Ode to Necrophilia

Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962

The startlingly titled and utterly bizarre photo-series Ode to Necrophilia by Hungarian-Mexican photographer Kati Horna, featuring as a model the brilliant Leonora Carrington, was published in the short lived but innovative Mexican avant-garde magazine S.NOB in 1962.

Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Hungary in 1912, Horna lived in Berlin and Paris before moving to Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War where she was empoyed as the official photographer for the CNT-FAI. Her groundbreaking war photographs that intimately portrayed the effects of the conflict on the civilian population was frequently featured in Spanish Anarchist journals Umbral and Tierra y Libertad as well as internationally. In 1939 she fled with her husband the Spanish anarchist José Horna, first to Paris then to Mexico. Mexico was the first choice for a number of left-leaning artists and intellectuals escaping Europe’s nightmare slide into fascism. It was here that she met Remedios Varo, the wealthy art patron Edward James, Benjamin Peret and later Leonora Carrington.

S.NOB was founded by literacy radicals  Salvador Elizondo and Juan Garçia Ponce and featured works by the Mexican avant-garde and European emigres with Edward James helping with funding to ensure artistic freedom. It ran for seven issues in 1962.

Below is a selection of images from the series. A quick note regarding the umbrella, which would appear to refer not only to Lautreamont’s famous dictum in Les Chants De Maldoror, ‘As beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table’, but also to one of her many outstanding photographs of the Spanish Civil War, Rally at Via Durutti, which I have also included.

Rally at Via Durutti-Kati Horna 1937
Rally at Via Durutti-Kati Horna 1937
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962

 

 

 

 

Bodyscapes

Karel Teige-Eve 1947
Karel Teige-Eve 1947

A leading theoretician and proponent of the Czech avant-garde during the very active decades of the 1920’s and 30’s, Karel Teige was involved in Devětsil and was a co-founder of the Czech Surrealist Group along with ToyenJindřich Štyrský and Vítězslav Nezval.

Teige created over 300 collages in private during the last two decades of his life, frequently featuring elements of a female figure forming part of the landscape. Subject to a brutal smear campaign and constant vilification, Teige was hounded to an early death by the Stalinist controlled government in 1951. Even this didn’t satisfy the authorities who ransacked his house, destroyed suspect unpublished writings and continued to  suppress his published writings for decades to come. These factors probably contributed to the suicides of both his wife and mistress shortly afterwards.

The collages only came to light after samizdat surrealist publications ended up in Germany during the 1960’s.

SinisterShoreSide

Kurt Seligmann

At the school where I did anything but study
They tried to beat out the boldness
Only to encourage my wild and wicked side,
So they changed tack and instead talked and talked
Attempted to bore me from being bad
But it was of no use, they couldn’t avail
Because I was born sinister, one of the devil’s own;
My sympathy is always for the rogues and rebels,
The wanton and the wayward, waifs and strays,
Those sweet tarts with sickly gold hearts.
Even then my intentions were never honourable
But always and forever criminal, amen.

Let me take you down the left hand path,
Come on angel and crash with me
On the west side with its sinister streets,
Lift up your skirt and part those legs
Let’s ride through the rippling night
I will take you up to where I’m at,
Before showing you what’s down below,
Under the hill and beneath the deep blue.
Then solve et coagula, our reflections
Will refract in an avant garde rehearsal
Then splinter before a final re-con
Figuration on the distant sinister shore.

Fountain

Fountain-Marcel Duchamp 1917
Fountain-Marcel Duchamp-Photograph by Alfred Stieglitz 1917

With Dada it is hard to know where the humour ends and the mystification begins. This is certainly the case with one of its most notorious succès de scandale, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain from 1917.

Fountain is a ready-made sculpture, a porcelain urinal signed by R.Mutt. It was submitted to the Society of Independent Artists for exhibition  at the inaugural show in The Grand Central Palace, New York. The committee, of whom Duchamp was a member, decided to ‘suppress’ Fountain by hiding it behind a partition, as the rules of the society meant that any artwork presented by a fee-paying artist had to be accepted. After the show Duchamp retrieved Fountain from its hiding place, got Alfred Stieglitz of the 291 gallery to photograph the sculpture, which was then published with accompanying essays in The Blind Man magazine. Shortly after the original Fountain was lost (probably thrown out into the garbage, a fate of a many a ready-made as the peripatetic Duchamp liked to travel light), though in the 1950’s and 1960’s Duchamp made a number of reproductions that can be seen in museums across the world.

Part of the text in The Blind Man in defense of Fountain would arguably have a greater impact on Modernist and Post-Modernist aesthetic theory than the actual work.

Whether Mr Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object.

After half of century of Conceptual Art we are wearily familiar with this view and lose sight of how genuinely revolutionary such a concept would have been in 1917. It also shows how little art and aesthetics have progressed since the high water marks of Modernism. I have never really been sure if Duchamp’s assault on art and taste was anything more than an elaborate piss-take, but by God nobody, not even Warhol, has ever done it better.

Lunar Baedeker

Richard Oelze
Richard Oelze

The poet, trail-blazing feminist and legendary gadfly of the avant-garde, Mina Loy, first collection of poetry was published in 1923 as Lunar Baedecker: the very title, a reference to the immensely popular Baedeker travel guides, was misspelled. Although admired by T.S Eliot, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein,  among others, Loy disappeared somewhat from view until being posthumously resurrected in the 1990’s as a unjustly neglected pioneer of both Modernism and Feminism, when a number of critical editions and previously unpublished works, including her novel Insel, detailing her relationship with the Surrealist Richard Oelze, saw the light of day.

Below is the title poem of the collection (spelled correctly), which employs a jewelled, archaic and Symbolist vocabulary to successfully skewer the sterile affectations of the aesthetes and dandies of the art and literary worlds that she knew so well.

Lunar Baedeker

A silver Lucifer
serves
cocaine in cornucopia

To some somnambulists
of adolescent thighs
draped
in satirical draperies

Peris in livery
prepare
Lethe
for posthumous parvenues

Delirious Avenues
lit
with the chandelier souls
of infusoria
from Pharoah’s tombstones

lead
to mercurial doomsdays
Odious oasis
in furrowed phosphorous—

the eye-white sky-light
white-light district
of lunar lusts

—Stellectric signs
“Wing shows on Starway”
“Zodiac carrousel”

Cyclones
of ecstatic dust
and ashes whirl
crusaders
from hallucinatory citadels
of shattered glass
into evacuate craters

A flock of dreams
browse on Necropolis

From the shores
of oval oceans
in the oxidized Orient

Onyx-eyed Odalisques
and ornithologists
observe
the flight
of Eros obsolete

And “Immortality”
mildews…
in the museums of the moon

“Nocturnal cyclops”
“Crystal concubine”
——-
Pocked with personification
the fossil virgin of the skies
waxes and wanes—-

Mina Loy 1923