‘Did you eat something that didn’t agree with you?’ asked Bernard.
The Savage nodded. ‘I ate civilisation.’
The Machine is like an exotic gemstone unveiled before us, laid out on a cloth of black velvet. At first we gasp, then we wonder. What is this miracle? Where did it come from? Who made it? It glisters in the daylight in ways which our best artists cannot capture. The Machine glisters and it makes promises.
I will save you, it says. And then: I will become you. Entwined, we will go forward together. We have always been together. You need me.
French national suspected of murdering western backpackers on the hippie trail in 1970s and 80s
Charles Sobhraj, the French serial killer known as “the serpent” who targeted western backpackers on the hippie trail in the 1970s, has walked free from a jail in Nepal after he was given early release.
Sobhraj, 78, had been serving a life sentence after he was convicted in 2004 for the murder of an American tourist, Connie Jo Bronzich, in 1975. In 2014, Sobhraj was also convicted of killing her Canadian companion, Laurent Carrière.
Sobhraj, who is a French citizen of Indian and Vietnamese descent, walked out of a high security jail in Kathmandu on Friday morning, after a court ruling this week that ordered his release on the grounds he had served 75% of his sentence and his health was ailing.
In stealing $1,000 and calling it artwork, Joe Gibbons assaulted reality like a Dadaist poet – or The King of Comedy’s Rupert Pupkin
Performance art is a kind of madness. Its greatest exponents in their greatest works often seem on the edge of some psychotic meltdown in which reality itself is exposed as a cosmic lunacy. Think of Chris Burden getting himself shot in the arm, or Vito Acconci masturbating under an art gallery floor. Or go right back to the origins of performance at the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916 when the Dadaist poet Hugo Ball babbled inchoately at the nighthawks of Zurich.
When you think of this history – and let’s not forget the riots deliberately induced by Futurist Evenings before the first world war – it seems reasonable to claim that not only was film-maker Joe Gibbons genuinely staging “performance art” when he robbed a New York City bank, as he claimed, but that it was some kind of masterpiece.
Joker is a 2019 supervillain origin story film directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. Though based on the DC comic book character, this film takes many liberties with the story material by creating a background for the Joker that has hitherto been kept deliberately mysterious.
The notion of him starting out as a failed comedian comes from Batman: The Killing Joke, but other elements come from two Martin Scorsese films starring Robert De Niro—Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. This origin story nonetheless can be reconciled with the comic book canon somewhat in that, given how the story is told from the Joker’s point of view, and given his psychotic penchant for mixing fantasy with reality, he is an unreliable narrator; so it hardly matters if events in the movie contradict those of the comic books.
Phoenix’s performance deservedly won him the Best Actor Oscar. For her plaintive, brooding cello soundtrack, Hildur Guðnadóttir won the Best Original Score. The film itself has also been praised (with nominations for such Oscar categories as Best Picture and Best Director), in spite of such controversies as the baseless fear that its sympathetic portrayal of a mentally-ill loner, who shoots people, would inspire incel murders. Actually, the film–despite Phillips’s denial of having intended any political message–is clearly presenting a drama of class war.
Publication, Emily Dickinson mused, “is the Auction Of the Mind,” a condition “so foul” that after a certain point she deemed it better to work in “Poverty” rather than pursue the acclaim to which she knew she was entitled. That sentiment caught my eye because of its slant resonance to the case of Heather Lewis. In 1996, Heather began submitting the sequel to her controversial debut, House Rules. Notice didn’t fare well with editors. Its lurid story—a nameless young woman turns tricks for drugs until she falls in love with the wife of one of her johns, a rich sadist who molested and killed his own daughter and uses the protagonist to reenact his crime night after night—struck industry readers as unbelievable or, even more discomfiting, too close to their notions of the author’s actual experience.
At the time Heather took the stoic route, shelving Notice and writing The Second Suspect, the final installment of what she considered a trilogy. She ditched the first-person narrator for third-person detachment, filtering the central conceit of incest, misogyny, and murder through a detective’s objective gaze rather than the unnerving subjectivity of a survivor. The crime-drama prism got the novel published but didn’t save The Second Suspect from being dissed as “transgressive,” its subject matter attributed to “an almost adolescent need to shock.” The taunts stung, not least because they deliberately failed to understand Heather’s work, but also because of the implicit suggestion that the kinds of experiences she wrote about weren’t fit materials for art. The situation was complicated by the collapse of Heather’s career in the wake of The Second Suspect’s failure; in addition, after a decade of sobriety, she started drinking again. These lamentable developments, coupled with who knew what personal traumas, culminated in her suicide in 2002; it is only through the valiant efforts of a handful of supporters that Notice is now being published nearly a decade after she wrote it.
Artists have long gotten away with murder, sometimes literally. After Benvenuto Cellini killed his rival, the goldsmith Pompeo de Capitaneis, in 1534, Pope Paul III—a Cellini fan—reportedly pardoned the Florentine artist, declaring that men like him “ought not to be bound by law.” In 1660 the Dutch painter Jacob van Loo stabbed a wine merchant to death during a brawl in Amsterdam, and then fled to Paris. But, as the art historians Rudolf and Margot Wittkower have noted in their vigorously researched 1963 treatise on the behavior of artists, Born Under Saturn, van Loo had no problem being elected to the Royal Academy there just two years later. His reputation as an artist was what mattered.
Artists have not only indulged in criminal behavior and then been forgiven for it, by philosophers and historians, princes and popes, they have also sometimes openly advertised it. “I do not understand laws,” Arthur Rimbaud wrote in 1873, summing up the attitude of the renegade artist. “I have no moral sense. I am a brute.”
Those lines, as well as Pope Paul’s (which Cellini shares in his autobiography), appear in Mike Kelley’s 1988 installation Pay for Your Pleasure, a long hallway lined with painted portraits of dead white men (intellectuals, artists, and the like) paired with choice quotations from them celebrating destruction, violence, and lawbreaking. It is, viewed from one angle, an indictment of the archetype of the artist as a macho man unbound by legal codes.
The installation is always shown with an artwork by a murderer, selected based on the exhibition’s location. (A painting by the serial killer turned artist John Wayne Gacy appeared in the debut.) Writing about Pay for Your Pleasure, Kelley wondered, “How can we safely access destructive forces?” and suggested that “criminals themselves, safely filtered through the media, serve the same function” as art. Gacy’s paintings, he argued, “allow us to stare safely at the forbidden.” He sets artists and criminals together, on the same level.
André Breton appears in Pay for Your Pleasure as well, alongside this infamous bit from his “Second Manifesto of Surrealism” of 1930: “The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd.”
This is a milestone moment: criminality explicitly proposed as a work of art.
No Surrealist ever acted on Breton’s suggestion. Nevertheless, his statement cracks open a secret history, hiding in plain sight, of artists who have not only broken laws to make their art, but have used lawbreaking itself as their medium. They have stolen artworks, robbed banks, and purchased and distributed drugs, experimenting with crime in much the same way that their contemporaries have experimented with silk screens or video. They have explored crime’s psychological effects (on both perpetrator and victim), its very definition, and its place in culture.
Tim is Junior Research Fellow in Political Theology at Campion Hall, University of Oxford, and Researcher Director at the “Laudato Si’ Research Institute”, a new institute conducting academic research in the field of ecology and social change. He is also an ordained Priest in the Church of England. In this episode we discuss Bruno Latour’s text ‘Facing Gaia’.
Too drastic, too crazy, too “out there,” too early, too late, too damaged, too much—Valerie Solanas has been dismissed but never forgotten. She has become, unwittingly, a figurehead for women’s unexpressed rage, and stands at the center of many worlds. She inhabited Andy Warhol’s Factory scene, circulated among feminists and the countercultural underground, charged men money for conversation, despised “daddy’s girls,” and outlined a vision for radical gender dystopia.
Known for shooting Andy Warhol in 1968 and for writing the polemical diatribe SCUM Manifesto, Solanas is one of the most famous women of her era. SCUM Manifesto—which predicted ATMs, test-tube babies, the Internet, and artificial insemination long before they existed—has sold more copies, and has been translated into more languages, than nearly all other feminist texts of its time.
Shockingly little work has interrogated Solanas’s life. This book is the first biography about Solanas, including original interviews with family, friends (and enemies), and numerous living Warhol associates. It reveals surprising details about her life: the children nearly no one knew she had, her drive for control over her own writing and copyright, and her elusive personal and professional relationships.
Valerie Solanas addresses how this era changed the world and depicts an iconic figure whose life is at once tragic and remarkable.