Thursday 22 December 2011

Wyrd Scenes at Luminous Books this Christmas

It took more than a week to put together a post commemorating the launch of Wyrd Tales 2 at Luminous Books last Saturday, but only because I spent almost that long sorting through Sarah Sparkes’excellent photographic documentation of the event. Coordinated by the most reverend English Heretic, the launch began in an unexpected cascade of sparks, courtesy of the kustom kar kommando grinding the door panel of an old ice-cream truck outside the bookshop entrance – judging by the effort he was putting it into, it will be the bitchin-est hot rod Mr Whippy North East London has ever seen. Inside the shop, the walls were resplendent with Wyrd Tales 2 artwork by the likes of Lisa Cradduck, Dean Kenning, Phil Legard and Sarah Sparkes. The evening itself included readings from the new anthology by English Heretic on the highly seasonal topic of ritualistic mass suicide and Norfolk ornithological observation, Mark Fisher on M R James, Brian Eno and undetected landmarks, plus my own reading of an extract from ‘The Storm Towers of Atlantis’, the full text of which can be found between the covers of Wyrd Tales 2. In this pleasurable endeavour I was abetted by Mark Pilkington of Indigo Octagon, whose usual number had been halved by an outbreak of pre-Santacon 2011 flu, tweaking some amazing electronic sounds of his circuit boards, plus a large-scale projection of Phil Legrand’s outstanding cover art for my story. His Turner-esque rendering of a giant crab claw breaking the waves continues to haunt my dreams. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to everyone involved in a night that absolutely refused in every way to communicate the true meaning of Christmas – I humbly salute you all.

Copies of Wyrd Tales 2 are currently available from the English Heretic Souvenir Shop, but stocks are dwindling fast.

Pictured above from top to bottom: Confused spirits gathering on a Christmas night (left to right) Mark Fisher, KH, Mark Pilkington, English Heretic; English Heretic presents First Reports of a Tantric Death Cult at Ganges; Mark Fisher reads from his essay ‘Bleak and Solemn…’ The Hauntological Landscapes of MR James; Mark Pilkington watched over by spirits of the deep; KH with Mark Pilkington of Indigo Octagon present The Storm Towers of Atlantis; KH threatened by a giant crab claw – all photographs by the splendid Sarah Sparkes.

Note: As well as supplying an excellent gallery space, Luminous Books also specializes in artist publications together with a select range of vintage second-hand volumes covering a wide subject area, and is therefore worthy of your custom and support – so start 2102 by subscribing to their RSS feed.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Welcome to Mars now on Kindle

I am pleased to announce that Welcome to Mars is Strange Attractor’s first book to be converted to the Kindle e-book format. There are plans to make it available in an e-pub version soon. In the meantime, please remember that Christmas is not just a time for giving things but also a time for buying them as well.

Welcome to Mars is available via Amazon US at $6.99 or from Amazon UK at £5.99.

A remarkable book… quite simply, essential reading.

Fortean Times

Welcome To Mars draws upon newspaper accounts, advertising campaigns, declassified government archives, old movies and newsreels from this unique period when the future first took on a tangible presence. Ken Hollings depicts an unsettled time in which the layout of Suburbia reflected atomic bombing strategies, bankers and movie stars experimented with hallucinogens, brainwashing was just another form of interior decoration and strange lights in the sky were taken very seriously indeed.

Ken Hollings shows brilliantly how the extraordinary web of technologies that drove the Cold War have shaped not just our culture but the very way we think of ourselves as human beings. Welcome to Mars offers a rare and fascinating glimpse of the roots of the strange humanoid culture we live in today.

Adam Curtis

Seamlessly interweaving developments in technology, popular culture, politics, changes in home life, the development of the self, collective fantasy and overwhelming paranoia, Hollings has produced an alarming and often hysterically funny vision of the past that would ultimately govern all of our futures.

Monday 12 December 2011

On The Golden Stairs

Earlier this month I gave a talk at Tate Britain as part of their evening event for December 2. I was invited to talk about any painting I liked in their historic collection and decided upon The Golden Stairs by the Pre-Raphaelite painter and illustrator, Edward Coley Burne-Jones. One of the most enigmatic canvasses hanging in Tate Britain’s main gallery, it is not a work that gives up its meaning readily – nor will any amount of analysis or discussion exhaust its possibilities. Even now I find the painting intriguing and evasive – a fin-de-si├Ęcle enigma that anticipates the structural dynamics of the flat plane as revealed in modernist art while at the same time seeking to escapee the base materialism of the modern age. A depiction of perpetual motion that gently echoes the time and motion photography of Eadweard Muybridge, The Golden Stairs is simultaneously a magical working and a conceptual artwork that seeks in my opinion to capture the wayward rhythms of thought itself. As we rediscover modernism is a variety of interdisciplinary practices that continues to this day – postmodernism being but a brief hiatus in a longer, more complex and subtler process – the undiscovered and ambiguous beauties of Burne-Jones’s art will become increasingly important. ‘Only this is true,’ the painter wrote, ‘that beauty is very beautiful, and softens and comforts and inspires, and rouses and lifts up and never fails.’

The photo series reproduced comes courtesy of Daily Planet roving shutterbug Kitty Keen, to whom respectful and profound thanks are due. The Golden Stairs is clearly visible behind KH in the top three perspectives.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

English Heretic present Wyrd Tales 2 – launch event and synopsis

English Heretic is delighted to announce the delivery of Wyrd Tales 2: a salvaged miscegenation of occult pulp, speculative meta-fiction, neolithic fantasy and mythic sci-fi. Wyrd Tales 2 will transport you to the horrific record collections of R'lyeh and the submerged libraries of a comic book Crowley. Within its lurid pages, futuristic crab men crawl and the Machiavellian spectre of Joe Kennedy plots. Reports come in from the east coast of radical cannibal cults, we scry the haunted inner cinema of Norfolk beaches and shamanic lights are seen in ancient Britain's aeyr ways. Featuring contributions by a renowned and talented roster of guest artists and writers together with a CD of aural lagan, Wyrd Tales 2, promises to provide the magical vehicle for an archetypal voyage to England’s deep.

Luminous Books have kindly invited English Heretic to launch Wyrd Tales 2 at their shop on Saturday December 10th. The evening will include annotated readings by contributors, DJ sets, libations and a chance to purchase copies of the book and CD.
From 7.00pm till 10.30pm.
For more details clich here.

Luminous Books
3-5, Frederick Terrace E8 4EW

Performances and talks by:
Ken Hollings – The Storm Towers of Atlantis (with musical backing by Indigo Octagon)
Mark Fisher – Bleak and solemn... the hauntological landscapes of M.R. James
English Heretic – First Reports Of A Tantric Death Cult At Ganges
DJ sets by Dean Brannagan
Display of Art from Wyrd Tales 2.

Wyrd Tales 2! Art and writing by Lisa Cradduck, Mark Fisher, English Heretic, Ken Hollings, Dean Kenning, Phil Legard, Mark Pilkington and Sarah Sparkes. Available in the English Heretic souvenir shop from 12th December.
Cost £14 UK, £16 Rest Of The World
Book Contents (140 pages full colour)
Wyrd – in poetry, theory and practice
Planet of the spiders
The Dunwich tapes
Heuristic catalogues: A.W.D.R.E.Y Recordings
The Storm Towers of Atlantis
‘Bleak and solemn...’ the hauntological landscapes of M.R. James
First reports of a Tantric death cult At Ganges

CD Contents (41min) comes in Digipak featuring: The Dunwich Mix Tapes
Cover collage by Sarah Sparkes
CD artwork by Lisa Cradduck

Tuesday 6 December 2011

After Haussmann: ‘There’s A Riot Goin’ On’

Held at central St Martins imposing new site at Kings Cross on the evening of Thursday, December 1 There’s a Riot Going On, Design Against Crime’s symposium on the social unrest of the summer had as its subtext ‘Gang Crime, X Factor Generation and the Dark Side of Shopping’. It was an intense and discomforting affair – as the holding of any political debate where we have been encouraged not to see one is always likely to be. There seemed to be two clear positions on this particularly complex issue. The first is that the riots can – and should – be understood in more conventional political terms but that it’s more convenient for those in authority to depict them as just another form of pure criminality, trivialized by the violent looting of brand names and consumer goods. The second is that the consumer goods themselves constitute an arena of political activity in an age when conventional political rhetoric and analysis have both been played out. In other words, it is all about raiding Foot Locker but on a far deeper level than we are prepared to imagine at the moment. An account posted on the Design Inspiration blog gives a broader outline of the event which, although fair, somewhat sidesteps this issue. Shopping is now an antisocial activity in and of itself – but one that also involves the entire polis at the same time. Haussmann’s modernization of Paris in the middle of the nineteenth century took care of that: a conspiracy of private finance, state governance and architectural order in which – to use Haussmann’s own words – ‘geometry and graphic design play a more important role than architecture itself’.

Over the course of the event Gavin Knight spoke eloquently about the power structures and social collapse surrounding gang life in London, Manchester and Glasgow; journalist Suzanne Moore presented a severe and witty critique of the way in which the riots were presented by press, police and politicians; while the chair David Matthews kept asking all the right questions. Richard Thomas from Resonance 104.4 FM was on hand to record the whole thing for some future broadcast. Personally I found the contributions from the audience during the final part of the evening to the most enlightening part of the whole symposium and even went so far as to switch my microphone off so that I wouldn’t be tempted to stop listening to what they had to say. It was a useful and enlightening debate and one that is urgently needed at the moment – I hope it proves to only the first of many more.

Pictured above: inside the venue; one of the flat screen displays in the auditorium; Gavin Knight speaking; KH presents ‘After Haussmann’; the audience; KH, David Matthews and Gavin Knight listen intently while Suzanne Moore speaks at the panel discussion – photographs courtesy of the Daily Planet’s roving shutterbug Kitty Keen.