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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

randomness part 2: out there something is stirring

When we thought shopping centres were the future; before we wanted this back ... 1963 Hartlepool, demolished 1968 to make way for the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, uploaded to flickr by the Museum of Hartlepool

Having accepted I listen to BBC Radio 4 so much I feel like it's giving me messages (see previous blog post), I might as well continue to spread the word. In March the AV festival takes over the north-east of England with an impressive schedule of film, art, talks, walks and music that includes Sunn 0)))/Mayhem singer Csihar's alchemical audio ritual, Scrying, which explores time and local geography past and present. Tickets go on sale soon for Edinburgh's Dead By Dawn festival later that month, and also in March, at London's Barbican, is Complicite's radical theatre version of The Master And Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov's tale of the devil wreaking surreal havoc in 1930s Moscow. I'm rereading it just now, along with Somerset Maugham's Aleister Crowley-inspired The Magician. The latter is increasingly unsettling, the former light relief. By the time I've finished the Maugham I might need some Meg and Mog.

On the headphones Blanck Mass and Raime have been filling my ears with clubby, eerie, horror-style soundtracks. Raime, along with his Blackest Ever Black record label chums offer an online tour of their favourite dark, occulty corners of London, among them the Atlantis bookshop and the Lawn Road Flats in Hampstead. Luca Blast Forlani takes the audience on a similar tour by video in Intruders: Urban Explorers, creating an artful mix of sound, vision and machines moving Svankmajer-like by themselves in abandoned Italian factories, psych wards, theatres and more.

The Hauntological Society blog has covered lots of interesting things over the past year, including most recently the Changes (which has been in my draft posts for a year and a half - ahem, no rush, plenty of room for more about it), JG Ballard, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Rounds of applause in particular for trumpeting the magical Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders, the cult 60s Czech fairytale-horror that inspired Broadcast among many. Valerie's a spellbinder and I never tire of it. But I do still have room for new films. Or waiting for them. Like Jim Jarmusch's vampire film, Only Lovers Left Alive, which will apparently have John Hurt and Tilda Swinton among the cast. Not so much we all scream for ice-cream as we all just scream.

randomness : january - it's about more than things that go bump in the night

On the way to Oxford by train at dusk.
It's been a funny old month. Seems that I couldn't avoid coincidental nudges to push me back on here (a good thing, too). Nudges not least from BBC Radio 4. The month was hardly halfway gone when Saturday Live had a "murder of crows" soundscape and an American surgeon convinced that he'd retrieved alien debris from abductees on Saturday Live. On Woman's Hour a week later there was a discussion about the growth of the psychic industry in recent years and the all-round interest in clairvoyance. It didn't really go anywhere but had some pretty entertaining arguments. Then, yesterday on Radio 4 the Secret Catacombs Of Paris included a visit to the part of the catacombs open to tourists, where six million people's bones dating back 1,000 years lie piled up neatly along dark narrow avenues underground.

Or maybe I listen to Radio 4 just a bit too much. There were other distractions reaching out from the grey areas between popular culture and the paranormal though, the most immediate of which was the description of an exhibition at the Solstice Arts Centre in Navan, County Meath. The Mind Was Dreaming. The World Was Its Dream is a curated show inspired by author Jorge Luis Borges (whose quote provides the exhibition title). Three artists follow his lead to "make manifest the imagined and remembered into reality, creating works in which the real and fantastical coexist." 

That seemed to sum up why the Spectral Dimension is here. So, a mission statement once again: I do the vaguely gothic stuff, I do the hauntological psychogeographic stuff, I do the straightforward ghosts and the intangible ghosts of our lost pasts and lost futures. I also do the sense of the other, the shadows outwith us and inside us, the disordering of the senses, the breaking through of conventions about reality and the transformations of the ordinary into the extraordinary - even if mostly this blog seems filled with homages to vintage haunted horror games and the like. I do the sense that there's something more than what the eye sees, and that we can't help but be fascinated by those ideas, and that seeing signs of that interest everywhere in culture deserves attention.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

supernaturally inclined arty eye candy (january)

An abandoned nuclear zone town and surveillance footage nestle alongside each other in two new works by Jane & Louise Wilson at Dundee Contemporary Arts (Sat, 21 Jan to 25 Mar). Atomgrad (Nature Abhors A Vacuum) captures the disintegration of Pripyat, which sits within the exclusion zone around the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear diasaster, in large-scale photographs. Face Scripting - What Did The Building See? mixes CCTV footage and film by the artists inspired by the assassination of a Hamas operative in a Dubai hotel, and was made with Shumon Basar and Eyal Weiznan. 

While we're at it, there's plenty of spectral art around to see, vaguely or more directly haunted by otherworldly element. For now, also in Scotland, the last few days of Séance On (to Sat, 21 Jan) at the Centre For Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, with work by Emma McKay and Lila de Magalhaes about communicating with dead people, crossing over into altered realities and the idea of the mask as identity. And at London's Southbank Centre, there's the singularly wonderful made-to-order bespoke coffins (cars, kites, skips) of Paa Joe in Ghana and Crazy Coffins in Nottingham in Boxed that prove that death needn't be taken too seriously, or conventionally.

something belbury this way comes ...

After hearing a new Belbury Poly track on Gideon Coe's BBC 6Music show last night, there is much excitement, or at least a faint misty stirring of intrigue, at the prospect of a new album (out 24 Feb, kids) from Ghost Box co-founder Jim Jupp and his cohorts. Not least when the added live elements, ie real instruments, include added zither and ocarina. 

Julian House provides yet another covetable-as-art cover (pictured), and among the 13 tracks that'll you flip your wig (unless you're a bald zombie) you'll find Unheimlich, Earth Lights and Goat Foot. Uncanny.

The Belbury Tales promises, according to the press release "very much a concept album in the tradition of English prog rock, taking in medievalism, the supernatural, ideas about the re-invention of the past, childhood, initiation and pilgrimage (both spiritual and physical)". Damn, so I'm a prog rocker. Oh well. Welcome to the past, happening right now.

Monday, 16 January 2012

theatre: magic, trickery and fake seances - the infamous brothers davenport

A fittingly diabolic way to start a year where we don't seem to know what is real or not, or when the rug might be pulled out from underneath us. The Infamous Brothers Davenport is a mischevious production by Vox Motus in collaboration with the Lyceum that invites the audience to come dressed in Victorian costume and step back in time to 1862 to enjoy an on stage spectacular of apparently genuine levitations, telekenesis and seances, while at the same time discover the off-stage conflicts of the brothers whose theatrical showmanship is about to unravel. It's based on the true story of Willie and Ira Davenport, a pair of brothers from New York whose spiritualist wonders started in 1854, but were exposed as scandalously fake in 1865, and be warned, in this drama where everything is out of the ordinary, there will be audience participation beyond the dressing-up.

19 Jan-11 Feb, Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

Sunday, 15 January 2012

stock up now on vintage greetings cards ...

Forget santa, angels and glitter, 1950s Christmas cards were all about the magic ...




"Abracadabra!!!"
The look in his eyes
Betrays that the mermaid's 
An awkward surprise
Which all goes to show
That you never can tell
What comes from a hat
If the spell's not worked well.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

power of the witch 1971 documentary - teacups rattle in England ...


Thanks to Travis Elborough for the link to The Power Of The Witch documentary from 1971 with self-professed king of the witches, Alex Sanders, et al.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

charles addams centenary google doodle


I'd like it if it was more macabre, but Google's best doodle of the year so far is a fine tribute to the cartoonist born 100 years ago on 7 January. If you've never seen the cartoons, TV show, films or associated Charles Addams Estate stationery merchandise, then there's plenty of dusty corners of the web out there paying homage to his life and work. And then there's the musical. (Lurch playing the harpsichord is enough for me on that score). 


You may, of course, prefer Edward Gorey, and likewise his estate's associated range of merchandise. And even want to visit Gorey's Cape Cod home when it reopens in the spring, if only to see his illustrated envelopes. Both cartoonists are more than welcome to flood my heart and veins with dark humour any time. And the same goes for Mervyn Peake. And some other illustrators, whose names dwell in the twilight zone areas of my memory.

Hello, by the way, and welcome to 2012, a new year, with a whole apocalyptic, new agey, ticking clock kind of feel. And a steady stream of postings. Unless the ancient astronauts return early and kidnap me of course.