Corp’rate Day

thoughts on art, literature and film

Bad Retail: A Romantic Fiction (excerpt)

[…] these quilted snatches are viewed as past moments – of clarity, beauty, civilization, and spiritual elation – that must somehow be retained and restitched in a sense, spliced onto the present, […] as if they were alive, as if they were types of intelligent, deathless energy, and this so as to allow the past, with a nourishing insistence, to feed the present.

(Oppenheimer 1998: 84, ‘Goethe and modernism’) Read more →

Where Dalí Meets Disney

In 1945, after a chance encounter with Disney at a cocktail party in Hollywood, Salvador Dalí was invited to collaborate on a short animated film entitled Destino. The project was eventually terminated in its preparatory phase, but a whole array of conceptual paintings (executed by Dalí himself) remained in the Disney archive, and, in 2003, the Walt Disney Company hired a team of French animators to complete the film based on the surviving sketches.  This was the version that toured in a number of highly publicised exhibitions, including the retrospective ‘Dalí and Film’ staged at the Tate in 2007, among other international venues. Read more →

About ‘The Great Macguffin’

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Laurence Figgis, The Great Macguffin (detail), 2005-12, ink, crayon, watercolour on paper, 160 x 350 cm

I first stumbled on the (great) MacGuffin in 2005, when I was searching for a title for a piece of work that was then in production, a large scale ink and watercolour drawing that had occupied my attention for some months. I was still in the throes of making this work when I read Alfred Hitchcock’s account of the term in his seminal interview with François Truffaut. And I knew straight away that I had found not only the title for the work but also the name for its protagonist, the imaginary character (part human, part animal, part machine) with whose fortunes the drawing is principally concerned. The word itself struck me with its amusing lyric – or rather non-lyric -quality; I liked the heavy, cumbersome, down-to-earth sound. But the explanation behind the word was just as captivating.

‘MacGuffin’ is Hitchcock’s term for a pretext or plot device that in its typical and most intellectually satisfying form must always be radically under-explained within the diegetic narrative.  In many cases it would not hold up to rational scrutiny if the audience subjected it to any attention.  Thus in Hitchcock’s film Notorious (1946) we are led to assume  that particles of uranium (viable for atomic capability) can be stored in wine bottles in the form of a crystalline black dust, hidden in the chief antagonist’s cellar. Read more →

American Gothic

Chaos, Anachronism and Modernity in Eyvind Earle’s Sleeping Beauty 

The philosopher of anachronism, Jeremy Tambling, has argued that what is ‘postponed’ appears as anachronistic.  Drawing a metaphor from the world of modern travel, he writes that jet-lag (décalage horaire or ‘time-gap’ in French) ‘places one time (that of the body) inside another [time], literally postpones it’ (Tambling, 2010: 16).  The Beauty in Charles Perrault’s famous story for children, published in 1697 – the first of its kind to be called La Belle au Bois Dormant (‘The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood’), is herself an anachronism, a body ‘postponed’ – a figure from the ancient past recalled to life. And the Prince, who helps her to rise, is struck with embarrassment.  For, though she is fully dressed (and quite magnificently), she is dressed just like his great-grandmother – in the fashion of a century before – and wears a ‘point-band’ peeping over her collar (Perrault, 1992: 89).    Read more →

By My Voice I Shall Be Known

Laurence Figgis, Study for Death and Cheese, 2013, digital image

According to the Hellenic mythology, the Sybil of Cumae attracted the attentions of Apollo a god of various jurisdictions, who offered to grant her anything she desired if only she would sleep with him. Holding up a fistful of sand, she asked for as many years as there were grains of sand running through her fingers. But the deity had the last laugh (as deities usually do). The Sybil of Cumae had failed to ask for eternal youth and was subject to extremes of degeneration in her later life. She eventually subsided into a wrinkled husk contained in a jar, but the Fates allowed her to retain her voice long after her body had disintegrated completely.  As MarinaWarner writes, quoting the Sybil:

‘By my voice I shall be known’: that’s no bad epitaph for a storyteller. (Warner, 1994: 11).

Read more →