Back in the infancy of Folk Horror Revival, myself and fellow founding member Darren Charles cut our teeth on the live talk scene on behalf of FHR, delivering a lecture to the Alchemical Landscapes symposium at Girton College, Cambridge Univerity. In those hallowed halls we dedicated our talk to two luminaries of sound – Cambridge town’s own madcap Syd Barrett (as it was on the anniversary of his death that we spoke) and also to Delia Derbyshire, as Girton was the college she attended whilst studying her twin passions of mathematics and music.
But why would a pair of northern folk horror revivalists pay homage to an electronic music pioneer? The answer lies in that peculiar relationship (symbiosis?) between folk horror and hauntology. That and the fact we were both honoured and awed to be invited to speak at the seat of learning that the sculptress of sound once haunted with her presence.
Caroline Catz’s impressive documentary / docu-drama Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes (broadcast as part of the BBC’s Arena arts programming) further illustrates the bond between Derbyshire and her contemporaries and the worlds of folk horror & urban wyrd aesthetics.
Born in Coventry in 1937, Delia Derbyshire stated that hearing the sound of air raid sirens as a child during the war had a profound effect on her and cemented a lifelong obsession with sound. Hailing from a working class background (which the plum intonations of her speaking voice would hardly suggest), Delia was offered places to study at both Oxford and Cambridge but followed a scholarship at the latter to study mathematics. She combined this course with her love of phonaesthetics and graduated in 1959 with a BA in Maths and Music.
Having taken up a position at the BBC in 1960; in 1962 she was reassigned to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – a department that some may have considered as punishment but a place where Delia felt a yearning to be. It is her work and time here that provides the main focus of Catz’s documentary.
Set up in 1957 by Desmond Briscoe and the legendary Daphne Oram (an aural enchantress whose mastery of sonic weirdness was hidden behind features that would not have looked out of place at a Women’s Institute coffee morning) the task of the Radiophonic Workshop was to provide incidental sounds for radio and then television programming. Their task of creating new and different sounds led the workshop, which was based in Maida Vale, London and employed the sonic services of a number of sound wizards and visionaries to various fields of experimentation and the embracing of tape manipulation and Musique Concrete methodology. Oram departed the Workshop to found her own studio in 1959, but Delia would later fill those shoes with great competence and vision. A moment that would mark her place in music history came in 1963 when composer Ron Grainer asked whether she could do anything for a theme tune that was needed for a new BBC series. Providing Delia with a few musical notes and abstract suggestions for sounds including “wind bubbles” and “wind clouds”, she set to work. The TV show was called Doctor Who and for it Delia crafted one of the most infamous, innovative, timeless and enduring television theme tunes ever.
Catz’s documentary of course captures that seminal moment, but she has a lot more to say about the life, loves, art and depression of Delia Derbyshire. The film is cut between interviews with those who knew and worked with Delia, recordings of her own voice in interviews and dramatised scenes in which Catz herself plays Delia. (I was racking my brain trying to remember where I recognised Caroline Catz from and it turns out that she plays the love interest of Doctor Martin in the eponymous tv show that has seemed to air on British telly since the dawn of time). In my mind now though she will be forever associated to this film which is clearly a work of love as well as of art.
Catz guides us through the highs and lows of Delia’s life and soundscapes- through a haze of marijuana smoke and acid colours as psychedelia and Delia embraced each other and her depression and alcoholism (which was not considered much of a problem by Delia who seemed to see herself as a hopeful drunk rather than a hopeless one). We surrender to the white noise and are immersed in history and sound under the guiding light of Nick Gillespie’s cinematography. We voyeuristically listen on as seance-like, Delia engages in conversation with the disembodied voices of Mary Wollstonecraft and Ada Lovelace. Yet we are not merely enveloped in the broadcast of ghosts, for working with the 267 tapes belonging to Delia, that were found stored in cereal boxes in an attic after her death in 2001, the artist Cosey Fanni Tutti (possibly most well known for her work in the extreme art-music scene of COUM and Throbbing Gristle alongside Genesis P-Orridge) uses the magical archive to create more manipulation of sound. It is not just Tutti however that has been inspired by Delia Derbyshire, as without her and the other Radiophonic visionaries the music output of the likes of Caro C, Burial, the Ghostbox oeuvre, Concretism, Broadcast, The Soulless Party and various other trip-hop, vapourwave, hauntological, electronic and film, TV & radio soundscape composers would likely be a different kettle of fish altogether.
Passing away from renal failure early after the turn of the century, Delia Derbyshire would likely be “tickled pink” to know that two decades into the 21st Century that the sound experiments she created as much as 60 years ago would be inspiring and innovating musicians and music now.
Delia Derbyshire: The Myths & The Legendary Tapes is available for free streaming to UK viewers now at ~
Rituals & Declarations was conceived as a one volume, four issue project to run throughout 2020, which would embrace the weird as a way to step outside capitalist realism and help imagine a better future. Obviously 2020 didn’t turn out like anyone expected, and the demand for hope for the future only intensified, so they’ve made the decision to carry on through 2021 (no doubt helped by the positive reaction to their previous issues), and I’m personally delighted they’re continuing their run.
In this issue, we have Cormac Pentecost on Edgelands folklore, drawing a path of our neglected and overlooked locations from Grendel to Unofficial Britain via JG Ballard Ballard, Alan Garner and Stig of the Dump; a fascinating liminal zone, ripe for new folklore. Allyson Shaw does a remembrance for Isobel Gowdie, and on a related note, Elizabeth Sulis Kim gives us a short story on the ignorance and hate behind witch hunting. We also have Icy Sedgwick on fetches, LB Limbrey on queerness and nature, and more- my favourite being regular Hookland contribution by David Southwell, the folklore of a non-existent place.
It’s all packaged together in a nice, glossy cover on high quality paper, with some excellent artwork. Another top tier zine that I strongly recommend.
Copies are available here.
Extensive Ben Wheatley interview by “Lady Limnal” covering his career and new film.
Here at FHR we’ve been fans of Ben Wheatley for many years, having followed his intriguing and varied career path from the pitch dark comedy of Sightseers, the pseudo 70s Wyrd of High Rise, the psychedelic oddness of Field in England and above all the disturbing Urban Wyrd of Kill List.
In this interview for the Liminal Worlds project, Ben discusses his new film In the Earth.
“…when I was a kid we lived by the woods, and I think just the actual physical presence of the woods made a difference to me, and fed into a lot of stuff, and a lot of the things in Kill List are from nightmares that I had as a child, about that very specific place where I was living, Billericay.”
A fanzine as beautiful and introspective as the series it lauds, “waiting for you: a detectorists zine”, is a collection of essays, interviews and papers that celebrate, discuss and speculate on the sedate yet moving series created by Mackenzie Crook.
The strange times of lockdown have led to an unexpected (but welcome) boom in small press publications as well as niche “‘zines”. In the past, such publications were very much home produced, photocopied cheap and cheerful labours of love, but print on demand, modern software and emerging virtual communities in the time of pandemic have led to many wonderful creations. “waiting for you…” is no exception to this intriguing trend and is an exquisitely produced A5 volume, printed on high grade paper. A further pleasing touch, is that the pages have a retro eggshell blue tinge, that would doubtless appeal to the detectorist Lance, given his misty-eyed appreciation of older plastics in the series finale – though the zine sadly (fortunately?) does not have “the smell of 70s”.
Amongst the essays David Colohan explores the light and shade of folk horror themes in ‘Phantom Signals’ while David Petts turns a psychogeographical eye on the almost-real landscape of Danebury, the fictional home town of the detectorists. It was also a pleasure to see longtime Folk Horror Revivalist, Jim Peters as a contributor interviewing soundtrack composers Dan Michaelson and Harvey Robinson. Elsewhere in the volume, Mackenzie Crooks lesser known fiction is reviewed by Rosemary Pardoe, while Phil Smith opines on the series symbolism. The zine closes with Carl Taylor’s review of “Landscapes of Detectorists” a collection of essays edited by Innes Keighren and Joanne Norcup.
Lovingly compiled & edited by Cormac Pentecost and topped off with Jane Tomlinsons psychedelic cover art – “waiting for you…” is a must-read for ardent (or casual) fans of the series.
“waiting for you: a detectorists zine”is published by Temporal Boundary Press
Good afternoon Grots and Goblins! A bit of a late to the party post here today but no worries. A good podcast is a good podcast right?
I was listening to what i thought would be the latest episode of Old Gods of Appalachia the other week and rather than an episode i was given an announcement that in respect of The Magnus Archives airing its very last episode they would be holding back the release date to let them have its final moment in the sun without any distractions. I had never heard of it before so i jumped over to find the first episode.
The Magnus Archives is/was a production of Rusty Quill. A London based production company that first began its life with the Rusty Quill Gaming Podcast. A show about role playing games so that wins points with me! The Magnus Archives was their second project that began production in 2016 and has been going strong since. It now has more than 160 episodes under its belt. Perfect for this endless grind known as a worldwide pandemic!
So what is The Magnus Archives about? The Magnus Institute has recently promoted staff member Jonathan Sims to the vacant spot of Head Archivist and we join him in the mammoth task of organizing the place after the chaos the previous person in his position left it in. Each episode is Jonathan finding a case in the archives and narrating it. The Institute itself researches paranormal, supernatural and unexplained phenomena so each account is an unlucky person’s account of their brush with something quite unpleasant and creepy. Ghosts, fish men, spooky trees, people vanishing in hospitals and possessed priests are a few of the subjects. Each episode is a stand alone story but from what i gather a bigger picture starts to reveal itself as the series progresses. I have not got that far myself yet but I am noticing things here and there that could possibly be relevant as I continue on. Every episode also has a moody score that accompanies the stories well. Sometimes i didn’t even notice there was any until it was too late and my anxiety had gone through the roof.
They may have finally called the show a wrap but it doesn’t matter. There is plenty of material to get through and from as far as i have got it seems well worth it.
The last couple of years have seen a real surge in the number of zines related to folk horror, folklore, forteana and the just plain weird. While zine culture probably peaked in the 90s but had waned to an extent with the creation of social media, it never died away completely. For many, the convenience of a blog post will never replace the satisfaction of having something you can hold in your hand, read on the bus and pull out a dusty box years later. This will be the first in a semi-regular series of reviews of folk horror related zines.
Weird Walk was probably the first zine of the current crop. It bills itself as a journal of wanderings and wonderings from the British Isles, and as this suggests, much of its content is focussed round getting out into the countryside. In the current issue (#4), we have a route for a weird walk around Glastonbury, an interview with Nick Hayes on land ownership and trespassing in England (as someone who lives in Scotland, where the right to roam is legally enshrined, this was quite an eye opener), some recommended listening for rambling through edgelands (recommended soundtracks for walks feature regularly in WW), and a piece from Stewart Lee on hunting megaliths in Lamorna in Cornwall.
My favourite article is by Zakia Sewell on growing up in Houndslow, the child of a Welsh dad and Carribbean mother, who finds a connection to a mythic Albion of druids and stone circles, away from the more toxic myths of recent times, a vision of who makes a connection can find belonging here, a world away from any kind of blood and soil bullshit.
This is all laid out beautifully in full colour, with plenty of atmospheric photos of dolmens, standing stones and the like, that makes me long for the lifting of lockdown and being able to get out into the countryside. Highly recommended. Copies of this and back issues available via their website at https://www.weirdwalk.co.uk/
When I read fiction, my mind’s eye tends to play out the unfolding narrative as a film. In the case of Lucie McKnight Hardy’s novel ‘Water Shall Refuse Them’ the setting and style adapted itself on the cinema screen behind my eyelids in the manner of a 1970s Play For Today or similar. That is far from a criticism – BBC plays such as Nuts in May, Brimstone and Treacle, Our Day Out, Blue Remembered Hills, Red Shift, Abigail’s Party and Penda’s Fen are high water-marks of British telly.
Anyway like Ronnie Corbett, I digress. Hardy’s debut novel concerns itself with a married couple, their teenage daughter and their mentally impaired infant son taking a holiday at a rural Welsh cottage in the bid to try and deal with the aftermath and trauma of a family tragedy. They discover that the locals are not exactly the most welcoming or friendliest bunch and instead find solidarity with a teenage boy and his mother, who also being incomers to the village are not held on the best terms by the parochial families either. Indeed the mother Janet is regarded as a witch by the villagers; an accusation she does little to dispel.
Her son Mally develops a close and strangely bonded relationship with Nif, the 16 year old daughter of the troubled family vacationing in the Welsh valley and protagonist of the book. Nif is an individualist who is governed by her own rituals and way of seeing. In discussion about the book on a Twitter post, the author Dr Miranda Corcoran drew a comparison between Hardy’s debut and Shirley Jackson’s classic novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle. For me these are big footsteps for it to walk in as We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of my favourite novels. I can see the parallels between the works and furthermore without giving too much of the plot away, I think comparisons could also be drawn with that other fine example of Dark Americana /American Wyrd – Thomas Tryon’s The Other. Water Shall Refuse Them does however have a very British personality.
One of the points of comparison between Hardy’s and Jackson’s novels is the presence of an unconventional and troubled young woman as narrator and therein lies a personal feeling and also intriguing topic of thought in that whilst I like Jackson’s protagonist Merricat Blackwood, I just don’t like Nif. Yes she is an intriguing well-written character but I don’t warm to her at all. But do I need to like the main personality to read the book and enjoy it? Or any book? I think personally the answer is sometimes. For instance, I gave up on reading Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game quite soon into it as I disliked the protagonist and her husband so much. In the realm of film really disliking the central family in Hereditary and the child in The Babbadook are part (not the whole) of the reason I don’t like those films much at all. But then again I did not like the principal characters in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Blair Witch Project, Eyes Wide Shut or Misery (book and film) yet I appreciate those works overall more. Does it matter if you don’t like the characters who you will spend much time with? They don’t have to be likeable for a work to be a success – Patrick Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho is a prime example of that.
As Water Shall Refuse Them progresses I like Nif less and less. I don’t know if that is a matter of concern with Hardy, whether it is of any importance to her whether the reader likes her main character as a person. And it could just be me – other readers may feel sympathy or empathy towards Nif, but she leaves me cold from the offset. It could be the case that that she is meant to. As the story develops, without saying too much, Nif (and in some instances Mally, whom I never warmed to either) do some rather unpleasant things; so it is perhaps an intention of Hardy for the reader to question how they feel about chief characters instead of just easily slipping into a comfortable synch with them.
In regard to Nif’s actions, as someone who has immersed themselves in ‘horror’ fiction since a child it is possible to become numbed or desensitized to all manner of fiendish happenings, but there are scenes in the novel that did leave me feeling disturbed. This is a credit to Hardy’s writing as these scenes are generally quite underplayed, there is no great crescendo of gore but subtlety delivered, small yet in their way powerfully resonant occurrences that get under the skin. These traits do foreshadow the great reveal, which is not the most unexpected (though I do tend whilst reading fiction or watching films automatically ponder how I would end the narrative were I the writer of it , so do quite frequently see the ‘twist’ coming and wonder if my mind were wired differently would more fiction catch me off-guard) but the resolution of the end happenings does however throw in another swerve ball.
It is not my place nor intention to issue ‘trigger warnings’, but it must be noted that some scenes may especially upset some readers and perhaps provoke them to ask whether they were necessary or at least whether they needed to have occurred several times. That is not a question for me to answer but perhaps for the author to address and certainly for individual readers to make their own judgement upon.
So these points have caused me to mull over the book and would have even if I were not writing a review of it, so it did get under my skin and that is a credit to it. Did I like it? That I need to think over more – I didn’t dislike it, of that I’m sure. I would read it again and I don’t say that of all novels. But it is one that I will need to contemplate more as to my deeper, long-lasting impression of it. Is it a good book either way? Yes I think it is; it is a intriguing debut that makes me curious to investigate Hardy’s future works, so that’s a job well done there. It is a book that reminds me somewhat of some of Benjamin Myer’s novels – scenarios which are simple but effective and hold some moments of strong, sometimes brutal or harrowing but not overworked significance. aving grief, loss and trauma at its heart it also is reminiscent of Will McClean’s The Apparition Phase (recently reviewed on this website Here ). The themes unearthed in Water Shall Refuse them are pertinent to the bucolic uncanny and it is a worthy addition to the folk horror fiction shelf, though because of events described within may indeed be contentious with some readers.
Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy is available to purchase from HERE and other book stores.
To discover more about the writing of Lucie McKnight Hardy visit HERE
In art history discussions British Surrealism is often an under-represented topic as is one of its most important pioneers – Ithell Colquhoun. But there is more to and more to say about Colquhon than her on-off relationship with Surrealism as Amy Hale makes strongly apparent in her biography of this intriguing artist. Born in India in 1906 and apart from a period residing in Paris, Colquhoun spent the majority of her life living and working in England with most time spent between London and Cornwall. Cornwall in the 20th Century was known as something of a haven for British artists particularly the Newlyn, Lamorna and St Ives schools. Despite treading in art as well as magic circles, Colquhoun largely followed her own path. Hale divides this path into 3 areas; those being Surrealism, Celticism and Occultism and she takes us to these destinations via a non-linear route. Hale states that anyone hoping for a solid art-historical approach from her book will be sorely disappointed – I don’t think they will be. The art-history aspect of the book is built on as solid ground as that of many purely art-history tomes. Hale’s pedigree as a folklorist and anthropologist, as well as her clear enthusiasm and curiosity for Colquhoun as a subject, enrich the discussion of the art and what influenced it.
Colquhoun was a graduate of the Slade School of Art, so had a history of training and was not an Outsider artist as such but she was largely self-taught in her methods and independent in her creative aims. Her relationship with Surrealism was always destined to be hit and miss as it was a notoriously fractious movement with Andre Breton steadfast in his vision of the intentions and character of Surrealism which would at times clash with artists whose own inherent drive would at times veer from his routed roadmap. A point of interest shared between Breton and Colquhoun was Automatic Art – the main feature of this trinity of book reviews. For Breton it was an art that sprung solely from the subconscious of the executor, but for numerous others it was seen as being produced by discarnate spirits, namely the dead, working through a living channel thus combining the corporeal artist and their materials truly as a medium. From within or without, Colquhoun was not content to be simply a conduit as from her painting, collage and writing we can see a very inquisitive mind and this led her to create art in relation to her spiritual and intellectual interests and indeed to create art as part of magical practice.
The roots of tradition can be a considerable factor in certain magical paths and for Colquhoun living in and inspired by Cornwall, Celticism was an obvious avenue to explore. Her deep regard for the visionary poet and chronicler of Celtic folklore William Butler Yeats further bonded her to this path. A problem with traditionalism and indeed some magical / religious avenues is that of nationalism, which in itself could be benign but as is all too sadly evident even now in the second decade of the 21st Century can develop into something discriminatory, malign and ugly. Hale does not dwell long on this point but neither does she ignore it.
As Hale notes, in the 20th Century there were numerous occult societies and orders active and it seemed like for some people membership to them was something to be collected like esoteric stamps or mystical train numbers. Colquhoun herself passed through numerous doors, but it really does seem that this was due to her quest for knowledge and perhaps kinship – that she was exploring all available paths to find the one that best suited her, rather than feeding the ego with membership titles. But a mystery seems to remain, did she find her right path, her true spiritual and magical home or at the point of her death in 1988 was she still seeking? Hale digs deep and unveils a lot about Ithell Colquhoun, her sexuality, her artistic endeavours, her magical questing but yet Colquhoun still seems something of an enigma. Whilst more of her has been brought out of the shadows by Hale’s very impressive detective work, it is perhaps a right balance found – enough of Colqhoun revealed to further engage both art aficionados and occult scholars but not so much as to pick her bones clean and stripped of the intrigue that captivates.
The quality of the artwork featured in the book is very good and left me greedy to see more of her work . Fortunately Fulgur Press have released Colquhoun’s Taro in Colour in book format – this would serve as a fitting companion to this volume as would indeed the biography of Austin Osman Spare written by Phil Baker, also published by Strange Attractor Press.
To purchase Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of the Fern Loved Gully by Amy Hale and to see more information on the title visit -> HERE
Taro as Colour focuses on Colquhoun’s work in 1977 / 1978 whereby she pared down the traditional idea of Tarot divinatory cards, stripping them of the usual figurative imagery and symbolism and instead presented as 78 images of vivid colour and abstract expression. They do still retain relation to the Tarot tradition. Presented with new titles and divided into elemental sets of Earth, Air, Fire and Water as well as ‘Trump’ cards. The works actually have a profound resonance. They may derive from Colqhoun’s long exploration of automatic art but they also pay heed to magical colour tradition as followed by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. As could be said of much (but not all) Abstract Art there is scope for personal interpretation and I found whilst looking at the cards that I would ‘see’ things. I think it goes beyond pareidolia and is more associated to Rorschach psychological tests whereby the subconscious becomes visible. Furthermore I could see these cards being useful for both meditative and scrying purposes.
It would have been good for the book to come with a set of cards as it is not the cheapest purchase by any means. But you have to take into account that this book is a limited edition – 1200 copies in runs of 300 different cover designs. Each pertaining to one of the elemental suits Earth (indigo) Air (yellow) Fire (Red) and Water (Blue) – make sure if ordering to make preference in the notes on order box at checkout and subject to availability that will be fulfilled. I did not read that part so ended up with a colour I wouldn’t have picked, but don’t mind as I see the colour that fate ended up giving as interesting in itself like the ‘random’ selection of a card. And the book is very nicely presented. Each card gets its own page – off which they sing with vibrancy. The book also is mainly visual. There is no textual interruption save for card title and division of suits within the book but it is opened with a great introduction, again penned by Amy Hale. Ithell Colqhoun: Taro As Colour is available to purchase from – Here
Not Without My Ghosts : The Artist As Medium – various artists and writers
Ithell Colqhoun is one of the artists featured in this charming little book (with a quote from Amy Hale in reference to her) that marks the touring exhibition of that name curated by The Hayward Gallery and The Drawing Room. Concentrating on art created through or in relation to spiritualist channeling, automatic and trance state composition the show featured work from William Blake; Cameron; Ann Churchill; Ithell Colquhoun; Louise Despont; Casimiro Domingo; Madame Fondrillon; Chiara Fumai; Madge Gill, Susan Hiller; Barbara Honywood; Georgiana Houghton; Anna Mary Howitt; Victor Hugo; Augustin Lesage; Pia Lindman; Ann Lislegaard; André Masson; Grace Pailthorpe; František Jaroslav Pecka; Olivia Plender; Sigmar Polke; Lea Porsager; Austin Osman Spare; Yves Tanguy and Suzanne Treister with The Museum of Blackhole Spacetime Collective: therefore spanning time from the Victorian period to the present day. A lot of the older art however looks ahead of its time. This is particularly true when it comes to works of an abstraction style.
Though Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944) has oft been credited as the pioneer of Abstract Art, it is clear from the earlier works of artists such as Georgina Houghton (to whom we will return in greater detail shortly) that this isn’t the case. Because women featured significantly within the earlier creation of abstract art it must be asked whether their gender is the factor in them remaining largely unknown until now and this is a matter broached within the essays featured in the book, those being Spiritualist Sisters in Art by Simon Grant, Spirit Voices, Women’s Voices: Art and Mediumship by Susan L Arbeth and Infinite Redress: Politics in Spiritualism and Medium Art by Lars Bang Larsen. Within a lot of Victorian opinion, women were perceived as being more generally ‘sensitive’ and therefore often more prone to hearing spirit voices and more ‘passive’ therefore more suited to being used as a channel for the dead to communicate with the living through art – so a question arises as to whether such clairvoyant conduits can be considered the creators of these work or merely the channels for the true dead artists.
Some such as Madge Gill (whom is most often categorised as an Outsider Artist) credited her work to the spirit Myrinerest whom would ‘possess’ her. Notably the name Myinerest comes from ‘My Inner Rest’ which for people like-minded to Breton, whom attributed Automatic Art to the inner subconscious rather than the influence of spirits from outside, can give cause to consider the works of interest and study and not just to sceptically disregard them if they feel uncomfortable with notions of the occult or supernatural. Gill is probably most widely known for her renderings of haunting faces caught within swirling monochromatic maelstroms of patterns or scrawls, but an image of hers displayed within this book shows an abstracted rendition of plants executed in a mix of earthy and rich deep colours. Stylised botanical specimens, swirling patterns and strange faces are well represented within this book.
For further information and to purchase a copy visit -> HERE
World Receivers: Georgiana Houghton. Hilma Af Klint. Emma Kunz
The third of the books reviewed here today, World Receivers, takes a closer look at 3 mediumistic painters and also 3 experimental filmmakers whose work draws association to the spirit-influenced art-forms via the essays and editorship of Karin Althaus, Sebastian Schneider and Matthias Mühling in relation to a 2018/19 exhibition at the Lenbachaus gallery in Munich.
Before Kandinsky, Kupka and Mondrian who all recognised a spiritual aspect within the abstract painting they were long credited with creating in the 20th Century, there was Georgiana Houghton, born in England in 1814. Houghton did receive some artistic training but the details of which are not known. Whatever she learned at art-school will have been at odds with what the spirits guided her hand to do. Following the death of her sister Zilla in 1851, like many people within the Victorian and later Edwardian period Houghton turned to Spiritualism for guidance and comfort through their dark journey through grief. By 1860 Houghton was a practicing medium herself. Initially using a planchette (a wooden wheeled device into which a pencil can be placed and guided by unseen hands enable the medium to render art or writing) Houghton requested that the spirit of her sister Zilla or her deceased brother Cecil guide her hand but neither could apparently do so. However Houghton testified that the spirit of a departed deaf and dumb artist by the name of Henry Lenny was able to work through her. The work created was of a vastly different manner to the precise and naturalistic representative art of the 19th Century. Resplendent in kinetic swirls, sweeps of colourful energy and only sometimes depicting instantly recognisable forms such as faces or flowers, the art of Georgiana Houghton was radically different for the time and even when Kandinsky first experimented with abstraction nigh on half a century later, the disintegration of form into shape and colour would still be too avant-garde and beyond comprehension for many observers. In 1871, Houghton exhibited her work at a personal financial loss to, beyond the more sympathetic fellow spiritualist observers, a rather bemused, sometimes indignant audience. Not until the 21st Century has her work gained greater attention suggesting that whatever her spirits had to say was ahead of her time.
Hilma af Klint (1862 -1944) is another Spiritual Abstraction painter whose light has finally glowed stronger, years after her own passing over. This is however largely of her own doing, requesting that her spiritual works be kept secret until at least 20 years after her death. A graduate of the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, Klint created accomplished pieces of more traditional art for commercial purposes but her hidden work was something else entirely. As with Houghton, the death of a sibling, Klint’s sister Hermina, proved the catalyst for both her spiritual and artistic development in 1880. Her growing interest in Spiritism, Theosophy and after a meeting with Rudolf Steiner, the esoteric philosopher and clairvoyant, his Anthroposophical Society was to have profound influence upon her artistic oeuvre. Bold colours and geometric shapes were common motifs of her Automatic paintings. It wasn’t until her aptly named ‘Paintings For The Future’ exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2019 that the light of Klint burned with a stellar intensity. Proving to be one of the most successful exhibitions hosted there to date, perhaps in these strange days the strange art of Hilma af Klint has finally found its right audience.
Emma Kunz (1892 – 1963) the third of the Spirit artists showcased in this book had an intriguing manner of working. Going into a trance state she would swing a pendulum over large scale graph paper and plot dots along her momentum and then in single sessions which could last through the night she would join those dots. The results were spectacular. Like a human Spirograph, Kunz would create stunning geometric designs. Sometimes she read her pictures as answers to spiritual questions but sometimes they served another unusual purpose. The pendulum of Emma Kunz was not used only to guide the creation of art but as a tool in the treatment of ailments for as well as being an artist and clairvoyant, Emma Kunz was a healer. The book World Receivers features a fascinating short piece by Peter Burri who recounts how Kunz saved his life as a child after he had become badly poisoned by iodine consumption.
The book World Receivers culminates with essays and images on and from the experimental film artwork of John & James Whitney and Harry Smith, but it is the work of the 3 female artists of the spirit that carries most weight and focus and is presented with great care and respect in this lovely large book which can be obtained -> HERE
The trinity of books reviewed here compliment each other very well and all are great additions to both the Occult / Spiritual and Art bookshelves.
Hello fellow Revivalists and welcome to the Folk Horror Revival Spotlight. This week we kind of move in a different direction. Kind of. Depends… Anyway. Like many of us that follow the Folk Horror Revival we perhaps had our first taste of it through ghosts and tales of hauntings through books like The Usborne Book of Ghosts and if you were really unlucky, or lucky, that traumatizing show Ghostwatch. Things that go bump in the night. Ghostly apparitions that appear at the top of the stairs. Screaming skulls. Children talking like old men and animals that can speak. So with that in mind let me introduce you to Haunted.
Haunted is a podcast that collects real life stories of the paranormal from all of us average everyday people that come from all walks of life and from all over the world. Danny Robbins is a comedian and has lots of tv and radio show writing credits under his belt. How he has found himself investigating the paranormal I don’t know. Maybe we could interview him and find out. Each episode is an interview with the eye witness, or witnesses. As they recount the experience to Danny he explores the circumstances surrounding the event. He goes on site to where they happened, explores the social and political environments of the time (trust me, it’ll make sense when you listen) and speaks to skeptics, paranormal investigators, psychologists and other professionals about the rational explanations. There is part of me that wants to punch these people but another part just wants to curl up in a ball and hide from the reality of how fragile our minds are. Another thing I happened to notice is the wide range of people interviewed. A South African wealthy businessman tells his story in one episode in a very serious manner.
I actually listened to the whole series in a binge. I found every episode fascinating and just couldn’t stop. Actually I’m lying. I did stop. I was doing a sleepover at work and thought it best not to freak myself out when I was the only staff member in a residential unit. That’s exactly how these things start! They are all a must listen but the most recent two part episode ‘The Night Shift’ is really a stand out for that very reason! If you ever happen to have read the book Will Storr Vs The Supernatural I think you will enjoy this.
As an aside I should point out that Danny is currently recording a podcast for BBC Radio 4 called The Battersea Poltergeist. A case that he discovered while recording Haunted that was far too big and complex for just a couple of episodes. It is part investigation, dramatization (with Detectorist Toby Jones lending his voice) and interview and will definitely be covered in a future post.
Do you hear it? It’s on the wind. It is echoing across the empty valleys. The sound of screaming and despair. The Banshee has come for us all… Nope. I was wrong. That will be the sound of me and many many other parents screaming in frustration as we try to home school our kids. Pass me the whiskey…
Anyway! Welcome to the Folk Horror Revival Podcast Spotlight. Where I help ye get your fix of ghosts, pixies, goblins,strange customs and whatever else fellow Revivalists might find yourself into. The podcast world is a massive black hole so sit back and let us do the work for you.
This week we have Loremen. An odd podcast from two comedians Alasdair Beckett King and James Shakeshaft. The about me describes them both as two tall white men (You can get a picture of how this podcast is going to be already) and with their podcast they ‘investigate’ local legends and folklore along with other guest comedians. Looking through the subjects of episodes we find a wide range of topics such as sheep murders, dusty places, monsters, mass hysteria, prophets and lots of other less well covered phenomena. But if the obscure doesn’t appeal to you they also discuss the more well known like The Lambton Worm, Sawney Bean, The Mabinogian, Geff the talking Mongoose and lots of others. They have you covered basically.
This is an extremely entertaining podcast. A nice break from the usual more academic discussions and serials that we have had so far. Each episode clocks in at just under an hour and they fit in quite a good bit saying that they have a tendency to go off on unrelated tangents for minutes at a time. The episode ‘Everything happens for the best and the pickled parson’ with guest Sindhu Vee is a great example of this as we are told all kinds of anecdotes and stories that may or not have anything to do with why everything happens for a reason. I don’t mind though as it is always funny.
So when you have no hair left to pull out from trying to solve your kids maths assignments take a break and tune in to this for a bit for a nice bit of stress relief.