Noon — A biannual magazine which explores art and commerce in contemporary culture

Noon is a biannual magazine which explores art and commerce in contemporary culture

Ken Hollings

Shame

LIVE – FOR NOW
THE JOYFUL POLITICS OF SHAME

So much remains to be said about the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad. One year on, you can still pick through the debris online. Replicating itself in endless news reports, editorials, comment sections, parodies, memes and eruptions of talk-show outrage, it was probably the biggest marketing blunder Pepsi has made since Michael Jackson’s head caught fire while filming one of their commercials.

Descendants

A WEDDING (Premonitions of Disaster in the Palace of Art)

‘Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril’ – Oscar Wilde

This is being written at the marble-topped desk in our room. The hotel was built on the shore of Lake Maggiore in 1863 when such places were made to look like grand palaces. Everything is late nineteenth-century fake Rococo. The minibar has bejewelled swans’ necks with drooping heads in faux gold. Copied lines are always over-scored: cruder and more simplified than the originals. The marble surface I’m writing on is a smoky grey veined with white.

R and I have already wandered the corridors, photographing some of the more recent antiquities. The palace’s hushed interiors are done out in fine historicist style – impassive and overwrought. Scenes from Greek mythology rendered in locally quarried stone, elevators with spotless mirrored interiors and gilded doors, brooding putti, glass chandeliers and halogen bulbs. R lowered her camera. ‘Opulent cuteness and cute opulence,’ she murmured. Everything looks new, but there is not a modernist line in the whole place. ‘Generalised: the feeling of value is always antiquated, ’ Nietzsche observes in a late notebook, ‘it expresses a much earlier era’s conditions of survival and growth: it battles against new conditions of existence…’ The gilding here is freshly applied and the marble cool to the touch – and you want to touch everything.

The Purple Death

THE PURPLE DEATH

‘Here was the treasure, a treasure impossible to describe because the assortment of miscellaneous objects in the drawer had been so far stripped of their original function, so charged with symbolism that what remained looked merely like old junk – empty aspirin bottles, metal rings, keys, curling-pins, all worthless rubbish, save to the eye of the initiate.’
(Jean Cocteau, Les Enfants Terribles)

Elvis Presley's Sweat: Prayers Answered

ELVIS PRESLEY'S SWEAT: PRAYERS ANSWERED

You send your money, I was told, to a PO Box address, and you get this card back in the mail. Donna pulled it out of her bag – held it up to the sunlight. Faces and traffic blurred like shadows into the background. ‘I brought it with me just for you.’ She would only be in London for a few days, she said, handing me a brown paper bag, but she wanted me to see it.

Inside was one of the most joyous and perplexing things I have ever seen. Mounted on the front of a brightly coloured postcard was a clear plastic rectangle containing a small glass vial with about a quarter inch of transparent fluid in it – set against a yellow background like a perfume sample given away in department stores, sealed with a grey plastic stopper. Donna said she knew I’d love it. The top of the card read ‘PRAYERS ANSWERED: The King Lives!’ Below that was a line of black stars on a red background followed by ‘Elvis’ Sweat’. To the side was a profile in black and white of Elvis Presley on a blue background singing, or about to sing, into a handheld microphone – crudely airbrushed lines of human condensation were running down his cheek and dripping from his jawline.

Without thinking about it, I raised the card to my lips and reverently kissed the clear plastic covering the glass vial. It was the late 1980s – irony was an article of faith.

Universal Pictures: A Transept In Technological Time

UNIVERSAL PICTURES: A TRANSEPT IN TECHNOLOGICAL TIME

Universal Pictures’ 1941 production of the The Wolf Man opens with Larry Talbot returning to his ancestral home after a long stay in the United States. The film is set on the Universal back lot, which means that it could be taking place anywhere, which is also absolutely nowhere. Universal horror star Lon Chaney Jr. plays Larry and from the moment he appears on screen you just know something bad will happen to him – like turning into a wolf when the moon is full, and trying to kill the woman he loves.

Ludwig & The Gallery of Beauties

LUDWIG & THE GALLERY OF BEAUTIES
(THIS IS A STORY ABOUT HORSES)

Ludwig II, the young king of Bavaria, was born on 25 August 1845 with the sun in Virgo and the moon in Scorpio, presiding over a personality that was passionate but withdrawn and aloof: a conjunction that produces great beauty and even greater tragedy. His horoscope directed him to a higher destiny; the poet Paul Verlaine would call him the last true king of Europe. He came into the world on the same calendar date and at the same hour as his grandfather, King Ludwig I of Bavaria, and was named after him. This was his first public act as a future king: male members of the court being on hand to witness the delivery and establish the legitimacy of his succession. Ludwig II’s mother was a Prussian princess. She gave birth to him at Schloss Nymphenburg, the Nymph’s Palace on the outskirts of Munich, in a simple moss-green bedroom that still looks out over its bright ornamental gardens.

None of You Know What You're Looking At

NONE OF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT

We appear to be present at the dress rehearsal for some disastrous reoccurrence. In the 1891 revised version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, the artist Basil Hallward sets off for Paris, intending to take his greatest creation with him. In the 1961 movie release The Rebel the artist Anthony Hancock sets off for Paris, intending to take his greatest creation with him. One is an artistic triumph that ends in tragedy – the other a miserable failure played out as a comedy. Seventy years may separate the two stories in their telling, but very little else.

Mistress C: The End of the Affair

MISTRESS C: THE END OF THE AFFAIR

I

The young Korean doctor was sweet and gentle and explained everything. After describing which cameras would be going where, he took me behind a curtain and examined my rectum – had to lie on my side with my knees drawn up while he lubricated my anus and slid a finger in. ‘God, I miss the nineties,’ I murmured. Breathed hard and deep, and then he put a camera up there as well. R said it was awful listening to me using my breath to relax. My body was only just registering the shock.

The Uploaded Self: A Book of the Dead

THE UPLOADED SELF: A BOOK OF THE DEAD

'...even this spider and this moonlight between the trees and even this moment and I myself.’
(Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science)

I

‘Libraries will in the end become cities, said Leibnitz,’ observes Georg Lichtenberg in Notebook C of his Sudelbücher – and both now seem destined to become ruins. In a secret labyrinth of tunnels and security zones excavated deep into the Swiss Alps, European researchers deposit a ‘digital genome’ designed to preserve the world’s data processors together with their programming. Code written in stone lasts much longer than that which is encrypted onto discs, tapes or drives. ‘In 25 years people will be astonished to see how little time must pass to render data carriers unusable because they break or because you don’t have the devices anymore,’ reflects one of the project partners.

Descendants

A WEDDING
(Premonitions of Disaster in the Palace of Art)

‘Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril’ – Oscar Wilde

This is being written at the marble-topped desk in our room. The hotel was built on the shore of Lake Maggiore in 1863 when such places were made to look like grand palaces. Everything is late nineteenth-century fake Rococo. The minibar has bejewelled swans’ necks with drooping heads in faux gold. Copied lines are always over-scored: cruder and more simplified than the originals. The marble surface I’m writing on is a smoky grey veined with white.

R and I have already wandered the corridors, photographing some of the more recent antiquities. The palace’s hushed interiors are done out in fine historicist style – impassive and overwrought. Scenes from Greek mythology rendered in locally quarried stone, elevators with spotless mirrored interiors and gilded doors, brooding putti, glass chandeliers and halogen bulbs. R lowered her camera. ‘Opulent cuteness and cute opulence,’ she murmured. Everything looks new, but there is not a modernist line in the whole place. ‘Generalised: the feeling of value is always antiquated, ’ Nietzsche observes in a late notebook, ‘it expresses a much earlier era’s conditions of survival and growth: it battles against new conditions of existence…’ The gilding here is freshly applied and the marble cool to the touch – and you want to touch everything.

Diplomacy

DIMPLOMACY
(In These Great Times Again)

Singapore. 12th June 2018. According to Billboard magazine, the video is first broadcast on large screens at the start of the press conference. Before President Trump enters the room, the assembled journalists are shown a four-minute promotional film put together by the White House in advance of the North Korea-United States summit. Trump claims to have played it already for Chairman Kim on an iPad. “I showed it to him today. Actually during the meeting, toward the end of the meeting, and I think he loved it,” he said. The video takes the form of an action movie trailer. An unseen narrator explains that only a few individuals ever get to change world history. “That could very well be the future,” President Trump adds, while North Korean premier Kim Jong-un agrees. People will think this is “a scene from a science fiction movie,” he says.