In the summer of 2008 we went on a trip to the south of France, staying in Nice. I specifically organised the trip so I could visit a good number of the sites where Jean Cocteau had painted murals. I was speaking to my friend Tessa today, and I was reminded of the trip and the photos I took, so I thought I’d put some up. I went to research the drawings in relation to a couple of pieces of work I want to make myself (but still haven’t got round to).
First is but one photo of the exterior of the Saint-Pierre Chapel in Villefranche-sur-Mer. There is only one photo because I wasn’t allowed to take any inside, and its such a wee place that the woman on the door would have seen me. You’ll have to take my word for it, it’s one of my top 3 buildings I’ve ever seen. Go and see it. It’s tiny but perfectly formed, and there are drawings of Christ, Mary, cockerel’s and Django Reinhardt. Cocteau redecorated the chapel in 1957 which he dedicated to the fishermen of the area. I managed to find a beautiful book of his murals in the Cocteau Museum in nearby Menton, and have scanned an image of Django. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, there’s a thorough essay on some of Cocteau’s symbolism in the chapel (and others) here (part I) and here (part II).
If you’re in the area, why not head down the coast a wee bit to Menton, where you can visit the Cocteau Museum and also the local registry office, which Cocteau finished decorating in 1958. The hall was meant to have no specific religious connotations, but there are strange angels (my only gripe with Cocteau’s beautiful drawings is when he draws faces from below, they look hideous), as well as minotuars. I think the scene is meant to be a traditional south of France wedding party (with minotaurs). Cocteau didn’t just do the wall paintings, he designed all of the interior and it ends up looking like a camp twin peaks set – which is brilliant obviously. If my photos don’t do it for you (they were hastily taken as again you’re not allowed to take photos) I’ve just found a fancy panorama of the hall here
Further in coast and near Vallaruis (where Picasso’s ceramics studio is) is the town of Frejus. Up on a hill, surrounded by fields of olive trees is the Chapelle Notre-Dame de Jerusalem. This is by far the most colourful of the sites we visited, but as lovely as it was, there was something a little sickly sweet about it. Cocteau didn’t in fact finish the decoration himself, he gave up in 1960 and the work was finished in 1965 by Edouard Dermit (one of Cocteau’s lovers) & Roger Pelissier (Cocteau died in 1963). There is a beautiful light coming into the space, but the colours seem a little saccharine compared to the considered pastel tones of the other works. Again, you can see a great panorama of the chapel here.
The one place I wasn’t able to visit, and which was the initial seed in my interest in Cocteau’s murals is his own burial chapel at Chapelle Saint Blaise Des Simples in Milly-la-Foret where he liked to live, which is nearer Paris than Nice. Cocteau designed and decorated his own burial chapel.
Finally, Cocteau also decorated some of the chapel Notre-Dame de France in London. Here are some terrible mobile phone photos of it, including a self-portrait.
So there I was, eating my dinner and watching Cher on the Xfactor doing a weird combo of afro wig/cargo trousers/No-Diggity/Shout and I thought “oh, I’ve not listened to Bill Withers for a while”. When I was about 17, I bought a Bill Withers Live CD, I didn’t know anything about him, but I got it from Fence Records in St Andrews (which went on to become THE Fence Records) and I was stunned by a couple of songs in particular, “I Can’t Write Left-Handed” and “Grandma’s Hands” – my Gran had died a couple of years before, and that song really touched me. I found that a close friend also liked Bill Withers and I bought a greatest hits, and played it to death. “Sweet Wanomi” was a favourite, and I then found he wrote “Lean on Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine” & “Lovely Day” which were all songs as a child that you seem to know without knowing, through childhood radio play osmosis or something. So fast forward to now, and I don’t think I’ve sought out Bill Withers in the last 6 years or so. I go onto spotify and listen to “Just As I Am”, his 1971 debut, which I’d never heard, and has lots of my favourite songs from the Live album and the greatest hits. I then see what else he had done, and to check when he died….but he hasn’t died!!
He’s still alive – he just hasn’t recorded any music since 1985…..that’s interesting, why not? Well, from what I can gather, he got fed up of he music business, and being told what to do, being told to “James Brown” his music up a bit. So he quit – now I really like him. Obviously, he made shitloads of money from some early songs (which were actually released when he was 32 years old (there is hope)) so could afford to do what he liked (then more money from 250 people covering Ain’t No Sunshine, No Diggity sampling Grandma’s Hands, Will Smith sampling something I think). Last year, a film was made about him called “Still Bill” and there are some great interviews with him recently, in the Telegraph (2010)and here (2007).
So, according to the new government, we no longer need tanks, nimrods, harriers, warships or airbases, because the real threat to the UK is cyberwarfare. Its news to me, so I thought I would have a look into this thoroughly modern form of combat. Cyberwarfare is, according to security expert Richard A. Clark, “actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption”. There are some earlier instances of what is now called cyberwarfare, but the first real instance seems to have been in 1998 when a computer apparently based in the former Soviet Union was used to rifle through thousands of computer files at the Pentagon – the US government titled this incident “Moonlight Maze“. Then, in 2003 there were a series of coordinated attacks on US computer systems, which the government went on to call “Titan Rain“.
Clash of The Titans
There are lots more examples that have happened since, apparently involving former Russian computer experts helping out pro-Palestinian countries attach Israel during the 2006 war against Hezbollah. China have been accused of participating in cyberwar against the USA (Titan Rain), as well as attacks on Germany and India, though the Chinese deny all of the allegations. In 2007, Estonia came under a cyber attack, apparently in response to the relocation of the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn (worth reading about) – Government ministries, banks and Estonian media computers were affected, again, apparently from Russian computers.
Bronze Soldier of Tallinn (vandalised)
There were also more attacks during the South Ossetian War (remember that?) – in 2009/2010 “Operation Aurora” was launched from China against Google (so it seems its not just a nation on nation war) finally, as there are lots of examples, and I don’t want to just list them, in September of this year, Iran was attacked by the Stuxnet worm (!) “the most advanced piece of malware ever discovered” – now I don’t really know what malware is, but my interest was sparked in the naming of some of these incidents – “Titan Rain”, “Moonlight Maze” “Operation Aurora” etc.
South Ossetian War
I have just completed a screenprint called “Aztec Silence/Infinite Justice” which is named after, firstly, “Joint Task Force Aztec Silence“,which is a US defence task force, tasked with conducting anti-terrorism operations. These are focussed on “under-governed” areas of North Africa, and they operate out of Sicily and southern Algeria. They take part in “Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)” specifically “Operation Enduring Freedom Trans Sahara (OEF – TS)”. OEF is the USA name for the War in Afghanistan. OEF also has kind of off-shoots, which include OEF-TS, OEF-P (Philippines, formerly known as “Operation Freedom Eagle”) and OEF-HOA (Horn of Africa), all of which are still going on. Other products of the OEF brand are “OEF Kyrgyzstan” and “OEF Pankisi Gorge” – these two operations apparently ended in 2004.
Aztec Silence in action
Now, to get back to my screenprint, Operation Enduring Freedom was apparently originally called “Operation Infinite Justice” but was changed so as not to cause offence to Muslims (!) – which seems strange considering the target of the operations themselves are almost entirely Muslim. This desire not to cause offence in the naming of operations was also an issue during the Korean War. According to this website
“General Matthew Ridgway while serving under MacArthur during the Korean War, named several operations for the second phase of the war which drew political pressure because of the operation names. Ridgway drew political pressure for Operation Killer and Ripper among others. “I did not understand why it was objectionable to acknowledge the fact that was was concerned with killing the enemy.” he wrote in his book “The Korean War” ”
There is plenty elsewhere on the internet explaining how operations are named (some by computer software, some by government/military officials with an ear for an aspirational title), particularly in the US and Britain, and Germany during WW2. However, here are some of my favourites (not necessarily funny, or odd, sometimes just things I had no idea happened, or that they needed names)
Operation Purple Warrior (British, Falklands War, 1982)
Russian spy ship watching British exercises during Operation Purple Warrior
Operation Grand Slam (Pakistan, attempt to cut off Kashmir from India, 1965)
Operation Lucky Alphonse (British, sweeping for Cypriot independence fighters, 1956)
Operation Blowdown (British/USA/Australian, a simulation of a nuclear explosion in a rain forest (??), 1963)
Operation Deliberate Force (NATO, deliberatly forceful air strikes in Bosnia, 1995)
Operation Mountain Storm (Macedonian special police operation against Albanian extremists, 2007! What?? Albanian extremists?? 2007???)
Operation Provide Comfort (USA, security and aid to Kurds in Iraq, 1991-1996. 5 years of providing comfort.)
Operation Provide Comfort
Operation Phantom Fury (USA & Iraq, 2nd Battle of Fallujah, Iraq 2004 – an awful battle, with thousands killed and terrible repercussions. It seems strange to me to think of Furious Phantoms)
Operation Phantom fury
There are hundreds of operations listed for Iraq and Afghanistan here and here. The final coalition operation in Iraq seems to be “Battle of the Palm Grove” and the most recent (named) UK operation in Afghanistan is “Operation Black Prince”.
Operation Black Prince
Finally, while researching some of this, and other work, I began to realise that there are a number of unstable parts of the world, that I have never heard of, and which I cannot even begin to imagine what is happening there, conflict-wise. For example, have you ever heard of Transnistria? Its an area of land between Moldova and Ukraine, and is officially part of Moldova, but it declared independence in 1990. They have their own passports (which no-one recognises), flag, they had a war in 1992, there is a Russian military presence there, as well as some left of USSR weaponary, and rumours persist that Transnistria deals in weapons of some sort.
The incidence of Cyberwarfare which affected Estonia in 2007 has apparently been part organised by pro-Kremlin youth groups in Transnistria – because Transnistria is not a recognised nation, it does not belong to Interpol and “Accordingly, no Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty applies. If residents of Transnistria were responsible, the investigation may be severely hampered, and even if the investigation succeeds finding likely suspects, the legal recourse of Estonian authorities may be limited to issuing all-EU arrest warrants for these suspects. Such an act would be largely symbolic.” (wikipedia).
Therefore, all sorts of wild west stuff could, theoretically, be happening in “rogue” states (or non-states…) and autonomous regions, not to mention the Balkans, the former USSR – but I reckon you can be pretty confident that someone somewhere is in there and acting in an abstractly named secret operation of some sort, apparently on our behalf.
I first came across Erik Nitsche when my mum brought me back a book from a 2nd hand shop in Inverness called “A History of Communication” which is part of of “The New Illustrated Library of Science and Invention”. This library was made of 12 titles, including a history of rockets and space, flight, weaponary, astronomy etc. I’ve now managed to get my hands on 4 of the 12. They are beautifully designed and laid out, there is a quiet confidence, a sense of “rightness” about the composition of the books. I started to look into Mr. Nitsche, who designed the series. There isn’t that much out there, a couple of flickr accounts etc, a small essay by Steven Heller. He was born in 1908 in Switzerland and moved to the states when he was 26. He was best known for a massive body of corporate work for General Dynamics. Not much else. But, who cares really, as his work speaks for itself. To start with, here are some book cover images from the “New Illustrated Library” series.
I have made a compilation on mixcloud – I have missed the old days at school when friends and I used to make mixtapes pretty much every week. Mixcloud is pretty good, and nicely compatible with things. Have a wee listen, the music is mostly what I have been listening to lately, plus some songs I have had my attention turned to by the rest of Randan Discotheque, Olly, Owen and Hugo.
Well, would you look at that. Randan Discotheque have t-shirts, two kinds, and they’re only £7 inc p&p. Thats a bargain if you ask me. Theres 3 sizes, small (36-38) medium (38-40) and large (40-42). I even did a song to go with them…… buy your t-shirt here with paypal or credit cards : Randan Discotheque