Mycelia – A New Magazine for New Weird Fiction

I have had this magazine in my possession for a number of weeks now, but have only managed to have the time to read about half of the contents of the first issue. I had hoped to review the whole thing, but at the rate I’m going it’ll be some time before I can do that.

I’m not exactly sure how I came across this, I think it was mentioned somewhere on Goodreads (which I very recently signed up to and am still getting used to). I decided to buy the two issues that have been released to see what it was all about and it’s already quite interesting.

Mycelia (published by Hedera Felix in Glasgow) describes itself as “a new biannual print magazine in Scotland for weird fiction, experimental literature and art.” From what I have read so far this is an accurate description. The first few stories (they are all quite short) cover a wide range of styles and subjects which can be classified as weird. Below is a photograph of both Issue 1 and Issue 2.

The first story features what I assume to be a genetically engineered sub-human/dog-like creature, another one concerns a boyfriend who has vegetative aspects which don’t seem to concern his partner, another is a hard Science Fiction story and another which is more old-school weird. It was this one which has been my favourite so far. It’s called ‘To Keep The Cold Away’ and is written by Daniel Pietersen. After inheriting a collection of netsuke (small Japanese carved ornaments to be worn with a kimono) the protagonist becomes strangely connected to them. It’s not quite clear, but either they wither and change physically causing the character to do the same, or she does first and they take on the change. Traditionally in this type of story there would be a curse or spiritual connection, maybe a pining for the original collector, but that is not evident here, which moves the story from the Gothic to the Weird.

There are a number of interesting photographs dotted throughout the magazine, some of which remind me of Surrealism. I particularly liked the two photographs by David Redford Palmer. I’m not sure if they have been manipulated or not; they are of natural subjects (a tree in one and cloud in another) but they possess a mood, a darkness, even a sense of dread. I would like to see more.

There is an odd almalgam of stories with a recurring seagull motif that seem to be trying too hard to be arty in a weird way. If there is a criticism of Mycelia, it would be that it tries too hard to be arty or experimental, to the point of complete abstraction and this can leaves one unable to make the slightest sense of it (but I guess that’s just weird in another way).

I’m assuming that the name Mycelia comes from the word Mycelium, which is quite appropriate. This is how it is described by Wikipedia:-

Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus or fungus-like bacterial colony, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. The mass of hyphae is sometimes called shiro, especially within the fairy ring fungi. Fungal colonies composed of mycelium are found in and on soil and many other substrates.

Citation

If the rest of Issue 1 and the second Issue continue in this vein then I look forward to reading more in the future – who knows, I may even submit a few photos or stories – it’s certainly something worth supporting!

You can obtain a copy of Mycelia by visiting their shop, here, and you can use a discount code at the checkout to reduce the cost (it’s why I decided to buy both Issues!), the code is – SUMMER2019. You can also buy a copy at one of their stockists:-

Category Is, Glasgow
Good Press Gallery, Glasgow
Aye-Aye Books, CCA, Glasgow
Fruitmarket Gallery Bookshop, Edinburgh
Golden Hare Books, Edinburgh
Whitechapel Gallery Bookshop, London
Serpentine Gallery Bookshop, London
Coming soon to Book Art Bookshop in Hoxton, London!

Carved-Out Caves in New Mexico

Imagine creating your own cave – I don’t mean simply finding a pre-existing cave and decorating it in your own style.  I mean actually digging the space out of a hillside; and as you are doing it carving intricate patterns onto the walls to form beautiful, naturally lit, subterranean halls and corridors.  Created entirely by hand, by one man with no formal training; this is a form of archeological self-expression – an intricate and vast sandstone grotto in the desert of New Mexico.

This is the art of Ra Paulette – there not a lot more for me to say about this, but to simply leave you with a few images and a link to his website, here; and to a trailer for what looks like an interesting film about the man and his process, here).

Cave 1

Cave 2

Cave 3

Cave 4

Cave 5

Cave 6

Cave 7

Cave 8

Cave 9

Cave 10

Reverse Graffiti

You could also call it clean graffiti, because rather than applying a new layer of aerosol-spray colour to public surfaces, reverse graffiti removes what is there already – the grime and dirt of the street.

Graffiti has always been an inherently rebellious form of expression and can be seen as vandalism, dependent on its context.  What I love about reverse graffiti is that it is just as rebellious as traditional graffiti, but does so by subverting its own genre.  Rather than adding toxins to the environment through the use of spray cans, the reverse graffiti artist uses cleaning products to remove the dirt that is already there.  It has a similarly striking visual impact – yet how can anyone object to a public art which leaves the space cleaner than it was before it existed?

Because it is so unusual it could potentially be a more effective ‘graffiti-as-art’ form of expression than the spray-can variety (unless your name is Banksy, of course!).  It also has the advantage of an inbuilt ‘green’ message and by its very nature comments on the state of the environment, irrespective of the message of the image created.  This could stimulate an interesting dichotomy in the hands of a proper artist.

Unfortunately, due to it’s ‘clean’ image Reverse Graffiti is being hijacked by commercial company’s for advertising – which is of course hugely anti-rebellious and may well scupper the future of an otherwise interesting art-form!

Reverse Graffiti by Moose

Reverse Graffiti

Reverse Graffiti Fish

 

High Density High-Rise in High Definition – Photographs of Hong Kong by Peter Stewart

Cities are great places to visit, but I would not like to live in one.  The proximity of people, the confinement of endless streets and buildings, the noise and pollution.  Of course some cities are much better than others in this respect; but on the whole the idea of being squeezed into an apartment along with loads of other people where the nearest green space is a park full of other people, is really not for me at all.

This containment of human life is taken to an extreme in Hong Kong where tiny apartments, one repeatedly on top of the other, is the norm for many thousands of people.  This extreme environment is a perfect subject for photographic art – its repeated patterns with slight and occasional variation can create very structured and striking images.  This has been the subject of Peter Stewart‘s photography which has an elegance in its composition, yet the prison like scenes it depicts lends the picture a darker edge then the essentially abstracts grids they portray.

Lai Tak Tseun Apartments in Causeway Bay by Peter Stewart

Montane Mansion in Quarry Bay by Peter Stewart

‘little boxes’ Yick Cheong Buildings in Quarry Bay by Peter Stewart

Oi Man Estate in Ho Man Tin, Kowloon by Peter Stewart

Choi Hung Estate in Wong Tai Sin by Peter Stewart

Fleet Pond in the Evening

Photography is an elusive art.  Like most forms of self-expression it rarely relies on just a few simple and easily defined ingredients.  It usually takes a varied and eclectic mix of the obvious aspects, including light, shade and colour, each to different degrees but not necessarily all of them at once.  It also needs the more elusively defined aspect of mood.  Both the photographer and the viewer bring mood to a photograph.  It can be partly due to our shared store of cultural references, but also due to our own personal histories.

I took the photograph below on an early evening walk – I loved the stillness of the water and the vibrant sky, all emphasized by the frame of darkened foliage.   What mood do you bring to this image…?

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It can be found on my flickr page, here .

‘Imagine Finding Me’ by Chino Otsuka

paris, france, 1982 and 2005The photograph above, on first look, appears to be just another holiday snap.  Two girls standing outside a patisserie somewhere in Paris.

Most of that previous paragraph was correct – except that this is not two girls, it’s the same girl twice.  It comes from a series of photographs called ‘Imagine Finding Me’ by Chino Otsuka.kamakura, japan, 1976 and 2005By using photographs of the artist as a young girl, Chino Otsuka seamlessly superimposes herself from a later photograph into the older one – creating an impossible image, a synthesis of two mutually exclusive moments in a person’s life and posing the tantalizing question of what would you say to your younger self?

“The digital process becomes a tool, almost like a time machine, as I’m embarking on the journey to where I once belonged and at the same time becoming a tourist in my own history.”

Chino often uses self-portraiture in her photography to examine the relationship between belonging, memory and identity, often associated with a sense of place, home, displacement and loss.spain, 1975 and 2005I found the original article on the designboom website, it is well worth a look, there’s even a little video of the artist talking about her work for an exhibition from 2012 in Amsterdam, which included the ‘Imagine Finding Me’ series, called ‘A World of Memories‘.

1984 and 2005 London, UK, from the series Imagine Finding Me

Banksy Does It Again!

Pre-blog warning – there is an inordinate amount of inverted commas in this posting and an excessive use of the word ‘Brilliant’!!!

Banksy is in the middle of a month-long residency in New York, called Better Out Than In, (well I laughed!) and is busy doing his graffiti all over the city, and not all of it is on the walls.

Some of his more traditional wall-based ‘graffiti’ has already be ‘defaced’ by local graffiti ‘artists’ – a) can you deface graffiti, b) was it intentionally ironic, and c) are you an ‘artist’ if you don’t have a message?  It is interesting that on some internet forums people are arguing that it’s not his ‘turf’ anyway, so he deserves to get his work tagged by the locals (irony intended or not).  Many other people are simply bemused and wonder who Banksy is anyway – where have these people been for the last decade?  Even my Dad rates Banksy!

Anyway, the reason I decided to write this posting was because of his latest brilliant spoof – a man sells original Banksy art on the streets of New York, near Central Park, and hardly anyone notices.  Those that decide to buy a few of them obviously do not believe they are original and casually pay the $60 each (or £37.50) or less, and think nothing more of it.  Their current value on the art market is about $32,000 or £20,000 each!  Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant!  He just keeps on sticking two fingers up at the ‘professional art world’ – this is true graffiti, not pointless scribbles, but subversive and anti-establishment!

I wish I had been in New York on that day – but unfortunately I know that I would have passed by and not taken a second look at the stall.  I would automatically have thought they were prints someone had ripped off the internet.  Watch this video of the one-day-only Banksy art sale, here.

Banksy one-day art saleThe one-day art sale obviously got a lot of news coverage because of the apparently casual way that such a huge amount of valuable art was essentially ‘given’ away.   But he has been doing his art in different districts of the city every day this month, and one of the most hard-hitting so far was about animal cruelty.   It is a mobile piece called ‘Sirens of the Lambs’ and highlights the often terrible conditions that animals are kept in and transported to slaughter houses all over the world.  It will be active for about a week and is, appropriately, circulating the Meatpacking District.  It is apparently very loud and quite unsettling, but yet again, Brilliant! – watch this video.

The Siren of the LambsWith a half a month to go, I’m sure there will be plenty of similarly incisive comments on modern society to come – and I can’t wait!

Derelict Detroit, or is it?

I’m sure that we have all heard on the news that Detroit has gone from the wealthiest city in the United State in the 1960’s to being officially Bankrupt in 2013.  It is a terrible state of affairs that a whole city and it’s inhabitants should be in such dire straits, and it is more than likely yet another example (although an extreme one) of political laziness and corruption.

One of the inevitable casualties of this situation is the city’s historic buildings.  Without the necessary money to maintain and/or restore them they are falling into disrepair and dereliction.  Many cities and towns will have a least one building of historical interest and many have had great buildings bulldozed over the years – usually in the name of progress, but actually due to a simple lack of imagination.  If an interesting building has to be demolished it should at least be photographed extensively before it is lost forever.

Philip Jarmain, a Canadian photographer, has visited Detroit and managed to take a series of beautiful but elegiac photographs of the city’s decaying elegance (some of which are included below).  I came across the pictures on the Designboom website, but it is interesting to note that the article has received a comment which completely alters your initial perception of the city.  The decay and dereliction presented by both the photographs and the associated article is not necessarily the truth of the situation and proves that although ‘a camera cannot lie’, it cannot tell the whole truth either.  The comment reads thus:-

These photos aren’t entirely accurate. It should be noted that the Book-Cadillac Hotel underwent a $150,000,000 restoration and reopened as the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in 2009. It’s no longer “decayed” as the photographer implies.

Here is the website: http://www.bookcadillacwestin.com

Also, the Whitney building is the David Whitney Building (not to be confused with the Whitney historic mansion/restaurant 2 miles north). The David Whitney building is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation into an Aloft Hotel (parent company is Starwood Hotels).

Downtown Detroit is slowly experiencing a renaissance and that should be shown along with the blight / ruin porn that many seem to enjoy.  James Dawson, sept 10 2013.

Westward Presbyterian Church (1908), photo by Philip JarmainWestward Presbyterian Church (1908), photo by Philip Jarmain

Eastown Theatre (1930), photo by Philip Jarmain 2Eastown Theatre (1930), photo by Philip Jarmain

Highland Park Police Station (1917-2011), photo by Philip Jarmain 3Highland Park Police Station (1917-2011), photo by Philip Jarmain

Fisher Body Plant No. 21 (1919), photo by Philip Jarmain 4Fisher Body Plant No. 21 (1919), photo by Philip Jarmain

David Whitney Building (1915), photo by Philip Jarmain 5David Whitney Building (1915), photo by Philip Jarmain

Book-Cadilac Hotel (1924), photo by Philip Jarmain 6Book-Cadilac Hotel (1924), photo by Philip Jarmain

Deflated Balloon

A deflated balloon, a wooden table, and the late summer afternoon sunlight framed by the shadow of parted curtains.  Sometimes the simplest elements make the strongest images.

Deflated Balloon

Find more images at my Flickr page.

Escaping Balloons…?

painting by Jan Heaton

Microbes, escaping balloons, plant cells, algae on water, or Ishihara plates (colour blindness test cards).  Actually it’s none of these – simply diaphanous watercolour paintings.

I am usually indifferent this sort of thing.  For me, vague and insubstantial paintings rarely work – but these paintings, by Jan Heaton, (which are vague and insubstantial) are one of the exceptions.  This is what Jan has to say about them:-

The circular orbs in my current work are simple, bold, direct, sensual, playful and often mysterious. The sphere recalls harmony, rhythm, movement, patterns, and boundless symbolic metaphors. In my work the circle exists independently and in groups, referencing water patterns on a shore, or a rising moon, rounded fruits, or the shape of a flower. The circle reminds me of family and friends, who are very important to my creative process. The times spent in a circle, talking, eating, dancing, playing, telling stories and solving the problems of everyday life. The memories of this connection to the circle are important to me.