Sensory Deprivation

Toledo, Ohio, USA, 1974 Image © Bernd and Hilla Becher

Gas Tanks

Bernd and Hilla Becher

“The famous Düsseldorf photographers’ formal investigation of industrial structures displays their serenely cool, rigorous approach to the structures they photograph as variations on an ideal form. The Bechers make no attempt to analyze or explain their subjects. For more than 35 years, the Bechers have been creating a monument to the most venerable buildings of the industrial era through their photographic art. They have re-awoken the forgotten or unnoticed beauty of water towers, gas holders, lime kilns and blast furnaces, and their photographs have told the story of the process of industrialization. Their head-on, deadpan photographs express an almost Egyptial sense of man’s heroic effort to put his mark on the landscape. Gas Tanks presents four principally different forms of gas holders or gas tanks taken over three decades.”

Publisher: MIT
Hardback: 144 pages


Bruegel, or the Workshop of Dreams

Claude-Henri Rocquet

Little is known of the life of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Yet his paintings, rich with precise detail of everyday life during the Flemish Renaissance yield much to historical research—and the erudite imaginings this author. Using Bruegel’s paintings as a point of departure for elegant, historical fantasy, Rocquet explores the intricacies of commerce and politics, court life and peasant life, ship-building and architecture, the Spanish Occupation and much else that passed before the penetrating eye of Bruegel. What emerges is a portrait of the artist which is moving and convincing in its psychological depth. DN

Publisher: University of Chicago
Hardback: 210 pages

Butoh: Shades of Darkness

Jean Viala and Nourit Masson-Sekine

Butoh, a Japanese form of avant-garde dance founded in the 1960s, is a fusion of global influences in dance from both hemispheres. From Japan’s own culture it draws on Noh, kabuki and Shingeki (a radical 1920s Japanese theater) and from the West on Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual Eurhythmics, Mary Wigman’s Neue Tanze and the theories of Emile Dalcroze on movement and education. Yet Butoh differs from both Western and Eastern dance forms because the “Butoh spirit confronts the origins of fear”—distilling the literary and theoretical ideas of Lautréamont, Artaud and Genet into a marriage of opposites fusing beauty and pain.
The word Butoh is made up of two ideographs: “bu” meaning dance, and “toh” meaning step. The founders of Butoh believed that the body is fundamentally chaotic yet controlled by religious and cultural repressions that are instilled with hate from cradle to grave. In Butoh, the dancer must isolate himself from physical and social identity, only to be guided by the soul expressing its purity by reverting to the original memory of the body—allowing escape from surface reality in order to attain the essence of life. After designing what is now the blueprint for today’s modern dance, the Butoh pioneers then made an extensive journey back to the origins of dance, seeing it as a prehistoric painting, and performance as a ceremony for the audience. Illustrated with 250 exquisite photos, Butoh: Shades of Darkness, the first comprehensive study of its kind in English, explores the evolution of Butoh through interviews with its mystical fathers (the cosmic Ono and the dark Hijikata) and chronologies of its troupes and legendary performances. OAA

Publisher: Tuttle
Hardback: 208 pages


Derek Jarman

“In his signature style, a lyrical combination of classical theory, anecdote and poetry, Jarman takes the reader through the spectrum, introducing each color as an embodiment of an emotion, evoking memories or dreams. Jarman explains the use of color from medieval painting through the Renaissance to the modernists, and draws on the great color theorists from Pliny to Leonardo. He writes too about the meanings of color in literature, science, philosophy, psychology, religion and alchemy.”

Publisher: Overlook
Hardback: 151 pages

The Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies

Martin F. Norden

Chronicles handicapped stereotyping from the “Obsessive Avenger” Quasimodo, to the “Oedipal remasculinizing” of Luke Skywalker after he loses his sword hand to Darth Vader, to Scent of a Woman, in which Al Pacino wants to kill himself because he’s blind. From Hollywood’s Golden Age: Freaks repulsed ‘30s sensibilities (the cast was barred from eating in the MGM commissary), and the studio extended this prejudice to the publicity, calling the Tod Browning film a “thrillingly gruesome tale” and referring to its performers as “creatures of the abyss,” “strange shadows,” “nightmare shapes in the dark” and “grim pranks of nature—living in a world apart.” Even the sympathetic Browning was not immune—he took liberties with the original magazine article on which Freaks was based and tagged on the film’s famous midnight revenge/Chicken Lady. Gabba-gabba-hey. GR

Publisher: Rutgers University
Paperback: 385 pages

Cinema, Censorship, and the State

Nagisa Oshima

Japanese filmmaker Nagisa Oshima is a brilliant theorist on, and critic of, the Japanese political/cultural system. All of the tracts in this book eventually come back to what it was like to be a youth living in postwar Japan. Paralleling the student/Situationist strikes in Paris of 1968, the Tokyo university students’ insurgence of the late ‘60s was the main springboard—politically and artistically—for Oshima’s cinematic and textual work. These essays (from 1956 through 1986) fully articulate his progression from political activity to filmmaking. In his cinema, there is a sense that bridges are being destroyed. One of the interesting aspects of Oshima’s films and writing is his attempt to elicit change in his country’s mythology concerning sexuality and racism. Oshima writes and films about the outcasts in Japanese society with a conviction that must seem audacious to a Japanese audience.
On its surface, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1982) is a film about the cultural differences between the Japanese and their prisoners during World War II. Upon closer inspection, the film becomes a commentary on sensuality and how it relates to Eastern and Western cultures The prison camp is a fish bowl, where one can watch objectively as the participants joust for power and sexual roles. Lawrence is also an exploration of the SM relationship between the characters portrayed by pop stars David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Death by Hanging (1968) not only looks capital punishment, but questions who is being killed by the state. The longest piece in the book concerns Oshima’s battle with Japanese censors over his erotic masterpiece Ai No Corrida (In the Realm of the Senses, from 1976). He won the case eventually, but it seems Oshima felt no great victory in this. Cinema, Censorship and the State is outstanding not only revealing for Oshima’s unique position in Japanese cinema, but for profiling a stimulating thinker who is struggling with the concept of being an artist in a country that may not care for modern cinema. TB

Publisher: MIT
Hardback: 308 pages

The Complete Films of Mae West

Jon Tuska

An American original—the finest female purveyor of good, clean smut. Before the Brooklyn-born vaudevillian hit Hollywood (Night After Night, She Done Him Wrong, I’m No Angel), Mae West was a Broadway playwright and actress. From day one, the “girl who shook a wicked shoulder” was in hot water with the critics, and she thrived on the scandal. Her 1927 comedy/drama Sex (written as “Jane Mast”) was raided by the police, and the cast was thrown in jail. The “hot second act” in the bordello was probably the reason. Next came “a homosexual comedy in three acts,” The Drag. Said one Variety reviewer: The play “was a cheap and shabby appeal to sensationalism.” The high point came in the third act, “a jazzed-up revel on the garbage heap. Some 30 young men take part in the spectacle, half tricked out in women’s clothes and half in tuxedos. Half a dozen of the boys in skirts do specialties, and the episode takes on the character of a chorus-girl ‘pick-out’ number in a burlesque show… All hands are rouged, lipsticked and liquid-whited to the last degree.” Mae West’s sister was arrested for disorderly conduct prior to the opening. GR

Publisher: Citadel
Paperback: 208 pages

The Complete Films of Marlene Dietrich

Homer Dickens

Tales of the Teutonic Love Goddess. “Universal, having created a ‘new Dietrich’ with Destry Rides Again, was prepared to cash in on a good thing. What they hadn’t counted on was giving Dietrich a role that was to become one of her best! Seven Sinners, an action-packed, two-fisted melodrama, had wide appeal, and Dietrich’s Bijou Blanche is a gorgeous satire of the Sadie Thompsons of the world. René designed some of the wildest creations. The black-and-white-patchwork quilt get-up is a riot of bad taste, to say nothing of her rings, bracelets, cigarette holder (loaded with jewels) and the inevitable feathers!” As movie critic Bosley Crowther noted: “If Miss Dietrich and her comedies were both just a little broader, Mae West would be in the shade.” GR

Publisher: Citadel
Paperback: 224 pages

Dancing Ledge

Derek Jarman

First in the series of memoirs by late filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman, Dancing Ledge charts Jarman’s growth as a man and artist. Starting with childhood memories as an army brat in occupied Italy after World War II and continuing through his years at public school and university, Jarman recounts his youth in a journal-like format. JAT

Publisher: Overlook
Hardback: 254 pages

The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir

Foster Hirsch

“Film noir is a term used to describe the dark, brooding, doom-laden films that emerged from Hollywood after World War II. Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, Pickup on South Street, Kiss Me Deadly, Sunset Boulevard, The Killers, High Sierra—these were just a few of the hundreds that appeared during the postwar decade, all of them registering a more cruel, disoriented, heartless vision, of America than had ever appeared before… The most thorough and entertaining study of the themes, visual motifs, character types, actors, directors and films in this genre ever published. From Billy Wilder, Douglas Sirk, Robert Aldrich and Howard Hawkes to Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski and Paul Schrader, the noir themes of dread, paranoia, steamy sex, double-crossing women and menacing cityscapes have held a fascination.”

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 229 pages

David Wojnarowicz: Tongues of Flame

David Wojnarowicz

The catalog from an exhibition of Wojnarowicz’s visual work held at the State University, Normal, Illinois in 1990. The volume contains interviews and essays by and about the artist, numerous photographs of his work in various media (photography, performance, painting and collage) and excerpts of his prose. If there is one unifying theme to the book it’s Wojnarowicz’s unrelenting conviction, set down in both his words and his work, that the political and the personal are inextricably linked and can only be defined in relation to each other. The fascinating portrait that emerges is of an artist who was capable of directing his central concerns (the status of the outsider, the pariah, the socially stigmatized) with equla force into any medium he chose. An excellent comprehensive overview—both of the artist and the social context from which he emerged. MDG

Publisher: DAP
Paperback: 127 pages