Radiohead Ballets: Watch Ballets Choreographed Creatively to the Music of Radiohead

Since Radiohead’s last release, A Moon-Shaped Pool, mem­bers of the band have been absorbed in oth­er projects. They’ve turned their band’s web­site into an archive for their discog­ra­phy and a library for rar­i­ties and ephemera — send­ing not-so-sub­tle sig­nals their time togeth­er has reached a nat­ur­al end, even if drum­mer Phil Sel­way said in 2020 “there are always con­ver­sa­tions going on…. We’ll see. We’re talk­ing.”

Two of the band’s most promi­nent mem­bers, gui­tarist Jon­ny Green­wood and front­man Thom Yorke, devot­ed their tal­ents to film scores, a medi­um Green­wood has explored for many years: in the the­atri­cal vio­lence of There Will Be Blood, for exam­ple, the hor­rif­ic after­math of We Need to Talk about Kevin, and the almost bal­let­ic blood­i­ness of You Were Nev­er Here. Yorke, mean­while, scored Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s Sus­piria, a film in which bal­let dancers’ bod­ies are bro­ken and blood­ied by black mag­ic.

Green­wood, Yorke and com­pa­ny excel at con­jur­ing atmos­pheres of dread, despair, and dis­ori­en­ta­tion, traits that suit them well for art­house film. They might not have seemed a nat­ur­al fit, how­ev­er, for bal­let. And yet, Jason Kot­tke reports, the two are “togeth­er at last” — or at least as of 2016, when chore­o­g­ra­ph­er Robert Bon­dara toured Take Me With You, a piece scored to sev­er­al Radio­head songs, includ­ing In Rain­bows’ “Reck­on­er,” which you can see inter­pret­ed above by two dancers from the Pol­ish Nation­al Bal­let.

The per­for­mance is an ath­let­ic response to a kinet­ic track, in chore­og­ra­phy not unlike pairs fig­ure skat­ing at times. It is not, how­ev­er, the first time the band has inspired a bal­let. In 2005, Roman­ian dancer and chore­o­g­ra­ph­er Edward Clug cre­at­ed a mod­ern inter­pre­ta­tion of Shake­speare set to songs from OK Com­put­er and Kid A. Radio and Juli­et debuted in Slove­nia, toured the world, cel­e­brat­ed its hun­dredth per­for­mance in 2012, and was sched­uled to open in Moscow in 2020.

Clug drew on a pri­or con­nec­tion: OK Com­put­er’s “Exit Music (For a Film)” was writ­ten for, but not used in, the 1996 Baz Luhrmann film adap­ta­tion of Shakespeare’s play. After Radio and Juli­et, Clug once again drew inspi­ra­tion from his favorite band (“They are the sound­track to my oth­er side; lis­ten­ing to them feels like I’m find­ing a self that I haven’t met yet.”) Clug’s piece “Proof” (pre­view above), set to “Fer­al” from The King of Limbsdebuted in 2017, his first for the Ned­er­lands Dans The­ater. If we are to have no more Radio­head, here’s hop­ing at least we’ll see more Radio­head bal­lets.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:  

Intro­duc­ing The Radio­head Pub­lic Library: Radio­head Makes Their Full Cat­a­logue Avail­able via a Free Online Web Site

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Per­forms Songs from His New Sound­track for the Hor­ror Film, Sus­piria

Clas­sic Radio­head Songs Re-Imag­ined as a Sci-Fi Book, Pulp Fic­tion Mag­a­zine & Oth­er Nos­tal­gic Arti­facts

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Watch The True History Of The Traveling Wilburys, a Free Film Documenting the Making of the 1980s Super Group

“It real­ly had very lit­tle to do with com­bin­ing a bunch of famous peo­ple,” says Tom Pet­ty about the Trav­el­ing Wilburys. “It was a bunch of friends that just hap­pened to be real­ly good at mak­ing music.”

One of the most mod­est super­groups of the 20th cen­tu­ry, one that fate and chance threw togeth­er for a very brief peri­od, the Trav­el­ing Wilburys made music that sits out­side the usu­al his­to­ries of 1980s music, fea­tur­ing five men in dif­fer­ent states of their careers. Tom Pet­ty was about to have a come­back, George Har­ri­son had just had one, Jeff Lynne was no longer hav­ing chart hits as ELO, but he was shap­ing the sound of the late 1980s as a pro­duc­er, Roy Orbi­son was *about* to have a posthu­mous come­back, and Bob Dylan was…doing what­ev­er Dylan does—every album he put out in the ‘80s had an equal num­ber of detrac­tors and come­back claimants. Put it this way: the Trav­el­ing Wilburys didn’t feel like a nos­tal­gia act, and nei­ther did it feel like a mar­ket­ing idea. It was actu­al­ly light­ning in a bot­tle.

“It was George’s band,” Lynne says in the above mini doc­u­men­tary, but it wasn’t real­ly formed as one. It just sort of *evolved*.

As he explains ear­ly in the doc, Har­ri­son was hav­ing din­ner with Roy Orbi­son and Jeff Lynne and invit­ed them along to a stu­dio in Los Ange­les the next day. He had the han­ker­ing to make a tune, and they wound up using Bob Dylan’s home studio—the nor­mal­ly reclu­sive Dylan actu­al­ly picked up the phone on the first ring and gave the okay. And Harrison’s gui­tar was over at Tom Petty’s house, so he came along as well. The song they record­ed that day was “Han­dle with Care,” which fell togeth­er like mag­ic. (Dylan pro­vid­ed the title after look­ing over at a card­board box).

Har­ri­son sat on the song for a while, hav­ing no idea what to do with it. The only thing he could do, was to record nine more songs and call it an album. Which, once they had found time in everybody’s sched­ule, they did. The songs were record­ed at the home stu­dio of Dave Stew­art (of the Eury­th­mics) and final­ized back in Lon­don with Har­ri­son and Lynne. The group gave them­selves the assign­ment of one song writ­ten and record­ed per day. That the record isn’t a mish-mash of jam­ming, left­over ideas, and cov­ers, and instead has a legit­i­mate amount of clas­sic sin­gles and career-high­light moments is a tes­ta­ment to the friend­ship between the five (and drum­mer Jim Kelt­ner, who knew them all).

Friends indeed, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t also big fans of each oth­er. What’s cool to watch in the doc is how in awe they all seem: George is amazed by Bob’s cryp­tic scrawled lyrics and his abil­i­ty to nail a song on essen­tial­ly the first take. Tom Pet­ty is in awe of George’s demo­c­ra­t­ic ways with choos­ing who gets to sing one of the songs, regard­less of who wrote it—really, how do you fol­low Roy Orbison’s ver­sion of a song? But Tom Pet­ty still had a go.

The album main­tains that friend­ly vibe in the record­ing: micro­phones were mobile to catch music wher­ev­er it hap­pened. Jim Kelt­ner played rhythm on the inside of the kitchen’s refrig­er­a­tor. Songs were writ­ten in the kitchen. And after the work was done, the music would con­tin­ue. “A lot of ukule­les till dawn,” says Har­ri­son.

Roy Orbi­son only made it into the first music video off of the album, “Han­dle With Care.” He passed away just after the album went plat­inum in 1988, and appears as an emp­ty rock­ing chair on the next video, “The End of the Line.”

The four remain­ing Wilburys would reunite for one more album (jok­ing­ly titled Vol­ume 3 by prankster Har­ri­son), but the first album still sounds time­less, five friends just hav­ing a good time togeth­er.

The True His­to­ry Of The Trav­el­ing Wilburys will be added to our col­lec­tion of Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

George Har­ri­son Wrote His Last Let­ter to Austin Pow­ers Cre­ator Mike Myers, Ask­ing for a Mini Me Doll (2001)

Sad 7‑Foot Tall Clown Sings “Pin­ball Wiz­ard” in the Style of John­ny Cash, and Oth­er Hits by Roy Orbi­son, Cheap Trick & More

The Sto­ry of WHER, America’s Pio­neer­ing, First All-Woman Radio Sta­tion (1955)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

Download 280 Pictographs That Put Japanese Culture Into a New Visual Language: They’re Free for the Public to Use

“One of the biggest con­sid­er­a­tions when trav­el­ing to Japan is its inscrutable lan­guage,” writes Design­boom’s Juliana Neira. But then, one might also con­sid­er mak­ing that lan­guage more scrutable — and mak­ing one’s expe­ri­ence in Japan much rich­er — by learn­ing some of it. Kan­ji, the Chi­nese char­ac­ters used in the writ­ten Japan­ese lan­guage, may at first look like small, often bewil­der­ing­ly com­plex pic­tures, and many assume they visu­al­ly evoke the mean­ings they express. In fact, to use the lin­guis­tic terms, they’re not pic­tograms, rep­re­sen­ta­tions of thoughts or ideas, but logograms, rep­re­sen­ta­tions of words or parts of words.

Resem­ble minia­ture works of art though they often do, kan­ji aren’t entire­ly unsys­tem­at­ic. This helps begin­ning learn­ers get a han­dle on the first and most essen­tial char­ac­ters of the thou­sands they’ll even­tu­al­ly need to know.

So does the fact that some of them, in ori­gin, real­ly are pic­to­graph­ic — that is, they look like the mean­ing of the word they rep­re­sent — or at least pic­to­graph­ic enough to make them teach­able through images. The Japan­ese word for “moun­tain,” to cite an ele­men­tary exam­ple, is 山; “riv­er” is 川; “tree” is 木. Alas, most of us who enjoy the 山, 川, and 木 of Japan — to say noth­ing of the 書店 and 喫茶店 in its cities — haven’t been able to vis­it them at all in this past pan­dem­ic year.

“After expe­ri­enc­ing years of tourism growth, tourists to Japan are down over 95% due to the pan­dem­ic,” writes Spoon & Tam­ago’s John­ny Wald­man. “Graph­ic design­er Kenya Hara and his firm Nip­pon Design Cen­ter have self-ini­ti­at­ed a project to release over 250 pic­tograms — free for any­one to use — in sup­port of tourism in Japan from a visu­al design per­spec­tive.” Col­lec­tive­ly ban­nered the Expe­ri­ence Japan Pic­tograms, these clear and evoca­tive icons rep­re­sent a wide range of the places and activ­i­ties one can enjoy in the Land of the Ris­ing Sun: ski­ing and surf­ing, cal­lig­ra­phy and open-air hot-spring bathing, Gin­za and Asakusa, Toky­o’s Skytree and Osaka’s Tsūtenkaku Tow­er.

The Expe­ri­ence Japan Pic­tograms hard­ly fail to include the glo­ries of Japan­ese cui­sine — sushi, tem­pu­ra, soba, and even the Japan­i­fied han­bāgā — which piques so many for­eign­ers’ inter­est in Japan to begin with. Click on any of them and you’ll see a brief cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal expla­na­tion of the item, activ­i­ty, place, or con­cept in ques­tion, along with the rel­e­vant Japan­ese term (in kan­ji where applic­a­ble) and its pro­nun­ci­a­tion. You can also down­load them in the col­or scheme of your choice and use them for any pur­pos­es you like, includ­ing com­mer­cial ones. The more wide­ly adopt­ed they are, the more con­ve­nient Japan­ese tourism will become for those who don’t read Japan­ese. Those who do can hard­ly deny the plea­sure of hav­ing anoth­er Japan­ese lan­guage to learn — and a tru­ly pic­to­graph­ic one at that.

via Spoon & Tam­a­go

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Learn Japan­ese Free

Vin­tage 1930s Japan­ese Posters Artis­ti­cal­ly Mar­ket the Won­ders of Trav­el

Dis­cov­er Iso­type, the 1920s Attempt to Cre­ate a Uni­ver­sal Lan­guage with Styl­ish Icons & Graph­ic Design

The Hobo Code: An Intro­duc­tion to the Hiero­glyph­ic Lan­guage of Ear­ly 1900s Train-Hop­pers

Google Makes Avail­able 750 Icons for Design­ers & Devel­op­ers: All Open Source 

Braille Neue: A New Ver­sion of Braille That Can Be Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly Read by the Sight­ed and the Blind

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Flim: a New AI-Powered Movie-Screenshot Search Engine

There was a time when cinephile short­hand con­sist­ed most­ly of quo­ta­tions from movies — from movies’ dia­logue, to be pre­cise. The dis­tinc­tion mat­ters these days, now that the inter­net has enabled us to com­mu­ni­cate just as eas­i­ly with visu­al quo­ta­tions as ver­bal ones. While some of us go the extra mile by man­u­al­ly comb­ing through our film col­lec­tions and tak­ing the screen­shots that best reflect our per­son­al sen­ti­ments, most of us have long relied on the results, how­ev­er approx­i­mate, served up by search engines like Google Images.

Now a promis­ing new solu­tion has emerged, called Flim (not to be con­fused with “film”). Described on its about page as “a con­stant­ly evolv­ing data­base of HD screen­shots,” with a claim of 50,000 pro­vid­ed dai­ly, Flim uses arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence to per­form col­or analy­sis and detect “objects, clothes, char­ac­ters, etc.”

This means that when you enter terms like “tree,” “gui­tar,” “tuxe­do,” or “piz­za,” you get a selec­tion of images includ­ing trees, gui­tars, tuxe­dos, and piz­zas, all tak­en straight from a range of motion pic­tures wide enough to include The Night­mare Before Christ­mas and An Amer­i­can Were­wolf in Lon­donEasy Rid­er and Wayne’s World 2, Mélo and Wed­ding Crash­ers.

Arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence has come a long way in recent years, espe­cial­ly in its capac­i­ty to rec­og­nize the con­tent of images. The one dri­ving Flim does seem to have com­mit­ted the occa­sion­al amus­ing mis­file, but it’s still ear­ly days. And though cinephiles will be quick to notice the omis­sions in its data­base, they’ll find a great deal of visu­al mate­r­i­al from the work of their favorite auteurs: more than 100 screen­shots from that of David Lynch, more than 300 from that of Éric Rohmer, more than a thou­sand from that of Stan­ley Kubrick, and near­ly 1,500 from that of Alfred Hitch­cock.

“I would love for the screen­shot detail pages to include time­codes,” sug­gests Jason Kot­tke. It would make this an amaz­ing tool for cre­at­ing super­cuts, film analy­sis videos, and oth­er sorts of media. Imag­ine how much eas­i­er Chris­t­ian Marclay’s job would have been with ‘clock’ and ‘watch’ search­es on Flim.” Cer­tain­ly I could have used it while mak­ing my own video essay on Los Ange­les’ Bonaven­ture Hotel, a notable film-shoot loca­tion over the past few decades — though as yet the Bonaven­ture’s name returns no results, nor do the names of any oth­er real-world build­ings that come to mind.

Still, if Flim expands apace, it will become a valu­able resource for cinephiles and non-cinephiles alike, as well as film­mak­ers them­selves: No Film School’s Jason Heller­man describes it as a poten­tial­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ary aid for the assem­bly of “mood boards” and “look­books,” indus­try-stan­dard ele­ments of pitch pre­sen­ta­tions for “music videos, fea­tures, and com­mer­cials.” As with any new­ly devel­oped tool of this kind, though, the most inter­est­ing uses will sure­ly be the least obvi­ous ones. In time, Flim could even prove to be a trust­ed source of read­ing rec­om­men­da­tions.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Makes 1,178 Images Free to Down­load from My Neigh­bor Totoro, Spir­it­ed Away & Oth­er Beloved Ani­mat­ed Films

The 100 Most Mem­o­rable Shots in Cin­e­ma Over the Past 100 Years

Down­load 6600 Free Films from The Prelinger Archives and Use Them How­ev­er You Like

Down­load for Free 2.6 Mil­lion Images from Books Pub­lished Over Last 500 Years on Flickr

25 Mil­lion Images From 14 Art Insti­tu­tions to Be Dig­i­tized & Put Online In One Huge Schol­ar­ly Archive

Cre­ative Com­mons Offi­cial­ly Launch­es a Search Engine That Index­es 300+ Mil­lion Pub­lic Domain Images

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Journey’s Road Crew Performs a Pretty Flawless Version of “Separate Ways”

You nev­er know what the YouTube rec­om­men­da­tion algo­rithm will serve up next. Above, we have Jour­ney’s road crew per­form­ing “Sep­a­rate Ways” as part of a con­cert sound­check. And it turns out the crew has some real chops. At least accord­ing to the YouTube com­ments, the crew/band fea­tures Scott Apple­ton on gui­tar. (In recent years, he has served as the gui­tar tech for Rush’s Alex Life­son.) And on drums, we seem­ing­ly have Jim Han­d­ley, a Nashville-based drum­mer who per­forms in the Jour­ney trib­ute band, Res­ur­rec­tion. The actu­al per­for­mance starts around the 30 sec­ond mark. Enjoy.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Quar­an­tined Fam­i­ly Re-Cre­ates Journey’s “Sep­a­rate Ways” Video Shot-by-Shot

Watch Prince Play Jazz Piano & Coach His Band Through George Gershwin’s “Sum­mer­time” in a Can­did, Behind-the-Scenes Moment (1990)

Mer­ry Clay­ton Tells the Sto­ry of Her Amaz­ing Back­ing Vocal on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shel­ter”

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René Magritte’s Early Art Deco Posters (1924–1927)

The Bel­gian painter René Magritte cre­at­ed some of the most enig­mat­ic and icon­ic works in Sur­re­al­ist art. But before he moved to Paris in 1927 and began forg­ing rela­tion­ships with André Bre­ton and the Sur­re­al­ists, Magritte strug­gled in Brus­sels as a free­lance com­mer­cial artist, cre­at­ing adver­tise­ments in the Art Deco style.

In 1924 Magritte began design­ing posters and adver­tise­ments for the cou­turi­er Hon­orine “Norine” Deschri­jver and her hus­band Paul-Gus­tave Van Hecke, own­ers of the Bel­gian fash­ion com­pa­ny Norine. Van Hecke also owned art gal­leries, and was an ear­ly cham­pi­on of sur­re­al­ism. Van Hecke would even­tu­al­ly pay Magritte a stipend in exchange for the right to mar­ket his sur­re­al­ist works. In the 1924 adver­tis­ing poster above, Magritte por­trays a woman in high heels pre­tend­ing to be Lord Lis­ter, the gen­tle­man thief from Ger­man pulp fic­tion, wear­ing “an after­noon coat cre­at­ed by Norine.”

Magritte designed some 40 sheet music cov­ers, most of them in the Art Deco style, accord­ing to Hrag Var­tan­ian at Hyper­al­ler­gic. The one above, “Arli­ta,” is from about 1925. The French and Dutch sub­ti­tles read “The Song of Light.”

The har­le­quin-themed image above is anoth­er adver­tise­ment for Norine, cir­ca 1925. Magritte paint­ed it in water­col­or and gouache. The pen­ciled inscrip­tion at the bot­tom reads “une robe du soir par Norine” — “an evening gown by Norine.”

In 1926 Magritte was com­mis­sioned to cre­ate the poster above for the pop­u­lar singer Marie-Louise Van Eme­len, bet­ter known as Primevère. For more of Magrit­te’s Art Deco sheet music cov­ers, vis­it Hyper­al­ler­gic.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2013.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dozens of M.C. Esch­er Prints Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online by the Boston Pub­lic Library

Philoso­pher Por­traits: Famous Philoso­phers Paint­ed in the Style of Influ­en­tial Artists

The Art of William Faulkn­er: Draw­ings from 1916–1925

Bauhaus, Mod­ernism & Oth­er Design Move­ments Explained by New Ani­mat­ed Video Series

RIP Radical Poet and Revolutionary Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919–2021)

“Democ­ra­cy is not a spec­ta­tor sport,” Lawrence Fer­linghet­ti pro­claimed on the wall of his City Lights book­store, a San Fran­cis­co fix­ture since the poet, activist, and pub­lish­er found­ed the land­mark with Peter D. Mar­tin in 1953. Fer­linghet­ti, who died on Mon­day at age 101, was him­self a fix­ture, a ven­er­at­ed stew­ard of the coun­ter­cul­ture. (See him read “Last Prayer,” above, in a clip from The Last Waltz). On his 100th birth­day–on which the city insti­tut­ed an annu­al “Lawrence Fer­linghet­ti Day”–Chloe Velt­man inter­viewed him, describ­ing the poet as “frail and near­ly blind… but his mind is still on fire.” It was the same mind that start­ed a pub­lish­ing house in the 50s with the intent to stir an “inter­na­tion­al dis­si­dent fer­ment.”

Fer­linghet­ti and Mar­tin start­ed their book­store with a mis­sion: “to break lit­er­a­ture out of its stuffy, aca­d­e­m­ic cage,” Velt­man writes, out of “its self-cen­tered focus on what he calls ‘the me me me,’ and make it acces­si­ble to all.” City Lights was the first all-paper­back book­store, opened at a time, he says, when “paper­backs weren’t con­sid­ered real books.”

For Fer­linghet­ti, lit­er­a­ture and democ­ra­cy were not sep­a­rate pur­suits. The idea was rad­i­cal, and so were his patrons. “A book­store is a nat­ur­al place for poets to hang out,” Fer­linghet­ti told NPR’s Tom Vitale, “and they start­ed show­ing up there”–“They” being East Coast Beats like Gins­berg, Ker­ouac, and the great, unsung Bob Kauf­man.

Like a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia Shake­speare and Com­pa­ny, Ferlinghetti’s City Lights became the phys­i­cal embod­i­ment of a lit­er­ary move­ment, espe­cial­ly after the infa­mous pub­li­ca­tion of Allen Ginsburg’s Howl and Oth­er Poems, for which Fer­linghet­ti stood tri­al for obscen­i­ty, an event that “pro­pelled the Beat gen­er­a­tion into the inter­na­tion­al spot­light,” writes Evan Karp. “For the first and–arguably–only time, lit­er­a­ture became a pop­u­lar move­ment in the U.S.” Young peo­ple around the coun­try real­ized that poet­ry was rel­e­vant to their pol­i­tics (and lives), and vice ver­sa.

Fer­linghet­ti pub­lished his own first book of poet­ry, Pic­tures of the Gone World, in the same year he pub­lished Ginsberg’s, but he has not received his crit­i­cal due along­side the oth­er Beats, despite the fact that his sec­ond book, 1958’s A Coney Island of the Mind, “sold more than 1 mil­lion copies over the year, rank­ing per­haps sec­ond to Howl as the most pop­u­lar book of mod­ern Amer­i­can poet­ry,” Fred Kaplan notes at Slate. (See him read the book’s first poem, “In Goya’s Great­est Scenes We Seem to See…,” from his City Lights office, above.)

Fer­linghet­ti him­self nev­er want­ed to be iden­ti­fied with the move­ment. In a 2013 doc­u­men­tary, he emphat­i­cal­ly says, “don’t call me a Beat. I was nev­er a Beat poet.” He described his poet­ry as an “insur­gent art”:

If you would be a poet, cre­ate works capa­ble of answer­ing the chal­lenge of

apoc­a­lyp­tic times, even if this mean­ing sounds apoc­a­lyp­tic.

You are Whit­man, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emi­ly Dick­in­son and Edna St. Vin­cent Mil­lay, you are Neru­da and Mayakovsky and Pasoli­ni, you are an Amer­i­can or a non-Amer­i­can, you can con­quer the con­querors with words.…

His pur­pose, he writes, was to pierce a cul­ture he calls “a free­way fifty lanes wide / a con­crete con­ti­nent / spaced with bland bill­boards / illus­trat­ing imbe­cile illu­sions of hap­pi­ness.” From his Navy ser­vice in WWII–in which he saw the after­math of Nagasa­ki weeks after the drop­ping of the atom­ic bombs–to the last days of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, he kept his keen eye on Amer­i­ca’s abus­es. His “poet­ry is noto­ri­ous­ly crit­i­cal of politi­cians and the sta­tus quo,” Karp writes, and he was “unafraid to name names and take stances pub­licly” as a writer and a life­long activist.

“Ger­ald Nicosia, the crit­ic,” Vitale points out, “says Ferlinghetti’s two great­est accom­plish­ments were fight­ing cen­sor­ship, and inau­gu­rat­ing a small press rev­o­lu­tion.” What did Fer­linghet­ti him­self think of his place in the cul­ture? “In Plato’s repub­lic, poets were con­sid­ered sub­ver­sive, a dan­ger to the repub­lic,” he told The New York Times in 1998. “I kind of rel­ish that role.” As for what might final­ly shake the coun­try out of the anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic spir­it that has held its peo­ple hostage to cor­po­ra­tions and a hos­tile gov­ern­ment, he was not san­guine: “It would take a whole new gen­er­a­tion not devot­ed to the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem,” he said. “A gen­er­a­tion not trapped in the me, me, me.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lawrence Fer­linghet­ti Turns 100: Hear the Great San Fran­cis­co Poet Read “Trump’s Tro­jan Horse,” “Pity the Nation” & Many Oth­er Poems

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl Man­u­scripts Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online, Reveal­ing the Beat Poet’s Cre­ative Process

2,000+ Cas­settes from the Allen Gins­berg Audio Col­lec­tion Now Stream­ing Online

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl Man­u­scripts Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online, Reveal­ing the Beat Poet’s Cre­ative Process

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

The Complete Works of Hilma af Klint Get Published for the First Time in a Beautiful, Seven-Volume Collection

If you are a reg­u­lar Open Cul­ture read­er, you’ve prob­a­bly seen our many posts on Hilma af Klint, the Swedish abstract painter who might have been rec­og­nized, before Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky, as the first 20th cen­tu­ry abstrac­tion­ist; that is, if she had shown any of her work before her death in obscu­ri­ty in 1944 (the same year that Kandin­sky died, it hap­pens). Instead, af Klint instruct­ed that her paint­ings not be exhib­it­ed until twen­ty years after her death. Then, anoth­er 22 years went by before any­one would see her enig­mat­ic can­vas­es. They first went on dis­play in a 1986 Los Ange­les show called, after Kandin­sky, “The Spir­i­tu­al in Art.”

Com­par­isons seem inevitable, but where the great Russ­ian abstrac­tion­ist the­o­rized about art and spir­it, af Klint encoun­tered it in per­son, she claimed in her Theo­soph­i­cal accounts, in which she writes of meet­ing five “high mas­ters” in a séance and receiv­ing instruc­tions for her new style. She was a chan­nel, a ves­sel, and a medi­um for the spir­its, as she saw it.

“The pic­tures were paint­ed direct­ly through me, with­out any pre­lim­i­nary draw­ings, and with great force. I had no idea what the paint­ings were sup­posed to depict; nev­er­the­less, I worked swift­ly and sure­ly, with­out chang­ing a sin­gle brush stroke.” She showed her paint­ings to occultist Rudolph Stein­er, who told her to hide them away for the next half cen­tu­ry. Dis­cour­aged she stopped paint­ing for four years.

“Af Klint spent her time tend­ing to her blind, dying moth­er,” writes Dan­ger­ous Minds. “She then returned to paint­ing but kept her­self and more impor­tant­ly her work removed from the world.” She was not in con­ver­sa­tion with oth­er mod­ern artists. She was in con­ver­sa­tion with an unseen world, her own psy­che, and a small group of women with whom she reg­u­lar­ly con­duct­ed séances. Through­out her life, “the pro­lif­ic Swedish artist cre­at­ed more than 1,600 works,” Grace Ebert writes at Colos­sal, “an impres­sive out­put now col­lect­ed in Hilma AF Klint: The Com­plete Cat­a­logue Raison­né: Vol­umes I‑VII.”

The sev­en-vol­ume series, pub­lished by Bok­för­laget Stolpe, “is orga­nized both chrono­log­i­cal­ly and by theme, begin­ning with the spir­i­tu­al sketch­es af Klint made in con­junc­tion with The Five, a group of women who attend­ed séances in hopes of obtain­ing mes­sages from the dead.” “What makes [af Klint’s] art inter­est­ing,” says Daniel Birn­baum, co-edi­tor of the col­lec­tion, “is that the works are high­ly inter­con­nect­ed.” Such a com­pre­hen­sive account­ing, a “cat­a­logue raison­né,” is nec­es­sary “to see the dif­fer­ent cycles, motifs, and sym­bols that recur in a fas­ci­nat­ing way.”

We see such recur­ring pat­terns in the work of af Klint’s avant-garde con­tem­po­raries, as well, of course, espe­cial­ly in her very famous con­tem­po­rary Kandin­sky. But who knows how her eso­teric sources and extreme­ly retir­ing nature would have been received by the avant-garde move­ments of her time? Giv­en that even the most extro­vert­ed women artists in those movements—from Dada, to Sur­re­al­ism, to the Bauhaus School, to Abstract Expres­sion­ism—have been left out of the sto­ry time and again, it’s like­ly that even had the world known of Hilma af Klint in life, she would not have been appre­ci­at­ed or well-remem­bered.

But whether we cred­it the actions of “high mas­ters” or the arbi­trary asyn­chronies of cul­tur­al his­to­ry, it’s clear af Klint’s moment has final­ly arrived. For “the first time,” Art­net notes, her “daz­zling spir­i­tu­al oeu­vre…. will be pre­sent­ed in its total­i­ty.”

via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

The Life & Art of Hilma Af Klint: A Short Art His­to­ry Les­son on the Pio­neer­ing Abstract Artist

New Hilma af Klint Doc­u­men­tary Explores the Life & Art of the Trail­blaz­ing Abstract Artist

Dis­cov­er Hilma af Klint: Pio­neer­ing Mys­ti­cal Painter and Per­haps the First Abstract Artist

The Female Pio­neers of the Bauhaus Art Move­ment: Dis­cov­er Gertrud Arndt, Mar­i­anne Brandt, Anni Albers & Oth­er For­got­ten Inno­va­tors

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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