The following article was published in N-SPHERE Omega.

Hello and welcome to the Spheres. To introduce you to our readers, tell us, who are the Popovy Sisters?

We are twin sisters – Ekaterina and Elena Popovy, professional artists and fashion designers.

What is your artistic background?

We graduated at Ural State Academy of Architecture and Arts in Yekaterinburg. We started making dolls in 2004.

What brought you to created these wonderful miniatures?

At the beginning we were interested in realistic human gestures. The magic of certain personalities inspired us to create their images. We tried not only to make portrait dolls, but also to convey the nature of the characters through the gesture and costumes.

Thanks to this interest we deepened our knowledge of human anatomy and facial gesture. We also learned how to work with various artistic materials: China, self fusing plastics (paper clay, efa plast, la doll), fumo, baked plastics.

However doll portraiture didn’t let us express ourselves as designers, so we started experimenting with materials. Finally we found a perfect solution by combining our passion for fashion design and dolls art. This has grown into small conceptual collections of 10 to 15 dolls.

Where do you find inspiration for the themes you use in your projects?

Everything inspires us. travels movies, stories, countries, history.

What does your work process involve? How do you usually start a project?

At the very beginning, we do a lot of research on our theme, reading historical files, finding pictures, doing a lot of paperwork sketching and so on. We learn as much as we can, this helps us to fully and deeply get into the theme. It takes a lot of time but it’s an important stage of creation.

Many of your pieces have a culturally specific air to them. Is any additional research taking place at the beginning of a project?

Of course we learn the history behind them.  As I’ve said before, we study as much as we can. Sketching, finding textures, proper materials.

How would you describe the level of difficulty in creating your pieces, both in design and development?

We find it difficult. The most difficult part is to create our own techniques. Like for example wigs, this is our own technology, it’s hard to develop from theme to theme. We also do a lot of work as designers, as I’ve said before – sketching a lot. We follow modern fashion trends. It often happens when we come up with something and then we see other fashion designers going in the same direction. I can say that we have good sense of fashion trends, and we use it.

What tools and materials do you usually use?

We like to use antique materials as well as modern high quality materials. When we travel in different countries we always buy new materials there. It’s exciting to have many antique fabrics from different countries. We also like to use modern Japanese silk and other materials. We also use organic materials such as animal bones feathers, insect parts.

How long does development usually take?

We work on the whole collection, it is difficult to say… our preparation stage can last up to two months. To create one doll can take from one week to more, it can take three weeks or so. It depends on how complex she is.

Which of your projects do you consider to have been most rewarding, both on a personal and a profesional level?

We can’t specify any project. All our projects are on top level. We can work one year on each project until we feel that it’s done the way we want. So each of our projects has been made with a high level of professionalism, we tried to get the maximum out of each one.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment we’ve started our BJD line. It opens a whole world for us. Now we begin to work as fashion designers as we’ve never had before. Because it will take less time to create bodies. When we now make prototype molds and get their copies from the factory, we can spend more time on our art ideas, creating different themes, costumes experimenting with makeup and so on.

What future projects are in store for you?

We have so many interesting ideas for the future, if we could just work day and night without sleep ha-ha. We usually keep our new themes as a secret before their official presentation. but i can assure that there will be a lot of interesting stuff going on!

If you were to describe your work in 4 words, what would you say?

Concept, art, fashion, doll.

Artwork | Popovy Sisters. Bony and Light. Courtesy of the artist

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE August 2012 issue.


The following text attempts no analysis, merely a survey. Pederasty, like homosexuality in general is to be found in a variety of groups and cultures that, competent scholars noted, defy any attempt at finding either a genealogy or a common-ground, a reality that my limited knowledge of the phenomenon and its history has confirmed early on. What this article does attempt is a quick overview of a typically revolutionary fascination for youth, as the life-force of change, and the symbol of renewal. Like most oppressed minorities, sexual minorities found in revolutionary and utopian ideals some solace, and contributed with more or less success to both the ideology of those movements, and the rank and files of their militants and fighters – but often, as we will see, the enthusiasm and ecumenical ideals of the movements’ early days were abandoned in the process of normalization that followed the eventual revolution.

Many radical movements, unlike the more consensual (or downright conservative in the case of fascism) groups whose support they came to need after achieving state control, originally displayed liberal or even alternative views on human sexuality in their utopian promises. Yet those were rarely given such preponderant position as to participate to the mythology of each group, as did the cult of youth. One can, as often, be tempted to see their partial survival in the form of brotherly love that most martial and virile regimes came to advocate, but such a parallel is based, as far as I am aware, on little more historical evidence than the rapprochement one could make with the prevalent cult of youth; I will therefore abstain from linking the actual stories of individual pederasts in those movements, with the myths and propaganda objectifying youth and childhood for their own political (and aesthetic) purposes. I leave to the fertile and twisted imagination of the reader the enjoyable task to decide whether such images where merely naive and sometimes clumsy, or if they purposefully appealed to what those very movements came to denounce as a perversion.

Before we start it might be profitable to remind the reader of a few issues of terminology. They might provide the reader with an idea of what the current thought on those categories can be: Homosexuality describes the individual’s sexual attraction to persons of the same gender. Noted anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer defines within homosexuality (which, due to his primary interest in traditional societies, he studies chiefly from the point of view of androphilia, that is men attracted to men) four categories: age-structured homosexuality, egalitarian homosexuality, gender-structured homosexuality and paedophilia.

Egalitarian homosexuality describes the attraction between adults of the same sex, while gender-structured homosexuality refers mainly to transgender. Paedophilia, Gorer indicates, is a rare phenomenon that seems generally to be considered as pathological. Age-structured homosexuality, which will interest us in particular in this article, includes pederasty, that is the attraction of a grown, adult man, for a man belonging to a different age-group or a different generation, in that case an adolescent. Such practice can be found in a variety of cultures and throughout the ages, albeit the Greek glorification of this relationship is certainly the most well known.

This first model is predominantly in use in anthropology, while an other »scale« is being discussed by sexologists and psychiatrists (most notoriously by Ray Blanchard) and established pederasty as part of the same continuum (»chronophilia«) as paedophilia, merely as less pronounced: whereas paedophilia is defined as an attraction for prepubescent children, hebepohilia is concerned with adolescent in the early stages of puberty, and ephebophilia is the attraction to adolescents in their late puberty, or fully pubescent.

For most of modern history, and for revolutionary movements, Ancient Greece has represented the distant ideal of a golden age, a world distant enough for thinkers of all factions to project their ideal onto, and yet influential enough on their contemporary history to arouse fear and sometimes incomprehension: in the political arena, Greece was of course the first democracy and came to symbolize for many the alternative, both cultural and later political, to a modern era that was often seen as a set back from glorious time of the ancients. As discussed by a number of authors of the time (most famously Plato) pederasty seemed to have been the norm, as the type of relationship, sexual or not, where it was fitting for the grown man to express his love, and often his desire. We will not go into detail but there is a rich literature available describing how this particular relationship was thought to be pedagogical and in many traditional societies, up to as late as the XXth century, the educational character of such a relationship between a grown man and a youth was stressed – yet, due to its cultural, and political, prevalence, pederasts in the West, will consistently come back to ancient Greece, with its formalized and accepted model of pederastic relationship, in both their idealization and justification of pederasty.

And indeed it is in Greece we can find the two political archetypes, founding myths if you will, that will remain influential references for all future movements:

Harmodius and Aristogeiton were two lovers living under the tyranny of Hipparchus, who plotted the assassination of the tyrant, to avenge Harmodius’s sister’s honour, hence opening the way for the establishment of Athenian democracy. The two heroes were later divinized and sculpture, as well as poetry, immortalizes their sacrifice and their arete, for the Greek the highest virtue combining courage and honour.

On the scale of revolutions, stretching between the liberal and the authoritarian ideals, Athens became very much the symbol of democracy, of rational and egalitarian societies – forgetting in the process many of the less fitting idiosyncrasies of Greek history, but not the pronounced taste for pederasty. On other end, and quite contemporary to the two tyranicides of Athens, we shall find Sparta, no less apologetic as to the homosexual relationships between the growing boy and his teacher, even making it already a central element of their pedagogy, but in a radically different context, that of a regime where all citizen were full-time soldiers, and where children from the age of seven onward were separated from their family in order to receive a communal and extremely harsh martial education – modern historians see many of those specificities of Spartan education as tending towards the formation of an emotional community intended to provide the Spartan army with a cohesion that was much revered by other Greek cities, including the much less strict Athens – many will also agree that the place of homosexuality in Sparta was, in a similar spirit as the one exemplified by Harmodius and Aristogeiton in Athens, instrumentalized to achieve the same cohesion. Interestingly enough, the lecture of Artistotle’s Politics, or of Plato’s Apology of Socrates, reveal that the Spartan model of military state was not only much admired by the Athenians, but also that the regular »revolutions« replacing democracy with autocrats called »tyrants«, were often enough motivated with the implementation of a Spartan-style regime (in the Thirty Tyrants episode in particular).

Albeit homosexuality, and pederasty, were present throughout history, in Rome in particular, its association with lofty ideals and political renovation somewhat disappears for many century, probably under the increasing pressure of the Jewish and Christian morals that showed much less tolerance of same sex relationships than the Greek civilization did, and we now need to take a huge step forward in history to the XVIIIth century, to examine the modern reception of those practices, and the role they were to play in the coming revolutions. Like many of the uses radical ideologies will make of myths, those will in part relate to their contemporary perception of the Ancient civilizations, onto which they generally projected their political –and sexual- ideals.

The fascination for youth and childhood in modern revolutionary movements has quite a clear origin: the idea, developed chiefly by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that the »Fall« (the original sin, perversion, ect.) is bestowed upon children by an imperfect society, whereas the child is born perfect, and in the biblical sense of the word, innocent.

In this regard the interest in children, much like the more or less simultaneous flourishing of the myths of the noble savage, denote an Arcadian drive -rather than utopian- that is a sense that health, purity and more generally perfection, are to be found in the past, rather than to be built in the future. This peculiar longing for a golden age and child-like innocence that was lost, part-take first in the ideals that will bring about the French and American revolutions and the reformist projects that will blossom here and there at the dusk of the XVIIIth century, but also, and more decisively, fuels the dominant nostalgia that presides to the ensuing Romantic Era.

But as we will see, this same passéist ideal that provided the founding myths and fuelled the revolutions, will also, once discarded by the increasingly positivist XIXth century, fuel the most violent backlash against the secular rationalist order, not only in the form of Romanticism, but also in the form of many other revolutions, some entirely at odds with the liberal and humanist ideals.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) is widely considered as one of the most important -and one of the most eccentric- figures of the XVIIIth century – in several ways prefiguring Romanticism as it will develop in the XIXth century, Rousseau hardly fits in the existing categories of the age: albeit his work was to largely define the political ideals that presided to the coming democratic revolutions, he was also, less famously, convinced of the priority of the state, of the common cause, in the face of individuality. Alongside his fascination for the mythical state of nature, his prefiguring of the ideas of national interest (albeit in much more communitarian terms) places him at the root of many revolutionary and even anti-democratic movements further on.

There is little evidence to link his utopian views of childhood to Rousseau’s sexuality – other than it was very repressed: after difficult experiences in the hospice as a child where he narrowly escaped rape, he developed further a pre-existing dislike for copulation, and for sodomy in particular, so much that his regular, frightened references to possible homosexuals have lead some scholars to suspect there might be more to it. One must in those circumstances, remember that one of Rousseau’s greatest achievements is certainly the candid honesty, and the incessant self-analysis that accompanied his writing, and the autobiographical Confessions in particular: psychoanalytical exegesis might not be best at home with him. At any rate, many of the more contemporary advocacies of child sexuality, and often of paedophilia, trace the idea of sexuality as corruptive for the child to Rousseau, be it to his romantic ideals or to his own sexual feelings of inadequacy.

What does come as a surprise, though, for an advocate of democracy and education, who was to become among its most important reformers, is his downright fascination, not with Athens but with Sparta: throughout his voluminous output in the field of political theory, we find frequent references to Sparta’s »blissful ignorance« and to the »wisdom of its laws«, which, as we have seen, is slightly surprising in the light of the extreme harshness and brutality of the Spartan society; Sparta’s harsh, militaristic communautarism, and their treatment of children hardly fit with Rousseau’s Arcadian ideals of innocence and life in nature, but this is just one of the many paradoxes of the character, one, maybe, that will take part in the future contradictions of many revolutionary movements.

In 1794, many years after his encounter with Rousseau in Rome, André Grétry composed a peculiar opera concerned with the life and death of Joseph Barra, who will be the first of our under-age revolutionary martyrs: it is difficult to assess which influence Rousseau’s philosophy had on Grétry’s post-revolution output and many historians assess those plays in the light of his earlier royal sympathies, as essentially opportunistic – but all the same his avowed fascination with Rousseau’s radical ideas could have finally found their expression in his suddenly militant extolling of the democratic sacrifice.

Joseph Barra, born in 1779, was apparently so swept away by revolutionary fervour in 1789, that albeit by far too young to enrol in the republican troops he managed to sneak in and join, as a drummer according to the later paintings, the ranks of a unit fighting Vendé’s royalist résistance. He died during the campaign and was seized by revolutionary mastermind Robespierre as a great candidate for deification, his story generously re-written to achieve maximum impact, and its illustration so widely encouraged that, as Gétry before them, many artists, and painters in general, were to select him as a subject for their patriotic works all the way into the late XIXth century.

It is quite widely accepted that the French revolution was also a sexual revolution, if largely aborted by the ensuing Napoleonian regime, much like the original fascist ideals were to be betrayed by Mussolini’s later compromises in the hands of the conservative forces; The Marquis de Sade, for example, member during the revolution of the Piques (far left) but, before the Terror, one of the representatives of the National Convention – was to be dismissed and imprisoned (probably essentially due to his aristocratic background); Many other examples of the revolutionaries frantic sexuality can be found, in its mildest expression, in the numerous reports of public and licentious behaviour inside of Notre Dame during the famous Festival of Reason, or in a more morbid fashion, in the alleged tradition of the so called Batteries Nationales.

Undressed by the Jacobins and revolutionary forces, victims of the large scale class-cleansing of the Terror were then tied, alive and in some cases dead, in couples or sometimes in groups, in sexual positions displaying the creative mind of their accusers, and displayed to the crowd and eventually thrown in the rivers. After this orgy of sex and violence, and maybe even because of such excesses, following the execution of Robespierre, France seems to come back to more acceptable mores although one significant progress is the separation the criminal sex laws from the influence of the Church.

Surviving this madness, De Sade was none the less to be kept behind bars by the subsequent government, notably Napoleon, which did not seem to slow down his frenetic sexual activity, be it with his fellow inmates, or with the 13 years old daughter of some of the employees…

It is in England, and in a very different form, in Germany, that the XIXth century will see the birth of the romantic archetype of homosexuality, that will be brought to much public attention, in the fin-de-siècle characters of Oscar Wilde and similar dandies – the particular terminology that will develop at the time, that of Uranian will later come to describe all of male homosexuality, and even on occasion the female expression, is given two different possible origins, both of interest to us:

Some attribute it an unlikely origin in the German term of Urnings, of which later, while the much more likely origin is to be found in Plato’s Symposium, in which the ever present Socrates (one Athenian later executed for his Spartan sympathies…) discusses at length the ideas of love and lust, proposing for androphilia a mythical origin in the birth of Venus from Uranus, the sky, a birth that would involve no women: »from a mother in whose birth the female has no part,-she is from the male only; this is that love which is of youths«.

Albeit largely pederastic but emphasizing the romantic and the lofty in the homosexual relationship, the term Uranian retrospectively came to describe a particular crowd of writers and artists, whose largely clandestine work dealt with their own homosexuality in a very sentimental manner and generally referencing ancient history, which comes as little surprise given that many of them were scholars of Latin or Ancient Greece – in large part the movement was centred around Public schools, the elitist system of boarding school that produced (and still does) most of the British academic, financial and political leadership.

William J. Cory is generally considered as the first of this lineage, a teacher at the public school he came to be widely regarded as one of the best tutors and a respected theorician of pedagogy, as attested among others by his student Coleridge. A poet and a very dedicated classicist, Cory is widely regarded as initiating the Uranian poetical movement with his masterpiece Ionica (see quote on left page).

Notwithstanding his outstanding achievements in the fields of education and poetry, a compromising letter evidencing his relationship with a student forced him to resign and move abroad.

Following in his trace and forming the bulk of the Uranian movements, one can find Montague Summers, an ambiguous clergyman writing about werewolves, homosexuals and vampires, J.F. Bloxam who popularised the Priest/Chorister romance, J. G. Nicholson or J. A. Symonds – most  notably were either clergymen or tutors, and a central interest in Ancient Greece or Renaissance was apparently common – it is worth noting that the public school system seemed to have been a hot bed of homosexuality and on occasion pederasty, in a fashion some say reinforcing »esprit de corps«, as acknowledged by C.S. Lewis for example.

J.A. Symonds was introduced to Uranian ideas by a tutor who lent him Cory’s Ionica – as often in the pederastic relationships, and in their educational incarnations, the former pupil grew to become a master and supposedly perpetuated his pursuits – and once again the revelation of his particular interests and his alleged attempts at corrupting choirboys, threatened his career – Symonds was, unlike many of the other Uranian, a defender of homosexuality as a martial value, rather than of effemination. He frequently referred to Spartan history, which he knew particularly well, as exemplified in his posthumous volume Soldier Love and Related Matters. He coined the expression »L’Amour Impossible« – Impossible Love – which largely exemplifies the very particular relationship that the Victorian Uranian had to their lofty ideals.

Related is the Order of Chaeronea, nothing short of a secret society destined to homosexuals, whose thematic and spirituality referred to an idealized Ancient Greece largely quoted from Uranian poetry – other than its Masonic organisation, with secret words and rituals, as for the Uranians the group seemed to have attracted a large number of socialists, albeit having no official political inclination of its own. The name of Chaeronea refers to the final and deadly battle of a the famous Sacred Band of Thebes, an elite military phalanx belonging to the City-State of Thebe, a third Greek power roughly contemporary of the Spartan and Athenian societies discussed above. The sacred band was famously composed of three hundred pederastic couples solely selected for their martial ability, and whose cohesion once again relied heavily on the particular type of relationships within its rank.

The Uranian movement, like many classicist movements of the period, did not adopt an outspoken political stance, possibly in reason of their heavy reliance on a semi-mythical past, stretching their imaginary between nostalgia for a lost golden-age and social and cultural progressist ideas, a fate shared by a number of left-wing traditionalists; Chiefly their verse seems to find in Utopia what justification naivety brought to their sexuality (in this reminiscent of Benjamin Britten’s similarly ambiguous public school experience) – but outside of their passéist poetry a number of the movement’s participants took part in the publication of various progressive magazines and letters concerned with subjects ranging from welfare to Fourrierism. The social utopianism seemed to have failed to overcome or integrate the aesthetic and narrative elements of the group, although it is virtually ever present in the lives of its member.

Meanwhile in Germany, at the time at the forefront of educational reform, a similar relationship between the tutor and the pupil was being described and even systematized, in similarly ambiguous terms: Gustav Wyneken (1875-1964) at that time a tutor in a boarding school as well as a writer, was practicing and theorizing a concept he coined pedagogic Eros, developing once again the Ancient Greek concept of pedagogy as involving a particular form of romantic relationship between the student and his teacher – although he would eventually be dismissed following unproven accusation of sexual abuses, he was a lot later fondly remembered by a number of famous students of his, notably Walter Benjamin, who credited him for his love of German Idealism.

Beyond his views on the pedagogic relationship, Wyneken, more famously at the time, was an advocate and a theorician of the rising Volkish movement: Volkish is notoriously difficult to define, gathering a number of sometimes contradictory ideas, some naive and benign, and some prefiguring the central importance given to the concept later on by the Nazis. At any rate as we will see, the Volkish movement of the XIXth and early XXth century cannot be limited to such dark omen.

Originally a youth movement following the teachings of Eduard Baltzer, it might have been a reaction against industrialization and rationalization of the life of the parents, perceived as bourgeois and decadent – the proposed alternative, rooted in a variety of political ideology ranging from communitarian anarchism to utopian nationalism, involved invariably a return to nature, albeit not in a conservative fashion but in a utopian, idealistic and overwhelmingly romantic fashion. Practices associated with the Volkish movement included vegetarianism, nudism, neo-paganism, and regular group retreats in the nature, often organised by independent youth organisations. At any rate the most relevant analogy to describe this trend is probably the American hippie movement, save the Marxism and replace it with nationalism.

One of the main proponents of the Volkish culture was a more less loose network of organisations known under the name of Wandervogel – inspired from youth organisations such as scoutism, those groups of youth that, often without adult supervision, organised retreats in the forest and skill-exchanges, and also circulated the ideas dear to the Volkish movement – Wyneken, who termed the expression »Jungkultur«, something akin to what we would now call youth culture, strongly promoted such independent initiatives insisting on avoiding as much as possible adult intrusion.

The Wandervogel were hugely popular and represented, much like scoutism nowadays, a wide variety of ideological orientations. At the time of Hitler’s accession to power and the subsequent institution of the compulsory Hitler Youth, some Wandervogel groups, indeed sympathetic to Nazi ideology, were incorporated, while other groups, most notoriously the Edelweiss Piraten and the Leipzig Meuten, as late as the 1930s would engage in independent (and largely illegal) activities as well as challenging and combating adverse Hitler Youth divisions.

A number of collaborators of the Volkish movement, and among them a number of icons, were rather sympathetic to Wyneken’s ideas, and some were also openly homosexual or pederast: the most famous among those have to be the artist Fidus who will not only define the particular image and style associated with Volkish, but also play a pivotal role in the development of the Jugendstil, the German graphic expression of Art Nouveau.

The official illustrator of the early Wandervogel movement, he displayed much interest in the body of teenagers and went on to participate in the first »gay« magazine.  This was published in Germany by Adolph Brand between 1896 and 1932 – Titled Der Eigene, in reference to the Young Hegelian and founder of individualist-anarchism Max Stirner’s most famous work Der Einzige und sein Eigentum – the magazine published a wealth of famous sympathetic writers, from Thomas Mann to John Henry Mackay, or Hans Einz Ewers. Their glorification of homosexuality relied heavily on Volkish themes and aesthetics, and at the time seemingly embraced the rising anti-Semitism.

Most famously, the strong reliance of Nazism onto Volkish culture proved to foster an ambiguous (as for many things before the NSDAP’s access to power) relationship to homosexuality – at any rate it seems fairly certain that the voluntarist philosophy permeating fascist thought encouraged regular reference to both the mythical and military, making it rather unsurprising to find occasional references to Spartan and Greek military spirit. Unlike the more romantic and melancholic pederasty of the Uranians, the homosexuals of the party are to be found predominantly in its militia: the S.A. -  A number of senior S.A. officers generally appointed by Ernst Röhm, such as Edmund Heines, were charged and executed, during the famous Night of the Long Knives, on the grounds of being homosexuals. Although the inclination of Röhm himself is now widely accepted, the position of this group on the left of the Nazi party, at a time where Hitler was concluding alliances with conservative and industrialist to settle his control over Germany, makes it still uncertain as to the real reasons of the action.

Even before the purge, Röhm and his cabal seemingly started to enforce their own vision onto the German homosexual »underground« (which had very much resurfaced during the Weimar Republic) for example raiding and seizing much material from the house of Adolf Brand, former publisher of Der Eigene as mentioned above. Whether such actions were mere thuggish violence, as it is often implied by historians, or the result of an attempt to restructure the homosexual underworld is hard to define given the lack of documentation concerning this era.

At any rate, following this purge, the Nazi party became increasingly estranged of the most progressive and anti-establishment elements of the Volkish ideology, like Paganism or Homosexuality – appealing at the ever present moral conservatism of the Christian population, it started a campaign of virulent persecution against homosexuals, reaching its apex with the internment and extermination of homosexuals, famously sporting the pink triangle as identification in concentration camps.

Herbert Norkus is the second instance of child-martyr we encounter, this time in Nazi Germany: the Hitler Jugend, nicknamed Quex, died in 1932 at the hand of a communist youth organization – he was, as for Barra during the revolution, quickly seized by the Party as a powerful symbol – merging, as one could imagine, the guilt and disgust of the common man in the face of the ever-revolting death of a child, with the pride and beauty of a man dying for his ideals while still in his prime. A novel and a film were subsequently produced to celebrate and exploit his death, albeit this last one largely lacks the homoerotic appeal one could find in Barra’s representation, showing maybe, the degree of involvement of the puritanical Goebbels.

»Be with me for a long time, do not leave me, / Fuhrer, My Fuhrer, my Faith, my Light« (Hitler Jugend prayer, reported in Jean-Denis Lepage, Hitler Youth 1922-1945: An Illustrated History, p.87)

Nazism’s Cult of Youth, and fascism’s in general, probably received more academic attention than any of its other manifestations: Stanley G. Payne and Klaus Theweleit have probably captured in their studies the essence of the question better than most, in the many terms it requires: a sociological reach for a social group transcending class divisions, a political need for military support, and an aesthetic, if not spiritual, apology of novelty and renewal, to which I would add, although the discussion of this would require a wholly different article, a cultural attraction towards perversity.

Italian Fascism proved much more lax in its control over the artistic output and literary in particular, during the many years that led to the Second World War – this might be in part due to the prominence of the futurist movement in its rank. Although ultimately falling out of favour, the cohort of avant-garde artists advocated the most exotic ideals before and after the Fascists’ rise to power, including, in the case of its founder Marinetti, such an obsessive and thorough misogyny, coupled with outlandish and allegorical poetry, that one finds it hard not to find in his images, a homoerotic subtext, if only apophatic:

In his African novel Mafarka the Futurist, the hero struggles against the temptation of the flesh to ultimately find his fulfilment, mystique and alchemy, in a form of male pregnancy that allows, according to Cinzia Sartini Blum, a rebirth – the palingenesis of the fascist consensus, here achieved by the final abstraction of the female. The idea of man’s ability to give birth is very prominent as we have seen, in Plato’s discussion of pederasty in his Symposium, and incidentally in the British Uranians own mythology. In that regard, it’s also interesting to note that Paul Fussel’s 1975 opus -  The Great War and Memory already trace back the latent homoeroticism of the British war poets to the Uranians – for the futurists much like for Wilfred Owen or others, the war constituted a central experience of comradely love, and their exertion of those values certainly played an important role in the establishment of Fascism.

Albeit Nazi’s painting, much like socialist realism, was prudish, Arno Brecker, the Reich’s most celebrated sculptor was like Speer, more influenced by some sort of neo-classicism on steroids than by the humble life of Christians in the German country-side: his bas-relief of body built Aryans struggling against the elements are highly characteristic of the sort of homoeroticism ascribed by post-war society to Nazism.

It is difficult to assess how much of the Marxist analysis of fascism – the dominant one until the seventies – ascribes homosexuality to fascism in order to discredit the later, and how much of it is funded on a genuine interpretation of the psychological process of fascism. Albeit some of the later analyses of this period treating fascism as essentially a movement of déclassés, could corroborate this later hypothesis, both trends are definitely present.

Marxism, for a movement so bent on defending (and assimilating) minorities, only recognized homosexuality as such relatively late – although Germany had hosted some militant homosexual socialists at the time of his activities, Marx never showed much support to the cause and was even openly hostile to it in his correspondence with Engels.

Following the 1917 revolution the utopian project of the cultural vanguard, which at first defended homosexuality, were soon brought to a halt by the rise of the more radically positivist elements (including Lenin) who considered homosexuality, and pederasty especially, if not as a crime as a disease. But it was not until 1933 that homosexuality was outlawed. Of course the puritanical and moralising soviet state envisioned by Stalin showed little love for homosexuality, pederastic or else, and tended to treat any such underground activity as suspect at best, if not plain and simply seditious.

What comes as more of a surprise is the relative reticence of later Marxists intellectuals to pronounce themselves on the matter of homosexuality, whereas much milder socialists and more radical anarchists had integrated their cause several decades earlier. Theodor Adorno, of all people, seemed to relate fascism and homosexuality (as did the soviet authorities) on the ground of their shared performativity. Without going into too much details, albeit contemporary Marxists have very largely adopted the cause of LGBTQ rights, those who attempt to defend Adorno’s analysis sometimes argue, as he might have, that as the Marxist attitude changed towards the issue, so did homosexuality itself.

Unlike gambling for example, pederasty was hardly a proletarian vice and communist government generally looked at it as a capitalist disease – yet this never stopped them to appeal to the modernist and neo-classical aesthetics of the male body, as exemplified in a number of manifestations, most notably, as for Nazism, in sculpture – although designed by a woman it is curious to note that the clear inspiration for Soviet Russia’s most famous work of propaganda, Worker and Kholkoz Woman, is directly inspired by the famous Greek statue of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the pederastic lovers who freed Athens from the Tyrants, as discussed above.

Pavlik Mozorov, a spiritual cousin of Joseph Barra and Herbert Norkus, was the soviet’s very own child martyr: the thirteen years old boy from Yekaterinburg was a member of the Komsomol, whose father, he discovered, was involved in sabotage activities. After denouncing his father’s evil deeds to the local government, he was murdered in mysterious circumstances in the woods, probably as retaliation. Similar in tone to Herbert Norkus (whose father was also, in some accounts, unsympathetic to the regime), it has also proven to be heavily rewritten with the »brio« and attention to detail known to the soviet specialists.

It might be that the sudden urge of concern in the western 1960s for the rights of sexual minorities found its roots in the explosion of feminism and the sexual liberation, but certainly the McCarthy witch hunt part-took, if not in popularising homosexuality to the masses, at least in raising awareness among the more liberals and the younger generation, of the precarious situation that gays – and paedophiles – found themselves in time of political turmoil.

Although very few of its victims could be regarded as revolutionaries, the Second Red Scare used abundantly accusations of homosexuality (not unlike it was used by actual communists abroad) to discredit political opposition, and probably fostered a generation of increasingly militant homosexuals.

A few decades earlier, the increasing persecutions the Nazis imposed on dissident Volkish movements such as the Wandervogel seemingly prompted a second wave of German immigration to the United States in the XXth century: amid the burgeoning youth culture, those bearded, long haired Germans preaching Lebensreform seemingly gathered in California, where they were known as Nature Boys, and were to influence widely the Californian surf-scene, and of course, the hippies. The long haired, bearded and, maybe even dirty appearance of hippies and Volkish youth can be traced (if by showing a little fantasy) to Spartiates themselves: Aristophanes’s Birds of 414 BCE so describes Socrate’s disciples : »they aped the manners of Sparta, let their hair grow long, went hungry, refused to wash, »Socratized«, and carried walking sticks«.

But in France, at the time possibly breeding ground of a variegated amalgam of philosophical and cultural theory, one can find what was to become the real philosophical articulation of the paedophilia apology movement, in the person of René Scherer and of his book Emile Perverti.

The book, in many ways a formal attack on Rousseau’s conceptions of education, as exemplified in his book Emile is for us all the more notable that in its own anti-rousseauism, it inscribes itself in a lineage shared by Joseph de Maistre (see Against Rousseau), a Vendean whose absolutist and mystique conservatism was to serve as a major source of inspiration for many fascists and their forefathers (from pragmatists like Maurras to traditionalists like Evola). As we have seen Rousseau is a complex character, who fostered conflicting opinions for over two centuries and plays an axial role in many radical ideologies.

Around that time a number of movements destined to sensibilise the general population to paedophiles as a sexual minority, and push forward such changes in legislation as the abolition of the age of consent, started appearing in the western countries, often as fringes of gay-lib movements but by no means always: the sexual liberation, that played a unifying role in the galaxy of loosely connected causes, was often enthusiastic enough in defending paedophilia. An astonishing number of left-wing intellectuals, in France and The Netherlands in particular, signed various petitions reclaiming the right of children to have a sexuality.

Around thirty years later, it seemed that most battles of the sixties, aside from the Marxist one obviously, had been either won or at least considerably advanced, especially when it comes to minorities – but the question of paedophilia advocacy had been assiduously forgotten, with few of its original militant or sympathizers still open as to their opinion, if any, on the issue – one notable evolution among those groups that remain militant is the relatively recent development, or maybe its gain in visibility, of male paedophiles attracted to underage girls: whereas the pederastic model had, as we have seen, been dominant for centuries, recent statistic show radical changes in that regard.

Most contemporary paedophilia advocacy groups tend to have, following the gay rights movements’ reasonably successful strategy, shed most of their links with other radical causes, political revolution more than any other. Most of such groups now take the form of discussion forums on the internet, who take great care to separate themselves from any illegal activities and discuss at length the history of paedophilia and other academic work that could support their cause in the fields of anthropology, psychology, education, etc.

Not all have shed their political ideology though, as have proven the relatively recent discovery of perennialist anarchist Hakim Bey’s (of TAZ fame) interest in little boys, and his involvement in the seventies in the publication of a number of pamphlet and prints relating to paedophilia advocacy, as well as his rather shaky translations of Persian poetry dealing with the subject.

Whereas the cult of youth itself had reached in the nineties the apex of its popularity, today surviving totalitarian regimes (as evidenced by fashion, porn and music’s obsession with teenagers and child-like women) the popularity of the paedophile cause has never been so low in the west: stripped from its traditional credentials such as the child-bride phenomenon, but also pederasty (of which most gay movements have worked hard to separate themselves from) and from its political credibility, the idea that a child might for example initiate, of himself, a sexual relationship, such as was often described in the sixties, has become regarded with increasing suspicion and disbelief. Yet the development of the internet offers to paedophiles a chance of forming as a community they never had before, and given the scarcity of the statistics and information available on the subject outside of the penal field, it is virtually impossible to judge the evolution of this community.

One can be tempted to see the separation of the gay movement from the pederastic one as a turning point in the later history: the problematic of same sex-relationships is in the west, on its way to disappear but the question of inter-generational sexuality, that originally so deeply associated with it, has been left behind – the titillating aesthetics of child sexuality carried by Vogue or the Japanese Idol movement leave it a space between BDSM chic and body-modification, within the narrow, and politically impotent space of the self-consciously perverted. That is not what paedophiles had, and certainly not what most have, in mind.


by Bertrand

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE July 2012 issue.


So you’ve heard of Zeus the Thunderer, presiding over Mount Olympus. And perhaps you’ve read a thing or two about one of his daughters, the virginal, owl-eyed Athena, or her half-brother, the willowy, ferocious Dionysus. Maybe you pass a statue of hatted Hermes every day, or perhaps now and then you see a painting of nude Aphrodite. It is likely that you have heard a fair amount about these gods and their doings, and something or another about the synthesis of Greek deities into the empire of Rome. Much are the Greek gods celebrated in western culture; they are so ingrained in modern Western Culture that the word mythology often simply refers to the deities of the Greeks and Romans.

But what about the gods native to the Germanic peoples, those peoples so greatly responsible for shaping modern Europe, those that were just as responsible for the foundation of what we now know as the Western world? Who were these deities native to the linguistic ancestors of such important modern languages as English, German, and the languages of Scandinavia? And what role do these gods play today?

In this short paper I will very briskly outline the major surviving sources on and key concepts relating to Germanic mythology, the mythology of the Germanic peoples. This category includes the better known Norse mythology, the mythology of the North Germanic peoples. I will conclude this article with a brief discussion on the ongoing influence that these topics have on modern Western society, including their place in modern popular culture and the revival of their appearance in a sacral context among modern Germanic heathen groups. This paper is by no means comprehensive; consider it a key to an overgrown door.


••• Language and Mythology

But before we go any further, it is important that we are clear on a few key terms. Because of its double meaning, the adjective Germanic is a confusing one for English speakers. To be perfectly clear, the adjective Germanic as used in this article does not refer to the modern nation of Germany. Rather, Germanic—in increasingly antiquated works often referred to as Teutonic—refers to a family of languages that stem from a common ancestor, reconstructed by linguists and usually known as Proto-Germanic [z]. The Germanic language family includes numerous living languages, such as English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and several others. Germanic languages may be divided into various branches, such as North Germanic, West Germanic, and East Germanic. The latter, East Germanic, a branch that included Gothic (yes, that’s a language!), is now extinct.

Ultimately, the Germanic language family descends from the same source as a group of numerous other language families, families such as Italic, Indo-Iranian, Celtic, Hellenic, Baltic, and Slavic. Their common ancestor is known as Proto-Indo-European, a language which arrived in Europe sometime during the middle to late European Neolithic. The precise details and origins of the Proto-Indo-Europeans remain a matter of debate and extensive research and reconstruction among archaeologists and linguists. Like the Germanic languages, Germanic mythology sprung from a Proto-Indo-European origin, and like other facets of their culture, the mythology of the Proto-Indo-Europeans is undergoing reconstruction. However, one thing is perfectly clear; we now know that we have a whole lot more in common with many of our neighbors than was once thought.

Our working definition of mythology is considerably less complex. For our purposes, mythology is simply a body of tales about a deity (or deities). In this case, we refer to the mythology native to the Germanic peoples prior to Christianization and the memory and records which have thereafter lived on. This includes folklore reaching up until and after industrialization. Numerous tales of heroes also appear throughout the Germanic record, but they will not be handled in this work. All in all, this time period stretches from the end of the Nordic Bronze Age up until widespread literacy less than 100 years ago.


••• The Nature of the Sources

Although the Germanic peoples developed a native script—the various runic alphabets—their society was predominantly oral, with great emphasis on traditional, technically complex poetry. Surviving runic inscriptions tend to be short and to the point. Sometimes these inscriptions invoke deities, often they are perfectly mundane messages for this or that, and sometimes they can only be described as cryptic gibberish. As a result, most information that we have about the mythology of the Germanic peoples comes from either post-Christianization Scandinavian sources or from the comments and records from outside observers. It is these sources, combined with the science of linguistics and comparative material from other Indo-European cultures, that are used to make sense of earlier works that provide little detail. The quantity and quality of sources on Germanic mythology therefore varies greatly from time and place.


••• Early Sources

It was towards the end of the first century when Roman historian Tacitus wrote our single most important and informative source describing the ancient Germanic peoples. In this source, Germania, Tacitus produces a generally positive picture of Rome’s northernly neighbors from largely unknown sources. However, where it may be confirmed, Tacitus’s work is often startlingly accurate.

Tacitus, like authors writing in Latin before and after him, frequently employs a process known as interpretatio romana, a process in which a non-Roman god is equated with a Roman god. For example, by way of interpretatio romana, the Germanic god *Wodanaz (the asterisk means that the word is nowhere written but has been reconstructed by way of its descendents by linguists) handily becomes Mercury. This is due to apparent similarity observed in more descriptive later sources. However, it is very possible that the position of *Wodanaz—the god who we now know most commonly as Odin—may have been in most ways quite unlike that of Mercury at Tacitus’s time of writing. Tacitus also mentions a Jupiter, Mars, an Isis, and a Castor and Pollux. These deity names may respectively be translated as Proto-Germanic forms of who we may later recognize as Thor, Tyr, Freyja (or perhaps Frigg—it’s complicated), and the brothers Hengist and Horsa.

Fortunately for us, Tacitus also provides Germanic names in passing, such as the god name Ing and the semi-Latinized goddess name Nerthus. Unfortunately, Tacitus provides little in terms of myth; while he mentions that the Germanic peoples sing much about their mythology, Tacitus only briefly outlines a potential creation myth involving a being named Tuisto. According to Tacitus, this Tuisto is the earth-born ancestor of the Germanic peoples, and from his son, Mannus, came the three primeval Germanic tribes.

Beginning at around the same time, from 100 to 500 CE, numerous altars depicting females, often in trios, were erected along the borders of Roman-controlled territories reaching into the region that Roman authors refer to as Germania. These Latin inscriptions refer to these females as matres (»mothers«) and matronae (»ladies«). About half of these inscriptions contain Latinized Germanic names. No doubt extensive mythology existed about these celebrated deities, but it has since been long lost. However, like the rest of the deities mentioned in this section, this won’t be the last we hear about these divine figures.


••• Christianize or be Christianized

Unlike the continental Celts, the Roman Empire never managed to consume its Germanic neighbors. Indeed, it was Germanic peoples who formed England after the Romans left Britain, who flowed into previously mainly Romanized Celtic areas such as the Alps, and surged into the Roman Empire, eventually conquering it. However, the Roman Empire remained resilient in its ability to absorb, and so in time these Germanic peoples who worked within Roman borders themselves often became Romans. Yet in the 4th century CE, Rome wasn’t what it used to be. That century, Christianity had been given governmentally favored status under Constantine I. Later that century Rome saw traditional Roman religion’s last official stand in the emperor Julian’s attempt to revive it. Outside of traditional Roman religion, Julian sought general religious tolerance in the empire, returning bishops exiled by previous Christian emperors and making it a point to reach out to other religious groups, such as Rome’s Jews. Julian died a few years into office from wounds sustained in battle.

Not long after Julian’s short reign, the emperor Theodosius I came to power. Theodosius I had the temples of the gods razed and the traditional polytheism of the Romans outlawed. With his reign religious tolerance in Rome was dead. All non-Catholics were now targets for conquest; there was no room for those whose beliefs did not fall in line. Theodosius I was the last emperor to rule over both the Eastern and Western Roman Empires.

By way of political alliance and missionary work aimed at nobility, Christianity very slowly began to creep northward from Rome. Resistance was eventually met with repression and persecution, and at times a choice between death and conversion; under Charlemagne’s 785 (likely biblically-inspired) legal code Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae, execution was authorized for those conquered Saxons that refused to abandon their ancestral beliefs and convert. Scholar Britt-Mari Näsström comments that »Christianity oscillated between regarding the native gods as lifeless idols and malevolent demons. Freyja [an important Old Norse goddess associated strongly with sexuality who we will discuss later] became an easy target for the new religion, in which an asexual virgin was the ideal woman« [y].  Indeed, some of our scant continental sources on the gods, such as the Old Saxon Baptismal Vow, outright refer to them as »demons« and Scandinavian material at times shows a particular hostility towards female deities. The songs that Tacitus once glowingly described by Tacitus were now targeted for extermination.

When deities are mentioned in a non-demonized context, it is usually by way of a process known as euhemerization. Under this process, which is named after the 4th century BCE Greek writer Euhemerus, a god is presented as a historical figure who has come to be deified by way of human folly (perhaps a convenient compromise between half-heathen royalty and anxious monastery!). As a result, formerly venerated gods, such as Woden (the Old English form of the god we now most popularly know as Odin), appear in royal genealogies as the ancestors of rulers of Christian kingdoms.

That said, this isn’t always the case, as we shall see.


••• England and the European Continent

Over half a millennium after Tacitus’s time, often in areas where royalty had declared themselves Christianized a few hundred years prior, a smattering of references to Germanic deities begin to appear on record. In Anglo-Saxon England, mentions of native deities—such as the aforementioned god Ing, the once widely venerated »Mothers«, the goddess Ēostre (the namesake of modern Easter), the god Woden, the horse brothers Hengist and Horsa, and an apparent barley being named Beowa—are made in passing, usually as briefly as possible. Nowhere in the Old English record are heathen myths transparently recorded. Yet there are tantalizing hints; for example, Woden is mentioned as a serpent-slaying, charm-wielding healer in the half-heathen Nine Herbs Charm, and, in the knowledge poem Solomon and Saturn presented as the father of an alphabet.

Perhaps the first straightforward myth about Germanic gods to appear in the body of records that we have today is that of the Langobards, a Germanic people who, according to tradition, ultimately migrated from Scandinavia before ruling over a kingdom in Italy the 6th and 8th centuries. In this myth, recorded in the anonymous 7th century Origo Gentis Langobardorum, the gods Godan and Frea have taken sides among two Germanic peoples who have come into conflict, the Vandals and the Winnili. Godan is Langobardic for the deity we nowadays popularly know as Odin, whereas Frea is Langobardic for either Frigg or Freyja (or a combination of both—it’s complex). After being appealed to by the Winnili leadership for victory, Frea moves Woden’s bed to face Eastward as he sleeps. Upon waking, Odin sees the assembled women of the Winnili with their long hair tied as if beards. Godan, surprised, asks »who are these long-beards?« (»Qui sunt isti longibarbae?« ). Frea comments that he has now named them and should give them victory. As a result, the Winnili were thereafter known as the Langobards; the long-beards.

Strong mythical allusions are found in two heathen charms discovered in the margin of a 9th or 10th century manuscript from Fulda, Germany. In the first of the two charms, written in Old High German and known collectively as the Merseburg Charms (die Merseburger Zaubersprüche), a scenario is recounted in which the gods Wodan and Phol are riding through a wood. The horse on which Balder—apparently the same figure as Phol—is riding wrenches his foot. The goddesses Sinthgunt, Sunna, Frija, and Volla all magically heal the horse alongside the god Woden. The charm ends with the refrain »bone to bone, blood to blood, joint to joints, so be mended!« (»Ben zi bena, bluot si bluoda, lid zi geliden, sose gelimida sin!«). Sinthgunt is an otherwise unknown goddess but is here said to be the sister of the goddess Sunna, the personified Sun, and Frija is in Old Norse sources known as the goddess Frigg, the wife of Odin. Here she is the sister of Volla, a goddess also associated with Frigg in Old Norse sources (Old Norse Fulla).

Other than these scant few mentions, the continental mythology is limited to scattered bits and pieces, small echoes of what once was, such as the Nordendorf I fibula; a 6th or 7th century brooch found in a grave all the way down in Bavaria that features a runic inscription. The inscription mentions the names of at least two gods, Þonar (Thor) and Wodan (Odin), in an unclear context. Fortunately material from Scandinavia offers far more insight.


••• Scandinavia and Norse Mythology

In 12th century Denmark, the historian Saxo Grammaticus authored a series of Latin volumes called Gesta Danorum (»The History of the Danes«). In the early volumes of this work, Saxo produces a narrative that includes a handful of deities. Unfortunately, although Saxo claims to accurately represent his source material, he seems to have done anything but; Saxo presents a heavily moralized narrative for his own purposes and makes no attempts at objectivity. As a result, Gesta Danorum is a highly problematic source for Norse mythology.

However, it is when we turn to the tiny island of Iceland that we get a real look at a late form of the mythology that we are only allowed short glimpses of in the continental sources. Iceland, apparently Christianized by way of pressured compromise rather than military force, had incubated its ancient arts and felt bold enough to put them to parchment. It is on Iceland where, in the 13th century, two enigmatic Old Norse works were produced that are our most important records of Germanic mythology; the Eddas.

The first of the Eddas is now popularly known as the Poetic Edda, and, as the name hints, it consists of a collection of numerous poems. These poems almost exclusively deal with Norse mythology. The Poetic Edda was compiled for unknown reasons by an anonymous individual, by way of unknown, almost certainly oral informants. The second work, generally known nowadays as the Prose Edda, consists of four books that mainly consist of prose. Written by the prolific and learned Icelander Snorri, the Prose Edda is a manual for skalds, a class of traditional poets in Scandinavian society that included both males and females. Poets of this sort were likely once widespread throughout all of Germanic society. The Prose Edda quotes from and explains material found in the Poetic Edda and contains a large amount of material unique to it, such as archaic works by individual skalds reaching hundreds of years before Christianization.

Taken together, the Eddas paint a picture of a vibrant and complex cosmology. At the center of all is the immense, celestial tree Yggdrasill, whose roots reach beyond comprehension. Upon this tree lives a variety of beasts that include four noble stags and an insult-carrying squirrel, while around the tree exists Nine Worlds. In these worlds dwells a variety of beings, including elves, dwarfs, monsters, jǫtnar (singular jǫtunn), mankind, and, yes, gods. According to this scheme, we humans dwell in Miðgarðr, the middle-enclosure, whereas the gods mainly dwell in the sky in a realm called Ásgarðr, the god-enclosure. Mankind’s relation to the gods is intimate; upon encountering driftwood on a beach, the trio decided to make from it the first two human beings, Askr and Embla. The cosmos are made up of abstract personifications and vibrant metaphor. The Sun (Sól), a goddess that we met earlier on the continent, is chased every day by a wolf, while the Moon (Máni), joined by two children, is chased by another wolf. The Earth (Jǫrð) is personified as a goddess, the mother of the god Thor, while the Day (Dagr) is a shining god daily passing his dark female counterpart, Night (Nòtt). The world itself, the sky that surrounds it, and the clouds that pass above it are composed of the elemental pieces of the fallen ur-jǫtunn, Ymir, a hermaphroditic, primordial being, a likely echo of the Tuisto mentioned by Tacitus around 1,200 years prior.

Most of the myths center on the dealings and relations between the gods and the jǫtnar (often inaccurately translated as »giants«), somewhat god-like beings who intermarry with, are related to, or come into conflict with the gods. While numerous gods are mentioned in the Eddas and while the number of goddesses that appear in the text notably eclipse the number of gods, the Old Norse texts often focus on the exploits and adventures of the gods Odin and Thor.

The one-eyed, spear-wielding god Odin (Óðinn), flanked by two ravens whose names are Huginn (»thought«) and Muninn (»memory«) and two wolves named Geri and Freki (whose names both mean »desirous, ravenous«), is the subject of many of the poems found in the Poetic Edda. Similarly to the Old English Nine Herbs Charm that we visited earlier where Woden is said to be a founder of an alphabet, we are told that Odin hung himself from Yggdrasill for nine nights to gain the secret of the runic alphabet, which passed on to mankind. Ever thirsting for knowledge, Odin gave one of his eyes to the well of knowledge, Mímisbrunnr, and with him carries the herb-embalmed head of the well’s namesake owner, Mímir. The head speaks to him and tells him secrets. Often disguised as a long-bearded old man, Odin’s thirst for knowledge leads him to wager his own head in verbal battles of wit. Upon his eight-legged steed Sleipnir, this thirst for knowledge even brings him beyond the world of the living; to Hel, the name of both a location and goddess that extends from the same Germanic origin as our modern word Hell. There he asks from the dead hints of what will be. It is therefore fitting that Odin’s wife, Frigg, is able to see into the future—yet she tells no one what will be.

Described in Old Norse sources as the son of Earth and Odin, the god Thor (Þórr) was the most popular god during the Viking Age, a period generally held to have lasted from 793 to around the 11th century. Many personal names and place names from this period contain his name and inscriptions on runestones invoke his protection. Representations of his particularly shaped hammer, Mjǫlnir, were commonly worn during the Viking Age among believers. With its ability to crush mountain ranges, Thor uses this hammer to assault his foes, yet it may also be used to give blessings. Thor is a ferocious  god whose anger inspires terror in those that witness it but is also good-humored. He protects mankind and rides a chariot led by the goats Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr (»teeth-snarler« and »teeth-grinder«) and is sometimes accompanied by a boy and girl (Thjálfi and Rǫskva) who act as his servants and helpers. Thor’s name transparently means »thunder«, and his earth-associated, gold-haired wife, Sif, has been seen by scholars as embodying fields of golden wheat. In this sense, we are thus provided the image of storm clouds rolling over vast wheat fields, the showers upon the grain resulting in sustenance and health among mankind.

While it is Odin and Thor that we hear most about, perhaps due to the royal associations of the informants or the compiler, members of a family of deities known as the Vanir also receive frequent mention. This family of deities includes the goddess Freyja (the »Lady«), her brother Freyr (the »Lord«), and their father Njǫrðr (whose name is linguistically a descendant of the Nerthus who we heard about from Tacitus so long ago). Freyja is the most commonly mentioned goddess and was clearly one of the most important in the mythology. It is with Freyja that Odin must split half of the dead in battle; Odin’s share goes to the hall Valhǫll and Freyja’s share goes to her field Fólkvangr. A complex deity, Freyja owns a cloak of falcon feathers, weeps tears of gold, and owns a famously splendid necklace. Freyja is connected with witchcraft, cats, sex, and death.

Details about the many gods and goddesses and their associated mythology require far more than the space I am here allotted. Those who delve deeper than this paper will read about how the god Freyr gave up his self-fighting sword for the love of the beautiful jǫtunn Gerðr and thus must face his inevitable demise; about the arrival of the fierce skiing goddess Skaði, who comes down from her mountains for vengeance before choosing among the gods to marry based on their feet alone; about the death of the god Baldr (who we earlier met in Old High German), who dies by way of the mistletoe arrow of his blind brother Hǫðr, an act engineered by the malice of the half-god Loki; about the abduction of the apple-bearing goddess Iðunn, whose husband is the skaldic god Bragi; about the norns, valkyries, and the dísir, female beings associated with fate who are much like the »mothers« and »ladies« we encountered earlier; about the first war, the Æsir-Vanir War, which ended in a truce where all the gods spat into a cauldron, and from this the wisest of beings was born, Kvasir, who thereafter traveled the land spreading knowledge before he was murdered and his blood distilled as the Mead of Poetry; and about the foretold events of Ragnarǫk, during which the gods and their foes ride to battle, ending in the burning and rebirth of the world, a reinvigorated world to be populated by returning gods, their descendants, and two humans who hid in the woods of Yggdrasill, Líf and Lífþrasir.

From the haunting to the humorous, many myths await the reader of Norse mythology, well beyond those that are described here. Still, the myths are at times highly mysterious in what they don’t say; for example, why is there no discussion of the thousands of stone ships from the heathen period that speckle the Scandinavian landscapes? [x] Scholarship continues to tease out details and offer answers to these mysteries.


••• Folklore and Scholarship

Although we have no material nearly as extensive as the Old Norse material on the continent (and doubtlessly the lore was just as rich), detectable elements of what once was are found in folklore, where traces of earlier myths may be encountered. As late as the 11th century, edicts were being issued against pagan practices in England, and deities are still mentioned by name—in some cases quite in line with the functions described in the pagan period—in folklore records well as late as the 20th century.

However, it was the continued cherishing of this mythology among the Icelanders that brought the myths that we have today to us. After the 13th century, manuscript copies of the Eddas continued to be made in Iceland—no inexpensive labor—all the way up until the 17th century, when editions were printed in Latin and Danish, bringing the Eddas to a much wider audience and sparking a reinvigoration in Norse and general Germanic mythology in Europe. The discovery and translation of texts such as the Eddas resulted in the academic discipline of Germanic philology or Germanic studies.

Of the many faces and hands in this field, the most notable appeared in the 19th century; the linguist and folklorist Jacob Grimm (1785-1863), who the reader may best know as one of the Brothers Grimm. To say that Grimm was an important figure for the study of Germanic mythology would be an understatement. Due to his scientific innovations in the area of linguistics, Grimm’s influence reaches well beyond the Germanic sphere, and some scholars consider Grimm to be to the humanities what Charles Darwin was to the life sciences. Grimm’s four-volume compendium Teutonic Mythology (German Deutsche Mythologie) remains an important work to this day.

Since Grimm’s time, mountains of pages have been produced on the subject of Germanic mythology, and his work has been much questioned, developed, and innovated upon. Beyond Grimm, the modern study of Germanic mythology owes much to the scholars Jan de Vries (1890-1964) and Georges Dumézil (1898-1986), who inspired new generations of scholars and brought the study more in line with an Indo-European and modern linguistic framework. A body of works by British scholars E. O. G. Turville-Petre (1908-1978) and particularly Hilda Ellis Davidson (1914-2006) provided fantastic English introductions to Norse and Germanic mythology for the English-speaking general public—myself included!—through the post-World War II period. Nowadays handbooks by active English language scholars Rudolf Simek, Andy Orchard, and John Lindow are only a computer click away, and increasingly quality Wikipedia entries for even the most obscure of topics may be found on the internet free of cost.


••• The Gods Among Us

Outside of modern academia the gods are still with us in many ways. In most Germanic languages, the days of the week are still named after Germanic deities. We all know Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday; in other words, the day of the Sun, the Moon, the god Tiw (Tyr), the god Woden (Odin), the god Thunor (Thor), and the goddess Frige (Frigg). Various given names still contain the names of deities and other beings; Alfred literally means »elf advice«, whereas Ingrid means »beauty of the god Ing«, a name you may remember from Tacitus that is perhaps the true name of the important Norse fertility god Freyr. The modern Danish form of the name of his beautiful and ferocious sister Freyja, Freja, has remained one of the most popular names for Danish girls for the past decade [w].  And these are only a few examples. References to the mythology are all around us.

From the translations, fiction, and poetry of the British socialist polymath William Morris (1834-1896) and the influence he had on the British academic and author J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973), to the works of the German composer and conductor Richard Wagner (1813-1883), and even up to the American 2011 Marvel comics film Thor, Germanic mythology has proven to be a sporadic wellspring to the arts. With the amount of resources and information rapidly available in the modern world, this tradition shows no sign of ending. Gods such as Thor are more and more again becoming household names.

In the religious sphere the gods have also returned. In the last 100 years, the veneration of the old gods has been revived and continues to rapidly grow. In 2009, America’s first openly heathen politician, Dan Halloran, came to office in Queens, New York under the Republican ticket. In 2012, the Ásatrúarfélagið (»Asatru Association«), now the largest non-Christian religious group in Iceland [v],  celebrated its 40th anniversary by donating 2 million Icelandic krónur (about 16,000 US dollars or about 12,800 Euros) to the Icelandic Coast Guard’s helicopter fund.

Germanic mythology is alive and well in 2012.


Text | Joseph S. Hopkins, University of Georgia

Joseph S. Hopkins would like to thank Haukur Þorgeirsson, Juliana Roost, Dr. Alexander Sager and Rebecca Brooks for their feedback while writing this article.

Illustration | Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) inspired by Richard Wagner’s Germanic mythology-inspired opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. Courtesy of the artist

Sources |

[z] Other terms in regular use include Common Germanic or sometimes—simply enough—Germanic.

[y] Näsström, Britt-Mari (1995). Freyja – The Great Goddess of the North, page 21. Lund Studies in History of Religions: Volume 5. University of Lund, Sweden.

[x] For a 2011 article authored by Haukur Þorgeirsson and myself on this topic, see »The Ship in the Field« as published in The Retrospective Methods Network Newsletter, No. 3, December 2011. The University of Helsinki. ISSN-L: 1799-4497

[w] Statistics Denmark federal website, 2012: http://www.dst.dk/da/Statistik/emner/navne/NamesPop.aspx

[v] Statistics Iceland federal website, 2012: http://www.statice.is/Statistics/Population/Religious-organizations

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE June 2012 issue.

:: Hello and welcome to the Spheres. To introduce Patrick Loréa to our readers, tell us a little bit about your work and background. When did you step into the artworld?

Since I was very young, I have been strongly fascinated by the human body and its representation. My youth has been squeezed between a very strict education and my own fascination for the post punk movement and the surrealist art. This inspiration led me to drawing, painting, playing music… With these tools I was able to express some creative energy, but I felt too often frustrated about not creating a relieved feeling, until I went over to sculpture, which made me feel comfortable.

::What is your main field of activity?

I’m not working full-time in my art studio. I also work as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon specialized in hand surgery. If these two occupations may seem to be antagonist, these are two different expressions of the same soul. On the one hand, there is the artistic creativity, loneliness and complete freedom, no rules at all – the introspective part. On the other hand, there is the more social part of creativity, with many rules, constraints and schedules.

:: How do you get your work to the public?

To be honest, I am not a very good trader at all! I am using social networks and my own website to show my work and to meet people. These media environments are have very high accessibility for the entire world, if you do not fall into the potential trap. A few people I met that way became really interesting relationships and those led to events, exhibitions, collectors interested in buying my work and even close friends. On the other hand, I am represented by a gallery in Paris (Espace Saint-Germain) which offers me the opportunity to reach another kind of public.

:: How do you come by the themes you use in your projects? Are they a spur-of-the-moment thing, or are they the result of extensive documentation?  In general, where do you find your inspiration?

It’s rather a spur of the moment thing, afterwards enriched by a variable amount of documentation. Usually, I start with what I call an image. This image can be inspired by anything I may encounter in my daily life: people, concerts, performances, magazines, dance shows, books or even simple feelings. That image starts to obsess me until the concrete part of the process begins. Unfortunately,  as sculpture is a process which takes a long time, only few of these images I have become sculptures, so I am accumulating many unsatisfied obsessions.  For sure, this first part of my creative process doesn’t need to happen necessarily in my art studio. It is never premeditated and it may occur at anytime, anywhere. For me, sculpture doesn’t begin or end at the door of my art studio. Sometimes, for the technical aspect of the realization, I need more documentation, so I take pitures of a model or I am looking at some books or searching the internet for images linked to my vision. Concerning the Vanity Cases project, I have studied a number of books about the idea of death in different cultures and times. The documentation for this project was quite more detailed.

:: What does your usual work process involve?

Most of the time, the first step is the sculpting in clay (around an iron framework). Once my model is made, the sculpture in clay is then cast (with silicone, latex, resins). Then, I remove the clay from the mold and, in this mold, I make the final sculpture with various materials (resin, wood fiber, charcoal, iron wood, soil – this is my secret recipe). All of these stages of the process are interesting and important for me to do on myself and sometimes I prefer the mold rather than the final sculpture! This molding, casting process inspired me for my soft sculpture projects. For the Freeboxes project I recycled the model in clay and immersed it in clear polyester resin. For me, it has an important symbolic meaning when a part of the process becomes a sculpture in itself.

:: How long does development usually take?

Everything depends on the work required to materialize my idea and on my motivation (which often is very compulsive). It can take several days to several weeks for the modeling in clay, a few days more for making the mold and some other days to finish the final sculpture. I am creating about a 15 sculptures a year. The materialization of an idea may begin from the first evening (I love nightscapes) sometimes it can be suspended for several months, or it may never occur.

:: Vanity is a recurring theme throughout the ages, especially in literature. Where did the idea for the Vanity Cases project emerge?

At first, I have been inspired by the image of the natural mummies of Guanajuato. What I like in those mummies (opposite to skeletons) is the living aspect as a result of the variable skin and soft tissue preservation which leads to their various expressions. In the mummies of Guanajuato, in contrast with the Egyptian mummies for instance, the scenery is very impressive and some of them really seem to have been surprised by death in their daily life (some historians believe one of these was buried alive) and have only been preserved because of the climatic conditions. When the first of those sculptures had been realized, I was unable to present it nude, I felt it too hard, too crude and left it in a corner of my art studio for later. Then, haphazardly the words »Vanity Case« came up into my mind and I thought about its double meaning. I began to look (in secondhand markets) for old cases and objects linked to the scenes I wanted to represent. All of those cases and objects belonged once to someone who is now dead. During the whole project, I was fascinated by confronting the parts of somebody’s death on the one hand, with the parts of somebody’s supposed life on the other hand.

:: Your work has been described as »Notre besoin de consolation est impossible à rassasier«. Do you believe that comfort is unattainable because we project ourselves in a different manner than what we actually are? Or is it that understanding of oneself is impossible, thus making comfort hard to achieve from the outside?

This sentence was written by Stig Dagerman, an utopian anarchist who unfortunately committed suicide two years afterwards. For sure, most of us are projecting ourselves more or less in a different way than what we actually are. But that’s not the essential thing, it’s just the human comedy. The understanding of ourselves is maybe not possible to really achieve, but we can tend to that, at least we have to and we need to. We are sometimes able to reach the knowledge of what we really need. The problem is, if we do have this knowledge, that we do not always have the resources to satisfy our needs. Sometimes our actions are contradicting our needs. For instance, we need to experience dependence to understand and enjoy freedom. Comfort is hard (if not impossible) to achieve from the outside. Comfort and freedom have to be found inside of us, but as we live within this outside, we are often in an antagonistic (or in best cases diplomatic) relationship with nature and society.

As Stig Digerman would say:  »If I want to live free, I have at the moment to do it inside these forms. The world is thus stronger than me. To its power I have nothing to oppose but myself – but, from a certain view, it is considerable. Because as long as I do not allow myself to be crushed by the numbers, I am also a power. (…) Such is my only consolation. I know that relapses into despair will be numerous and deep, but the memory of the miracle of the liberation carries me as a wing towards a purpose which makes me dizzy: a consolation which is more than a consolation and bigger than a philosophy, that is a reason for living«.

:: Photography, painting and the related arts are mostly bi-dimensional pieces. In opposition, sculpture and installation art is mostly three-dimensional. Is it difficult to imagine a piece of work in 3D? Or does it come naturally?

To imagine a piece in 3D is going very smoothly, but, for sure, for its realization on a technical level, there are more technical constraints. On the contrary, it was difficult for me as a painter to restrict the things to only two dimensions. We live in a 3D world as we have the dimensions of time and motion. The real challenge in sculpture is to press the button on hold in order to stop the movement and to catch an emotion or expression.

:: Going back to the Vanity Cases project: how does the love-death dichotomy apply to it?

Let’s talk about the Thanatos and Eros drives. I’m not a disciple of Freud but I think that those concepts are fundamental to understand our human beings, and it is maybe the best way to resume most of my work, Vanity Cases included. Thanatos (Todestrieb) is our drive towards death, self-destruction and the return to the inorganic state. That death drive opposes Eros, our tendency towards survival, procreation, life, sex, pleasure.

Most people only see the pain in my work, but Eros is a blend of pleasure and pain (such as a delivery which gives birth to new life or such as a painful or anxious expression on the face during an orgasm), as Thanatos is a mixture of pain and relief. All our behaviors are either an opposition or a combination of those drives. For instance, the excess of love may lead to a murder. In the Vanity Cases I reduced the classical gap that people use to put between life and love on the one hand, and death on the other hand.

:: Is degradation of the human psyche visible from the outside? Or does it become apparent only through the passage of time?

First, it depends on who is looking. I think I look more easily inside the psyche of many of my contemporaries than I’m able to understand them. Then, the passage of time is rather helping each of us understand better the degradation of our own psyche and to hide it better, for those who want or who believe they have to.

:: You have a collaboration project with Oceane Gil, involving soft latex and mixed media. Have you also considered collaborations with audio artists, for example, or any other inter-medium mixes for you work?

Collaborations and inter-medium mixes are important to me. For my project Beautiful Agony, I made an installation where the music (a mix of Erik Satie and Melek-Tha) was quite as important as the sculptures. I often collaborate with a photographer named Olivier Lelong, by working on a set and sometimes making some Shibari (living sculptures) as it is needed for the photograph. I also collaborated with him for the scenery of a video clip he realized for the band Treponem Pal. We also worked together for other performances on scene where we adapted the use of materials mostly used in sculpture (Latex, Alginate). I am quite interested to cross the border between static (dead) sculpture and living body expression. I also have a project with a music band (Mistreated Soul) and a Butô-related performer (Yannick Unfricht). For this project, I am working on semi-soft sculptures and masks to go with the performers on stage.

:: What are you working on at the moment?

At this very moment, I am trying to answer your interesting questions!

Most of the time, I am working on different projects together. I am looking for new materials, new textures. I am working on new Vanity Cases and other Freeboxes. At the same time, I am developing the project with Yannick Unfricht.

:: What future projects are in store for you?

I have so many of them. I cannot talk about them in detail because, if I speak too much about a project, I lose some desire for it and, consequently, I lose the energy needed for its realization. But let’s say that I want to explore new materials, human expressions, I want to find the best way and moment to freeze the image and motion and to work on body-casting.  All I want is to have fun whilst finding some relief for myself

:: What are you reading at the moment?

Dans les forêts de Sibérie by Sylvain Tesson. This is the story of a writer who is going to live for 6 months in a hut in Siberian Taiga, escaping thus from Parisian life in order to experience how to find and how to manage loneliness and liberty.

:: How is life in France? Is it a fertile medium for creation?

I do not have the impression that the country where I live is important for the fertility of my work or my inspiration. On the contrary, I was born and passed my youth in Belgium, a little country and a fertile place for famous artists (Delvaux, Magritte, Wim Delvoye, Jan Fabre, Somville). Concerning France, there are a lot of great artists, but the market is maybe too feeble.

:: If you were to describe your work in 4 words, what would you say?

Human, Pleasure, Pain, Life.

artwork | Patrick Loréa. Vanity Cases. Courtesy of the artist.

questions by Thora Vel

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE April 2012 issue.

Released in the vanguard of technological advancements concerning cinematic production, Alphaville discloses a dystopic universe that embraces erasure in order to maintain its continuous functioning. The narrative presents the expedition of an undercover secret agent named Lemmy Caution in the world of Alphaville, in order to find its creator Professor Von Braun and destroy the Alpha 60 machine that entraps the inhabitants by prohibiting love and free thought.

This brings to mind, among several large-scale-creation-turned-against-creator works, a film that borderlines cliché-istic imagery, but in which, at a closer inspection, another machine entraps the masses. Equillibrium, however, resides in an universe controlled by a non-sentient fiend. Unlike Alphaville, this world bares no intrusions and no escapes, seeming set in time, immutable and unbreakable. Do you think these are somehow alarm signals howling above our heads in hopes of avoiding technology to overcome biology?

At first look, the film does seem to be critical to the advent of technology by rendering visible the possible outcomes of technological advancements: industrial development gradually creates an imbalance in the relation between Man and Machine, favouring the latter and leading to a bleak future where people are deprived of individuality. The citizens of Alphaville depicted in the film seem to be trapped in a circular universe, and the machine that they had themselves created (Alpha 60) constantly regulates their existences. Is confinement an issue in Equillibrium as well?

The city of Libria has tall, thick walls, strict policies regarding contact with the outside, a well organized law enforcement network and is overall monotonous, quiet and bleak. Although there is no actual electro-mechanical entity governing this city, an elusive reflection of Professor Von Braun does exist: Father. A watchful eye, Father knows everything, he sees all infractions, he hears all whispered emotions. This figure appears on monitors, uses (not unlike Alpha 60) technology for monitoring of the inhabitants. A tiranic figure, Father seems to be an amalgam of Von Braun and Alpha 60.

You mentioned the controling entity as non-sentient. How does Father fit that description? Alphaville is governed by the Alpha 60 machine, which functions as an internalized restraint for whatever they do, presents sentient behaviour.

In Equillibrium, Father is as much a slave of this dystopic order as anyone else, even if he considers himself free. The machine here is an emergent entity, in which all subcomponents collaborate in order to entrap the inhabitants of Libria: a drug, taken to erase all emotions. Every tiny capsule of this medication is a part of the biological machine that enforces conformity. All inhabitants, the Libria goverment, the law enforcement agents, all become tools of the chemical machine.

Indeed, in both instances, the characters seem to be result of anamorphosis, presenting themselves as real while they are in fact distorted surfaces incapable of free thought or action. As voiced by the Alpha 60 machine itself: »The inhabitants of Alphaville are not normal. They are the product of mutation.« (Alphaville, 1965). The dwellers of Alphaville appear as reflections that are unable to internalize feelings or free thought, but that are nevertheless able to mimic reality proper.

On the contrary, Libria brims with characters that are so transformed and distorted, that they become the mirrors themselves. They reflect the grey, angular, square, quiet world around them. The amount of conversation is limited to basics and only the neccessary words are spoken. Nothing is added, nothing is extra. Nothing is taken, either.

This sounds similar to Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, with its symbolic society populated by clones that mimic existence and regard themselves as real.

Yes. However, if Alphaville does emulate beings that consider themselves real, the inhabitants Libria are well aware of the fact that they hollow themselves out. They patiently wait in line, out of their own free will, as they themselves consider, to get their daily doses. Mimicking existance is taken to a whole new level, a reality that is not fake, but palpable and quite bland. For instance, even the self-discovery of an Other by the main protagonist is quiet and continuous. John Preston, a law enforcement agent, doesn’t even try to see himself. His path of self discovery has to be forced on him, by an accidental loss of a drug dose. Does this apply to Alphaville as well?

Actually, no. One of the main characters of Alphaville is Natacha von Braun, the daughter of Professor von Braun who guides the detective Lemmy Caution through the city. She continuously attempts to discover herself, she seems to be a mask that only serves the ones around them by mirroring their desires. Natacha seems to be a symptom, not of man, but of the very system that created her – Alphaville. A significant episode to the young woman’s portrayal is the close-up scene that frames and fragments her body transforming it in the object of the gaze by means of an image. With her eyes staring at the cinematic lens, it is difficult to determine whether her discourse is a soliloquy or a monologue whose addressees are the very viewers of the film. By breaking the fourth wall, Godard exposes Natasha as both the object of the gaze and the Other that stares back from the other side of the glass.

Natasha seems to be a fractured reflection. Preston, on the other hand, is a scratchless shiny reflective object. At the beginning of the film, even when looking at himself in the mirror, there is no Other gazing back. The only one really looking back at him is the impassible face of his son, checking that he took his daily dose. Further on, though, his own essence shatters when his son reveals a complete lack of drug induced obedience, with the same calm and emotionless face. Unlike Preston, the boy is a genuine (and unique in this film) Other, set in place to negate the existance of Libria.

This reminds me a little bit of Lemmy Caution: cautious boy – cautious agent perhaps?

In a complete and unrelated hey-I-discovered-a-quirk manner, yes.

True, the boy is cautious to avoid capture, thus creating his Other facet. Instead, Lemmy’s name is used as subtle irony. Throughout the film, the viewers more or less follow Caution’s excursion through the metropolis and his attempts to make sense of what he encounters. He seems to be able to provide all the answers and solutions concerning Alphaville, but he does not disclose any psychological depth. In other words, Lemmy Caution is neither reliable nor convincing since he is unable to reveal anything else than an appealing surface.

The detective seems to be an intrusive element in Alphaville. He breaks into the monochrome patterns and leaves at the end, but does not suffer mutation of the self. Unlike Lemmy, Preston’s son is part of Libria. His existence is not discontinued from the Equillibrium universe at the end of the film, but is assumed to be mutated into Libria-the-Other, as a result of destroying the biological technocratic tyrany.

What brings forth this destruction of Libria?

It’s rather cliché-istic. In fact, it is expected for a member of law enforcement to break the rules and cripple the machine. After being made aware of a circular entrappment by a »sense offender« – »It’s circular. You exist to continue your existence. What’s the point?« (Equilibrium, 2002) – Preston is the Insider that simulates awareness.

In opposition, Lemmy Caution seems to be an Outsider. After meeting Natacha, he admits that he wants to save her from this destructive system and help her become a »real« person, like himself, even if the only way to do this is by bringing destruction to the Alphaville machine itself.

So how is it that both films still have that grim sensation of death even in the end? Equillibrium, for instance, breaks the entrappment by means of explosives and murderus violence, culminating in the fall of the governing figures. These actions release emotions for the Librians, causing rioting and bringing them back to the reason why the entire drug system has been set in place: “In the first years of the 21st century, a third World War broke out. Those of us who survived knew mankind could never survive a fourth; that our own volatile natures could simply no longer be risked. So we have created a new arm of the law: The Grammaton Cleric, whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of man’s inhumanity to man – his ability to feel.” (Equilibrium, 2002)

In Alphaville, the Alpha 60 machine loses its complete power by erasing the symbolic distance that sustains its existence. What generates this process of erasure is the Alpha question: “What am I?”. Towards the end of the film, Alpha 60 provides the answer – »it is my misfortune that I am myself, Alpha 60.« (Alphaville, 1965) that makes it self-conscious and unable to perform its own purpose. The machine’s death is associated with an absence of light that ultimately generates a general state of asphyxia throughout Alphaville.

In this light, would there even be a point to break confinement, be it chemical, mechanical or even self-induced?

In a permanent present that duplicates itself endlessly? Yes.

So… how does one escape if one knows not that one is trapped?

films | Alphaville. 1965. Jean -Luc Godard | Equilibrium. 2002. Kurt Wimmer

photo | Alphaville. 1965. Movie still

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE February 2012 issue.


Hello and welcome to The Spheres. Tell us who are we talking to today, as an introduction to our readers.

Hi I am Simon Jones, a Director at SR Partners in London. I like starting and producing and initiating global collaborative projects as well as working on commercial projects around the World.

We have stumbled upon “Resonance”, a sort-of-kind-of intricate and eye catching interdisciplinary form of virtual installation. How would you define “Resonance”?

That’s a hard one. I have tried to sum it up for a while now and this is where I have got to: Resonance is a global collaborative project with some of the best visual and audio artists in the world. It explores the relationship between geometry and audio, which allowed us an opportunity to have some fun, meet new people and create some cool stuff.

Where from did the idea for this project emerge?

It was in a pub in London. I was having a chat with Andrew Diey from Radium Audio about possibly working together, which seemed to snowball into Resonance through chatting to co-collaborators Kultnation, Onur Senturk and Korb.

How does the concept of resonance (as understood in vibration mechanics) apply to it?

It was a great word to sum up what we were doing visualizing audio as well as audiofying visuals.

How many artists were involved in the creation of “Resonance”?

There were 21 Visual companies, 12 Sound design studies, 1 editor, 1 graphic Designer so was quite a few people. They are from all over the globe as well and was a great way to meet some of your idols of the industry.

Was it difficult to coordinate that many artists?

It was, at times, but to be honest all the artists are true professionals and knew what they needed to do. The hardest thing to manage was the time difference. As it was a global project, I found myself a lot of the time emailing throughout the night.

How long did development take?

From the original idea to the premiere at OFFF Barcelona there were 9 months.

Given the interpretation of light and sound as waveforms, is there a deeper connection than the obvious in “Resonance”?

Not really. It was a great title to bring our project together but there was no real deep meaning behind the project apart from having fun meeting new people and creating great work.

Sometimes, resonance is sought, allowing, for instance, the receival of radio signals. Other times, reaching resonance means failure, as it happens for bridges or buildings during earthquakes. Where would you situate the resonance frequency of “Resonance”?

I think it would be a jet engine within a ships engine room next to a nuclear bomb blast. Resonance is a crazy mixture of so many things… I think that’s the beauty of it, hopefully there is something for everyone.

Everything vibrates. In each of “Resonance’s” clips, there is at least one element that depicts a form of vibration. Was this accidental, or was it imposed as a theme to the participating artists?

My brief to the Artists was to investigate the relationship between geometry and audio. I didn’t give any more direction. All of the work was the individuals’ vision which is exactly what we wanted.

How did most artist pairs work: first video then audio, or was it a mix of efforts?

It was a real mix, some of the visuals were driven by the audio, sometimes the audio was done after the visuals were finished. I know that for a few of them there was real collaboration between the two parties and so the visual artists got their idea of audio across and vice versa.

What future projects are in store for you?

As well as some really exciting commercial projects with SR Partners I am working on a new collaborative project with Damien Steck called Parasite Choi, there are 15 visual vfx artists visualizing their vision of a parasite and integrating it with shot footage.

Thanks for the chance to explain our process and hope and everyone enjoys the film. This project was a success down to the amazing talents of all the artists involved, without their visions Resonance would have been nothing.

Questions | Vel Thora

Answers | Simon Jones

photo | Resonance. 2011. Movie still

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE November 2011 issue.


:: Literature and Occultism in the Victorian Era ::

Editor’s Note. The following is a two-part feature, spanning over the October 2011 and November 2011 Clockwork Showcases.

The passionate portrait of a living nature organically linked between all of its elements and the anatomia essentialis defended by Paracelsus, seduced our wretched Mary Shelley’s child, in the same way of many other real scientists during the century. And we already shall know the mainstream idea which lies underneath: the restless quest of the ens spirituale within living matter, or more precisely, a sort of medicine science entirely based in van Helmont’s concept of archeus influus, the unifying principle latent in all organic form of life. In short, the triumph of Prometheus’ search in the pursuit of the divine fire; the principle which rule the creation of life in base of dead matter, using in that difficult chore the procedures of the alchemists, as Paracelsus did in regards to the perturbing figure of the homunculus. Briefly, doctor Frankenstein tried “to read in the book of Nature with the eyes of the spirit”, following his master’s maxim.

And naturally we have arrived in this flowing argumentation to the Alchemy. Obviously this is not the adequate place to undertake any rigorous approach to the historical background of this phenomenon, but it’s an unavoidable task to make a halt and explain slightly its relation with very well-known writers of the period like Goethe (Faust I and Faust II 1808-1832), M. R. James (Casting the runes, 1911), Gustav Meyrink (Der Golem, 1915), E. G. Bulwer-Lytton (Zanoni, 1842), or even H. P. Lovecraft (with the short tale The Alchemist, 1908). Certainly, in many ways the Goethe’s approach to the alchemy was merely a poetic attempt to introduce his passionate readings of Paracelsus, Basilius Valentinus, Georg von Welling and Anton Joseph Kirchweger in his writings; but probably we ought to focus our attention on his most renowned character Faust, in order to explain his philosophical obsessions and literary intentions. Undoubtedly, his unfortunate character yearns for a divine and hidden science; he got to meet all human knowledge and now is craving to go beyond. The scholastic measures seem short for our hero, but the magic and alchemical rituals fit perfectly for his very new purpose. Certainly the same hope and desire identified in regards to the ancient practitioners of magical mysticism or late antiquity’s alchemists, both representative of the spirit of those wises who yearn for a new “science of occult virtues”, useful to unveil the secrets of Nature, as Festugière noticed in his Révélation [v]. Unequivocally, the main difference stems from the mephistophelian nature of the pact between the evil forces and our unruly character, either Faust or Melmoth.

Regarding to the alchemical and magical topics dealt in this and other nineteenth and early twentieth opuses (the panacea and the elixir of eternal life, the homunculus and the golem, the rebis, and finally the lapis philosophorum), is notorious for a historian their ignorance and their marvelous poetic license. Anyway, we should take account of the theosophical, pietist and spiritual influences of such alchemical conceptions, in the new theoretical sense given by celebrated opuses like the Amphiteatrum sapientiae aeternae solius verae (1595) of Heinrich Khunrath (1560-1605), or in the Opus mago-cabbalisticum et theosophicum (1735), by Welling (1655-1727), cited above as a great inspiration for Goethe’s Faust. Overall, those new spiritual or theosophical alchemists gave more importance to the salvation in Christian terms, rather than any sort of greasy alchemical task, and this new “alchemy” suits perfectly with their literary purposes and religious anxiety, as well as for the intentions of French occultists like Gerard Encausse (Papus), Eliphas Lévi or Stanislas de Guaita, who widely comment the Amphiteatrum. It’s beyond doubt that this murky and metaphysical concept of the occult sciences was a strong literary inspiration for many writers and artists during the analyzed period, and such insane lucubrations became an excellent argument at the time to recreate many unforgettable horrified and oppressive atmospheres.

And continuing with the relationship between the nineteenth literature and modern science, inevitable we have flowed into those wide-spread incipient pseudo-scientific currents like the Mesmerism and the Spiritualism, which had a tremendous influence in the literary panorama of the period. Anyhow, once again we should not forget that the problem of death, the spiritual world, the apparitions, specters and ghosts, have leaded a great part of the spilt ink and not necessarily regarding the occultist literature, despite of the disdain of many renowned occultists towards the Spiritualism movement. In any case, the ghost topic was widely treated by many writers and occultists during that period, occasionally as a mere diversion but sometimes as a meditate way of express a firm belief in a transcendent reality.

For instance, we discover in the sarcastic genius of Guy de Maupassant, a great interest in the animal magnetism and in the hidden and invisible creatures who prowling out of sight (Le Horla, 1887), as well as physiological conceptions defended by pseudo-scientists like Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801) and Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), the introducers of a suggestive way to describe the human nature through the face’s features, extensively used by writers like Charlotte Brontë (The Professor, 1857), or Balzac again in his Physiologie du marriage (1829). It’s also remarkable the influence of mysterious phenomena like the magnetism and the hypnotism again in the case of Balzac and his novel Ursule Miroüet (1841), or Maurice Maeterlinck and his Le Grand Secret (1927). And finally it was a physician, James Braid (1795-1860), who following the Mesmer’s teachings introduced the concept of hypnosis in the equation, giving to Poe the chance of write one of the most frightening horror tales ever: The facts in the case of M. Valdemar (1845).

Yet it was by the hand of the occultist writer Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), when in our opinion the nineteenth occultism got its zenith. And probably his novel Zanoni is the most comprehensive masterpiece conceived by the occultists during that period, and there’re many reasons to support this assert. Firstly because of the close relationship of his author with other renowned occultists, his membership in the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA), and the evident encyclopedic knowledge demonstrated in this and other occult tales like The Haunted and the Haunters (1857), A Strange Story (1862) or Vril, the Power of the Coming Race (1871). The author of those passionate tales reveals a thorough interest in the so called hermetic sciences, beside the influence of an animal magnetism assimilated to the ancient astromagical energeia. Particularly in Zanoni [u], we assist in the fourth book, signified called The Dweller of the Threshold, to an initiation path in the extraordinary secrets of the Rosicrucians, the oldest and most powerful hermetic order:

“that there were no mystic and solemn unions of men seeking the same end through the same means before the Arabians of Damus, in 1378, taught to a wandering German the secrets which founded the Institution of the Rosicrucians? I allow, however, that the Rosicrucians formed a sect descended from the greater and earlier school. They were wiser than the Alchemists,—their masters are wiser than they” (Book IV, chapter II).

Zanoni and Mejnour, both extraordinary characters adorned with the aureole of the occult sanctity, defenders of the eternal secrets of Nature; the first one entirely devoted to the beauty and brightness of the “sublunar world”, and the second to the melancholy of the heavens above. Undoubtedly, Zanoni is one of the best exponents of the occult conception within the esoteric currents of thought. And for our purposes, it’s important to remark -and relatively unknown- the fact that apparently Lévi traveled to England in order to perform a theurgic ritual through the mediation of Lord Lytton, a ritual in which Apollonius of Tyana -the ancient wise registered by the Greek historian Philostratus-, appeared and revealed some cabbalistic truths to our French occultist, or at least that’s what he affirmed in his Dogma et Rituel de la Haute Magie, and Butler reflected such amusing and novelistic episode in his famous Ritual Magic under the title: “Apollonius of Tyana in London”.

As a conclusion, we would like to call your attention on the fact that many of the protagonists of those literary works, either heroes or antiheroes, and counterpart or not of their gloomy creators, have showed a wild tendency to go beyond human possibilities, directly through the inner places of matter, spirit and au-delà worlds. In short, this inclination for the irrational and obscure side of human and divine essences that we effortlessly find in those occult writers, is the scion of a contradictory epoch full of splendorous décadence and rage. A bastard child inclined to kill his holy fathers and the deformed and malevolent image reflected in the mirror of Léon Spilliaert and Dr. Jekyll’s failed experiment. An insane introspective eager to dismantle the very hidden nature of things, and a disorganized attack against the orthodoxy. It was the Nietzsche and Schiele’s defense of the all-mighty matter against the frayed consciousness, and the piteous journey of the doomed across the forgotten rivers of the Hades.

Further reading:

[v] FESTUGIÈRE, A.-J., La révélation d’Hermès Trismégiste, París: Les Belles Lettres. Vol. I. L’astrologie et les sciences occultes, Paris : Les Belles Lettres, 1986, p. 41.

[u] Azogue Journal

Resources at www.revistaazogue.com

Photo | William Blake. 1794. Book of Urizen

by Iván Elvira

Full article here.




The following article was published in N-SPHERE October 2011 issue.


:: Literature and Occultism in the Victorian Era ::

Editor’s Note. The following is a two-part feature, spanning over the October 2011 and November 2011 Clockwork Showcases.

In this brief essay about the problematic and striking relationship between the particular and curious philosophy often called occultisme and the literature inscribed in this dilated period of English History (1837-1901), normally associated to her most powerful sovereign, the Queen Victoria, firstly we should take account of the complexity and depth of such relation through the ages. Certainly, it’s rather known that our contemporary sense of the concept of “occult” necessarily has no relation with the Ancient or Modern uses of that term. Regardless of this fact, obviously it has not been significant changes within human inner condition from the Ancient Mediterranean World to our current days, and their preoccupations and weaknesses are in great part similar to ours, which implies that the astonishing references on occult phenomena including, verbi gratia, in the Ancient “novel” Metamorphoses of Apuleius and the nineteenth ghost stories by E. F. Benson, are more closer in essence than we are willing to affirm as historians. Surely we can conceive those similarities almost as an exercise of Anthropology, but it’s more than this: something in our hidden nature claims for emerge and give sense to the non-sense using “irrational” or “magical” methods and arguments, and sometimes the writers’ speech is directed with the intention of explain or unveil those mysteries, but most times their purpose is to veil or hide those supposed symbols which lies beneath the written pages.

Obviously, the common and scientific conceptions of “supernatural” or “irrational” have suffered many changes through its long journey across the centuries and the authors, but undoubtedly the psychological mechanism which encourages them stills intact, at least in our Western Civilization. On the other hand, we have chosen the nineteenth century’s approach on the matter precisely because of the fine and inquisitive perspective supported by the wide range of writers, occultists, philosophers and scientists who dealt with the Esoteric matter in that period.

And first of all, we’re obeying to define what we understand when we apply the term “Occultism” to these nineteenth currents of thought and literary masterpieces, because its definition is in most cases vague and mistakenly assimilable to related concepts such esoterism and hermetism. In fact, we ought to delimit this term to those opuses inspired in a pristine hermetic tradition, which appeared for the first time in our century, and invariably based in a confuse joint of philosophies mainly inherited from the eighteenth theosophists. Naturally, our “occultists” tried hard to support their authority in more noble and ancient sources, but honestly their approach to the previous authors normally involved in the so called Western Esotericism was derisory in most cases. In short, the Occultism is an obscure philosophy which claims to be a “new” way to face the physical reality and a resource capable to unveil the spiritual dimension. In some cases, this new approach was positioned against the Christian churches and the modern parameters of the society and the positive science, but it does not work in the same manner in all cases, as we will see. Anyway, it’s suggestive the opinion of Nelly Emont when she alluded to une crise [z]  performed during the latter years of the nineteenth century to explain the apparition in stage of these occultist currents.

At first glance, we can observe in the occultist literature of the period, some tendencies at the time to tackle the esoteric phenomena, and surely will be useful the accurate appreciation of the erudite and Victorian writer M. R. James, who warned us about the risk of ruin a good ghost story using the technical jargon constructed by the occultists; in other words, if our purpose is to perform an optimal climax for the terror, we should occult the mechanism which support the fiction, trying to avoid any sort of murky and esoteric lucubration. Certainly, we agree with Dr. James in regards to the horror genre, but during our period we can identify many other incursions in the esoteric phenomenon, and aimed by different mottos. Fully inscribed in the nineteenth occult currents of thought, we find the work and philosophical backgrounds of some writers like A. Blackwood, G. Meyrink, H. Jennings, C. Flammarion, A. Machen, C. Maturin, Bulwer-Lytton, A. Conan Doyle, H. de Balzac or B. Stoker. Likewise, those personalities found egregious precedents in German quills like Goethe and Novalis, or in the magnificent visionary creation of William Blake. In addition, there’s a large list of writers integrated in the supernatural horror tales, gothic, symbolist and ghost stories, and other related fiction genres which merely catch a glimpse of the occult, with no other intention but to create an atmosphere of horror, mystery or restlessness. Finally we will mention some writers inscribed in non-related literary genres who deal with the occult obliquely.

But before to achieve a recount of those occult writers inscribed in this passionate era, we should come a halt and highlight which are the main features attached to the literature inscribed in our century, some of them parallel to the Faivre’s mainstream considerations affirmed in his renowned Accès de l’ésotérisme occidental, but in this case exclusively concerned to our period. In other words, we do consider this lavish amount or scientific literature as gifted by the following characteristics: Firstly, the exaltation of the so called “living nature”; secondly, the reconstruction of a holistic and esoteric conception of the religious experience; thirdly, the nostalgic attempt to recover a pre-scientific visions of the universe; and finally and fourthly, the rise of the Occultism as an established current of thought, along with other related currents such Spiritualism or Mesmerism. Certainly, and through the vision of these nineteenth hermetists, the modern science has failed at the time to comprehend the veritable essence of the cosmos, since it was considered as a dead, hazardous and nonsensical mechanism. And precisely was the astronomer Camille Flammarion (1842-1925) the champion of this beautiful consideration in the philosophical part of his opus Les Merveilles célestes: lectures du soir [y]:

“La philosophie doit aller plus loin. Elle ne doit pas se borner à voir sous une forme plus ou moins distincte le grand corps de la nature ; mais, étendant la main, il doit sentir sous l’enveloppe matérielle la vie qui circule à grands flots. L’empire de Dieu n’est pas l’empire de la mort : c’est l’empire de la vie”.

And that’s the reason why a universe ruled by spiritual forces and beings was so attractive for those nineteenth minds, linking in this sense directly with the so called “magical thought”. In addition to this important feature, we easily identify a tendency of those new esoteric speculators to reinterpret the religious experience using heterodox and romantic terminology, and the exaltation of the artistic and spiritual dimension of Christian religion supported by Chateubriand, or the mystical experience constructed in Novalis or Blake’s opuses, or vaguely in the case of Sade, Baudelaire, Lautréamont or Rimbaud’s pagan and savage dimension in the pursuit of épater le bourgeois, bear out such theory. Even recent works have tried to elucidate the esoteric elements which inspired the background of writers like Balzac, inscribed a priori in the Realism [x].

Whatsoever, we should reevaluate the importance of the occult and mystical fashions which crawling in our period, and great Spanish novels such La Regenta (1884-85) and Fortunata y Jacinta (1886-87), by L. A. Clarín and B. P. Galdós respectively, bear testimony of that peculiar intellectual milieu which wandered in Europe. Moreover, the well-known philosophical assimilation between God and His Creation, frequently named with the terms of immanentism, pantheism or deism, found important defenders in literary lost characters and antiheroes like Fernando Ossorio (Camino de perfección, 1902), obviously against the catholic dogmas. On the other hand, is notorious the case of Jakob Böhme (ca.1575-1624) and Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), and their literary influence in gloomy, thoughtful and tortured characters like Roderick Usher (The Fall of House Usher, 1839), Gottfried Wolfgang (The adventure of the German student), and even in the out of period Harry Haller (Der Steppenwolf, 1927); and precisely such evocative, lonely and bizarre human conditions was extremely useful for Edgar Allan Poe to recreate the distinctive awe atmosphere which lies in great part of his masterpieces, and certainly in the very remote entrails of modern men.

Nevertheless, and accordingly with the clever perspective supported by W. Hanegraaff [w], we must try to avoid the wide-spread tendency of devaluate those occultist elements, focusing our attention on the irrational and conservative objectives and tenets which hypothetically aim these heterodox currents of thought. On the contrary, in many ways these esoteric conceptions have encouraged the birth of modern world in scientific terms. As a literary paradigm of such assumption, we can find in the immortal opus Frankenstein (1818) some references to the youthful flirtings of our Dr. Frankenstein with the old and dusty books written by Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1535), Albertus Magnus (ca.1200-1280) and Paracelsus (ca.1493-1541), which bear witness to the inclination of modern scientists to the so called “natural philosophers” from the Renaissance, in their pursuit to conceive a panvitalist vision of the whole universe and the rise of a scienza nuova.

Further reading:
[z] EMONT, N., “Thèmes du fantastique et de l’occultisme en France à la fin du XIXe siècle”, in La littérature fantastique: colloque de Cérisy, Paris: A. Michel, 1991, pp. 137-156.
[y] FLAMMARION, C., Les merveilles célestes: lectures du soir, Paris: Hachette, 1872, p. 346.
[x] LOZANO SAMPEDRO, M. T., dissertation: El esoterismo en la obra de Balzac, Salamanca, 1990.
[w] Azogue Journal
Resources at www.revistaazogue.com

Photo | Unknown Author. 1831. Frankenstein , Book Illustration

by Iván Elvira

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE September 2011 issue.


Batman is undoubtedly one of the most recognized icons in 20th century pop culture. The impact & influence of the entire Batman universe & the cult status it has rendered over the decades since its inception in the late 1930s is noticeable in the huge success of different medias in which the Dark Knight has appeared over the years, from extensive series of comic books to movie series, films & animated series to a myriad of merchandise, toys, collectibles & Batmania paraphernalia.

Our classic image of Batman as the lonely vigilante with a hidden identity & shrouded in mystery who swears to avenge his parents’ death by constantly fighting against a never ending list of villains & foes & trying to protect Gotham City from crime has evolved through the years. Not everyone is familiar with the Caped Crusader‘s initial 1939 image filled with dark, gloomy & grim overtones. In the next lines I will try to outline this dark imagery of The Bat-Man (as he was known in the early comic books) by focusing on his first appearances in Detective Comics, starting with his debut in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) up until Detective Comics #37 (March 1940) which marks Batman‘s last adventure as a lonely hero, paving the way for the introduction of his young sidekick Robin, the Boy Wonder‘s a month later in the April issue of Detective Comics. The Batman‘s debut in Detective Comics #27 featured a short story of 6 pages, The Case of the Chemical Syndicate, in which the comic book hero is introduced as “a mysterious and adventurous figure fighting for righteousness and apprehending the wrong doer, in his battle against the evil forces of society”. The major influences in creating and shaping the Batman figure came from different 1930s pieces of American pop culture – movies (like the swashbuckler classic The Mark of Zorro & the obscure mystery film, The Bat Whispers), pulp stories (their alert style is present throughout the late 1930s & early 1940s Batman comics with The Shadow character as a major influence), comic strips (heroes like Dick Tracy). The Dark Knight was envisioned as a mysterious & menacing figure for New York City’s (Gotham City was first used in late 1940) villains, displaying both brutal & elaborate skills at fighting his enemies by kicking, punching & throwing them in the air & a keen sense of sleuthing & analyzing every detail using deductive reasoning in order to track down “the evil forces of society”. Both of these qualities were fully expressed in Batman‘s first appearance, as he is seen giving fist after fist & sending his opponents hurdling though the air & in the end revealing himself as a master of whodunit. The most strikingly uncomfortable moment of this first story is near the end when Stryker, the leader of the chemical syndicate, tries to shoot Batman but thanks to an agile move, the Dark Knight stops him & with a punch sends him down in an acid tank to meet his doom. The Caped Crusader then replies that this was “a fitting ending for his kind”, thus emphasizing Batman‘s mission at maintaining social order no matter the costs or ways. Whereas the debut of the story stated the unknown identity of Batman, the end reveals his secret identity, that of wealthy industrialist & playboy millionaire Bruce Wayne, who constantly tries to hide his alter-ego persona of crime fighter by wearing a bat costume. As Bob Kane originally envisioned him, Batman is by definition the “obsessed loner”, a creature of the night lurking in the dark foggy streets & buildings of Gotham’s gothic scenery, a figure immersed in a shadowy & mysterious aura, attributes which define him as a grim presence which causes states of uneasiness & anxiety in the hearts & minds of wrong doers.

In Detective Comics #28 (June 1939), Batman‘s attitude lightens up a bit & there are even some hints at sarcasm & witty humour from the Dark Knight, especially in his short peer-to-peer dialogues with the thugs, mobsters & gangsters who are up to no good breaking the law, essentially the typical foe image which was explored in 1930s Hollywood gangster movies. An interesting moment is when Batman captures the jewel syndicate’s boss, Frenchy, ties an end of a rope to a bed & the other to the gangsters waist, tosses him off the window & threatens to cut the rope which would send Frenchy to sheer death, if he doesn’t get a full confession from the boss. The foe cooperates & in the end Batman manages to bring him to justice by dumping Frenchy in front of the police headquarters, also leaving a letter for commissioner Gordon explaining the events. Earlier in the plot, Batman was mistaken by the police as a member of the jewel syndicate & there are some similar recurring events in later issues of Detective Comics, partly due to Batman‘s eerie presence & specific, individual modus operandi.

The next issues of Detective Comics, #29 (July 1939) & #30 (August 1939) introduced the first major villain in Batman‘s universe, Doctor Death & marked yet another interesting moment, when Batman holds some of Death‘s men at gunpoint & threatens to shoot them if he doesn’t get some information from them (“your choice, gentlemen! Tell me! Or I’ll kill you!”). This is when Death‘s assistant, Jabah enters the room & shoots Batman who manages to escape only thanks to the deadly gas from one of his utility belt glass pellets. This moment clearly marks the difference between the extraordinary yet supernatural powers of the other major hero of the Golden Age of Comic Books, Superman, & the limitations of simple human abilities, skills & power. Batman manages to surpass & defeat his enemies only by using physical & intellectual power. The whole Batman universe is about exploring the inner substance of ourselves, the human psyche, the way we deal & cope with our deepest fears & existential traumas; this limited yet natural, real, tangible pattern is used in creating Batman‘s world, including his arch-nemesis. The end of issue #28 illustrates a similar point of view as that in the early line “a fitting ending for his kind”, when after seeing Doctor Death succumbing in a powerful fire in his laboratory, Batman concludes by saying “Death… to Doctor Death” or, in other words, you reap what you sow, in the end everybody gets what they deserve, especially the wrong doers.

Starting with another set of two issues, Detective Comics #31 (September 1939) & #32 (October 1939) which introduce another villain, The Monk, the plot tends to incorporate supernatural motifs. The Monk is a vampire who can also morph into a werewolf, has a female ally named Dala, makes Batman face a giant gorilla & “has uncanny powers”, like being able to hypnotize; The Monk uses his hypnotic powers on Batman & Julie Madison, Bruce Wayne‘s fiancée. This is the first time we learn of the presence of a woman in Bruce Wayne/Batman‘s life & after many perils, like fighting with a huge gorilla & escaping the bloodthrust of a pack of werewolves, The Dark Knight finds a way of defeating The Monk & Dala & breaking the spell that was set upon his beloved one by shooting the two vampires with two silver bullets while they are asleep during the daytime. “Never again will you harm any mortal being” proclaims Batman as he shoots The Monk who was resting in his coffin & yet again Batman is seen holding a gun & this time pulling the trigger proving that he can go to any limits in order to save his loved one. Following these issues, DC editors considered it would be wise to leave out the lethal weapons such as guns as far as Batman was concerned & to focus more on realistic events instead of adding a supernatural flavour to the plot.

Detective Comics #33 (November 1939) marks the first appearance of the origin story of “the Batman and how he came to be!”, showing in no more than 2 pages the childhood trauma of seeing one’s parents getting shot & dying on the streets in a gloomy night. We then are witnesses to a personal oath declaring eternal war to the nemesis of crime & almost 15 years of intense training from physical perfection & athletic feats to mastering the sciences & detective skills with the help of which Bruce Wayne is ready to become that “weird figure of the dark” & “avenger of evil”, The Batman. The story then follows the actions of a minor villain named Kruger, a lunatic with a Napoleon complex who, in the end, dies when his plane hits the water. Nearly all the early villans end up dying whether it takes one issue or two for the plot to unfold its tragic dénouement for Batman‘s enemies. The same pattern is applied in some of the next issues [Detective Comics #34 (December 1939), Detective Comics #35 (January 1940) & Detective Comics #37 (March 1940)], in which the villains, a mad scientist called Duc D’Orterre, criminal mastermind Sin Fang (whose real identity of Sheldon Lenox is revealed in the end by Batman through Holmesian deduction) & foreign agent Count Grutt (who is also Elias Turg), each meet their doom in different ways: D’Orterre dying in a car accident, Sin Fang/Sheldon Lenox falling through an open window & hurdling to death, while foreign agent Count Grutt/Elias Turg who ends up being impaled upon his own sword.

Detective Comics #36 (February 1940) introduces Batman as “already an almost legendary figure” and 1940 clearly marks a departure from the rigid nature of the hero’s character to a more lightened up vigilante, one who constantly makes funny & witty remarks & has a way with words (like “let’s pretend I’m the ball and you’re the pins!”) as he does with fists thrown in every direction thus ridiculing his thug adversaries (“you boys are a better workout than the gym!”). He even makes fun (“so you wanna play cops ‘n’ robbers, eh?”) of some slow policemen who mistake him for a murderer just because he happened to be near the scene of the crime & he can even be seen smiling in some strips. In this Detective Comics issue, Batman faces an arch enemy that will prove his match, Professor Hugo Strange, a scientist & criminal mastermind who is the first in a long line of villains that doesn’t get killed at the end of the story. Although he is imprisoned at the state penitentiary, there are clear signs of his vile intentions of escaping & revenging himself upon the Batman. This is the first time when citizens of New York City (future Gotham City) express their gratitude towards Batman and signal a direct appreciation & recognition of his noble mission when a little boy is shown asking his father “who is The Batman, daddy?”, and the parent replies “a great man, son, a great man!” while a nearby radio broadcast announces “and so we citizens of this city owe our thanks to one man, The Batman! Because of him an arch-criminal is at last captured!”.

In the last issue of Detective Comics upon which I focus, namely Detective Comics #37 (March 1940), after managing to foil & stop the wicked plans of foreign agents who try to sabotage an American ship in order to generate an international crisis which might lead to armed conflict, Batman displays a cold & pragmatic judgment by reasoning that the bitter & tragic end of the head of the operation would have always been the first choice (“Dead! It is better that he should die!”), instead of a situation in which armed conflict between states might have had terrible costs on the lives of many Americans (“He might have sent thousands of others to their death on a battlefield if his plans had been successful!”).

This emphasizes Batman‘s key role in providing security & hope not just for a city’s citizens, but for an entire nation.

Further reading: * Les Daniels, Batman: The Complete History, Chronicle Books, 2004 * Bill Finger & Bob Kane, Batman Chronicles, Volume One, DC Comics, 2005 * Robert Greenberger, The Essential Batman Encyclopedia, Del Rey, 2008 * Robert Greenberger & Matthew Manning, The Batman Vault: A Museum-ina- Book with Rare Collectibles from the Batcave, Running Press, 2009 * Roberta E. Pearson (editor) & William Uricchio (editor), The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media, Routledge, 1991 * Mark D. White (editor), Robert Arp (editor) & William Erwin (series editor), Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series), Wiley, 2008

Photo | Detective Comics #29. DC, 1939.

by Adrien Seelebruder

Full article here.




The following article was published in N-SPHERE August 2011 issue.


By the time the world has seen its first elastomer, a long lasting entity has been centrifuged in the midsts of sensuality and depravity. The skin, as personal as it gets, is and will always be the last layer between two bodies, the most unattainable and desired object to be touched, the one thing that is protected by garment. The freedom of looking, however, is infinitely vast, as skin becomes not a tactile goal anymore, but a visual stimulus for ages to come.

On a biological level, skin is what separates a living, breathing body from the exterior, it carries over sensations, it shapes the feel of object touched. On an abstract level, skin is to be shown, to be used as a defence mechanism, to be transformed into the erotic symbol that it needs to be. The more one steps into the depths of s[k]een (seen skin), the more meanings and shapes and fantasies are possible.

What patch of skin would you like to touch? Where does your mind go when you embrace your lover, seeing your hand moving lower and lower? It’s not, ahem, you know, that place. It’s the upper leg, the inner skin of which is always sought, always elusive and so hard to come by. That part of the leg is the one embracing hips, the one that is most felt, the one that can be shown outside carnal circumstances and the only one that can provoke these images without even a hint of depravity.

Along the ages, that visible portion of the leg has moved higher and higher until reaching the inner thighs. Starting from simple bows tied to the leg, and reaching towards today’s intricate designs, the garter has been the instruments of s[k]een, the voice of hidden thoughts, the gateway to unnamed fantasies.

A means to purely hold up the stockings, for both men and women, garters have evolved into an attractor of gazes, a symbol of the upper thighs, a mark of femininity in all its glory. Pointing to the cold, grizzly facts, the garter, and later on the garter belt, are mere articles of clothing. Once useful, nowadays they carry a mirage, a world within itself. With origins well into the deep forgotten past, garters were usually made of a heavy material and tied below the knee in order to keep stockings form falling. Up until the roaring twenties, when garters became an object of subterfuge, a weapon of the new-woman, a place to hide contraband flasks or an entity of emancipation. Together with the invention of artificial silk, stockings became more accessible, and so did the girdle and the garter belt, halfway through the 20th century. Not different in purpose, the girdle is constrictive in nature while the belt allows freedom of movement.

In a way, the garter closes a circle, captures the leg adding undefined sensuality to it. The garter enslaves, possesses, transforms and regenerates towards s[k]een. But what about the garter belt? What is so enticing about it? The road: the road to nowhere, the road to perdition, the path of no return, the stairway into the light. Ask your partner to wear a garter belt, watch it closely strung on the edge of the stocking, pulling slightly, vibrating at each move. Watch it draw the contour of the hips, creating ripples in it’s path, both wave and particle, much like light. Take a deep breath, a very deep breath.

Garters and garter belts alike are visual entities. They breathe in gazes and breathe out fantasies. They draw in glances and generate those minute electrical impulses that feed hungry minds. The seen, the sin, the skin, the s[k]een, the malleability of senses becomes pregnant, like suddenly having one’s retina caressed. Some psychotropic drugs, like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms, are able to mix up external stimuli, making one smell sounds and hear colors and whatnot. However, the hallucinations pass quickly. Unlike s[k]een, invasive substances that are unnatural to the body are more of a temperamental tomcat that is being taken to the vet for castration, than a comforting long lasting apperitive of perception. Once skin is meant to be revealed, yet lavishly concealed, the sky is the limit.

There is a fine art in wearing a garter. There is an acquired talent in showing skin. There is a subtle sensuality in seeing skin. There is a symbiotic union between the garter and the leg. Lift your skirt, let my eyes touch you…

Photo | Anonymous author. Originally published in LIFE

by Vel Thora

Full article here.