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Charlie Fox – My Head is a Haunted House
Charlie Fox – My Head is a Haunted House, 1st Edition, 2019. Karma / KoenigCourtesy of Climax Books

From Larry Clark to Yayoi Kusama – five cult buys from Climax Books

Founder Isabella Burley selects her favourites

Last month saw the launch of Climax Books – a specialist purveyor of often-overlooked books, videos, and other ephemera founded by Dazed editor-in-chief Isabella Burley. Spanning the worlds of art, photography, cult literature, erotica, and more, Climax is the only place you’ll find a rare Larry Clark promotional card and a 1978 Kathy Acker first edition, alongside a copy of the iconic lesbian magazine On Our Backs. “I’ve been collecting ephemera and counterculture materials in some form since I was an early teenager,” the editor – known for her work with Shayne Oliver at Helmut Lang and the Comme des Garçons photography book SISTERS by Jim Britt, 1976 – recently told our partner mag AnOther. “Then when I was in my twenties, I began buying photography books more seriously and building a collection. It’s been a slow-burning, long-term addiction.”

As a series of new arrivals hit Climax, Burley selects some of her favourites.


“A friend of mine got these when she was 16 and Bully was first released in the UK. The fact that she’s been holding onto these for the last 18 years is so insane to me! Her Mum didn’t realise what they were, so was writing her shopping list on them for a long time. These pieces of ephemera are at the core of Climax – whether it’s a Mike Kelley invitation card from Metro Pictures, 1986, this Larry Clark promotional card, or a rare series of postcards by Penny Slinger’s cult book An Exorcism. They speak to a time of materiality and communication that doesn’t exist in the same way anymore. It’s also an amazing way for people to have a piece of cultural history in their collection for not much money. Most pieces of ephemera I have, I end up framing and treasuring forever. Even if they were originally destined to be thrown away.”


“By far my one of my favourite photobooks in the collection. Captured over the span of a decade, this first monograph by Deana Lawson celebrates her intimate portraiture and her highly stylised scenes of everyday life. Taken in America and during her travels in the Caribbean and Africa, Lawson often works with nude bodies, juxtaposing and animating them against domestic interiors. Inside she is interviewed by Arthur Jafa and there’s an essay by Zadie Smith.”


“I first started collecting Madame about five years ago. At first buying them from strange men on eBay and then old, now defunct, porn magazine sites so they’ve become much harder to come by. It’s by far one of the most fascinating, and coolest fetish magazines. Published monthly by SWISH publications, it was the go-to underground outlet in appreciation of the dominant woman. First published in 1974, it originally came in an A5 magazine with colour covers, before progressing to A4 and then becoming solely black and white. Printed in London, throughout each issue you would expect to find: the madame of the month, Ms Candida’s command column for loners, original poetry, fetish photoshoots, drawings and personal replies – all to command the audiences respect and obedience (duh!). SWISH publications – also responsible for Smooth, Claws and Fighting Girls Monthly – had several run-ins with the police over the years, and had a store selling magazines, books and videos in Soho Square at 8 Greek Street, W1.”


“The coolest book by the spookiest Charlie Fox. It’s the maddest mash-up of pop culture’s weirdest and darkest moments from the mind of writer and curator. Published to accompany his first exhibition My Head is a Haunted House at Sadie Coles, and Dracula’s Wedding at Rodeo – the show was a crazy insight into his mind featuring artists such as Mike Kelley, Ed Atkins and Larry Clark. From Chloë Sevigny's spooky halloween costumes to Winona Ryder in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, and a young Johnny Depp having birthday cake with the pope of trash John Waters, the book takes an eerie look at iconic moments from our cultural consciousness.” 


“This is the hero piece of the Climax collection, the exceptionally rare first edition of Yayoi Kusama’s cult periodical, Kusama Presents an Orgy of Nudity, Love, Sex & Beauty from 1969. An important piece of counterculture ephemera – it represented the intersection of tabloid pornography, culture publishing, and the art world which formed during the creatively fertile years of the late 1960s. Published at the time of Kusama’s revolutionary happenings in New York, and in the same year as her 1969 work Grand Orgy to Awaken the Dead, where the artist painted dots on participants’ naked bodies in an unauthorised performance in the fountain of the sculpture garden of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. These happenings, which often involved public nudity sort out to disassemble boundaries of identity, sexuality and the body.”

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