Plagiarism Is Red With Purple Flashes!

31. 5. 2013 // // Kategorie Randnotizen 2013

Last night (after coming home from a talk given by the Bologna fiction collective Wu Ming) I was looking at this picture of 1960s London mod band The Creation. It seems to be a staged photo of them pretending to be playing their music live and doing some action painting at the same time; they did do action painting as part of their stage act when performing their song Painter Man – later covered by Boney M. It was more usual for singer Kenny Pickett (to the left of the model) to paint a canvas rather than a near-naked woman, the completed picture would then be set alight by a member of the road crew; obviously models are to be treated with more respect! And bassist Bob Garner (when he was still bassist, in 1967 Pickett was kicked out of the group and Garner became the singer) would more usually be holding down the rhythm section than wielding a paint brush. There is a strange confluence of abstract expressionism, pop art and nouveau realisme to be found here! Although in this shot the band look like Yves Klein gone laddish, guitarist Eddie Phillips was playing his guitar with a violin bow way before Jimmy Page copied the trick from him! And while this publicity stunt might appear crass and kitsch, the group’s music is truly groovy. for the record Jack Jones is the drummer you can’t really see, I don’t have a date for this picture but the band line-up and their clothes/hair indicate 1966.


Six years earlier in 1960, Yves Klein staged a performance where paintings were made with nude models. They are perhaps one source of inspiration for The Creation publicity shot above, although The Creation (and their collaborators) also seem to be drawing on an interest in body painting emerging elsewhere in the counterculture at that time. If Klein’s ‘human brushes’ did provide inspiration for The Creation, they possible came across this technique of paint application to canvas in the notorious shockumentary Mondo Cane (Paolo Cavara, Franco Prosperi and Gualtiero Jacopetti 1962). The title means A Dog’s World in English but even in the UK and north America it is best known by it’s Italian name.


The extraordinary crudeness of The Creation’s body painting also made me think of the work of Niki de Saint Phalle (like Klein a member of the nouveau realiste group). But I didn’t just have in mind the glorious transgressions of Saint Phalle’s shotgun paintings!


So returning to the year 1966, this was when Saint Phalle collaborated with Jean Tinguely and Per Olof Ultvedt on the large-scale sculptural installation Hon-en Katedral (She A Cathedral) for Moderna Museet in Stockholm. The outer form of Hon is a giant-sized reclining woman; while the interior exhibition space (which aside from plastic art also featured a small cinema, a planetarium, an aquarium and a milk bar) was entered by passing through a hole between the woman’s legs. This piece resonates alongside but doesn’t entirely dovetail with the situationist slogan: “every man should live in his own cathedral’.

And since what goes around, comes around, it doesn’t surprise me that a replica of Hon-en Katedral is to be seen in the Italian movie Femina ridens (Piero Schivazappa, 1969 – in English speaking territories the film has been released as both The Laughing Woman and The Frightened Woman). There are no longer any original ideas, today’s online plagiarism/communism began thousands of years ago. Clued-up hipsters already know The Communist Manifesto is largely a selection of quotes culled from choice revolutionary sources and that Karl Marx was by far-and-away the best literary-stylist of the nineteenth-century. Likewise, in the 1960s art was no more ‘natural’ than it is today. And while we’re on the subject, don’t forget kids: culture doesn’t matter nearly as much as the vast human community that creates cultures!