Thursday, June 02, 2011

Socialists! Where Is Your Vortex?

Among recent things which I have forgotten to plug is a piece for volume One of the new Journal of Wyndham Lewis Studies*. It's an expansion and development of previous things on Vorticism, or more specifically the question of why and how Vorticism didn't become a British analogue to the continental avant-garde, despite distinctly looking like one in 1914. It contains, however, an opening attempt at counterfactual fiction, part of which I'm posting below, because a) there's a Vorticism show at the Tate and everything and b) as a way of making clear why I don't write fiction. Enjoy, or not, as the case may be).

1929, London, capital of the Union of British Socialist Republics. A decade after the end of a short and brutal Civil War, and 14 years after the British Expeditionary Force was driven out of Europe by General Ludendorff's victorious offensive. The capital of a devastated country, denuded of its Empire but now tentatively regaining some of its former prominence as the most industrially powerful of the Socialist Republics that now make up half of Europe - though trade between them is difficult, with the Baltic Sea cut off by the vast German Empire, its trade embargo assisted by the anticommunist United States. At the turn of the 1930s, the UBSR is starting to construct new cities.

This is not happening without controversy. Through much of the country, pastoral garden cities are rising from the ruins, the towns destroyed first by Zeppelin raids and then by the Black & Tans. New towns like Connolly outside Dublin, Maxtonburgh in Strathclyde or Morristown in Hertfordshire have been planned by Raymond Unwin using local materials, craftsmanship and winding streets, to the splenetic derision of the Vorticist International. Based in London, Glasgow, Newcastle and Leeds, but with corresponding branches in Budapest, Warsaw, Moscow and Leningrad, this group has the ear of the more enlightened commissars of the UBSR's four constituent republics. Edward Wadsworth and Frederick Etchells' redesign of West Yorkshire into a model Vorticist Metropolis is proceeding apace, with their intricate, jagged structures of concrete and glass sprouting walkways and towers that criss-cross the factory chimneys of Halifax and Huddersfield. Wyndham Lewis, the group's chair, is finally completing his government commission to transform Regent Street, which was halfway through Reginald Blomfield's neo-baroque redesign when interrupted by of the 1919 Whitechapel Insurrection. Monumental sculptures by Jacob Epstein adorn the House of Soviets on the site of the demolished Houses of Parliament, though the 'compromised' classical-Vorticist design by Charles Holden was subjected to much Vorticist scorn on publication.

Opponents of the Vorticists are keen to remind them of their roots in a pre-revolutionary art movement. Commissar Harry Pollitt told the Daily Worker that 'not so long ago these were bohemians who sneered at the proletariat, who hoped to 'kill John Bull with art' when John Bull was trying to kill the British bourgeoisie'. Some mutter darkly about counter-revolutionary activity during the Civil War on the part of some in the group, with Edward Wadsworth under particular suspicion. But although their eager participation in the reconstruction has allayed the suspicions of many in the Trade Unions and the Workers' Councils, perhaps their antisocial reputation isn't completely undeserved. Interviewed on his work at Regent Street, Lewis, dressed in a far from proletarian dinner jacket offset by a hammer and sickle pin, told the Daily Herald ‘when I say that I should like to see a completely transfigured world, it is not because I want to look at it. It is you who would look at it. It would be your spirit that would gain by this exhilarating spectacle. I should merely benefit, I and other painters like me, by no longer finding ourselves in the position of freaks.’

* (which can be obtained from here, and features several far less silly and more intelligent papers)


Blogger Matt Tempest said...

IIRR Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound's Vorticist poetry newsletter had an office at 4 Percy Street - just off Tottenham Court Road.

8:45 pm  
Blogger Matt Tempest said...

Blast. Blast was at 1 Percy Street, Wyndham Lewsis lived at 4 Percy Street.

Still, not bad for something I spotted 16 years ago, without checking.

8:49 pm  
Blogger Alex Niven said...

Owen, this is great stuff.

12:38 pm  
Anonymous Kieran Gallagher said...

Whenever I see paintings like this, I am always reminded of “Dazzle Ships.”

“Dazzle Ships” was a new approach to military camouflage, which consisted of painting British Ships in a Cubist/Vorticist style to confuse German U-boats during WWI.

Amazingly, this approach was endorsed by the Admiralty.

Rather less amazingly, perhaps, it provided the inspiration for an album of the same name by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, a synth band of yesteryear. The sleeve art was inspired by the dazzle ships.

I saw them in concert, when this album came out, rather more years ago than I care to admit. A centre piece of the visual presentation of the concert was the use of naval flags which Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys used to signal to each other.

It was all very stirring stuff but it never inspired me to run away to sea.

10:21 pm  
Blogger Ross Wolfe said...

An interesting topic. Why the Vorticists never attained to the status of the continental avant-garde has long puzzled me.

In any case, here's a new translation I've done which you might be interested in having a look at:

Nikolai Ladovskii's "Moscow: 'Historical' and Socialist"

5:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here what i found -> vision correction

10:02 am  
Anonymous comprar un yate said...

It will not really have effect, I feel like this.

8:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I read this post two times.

I like it so much, please try to keep posting.

Let me introduce other material that may be good for our community.

Source: Case interview questions

Best regards

5:00 am  
Blogger ekle paylas said...

nice blog Thanks for sharing. voicesohbet was really very nice.
sesli chat siteleri sesli sohbet
sesli sohbet siteleri sesli chat
seslichat seslisohbet
sesli siteleri chat siteleri
sohbet siteleri sesli siteler
voice sohbet

2:34 pm  
Anonymous thomas sabo said...

Wishing you the ideal of luck for all of your running a blog initiatives.

9:47 am  
Blogger Cahaya Mandiri said...

That is very interesting Smile I love reading and I am always searching for informative information like this. This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for sharing this great.
tips cara agar cepat hamil l CARA BELAJAR BAHASA INGGRIS l the best acne treatment l how to lose weight fast easy
margahayuland l BELAJAR BISNIS ONLINE l tips cepat hamil l how to get rid of acne home remedies l
home remedies for acne l how to cure acne fast l
baju batik modern l toko sepatu online l grosir jam tangan online l
jual jam tangan l toko jam tangan murah peluang usaha online l is acne no more for you l how to get rid of acne naturally
how to clear acne l cure acne naturally
best natural remedies for acne l acne no more l tempat belajar bisnis online
peluang usaha rumahan l cara mendapatkan uang dari internet
makanan sehat agar cepat hamil l penyebab tidak bisa hamil lcara agar cepat hamil

3:13 am  
Blogger Davids Flys said...

Thanks to your exceptional coverage I do not feel that I missed out on any astonishing news about gigantic baskets and the re-emergence of doilies in the world's landscape. Wunderkammern seems to have been a much easier way for humans to collect and display impressions of the ancient and contemporary. Your blogging about the Expo kind of wunderkammerns the experience...and no jet lag for me. Thanks!agen sbobet indonesia, judi bola online

2:53 am  
Anonymous souvenir perkawinan murah jakarta anina souvenir said...

An interesting topic. Why the Vorticists never attained to the status of the continental avant-garde has long puzzled me.

10:42 am  
Blogger Uzumaki Naruto said...

Good Article, agen souvenir pernikahan murah banget. thanks for your article. :)

12:21 pm  
Blogger Uzumaki Naruto said...

Good Article, thanks for your article. :)

7:12 am  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home