Style as Imitation

Leonardo #1, page 17 (1987) (detail; First Publishing reprint). Art by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

1.

My father, who once trained as a baker, taught me when I was a kid how to bake an apple pie. I don’t know where he got the original recipe from; I highly doubt that he invented it. Certainly he didn’t invent the idea of baking pies. And he didn’t invent the idea of baking an apple pie.

He was very clear about certain instructions:

  • always use Granny Smith apples;
  • always use ice-cold water;
  • touch the dough as little as possible.

Since then, I’ve baked several apple pies, and over time I’ve modified the recipe slightly, but it’s essentially the same (and I never violate his prime instructions).

When I make a new apple pie, I’m not doing anything new.

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Hail the New Puritan

Michael Clark and company

Hail the New Puritan (1987) is a feature-length film directed by Charles Atlas. The choreography is by a very young Michael Clark, who was then still the enfant terrible of the London dance scene, famous for his post-punk ballet. (He later went on to play Caliban in Peter Greenaway’s magnificent Prospero’s Books (1991); today he’s a well-respected choreographer.) The costumes and decor are by the late Leigh Bowery. The music is by The Fall, with additional music by Bruce Gilbert (of Wire) and Glenn Branca (who was everywhere in 1987).

The movie is essentially a fake documentary about a day in the life of Michael Clark, who worked with The Fall throughout the 1980s:

The dynamic diary film, Hail the New Puritan, inspired by the Beatles’ dancing movie A Hard Days Night, documents the daily life of Britain’s bad boy of ballet Michael Clark in a pastiche of narrative, performance and fantasy. It follows his professional life as director of his anarchic dance company, and also offers a glimpse into his personal life as he lustily mingles with numerous London scenesters including bi-sexual clubgoer and original party monster Leigh Bowery. “What I was trying to do was put Michael’s work in a context where you wouldn’t need an explanation,” Atlas explains, acknowledging the ethics involved in collaborating with dancers (one must not upstage them).

Alas, the film is very hard to find—or, rather, you can find it, but renting it will really cost you. (Quite a shame there isn’t a mass-market DVD available. It was recently restored and screened, and screenings have been popping up here and there, so here’s hoping!) So I’m assembling below all of the clips up at YouTube, for your viewing enjoyment.

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