Alienists

Blue Birds in the Tree-Scottie Wilson ca 1960

Sometimes I am overcome with the suspicion
That I am a stranger on this earth
Descended from a peripheral order of beings
An alien on this planet come from a distant star,
Faraway galaxy, parallax dimension
Some shape of a castaway, convict or changeling
Perhaps just a forgetful idler who slept passed their stop
And shuffled off at the end of the line

But the trick is to be at ease

Of course I have on occasion demanded to see the manager
But that was met with shrugs and sighs conveying
Studied confusion, blank indifference or downright hostility
Nobody seemed to know anything and cared even less
Initially I thought well what is the point of them?
But maybe they were feigning ignorance
Covering their tracks, keeping secrets, hiding truths
About myself however banal they turned out to be

Surely you realise that this is not the way to go about things
I think we may have a situation
You are clearly not at ease with yourself and your surroundings

Surrounded by screens bombarded by images and text
Deluged with data indices statistics and factoids
Which I passively absorbed hoping to later sift and sort
Through the theories ideologies conspiracies and revelations
Perhaps somewhere in this sewer of misinformation
I can decipher a message from a distant dimension
A faraway star, a parallex galaxy my lost
Home that I fell from those forgotten aeons ago

You know we have ways of making you feel at ease
And you have, despite our repeated warnings
Persisted in persisting
You leave us no choice so…
You are at ease
You are at ease in yourself and your surroundings
You are at ease
You are at ease in yourself
You are at ease in your surroundings
You are at ease
You are at ease in yourself and your surroundings
You are at ease in yourself
You will be what we want you to be
Feel what we want you to feel
Say what we want you to say
Think what we want you to think
Be what we want you to be

You are now at ease in yourself and your surroundings


As long as I do not remember certain moments
Incidences or sensations that elicit strong reactions
Then I will be alright, I will be at ease with myself
I doubt it ever happened that I shot my cuffs,
Lifted my finger signaling for you to come over,
Bend over my knee and lift up your skirt
That only happened in my non-existent home
Vanished star, imploded galaxy, voided dimension

They have promised me that when I feel completely
At ease in myself and my surroundings
That I will be granted a vision of the birds of paradise
Descending down from the vast unreachable heavens
Onto these somnolent suburban streets and gardens
Setting hearts and minds ablaze with motion and colour
To carry us away toward a richer more vibrant realm
A distant galaxy, faraway dimension, parallax star.

Stardusted

Ellen Rogers
Ellen Rogers

I’m sure that there’ll come a time
When I’ll forget exactly…
…Who I’m supposed to be.

You see it’s a matter of quantity,
(Quality no longer enters into it)
All manner of obscure equations,
Metrics of analyzing othering,
With its multiplication of voices
And sub-division of selves;
While the host of personalities
Residing parasitically within
The remote fortress of my mind
Stake their claim,
Plant the flag.
For all the world
And its interlopers to see ;
Then identity will be little more
Than a possession
By outside forces unknown,
Be they alien, spectral or angelic:
But by then I will be passed caring,
For my empty hallucinating eyes
Will focus on the apparition
Hidden behind the revelation
Of the rent and torn veils:
Our glistening bodies glamorous,
All shimmering and stardusted.

Acid Cats

Louis-Wain-Cat Design
Louis Wain-Cat Design

Although Louis Wain’s psychedelic and abstract cat designs that he created during the last fifteen years of his life, while confined in a  psychiatric institution, show many of the hallmarks that characterise Art Brut, namely elaborate detailing, obsessive symmetry and the horror vacui (fear of empty space); he was formally trained and was for a number of years one of the foremost commercial artists of Edwardian England, illustrating over a hundred books and releasing a highly successful annual of cats for over a decade.

Cats were Wain’s main subject throughout his career, from the naturalistic early studies through the large-eyed anthropomorphic cats strolling around on two legs playing golf and smoking cigars at the height of his success, to the brilliant ceramic Futurist cats before the final period of hallucinated decorative splendour.

The affectation and centrality that cats held for Wain was born out of a personal tragedy. At 23 the young artist had married his sister’s governess, Emily Richardson, who was ten years older, which was the cause of considerable scandal at the time. Shortly into their marriage Emily began to suffer from breast cancer; during her illness her main source of solace and comfort came from Peter, a stray black and white cat they had rescued on a rainy night. At Emily’s urging Louis began sketching Peter, drawings that were soon published and made Wain an very much in-demand illustrator, an event Emily unfortunately didn’t live to see.

Although Louis Wain’s work was hugely popular he lacked financial acumen so when he was initially institutionalised in 1924 it was in the pauper’s ward of Springfield Mental Hospital in Tooting, South London. When it was discovered that one of England’s most beloved illustrators was languishing there, a widely publicised appeal was launched and supported by such figures as the writer H.G Wells and the Prime Minister, and he was transferred to Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark, London and eventually to the relatively pleasant Napsbury Hospital in Hertfordshire, which had a large garden and a colony of cats.

The actual nature of Wain’s mental illness is the matter of debate, it has been suggested either adult-onset schizophrenia or Asperger’s Syndrome. His work was presented in supposedly chronological order by the psychiatrist Walter Maclay as an example of the creative deterioration of schizophrenics; a specious narrative that needless to say I totally disagree with. The abstractions represent a different, experimental aspect of Wain’s cat oeuvre, not a decline.

Below are examples of Wain’s cat drawings from throughout his career, with greater emphasis on the acid cats of the later period.

Climax

Climax-Gaspar Noé 2018
Climax-Gaspar Noé 2018

Regular readers may have noticed that I tend to be somewhat fixated on the art, literature and film of the past, rarely does anything post-1980 featured on these pages, and certainly not movies that I haven’t even seen yet. However, as the premise of Gaspar Noé‘s new movie, Climax, which recently premiered in Cannes, actually made me pause during my favourite early afternoon breakfast of Black Forest Gateau and original Irn-Bru, I decided to make an exception this one time.

Billed as a dance-horror movie (who knew there was such a thing?), Climax, which is apparently based on true events, tells the story of a young street dance troupe’s descent into collective madness after drinking the LSD-laced Sangria during the final rehearsal party, all filmed in Noé’s seizure inducing visual style and with his trademark horror-porno aesthetic. Described as The Red Shoes on literal acid, Step Up meets Salo and a Satanic DJ set, any minuscule reservations I had about leaving Chateau Du Cake to see this in the movie theatres when released are dispelled by the trailer, featured below.

 

 

The Interview

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Anna felt nervous about today. She was determined to make a good impression. O.K it was only a P.A’s position but the pay was excellent and it would take away some of the pressure. Without the constant worry about money she could concentrate on her real calling. True to recent form however, things had gone wrong from the moment she woke late after being up most of night rehearsing the upcoming interview. Filled with heavy dread she rushed around cramped studio trying to make up for time lost, but of course wasted hours could never be got back and her frantic efforts threw her into more of a panic. Indeed things went from bad to worse as she bolted towards the front door, taking final swig of coffee to keep her focused and it spilt over best suit she’d picked up from dry cleaners only yesterday, at considerable expense given finances at present time. She had nothing else suitable to wear, the only thing remotely business-like was a white cotton suit set, jacket and blouse, but it was the nearly the end of November. There was nothing for it now apart from making do. She searched around for an umbrella before remembering that she’d left it in a taxi a couple of nights ago, but at least she had a raincoat, thank God for small blessings. Outside it wasn’t just raining, no this was different, a new angle on the ever present rain, every drop left a yellow smear on her white clothes. This must have been the dirty rain she’d vaguely heard them forecasting on the news. Something about sand from the Sahara being absorbed by storm clouds, pushed across the Atlantic by an ominous low front before letting loose over London. Or something like that she wasn’t really sure because she hadn’t really listened but whatever else it was, it was nasty. There were no taxis anywhere to be had, she waited and waited, soon saturated to the skin. Being an attractive girl she usually had no problem flagging down a cab but today every taxi was filled with their shadows and ghosts being carried forward to their nebulous destinations, so when a bus came she hopped on even though she never caught buses.

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