In 2000 I lived above a Low Countries themed chip shop in the Old Town of Düsseldorf, I didn’t like it (though I wanted to). I loved all of the art that came from there and the river was breathtaking, I went to every museum in the region that I could find. I was tempted to add something German to this little anecdote and create a false equivalency between it and the object. You, Dear Reader, are too intelligent to fall for that old trick. So, here is a more interesting anecdote and object equivalency from the stock of Grace’s, of Shoreditch’s Blue Mountain School that you might enjoy more.
I have a charismatic item with an interesting story. It is a vintage colour film print, of about 28-29 minutes duration, of Kenneth Anger’s underground classic ‘Scorpio Rising’. The wound celluloid film is on a metal projector reel that is signed and inscribed by the director to ‘Julio’. If memory serves me well, I bought this film from a dealer in countercultural books and I then sold it to Julio Mario Santo Domingo Braga, owner of the gestating lsd Library based in Geneva. I placed it alongside a can with Ira Cohen’s film ‘The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda’ in my second catalogue of material from the LSD Library. Although I know the film well, through the dvd edition, I haven’t projected this print as of yet, fearing wear and tear.
‘Scorpio Rising’ is a high-tide mark from the flood of twentieth-century Western esoterica. This short avant-garde, homoerotic film of leathered-up bikers and swastikas, is also a queer classic. For this dealer, it is the West Coast ‘bookend’ to Jack Smith’s ‘Flaming Creatures’ made at the same time in New York. Anger has said, that the print used for his premiere in la was seized by the Vice Squad for obscenity as was the case with ‘Flaming Creatures’ in New York City. I bought the lsd Library a nice copy of Smith’s ‘Beautiful Book’ (acquired at Swann), that was derived from ‘Flaming Creatures, to go with this print. They made a great pairing, now broken alas.
The soundtrack includes Elvis ‘Devil in Disguise’, Ray Charles ‘Hit The Road Jack’, and Martha and The Vandellas ‘Heat Wave’. So, it is not just an esoteric classic, or a gay one, but one of the best Rock & Roll films ever made. This association with youth culture, magic and music continued for Anger. Mick jagger appears in ‘Invocation of My Demon Brother’ a 1969 film derived from the earlier companion to Scorpio called Lucifer Rising and to which the Rolling Stone also added Moog synthesiser music.
Julio was a ‘mark chaser’, a true ‘fanboy’ if you like, who loved to sort of ‘funk-up’ (or destroy?) his stuff with the signatures of the people who had a hand in the making, hence the inscription. On one memorable occasion, he ‘chased’ and ‘ran down’ Anger at the vernissage for the exhibition ‘Chambre des Cauchemars Peintures Inconnues D’Aleister Crowley’ at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo in early June, 2008. He’d put one very potent Crowley thing into the show, so he was a vip by default, but he still cheekily wore his laminated press pass that he flashed every year at Montreux and elsewhere. Anger was booked in on the supporting programme, to present a night of his films and do a Q&A with Marco Pasi, esoteric scholar, and curator of the show, and others.
Anger, a living avatar of Crowley’s magical doctrine of Thelema, wandered freely amongst the crowded galleries at the private view. Ever The Fanboy, Santo Domingo carried the film, and I think some other things, with him to the opening. After I had engaged Anger
in conversation about his ‘The Green And The White’ (a cricket film made for Getty), the spookiness of Cheney Walk in the ’60s and The Stones, he pounced and whipped it out shamelessly. I didn’t spot it beforehand, it was an act of collector’s legerdemain, by a man who plasticised Keith Richard’s signed grapefruit and bagged Yoko Ono’s fag ash. He didn’t do it for money but for the love of the material, of the ‘funky stuff ’ as he often referred to works by Anger, Rimbaud, Artaud, Crowley and others. Perhaps he just picked his massive shoulder bag up after a snooze and it was in there anyway, through serendipity, along with say a Hans Bellmer first edition or a boxed erotic manuscript. All of these things coexisted cheek by jowl in Julio’s everyday world.
The good Doctor Anger, seemed a trifle unnerved but agreed to sign anyway, he knows a potential patron of The New Aeon when he sees one. Anger is the very epitome of good ‘bad taste’ and he inscribed the item beautifully. This isn’t just another book, more grist for the signed first edition mill, but a very ephemeral celluloid dream produced by a shamanic figure obsessed with celebrity culture and godhood. Anger was in good company that night, the hall was full of the great and good of ‘Magick’ including Genesis P Orridge. He was on a roll, I saw him sign the naked breasts of a young body-modded cyberpunk. ‘I’ll get it tattooed’ she said after he raised his Sharpie pen, without blinking an eye, and calligraphically wrote ‘Current 93 Kenneth Anger’ in very large letters across her bust.
The signed film, we have here, is a beautifully vandalised artefact of the occult sixties. Kenneth Anger, the filmmaker, was also the author of Hollywood Babylon, an obsessive chronicle of fame (albeit the ‘dark side’). So, perhaps in this instance, a collector’s obsessive regard for the dark celebrities of the esoteric tradition in books and objects, ended rather well.