Literature

Berlin’s Third Sex (Excerpt)

Berlin’s Third Sex

By Magnus Hirschfeld

translated by James J. Conway

Transvestite and transgender sex workers at the popular Berlin gay bar Marienkasino in the 1920s. 

Transvestite and transgender sex workers at the popular Berlin gay bar Marienkasino in the 1920s. 

The issue of male prostitution has already come up on several occasions, and we really cannot avoid this lamentable practice if we wish to produce a more or less comprehensive account of the diverse forms in which uranian life manifests itself in Berlin.

Like any other metropolis, Berlin has both female and male prostitution. The two are closely related in their origins, nature, causes and consequences. Here, as elsewhere, there are two reasons that always come together, of which one or the other soon prevails: inner inclination and outward circumstances. Those who fall prey to prostitution are marked from youth onwards by certain peculiarities of which the most pronounced is an urge for fine living combined with a tendency to laziness. If the external circumstances are favourable to these qualities, that is, if the parents are well-off, the young person will be safe from prostitution. But if there is domestic squalor, a miserable livelihood, unemployment, lack of accommodation and possibly the greatest of all problems, hunger, then stable, steadfast characters might well withstand, but the weaker will seek out the ever-present temptation, succumb to it and sell themselves, ignoring their mothers’ tears.

There are humanitarians who expect improvement to come from freedom of the will and others from force of circumstances; one longs for education and religion, the other looks to the state of the future. Both are overly optimistic. Those who wish to help must strive to improve conditions from within and without, such that girls and youths are not obliged to sell themselves, and help improve people with particular consideration for the laws of inheritance, so that the obligation to sell oneself as a product falls away.

You might say that is impossible, but I say he who surrenders is lost.

Prostitution’s sphere of activity is the street, particular areas and squares, the so-called ‘beats’. A homosexual showed me a map of Berlin on which he had marked the ‘beats’ in blue; the number of places thus designated was not inconsiderable.

Since time immemorial the various parts of the Tiergarten have played their own particular part. There is no other forest that is so interwoven with human destiny as this park measuring over 1000 acres.

It is not the beauty of its landscape nor its artistic ornaments that lend it significance, but people – their lives, loves and laments. From early morning, when the well-to-do work off their meals on horseback, until midday, when the Kaiser undertakes his ride; from early afternoon, when thousands of children play in the park, until late afternoon, when the bourgeoisie goes strolling, each pathway has its own character, in every season, in every hour. If Emile Zola had lived in Berlin I do not doubt that he would have investigated these woods and that his enquiries would have resulted in another Germinal.

But when evening falls and the sun turns to other worlds, the breath of dusk mingles with the questing, yearning breath from millions of earthly beings, all part of that global spirit that some call the spirit of fornication but which in truth is just a fragment of the great, powerful drive, higher than everything, lower than anything, which ceaselessly shapes, prevails, forges and forms.

Couples meet at every crossroads in the Tiergarten – see how they hasten to one another, how joyfully they greet each other and stride into the future pressed close in conversation, see how they alight at the now empty benches and silently embrace, and how the high, inalienable kind of love sits side-by-side with the more vendible variety.

Women offer themselves for sale on three widely distributed paths, the men on two. While female and male prostitution are intertwined, here each has its own ‘beat’. Of the men’s, one is filled every evening almost exclusively by cavalrymen, their sabres glinting queerly in the dark, while the other, quite a long stretch, is largely occupied by those reckless lads apt to refer to themselves in Berlin dialect as ‘nice and naughty’. Here you will find one of the typical half-moon-shaped Tiergarten benches, where from midnight onwards thirty prostitutes and homeless lads sit close to each other, some fast asleep, others yelling and shrieking. They call this bench the ‘art exhibition’. Now and then a man comes along, strikes a match and illuminates the row.

Not infrequently the lads’ shrieking is interrupted by a shrill cry, a call for help from one robbed or manhandled in the thicket, or the snatches of music wafting over from the Zelten are punctuated by a sharp bang, reporting of one who has answered the question of life in the negative.

And anyone looking for the colourful city characters erroneously reported to be extinct will find no shortage of them in the Tiergarten. See the old lady there by the waters of Neuer See with the four dogs? For forty years, with brief intermissions during the summer, she has been taking the same walk at the same time, always alone, ever since her husband died of a haemorrhage on her wedding day in transit from the registry office to the church. That desiccated, hunched apparition with the shaggy grey beard? He is a Russian baron who seeks out a solitary bench, sits down and cries ‘rab, rab, rab’, a sound much like the crowing of a raven. This mating call draws the odd ‘cheeky grafter’ from obscure paths – his friends, to whom he distributes the ‘dough’ left over from his daily earnings, usually three to five marks.

Male prostitutes can be divided into two groups – those who are normally sexed and those who are themselves homosexual, or ‘genuine’. The latter are often particularly feminine, and some occasionally wear women’s clothes, a practice met with particular disfavour by female prostitutes. This is ordinarily the only casus belli between the two groups, because experience has shown that neither would rob the other of clientele were it not for this fraudulent representation. I once asked a fairly well educated prostitute to explain the good relations between female and male prostitutes. ‘We know that every john wants what he wants,’ she answered.

There are often unusual pairings among Berlin prostitutes. Normal male prostitutes, the so-called dollboys, not infrequently conduct cooperative ‘work’ with normal female prostitutes. I have even heard tell of pairs of siblings of whom both sister and brother fall prey to this lowly work; often two female and not infrequently two male prostitutes will cohabit, and finally there are also cases of female homosexual prostitutes who take male homosexual prostitutes as pimps, finding them to be less brutal than their heterosexual colleagues.

It is established fact that there is a large number of homosexuals among female prostitutes, estimated at 20 per cent. Some might wonder at this apparent contradiction, after all commercial prostitution primarily serves the sexual satisfaction of the male. Often it is said that they suffer from surfeit, but that is not actually the case, because it has been proven that these girls usually know themselves to be homosexual before taking up prostitution, and the fact of their homosexuality only serves to prove that selling their bodies is simply seen as a business, one they regard with cool calculation.

The relationships between prostitutes are noteworthy. Even here the system of double morality has made its presence felt. Because while the manly, active partner, the ‘father’, is at liberty, free to pursue female contact beyond the shared bedchamber, he demands the utmost fidelity from the ‘female’, passive partner when it comes to homosexual activity. When this fidelity is breached he exposes himself to the most grievous abuse. It also comes to pass that the manly partner forbids the womanly partner from pursuing work for the duration of their affair.

The female street prostitutes of Berlin also maintain diverse relations with uranian women of the better social circles, and on the street they might even make advances to women who seem homosexual. Here it is worth noting that the fees for women are much lower, and might indeed be waived altogether in some instances. One young lady who certainly appears decidedly homosexual reported to me that prostitutes had made her offers of 20 marks and more on the street. The poor example of both female and male prostitution is not just a threat to public morality, and to public health – for it is far from uncommon that infectious diseases from scabies to syphilis are passed through male prostitution – but also public safety to a large degree.

Prostitution and criminality go hand in hand; theft and burglary, blackmail and coercion, forgery and embezzlement, every sort of violence; in short, every possible crime against person or property are a way of life for most male prostitutes, and what is particularly hazardous is that in most cases the anxious homosexual fails to report such crimes.

While twenty of Berlin’s uranian population of 50,000 souls – this figure is surely not too high – are caught on average by the ‘long arm of the law’ every year, at least a hundred times more, that is, 2000 a year, fall victim to blackmailers who, as the Berlin Criminal Police will gladly attest, have built a widespread and particularly profitable profession from the exploitation of the homosexual nature.

The close links between prostitutes and criminals also arise from their use of the same shared criminal jargon. If the ‘beat boys’ are looking for their quarry, they call it ‘going on a collection tour’, blackmail itself they designate in various degrees: ‘scalding’, ‘burning’, ‘busting’, ‘fleecing’, ‘clipping’, ‘dusting down’, ‘plucking’ and ‘clamping’. Here it is worth noting that in Berlin there are also criminals who specialise in ‘plucking’ male prostitutes by threatening them with a charge of pederasty or blackmail. They categorise the ‘schwul  groups’ according to liquidity into ‘mutts’, ‘stumps’ and ‘gentlemen’, and the looted money they refer to as ‘ashes’, ‘wire’, ‘dimes’, ‘gravel’, ‘rags’, ‘dosh’, ‘meschinne’, ‘monnaie’, ‘moss’, ‘quid’, ‘plates’, ‘powder’, ‘loot’, ‘dough’, ‘cinnamon’, and for gold coins, ‘silent monarchs’. To have money means ‘to be in shape’, to have none is ‘to be dead’, should something get in their way they say that ‘the tour has been messed up’, ‘bunking’ means running away, ‘snuffing it’ is dying, and if they are picked up by the ‘claws’ – the criminal police, ‘the blues’, or policemen – they call it ‘going up’, ‘flying up’, ‘running out’,  ‘crashing’ or ‘going flat’. That is when they are brought to the ‘cops’, or the police station, then to the ‘nick’, the remand prison, and finally, as the euphemism goes, they move to the ‘Berlin suburbs’, understood as Tegel, Plötzensee and Rummelsburg, the locations of prisons and work houses. Only rarely do they leave better than they arrived. Well-to-do uranians often try their hardest to save prostitutes from the street, but only in very few cases do they succeed. Many ‘feast on memories’ when they get older by ‘drilling’ small sums of money out of known homosexuals with whom they once crossed paths, which they refer to as ‘collecting interest’ or ‘tapping’.


MAGNUS HIRSCHFELD (1868-1935) was one of the world’s first gay activists. Both a writer and a doctor, he sought not only to define sexual variation – homosexuality in both men and women, as well as what we would now refer to as trans identity – but also to repeal laws that policed their expression in his native Germany. His insistence that homosexuality was in-born, and that consenting adults should be free to form attachments without harassment from the law, was almost a century ahead of Western public consensus. Hirschfeld published in relative freedom under the German Empire and ensuing Weimar Republic but emigrated before Hitler came to power. As the Nazis cast his research to the fire, Hirschfeld resigned himself to exile, eventually settling in Nice where he died on his 67th birthday. Among his works already published in English are Transvestites and The Homosexuality of Men and Women.

Berlin's Third Sex is available now from the new publishing house Rixdorf Editions

Photography

Lifting Ground Shadows (Photography)

LIFTING GROUND SHADOWS
BY ENRICO DI NARDO

Enrico di Nardo photographed “Lifting Ground Shadows” in the territory that used to be Lake Fucino, Italy, which was drained in the nineteenth century. Di Nardo’s photographs are eerie, lonely, like bits of memory that have floated up to the surface. He highlights the uncomfortable meeting of new and old natural environments – the replacement of a noxious natural space with a productive-yet-bland man-made space. 

From The Draining of Lake Fucino (1876):  

Those who dwell by the side of a dangerous lake, are always exposed to the risk of seeing their fields become a prey to the advancing waters often for several years at a time, and when at last by the receding of the lake they regain possession of their property, they have to incur a heavy expenditure to render the land fit for cultivation, besides being exposed to all the maladies produced by the swampy condition of the soil. But how long can they be sure of enjoying what costs them such enormous sacrifices? Sometimes the land scarcely begins to be productive when a new rising of the lake reduces them again to misery. But on the shores of Lake Fucino this terrible state of things was more severely felt than elsewhere, for the Marsi, who inhabited the very mountainous country about the lake, had no other plain but that of Fucino to which they could look for their supplies of cereals and other produce of the soil. The rest of the territory being, in fact, nothing but steep mountain sides on which cultivation was next to impossible, and which the interest of the country itself forbade to be cleared of its forests and pastures.

The Marsi seeing their inability to cope with the evil, had recourse in their ignorance to a supposed god of the Fucino, they raised temples to him and were liberal of vows and offerings, but in vain, for the capricious god did not cease in the least from his hostilities. The moment came, however, in which his victims reflected that there was a human genius which might successfully cope with that of the lake; they turned their eyes to Julius Caesar, and he, desirous of pleasing the Marsi, whose friendship he had learned to value during the social war, promised to come to their assistance.


Enrico Di Nardo grew up in Pescara, Italy, and graduated with a degree in physics from Pisa University. After studying neuroscience, he moved to Paris to conduct research on the neural basis of memory. He taught himself photography while on leave from the university and studied documentary photography in Rome for one year. Starting in 2015, his works have been included in group exhibitions and slideshows in Italy, Malaysia, Greece, and France. He took part in the performances of TempsZero and his work was featured in the photobook A Place Both Wonderful and Strange (FuegoBooks 2017), a collection of works inspired by David Lynch's Twin Peaks.

Literature

The Island (Fiction)

The Island

By Ashton Politanoff

From Oedipus Rex by Pier Paolo Pasolini

From Oedipus Rex by Pier Paolo Pasolini

From the mainland, he’d been searching for the island’s coastline day after day. Some mornings he could see it, depending on the smog. He wanted to escape the hustle, the bustle, so he looked at the boat schedule and made a reservation. He’d go for the day.   

The morning of, he arrived at the harbor near the port and parked his car under the green bridge. A section of bridge was being repaired. Every time a car drove overhead, he’d hear a loud clatter coming from the steel plates. 

After picking up his ticket at will-call, he took a seat under the sail tent. The speaker above his head played swing. He took a Dramamine and as other people showed, he placed his bag next to him so no one could sit too close. There were several boats in the fleet and he was hoping for the catamaran—that boat, he knew, could slice through chop like butter. Instead, when the crew called for them to stand in a line and split their tickets, they were directed to the old mono-hull. He swallowed a second Dramamine and walked across the gangplank. He mounted the stairs of the ship to the upper deck. He tested the white aisle bench with his finger and used the back of his backpack to soak up the cool morning dew. Then he sat down facing the front of the boat. A tall woman in a peach dress sat directly across from him. She had leathery skin and two earrings in each ear—a hoop and a diamond. She already had a drink, a Bloody Mary, and sucked it through a straw. When she was done, she removed the pickled green bean and ate it, showing her front teeth with each bite. 

What are you doing on the island? she asked. 

Getting away, he said. 

Oh, she said.

When he didn’t say anything else, she said, Well I’ll be eating and drinking. 

That’s nice, he said. I’ll be getting off on the second stop. 

He was thankful when the boat finally started to move, and when a family of four had crowded next to them—he wouldn’t have to talk to her anymore. The father of the family told his children about the sea life they would see, and the animals on the island. Buffalo, he said. A red fox.

A red fox? the young towhead with neon green shoelaces asked. 

Yes, the father said. A red fox. No one knows how it got there, the man said, but it lives on the island. 

Through the harbor, the boat passed a container ship with scrapings on the side.

From going through the Panama Canal, he heard the father say. 

They passed the prison. He couldn’t get a view of it, just the watchtower. Abandoned warehouses stood nearby. In the dark water, a seal popped up and then took a dive. 

Soon they were at the break wall, and once they emerged through the passage known as Queen’s Gate, into the open ocean, the boat sped up. The water was no longer calm, the wind blowing. A swell coming from the west pushed against them, the boat lifting and lurching. He steadied his eyes on the horizon line and zipped up his windbreaker. He raised the hood and wore it, pulling the drawstrings tight to create a hole with just enough space for his nose and eyes. With his fingers, he slowly and carefully tied a square knot. 

As they approached the leeward side of the island, the water calmed. The island was mountainous coastline peppered with sandy coves with yachts in each. Some coves had cabins or yacht clubs. Others had quarries. The air was cleaner here. He could finally see the sky’s ceiling, the low clouds that were starting to burn off. 

The first stop was in the touristy section where there was a casino and shops that sold trinkets. The boat slowed and briefly docked and the woman got off without saying goodbye. The family left too, as did most people. The next stop—his—didn’t have a hotel. The only passenger in sight was a man holding blue prints. He wanted to burn the man’s blue prints. 

Out in the ocean again, they climbed north for close to twenty minutes before turning into the intended harbor, a place known as the isthmus—another harbor was just on the other side. The neighboring mountains dipped down creating a flat strip of land. From a distance, it looked like two separate islands. He could feel the wind blowing across from the windward side as they approached the pier. 

Tied up, they disembarked starboard. He had four hours before the boat would come back again to take them home.  

The town itself had one bar, a diner, and a general store. There was a shower for those who had been at sea, but it required eight quarters for three minutes and twenty seconds of usage. 

At the diner he ordered a bagel sandwich and a large cup of coffee. The chair he sat on had a cushion that deflated. He tried another with the same result. Plants hung from the ceiling and a spinning fan wobbled a little. It looked like it could break off and fall any second. The diner started to get packed. He felt elbows, smelled odors. He ate quickly and didn’t finish his coffee.

Outside, after, he headed to the beach with the imported silica sand, the palapas available for rent. But there were kids and families with dogs and a group of teenagers, girls and guys, with floaties and blue cups that concealed alcohol. Yes, the water was clear, but people were in it with their kayaks and stand-up paddleboards or snorkels. So he walked to the other end that was cobblestone instead of sand. There was only one person there, a thin man in a Speedo. The man was lounging in a beach chair, taking sun with his eyes closed. 

With mask and snorkel, he butterflied around finless. The water was colder than expected—he should have brought a wetsuit top. He saw the orange Garibaldi, the clingfish. He took a deep inhale and dove to the bottom, running his fingers through the eel grass swaying from side to side. When he breached the surface, he blew the water out of his snorkel with a burst and lifted his mask. The man in the Speedo waved and smiled. 

He got out of the water and gathered his things. He didn’t wait to dry off, to heat up again in the sun. He just left, until he was on the oiled dirt road that led to the windward side, the other harbor. He only saw one car, a van with taxi written in the dust of the rear windshield. He wasn’t sure if this was a real taxi or not. 

He appreciated the natural flora and fauna surrounding him, the leaning foxtails, cacti, the sticker bush. There were tall bundles of eucalyptus that looked like giant bouquets in the clearing. A wooden swing hung from one of the trees. There were dwarf palm trees scattered about too. 

The other harbor was less busy; there were only a few vessels, sails down, and a woman rowing in her shore boat. He could see people hiking on a ridge, but they were far off—it would take them hours to reach him. But then, two elderly women claimed a nearby bench. He hadn’t seen them coming.

He left the main road into the clearing, walking until he settled on a breezy meadow. There, he pulled out his Mexican blanket and rolled it out on the dirt to lie down. The dry grass tickled his face, his bare arms, his feet. It was nice. He felt things in his hair but didn’t care. Through a squinted gaze, he watched a cloud drift. 

           

The peel of three loud horns woke him and he found this appealing at first. He checked his watch and saw the time. It was his ship, about to back out of the dock, he knew. He shot up and grabbed his bag, but felt a tug of something else, a red flash in his periphery. He craned his neck and saw the bushy tail high and the erect ears, frozen still. He let go of his bag and ducked down until he himself was on all fours, peeking above the grass. 

He set his face forward, unblinking, and sniffed before plunging deeper into the meadow, for what he wasn’t sure. 


Ashton Politanoff lives in Redondo Beach, CA. His writing has appeared in NOON, Golden State 2017, Sleepingfish, Hobart, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere.  

Literature

The Strange World of Willie Seabrook (Excerpt)

The Strange World of Willie Seabrook

By Marjorie Worthington

“Another Toulon Day”

It was about ten o’clock when we reached the hotel. That was pretty early for Toulon, but the big yellow Victorian palace of a place, with ornate chandeliers and Brussels carpeting, seemed very quiet. We almost tiptoed to the door indicated to us, and knocked. A voice asked who was there, and when Willie answered, “Seabrook,” there was a happy laugh and the command, “Entrez.”

It was not a suite, but just one enormous bedroom, with lots of chairs around, a fireplace, and a bar set up on an ormolu cabinet. The princess had expensive tastes and an income much more modest than that of her friends, and she must have been in one of her economy streaks. 

She was wearing a silk pajama suit, the kind that was worn for afternoons and evenings in the South of France at that time. Her bed was fully made, and she was lying on top of the creamy satin spread. At one side of the bed was a table on which was laid a lacquered tray containing all the paraphernalia for smoking opium: a small spirit lamp, a sticky lump of black stuff, and a long, ivory-colored pipe with a small cup-like thing near one end. The little lamp was lighted and she was rolling some of the black gum into a ball, or pill.

“Make yourselves drinks,” she said, waving to the bottles and glasses with her free hand. “Then come and sit near me and tell me what wonderful and scandalous things you have been doing. I am starving for news of you.”

We did as we were told, and Willie talked, telling marvelous tales, some of them true, most of them not. I sat quietly drinking my drink and listening some of the time, and thinking my own thoughts; but mostly I watched the princess, who spent so much time preparing her pipe for what amounted to one deep puff. Being a rather lazy person, I wondered what there was in that puff to make it worth such a long and complicated process. I decided not to find out.

The room became filled with an acrid-sweet smell that mingled with the fumes of the cognac in the glass I held in my hand. Willie had joined the princess on the bed and she was teaching him to fill a pipe. I felt very drowsy. There was a chaise longue in the room, and I settled myself upon it and waited. A musical clock on the mantel chimed the hours of twelve . . . one . . . two . . . three. . . . 

I remember making, or being asked to make, a pot of tea. I found what looked like a solid gold teapot and put it over the alcohol lamp I found near it, and lit the wick. When I remembered about the tea again, the whole beautiful little gold teapot had melted down into a nugget. Evidently I had forgotten to put any water in it. I was very sad about the teapot and told the princess so, but she was off in some exalted region with Willie tagging behind on his own cloud. And it didn’t matter.

The clock went on ringing out the intervals of hours. Through the cracks in the venetian blinds I could see daylight. The murmur of voices had been going on forever: Princess Telle describing her childhood, then her marriage and her happiness, and then her sorrow. I slept through most of it, almost as drugged, by the fumes, as they were by their pipes. And then it was six o’clock, and Willie was standing up and telling me we must go.

We went out very softly; the hotel was not awake. But as we walked down through the city, people began to sweep the sidewalks before the shops and caf.s, and some of them greeted us with a polite “bonjour,” to which we responded. We reached our studio somehow, I leading a remote Willie by the hand most of the way. I didn’t know how many pipes he had smoked, but I knew they were too many for a neophyte. I was worried enough to become heroic and attack the primus stove by myself. I made a large pot of coffee and kept pouring cup after cup until he had drunk enough, I thought, to counteract the opium. Then we slept for a while, and then we woke up and went to our respective typewriters. Another Toulon day had begun.


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Photography

Philosophy in the Bedroom (Photography)

Philosophy in the Bedroom
by Sofie Amalie Klougart

Sofie Amalie Klougart: “Philosophy in the Bedroom” is a portrait of the subculture of Danish swingers. I started working on this project in March 2012 and finished in June 2013 with an exhibition in Øksnehallen, Copenhagen. During this period I photographed all of the swingers clubs in Denmark (there were nine at that time), as well as private meetings/events, and interviewed and photographed numerous swingers from across the country.

There are swingers clubs across Denmark located in derelict countryside farms or in the suburbs. The windows are covered with black paint or veiled with dark curtains. When you step inside, you pay an entry fee, put your clothes in a locker, and walk into a bar or common room to meet, talk or have a drink with other people — and then, maybe have sex. Swinging is a sexual activity that can involve partner swapping, group sex or sex with your own partner in other peoples’ presence. In swingers clubs, people aim to explore their own sexuality and inhibitions, either alone or with a partner.

The rooms have sexual themes; one is for tantra sex, one for S/M; there is a doctors’ room and a darkroom.

There are many rules in the clubs. For example, nobody touches anyone without having made a relation or an agreement beforehand. You do not step into other peoples’ sexual acts without an invitation; you always wear protection and always take no for an answer. This way, people try to make sex less complicated. This is a study of a sexual subculture in Denmark, which challenges the traditional monogamous relationship.

This resulted in both snapshot photographs of interiors, noisy digital images of sex, and small texts based on my meetings and conversations with people within the culture, plus sound recordings.


Sofie Amalie Klougart (b. 1987), is a visual artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She graduated as a photojournalist from Danish School of Media and Journalism in 2013. She has exhibited her photographic projects in renowned institutions as well as in more experimental formats. Thematically, her primarily long-term projects revolve around the themes of love and migration. She has been awarded The Danish Press Photo of the Year several times, and in 2012 she was selected for The Joop Swart Masterclass for “Philosophy in the Bedroom.” In 2015 she was selected for The LensCulture Emerging Talent Award with the long term project “Reaching Europe,” raising awareness of the migration crisis. The project was also awarded the journalist stipend from the Danish wing of Doctors Without Borders, and has been exhibited around the world. Visit her website here.

Photography

Fourth Floor (Photography)

Fourth Floor
4e étage

by Joseph Charroy

From “Clarita,” a short story by Anna Kavan

I was lying on top of the still unmade bed. I had to get some sleep somehow. I was dead tired, but the rash kept me awake. At last I dozed for a few minutes. Then I was awake again, scratching. All the triangles had somehow collected in the folds of the sheet crumpled under me. They were pricking me with their points, and one had embedded itself in my thigh. The itching was intolerable by the time I'd extracted it, the sheet was burning my back.

I rolled off the bed, and standing there naked, thoroughly scratched my arms and armpits, my navel, my shins. I must have done some pretty thorough scratching before this, while I was still half-asleep, judging by the amount of blood. I was surprised my blunt fingers could produce those long, deep, bleeding furrows, which looked more as if they'd been inflicted by claws. Blood was running down my shins on to the floor and there was blood on the mattress as well as the sheet. 

Clarita appeared, in a long gold dress made of some soft silky stuff with a lustrous sheen and little ripples all over it, like calm water reflecting a sunset and ruffled by a light breeze. I could only think how lovely she looked. She must have said something I didn't hear, because she was gesturing with her hands and the nails flashed in the light. The next thing was that somehow my arm was around her, I was clasping her tight with one hand, while the other hand went on scratching until it hurt, and really I couldn't tell whether her hand or mine was tearing the flesh as I hugged her. I can't explain it. Then she pushed me so hard that I nearly fell over. I thought her beautiful dress must be covered in blood, but there wasn't a spot on it anywhere. That frightening look she had sometimes was on her face, I knew she was furious with me without listening to what she said. 

(from Julia and the Bazooka, published by Peter Owen Modern Classics.)


Joseph Charroy, born in 1982, lives and works in Brussels. After studying modern literature, he taught himself photography; his photographs often depict a wandering state and the passage of time. Check out his small publishing house Éditions Primitive, and his photography books, which were published by Éditions Lamaindonne. Visit his website here, and don't miss the rest of Fourth Floor!

His work is currently being exhibited at the Musée de la Photographie de Bruxelles

Literature

Case Nine from Psychopathia Sexualis (Text)

Case Nine from Psychopathia Sexualis

By Richard von Krafft-Ebing

Self-portrait by Austrian painter Richard Gerstl (1883—1908)

Self-portrait by Austrian painter Richard Gerstl (1883—1908)

“He found it absurd, and did not repeat it”

F.J., aged nineteen, student; mother was nervous, sister epileptic. At the age of four, acute brain affections, lasting two weeks. As a child he was not affectionate, and was cold toward his parents; as a student he was peculiar, retiring, preoccupied with self, and given to much reading. Well-endowed mentally. Masturbation from his fifteenth year. Eccentric after puberty, with continual vacillation between religious enthusiasm and materialism — first studying theology, then natural sciences. At the university his fellow students took him for a fool. He read Jean Paul almost exclusively, and wasted his time. Absolute absence of sexual feeling toward the opposite sex. Once he indulged in intercourse, experienced no sexual feeling in the act, found it absurd, and did not repeat it. Without any emotional cause whatsoever, he often had thoughts of suicide. He made it the subject of a philosophical dissertation, in which he contended that it was, like masturbation, a justifiable act. After repeated experiments, which he made on himself with various poisons, he attempted suicide with fifty-seven grains of opium, but he was saved and sent to an asylum.

Patient was destitute of moral and social feelings. His writings disclosed incredible frivolity and vulgarity. His knowledge had a wide range, but his logic was peculiarly distorted. There was no trace of emotionality. He treated everything (even the sublime) with incomparable cynicism and irony. He pleaded for the justification of suicide with false philosophical premises and conclusions, and, as one would speak of the most indifferent affair, he declared that he intended to accomplish it. He regretted that his penknife had been taken from him. If he had it, he would open his veins as Seneca did — in the bath. At one time a friend had given him, instead of a poison as he supposed, a cathartic. Instead of sending him to the other world, it sent him to the bathroom. Only the Great Operator could eradicate his foolish and fatal idea with the scythe of death, etc. 

The patient had a large, rhombic, distorted skull, with the left half of the forehead flatter than the right. The occiput was very straight. Ears far back, widely projecting, and the external meatus forming a narrow slit. Genitals very lax; testicles unusually soft and small. 

The patient occasionally suffered from onomatomania. He was compelled to think of the most useless problems, give himself over to interminable, distressing and worrying thoughts, and become so fatigued that he was no longer capable of any rational thinking. After some months the patient was sent home unimproved. There he spent his time in reading and frivolities, and busied himself with the thought of founding a new system of Christianity, because Christ hd been subject to grand delusions and had deceived the world with miracles (!). After remaining at home some years, the sudden occurrence of a maniacal outbreak brought him back to the asylum. He presented a mixture of primordial delirium of persecution (Devil, Antichrist, persecution, poisoning, persecuting voices) and delusions of grandeur (Christ, redemption of the world), with impulsive, incoherent actions. After five months there was a remission of this intercurrent acute mental disease, and the patient then returned to the level of his original intellectual peculiarity and moral defect.


The unabridged Psychopathia Sexualis by Richard von Krafft-Ebing is listed here, and it is available to purchase new via Bloat Books.

Photography

Broken Ground (Photography)

Broken Ground

by Ana Catarina Pinho

Ana Catarina Pinho: “Broken Ground” is a particular landscape developed in the periphery of urban spaces, where a different kind of interaction between man and space is visible.

The idea of borderline and of observing the social and visual differences connected to urban space were the focus of this series, which highlights landscapes and interactions between people and the places they inhabit. The “borderline” is conceived as something directly connected to people and to how their thoughts and behavior about territory and possession lead to separation, misunderstanding, and conflict.

In Broken Ground,” we perceive an intent to unveil certain contemporary social issues and contradictions, relating them to architecture and urban space, putting people—with their expectations and emotions—at the core of the series.

Images of diverse suburban areas belonging to Portugal and Turkey are merged, creating a fictional place that calls attention to the similarities of situations and people of different cultures, showing at the same time the psychological and spatial border that divides people and spaces in many of our contemporary territories.


Ana Catarina Pinho (b. 1983, PT) has a background in Fine Arts and Documentary Photography and Cinema, and she is a practitioner and researcher in photography. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally. In addition, she collaborated as a lecturer in the University of Coimbra and the Polytechnic Institute of Porto, and she is currently an FCT research fellow, developing a Ph.D. within the European Centre of Documentary Research at the University of South Wales. She is the founding editor of ARCHIVO, a photography and documentary research platform, which she has coordinated since 2012. Visit her website here.

Photography

Dal Mago (Photography)

Dal Mago

by Renato Gasperini

Renato Gasperini turns his wry, intuitive eye on a local restaurant in the small town of Morro d’Alba (in the province of Ancona) in his series “Dal Mago.” Loud, bright reds and yellows predominate: there is red wine, meat ready to be sliced, red curtains, red walls beside painfully yellow walls. Gasperini’s photographs show a surreal, garish place, beautiful and horrifying, its oddness accentuated by periodic portraits of the restaurant’s mysterious former owner. This former owner is the most fascinating aspect of it all, with his peculiar frozen smile, which is echoed in the grimace-smile of the taxidermied fox that has been appointed to guard the liquor. Follow Renato Gasperini’s work, as he continues his excellent, ongoing project to photograph Ancona and the surrounding regions.


Renato Gasperini was born in 1967 in Ancona, Italy. He studied with photographer Guido Guidi, and he was in photography workshops with Davide Monteleone, Giorgia Fiorio, Ferdinando Scianna, Diego Mormorio, Valerio Spada, Gerry Johansson, Joachim Brohm, Peter Fraser, and others. He has been exhibited in galleries throughout Italy, and his work was recently highlighted in the 4th FotoFilmic//PULP Print Showcase in Vancouver. Visit his website here to see more of his work.

Literature

Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan (Text)

Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan

By J. G. Ballard

ballard-ronald-reagan-01

At the 1980 Republican Convention in San Francisco a copy of my Reagan text, minus its title and the running side heads, and furnished with the seal of the Republican Party, was distributed to delegates. I’m told it was accepted for what it resembled, a psychological position paper on the candidate’s subliminal appeal, commissioned from some maverick think-tank.
— J. G. Ballard

During these assassination fantasies

Ronald Reagan and the conceptual auto-disaster. Numerous studies have been conducted upon patients in terminal paresis (G.P.I.), placing Reagan in a series of simulated auto-crashes, e.g. multiple pile-ups, head-on collisions, motorcade attacks (fantasies of Presidential assassinations remained a continuing preoccupation, subjects showing a marked polymorphic fixation on windshields and rear trunk assemblies). Powerful erotic fantasies of an anal-sadistic character surrounded the image of the Presidential contender. Subjects were required to construct the optimum auto-disaster victim by placing a replica of Reagan’s head on the unretouched photographs of crash fatalities. In 82 percent of cases massive rear-end collisions were selected with a preference for expressed faecal matter and rectal haemorrhages. Further tests were conducted to define the optimum model-year. These indicate that a three-year model lapse with child victims provide the maximum audience excitation (confirmed by manufacturers’ studies of the optimum auto-disaster). It is hoped to construct a rectal modulus of Reagan and the auto-disaster of maximized audience arousal.

Tallis became increasingly obsessed

Motion picture studies of Ronald Reagan reveal characteristic patterns of facial tonus and musculature associated with homo-erotic behavior. The continuing tension of buccal sphincters and the recessive tongue role tally with earlier studies of facial rigidity (cf., Adolf Hitler, Nixon). Slow-motion cine-films of campaign speeches exercised a marked erotic effect upon an audience of spastic children. Even with mature adults the verbal material was found to have a minimal effect, as demonstrated by substitution of an edited tape giving diametrically opposed opinions. Parallel films of rectal images revealed a sharp upsurge in anti-Semitic and concentration camp fantasies.

with the pudenda of the Presidential contender

Incidence of orgasm in fantasies of sexual intercourse with Ronald Reagan. Patients were provided with assembly kit photographs of sexual partners during intercourse. In each case Reagan’s face was super imposed upon the original partner. Vaginal intercourse with “Reagan” proved uniformly disappointing, producing orgasm in 2 percent of subjects. Axillary, buccal, navel, aural and orbital modes produced proximal erections. The preferred mode of entry overwhelmingly proved to be the rectal. After a preliminary course in anatomy it was found that the caecum and transverse colon also provided excellent sites for excitation. In an extreme 12 percent of cases, the simulated anus of post-colostomy surgery generated spontaneous orgasm in 98 percent of penetrations. Multiple-track cine-films were constructed of “Reagan” in intercourse during (a) campaign speeches, (b) rear-end auto-collisions with one- and three-year model changes, (c) with rear exhaust assemblies, (d) with Vietnamese child-atrocity victims.

mediated to him by a thousand television screens.

Sexual fantasies in connection with Ronald Reagan. The genitalia of the Presidential contender exercised a continuing fascination. A series of imaginary genitalia were constructed using (a) the mouth-parts of Jacqueline Kennedy, (b) a Cadillac rear-exhaust vent, (c) the assembly kit prepuce of President Johnson, (d) a child-victim of sexual assault. In 89 percent of cases, the constructed genitalia generated a high incidence of self-induced orgasm. Tests indicate the masturbatory nature of the Presidential contender’s posture. Dolls consisting of plastic models of Reagan’s alternate genitalia were found to have a disturbing effect on deprived children.

The motion picture studies of Ronald Reagan

Reagan’s hairstyle. Studies were conducted on the marked fascination exercised by the Presidential contender’s hairstyle. 65 percent of male subjects made positive connections between the hairstyle and their own pubic hair. A series of optimum hairstyles were constructed.

created a scenario of the conceptual orgasm,

The conceptual role of Reagan. Fragments of Reagan’s cinetized postures were used in the construction of model psychodramas in which the Reagan-figure played the role of husband, doctor, insurance salesman, marriage counselor, etc. The failure of these roles to express any meaning reveals the nonfunctional character of Reagan. Reagan’s success therefore indicates society’s periodic need to re-conceptualize its political leaders. Reagan thus appears as a series of posture concepts, basic equations which re-formulate the roles of aggression and anality.

a unique ontology of violence and disaster.

Reagan’s personality. The profound anality of the Presidential contender may be expected to dominate the United States in the coming years. By contrast the late J. F. Kennedy remained the prototype of the oral subject, usually conceived in pre-pubertal terms. In further studies sadistic psychopaths were given the task of devising sex fantasies involving Reagan. Results confirm the probability of Presidential figures being perceived primarily in genital terms; the face of L. B. Johnson is clearly genital in significant appearance–the nasal prepuce, scrotal jaw, etc. Faces were seen as either circumcised (JFK, Khrushchev) or uncircumcised (LBJ, Adenauer). In assembly kit tests Reagan’s face was uniformly perceived as a penile erection. Patients were encouraged to devise the optimum sex-death of Ronald Reagan.

ballard-ronald-reagan-02

 

An image from NUDE REAGAN, a photography book by John Brian King.

 

Photography

Polaroids from China (Photography)

Polaroids from China

by Sergey MelniTchenko

“The Consciousness of Misery,” from E. M. Cioran’s A Short History of Decay
Translated by Richard Howard 

Everything conspires, elements and actions alike, to harm you. Arm yourself in disdain, isolate yourself in a fortress of disgust, dream of superhuman indifference? The echoes of time would persecute you in your ultimate absences… When nothing can keep you from bleeding, ideas themselves turn red or encroach on each other like tumors. There is no specific in our pharmacies against existence; nothing but minor remedies for braggarts. But where is the antidote for lucid despair, perfectly articulated, proud, and sure? All of us are miserable, but how many know it? The consciousness of misery is too serious a disease to figure in an arithmetic of agonies or in the catalogues of the Incurable. It belittles the prestige of hell, and converts the slaughterhouses of time into idyls. What sin have you committed to be born, what crime to exist? Your suffering like your fate is without motive. To suffer, truly to suffer, is to accept the invasion of ills without the excuse of causality, as a favor of demented nature, as a negative miracle…

In Time's sentence men take their place like commas, while, in order to end it, you have immobilized yourself into a period. 


Sergey Melnitchenko was born in 1991 in Mykolayiv, Ukraine. Today he lives and works in China. He is a member of UPHA – Ukrainian Photographic Alternative. His photography has recently been spotlighted in Feature Shoot, and his first printed publication was Loneliness Online, centering on loneliness and video chats in the modern age. His work has recently been exhibited in Sweden, Israel, Germany, and Chile. Order prints of his work on Eyemazing Editions, and visit his website here

Photography

Dove da qui (Photography)

Dove da qui

by Sabina Damiani

Sabina Damiani: This project is a note about (almost) abandoned bus stops. It literally deals with time and the phenomenon of transition (traffic), and it comments on the silent disintegration of the once unique (unified) Istrian peninsula, as well as the cracked connections between the people who inhabit it. The spiritual community of a bus has been, to a large extent, replaced by a deceptive sense of individual, automotive independence: waiting rooms actually become informal monuments of the architecture of an overrun era.

There is a sense of emptiness I tried to capture with this project. A lost bus stop where no buses ever come, an infinite waiting for Godot (or for a better time) that never comes. I was also interested in non-places as Marc Augé depicted them; an impersonal, transitional space that we only see as we go by – we never stop, never think, never meet anyone.


Sabina Damiani was born in Koper, Slovenia, in 1985. She studied Visual Arts and Education at the Fine Art Academy in Venice and gained her MA in Photography at the Fine Art Academy Brera in Milan. Her work could be placed in the intersection of the creation of images and mapping – telling stories, researching collective and personal memories, as well as collective and personal amnesia, narrating the complexities of certain territories and the people who inhabit them. She has exhibited her works internationally and has been featured in a variety of publications, including Ignant, L’Oeil de la Photographie, Fotografia Europea, and Landscape Stories. Visit her website here.

Literature

People in General (Fiction)

Short Story from “People in General”

By John Colasacco

Pennsylvania_Station,_NYC,_Waiting_Room,_Cassatt_Statue.jpg

Once I tried to imagine what it would be like to have to say something to my best friend if she were dead. I spent the whole night by the open window, getting dressed and undressed, and it was almost as though many years had passed. After a while I no longer felt qualified to say anything. When I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror there was something awkward about my body, the way it looked and moved. I used to know what it was but the rain made me forget it. In the morning I went to school, and I moved through the crowd with a piece of fruit in my hand, looking for a table with an empty seat. When I found one I sat down and put the fruit on the table next to me. Suddenly it flew apart, disintegrating into a million little pieces. I listened to the voices all around me; some were laughing, and others were angry, or pretending to be. I asked someone what time it was, and they told me it was only nine o’clock. It felt like I was snowing inside myself. Now I am sitting in the train station again. My hands are freezing cold and I have a stranger sitting near me kicking his feet against the legs of his chair. A minute ago he leaned in close to me, as though he wanted to whisper something private in my ear. Am I thirsty? he wanted to know. I have the same few words going through my head over and over, he said. It’s maddening, but it’s how I learned to speak. I stayed very still and rigid while he told me this, never flinching or turning to acknowledge how close to me he was. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that he was holding something, and from the way he cupped it in his hands I knew that it was probably a lighter and a pack of cigarettes. Sure enough, a second later he settled himself back into his own seat and began tapping the pack against his palm. He peeled away the cellophane and opened up the box, then pulled the foil wrapper out and immediately crumpled it up. I kept waiting for him to put the piece of foil in his pocket or get up to throw it away. He never did though; he’s still holding it now, kicking his feet, with a very faint rumbling sound coming from the back of his throat. Oh, I see, I think to myself, noticing the huge globes of light on top of the old fashioned street lamps standing in the open waiting areas of the station. People file by on their way to the coffee shops and souvenir stands that line the edges of the concourse under these huge, swollen lamps, which don’t need to be as intense or beautiful as this. It reminds me of being home, and leaving the door to the attic open for just second or two, and in that moment while my back is turned feeling certain that one of the cats has just slipped upstairs.

Just then I see a little girl in a pink jacket standing by a white mannequin that’s been stripped of all its clothes. Her feet are pointing in one direction but the rest of her is turned toward me, and she’s looking at me with big, unfocused eyes. I stare back at her for a while, then I stop looking at her, and in my head I see the train station the way it was before it filled with people. There’s moonlight on the floor, pouring down from the skylights, and the huge antique clock on the wall says that it’s 2:40 a.m. There are a few passengers here and there, none of them close by. I watch them moving slowly toward the far end of the terminal. One is a blind man in a heavy winter coat being led by a service dog. When he disappears around a corner I realize that over the past few minutes I’ve gradually become afraid of something. The inside of my mouth hurts, and my hands are so cold now that I wish I’d brought gloves. Just when I feel like I can’t stand it anymore, I look up at the hole in the wall that I thought was a clock, and the last thing I notice is the smell of rice cooking.


John Colasacco’s books include Antigolf, The Information Crusher, Two Teenagers, and the forthcoming The Wagners. Other excerpts from the manuscript People in General can be found in Enclave’s #finalpoems and Dennis Cooper’s blog. Anyone interested in written/artistic collaboration can email at jacolasa@syr.edu.

Literature, Publishing

THE STRANGE WORLD OF WILLIE SEABROOK

COMING IN FALL 2017:
MARJORIE WORTHINGTON’s Memoir

This is the somber, quietly stunning account of American author Marjorie Worthington’s life and relationship with William Seabrook. 

A bestselling writer on the exotic and the occult, Seabrook was an extraordinary figure from the 1920s to the 1940s who traveled widely and introduced voodoo and the concept of the “zombie” to Americans in his book The Magic Island

In 1966, years after his death from suicide, Worthington, a novelist and Seabrook’s second wife, cast her eye on their years living in France as lost-generation expatriates; their time traveling in the Sahara desert (where Seabrook researched his book The White Monk of Timbuctoo); their friendships with Aldous Huxley, Gertrude Stein, and Michel Leiris; and the gradual erosion of their relationship. 

Worthington was with Seabrook in France and later New York when his life became consumed by alcohol, and he took the drastic step of committing himself to a mental institution for a cure; though he wrote about the institution in his book Asylum, he remained an alcoholic. He was also fixated by sadistic games he played with women, which he and the surrealist Man Ray photographed, and which he later viewed as a way to initiate altered psychological states through pain.

The Strange World of Willie Seabrook is an intimate look at the complicated, torturous relationship of two writers. Seabrook was a sadist, yet to Worthington he was also enthralling; he was an alcoholic, but she believed she could protect him. Even after he had hurt her emotionally, she stayed near him. In brilliantly depicted moments of folie à deux, we watch Worthington join Seabrook in his decline, and witness the shared claustrophobic, psychological breakdown that ensues.

Photography

Carmen Colombo (Photography)

Photographs by Carmen Colombo

From “Smog,” The Watcher and Other Stories, by Italo Calvino (trans. William Weaver):

Purification was the organ of an Institute, where I was to report, to learn my duties. A new job, an unfamiliar city—had I been younger or had I expected more of life, these would have pleased and stimulated me; but not now, now I could see only the grayness, the poverty that surrounded me, and I could only plunge into it as if I actually liked it, because it confirmed my belief that life could be nothing else. I purposely chose to walk in the most narrow, anonymous, unimportant streets, though I could easily have gone along those with fashionable shop windows and smart cafés; but I didn’t want to miss the careworn expression on the faces of the passersby, the shabby look of the cheap restaurants, the stagnant little stores, and even certain sounds which belong to narrow streets: the streetcars, the braking of pickup trucks, the sizzling of welders in the little workshops in the courtyards: all because that wear, that exterior clashing kept me from attaching too much importance to the wear, the clash that I carried within myself.

But to reach the Institute, I was obliged at one point to enter an entirely different neighborhood, elegant, shaded, old-fashioned, its side streets almost free of vehicles, and its main avenues so spacious that traffic could flow past without noise or jams. It was autumn; some of the trees were golden. The sidewalk did not flank walls, buildings, but fences with hedges beyond them, flower beds, gravel walks, constructions that lay somewhere between the palazzo and the villa, ornate in their architecture. Now I felt lost in a different way, because I could no longer find, as I had done before, things in which I recognized myself, in which I could read the future. (Not that I believe in signs, but when you’re nervous, in a new place, everything you see is a sign.)


Carmen Colombo was born in 1991. After earning a degree in Photography and Visual Arts at the Istituto Europeo di Design, in 2013 she attended a documentary course at Luz Academy in Milan. She is currently living and working in Milan as a freelance photographer; she is also developing her personal portfolio. She exhibited some of her works at the Photofestival Milano (2012) and at the Jitterbug Gallery in Paris (2016). Her project “Al di qua delle montagne” has been recently selected for the Emerging Talent Awards 2016, and it was exhibited at the Macro Museum in Rome in December 2016. Next March she will publish a book from her work “Al di qua delle montagne” together with Balter Books, a publisher from Turin. Visit her website here.

Literature

Sand (Short Story)

Sand
by Rav Grewal-Kök

johnbrianking-sickcity

For eight years, or ten, the world outside her apartment was a stage. In the subway, people looked at her with envy or admiration—her slender ankles and wrists, her beautiful hair. At work, her colleagues listened for her voice in the hallways. Strangers held doors for her and offered their seats. Bartenders didn’t let her wait when she raised her hand at the counter. She led the kind of city life a teenager in a dying town might recognize from a television show, and want for herself.

Each August she left the city to go to the shore with a man. Often she didn’t know the man very well, but for two weeks they spent their days next to each other on plastic chairs on the sand wearing almost nothing. They read intelligent magazines, sipped fruit-flavored cocktails, rubbed lotion onto each other’s backs, and talked about the delightful weather. Twice each day during those two weeks—once in the morning and once in the afternoon—the woman walked from her plastic chair to the water’s edge. She let the waves lap over her toes but went no farther. At night the woman and man ate dinner at a restaurant. They drank another cocktail, shared a bottle of pink wine, and talked about the weather they hoped for the following day. Then they returned to their hotel room, took off all their clothes, and got into bed.

After these vacations, what the woman remembered most fondly was not the sun, the water on her toes, the cocktails, wine, food, or bed, and certainly not the man, but her walks from the plastic chair to the surf and back. Sometimes she slipped off her shoes while she sat at her desk and imagined that she was once again at the shore. She loved the fact that sand wasn’t anything more than rocks that had crumbled into dust. And she loved that when she walked on sand she sank only a little with each step, before the softness turned to steel under her feet.

• • •

One year, to her surprise, there was no man to go with her to the shore. So she went by herself to sit almost naked on a plastic chair on the sand. At first, she walked twice each day to the surf and back, as she’d always done. But with no one waiting for her in a plastic chair of his own, she began to wander. Soon she circled the beach for an hour at a time. Her mind was clear now that she was alone. As the days passed, she set aside her cocktails, lotion, and intelligent magazines. She realized that since walking on sand was the best part of her vacation, she should do more of the walking, and less of everything else.

The next year she signed up for a hiking tour of the desert near the city where she lived. The sand in this desert wasn’t as pure as the sand at the shore—it was marked by cactuses, boulders, and even the occasional coyote skeleton—but she was happy there was so much of it. Still, the other hikers distracted her with their chatter. She couldn’t keep her mind clear. On the third day of the tour, as she walked behind a man and two women who were talking about musical theater so loudly they were almost shouting, she decided she needed to visit a desert in a foreign country whose language she didn’t know.

A year later she flew to such a country and joined a tour through a desert much larger than the one near the city where she lived. This desert was flat and without shade. It would have been dangerous for tourists to walk under all that sun, so they rode camels instead. The other tourists talked among themselves. They gestured, laughed, and posed for pictures. One man sang arias from beneath a wide-brimmed hat. The animals emitted a terrible stench. Despite all this, the woman passed her first day in a state that was almost tranquil. Because she didn’t understand what the tourists were saying or singing, she found it possible to ignore them. After she sprayed perfume on her scarf, she could forgive her camel its smell. When the group stopped for the night, and while the guides boiled lentils and barbecued a goat, the woman took off her shoes to walk around the campsite. It was only then that she realized she hadn’t yet found the right desert. The sand was full of hidden rocks and even beetles.

For her next vacation, she planned a trip to the biggest desert she could find on the globe she kept on her bookshelf. She arranged for someone to meet her at an airport on the desert’s edge. She stepped out of the plane into a vast but empty terminal. A man in a blue jacket and cap stood waiting with a sign that had her name on it. She followed him to his car. Silently, he drove out of the airport and onto a highway that, within minutes, was empty of traffic. The sun dropped behind them. The land turned red, then black. The woman fell asleep.

She woke up the next morning with the sun in her eyes. They had stopped where the highway stopped, at the foot of a dune that seemed to her as tall as a mountain. The driver, who was already standing outside the car, held the door open. The woman got out, took off her shoes, and began to walk. The sand still held the night’s coolness. It was smoother and softer than any she had stepped on before. She had walked only a few yards from the car when she found herself sinking to her ankles. With each step of her climb she sank deeper. Soon the sand reached her knees. She was halfway up the dune when she realized that this desert—the greatest desert, formed of the purest sand—was an ocean. She hoped to reach the top, and to see it all, before she plunged beneath.


Rav Grewal-Kök’s stories and essays have appeared in the New England Review, Missouri Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Hunger Mountain, online at The White Review, and elsewhere. He was a National Endowment for the Arts fellow in 2016. He is a fiction editor at Fence and lives in Los Angeles, where he is working on a novel.

Featured image from the series “Sick City” by John Brian King.

Photography

Atlas (Photography)

Atlas

by Mélanie Desriaux

From Diaries 1914–1923, by Franz Kafka (trans. Martin Greenberg):

June 25, 1914. I paced up and down my room from early morning until twilight. The window was open, it was a warm day. The noises of the narrow street beat in uninterruptedly. By now I knew every trifle in the room from having looked at it in the course of my pacing up and down. My eyes had traveled over every wall. I had pursued the pattern of the rug to its last convolution, noted every mark of age it bore. My fingers had spanned the table across the middle many times. I had already bared my teeth repeatedly at the picture of the landlady’s dead husband.

Toward evening I walked over to the window and sat down on the low sill. Then, for the first time not moving restlessly about, I happened calmly to glance into the interior of the room and at the ceiling. And finally, finally, unless I were mistaken, this room which I had so violently upset began to stir. The tremor began at the edges of the thinly plastered white ceiling. Little pieces of plaster broke off and with a distinct thud fell here and there, as if at random, to the floor. I held out my hand and some plaster fell into it too; in my excitement I threw it over my head into the street without troubling to turn around. The cracks in the ceiling made no pattern yet, but it was already possible somehow to imagine one. But I put these games aside when a bluish violet began to mix with the white; it spread straight out from the center of the ceiling, which itself remained white, even radiantly white, where the shabby electric lamp was stuck. Wave after wave of the color—or was it a light?—spread out toward the now darkening edges. One no longer paid any attention to the plaster that was falling away as if under the pressure of a skillfully applied tool. Yellow and golden-yellow colors now penetrated the violet from the side. But the ceiling did not really take on these different hues; the colors merely made it somewhat transparent; things striving to break through seemed to be hovering above it, already one could almost see the outlines of a movement there, an arm was thrust out, a silver sword swung to and fro. It was meant for me, there was no doubt of that; a vision intended for my liberation was being prepared.


Born in 1981 in La Rochelle, Mélanie Desriaux lives and works in Paris. She graduated from the School of Fine Arts (Rennes, France, 2006), and completed the Higher Competitive Exam in Education and the Visual Arts, with Photography as a major subject (Aix-en-Provence, France, 2010). Mélanie Desriaux now shows her work in France and abroad. From 2006 to 2012, she exhibited her work at Le Radar Gallery (Bayeux, France), Art & Essai Gallery (University of Rennes 2, France), and the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. Her photographs of the prison of Saint-Martin (Ré island, France) were selected by Carceropolis and are regularly published by the Prison International Observatory. In 2015, she won a scholarship for a wandering photographic tour in the United States. A year later, she was selected by Pascal Amoyel to exhibit her work on the Oregon Trail in Bowen Island (Vancouver, Canada) for FotoFilmic // PULP Gallery & Store. Her work is published by C41 and Camera Infinita, among other outlets. Visit her website here.

Photography

Desert Mass (Short Film)

Desert Mass

by John Brian King

Desert Mass is a new short film by John Brian King, art photographer and director of the feature film Redlands. In Redlands, King eschewed typical film editing techniques, featuring instead eight-minute scenes without any camera movement or cutting. Reviewer Angeliki Coconi commented on Redlands: “[It] sits still while everything happens. It doesn’t follow its characters — it watches them. It doesn’t admire or criticize them; it simply looks at them.”

Filmed in Palm Springs, California, King’s latest work Desert Mass focuses on the strange, the disorienting, and the decaying. Its austere style, reminiscent of Redlands, often takes on a dream-like quality, and the accompanying hypnotic organ music underscores the film’s theme of a Satanic mass in an arid, artificial land. Interspersed between alienating landscapes, filmed with the detachment of a wandering traveler, are scenes of two women, each alone in an anonymous hotel room — their distress, which is never explained, surreally related to the unease of the city. It is a brilliant, unconventional work, which you can watch in full above!


John Brian King is the photographer of LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84 and Nude Reagan, both available from Spurl Editions. He is the writer and director of the art house film Redlands (2014) and the short film Model Test (2016). Visit his website here, and check out his latest photography series Sick City.

We will be selling John Brian King’s two photo books at the Philadelphia Art Book Fair on May 5 and 6. Come see us!

Photography

Alain Greloud (Photography)

Hôtel de la baie des trépassés
(Bay of the Dead Hotel)

by Alain Greloud

Located between the Pointe du Raz and the Pointe du Van, the Bay of the Dead (Baie des Trépassés) derives its name from a misinterpretation of the Breton Boe An Aon, or bay of the river, into Boe An Anaon, bay of lost souls.

On the beach, a hotel. The Bay of the Dead Hotel, the hotel of “the bay of lost souls.” It is this name that serves as my mantra, and which, throughout this series, will be there like an inner incantation between the seclusion of the room and the harshness of the sea elements. It is the subtitle for each photograph I take. — Alain Greloud

Située entre la pointe du Raz et celle du Van, la Baie des Trépassés tient son nom d'une déformation du breton Boe An Aon, baie du ruisseau, en Boe An Anaon, baie des âmes en peine.

Sur la plage, un hôtel. L'hôtel de la Baie des Trépassés, hôtel de “la baie des âmes en peine”. C'est ce nom qui me sert de mantra, qui tout au long de cette série, sera là comme une incantation intérieure entre l'enfermement de la chambre et la rudesse des éléments marins. Il est le sous-titre de chaque photo que je prends.


Alain Greloud lives and works in Paris. With a degree in journalism, he now works exclusively as a freelance photographer. Greloud’s personal photographic research is influenced by travel and literature. More contemplative and narrative than informative, his photos – tinged with solitude – are often polysemous and leave much room for reflection and the imagination. If his work is sometimes marked by the notable absence of human presence, he also treats the theme of humanity more directly through portraiture, notably Man’s place in his environment and the body’s place in spaces. Alain Greloud thinks of photography as poetic introspection, a reflection on the world around us that we often do not know how to see. His work is distributed by the Plainpicture Agency. Visit his website here.

Publishing, Photography, Literature

Portraits of Spurl

Portraits of Spurl

Andy Adams @FlakPhoto

Andy Adams @FlakPhoto

Kim Cooper @kimcooper / Larry Edmunds Bookshop @LarryEdmunds1

Kim Cooper @kimcooper / Larry Edmunds Bookshop @LarryEdmunds1

Edward Carey @EdwardCarey70 / bought at @MalvernBooksTX

Edward Carey @EdwardCarey70 / bought at @MalvernBooksTX

Naomi Fry @frynaomifry

Naomi Fry @frynaomifry

Stephen Sparks @rs_sparks / Point Reyes Books @PointReyesBooks

Stephen Sparks @rs_sparks / Point Reyes Books @PointReyesBooks

Alex Maslansky / Stories Books @StoriesEchoPark

Alex Maslansky / Stories Books @StoriesEchoPark

Kliph Nesteroff @ClassicShowbiz

Kliph Nesteroff @ClassicShowbiz

Grafiche Morandi

Grafiche Morandi

Clare Kelly @NewAgeSext

Clare Kelly @NewAgeSext

Denise Enck / Empty Mirror @EmptyMirror

Denise Enck / Empty Mirror @EmptyMirror

John Coulthart @johncoulthart

John Coulthart @johncoulthart

Kathleen Graulty and Julian Lucas / Mirrored Society @MirroredSociety

Kathleen Graulty and Julian Lucas / Mirrored Society @MirroredSociety

Small Press Distribution @spdbooks / New Museum @newmuseum

Small Press Distribution @spdbooks / New Museum @newmuseum

John Coulthart @johncoulthart

John Coulthart @johncoulthart

J. M. Schriber @roughghosts

J. M. Schriber @roughghosts

Ed Turner / Biblioklept @biblioklept

Ed Turner / Biblioklept @biblioklept

Thank you to all of the wonderful, sensational artists who have taken part in PORTRAITS OF SPURL, and who are are not ashamed to read and sell our misfit books!