Blackpaint 403 – Gunslinging, Carbon and the Dummy Chamber


Sam Francis

I’ve been reading “Pacific Standard Time, LA Art 1945-1980” and I’ve been surprised to find that Francis did some Minimalist paintings as well as “happenings” in later 60s, like skiers with coloured smoke flares in Japan and “Helicopter Sky Painting”, again with smoke flares, also in Japan.  Buy the book if you can find it; it’s great.  Published by Tate.

Artists and guns

As well as Niki de Sainte Phalle, other artists used firearms in their work; Joe Goode produced a “Shotgun” series. in which he fired pellets at his canvases to reveal lower layers of paint – and Chris Burden staged a performance in 1971 called “Shoot”, in which a friend shot him in the arm with a .22 bullet from 15 feet.

A Field in England (cont.)

I’ve seen a couple of reviews since last blog and watched the film again; I missed the Western nature of the final shoot-out completely.  Seems unmissable now, when you see the big hats, dark cloaks, bloody wounds.  To make it even more obvious to me, the film that clocked in as the recording came to an end was “Chato’s Land” – like a continuation in colour!  Later, I caught the last shoot-out in Michael Winner’s 1971 “Lawman”.  Cold-eyed Terminator Burt Lancaster leaving three cowboys dead in the dust, including one shot in the back whilst trying to run away; the pathetic suicide of Lee J Cobb, on seeing the death of his son moments before.  Somehow colder and more depressing than “Unforgiven”, or “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”, films which explore similar or comparable themes – is that down to Winner or Lancaster?

Since I’m on about Westerns, I have to mention “Charge at Feather River” which was on recently, because it was the first film I ever saw, in 3D, back in 1953 – lances coming towards you, repeated three times at least – but also because it was based on the Battle of Beecher’s Island, in which, in 1868,  the Cheyenne chief Roman Nose was killed, besieging a small cavalry force under Colonel Forsythe ; (see the Buffalo Bill Annual 1951).

buffalo bill

And Trooper Wilhelm, a minor character who died early on in the film battle, provided the name for the “Wilhelm Scream”.  This was a recorded death scream, originating from the film “Distant Drums”, when a character was killed by an alligator. George Lucas used the Scream in “Star Wars” apparently.  The screamer was Sheb Woolley, who died recently – not by alligator action – and who recorded “The (one-eyed, one-horned, flying) Purple People Eater”; yes, I’ve got it, on 78.

“C” by Tom McCarthy

The rather highbrow book group to which I belong chose this to read and discuss.  Why shouldn’t I be a member of such a group?  Look at the credentials I have displayed in the last couple of paragraphs.  The others are into French theory, though; Deleuze gets mentioned quite a lot; I keep my head down at these moments.

The book embraces, amongst other things, the breeding of silkworms and the manufacture of silk, early radio technology, pre-war European spas and medical thought, WW1 observer pilots, drug culture and seances in 1920s London, spying, and Egyptology – so a lot of research, which is convincing for the most part, if a bit tiresome at times.  The theme is connectivity, everything resembling something else,  being a metaphor or analog for something else, melting or morphing into something else; the C of the title is carbon, the stuff of life and matter (as well, no doubt, as cocaine, communication and loads of other C’s).

There’s one thing that puzzles me – the dummy chamber.  McCarthy explains, through a character,  that Egyptians built dummy chambers in their tombs to fool grave robbers into thinking they’d found the real thing,  As the main character in the novel progresses through a delirious, sub- Joycean dream sequence in which the connectivity thing is made explicit, he cries out “The Dummy Chamber!”, implying that there’s something beyond the merging, morphing, connecting thing…  Maybe he’s going for a Moby-Dick, whale of a book, here-comes-everybody-and-everything-type of reception.

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OK, no more life drawings after today – will have some proper paintings by next blog.

Urban Art, Josephine Avenue, Brixton SW2, Saturday and Sunday 13th and 14th July. Art in the street, come and see.  Easy access to Brixton tube from Heathrow, if you’re flying in from USA, Oz, NZ, Ukraine, Brazil……

Blackpaint

11.07.13

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