the hunt shall continue!

Now it has to be said that in reality the covers were exploiting a current trend and one gets the sense that they were pumped out at the same rate as the movies themselves. Some have a distinct sense of something brazen and even illegal going on, much like the many Bond spin-offs and spoof films themselves. But again, some of the films and soundtracks are totally worth finding.

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Well here’s an interesting way to up-cycle or reuse old materials, why not paint on coins? There’s a twofold action going on here, appropriation of historical figures and use of objects we may not even need anymore in a few years time. It’s a very clever but less conceptual approach to readymades, which makes it even better in my book. Get too abstract or philosophical and you’ve lost me. This is art you can exhibit in a gallery or sell as jewellery at a local market. Miniature Pop Art one can collect like baseball cards or wear around one’s neck.

The Brazilian illustrator, art director and visual artist uses the contours of the original figures to transform them into pop culture icons, a kind of update for the TV and video game generation. The personal (painting on objects we use everyday day) meets our mass produced media commodities (the new idols or gods if you will). There is also something mischievous at play here that reminds me of graffiti, that supposedly sacrilegious moment when an anonymous citizen decides to redecorate a billboard or any number of bronze deities in our parks and squares. But instead of just writing his or her name, what you get is something thought provoking or at least entertaining. More info on the project below:

talesyoulose.tumblr.com
www.zhion.com.br

Continuing on from the last post, here are some pagan costumes from rituals still practiced today across the European continent. Magnificently documented by French photographer Charles Freger for his ‘Wilder Mann’ series, it’s people dressed up as animals or monsters. The creations look like something out of a dadaist or surrealist play but actually date back to the neolithic times. These traditions mainly mark the winter solstice and the beginning of spring, stemming from a time when appeasing nature (various gods) was the difference between life and death. I’d say that in modern times its mainly a chance to get drunk and celebrate our animal half, to let our hair down for a few days or hours before going back to our respective cubicles. It’s the equivalent of New Year’s, Halloween, camping with friends or surviving a particularly wild gig.

 

Some of these costume designs are used to bestow fertility, scold naughty children, chase away evil spirits and for parades and ritual dancing. There is design which stemmed from our modern times and needs but there is a different power inherent in ancient objects, costumes and tools which have been reiterated over many centuries. Japanese design often features objects that have been modified over lengthy periods of time, always the same but always slightly different in response to the changing environment, technology, society etc. Short shelf life or built in obsolescence just doesn’t have the same emotional or intellectual pull no matter how shiny it is or how much press one gives it.

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So I tend to see these costumes as ‘Organic Design’, fulfilling real and imagined needs and having a clear message without any academic market researched psycho-analytical mumbo jumbo. Its not selling the latest trend, it operates on a whole other time scale. We are never going to know which board of ancient hipsters decided on the size of the horns, the colour of the cloth or the choreography of the dance moves and that’s OK too. It’s our instincts which keep us coming back for more.

www.charlesfreger.com

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Well this post comes out of the blue, a flash of inspiration if you will. One of my favorite hidden little bars The Coffee Pot puts on a fantastic movie night once a month, so you get to see gems such as Suspiria, Turkey Shoot, Cat In The Brain, Creepshow and The Wicker Man on a slightly larger screen. Now, for a variety of reasons, The Wicker Man is one of those films you just have to ‘experience’ in all its creepy, slightly sleazy 70’s folk pagan horror glory ha ha. There’s plenty of naked dancing, psychedelic folksy sing-a-longs and Christopher Lee in one of the leading roles. You get to see him prancing around in white makeup and a wig, a precursor to Death Metal? Really, what more do you need??

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When the locals start wearing ceremonial masks during the second half though, I was reminded of the fact that in some regions of Eastern Europe (this is as far as I know, it probably includes most of the continent)  a lot of these traditions have remained from pre-Christian times. Halloween is an offshoot of these practices, for example. Basically its the difference between worshiping god (ourselves really) and worshiping our planet (hoping our environment doesn’t kill us). A lot of the pagan costumes, masks and ‘magic’ objects were a big inspiration to modern artists in the early 20th century. They have a force you cant learn in art school, it comes from something non-intellectual and has been made and remade over many centuries. It reflects our animal self and is ever present. It exposes us to War, Sex and Death, all the things we’d like to shut off so we can safely watch it on TV. I’ll be exploring a photographer who’s been documenting European ritual costumes in the next post.

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Popular or urban culture has always had a link with folk horror and so it continues today, from Giallo/Slasher film and soundtrack revivalists such as Death Waltz Recording Company, Zombi and Umberto to the Sci-Fi/Folk Horror revival or rather re-imagining by the Ghost Box record label I’ve posted about before. Ghost Box artists such as The Focus Group and The Advisory Circle at times sound like they formed specifically to soundtrack films like The Wicker Man. Recent films The Babadook, Berberian Sound Studio, Where The Wild Things Are, The Ring and Pan’s Labyrinth all draw from our pagan myths and rituals too.

the wicker man.jpg

 

Leading on from my last post about French street artist Invader, here is a local offshoot (Adelaide, South Australia, to be precise) and he works under the name of Tyler Mario. Most of the information I could find is in the article I scanned above, because I’m old school like that ha ha. Below are some examples of pixelated versions of characters the artist likes, and now I wonder how many other people have put their own spin on this idea around the world?Photos taken during the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Mario pieces being only a small part of a whole street makeover called Little Rundle Street Project, and believe me a lot of streets in this town need more colour!

 

Taking his inspiration from 70’s and 80’s video games (his name is derived from the ‘Space Invaders’ arcade game), French artist Invader is interesting in a variety of ways, not least in the fact that he uses mosaics instead of spray paint. He has also used Star Wars characters, Pink Panther and Popeye. Like Banksy and many others, Invader protects his identity and refers to himself as an Unidentified Free Artist and has been ‘invading’ city spaces all over the world since 1998. In true video gaming style, he’s also kept score: 3280 Invaders / 65 CITIES ha ha. And speaking of identity, he’s one the artists who appears in the film ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’, itself an interesting and often funny look at celebrity and the art world.

If you’ve ever had to remove tiles you’ll know that its easier to break them than to save them as some collectors have found out with Invader’s work. One of his solutions is to offer ‘invasion kits’ for sale, so you too can build-your-own Space Invaders ha ha ha. Alternatively you could go to your local home-depot-bunnings-masters-whatever monstrosity you have in your town and purchase some construction strength glue and cheap building material and invade space with your own creation! Anyway, I like the approachable nature of this project and the fact that its industrial nature has the potential to make it almost invisible. ‘Why would you want to make it invisible?’ I hear you say and my point is that quietly altering a highly regimented and controlled environment is more important than getting arrested, banned or being famous for 15 minutes.

I don’t think I’ve written much about street art previously, but this process, along with old-school DIY book/zine/record publishing and the still largely decentralized internet, seems to be the last frontier of free expression and speech. Wanting to side step the museum and gallery system, Invader sees himself as a ‘hacker’ of public space, displaying work at street level for everyone to enjoy. Working in public spaces also rearranges a city’s architecture to an extent, at least giving it a much needed splash of colour. We already have our head and physical spaces invaded by all kinds of junk so why not Space Invaders or Shepard Fairey’s Andre The Giant?

www.space-invaders.com

Been too busy to think about posting anything so here’s a bit of a tribute to David Bowie, pretty interesting I thought. Some are funny and some are just downright scary ha ha, created by designer/illustrator Butcher Billy.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/32965789/Butcher-Billy-Changes-Bowie-Work-in-Progress-Project

 

I first encountered Benjamin’s work in some Fantagraphics article which featured the comic book ‘Terror Assaulter’. Both the title and artwork struck me as demented, funny and clever at the same time while also transporting me back to childhood with its grotesquely exaggerated characters. We’re talking He-Man and Masters of the Universe proportions here but with large dozes of sleaze and violence thrown in ha ha. On the technical side of things, some of the intense pen and ink work (particularly the shading), brings to mind Raymond Pettibon’s early work. Is it social commentary with its feet planted firmly in the neon bathed junk culture gutter? Maybe. A few review samples below may give you some idea of what you’re in for dear reader ha ha.

“… New Wave Hookers meets Death Wish III as seen through the eyes of a 14 year-old, heavy metal kid.” Dean Rispler, Drug Front Records

“All the guy characters look like action figures you would have killed to have owned when you were little, and all the girl characters/strippers look like drawings of sexy ladies you would have made to impress your friends and convince your enemies that you’re not gay.” Nick Gazin, Vice

Like a lot of artists today, Marra seems to operate in some alternate reality somewhere between the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s with political correctness removed. And for me at least, the art brings back memories of heavy metal, punk and rap posters and record covers back when it was still relatively fresh and even innocent. This has always included the no holds barred do it yourself ethic which means hard work but a large amount of creative control too. In that spirit, Marra publishes his work through his own company ‘Traditional Comics’ and it’s ‘about’ section gives you some idea of where the artist is coming from. Pretty funny stuff!

http://www.benjaminmarra.com

http://www.traditionalcomics.com

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Following on from the last post, here is a possible modern heir to the classic ‘punk’ artists of yesteryear and his name is Sam Ryser. Chances are you might be more familiar with the bands he plays in (a few have had a bit of hype!) namely Crazy Spirit, Dawn of Humans (what a great band name, take note kids ha ha) and Murderer. In true DIY fashion, he has also started a shop called Dripper World in his native Brooklyn, New York, selling T-shirts, pins, records, cassettes, jewellery, trinkets and posters. Much of the work is by Ryser and his collaborators, making it sound like a kind of post/hardcore/cyber/punk version of those local ma-and-pa stores that had all but disappeared at the turn of this century.

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I guess it’s easy to file his work under ‘punk art’ but I think that would be doing it a disservice. As much as it has its roots in late 70’s/early 80’s hand drawn, cut-up and photocopied flyers of the underground, to me it also recalls the savage, surreal and grotesque art of the early 20th century dadaists and surrealists. I’m thinking of Pushead, Gary Panter, George Grosz, Edward Gorey and Otto Dix getting together to make a demented hardcore punk flyer for a show at CBGB’s in an alternate universe. But really that’s just my first impression.

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There is a variety of techniques used too such as stamps, rubbings, relief prints, glue, small cut out prints, illustration etc but in large part there is a thread running through the work. It seems to have its own inner logic even as it jumps out at you at some weird angles, which is a good thing in my opinion. Repeated images of chains, walls, bricks, windows, fire, eyes, teeth, mutant creatures, walls and buildings are to me more symbolic of fear, paranoia, anger, control, disgust and generally a deranged view of the world than anything to do with general popular culture.

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Anyway I’d say there’s something pretty unique going on here and its worth searching out. A lot of his flyer artwork has been compiled in a zine/book called ’56 Flyers’ (covering the years 2006 to 2013), which also features work by fellow artist and band mate Eugene Terry.

dripperworld.storenvy.com

23 envelope

Well here’s a quick one, a documentary on graphic design team 23 Envelope, responsible for some of those wonderful 4AD Records covers. It’s a time capsule of one of the 80’s ‘indie’ underground’s shining lights, and I’m talking about the process not the sound. It’s a world where art rules over commerce and encompasses production, graphic design, packaging, photography, video, literature and the music of groups such as the Pixies, Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins. I’ve always loved a unique or interesting doco and this one is no different. It’s amazing to see the massive amount of video material people keep rescuing from old VHS tapes because not everything makes it onto DVD for various reasons. I’ve already posted about this subject matter so I’ll keep it brief:

4AD Record Cover Design: Vaughan Oliver

Here’s a link to the feature length youtube video:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=chmn0hjXSzw

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