Ashes to Ashes, Foxx to Foxx.
The thoughts of Chairman Momus.
Ashes to Ashes, Foxx to Foxx.
You think this is easy realism?
Joe the Lion was on Young Americans and was about Bruce Nauman.
This is stuff I saw at the Nadiff bookstore at Tokyo’s Museum of Modern Art (MOT), where the exhibition Mission [SPACExART] — Beyond Cosmologies is currently showing.
Michael Findlay is a Scot born in 1945. He’s made a living as an art dealer in New York City since 1964. The Value of Art is his first published book. “I wrote it to take the mystery out of how art achieves commercial value and also to inspire everybody, wealthy collectors and penurious art-lovers alike, to enjoy art regardless of its price-tag.” I like the cover.
Shuntaro Tanikawa, born 1931 in Tokyo, is one of the most widely read and highly regarded of living Japanese poets. Two Billion Light-Years of Solitude was written between 1949 and 1951 and published in 1952. It’s a sequence of impromptu experimental humanist poems about solitude, the passing of time, the weather, the seasons.
As you can see here, Tanikawa is still alive, and coming up with new ways to disseminate poetry; electronic message boards, for instance. But is Tanikawa’s book about years or light-years of solitude? And is it two billion, or twenty?
This T-shirt is the Tacoma Fuji Records logo with Arabic lettering, designed by Tomoo Gokita, an artist born in 1969 in Tokyo. Takoma Fuji Records doesn’t exist. It hasn’t existed since 2008, when it was created to not-exist. No music is released by the “label”, but there’s a fake discography and lots of Gokita-designed merch based on it. The implication is that music itself was the least important part of the (now departed) music subculture.
This is the poster for an exhibition at the Suntory Museum in Tokyo Midtown entitled Essays in Idleness: Enjoying Classical Literature Through Art.
This book is Essays In Idleness by the Japanese monk Yoshida Kenko, written between 1330 and 1332. The genre known as zuihitsu (“random jottings”) starts here. These thoughts are jotted by people “with nothing to do” (the literal translation of the Japanese title, Tsurezuregusa). This edition is a translation into modern Japanese by Osama Hashimoto, born in 1948. Donald Keene’s 1967 English translation begins: “What a strange, demented feeling it gives me when I realise I have spent whole days before this inkstone, with nothing better to do, jotting down at random whatever nonsensical thoughts have entered my head.” (Actually, Keene says “whatever nonsensical things that have entered my head”, but I think that’s grammatically wrong. Sorry, Donald.)
And here’s Kenko, the monk, hard at work being idle and jotting randomly. Not a bad life, I’d say, and I’m something of an expert.
The Pope has — and hasn’t — designed the cover of my next book. Let me explain.
This is the cover of Herr F (Everything Living Forever is Screaming Forever), the new Momus novella due in winter from Fiktion. It’s the tale of Heinrich Faust, a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for a guarantee that his novel, The Book of Moss, will become the most successful book ever published, despite being the most boring book ever written. The 25,000-word manuscript is complete and now just has to be edited and translated into German. It’ll run on the Fiktion site, free to access, in both English and German, later in the year.
But actually, this isn’t the cover, because Fiktion — an online-only publishing experiment associated with Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt — doesn’t use covers. Books on the Fiktion site — although carefully designed in the house style — are text-only.
This is, in fact, a design fiction. A chapter of the book spins a yarn about the graphic designer Hagen Verleger, whose excellent Project Suhrkamp inspires some reflections on how a speculative design project creates a parallel world (and possibly a better one). In my tale, Hagen’s father Wilhelm is made director of “Parallel Suhrkamp” the same day Hagen’s portfolio is published.
“Parallel Suhrkamp publishes all the same books as Original Suhrkamp, but with different covers. But, as Wilhelm explains to me over Baltic herring, cream and parsley, the stylish impostors are considering an audacious move: they will approach all Original Suhrkamp’s living authors and ask them to prepare exciting new books which will appear only on Parallel Suhrkamp. They even plan, Wilhelm tells me, to get ghost writers to imitate the styles of Suhrkamp’s dead authors and produce a range of new works from beyond the grave.”
Imagine! A new book from Walter Benjamin critiquing social media! A new Kafka novel based on the Faust legend!
In my story, Hagen Verleger then becomes the protagonist of a Grimm fairy tale (as retold by psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim) in which a boy who refuses to pay attention during conventional lessons — he stubbornly learns the language of dogs, frogs and birds instead — ends up, thanks to his linguistic skills, being made Pope in Rome. Hagen — who combines his work as Pope with a thriving graphic design practise — then designs the cover for a book written by Heinrich Faust (Herr F) with the same title as my novella:
“As we break open the hard caramel shells of our crèmes brûlées, Wilhelm tells me about the book he’d like me to write for Parallel Suhrkamp: a memoir of my pact with Mephistopheles and my subsequent adventures. The title will be Herr F (Everything Living Forever is Screaming Forever) and the cover will feature Stempel Garamond type and an acid yellow surround, in a simple yet elegant design by the Pope.”
When I approached the real Hagen Verleger to get permission to use his real name for a fictional character, he responded not only by agreeing, and kindly correcting a few typographic references and glitches in my MS, but also by making the “design fiction” you see here: the actual cover he would have designed for the fictional (but also real) book Herr F (Everything Living Forever is Screaming Forever) had he really been the world’s first professional graphic designer Pope.
Personally, I love what His Holiness has done.
“I only married him for the Murphy,” says this mid-1970s colour TV advertisement glimpsed (next to an SNP poster claiming Scotland’s oil) in the BBC’s recent independence documentary Scotland: For Richer or Poorer? (Robert Peston’s conclusion: Scottish independence isn’t really about money. It’s about politics, identity and culture.)
You could say that Scotland only “married” England in the early 18th century because of the financial crash caused by the Darien disaster, our misguided attempt to get in on the colonial jamboree. The shotgun wedding with England was widely unpopular at the time; Daniel Defoe, visiting Edinburgh in 1706 (he was actually sent as an undercover agent to promote the union with England), noted that “for every Scot in favour of the union, there are 99 opposed”.
Since I am the anti-Defoe, here’s the next batch of pages from my Book of Scotlands. This time the episodes mostly envision artistic life in a parallel Scotland.
Please come away.
Rarely has a love song to an ex been so deluded. Or so beautiful.