This article considers the use made of William Blake by a range of writers associated with the ‘countercultural’ milieu of the 1960s, particularly those linked to its London-based literary context. Iain Sinclair is offered as a writer who, in his appreciation of Blake, stands apart from the poets linked to the anthology, Children of Albion (1969). The article unpacks this distinction, analysing Sinclair’s ‘topographic’ take in comparison to the ‘visionary’ mode of his contemporaries. Having established this dualism, the argument then questions the nature of the visionary poetics assumed to apply to the likes of key poets from the era. The work of Michael Horovitz is brought into view, as is that of Harry Fainlight. In essence, these multiple discourses point to the plurality of Blake as a figure of influence and the variation underpinning his literary utility in post-1960s poetry.
Maoism, Dadaism and Mao-Dadaism in 1960s and 1970s Italy Jacopo Galimberti The presence of a problem in society, the solution of which is conceivable only in poetic terms. A social command. Vladimir Mayakovsky, How are Verses Made? (1926)1 In February 1977, a group of far-left activists published the first issue of a fourpage fanzine entitled Finalmente il Cielo è Caduto sulla Terra: La Rivoluzione (The Sky has Finally Fallen to Earth: The Revolution) (Illustration 11.1). On the first page, the authors announced their project: launching a weekly magazine that
Horizontal together tells a dancerly story of 1960s art and queer culture in New York through the overlapping circles of Andy Warhol, underground filmmaker Jack Smith, and experimental dance star Fred Herko. In a pioneering look at this intersecting cultural milieu, Horizontal together uses a unique methodology drawing on dance studies, the analysis of movement, deportment, and gestures, as well as queer theory not only to look anew at familiar artists and artworks, but also to bring to light queer artistic figures’ key cultural contributions to the 1960s New York art world. Starting with the analysis of the artists’ own bodies, the book moves to draw out the meaning—and political and cultural power—of the languorous, recumbent male body that is prevalent in the art of the 1960s, yet never analyzed. The latter part of the book demonstrates how dance culture and history forge an underlying formative context for queer artists—Warhol through his collaboration with contemporaneous dance figures such as Herko, and Smith through his channeling of the early twentieth-century choreographer Ruth St. Denis. Building on these points of contact, the book also rethinks the history of 1960s dance, providing space for queer bodies and their new form of “virtuosity” to shine.
The exhibition Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground (8 September 2016 to 5 March 2017) showcases the archive of Jeff Nuttall (1933–2004), a painter, poet, editor, actor and novelist. As the exhibition illustrates, Nuttall was a central figure in the International Underground during the 1960s through to the early 1970s. During this time he collaborated with a vast network of avant-garde writers from across the globe, as well as editing the influential publication My Own Mag between 1963 and 1967.
This article discusses how we might formulate an account of William Blake’s avant-garde reception. Having dealt with Peter Bürger’s theorisation of the notion of ‘avant-garde’, it concentrates on a series of portraits, made from Blake’s life mask, by Francis Bacon in 1955. This ‘high art’ response to the Romantic poet is then contrasted with a series of ‘subcultural’ responses made from within the British counterculture of the 1960s. Case studies are presented from the alternative magazine production of the period (notably an illustration from Oz magazine in which Blake’s imagery is conflated with that of Max Ernst). An article by David Widgery in Oz on Adrian Mitchell’s play Tyger (1971) is also discussed to show how the scholarly literature on Blake of the period (mainly David Erdman) was called on by the counterculture to comment on political issues (e.g. Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech). The final section of the article shows how the ‘avant-gardism’ of Oz’s utilisation of Blake might be counterposed to the more activist left-wing approach to the poet in small magazines such as King Mob with their links to French situationism. In terms of the classic avant-garde call for a reintegration of art and life-praxis, such gestures testify to a moment in the 1960s when Blake may be considered fully ‘avant-garde’.
This article explores the more detached and ironic view of Blake that emerged in the 1970s compared to appropriations of him in the 1960s, as evident in three science-fiction novels: Ray Nelson’s Blake’s Progress (1977), Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve (1977), and J. G. Ballard’s The Unlimited Dream Company (1979). In adopting a more antagonistic posture towards Blake, all three of these books reflect increasingly ambivalent attitudes towards the countercultures of the 1960s, and can be read as critical of some of those very energies that the Romantic movement was seen to embody. Thus Nelson rewrites the relationship of William and Catherine, in which the engraver comes under the influence of a diabolic Urizen, while Carter recasts the Prophet Los as a Charles Manson-esque figure. Even Ballard, the most benign of the three, views Blakean energy as a release of potentially dangerous psychopathologies. In all the novels, we see a contrarian use of misprision, rewriting Blake as Blake had rewritten Milton.
This article, originally published in 1958, was written to commemorate William Blake’s bicentenary. In it, the author observes that Blake has been claimed or dismissed by successive generations since his death in 1827: for the Romantics, he was a ‘weird crank’, while the Victorians enveloped him in ‘their own damp sentimentalism’. The author argues that Blake ‘evades appraisal because he was always working for a synthesis of creation far beyond outward forms and genres’, which meant ‘he had to invent his own methods to express himself adequately’. He notes that the recent bicentenary was marked by ‘floods of exhibitions, magazine supplements, radio features, new books from all sides devoted to him’. This clearly anticipates the Blakean explosion of the 1960s, in which the author himself would play a major role. This article can therefore be seen as marking the beginning of Sixties Blake in Britain.
Despite publishing nearly forty books between 1963 and 2003, Jeff Nuttall remains a minor figure in the history of the International Underground of the long 1960s. Drawing on his uncatalogued papers at the John Rylands Library, this article seeks to recoup Nuttall as one of the key architects of the International Underground. In so doing, my article argues that Nuttalls contributions to global counterculture challenge the critical consensus that British avant-garde writers were merely imitators of their US counterparts. By exploring the impact of Nuttalls My Own Mag (1963–67) and Bomb Culture(1968), it can be shown that Nuttall was a central catalyst of, and contributor to, the International Underground. As a poet, novelist and artist, Nuttalls multidisciplinary contributions to art were at the forefront of avant-garde practices that sought to challenge the perceived limitations of the novel as a social realist document and visual art as a medium confined to canvas.
Many people in the West can recognise an image of Mao Zedong (1894–1976) and know that he was an important Chinese leader, but few appreciate the breadth and depth of his political and cultural significance. Fewer still know what the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–76) was, or understand the extent of its influence on art in the West or in China today. This anthology, which is the first of its kind, contends that Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution were dominant cultural and political forces in the second half of the twentieth century – and that they continue to exert influence, globally, right up to the present. In particular, the book claims that the Chinese Cultural Revolution deserves a more prominent place in twentieth-century art history. Exploring the dimensions of Mao’s cultural influence through case studies, and delineating the core of his aesthetic programme, in both the East and the West, constitute the heart of this project. While being rooted in the tradition of social art history and history, the essays, which have been written by an international community of scholars, foreground a distinctively multidisciplinary approach. Collectively they account for local, regional and national differences in the reception, adoption and dissemination of – or resistance to – Maoist aesthetics.
Art + archive: Understanding the archival turn in contemporary art examines the meaning and function of the notion of the archive in art writing and artistic practices c. 1995–2015. The book takes on one of the most persistent buzzwords in the international artworld, adding nuance and context to a much-discussed but under-analysed topic.
The study’s first part outlines key texts about archive art, the interdisciplinary theories these build on, and the specific meaning the archive comes to have when it is brought into the artworld. The second part examines the archive art phenomenon in relation to materiality, research, critique, curating and temporality. Instead of approaching the archive as an already defined conceptual tool for analysing art, the book rethinks the so-called archival turn, showing how the archive is used to point to, theorise and make sense of a number of different conditions and concerns deemed to be urgent and important at the turn of the twenty-first century. These include the far-reaching implications of technological changes; the prevalence of different forms of critique of normative structures; changes to the view of the art object; and the increasing academicisation of artistic practices. This book shows that the archive is adaptable and elastic, but that it is also loaded with a great deal of theoretical baggage. It clarifies why, how and with what consequences the archive is referenced and mobilised by contemporary artists and art writers.