Posts From April, 2009

Mona Lisa: Driftwood series- a painting in progress DAY 2  

Thursday, April 30, 2009 9:43:32 AM

Mona Lisa: Driftwood series- a painting in progress DAY 2 

So I roughed the background:

I kept Leonardo's path (road) to the lake on the left and his bridge on the right. Let's look at Leonardo's masterpiece:

Here's my painting with background fuller picture:

So now we have the rough, it took about 4-5 hours to get to this point. Who knows how many years Leonardo worked on the Mona Lisa. According to his biographer Vasari, Leonardo da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa in 1503, during the Italian Renaissance and,  "after he had lingered over it four years, left it unfinished...." He is thought to have continued to work on it for three years after he moved to France and to have finished it shortly before he died in 1519.

Now I need to decide how to turn the painting into a tree trunk, that will take some thought. There are also more details and light and dark to be added.



Mona Lisa: Driftwood series- a painting in progress 1 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 9:40:02 AM


I thought it might be interesting to see the creation of one of my paintings from the early stages to completion. I've got two new paintings scheduled, the "Mona Lisa" and "Salty Dog."

I started the "Mona Lisa" yesterday. Here is the intital rough:

The camera angle isn't straight but you get the idea. The whole idea is basically crazy: There's a piece of driftwood that looks like the Mona Lisa...right. In order to do my version I needed to look how Leonardo (one of my art heros) did his version.

First, Leonardo's painting was cut down in size- how much no one knows. The original painting had "loggia" which are columns on each side that bordered the portrait. I believe the columns formed an arch over Mona Lisa's head so I included that. I also included more of the bottom. She sitting in a chair, only the arm of the chair and the front left leg can be seen.

By extending the columns there is slightly more background on each side. On the left background there is a road that winds back to a lake. On the right there is a bridge that crosses one branch of a creek that flows into the lake.

At this point I've painted the sky, the foreground, Mona Lisa, and roughed in the dress/robe and hands. There's a thin veil over the top of the head and hair which I've left off. I'm not sure of how many details are important. Here's the driftwood that inspired the idea:

The Mona Lisa: Her smile is enigmatic!

The above shot of a close-up of a weathered tree trunk inspired my Mona Lisa, the amount of destruction of the original I haven't decided. Here's a shot of my Mona Lisa in progress on my painting table- it's just our dining table with a clutter of papers and paint supplies.


I'll do another blog after the initial underpainting is done. My apologies Leonardo!


More "Train on an Island" Close-ups 

Sunday, April 26, 2009 10:53:37 AM

More "Train on an Island" Close-ups

I took some more pics, these are better. The color is close to being the actual color in my painting. Here's the central theme:

Here's the bluegrass babe close-up:

Here's the right theme with Norman Edmond's playing fiddle:

At the bottom is the enigmatic pink cup which I bought for my student recitals.

New Painting: Train on An Island- Close-ups 

Saturday, April 25, 2009 10:54:35 AM


Here are some close-ups of my new painting: Train on an Island

Close-up 1: This shows the steam engine similar to one that would be found in the 1920s when the song was first recorded. The engineer who "can't hold the wheel" can clearly be seen looking down from above at his true love who is walking on the other track. The train is going over a railroad bridge (coming) from an island. The colors are poor as this is taken in the shade. 

Close-up 2: Depicts J.P. Nestor rising from the smoke and ashes to sing "Train On An Island."  He's in the smoke cloud above the engineer. This shot was taken in the shade.

Close-up 3: Here's the full smoke picture

Close-Up 4: This was take in the direct sunlight so the colors are much brighter. This shows fiddler Norman Edmonds (who recorded the song in 1927 with J.P. Nestor- banjo) appearing magically from a bush on the bank of the island shore. Crazy, I know!

Close-up 5: This shows a girl walking down the track looking wistfully over her shoulder. Above her the engineer looks down. The lyrics can be seen at left- the porportion of the train is skewed becaue of the camera angle but you get the basic idea.

Close-up 6: the lyrics


New Painting: Train on The Island 

Friday, April 24, 2009 11:04:23 PM


This is the 100th blog on my new art site MattesonArt. I've got a good start researching Rene Magritte, one of the artists featured on my site. I've found some new info on the "forgeries" Magritte painted in a letter to Marcel Marion- I'll also add that to my blog article on Magritte forgeries.

[Perhaps the most intriguing evidence come from Marcen Marien's December 1983 article, "The American Twin" where he compares the two identical versions of "The Flavor of Tears" that Magritte painted in 1948. In his article he provides an excerpt from a letter written by Magritte on May 19, 1944: "I am still going through a period of intense fatigue, I have not created anything recently except to begin work on a Titan and a Hobbema, that I intend for the Auction House; I am trying my hand at this sort of painting and if it is more sucessful than Magritte painting, I will give up the later because of insufficient reward." 

Marien also includes photographs in his book of two of Magritte's "Picassos" a drawing made in 1944 and a painting done in 1945. Magritte also made use of Picasso's ideas to paint his "The White Race."]

The good news is I've finished my painting "Train on An Island." It features J. P. Nestor playing the banjo in the sky forming from a cloud of black smoke and Norman Edmonds, magically emerging from a bush, playing fiddle.

Nester and Edmonds made the first enigmatic recording on August 1, 1927, in Bristol, Tennessee, for the Victor company and Ralph Peer. Ironically it was the same session that the Carters and Jimmie Rodgers did their first recordings.

I'll have some pics soon.

Take care,


Belgium Dada and Surrealism: Clement Pansaers  

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 3:45:37 PM

Belgium Dada and Surrealism: Clement Pansaers

1920 Paris Dadaists: Louis Aragon, Théodore Fraenkel, Paul Eluard, Clément Pansaers, Emmanuel Fay; Paul Dermée, Philippe Soupault, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes; Tzara, Céline Arnaud, Picabia, Andre Breton.

Today we'll look the founding father of Dada in Belgium: Clement Pansaers. Curiously the Sub Rosa Label has released a three CD's featuring THE SURREALISTS: DADA, PANSAERS ET CORRESPONDANCE [V.A.] and is titled "Volume 1: Dada, Pansaers Et Correspondance (1917-1926)." In the second volume Rene Magritte is featured on one cut where he explains why it's impossible to answer the questions of journalists. (we know why: one can never explain a mystery).

ELT Mesens, Magritte, Paul Nouge and the Belgium surrealists were were indepted to Clement Pansaers. Here's a description of Volume 1:  The first volume in a three part series (that will ultimately showcase 220 minutes of rare Surrealist documents), this release covers the years 1917-1926. Includes the crazy lecture by James Ensor in 1929, as well as many testimonies concerning the Dadaist Clement Pansaers by his own son, Louis Aragon, Philippe Soupault, Pierre Bourgeois, Pascal Pia, and so on. This release also features Paul Neuhuys addressing the foundation of "ca ira" (Henri Michaux' publishers among others), poetry by Franz Hellens, early memories of Henri Michaux and Camille Goemans by Robert Guiette, and Jean-Pierre Verheggen reading Henri Michaux. Also contains material concerning the 1924-1926 Correspondance Groupe (a parallel movement to French Surrealism) with direct testimonies from Paul Nouge, Camille Goemans, Marcel Lecomte, Andre Souris, Paul Hooreman as well as the opinion of Salvador Dali concerning Camille Goemans and Paul Nouge. This is a hardcore historical spoken word document, in the native language known as French. It's the original voices, recorded many years ago (this volume features material recorded 1917-1926, published in audio form for the first time).

This is interesting but you may wonder- who is Clément Pansaers?

Clément Pansaers circa 1920, posing with one eyeglass (the other is mysteriously absent)

Clément Pansaers was born May 1, 1885 in Neerwinden, Belgium and died at the tender age of 27 of Hodgkins disease on October 31 1922 in Brussels. The Francophone Belgian writer was also associated with the Dada movement in Paris and wrote in Dutch under the pseudonym Julius Krekel.

Pansaers began working as a wood engraver and sculptor, but he grew interested in the works of Sigmund Freud, Daoism, and Germanic culture, especially German Expressionism, which he introduced to Brussels. From 1917 to 1918, while living in occupied Wallonia, Pansaers edited the Modernist, internationalist, antimilitarist magazine Résurrection. There he expressed his conciliatory views on Walloon-Flemish relations and his vision of a consociational Belgian state, views that were unusually farsighted at a time of growing separatism. The German occupiers censored Résurrection for its alliance with the Bolshevik revolution, and Pansaers was later hounded by the Belgian authorities.

As the leading Belgian practitioner of Dada, Pansaers also was responsible for a celebrated issue on Dada in the Antwerp magazine Ça ira. His own poetry transcends subjectivism and sets off a controlled verbal riot. Le Pan Pan au cul du nu nègre (1920) is a long prose poem; L’Apologie de la paresse (1921; “Apology for Laziness”) is a lyrical frenzy with erotic and iconoclastic elements; his libertarian suite, Bar Nicanor (1921), includes an advanced form of automatic writing (see automatism).

Pansaers died, unheralded, of Hodgkin’s disease. His contributions, rediscovered and published some 50 years later by the Phantomas group of writers and artists, include such works as Point d’orgue programmatique pour jeune orang-outang (1972; “Programmatic Pause for a Young Orangutan”). In 1973 all six issues of Résurrection were reprinted.

As David Willinger argues: "There is no question of regarding Dada in Belgium as having been a movement per se. It is more accurate there to speak of the Dada spirit ." (Willinger 2). Dada sprang up spontaneously in Belgium and was championed, with little support, by Clément Pansaers, founder of the review Résurrection (1917-18). First learning of Dada while in Berlin in 1919, Pansaers went on to Paris where he participated in Paris Dada, eventually returning to Brussels disillusioned in 1922, where he died soon after of Hodgkin's disease. According to José Vovelle, of the future Belgian surrealists, only Marcel Lecomte had direct contact with Pansaers, though Dada left no significant trace upon his subsequent work (Vovelle 14). The Dada label could also be extended to the Antwerp artist Paul Joostens, and perhaps to the work of Michel Seuphor, though there was nothing at all comparable to the Paris Dada movement that Mesens encountered in his early trips to that city (See Sauwen). [from ELT Mesens article: Dada Joker in a Surrealist pack]

His books and writings are available online from the international Dada achive (untranslated): L'apologie de la paresse -- 1921.
Bar Nicanor -- 1921.  Le pan pan au cul du nu nègre -- 1920.  Ziek; Eene Moeder; Hertetolken -- 1910.
Works in Dada era publications from the Dada Archive: Texts: Un Bombe déconfiture : aux Iles sous le vent. (Poem) 391, no. 15, July 1921, p. 8.Ici finit la sentimentalité. (Poem) Littérature, no. 14, June 1920, p. 18-22. Zinzin. Littérature, no. 19, May 1921, p. 20-23.

When Pansaers was in Paris many black shows started, in particular in the area that was fast becoming the main place for artists and intellectuals: Montparnasse. The black show were an influence of American soldiers who were in Paris during the war. Jazz and blues became popular and so Pansaers two of Clements works show are titled "negre" as a result of this asssociation with Dada to jazz and blues.

Here is the English translation of one of Clément Pansaers' best works: Le Pan Pan au cul du nu nègre. It is divided into two parts. 

Pan-Pan- Clément Pansaers 1919

A good final round is being danced. Warning to the inexperienced: Here goes the

with absent partners
who are dancing it somewhere else right now

Yesterday is a memory. A memory is tendering. Point, eighteen-month arabesque:

     Relish the feeling of tenderness caused by rococo melodrama - a lock of hair in a charm necklace - initials etched into wedding rings. - Dedicate the maquette to the memory of a statufied germ: - childishness of the elysian virus, disconcerting in parasitic benevolence. -
     Spiral vibrations, tomorrow gossips: -
     Prescience of fluids incurving deep down the subconscious. The somnambulized medium, jumping like a clown, haphazardly, under suggestion, prophesizes the fireworks of providence.
     Static is a ripple escaping, obliquely, by explosion - i - whistling, on the ellipsoidal curve of the dynamic. Universal is the mistake: static is accidental - spurt on the severed artery.
     Transcendental, across the polyphonic violence of chaos, rippling in my degree of obliquity, on my curve, under detonations, zigzagging - spirally interpenetrate the complementariness of yesterday and tomorrow.
     - Your head is shaped like an upside-down cone with its tip cut off. Don't be crazy enough to look for the top at the base. It's stuck straight up, apathetically, in your stomach. The ego is between yesterday and tomorrow like a common thread stretched between the negative and the positive. As for mine, it doesn't need an isolator so much as an interrupter, neutralizing, clean.

Is it out of pride or elementary self-respect that we thank the electric post identity? Two vectors, slicing at the top, - one faces forwards, tomorrow, more banal than the other, yesterday, facing backwards - stab my ego with a mute. I want myself without any velvet patina - nude - flexuously nude, like a room in a whorehouse with concave and convex mirrors, nude -
     - Resonant - spherical o, turning with the sound of an engine, the smell of gas - from garages to stations, factories to ports - where the cranes grate - oblong the belts around rods and spherical gears whirl o -
     - You have a good mother, son. She is a unity of time and place, humanly static in a straight line.

     Your physical asymmetry prefigures an imbalance of animistic forms. To your explosive movements your pores reflect metallic light. You talk like a drunk, alogical. Aio! a little music-hall scandal! You're leaning toward us. Oy! vitriol, eighteen-month ellipse! From all the moving violence of my polyrhythmic, my equivalences spiral toward your arabesque, in counterpoint. Woman - paint the scene - with hospital yellow, factory red, madhouse green - Sprinkle the signs and floor with water - dip the atmosphere in similar scents: iodine, benzene, nitric acid - Let the organs scream i-i - the cats meow, the dogs bark -

Under the fireworks we dance the
Pan-pan - Pan-pan
If you end up jail someday, you'll swear -
at eighteen months my father sang to me -
Pan-pan - Pan-pan
If you end up in the hospital someday, you'll spit -
at eighteen months my father blasphemed me -
Pan-pan - Pan-pan
If they lock you up in the madhouse someday
you'll sing: at eighteen months, I danced -
Pan-pan - Pan-pan
Polyphony - polyfolly
My mother is a saint!
My father is a music café
Pan-pan - Pan-pan

Pan-pan again?
     Charging, roused by wild reds, over hieraticized mummies, buffalos? - Admit how easy it is when a whole army brings you the solution to an equation instead of having to do it yourself.
     You're showing me your nostril as you state the facts: an eye again. - It is, out of the ball of soap, a soul sticking to the head of a pipe. To soldered things, the soul is solder. Because your elastic power now moves free in memories, ambiance, you can bring together the disparities of violence. Your mother teaches you that only pigs can see the wind, and that you saw it extinguish the stars, covertly and flawlessly. But even though you're not a cripple, you're still relatively fat. Memory is grease to a wheel. It's crazy to enter an apprenticeship to be a man. Aren't there already two of them, in front of you, who glorify themselves with their work. One simple detail: At the same time as a crazy bitch is being taken to the male or under the pump, the human erects a fortress to his own insanity. 

     My ego won't be a pyramid on wheels now that you've shown me, hidden in the back of that wonderfully velvety eye known as the nostril, the human soul. It's an entire moving architecture that incurves of influences, to be demolished.

I go out from between yesterday and tomorrow - volatized, like a rainbowed sound made by two empty bottles, which were executed, in his opinion, capitally, by a drunk using a plastic shortcut, base against base.
     A ball strolls down roads, boulevards. - These humans are so squishy! In my zigzag line I fly, leaping from marquise's frou-frou silk to a coal heaver whose breadth was metallic. I leap the pan-pan! Rhythm, negro, adamantine! If you turn rough someday, you'll love your gun. Pan-pan! Pan-pan! - Is it me or an American eccentric - pan-pan - whose ego, elastic, is a ball of rubber!
     Pan-pan - riot! Diggers, the diplomatic contradiction calls for dockers. Every bit of cinematographic life unfolds on the last page of the newspaper: mechanical moral lie, with the hubbub of ads. Polygamy, hubbub. - The hilariously interesting types are mythic cabmen, crimps of the streets, by night, all cotenants.

Tonight, I am an announcement on the 12 o'clock news. Canalized caricatures - pan-pan - Prototypes of brotherhood. A calico ad: paperboys on strike, walk me: through the throngs in restaurant-bars - the swarms in tea-tangos, - and onto dance clubs - from the people the brouhaha: Pan-pan-pan!
     On the side of the undone, unsensed, reel the hubbub. Pan-pan of the riot moves closer. You have a job now, assassins! Attack and destroy the homes, every last one, of charitable parodies. Slash romantic emulations - Tonight, the pan-pan is red - All and nothing but the act is beautiful.

Pan-pan - Pan-pan
Red Ida and her henchmen
Pan-pan - Pan-pan
Red Rosa

 Glory broke all the records: transform public statues into light-up ads. Too ridiculously realistic, sculptor. Just like glory, the monotonous stability of what you do is unhygienic. All and nothing but the act - and only in its duration - is beautiful. Bass drum: repetition! Painting serves as a decoration for dinner and supper. Dressed in a smoking jacket, poetry rhymes at a 5 o'clock tea. Between dessert and bedtime, music beats in time to drinks. After the midnight curfew, artists: tell myths. If you're unemployed or a mason - be an ambulance driver! In this syndicated era, pimps can't make the maximum. Mechanical monotone that the work routine. Partly a savvy servant in the animal world; what a job the savage has! Strike, sophistic rhetorician. Staring for days at a blank white wall: - Tides climb: waters - waters froth; gusts, blasts! Thrash the lachrymal deep. In bilateral movement - forward - backward at high speed, backward - forward simultaneously - vertigo of staying still - Flaming mouths of blast furnaces. Clean blows of rammers, embossing presses. Grinding noises in the mills producing sheet metal rolls - Saltpeter carbonizes the nasal cavity. Expanse streaked with sound, immense, perpendicularly pierces the cone's peak - opens the skull. Kid: to be a father and eaten away by the fever of hunger - hunger for sincerity: Guillotine! Fall in the void - coal-mine shaft, lasting forever. Void, madness! scalp, dismember, dissect: dogs, pigs and other humans. A snow effect? Thug! Shiver, teeth chattering - Brrr! Freeze the vermin, rabble, scum. You're trash, filthy populace! Brutes - beh!

Across the entire line - from start to finish - parasite is the quotient of the progression: Louse: pariah : .of which owner is the last term. And stronger evidence than any typical calculation - reducible into this ultra-divine section: louse is to pariah as pariah is to owner - unilateral in the uninterchangability of its terms: imprescriptable. Kid, good you're for me: like goodies are good for you! Tonight! - Twelve bucks - Pan-pan - Pansard. -
     Brain hash. Does the mind, in effect, live? Pan-pan of condolences! Sentimental madness. An ideal gas filters the air, which becomes tonic.
     Kid: so dance the Pan-pan, over the fusion of indivisibles:

A seven is German - smelted: lead and iron mystery
Pan-pan - Pan-pan
Alloy of steel "three" and the remaining ebony and amber
make a five out of English leather,
A three is Italian, in its green flourishes,
Russian is two - black and white dream
Pan-pan - Pan-pan
One is wine-France

Zero is made of pockmarks
Burn a 0 in the flag:
blow on digit magnetism,
consummation in concentric circles
cubically shaves the round table
Pan pan
o i u a
Da capo
pan pan
Pan-pan - Pan-pan

The Negro Nude

Evidence separates the exterior from the interior 

     The Aphorism is a soothing poultice: Life is an imaginary disease: struggling, pursuing happiness, the one heavier than air - the light one thrown to the wind: - This human, with one foot stuck in inertia and the other in speed - by his legs again, is dependent on the exterior and tributary. A glass bell equals the idea - tries to conserve force - cheese hangs over like a bell. The human is isomorphic: the extrinsic is deliquescent, the intrinsic efflorescent. A hack chemist is just as valuable as a philosopher - who, by distilling his words, discovers principles. The filigreed ozone - amorphous - business card of specialization. A digit replaces the confiscated ego; the name, honorably, dresses it up; the nude ego does not exist, in effect.
     - Who, up there in the allotropic, wants to return to their essential value, burn their brains, conscientiously: in an endothermic decomposition, aiming, with no tragedy, as the second-person pronoun of a reflexive verb in personal mode would say: present.

This morning, just out of the bath, thrown heads and tails into a mirror, doubly split - arms extended, shoot brownings - headlight desire - jingling - climb, turn in the void - dangerous triple axle: - right hand on the ground - hilarious, in detonations cavalcading the cascade of mirrors - grab hold with my left foot and walk with acrobatic elegance. Continues gallop of consonants over the sonority of vowels - to unfurl the fall:
     Nude I am: - no more action in that sunflower of a mirror. - Annulled are attractions like repulsions: - insulator, in its initial state, stroll on a string pulled taut across the intersection where opacity and transparency are confused. Willingly shards of glass - used sinopisms - serve as tattooing implements for the useless. Turn in vain the trash cans, the buried, curved, nude ego. Requisition an entire orchestra and ignorant virtuosos for resurrection. Pan-energetic is the wind.
     Like the human, insipidly spectral is the soul of the world, in its common borders.
     In chiaroscuro, somersaulting, tie the horizon to the zenith: - Exist means and motifs for hanging the world. It remains to discover the crutch. From behind or in front, the nude ego will come out singularly.

 A "yes" is opposed to a "no" - extract nonsense, thus, from sense. The sheet music of the relative: - Kettledrums; muted - triple time - gallop. Reality - Cymbals! - is trespassed. Carillons: the violet reflection of a bloodless spasm. - Bursts of laughter - unity is multiple - violins : pointed - trills - serious. - Screams of seconds on the piano - clenched fist. Loud - Kettledrums - raw sounds. Rebirth of the unreal from the ashes of reality. - Jerk, extremely sharp, serious sounds - conscious, unconscious. - Lay tar, bitumen - Hoo! In reinforced concrete, the tree of liberty uses crutches - Sirens, anvils shrill ideologies. - Pathological is the epiphenomenon of chaos. From the negative ego explodes the positive ego. Sharpen the waxing of the moon. Exodus of humanity - join hands around the crutch: the calf is no longer a calf. Rise chromatically in fifths - chords - : green, green, blue - pick the chanterelles - sweat is a perfume, dampness is a sperm - make mushrooms grow. - Spinning, dive - the brasses - red fourths - nervously neuter seconds at the piano - redder, infra-red. - Bring out the cellars of champagne - Extra-dry nauseas. Intermix, in two lines, men tripping over women. - Utopian energies - Frenetic thunder - Males are no longer male; females are no longer female - Go back, eunuchs, hermaphrodites, to the starting point - dimorphous, - dioic! Here nerves break apart, hypertrophied: Pan - detonate silence - silence - Silence is mica. Blanche is whiteness. The ego, nude, is elastic - acrobatics are volatized - The impossible reduced to possibility - the ego is sense, realizing probabilities.

The soul discovers - begins the existence of things.
     Speech is a chrysalis. Worn out is the game of only producing larvae. Too convinced is crematology in its senile metamorphoses. Everything is convinced. Negative or positive - they all succumb to conviction. Clap: the verb is giving birth to the act! Finally! Clap again! - Uni lateral - the illusion is, like politeness, emollient. Stab and scar - is, like disengaging, a bilateral affair. Excorticated, the ego is a sensitive sheet: - desire is a dynamo - eccentric. A pancake is psychology. Turn, turn the ubiquity, concentric, of sentimentality. Facing a hinged wardrobe - syncopate the nude ego. Purge systems, in the laws of imagination. Oy! diarrhea hoo! of immutability. Naturalist - hypotyposes! Chimneys walk out of the factories on strike - in mid air, climb into a pyramid. Scan the pylori: kaleidoscope diorama a cloaca, tonight.

Load the film - sensation - Fireworks of ads: serpentine radium shaped like a pagoda. Boxing matches at the intersections: the contestants, with each scientific blow, light up - polyphonic light - in cubistically illuminated calico:

 Together cross beyond existence: the abortion, heaven, and earth. Stillborn, miscarried, the aborted child was cut from the cord of non-existence.
     Infinitesimal in its unknowns is the staged theorem. Is it zero or one: - the numerical and applied sciences mime interrogatively through ballet. To the minor arts is entrusted the administration.
     Barbaric battle of angles: - surgical, puerperal, and, on ripplings, multiple criticisms of other specializations in wisdom. A clownish violinmaker will pick "Paganini" chanterelles from extrinsically virgin entrails. Only two sides remain of the three-newborn triangle! The right angle cries for the hypotenuse. Heaven and earth it's us! - everything revolts, born at the same time. Premises are we in favor of the stillborn. Triangle stretching and embossing: - Smashed open to the wind, only the border remains of the polygon. Lewd is the suggestion. - Stage and auditorium will weather the explosion of the bomb that is the X of this Pi! Complain the verbal jousts of anthropomorphic servitude, fingerprints. Frenetic, laughs and sobs shout for and against. A question mark, the pragmatist, is looking for a place in this combination, when already: pistons, trombones and bass drum shatter the march of the stillborn to the morgue autopsy.
     The rest is left for the next generation.
Nude, the ego - free of ambiance - in chaos bathes. Coasts covered in dynamos - electrify the ocean's understanding: infuse the waves with a conscious individuality. And dance - dance: gusts of cakewalk - dive - jump from whirlwind to whirlwind and tornado on the foam - multiple myths of truth. Humanize the winds: build barracks for tradewinds at the poles. Abstractions are incarnated - grotesque lures: music-hall utopias fill scenic railways up with this Luna-Park. Sensory appearance rides on sensorial evidence. Wisdom spreads confusion methodically: Fish dive, birds fly away as the beautiful icon approaches: - this annuls the exact sciences: Multiple are the straight lines - varied according to the refraction of the visual angle - aerial, terrestrial, aquatic - that connect two points. Cross the threshold of idiocy: All angles are right. Speaking in a plastic idiom, fit is the brute: - A muzzle on the rhetorician defending the superbrute. In prison are imaged nuances. Good-for-nothing idiot: - Better than from ichthyophagi, seize an esthetic criterion from fish. The sensitive ones passed away, back when the rent was good and stable, from cardiac affection. Surrender to laughter, inspired sensitivity when faced with - among other events, dropping dead - beds in hostels hilarious muteness. Luxury of the useless. Chance makes finance fail. Rational method with a rotary system, of emotional education, for ladies' hats and other accessories. Philosopher: poetize the way of the world and man's place in it.

Over decomposition - raise a broom with radiotelegraphic antennae. Responsibility is an automatic orchestrion: squish a nauseating glittery bacchanal: all madness lies with the wise and saintly. Sanctity is subject - object is wisdom.
     Wise is the idiot and saintly. Seize sense, through jaws, horses; dogs, through their muzzles, sniff out the world. From music decked out with organs in the dancehalls, the servant and her docker become feverish - like their master from flavored champagne, in the company of his lady.
     Of luck the stormy waltz: - on belts moving floors, in contrary motion - whirl in a fast backward step. Morality is the vibration quotient of the sentimental scale of results: each tone is a result: - Separate bandit morality from the morality of the honest man - a simple interval: - to diplomatic assonance, utilitarian consonance, luxurious dissonance! shout the two pedals: strong with ambition - mute resignation! From the bandit, pariah tonality, - to the bandit, good man's tonality - an octave of distance between them. Marmalade music theory! Theoreticians are: plums, pears, figs and other fruits - following the great culinary tradition - properly boiled into a compote. Delightful malaise of taste, papillae - all the while preserving, when it comes to identity, an empirical certainty as to the homogeneity of its assimilation.

Stillborn - heaven - earth: - zero plus two equals three. Multiplicity of things, throwing off the last two: three is a polynomial. Like zero, death is amorphous: all the while leaving a door wide open to numerous possibilities.
     Non-existence has its identification card. Stillborn - minus one higher than zero - at the base: polymorphous is the polyhedron. Fallen into abstraction, leave a schema without dimensions - reality. Public conveniences, as much as museums, become fixed; without this narcotic conviction however, the ephemerality of the fleeting. A wheel with no hub necessarily has no tracks. Here, in the undecipherable, via a diastatic process, points upward the resurgence of the immaterial, the victorious material. Return the mass back to light! the undemonstratible runs the demonstration. Leads beyond the sensible distinction, speech - and derails. When faced with incoherence, a C in alt makes the disillusioned sprout up from chests! In view of redressing the conviction - muddle the absurd just as much; delay scandal. The future is at hand, which will strangle, from dead centuries, the most number of schematic spirits: death hypnotizes life just as dreams turn reality into an illusion.

Faced with discordance, interchange terms: everything ends up inexplicably balanced. Stability is only one side - well, time! - of instability in space. Still only shadows and half-lights move in the limitless. Paradoxical is logic: a popped spring and the click-clack replaces time. And so, one day, the lamppost saw the lamplighter mope, and mistake a milepost for distance. The husband dreams of being the wife: Upon waking, suppose an error, that the female dreamed of being male - since he is, biologically speaking, male - which is an uncrossable border. And convinced, the dream intoxicates his reality.

     In the realm of probabilities, given the possibility of a wheel without tracks, the time is near when we will have an engine with unlimited horsepower, which will resolve inertia into multiple dimensions. It should hardly matter that we know the number of generations that cut their own throats, from horror at seeing the irresistible realized.

     The result is that the ego - properly undressed - becomes a spectacular theater, solidly constructed, filling up and emptying, like before and after each evening's performance.




Saturday, April 18, 2009 1:16:50 PM

Isidore Lucien Ducasse, who later took the pseudonym Comte de Lautreamont was hailed by the surrealists as one of the "founding fathers of Surrealism." He wrote the Les Chants de Maldoror published in 1869. The romantic epic of the anti-hero Maldoror consists of six 'songs' or chapters (the songs are divided into stanzas). A line from his Les Chants de Maldoror, "Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissection table," became a slogan for the Surrealists. Dali did illustrations of Les Chants de Maldoror in 1932 and Magritte did illustrations in 1945.

Magritte Illustration for Les Chants de Maldoror - 1945

Magritte Illustration for Les Chants de Maldoror - 1945

The following is a translation of two stanzas fron the first Canto of Les Chants de Maldoror:

Selected Poems from MALDOROR by Lautréamont (1868)
Translated by Sonja Elen Kisa (1998) Illustrated by François Aubéron

Stanza 1: The Reader Forewarned

"God grant that the reader, emboldened and having become at present as fierce as what he is reading, find, without loss of bearings, his way, his wild and treacherous passage through the desolate swamps of these sombre, poison-soaked pages; for, unless he should bring to his reading a rigorous logic and a sustained mental effort at least as strong as his distrust, the lethal fumes of this book shall dissolve his soul as water does sugar. It is not right that everyone read the pages that follow: a sole few will savour this bitter fruit without danger. As a result, wavering soul, before penetrating further into such uncharted barrens, draw back, step no deeper.

Mark my words: draw back, step no deeper, like the eyes of a son respectfully flinching away from his mother's august contemplation, or rather, like an acute angle formation of cold-sensitive cranes stretching beyond the eye can reach, soaring through the winter silence in deep meditation, under tight sail towards a focal point on the horizon, from where there suddenly rises a peculiar gust of wind, omen of a storm. The oldest crane, alone at the forefront, on seeing this, shakes his head like a rational person and consequently his beak too, which he clicks, as he is uneasy (and so would I be, in his shoes); whilst his old, feather-stripped neck, contemporary of three generations of cranes, sways in irritated undulations that foreshadow the oncoming thunderstorm. After looking with composure several times in every direction with eyes that bespeak experience, the first crane (for he is the privileged one to show his tail feathers to the other, intellectually inferior cranes) vigilantly cries out like a melancholy sentinel driving back the common enemy, and then carefully steers the nose of the geometric figure (it would be a triangle, but the third side, formed in space by these curious avian wayfarers, is invisible), be it to port, or to starboard, like a skilful captain; and, manoeuvring with wings that seem no larger than those of a sparrow, he thus adopts, since he is no dumb creature, a different and safer philosophical course.

Stanza 6: The Nails (The Reader as an Accomplice)

One should let one's nails grow for a fortnight. Oh! How sweet it is to brutally snatch from his bed a child with no hair yet on his upper lip, and, with eyes wide open, to pretend to suavely stroke his forehead, brushing back his beautiful locks! Then, suddenly, at the moment when he least expects it, to sink one's long nails into his tender breast, being careful, though, not to kill him; for if he died, there would be no later viewing of his misery.

Then, one drinks the blood, licking the wounds; and, during the entire procedure, which ought to last no shorter than an aeon, the boy cries. Nothing could be better than his blood, warm and just freshly squeezed out as I have described, if it weren't for his tears, bitter as salt. Mortal one, haven't you ever tasted your blood, when by chance you cut your finger? Tasty, isn't it? For it has no taste. Besides, can you not recall one day, absorbed in your dismal thoughts, having lifted your deeply cupped palm to your sickly face, drenched by the downpour from your eyes; the said hand then making its fatal way to your mouth, which, from this vessel chattering like the teeth of the schoolboy who glances sidelong at the one born to oppress him, sucked the tears in long draughts? Tasty, aren't they? For they taste of vinegar.

A taste reminiscent of the tears of your true love, except a child's tears are so much more pleasing to the palate. He is incapable of deceit, for he does not yet know evil: but the most loving of women is bound to betray sooner or later... This I deduce by analogy, despite my ignorance of what friendship means, what love means (I doubt I will ever accept either of these, at least not from the human race). So, since your blood and tears do not disgust you, go ahead, feed confidently on the adolescent's tears and blood. Blindfold him, while you tear open his quivering flesh; and, after listening to his resplendent squeals for a good few hours, similar to those hoarse shrieks of death one hears from the throats of the mortally wounded on battlefields, you then, running out faster than an avalanche, fly back in from the room next door, pretending to rush to his rescue. You untie his hands, with their swollen nerves and veins, you restore sight to his distraught eyes, as you resume licking his tears and blood.

Oh, what a genuine and noble change of heart! That divine spark within us, which so rarely appears, is revealed; too late! How the heart longs to console the innocent one we have harmed. "O child, who has just undergone such cruel torture, who could have ever committed such an unspeakable crime upon you! You poor soul! The agony you must be going through! And if your mother were to know of this, she would be no closer to death, so feared by evildoers, than I am now. Alas! What, then, are good and evil? Might they be one and the same thing, by which in our furious rage we attest our impotence and our passionate thirst to attain the infinite by even the maddest means? Or might they be two separate things? Yes... they'd better be one and the same... for, if not, what shall become of me on the Day of Judgment? Forgive me, child. Here before your noble and sacred eyes stands the man who crushed your bones and tore off the strips of flesh dangling from various parts of your body. Was it a frenzied inspiration of my delirious mind, was it a deep inner instinct independent of my reason, such as that of the eagle tearing at its prey, that drove me to commit this crime? And yet, as much as my victim, I suffered! Forgive me, child.

Once we are freed from this transient life, I want us to be entwined for evermore, becoming but one being, my mouth fused to your mouth. But even so, my punishment will not be complete. So you will tear at me, without ever stopping, with your teeth and nails at the same time. I will adorn and embalm my body with perfumes and garlands for this expiatory holocaust; and together we shall suffer, I from being torn, you from tearing me... my mouth fused to yours. O blond-haired child, with your eyes so gentle, will you now do what I advise you? Despite yourself, I wish you to do it, and you will set my conscience at rest." And in saying this, you will have wronged a human being and be loved by that same being: therein lies the greatest conceivable happiness. Later, you could take him to the hospital, for the crippled boy will be in no condition to earn a living. They will proclaim you a hero, and centuries from now, laurel crowns and gold medals will cover your bare feet on your ancient iconic tomb. O you, whose name I will not inscribe upon this page consecrated to the sanctity of crime, I know your forgiveness was as boundless as the universe. But look, I'm still here!

Biography: Isidore Lucien Ducasse
Born April 4, 1846 in Montevideo, Uruguay Ethnicity French Residences Paris, Tarbes, Pau, France, Montevideo, Uruguay,
Died November 4, 1870 in Paris, France Nationality French Language French
Other occupations: Student

Little is known about Isidore Lucien Ducasse, who later took the pseudonym Comte de Lautreamont. He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay on April 4, 1846 to a French Consular Officer and his wife. His mother died when he was 18 months old, a suspected suicide. His youth in Uruguay remains a mystery, though we know that during this Ducasseís youth civil wars and outbreaks of cholera beset the region. When Isidore was 10, his father returned to France briefly and left young Ducasse with relatives in Tarbes to finish school. Isidore attended a couple of lycÈes in Tarbes and Pau where he was remembered as sullen introvert with a sharp voice and a distant, haughty demeanor. At school, Lucien displayed a dislike for Latin and Mathematics, but showed interest in literature. He dismayed his teachers with 'excesses of thought and style', which, oddly, would later earn him a permanent place in French literature. After leaving school at 19, it is speculated that Ducasse traveled, perhaps to visit his father in Uruguay or in the Bordeaux region in France where he may have made literary contacts.

Lucien received an allowance from his father that ensured him a comfortable living situation during his travels. In 1867 or 1868, Lucien moved to Paris to study at the Polytechnic or School of Mines, though no enrollment records exist. While in Paris, most scholars assume he began composing Maldoror, (a name that has received various interpretations, from 'dawn of evil' to 'evil from the beginning.'). Lucien took his own pseudonym, Lautreamont, presumably from Eugene Sue's novel Lautreamont, which features an arrogant and blasphemous hero similar to Lucien's Maldoror character. His publisher said that Lautreamont 'only wrote at night seated at his piano. He would declaim his sentences as he forged them, punctuating his harangues with chords on the piano.' In 1868, Lautreamont traveled to Uruguay to show his father the first part of Maldoror and get him to finance its publication. The first canto was published anonymously in 1868.

Lautreamont arranged to have the entire work published a few months later by a Belgium printer who was partners with Lautreamont's French publisher, Albert Lacroix, who had worked as an editor for Emile Zola, Victor Hugo, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. The book was printed in the summer of 1869, but Lacroix and company feared prosecution because of the blasphemous and obscene nature of the work and never put the book on sale. Lautreamont pressed his publishers to release the book to no avail. A year later, Lautreamont wrote them about his new collection of poems, a seeming negation of Maldoror that spoke of 'hope, faith, calm, happiness and duty.' Lautreamont did not complete this work, nor did he see his Maldoror available to the public during his lifetime. Lautreamont died November 24, 1870 in a Paris hotel room at the age of 24. In 1874, after the publishing house changed hands, Lautreamont's works were finally made available to the public, but this initial publication met with little commercial success. It was not until a Belgian literary journal published Lautreamont's work in 1885 that his work began to emerge from obscurity and find an audience among the literary avant-garde. It was the 1927 publication of Lautreamont at Any Cost by the Surrealists Philippe Soupault and Andre Breton that assured Lautreamont a permanent place in French literature and the status of patron saint to the Surrealist movement.

The enigmatic Isidore Ducasse and the Surrealists
by Chris Will, curator of the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam

The Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum owns a number of works of art that are closely linked with the name and work of the French writer Isidore Ducasse. The makers of these works (two illustrated books, a set of prints and an object) - Salvador Dali, René Magritte and Man Ray - were all representatives of the surrealist movement. Who was this unknown nineteenth-century author, and why did the Surrealists regard him as a cult figure?Les Chants de Maldoror

Lice of remarkable beauty that crawl like aspiring philosophers from cherished eggs; pubic hairs conversing in a brothel; sharks preparing duck-liver paté and cold soup from victims of drowning; a human-faced toad, as sad as the universe and as beautiful as suicide; covetous fingers prodding the lobes of innocent brains in order to smilingly prepare an effective unguent for the eyes; how Man. applauded by the crablouse and the adder, shits on the Creator's uplifted face for three days; devouring your mother's arms with gusto while she is still alive by tearing them off and cutting them into snippets...!

A random selection from a hallucinatory tissue of words, and there are plenty more in one of the most bizarre books of all time. Entitled Les Chants de Maldoror, it was published in 1869 by the Comte de Lautréamont, the`noble' pseudonym adopted by the Uruguayan-born Frenchman Isidore Lucien Ducasse (1846 - 1870). Ducasse died in 1870, aged 24, in the chaos of the siege of Paris during the Franca-Prussian war. His provocative ideas are presented in two books, Les Chants de Madoror (1869) and Poésies (1870), from which the author emerges as a man apparently deranged, possessing instinctive cruelty, nihilistic humour and extraordinary sexual prowess. The romantic epic of the anti-hero Maldoror consists of six `songs'. It is difficult to fathom. Rife with bombastic clichés, crazy Homeric epithets, absurd comparisons, unexpected banalities and pseudo-profundities, the work has a style entirely its own which is mystifying to the reader. One gets the feeling that absolutely everything is undermined, and that every passage is therefore questionable. Maldoror's overriding preoccupation is to combat God and humanity. The book is a swinging onslaught on and total invalidation of Western society, the social system, institutions and ideologies. Often resorting to extreme parody, grotesquery and burlesque. cynicism and black humour, Ducasse brazenly takes up arms against the church, state and morals. In a letter to his Belgian publisher Verboeckhoven, Ducasse wrote: 'I have sung the praise of evil.' And indeed, his literary hero's name derives from evil: 'Mal d'Aurore' means the Dawn of Evil.

Embraced by the Surrealists

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the goal of the Dadaists and Surrealists was absolute freedom. They could identify with Ducasse's world of ideas, for imagination runs riot in Les Chants. Like Ducasse, these artists flouted convention, ridiculed values and standards, and launched their weapons of provocation and untrammelled imagination against the dictatorship of reason. The writer Louis Aragon came across Les Chants by chance in 1917. In 1918 he told the writer and physician André Breton, who was to pioneer the surrealist movement, about the book. Les Chants proved to be a mine of inspiration, and Isidore Ducasse became the Surrealists' hero. To the Surrealists his nihilistic 'poetry in prose' was pure écriture automatique. An example is the now famous comparison of a sixteen-year-old youth's beauty with 'the retraction of the claws of birds of prey, or the uncertainty of muscular spasms caused by wounds in the soft parts of the back of the throat... and above all the chance encounter of a sewing-machine and an umbrella on a dissecting-table.' André Breton regarded the last phrase in particular as a classic example of surrealist thought. The statement might be called a metaphor for one of the most important principles of the surrealist aesthetic: the enforced juxtaposition of two totally alien realities.

Series of Dali prints

In 1999 the museum acquired an unusual edition of Les Chants de Maldoror. Illustrated by Salvador Dal! (1904 - 1989), it was published in 1934 in Paris by Albert Skira, who was also the publisher of the surrealist magazine Minotaure (1933 - 1939). The new edition of Les Chants was a substantial volume of 207 pages, with 42 etchings by Dali: 30 full-page and 12 vignettes. The book is accompanied by a so-called 'suite': a looseleaf set of the same 42 etchings, many of whose lower margins show scribbled motifs that are missing in the book. Skira had planned 120 'suites' but due to financial problems only 40 were printed, on Vélin d'Arches paper. The book was not printed in the originally planned edition of 80 either, only 60 copies being produced. It was Pablo Picasso who proposed that Lautréamont's inspiring 'cult' book should be illustrated by his compatriot Dali, who has been introduced to it by the writer René Crevel. Dalì embarked on the task in 1932, drawing preliminary studies for some of the illustrations. He was approximately 28 years old when he made the series, about the same age as the 19th-century author of the bizarre texts who died so young. Dali deployed the entire arsenal of his characteristic imagery in his illustrations to Les Chants. The etcher's tool transformed the poet's satanic deluge of words into a paradigm of the artist's own 'criticalparanoid' method. In the like-minded artist, Les Chants evoked associations, hallucinations and deliriums which are linked with his 'personal myths'. For example, Dali quoted Jean-Francois Millet's popular painting The Angelus here for the first time. The well-known figures of the farmer and his wife sunk in prayer, standing in a potato field, appear in four etchings with items from Dal!'s typical vocabulary, such as flaccid parts of the body supported by crutches and distorted bones.

The museum's collection boasts another edition of Les Chants de Maldoror. In 1945 René Magritte (1898 - 1967) drew a remarkably humorous series of 13 fullpage illustrations and vignettes in a caricatural style for a Brussels edition of the book (1948). An object by the Surrealist Man Ray (1890 - 1976) shows quite a different approach. His works are often based on puns, and such is the case with L'Enigme d'Isidore Ducasse. Man Ray designed The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse in 1920, an unidentifiable object wrapped in a horse-blanket and secured with a piece of rope. The vague form of the object concealed by the blanket suggests a sewingmachine. Man Ray made the object for the express purpose of photographing it. The photograph appeared in Breton's introduction to the first number of the magazine La Révolution Surréaliste, which appeared in December 1924. The original object has been lost. In 1971 Man Ray made a reconstruction, which was issued as a multiple in an edition of ten by the Galleria Schwarz in Milan. In 1972, however, the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum purchased the object directly from the artist. The title and the object refer to Ducasse's comparison, quoted above, of beauty with the 'chance encounter of a sewingmachine and an umbrella on a dissectingtable'. Man Ray's object is a kind of portrait of this metaphor. He approaches the writer's work in an ironic but realistic fashion, while Ducasse's literature both attacks and denies reality. Man Ray brilliantly juggles with the words in the title and the form and content of his 'simple' object.

Grapheion: European review of modern prints, books and paper art 1st issue 2000

Friends of Magritte: Edward James 

Friday, April 17, 2009 3:27:24 PM

Friends of Magritte: Edward James

Edward James was an eccentric poet, collector, and patron of both Dalí and Magritte. Edward James became an important figure in Rene Magritte's life for a short period of time from 1936-1938. James would remain friends with Magritte for many years but his role in 1937 and 1938 was paramount. Here's some background information:

In the summer of 1935 James, while visiting with the painter Jose Maria Sert and his wife, met Salvador and Gala at their home in Catalonia. Dali, Gala and James became close friends and Dali was invited to London to help decorate the Monkton house in Chelsea with surreal furnishings and paintings. Through an introduction to James from Dali and others plus Magritte's participating in the 1936 International Surrealist exhibit, Magritte also was consulted about contributing paintings to the interior design. James remained an important supporter and collector of Magritte's work and Magritte stayed with him in London for five weeks.

The Pleasure Principle (Portrait of Edward James) 1937

Magritte's patron and friend ELT Mesens became the Director of the London gallery and in the summer of 1936 helped organize the "International Surrealist Exhibition." Magritte, whose work was displayed prominently at the exhibit, then received a commission from Edward James to do three large paintings for James' house on Wimpole Street. The paintings were two portraits (above and below) and a new version of "On a Threshold of a Dream." In January 1937 James invitted Magritte to stay at his house for a month or two and complete the paintings.  James offered Magritte 250 pounds, comparable to what he was paying Dali for his paintings.

In February 1937 Magritte and Mesens traveled to London. The five week stay went well, James introduced Magritte to Henry Moore and Matta. According to Sylvester, "(James) did not enjoy the society of Magritte, who was rather uncouth for his taste; he adored Dali." When Magritte returned to Brussels, James also commissioned three new versions of Magritte's older paintings "The Poetic World," The Red Model" and "Youth Illustrated."

Magritte apparently thought James was going to be his new wealthy patron. Rene wrote James in 1938 offering to do more paintings in exchange for a 100 pounds a year fee. James declined Magritte's offer and though James continued to buy several of Rene's paintings including his 1939 "The Glass House," the thrust of Edward's patronage of Rene was over. James did promote Magritte's work and kept in touch with him during the War years (1942-1945).

Here are two articles on James, one by Deirdre Fernand and one by Michael Kernan:

The Truth About the Man With No Face
The Sunday Times February 25, 2007 By Deirdre Fernand

He was the Saatchi of surrealism an eccentric British millionaire who supported the wildest avant garde art. So why do we know so little about the man who was a close friend to Dali and subject matter for Magritte?

Magritte: Reproduction Prohibited (Portrait of Edward James) 1937

Like so many eternal egoists and deluded despots, the artist Salvador Dali loved to refer to himself in the third person. It was always “Dali this” and “Dali that”. As a means of self-promotion, it worked – the world soon acknowledged him as the genius he always knew he was. “Every morning when I awake the greatest of joys is mine: that of being Salvador Dali,” he wrote in his autobiography. The Spanish creator of the soft watch and the lobster telephone, two of the most famous surrealist images in the world, always maintained that “if you act the genius, you will be one”.

As much as he loved himself, he loved fame and money. No wonder a fellow artist, André Breton, came up with a fitting anagram of his name, Avida Dollars. Other kindlier spirits knew him just as Señor Patillas, or Mr Sidewhiskers, after his trademark twirly moustache. But to Edward James, the Englishman who helped create Dali, he was always “mon cher” or Petitou, their pet name for each other. Their intense friendship kick-started Dali’s career. Both men were born just after the turn of the century and became fabulously wealthy. But while Dali became one of the biggest names in 20th-century art, along with Picasso and Matisse, Edward James has been all but forgotten. This British millionaire, patron and collector was one of the true begetters of surrealism. The movement, which draws upon images from the subconscious, is based on the belief that there are treasures hidden in the human mind. James himself, who died in 1984, was a hidden treasure. Without the support of the bankrolling Brit – the Charles Saatchi of his day – Dali as we know him today wouldn’t have existed. James’s patronage extended beyond Dali to René Magritte; his encouragement, to a circle that included Joan Miro, Man Ray and Leonora Carrington.

James remains an enigma. Though he was rich and eccentric enough to indulge every whim, he didn’t seek the limelight. Unlike Dali, he did not throw furniture out of shop windows when the display angered him, nor get himself arrested, nor make headlines after being burnt in his bedroom. But what was his exact relationship with Dali? How much did they collaborate? Compared with the crazed Catalan, James was a blushing wallflower.

The Real Face of Edward James (photo manipulation)

A new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum seeks to drag this relatively obscure figure – the British father of surrealism – from the shadows. Alongside paintings from his collection will be some of the most famous objects ever produced, including Dali’s lobster telephone, commissioned by James for his London house, and a lips sofa that Dali designed, inspired by a poster of Mae West’s pouting lips. Two such sofas were destined for his country house, Monkton, in West Sussex. Other works, over 300 in all, have come from around the world. Many of them, including Meret Oppenheim’s Table with Bird’s Legs, and Dali’s Chair, where the back is fashioned from two hands, have never been exhibited before in Britain.

If James is largely unknown to the public, it is perhaps his own fault. One of the most famous images created by René Magritte, La Reproduction Interdite (above), shows a man looking into a mirror – and staring at the back of his head. Weird and unsettling, this portrait manqué (missed portrait) is all that surrealism should be. The man in the picture – the man without a face – is Edward James.

“We owe him a huge debt,” says Ghislaine Wood, curator of the exhibition and a 20th-century expert at the V&A. “Not just for encouraging and funding Dali, but for creating a climate in which the avant-garde could flourish. And he helped contribute to the cult of artist as personality. Without Edward James, without Dali, there would have been perhaps no Andy Warhol.”

James described himself as a poet, but poetry never brought him fame. A friend of Sir John Betjeman and Evelyn Waugh, he remained in the background, the man who enabled other artists to be themselves. It was not always a happy position. He was as rich as any Rockefeller, but his money did not buy him contentment. He suffered a miserable marriage and a divorce that cost him millions in alimony – and his good name. Like a gilded butterfly, he was always flitting from project to project. “I dissipated everything,” he once said. “I could fulfil every kind of whim.” His friend Desmond Guinness, another patron of the arts, put it more kindly: “All his life he got sidetracked.”

But with what results? Born in 1907, James entered an Edwardian world of almost limitless wealth and luxury. The only son of an Anglo-American family, his fortune came from railways and timber. A distant cousin was the novelist Henry James. His father died when James was five, the estate passing into trust until his majority. At 21 he inherited £1m from his uncle; at 25, the West Dean estate in West Sussex – a 19th-century gothic-style mansion, with 6,000 acres, farms and a village. Also good-looking, James was one of the most eligible men of his day. But he was destined in the eyes of his family to be a disappointment. A poet in the family? Whatever next? And what did he mean by “aesthete”, anyway? He could neither play the country gentleman nor was he interested in marrying well.

“I’ve tried to conform as much as possible,” he said in a television interview two years before his death. “One is an eccentric against one’s own will… [It is] something that one is born with.” So what motivated him to embrace the avant-garde? As his friend the art dealer Christopher Gibbs reminds us, James took pleasure in rejecting the values of his class. He embraced the bohemian art world with all the alacrity and expansiveness his wallet allowed. “I think he and Dali were two eccentrics who found each other,” he says. “They were a weird brotherhood. James was rebelling against his conventional narrow background.”

He found his family and their aristocratic circle dull and snobbish. He remembered one tiresome aunt describing a gathering: “What a mangy party. Only one viscount and one baronet.” The Jameses, with their house parties, were at the centre of royal life. Edward VII, James’s godfather, was a frequent visitor. Many people thought that James’s mother, Evelyn, was his mistress. James would always dismiss this. He believed his mother was Edward VII’s illegitimate daughter – thus his godfather was, to him, his grandfather.

The young James saw little of his mother, who remained aloof, as stiff as her corsets and encrusted with jewels. In contrast, his nurse was “nice and comfy and soft”. He once talked about his mother’s apparent lack of maternal feeling. He described her wanting one of her five children to take with her to church and calling upstairs to the nanny to give her “one that goes best with my blue dress”.

James hated Eton, and it was not until he went up to Oxford that he began to mix with like-minded people such as Betjeman, Waugh and Harold Acton, the aesthete and writer. These were the years that Waugh would later commemorate in Brideshead Revisited. While other undergraduates had peeling paint, James lined the walls of his rooms with silk and 17th-century tapestries. His curtains were a red William-and-Mary design.

His aim was to bring the marvellous into everyday life. He had the imagination, the intellect and the fortune. “Money seemed to me to have been given to spend… but I was not going simply to give it away to some uncreative institution called a charity,” he once wrote. “I felt I could do more to alter the face of the world, more to usher in that new world, by spending it in my own way – in particular, by fostering any and all creative spirits I could meet with…”

No wonder his mother, worried out of her mind, wrote to James’s agent, in capitals, that he should tell him to “CUT OUT MUSIC AND WRITING POETRY”. She quashed all creativity; she wanted him to concentrate on his degree, his future at West Dean, and enter parliament.

But if James’s money was a blessing, it was also a curse. Many of his peers viewed him as a rich kid playing at being an artist. The poet W H Auden was one who dismissed him as a dilettante. After all, here was a man who could get into a private plane to loop the loop, and throw the silliest parties in college. For one prank with Betjeman, he invited every Mr Bottom in Oxford to a party. He took endless pleasure when Mr Sidebottom, Winterbottom, Longbottom and plain Mr Bottom met for drinks, then realised why each had been invited. Later, on his travels, he booked a suite for himself – and a set of rooms for his pet boa constrictor.

James’s snobbish mother had always warned him against marrying an actress: an uncle was disinherited for marrying a chorus girl. So relations with his family deteriorated when he fell in love aged 24 and married an Austrian dancer, Tilly Losch. He adored her beauty and artistry; she appeared to adore his bank balance. By all accounts, she believed him to be homosexual and was surprised to find out on their honeymoon that he wasn’t. Like his mother, she was cold and remote; he tried constantly to please her. He engaged the painter and designer Paul Nash to remodel his London house, and installed a barre for Losch’s ballet exercises.

Tilly Losch 1928

"Always have a good little black dress, pearls, and stay in the best hotel, even if you can have only the worst room,"  said the dancer, actress, and femme fatale Tilly Losch (1907-1975).

He was already moving in artistic circles, meeting Dali in France in the mid-1930s. But it was at Monkton, the hunting lodge on the West Dean estate, that his greatest surrealist fantasy was realised. More than 70 years after Monkton, now in private hands, was given the James-Dali treatment, it is still a shock to come upon this violet house sitting on the South Downs. It remains the most important three-dimensional surrealist creation in Britain. James took a hunting lodge designed for his father by Sir Edwin Lutyens and, with Dali, gave it over to his wildest dreams. The sedate brick-and-tile box was now purple and green. The chimney stack was transformed into a clock tower showing the days of the week, not the hours, and plaster aprons were placed under windows, like sheets being aired. Dali suggested drainpipes that looked like bamboo, and palm-tree columns to flank the doorway. As Freud, whose theories of the unconscious influenced the surrealists and who met Dali in 1938, said, “A hero is a man who stands up manfully against his father and… overcomes him.” The Freudian implications of James revamping his father’s house – and marrying an actress – cannot be ignored.

Inside, it was just as eccentric. James had wanted a drawing room with walls that flopped in and out like the inside of a dog’s stomach. Fortunately, or not, he thought better of it. Still, he did choose a migraine-inducing jazzy print for his hallway. For his study he had blue serge, inspired by his favourite suits. And his bedroom was dominated by a canopied bed modelled on Nelson’s funeral hearse. In the dining room were two huge Mae West sofas. “The basic drawing for them came from Dali but it was James who realised them,” says Wood. Their collaboration also produced a magnificently mad tea service for Royal Crown Derby, now in the V&A.

And, in homage to his wife, James had a carpet woven with her footprint. If the other touches were brilliant folly, this was foolhardy. His marriage was a disaster. Losch terminated pregnancies by him, and had lovers, including Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston’s son. He eventually ripped up the carpet, replacing it with one bearing the footprint of his favourite wolfhound. “A more faithful friend,” he is said to have remarked. But his wife continued to obsess him. He spent £50,000 on a season of ballets for her to star in. He even invited Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill to London to compose an opera in which she could dance. But nothing could make her love him.

Replacing a footprint with a paw print could not have been easy, a graphic reminder of unrequited love. But the end of the marriage brought a certain liberation. Had the couple enjoyed a traditional life, with children, James’s prodigious creativity may have been spent elsewhere. Now he was free to pursue his interests. In 1936 he helped bring Dali from France to London for the first surrealist exhibition. The artist chose to address the gathering in a diving helmet, to show he was “plunging down deeply into the human mind”. But at the end of his speech, when he came to remove his headgear, it got stuck. Starting to panic, he could not breathe. “It was James who came to his rescue,” says Sharon-Michi Kusunoki, the archivist of the Edward James Foundation at West Dean.

The pair continued their intense collaboration. “James had first refusal on all Dali’s work,” she explains. “And he made sure all the artist’s needs were met. Not only was he paying him, he was also buying the latest fashions, such as Schiaparelli dresses for Dali’s wife, Gala. It’s important not just to see him as a rich eccentric but as a catalyst and mentor for Dali.” As a token of his friendship, James sent the Spaniard a stuffed polar bear for his Paris apartment.

James was fast earning recognition as a sympathetic and generous patron. He knew everyone, such as Miro, Max Ernst, Paul Eluard, whose wife, Gala, left him for Dali, and he had struck up a relationship with Magritte. People were curious, wanting to know who the rich Englishman was who could fritter away £50,000 on wooing back his wife. However, James finally chose to escape his marriage, suing Losch for divorce on the grounds of infidelity in 1934. But that spelt the end of his life in Britain and, eventually, his collaboration with Dali. In 1930s Britain, gentlemen did not damage a lady’s good name, however provoked. Polite society shunned James, and England was never his home again. In 1939 he left for the US – in Taos, New Mexico, he lived among a community of artists that included D H Lawrence and his wife, Frieda.

Dali, who had also moved to the US, would play no further part in his life. Indeed, documents in the archive at West Dean, now a college for arts and crafts, reveal how disillusioned James had become by Dali’s showmanship; he disapproved of his politics and avarice. The artist had continued to prosper under Franco’s fascist regime. A letter written c1945 to Dali, found by Dr Kusunoki among James’s papers but possibly never sent, is profoundly critical. “In the past I often heard you speak with bitterness and contempt against greed and opportunism in others,” he wrote. “Do you realise that you have yourself become in the eyes of everyone who knows you well – and very nearly to the general public also, by now – a monument of this greed, opportunism and bad taste which you used to scorn.” Dali, for his part, was being feted in the States. He did not need his old supporter.

It was not until the late 1940s that James found peace in the Mexican jungle, creating a surrealist garden, Las Pozas, in Xilitla, in a clearing. Here he indulged his passion for orchids and adopted a local family. He built a “stairway to imagination”, as he once put it, in plant and stone. He died in 1984, and his body was brought back to be buried at West Dean. That same year, Dali was burnt in an accident at his home in Spain. He died of heart failure in 1989.

When James’s art collection came to be sold, nobody could believe how much he had amassed. He had bought his first painting at 18 and by the time he died he had the best by Ernst, de Chirico, Man Ray, Miro, Picasso, Magritte, Duchamp and, of course, Dali. An art dealer, Julien Levy, who knew him well, viewed him as a champion who was “fabulously rich, generously constructive and annoyingly wilful”. But Dali, his old sparring partner, saw him differently: “Edward is as insanely relentless as me.”

Edward James: One man's fantasy stands tall in a jungle in Mexico
by Michael Kernan 
We jounce for five hours in a pickup truck heading west from Tampico over the dusty Mexican plain to the Sierra Madre, up and up into a green world-peaks as sudden as the mountains of Moorea, tree-covered jagged ranges huge enough to be the molars of God, past coffee plantations, ramping bougainvillea, banana trees, crashing streams-and on to the very top, through the steep hilltop town of Xilitla to reach at last the hidden city that Edward James, the eccentric British Surrealist, built in the deepest jungle, a swirling dream in concrete, a fantasy of shapes that marries Gaudi, Escher, Borromini, Simon Rodia and the Emerald City of Oz.

  With my guide I slip through the gate of this amazing place, called Las Pozas after its nine pools strung along a winding jungle river, connected by waterfalls. I climb a 20-foot concrete cactus, Up freestanding steps to a mushroom platform, up again on spiraling stairs that finally wind themselves around the great shaft and disappear. Enormous fluted columns all around. Eight-foot walls with teal shaped holes, a moongate, a path bordered by erectile mosaic serpents. Great gates framed in wrought-iron stars. Concrete leaves big enough to walk on, bulbous concrete flowers in yellow, red, green, blue, white, purple. Gourd shapes. Calabash shapes. Dolphin shapes. Stairs that lead straight up into space and stop. With its raw concrete patinaed by green mildew, rusting corrugated steel and neglected stretches of fence bent by fallen trees, Las Pozas feels like a Sleeping Beauty castle arrested in time before it was quite finished.

  A gazebo here, and close by, a tiny apartment four stories up with glass windows, two freezers, a fireplace, archways, glass bricks and a collection of perfume bottles. Ferns everywhere, lianas, thickset trees, all so intertwined with the constructions that it is impossible to tell where the jungle leaves off and the invention begins. Tucked into the steep hillside, I find a storeroom crammed with the beautiful wooden molds made by local carpenters for all these fantastic shapes. Also James' four-man sedan chair. And a stone hand nearly as tall as a man. Beside it, a nine-foot dome, almost an Olmec head, beset with columns that blossom out on top, and more bamboo-like columns, so delicate that they quiver when a bird takes off from them. Some of the fantasies have names: the House With a Roof like a Whale, the House With Three Stories That Might be Five, the Stegosaurus Colt , the Fleur-de-Lys Bridge and Cornucopia, the St. Peter and St. Paul Gate, the Temple of the Ducks, the House Destined To Be a Cinema.

  The waterfalls, especially the biggest one, more than 80 feet high, are embellished with platforms, curving walls, flying buttresses that may hold up the entire hank or may do nothing at all, battlements, mysterious little prows jutting into the pools. The lower pools have diving boards and small sandy beaches for the local people who come here to swim.

Everywhere, underfoot and up wall corners and winding around concrete bamboo screens, I see electric conduits. In 1979, when the place was as nearly complete as it ever would be, James had lines brought in from Xilitla and lit up the mountainside like a fairyland every night.

Talk about magic. Everyone in town came to see. Las Pozas was locally famous, of course. It had been abuilding since 1949, and from 1962 on, employed as many as 150 workers at one time. By the time he died, in 1984, James had sunk millions into the project.   Here and there, snug among the six-foot-thick columns (designed eventually to support enormous planters and an aviary) and barrel vaults and groined arches and framed windows, I noticed all sorts of cages. A little aviary for parrots and flamingos, a screened cage for the ocelots, a deer corral, a two-story room for small monkeys, a turtle pool, a 20-foot concrete pool shaped like a human eye, its pupil five feet across. This was where the crocodiles often played, our guide mentioned casually.

Edward James adored animals. When he visited Mexico City he always stayed at the elegant but modest old Francis Hotel or the Majestic, because they let him keep his animals there. Once a guest complained that there were mice in the hotel. She was sure she had seen one in the hall. The manager replied, "Oh no. They're not the hotel's mice. They belong to Mr. James in the room next to yours. He feeds them to his boa constrictors."

  James often wandered through his jungle home with a parrot perched on his shoulder. Once he showed a young friend how his beaky nose and pointed chin were growing closer together. He said, with a certain complacency "I am turning into a parrot, you see."

  Las Pozas is strange, but not half as strange as its creator. His American grandfather, already a millionaire with vast timber holdings, married into the mining wealth of the Phelps Dodge family before moving to England. . One of his three sons, who made his career as the master of West Dean Park and its 6,000 acres in Sussex, married an Englishwoman who was reputed to be an orphaned daughter of Edward Vll.

  Edward James was born to them in 1907, into a world of nannies and shooting parties, shuttled seasonally between West Dean, his parents' London town house in Bryanston Square and a summer place in Scotland. He went to Eton, and hated it. At Oxford he had a Rolls-Royce and a silk-lined room worthy of a Sebastian Flyte, and he soon drifted into the gilded London society of Sitwells, Mitfords and Cunards, of Noel Coward and John Betjeman, of Agustus John and Randolph Churchill.

  A charming person, Edward James, a wonderful raconteur and a lover of parties. His hermetic childhood left him curiously innocent about the world of work. And impulsively generous: once when a friend wanted to borrow his car, he gave it to him. But then a reaction - "They want my money, they want my blood"- and he would retreat into introversion.

He was a packrat who never threw anything away, and so obsessively fastidious that he would boil up a saucepan full of old paperclips, drenched in cologne, for reuse. Named to a diplomatic post, he almost caused an incident through his insouciant mistranslations and was fired. He wrote poetry and printed it himself, wrote a novel or two, fell in with avant-garde artists and then, in 1928 met Tilly Losch.

She was dancing in a Noel Coward revue but was celebrated more for her sinuous, wanton beauty than for her dancing. She filmed a performance piece that featured her lovely hands sinuously interlacing to Bach's "Air on a G String". James married her. He was 24. Soon it turned out that she had fancied a marriage in name only (it happened in those days). She involved herself in a series of increasingly visible affairs, including a primal scene on a sofa with Randolf Churchill witnessed by a maid, and finally left him. To get her back James financed George Balanchine's first company, Les Ballets 1933, paying for three ballets for her, including the landmark Brecht-Weill collaboration "The Seven Deadly Sins," performed by Tilly Losch and Lotte Lenya, and another ballet with music by Darius Milhaud and sets and costumes by Andre Derain.

It was no use. Tilly sued for separation, charging homosexuality among other things, whereupon James scandalized everyone by countersuing, accusing her of adultery with Prince Serge Obolensky. Astonished and wounded by the outcry, for this simply was not something a gentleman did, James moved to Europe for a while.

James with his wife Tilly Losch

There he met Salvador Dali [summer 1935] and was so taken by him that he contracted to buy all his work for a year [1937-1938] and to subsidize Dali's "Dream of Venus" exhibit for the 1939 New York World's Fair. He was already buying Picassos, and that same year, 1937-38, he patronized Rene Magritte and joined the Surrealist movement in earnest.

"La Reproduction Interdite", the famous Magritte painting of a man shown from behind as he looks into a mirror and sees the same back of head, is a portrait of the back of Edward James' head. He is also the model for the head-as-explosion-of-light portrait Pleasure Principle, though one can hardly tell.

  Personally, Surrealism is not my cup of fur. But in James' case the question does comes Up: How does it differ from sheer eccentricity? I think the difference is that Surrealism has purpose. It seeks to shock the viewer into a new way of seeing. Andre Breton wrote, "The marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, there is only the marvelous that is beautiful."

  James had Tilly's bare footprints woven into the stair carpet at West Dean. He had wooden moldings in the shape of towels hung out beneath the windows of Monkton House, his Surrealist country home. There too stood the original Dali sofa made in the shape of Mae West's lips, in addition to Dali's first lobster-telephone, designed for James, as were the Giacometti andirons. And mock-bamboo drainpipes, wooden palm trees, a boa constrictor lamp, pawmarks of Edward's Irish wolfhound on the stairs, a bathroom with walls of translucent alabaster and a medicine cabinet disguised as a bookcase. Surrealism is about Things. The Surrealism of Edward James, born into a world absolutely cluttered with expensive things and yearning to be free of their magnetism (when periodically overwhelmed by stuff that he accumulated, down to old matchboxes, he would simply have it all wrapped in bushels of tissue, packed in trunks and stored in a warehouse), has a blithe humor tinged with disdain that I sensed often in Las Pozas.

  It is impossible to write about the man without dropping names, for one of his great talents was meeting people. It helped to be a rich patron of the arts. While still at Oxford, he founded the James Press for the debut of John Betejeman's poems and his own. Later Betjeman, as British poet laureate, wrote a poem about his friend, "Surrounded by Bells", which appeared in the New Yorker: "The Sun that shines on Edward James / Shines also down on me...."

Edith Sitwell introduced him to Dylan Thomas, whom he sponsored for a while; through Dali he met Sigmund Freud and Steven Zweig; as a regular at Surrealist gatherings he knew Leonora Carrington, Paul Delvaux, Pavel Tchelitchew and others; he sublet a house in Rome to Garbo and Stokowski; he commissioned works by Stravinsky and Poulenc. During World War II he came to America, a visit which took him to Taos, New Mexico, where he met D. H. Lawrence and entourage, including Aldous Huxley. In 1940 Huxley became his ticket to the pantheistic crypto-Hindu Vedanta movement in Hollywood and super chic Ojai, where he met all sorts of people, from Krishnamurti, the great spiritual leader who would not lead, to the major movie stars and directors of the day (including, I note, that other builder of unlived in cities, Cecil B. DeMille) and friends of the great Surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel, and on beyond movies to Hollywood's expatriate writers, such as Thomas Mann, Somerset Maugham, Christopher Isherwood and Gerald Heard, and on beyond writers to psychiatrist Erich Fromm.

Then Fromm invited him to spend some time at the American colony in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The country delighted Edward James. It was everything that England wasn't: no censorious social critics, none of that upper-class British inhibition, a concept of time that made this habitual maunderer seem punctual, and best of all, a climate that allowed one to grow plants and animals in lush profusion. For his wealth had become a burden and a source of something close to paranoia : more and more, people were besieging him for money, wheedling and conniving and suggesting worthy projects. One French composer's wife noted in her diary, "Edward James has arrived with his Rolls-Royce, his Duesenberg and, let us hope, his checkbook."

All through his life he doled out money freely to painters and writers, Surrealist or not, even as he built clinics for poor nuns, bought houses in Hollywood and Malibu and land in Mexico, came to the financial rescue of Rodia's Watts Towers and supported platoons of hangers-on. No wonder he preferred animals and plants.

  Specifically, it was orchids that first brought him to Xilitla. It was by far the best place to grow them, he was told. He met his friend Plutarco Gastelum, part Yaqui Indian, part Spanish aristocrat and a swashbuckling former rancher, boxer, telegrapher and amateur architect, in a telegraph office in Cuernavaca, where Gastelum, taking James for a poorly dressed tourist complete with cheap silver watch chain, had directed him to the second-class bus stand.

   "Oh no, thank you," James replied politely, "I have my car." Whereupon his chauffeur drove up in a Lincoln Continental. In any case, James hired Gastelum as his manager, and later sent him and his wife, Marina, on a tour of Europe.

  In 1962 a once-in-a-lifetime frost killed James' orchids by the thousands. Crushed, he decided to recoup in concrete. He would build a city of flowers four stories high that no frost could ever kill. Meanwhile, Gastelum, inspired by Venice and Florence, had started to vastly expand his own house in the village of Xilitla. James came to live there with Plutarco and Marina, their daughters and their lively son Plutarcito, now known to one and all as "Kako." The two great structural follies rose at the same time, influenced by each other.

  "I think Uncle Edward was a little jealous of my father," Kako says. "Sometimes he copied ideas he saw here in our house." And no doubt Plutarco imitated his rival too: just inside the gate is a series of stepping stones in the shape of bare feet. The feet are splayed and misshapen like James' own feet, for according to his story he was nearly crippled in childhood by his mother's refusal to buy him big enough shoes.

  While James was alive, the Edward James Foundation, which he had set up in 1964 and which ran the West Dean College of art and antiques restoration, supported Las Pozas. But after his death, major support stopped. James had willed the property to Kako and his sisters. At one time, state officials expressed interest in buying Las Pozas and making it a state park. The locals already use the pools freely, as James had urged them to, and patronize a little cafe on the site. But decisions seem far off at the moment. For one thing, all those protruding steel rods will have to be expensively cut off and capped soon or the structures will disintegrate, an unthinkable tragedy in the mind of the young man who calls James "Uncle Edward."

Money to indulge every fancy

Early pictures of James show a slight, trim, neatly handsome man with deepset eyes and a firm chin, but Kako knew him as a bent old Robinson Crusoe, distinctly overweight, with a white beard and a stick, with gnarled feet and the money to do any wild, delightful thing that occurred to him, who lived in this house and talked of the grand, thrilling world outside. James died at 77 of a stroke on a return visit to Europe in 1984.

  Las Pozas, Kako, his father and a large cast of characters from James' life figure in the full-length documentary being produced by filmmaker Avery Danziger and his wife, Lenore, who have been working on it so long that they have had time to fall in love with Xilitla and have bought property there. Danziger expects to complete work next month. The film is called Edward James: Builder of Dreams and is destined for public television or a cable channel.

  It is remarkable for its priceless record of Las Pozas with James himself guiding the camera about the premises, talking a steady stream-and for the portrait it draws of this engaging, driven man. Friends from all over the world, from actress Ruth Ford to Leonora Carrington to James Bridges, describe James and his life, only to be topped by the master storyteller, James himself, with his deadly ear for accents. He recalls his stately, remote mother who, on her way to church, would ask a servant to send down one of the children from the nursery, ''whichever one will go best with my blue dress."

  He tells one interviewer, "I used to have to stay in bed long after the sun had risen, until my nanny got up and dressed me. The sun would rise early, especially in Scotland in August, and I would long to get up and play on the beach. So to amuse myself in bed, aged 6, I would turn the sheets into a great hall and the pillows into towers."

  His accent slips easily from hard-edged American to fluty upper-class British. He talks of his animals: the giant butterflies that he named after couturiers Dior, Schiaparelli and Chanel ("the rather dull one in good taste"), the three boas, the parrots, the kinkajous, the ocelots, the ducks and deer and peacocks, the generations of dogs and cats and the four baby crocodiles a friend gave him, one of which "used to sleep in my bed and crawl across and rest his muzzle on my shoulder."

  All of James' life, I came to understand, was a search for something to create. His novels never amounted to much, his poems were spangled with good lines but also derivative ones and downright bad ones. It was never enough to support other

artists or even to appear in their work. The animals had to be returned to the wild. The exotic flowers with which he hoped to brighten the world would die all too quickly. It was in Las Pozas that he found at last his true artistic medium.

  It was of heroic scale, it covered acres of jungle, it was a world. Its bare reinforcing rods yearned upward as if they would grow still more columns and platforms in the sky, expanding forever.

  Yet the strangest thing of all was the apartment that this unworldly accumulator of worldly things, this owner of land in England and America and Mexico, of houses from California to Scotland, built for himself in the leafy heart of his vast fantasy. The apartment has a bedroom, living room and porch on two stories. On one wall is scrawled in pencil his poem "This Shell": "My house grows like the chambered nautilus...."

  And it is tiny, a doll's tree house, the smallest possible shell where a man could hide. (You will find Xilitla, Hidalgo on 26 2-C in the Guia Roji Map of Mexico.)

The Object as Other in Modernism 

Friday, April 17, 2009 1:09:32 AM

Here's a great article, The Object as Other in Modernism, that explores some of the concepts Magritte presented in many of his paintings. Magritte's "This is not a pipe" explored representation for Magritte realized the in fact it was not a real pipe but a representation (painting). By placing objects in unusal and impossible contexts Magritte made the viewer confront the nature of the real object. We look at his paintings and begin to ask questions: "What are the characteristics of the object?"  "What is an apple?" "How can an apple wear a mask?"

The Object as Other in Modernism
Dr. Slobodanka Millicent Vladiv-Glover 2000

I. The Object in Modernism/Postmodernism
From the beginning of the 20th century, the European arts have been focused on the representation of the object, which eclipsed or de-centred the solipsistic subject of 19th century Realism. The 'bizarre', 'surrealist' object of Andre Breton reveals the 'marvellous' [1] in everyday reality. Giorgio de Chirico's cryptic objects in The Evil Genius of a King (1914) [2] reverberate with an uncanny presence. Magritte's The Object-Lesson (1947), [3] together with the later film script The Lesson of Objects (1960), establishes the principle that there is no necessary connection between things and something called 'reality' or even between things and their names. Marcel Duchamp's 'ready-made' object, such as his Bicycle Wheel (1913), or Fountain (1917) - actually a urinal turned upside down and signed [4] - was a declaration of equality between art and life. The artist is no longer the only privileged member of society, entrusted with the business of producing art. Art becomes 'artefact' and the artist becomes a craftsman in possession of a technique - a techne. [5] This proposition is not only echoed in Shklovsky's Formalist slogan 'art as technique', [6] but appears in numerous manifestations of Futurist and Constructivist art and film, which privilege the mechanical, man-made and mass-produced object.[7] This emphasis on the simple, constructed object raised to the status of art, banishes the notion of 'the beautiful', unique work of art from aesthetics. In its stead, the ugly and the formless become subjects of art and literature. For in the age of the technical reproducibility of the work of art or art object, [8] the ugly (ready-made, non-artistic) art object resembles nothing, it "never manages to raise itself to the level of the double of the image, of reproduction (of the typical or characteristic). It remains a case".[9] The ready-made, non-artistic object, which is deprived of beauty, is thus a non-generality. It is an irreducible particularity - a 'presence' and a force, which flees representation. As such, it is close to the 'real' but not reality, which is something unknown.[10] The 'real' is coeval with the Freudian 'uncanny'. It is something that escapes rational mental activity: it is beyond sense and sensibility. The 'real' is something which is by definition 'impossible'. [11] As such, it coincides with the id(das Es) or the Freudian Unconscious as an exteriority, which is at the opposite pole of subjectivity. [12]

The materiality and concreteness of the object represented in Surrealist and Constructivist art is ambivalent. Although apparently reduced to its basic materiality and uniqueness, the Surrealist object nevertheless remains a representation. It signifies. Even if it signifies 'nothing', it nevertheless signifies. Moreover, the object signifies in space and not in time. The object is always a spatial object. As a spatial object, the object is always 'present,' and yet it is 'nowhere'. This 'presence' is thus equivocal. For the object is a dual entity: it is an object in space and a representation. As representation, the object is refracted or specularized. In other words, in its doubling as an image, it loses something of its 'presence' to the process of signification, which relies on interpretation. In order to interpret an object, a perceiving subject has to 'refer' the object to a 'concept' or sign. This involves a deferral in time, which dislodges the object from its 'present' spatiality and relocates it on 'another scene', which is always the scene of 'absence'. This 'other scene' is the scene of the Unconscious, in which concepts or signs are generated in much the same way as dreams or thoughts, namely as wishes (hallucinations or day-dreams).[13] The Surrealist concrete and present object thus comes to signify its opposite: namely absence. The 'concrete' represented object is thus not itself but an invisible and uncanny 'absence', in which it originates as image or as second order reality. This is the reality of the Unconscious or of the uncanny, which are by definition unrepresentable. The Surrealist object, which at first approach appears to be a 'presence' in space, turns out to be a representation of 'absence' and as such a substitution for the 'unrepresentable'. To represent the 'unrepresentable', Surrealism constructed the metaphors of space and silence. These came to simulate 'states of affairs' [14] - a spatially conceived relational condition of possibility of all signification. Magritte's Lost Jockey (1940, 1942) or Paul Delvaux's Venus pictures (The Public Voice, 1948, The Night Train, 1947, Venus Asleep, 1944,Les Belles de Nuit, 1936) represent objects and inert figures in space, which materialize out of an 'invisible' but palpable absence, evoked 'visually', that is, synaesthetically, as silence.

The theme of the unrepresentable object is taken up in 'object' or 'thing' ('concrete') poetry, which emerged in some European literatures around WWII. [15] In his Study of Objects, [16] Zbigniew Herbert celebrates "the object which does not exist". This non-existent object is like 'unimaginable' space. For, paradoxically, "it has no hole/and is entirely open". In his poem The Orphaned Absence, [17] Vasko Popa addresses a self-procreating "abandoned abyss": "And you smell all over of absence/You have given birth to yourself". The abyss grows into the image of an "orphaned girl". This is the poet's absent muse, who, paradoxically, finds herself on the "path" of the poet's "word", which looks "[A]s if it leads to some sort of presence". This movement from 'absence' to 'presence' along the path of poetic speech or through the texture of the poet's verse is repeated in a poem by Aleksandar Ristovic, entitled Apple in a Restaurant:

I have an apple in my hand,
I have half an apple,
a mouthful,
in the end I don't even have that much.

This 'concrete' apple, which dissolves in space as if by prestidigitation, reappears as if by magic in the transparent form of words:

And a shimmering sentence like a scintillating thread
reaches my mouth straight from the entrails:
the apple is present once again
with its ruddiness, odour and transparent texture [18]

European prose of the early 20th century is similarly interested in the relationship of objects to absence/presence. In Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu (1922-31), the hero's life is represented through memory, which turns experience into alienation and absence. However, the fact that the hero can recall his 'absent' experience through narration, turns this 'absence' into a newly created presence. This new 'presence' is the virtual reality of logos, of language and of 'writing'. In Andrei Bely's equally significant Modernist novel Petersburg (1913-1916), the Cubist geometry of the pre-revolutionary city of St Petersburg becomes an abstract logical grid, in which fictional characters are deployed at oblique and obtuse angles of vision. The uncanny atmosphere of the setting, conjured up by concrete objects and concrete space, constitutes a universe of absences (the absent mother, the absent relationship between Ableukhov senior and Ableukhov junior, the absence of sense, the absence of love, the absence of necessity). This universe of absences becomes the context for the displaced and condensed stream-of-consciousness narratives of the cast of eccentric and alienated characters.

The interest in the object and its relation to the subject of consciousness has motivated modern psychoanalysis since Freud. The Freudian Unconscious is, in fact, defined by its relationship to a primary 'absent' [19] object, whose locus is in the 'id'('das Es'). [20] It is against this primary 'lost' object that the 'ego' (das Ich) comes to constitute itself as an ego, whose primary objective is to be 'recognized' (as a unique and particular - different - object) by other egos. 'Desire', which is desire for recognition, is thus bound up with the instituting structure of absence/presence, [21] which is the structure of pure difference. The Self, which constitutes itself as and through difference, relies solely on absence - the lost object or the impossible 'real' - as its foundation and support. [22]
Jacques Lacan, whose revision of Freud's concept of the Unconscious has taken psychoanalysis into the domain of structuralism and linguistics, operates with the concept of the Other to redefine the Self as a subject of language. The psychoanalytic Other is an abstract locus which overlaps with the Freudian concepts of the 'other scene' and the 'id'. Both the Other and Freud's ein anderer Schauplatz [23] are a-temporal and non-spatial substitutions for the 'unrepresentable' or the Unconscious. Both are theorized as abstract, structural categories, which position the equally 'abstract' (psychic) subject of consciousness in a grid of potential significations.

Freud operated with a topological model of the psyche, in which interacting systems of Perception-Consciousness, the Preconscious, Unconscious, Repression and 'listening/hearing' (the acoustics or 'listening cap' on Freud's 'onion' diagram) were mediating instances between the 'id' and its product, the 'ego'. [24] Lacan transformed this 'static' model into a dynamic structural model in his so-called 'schema L'(1966). [25] In Lacan's model, the subject of consciousness is 'split' from the outset (into the Je - as distinct from the ego - the moi) and situated in a complex relational field of imaginary identifications.[26] Put concisely (and at the risk of simplification), these relations constitute a quaternary structure, whose sole 'support' is a binary structure. The binary structure consists of an identification with a symbiotic 'other': the mother (the nurturer), the mother's breast and a host of 'objects', which are in themselves already substitutions for an unrepresentable 'lost' (or 'absent') object or originary 'lack'. This originary 'lack' is located in the 'real' of the subject's body and constitutes "a real moment of which no 'being' has memory, but to which each subject tries to give voice in words, images and symptoms". [27] The roots of the 'real' are in the "objects-cause-of-desire that give rise to the oral, anal, vocative and scopic partial drives".[28] These substitutory objects Lacan designates as 'objects of the small other' (objets petit a).[29]

The quaternary structure of Schema L traces the path of the subject's 'split' or 'doubling' as a result of his [30] entry into language and culture (the symbolic order). In the quaternary relationship, the subject 'identifies' with a 'big' (capital)Other , which represents the (Name of the) 'Father' or the 'Law' (of the signifier). 'Identification' here is synonymous with the 'fading' of the subject, his 'sliding' under the signifier, which in point of fact constitutes the 'field' of the Other. In this 'field' (and there is no other 'field'), the subject's 'discourse' comes to be constituted as the 'discourse of the Other'. The subject is thus forever 'absent' to himself, but metonymically 'chained' to his small other (objet petit a ), which becomes the elusive (repressed) 'cause' of the subject's desire.[31] The psychoanalytic subject is thus from the start a thoroughly 'fictitious' ('construed' or 'psychic') being, existing only in and through a network of imaginary relationships with imaginary ('psychic' [32] ) objects, and predicated on a lack-of-being (manque-a-etre).

The split subject of consciousness is thus, in part, a signifier (for him/herself) and for other subjects, and, in part, his own (repressed) signified. [33] The subject is thus "an object framed by itself". [34] The subject's 'repressed' is jouissance,[35] which surfaces as hysteria, voice and speech. Thus jouissance marks language as an 'excess', because language always conveys a 'sense' that is more (or less) than it would want to say (vouidrait dire). [36]

Because the subject is defined only in relation to 'an Other' and an 'Elsewhere', the mode of being for the subject of consciousness is alienation. That is, the subject exists as a self-instituting absence. Or, as Lacan has put it, "[D]esire, boredom, confinement, revolt, prayer, sleeplessness (...) and panic are there as evidence of the dimension of that Elsewhere, and to draw our attention to it (...) as permanent principles of collective organizations, outside which human life does not appear capable of maintaining itself for long". [37]

In sum, the most important moment in the constitution of the Lacanian 'split subject' of consciousness, the subject whose mode of existence is in various kinds of alienations (neuroses, psychoses, boredom etc.) is the moment of identification with an object. Even Freud, who at first played with the 'perception' of the 'external world' as an instituting moment for the relationship between the ego and the id, [38] quickly progressed to the object as that which allows the ego to differentiate itself from the id (or, in Lacan's terms, from the 'real'). This object is in the first instance the ego's own body: "The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but it is itself the projection of a surface". [39] In a recent study on Eros and culture, Alphonso Lingis argues that in primitive society man scarifies and mutilates his body and suffers pain as part of a process of 'inscription' of the ego's body, which allows the primitive to differentiate himself from the animal and natural world as a carrier of 'culture' or a creature of the 'fourth dimension'.[40]

The subject, whose identity is dependent on imaginary objects, thus constructs himself out of fantasy. This fantasy has the structure of 'demanding', wishing, wanting or desiring an object. The desired 'object' is not itself desired, but is the 'cause' of desire or 'the object of desire. It is itself not a real object but the subject’s small other (objet petit a), which is an imaginary structure. [41] This imaginary object is associated with a loss undergone by the subject in the process of the subject's transformation from "a narcissistic ego into a fully, maturely desiring subject". [42] Although essentially unrepresentable, the 'object small a' is associated with the erogenous zones of the body, "those parts of the body where the distinction between inside and outside is both marked and blurred by an anatomical border: ["]lips, ['] the enclosure of the teeth['], the rim of the anus, the tip of the penis, the vagina, the slit formed by the eyelids, even the horn-shaped aperture of the ear["] (E, 817/314-15)". [43] To this list of 'objects', representing the petit a, Lacan adds his own 'impossible' list: "the mamilla, faeces, the phallus (imaginary object), the urinary flow. (An unthinkable list, if one adds, as I do, the phoneme, the gaze, the voice - the nothing.)" [44] The subject forms an "almost symbiotic unity with such objects". [45] These 'objects', which are irreducible and unanalysable by virtue of lacking specularity or alterity, [46] are the support of fantasy, which itself is the 'stuff' of the de-centred ('repressed') 'I' (Je). Thus the subject's identity as subject is dependent on a 'stuffing', [47] which consists of non-specular and unrepresentable 'objects small a'. Such a notion of identity subverts the Cartesian subject of cogito. In the Lacanian subject, the unity and totality of cogito is ruptured by language. This rupture is coextensive with the Unconscious, which is, on the one hand, "structured like a language", [48] and, on the other, represents a 'hole' or a 'gap', which is the 'groundless' support of language and meaning, whose effect on the subject is [that of the] 'real'. [49]

The 'non-specular object' is thus a 'supposed' object whose properties cannot be brought into dialectical thinking. The non-specular 'objects small a' are not given to 'doubling'. That is why they are closest to the 'real' or to death, which is non-relational. The 'object a' is also non-relational. It is like a 'hole', it cannot combine with any other object. Hence it is not the same as Wittgenstein's 'simple object' or the Surrealist objects of Magritte, whose mode of existence is relational. However, the 'object small a' is the ultimate support for both the Wittgensteinian and the Surrealist object because the 'object small a' is the cause of the phantasy or desire out of which the signifier (represented by the Surrealist object) is born. The Surrealist object is thus a representation or a metaphor for the signifier and as such alludes to both the relational structure of the signifier and to its support, the uncanny (the 'real') or the objet petit a.

Speaking of the non-representability of the object small a, Lacan arrives at a definition of the formless, which is close to the representation of the 'informe ' of Georges Bataille and the trend of 'excremental' poetics in European culture form de Sade to the Surrealists and beyond. Thus Lacan says: "The petit a could be said to take a number of forms, with the qualification that in itself it has no form, but can only be thought of predominantly orally or shittily".[50]

The representation of the object in the European arts of the 20th century and in psychoanalytic thought, which has its roots in Hegel's phenomenology, displays a certain continuity and genealogical interconnectedness. What it means is that a new model of perception has come into being through the study of the object. This model looks at the most diverse historical phases of though production from the point of view of a single, even if diverse, paradigm. From its perspective, all historical phases are reducible to 'discourses'. Thus one might speak of the Hegelian phenomenological discourse, or of the Surrealist discourse, or the post-Structuralist discourse. These discourses are, however, not coextensive with 'periods', which might be closed off from one another to form a 'typology'. The centrality of the object in European thought of the past two hundred years, which has only become properly visible through the theoretical tools of post-structuralism in the past two or three decades, has undercut the idea of a linear view of cultural history. Consistent with the Hegelian idea of the end of History (as Progress) and the advent of Absolute Knowledge (which translates into the hegemony of the signifier), cultural texts have been brought into synchronic view in a level playing field, in which all of culture has become a giant treasure-trove of 'documents', which must, literally, be 'brought to light' or illuminated. The illumination of a cultural text is analogous to the 'highlighting' of an organ by means of an x-ray picture. The x-ray machine, in this case, is another text. Put somewhat simplistically, shining a text through another text is what constitutes the 'critical' practice of poststructuralism or 'deconstruction'. Another name given to this practice is 'archaeology'. In the words of Foucault, "history has altered its position in relation to the document: it has taken as its primary task, not the attempt to decide whether it is telling the truth or what is its expressive value, but to work on it from within and to develop it: history now organises the document, divides it up, distributes it, orders it, arranges it in levels, establishes series, distinguishes between what is relevant and what is not, discovers elements, defines unities, describes relations. The document, then, is no longer for history an inert material through which it tries to reconstitute what men have done or said, the events of which only the trace remains; history is now trying to define within the documentary material itself unities, totalities, series, relations." [51] In other words, if typologies are still a valid means of classifying cultural 'documents', they must be deployed from within the parameters of the 'document' and come to light as some sort of 'unconscious' structure or 'supplement' of the 'document'. The poststructuralist critical discourse, which encompasses this kind of 'archaeological' research, assigns cultural texts (of the past) to newly constructed (hence indeterminate and not pre-existing) continuities and totalities, which in this manner come to 'exist' in the present. Thus not only 20th century structuralism, but a host of other philosophical and critical traditions, from Descartes backwards to the beginning of Western civilization, to Plato and Aristotle, may be reappropriated and privileged in a new juxtaposition or relation. Through its deconstructive methods, poststructuralism thus reconfigures all of (Western) culture into Mallarme one book, [52] which is open to infinite new re-constructions and reinterpretations.

By contrast, to establish boundaries between cultural 'periods' within a typology - a 'history' of Russian literature or any other 'history' seen from 'outside' - is to demand a correspondence between the signifier (the cultural 'text') and the signified (what is assumed to underpin that text 'historically', in time and place). With our poststructuralist insights, we know that the nature of the sign is such that there can never be an identity of the sign and the thing. Concepts (signs), too, have no clearly delimited boundaries. For as we know from Wittgenstein, concepts are related to other concepts through 'family resemblances' and not through correspondence. [53] To reduce the features of a literary 'period' to common typological denominators without connecting them to the context of a subjective reception, is to do no more than label a dead exhibit. For the same reason, it is a misconception to credit the concept of 'postmodernism' with any typological features, although no doubt many features of texts of the 20th century could be found which one might identify as 'postmodern'. However, enumerating features of texts or of a collection of texts which one wanted to unite within the temporal boundaries of a 'period', would not fully describe what postmodernism stands for. For postmodernism is not a 'period' in European culture but a practice of 'reading' and generating cultural texts. As an exegetical practice, it can be applied to texts which have come into being at any given period over the last 2000 years and beyond. As a self-acknowledged critical practice, grounded in a special understanding of language and the structure of the sign, postmodernism is only a few decades old. It is a great-grandchild of the semiotic thought of the school of Pragmatism of C S Peirce, William James and John Dewey at the end of the 19th century; a grandchild of the Structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure of the early 1900s; and a child of the Structural anthropology of Claude Levi-Strauss of the 1940s. But such genealogies, although clearly visible, are of historical and not of methodological value. Similarly, to isolate 'canonical' fictional and critical texts of postmodernism, as is done by Larry McCaffrey, [54] is to undertake a giant classificatory task, in which practically all the texts produced between the 1960s and the 1980s must be included. While such an exercise is praiseworthy because it may provide a useful bibliographical tool for the student of postmodernism, it remains only a bibliographical guide and not a critical exegesis of illumination of 'the period'. This is simply because there is no such general concept as 'the period', which could meaningfully subsume all the particular features of the vast body of fictional, artistic and critical texts generated in this segment of time.

One might therefore be tempted to put the question: what, then, is the point of using this term 'postmodernism'? The term is necessary in the first place as a designation of 'difference'. When we speak of 'postmodernism', we know that we are not in the territory of the 'older' criticism, but in a 'different' critical and conceptual realm. This 'new' realm, which is not a fenced-off 'period', is very definitely bound up with a certain outlook, a certain practice of modelling reality self-consciously through discourse. Postmodernism is thus nothing more and nothing less than a model of discourse. As a model of discourse, it is not a model of 'a period', or of 'a historical segment', or of 'a phase of development'. As a model of discourse, it is a tool which is at the same time a practice. When one subscribes to the 'practices' of postmodernism - be they critical, artistic or organizational - one subscribes to the various discourses which feed the overall model of perception and representation of reality currently produced by and producing the 'spirit'(Hegel's Geist) of Western man. And not only 'Western' man. Anyone anywhere on the globe, whatever his or her home culture and 'native' language may be, is subscribing to the 'Western' postmodern model of discourse if the texts he or she is producing conform to the general perception of reality as discourse, whose instituting trace is pure difference, [55] which may come into representation as 'absence' or 'lack', as distinct from being determined by a point of view which separates itself off from that discourse and evaluates it from 'outside'. Thus a Chinghiz Aitmatov, writing in Khirgiz but translated into Russian and English, is not an 'Oriental' but a postmodern writer, using the Russian literary tradition to mainstream his thought about the cultural identity of his non-European people. Similarly, the Egyptian writer and Nobel Prize winner, Naguib Mahfouz, writing about the Arab poor of Cairo, is nevertheless a Western European postmodern writer, who himself locates his literary roots in the (Modernist) writing of Proust; while a writer like Israel's A B Yehoshua, whose language of writing is Hebrew, is hailed by reviewers of The Times, Times Literary Supplement and Sunday Times as an event in the literary canon of the English-speaking (Western) world.

There is, therefore, despite regional and linguistic differences, only one 'global' cultural paradigm in the 1990s. For the sake of convenience, let us call it the paradigm of 'Western' or 'European' culture. [56] It is the only cultural paradigm which is truly 'universal' in the Kantian sense of being operative for 'all' and hence of 'general validity'. [57] By virtue of having abandoned 'historicalness' as 'typology' (as distinct from true historicity), the analytic methods 'authorised' by this cultural paradigm know no supreme or single 'authority' or 'hierarchy', other than that imposed by the 'real' of language. They are therefore truly 'pluralist', in that they may be constituted by a host of critical 'practices', which make up a polyphony of discourses brought into equivalence and synchronicity.

Consistent with the argument about postmodernism as a method and not as a typology is the study of 20th century European literary and artistic texts on a continuum of Modernism/Postmodernism. These terms are not 'period' markers in any strict ('typological') sense. Our study of the representation of the object in texts which originated in the period of High Modernism (Surrealist 'texts'), in conjunction with a text or texts that originated in the 1960s, is an attempt to show the paradigmatic continuum of Modernism/Postmodernism in the sense that all the texts considered share a common model of perception, grounded in the structure of language and the logic of the signifier.

II. The Representation of the object as Other in Voznesensky's Oza
In dreams and in poetic or artistic discourse, the other as objet petit a comes into representation as a concrete, mundane and at the same time uncanny and displaced object. The representation of this other [58] becomes the overwhelming preoccupation of all European modern art and literature of the 20th century. It is manifest in Surrealism and its heirs, pop art and Conceptualism. It is evident in object (concrete) poetry and its successor genres. [59] It emerges in all forms of representation of the human being as a machine or as assimilated to a mechanical object (Surrealism, Constructivism, Futurist poetry), as well as in representations of pornography and violence in postmodern prose genres. [60]

Russian literature of the 1960s, which emerged in the wake of the post-Stalinist thaw in Russian culture, began its reassimilation of the 'lost' avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s with the reclamation of the object as a subject of artistic representation. The re-entry of the object into representation established the object as a new source of legitimisation of meaning and discourse. The object thus replaced the abstract, metaphysical or ideological 'concept' as the ground for the construction of social reality. In itself, this was an enormous perceptual shift in Soviet culture of the 1960s. One of the first works in Russian literature of the post-Stalinist era in which the object was to be radically privileged was Yuri Dombrovsky's novel The Keeper of Antiquities (published in Novy mir in 1964) and its companion The Department of Useless Objects (written in 1964-1975, published in Paris in 1978 and finally, posthumously, in Novy mir in 1988). [61] The 'archaeological' object in Dombrowksy's Ethnographic Museum in Alma Ata is opposed in its concreteness and 'truth' to the insanity of the human subjects, who become enslaved to a system of metaphysical concepts far removed from any human concreteness or reality. Thus the quest for the 'lost years of Russian history' and the reclamation of Russian Modernism begins in the 1960s with a return to the object as Man's most 'concrete' and 'real' Other.
Voznesensky's novella-poem Oza, first published in 1964, [62] privileges the object, whose positivity appears guaranteed by the fact that this object belongs to the realm of science. Scientific discourse, at first glance, is thus posited as the discourse which legitimates all perception. But as will become clear from our reading of the poem, this legitimating positivist discourse of nuclear physics is only a verbal gesture. It has no substance other than as a 'metaphor of science'. But as metaphor, the science of physics, which looms large in Voznesensky's poem, stands for something quite different than science proper.

The cyclotron, "an apparatus for the acceleration of charged atomic particles revolving in a magnetic field" (COD), looms as an object larger than life, which at first sight appears to threaten the fragile heroine of the poem, Zoya, the poet's beloved. However, as the poem unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that the anxiety the poet experiences in relation to this beloved woman does not emanate from any simple nuclear threat to the human race. Indeed, the anxiety, masked as fear for the beloved, is not anxiety at all but a dechirement, a tossing of the poet in search of the one thing which is unattainable for him: the beloved and the object, which, as will become clear, are intimately connected.

For the poet, this 'woman' is, to start with, a collective portrait of immortalized womanhood , whose historic carriers are 'Anna' (Donna Anna in Don Giovanni or Anna Karenina) and Beatrice (of Dante's Divine Comedy ). Thus Zoya, whose name read backwards or folded back on itself becomes Oza, is initially placed in the pantheon of metaphysical Beauty and sublimated or idealized. But this sublimation turns out to be of quite a different order than the idealization of Beauty in the classics, which are evoked as the poet's models for his heroine. Instead of being raised into their pantheon, Zoya, together with the classical heroines, is dragged down to earth, into a 'cage', in which she and they are objects of public spectacle or the gaze:

Immortality puts you behind bars;
Anna, Oza, and Beatrice - all are
Caged like animals while the public guffaws
And freely discusses their birthmarks. [63]

While the tone of the poet, in which this state of affairs is evoked, is one of lament, the fact that his heroine and muse is subject to the laws of the gaze is objectively part of the new structural laws of his own poetics. It is he, the poet, who is the master of the 'cage' in which his heroine is on display to the public gaze, to the 'drooling' of any Tom, Dick or Harry who can pour over the page on which the poem is inscribed while eating his beefsteak. For the bars on this 'cage' are the lines of the poem, through and by which his heroine acquires immortality: "Let us say farewell through the bars of these lines. . . "

Other features distinguish Oza from her classical predecessors. Unlike Anna Karenina (or Donna Anna) and Beatrice, Oza is never seen embodied. She is 'transparent':

Light flows through her body
To the tip of her little finger
Now she melts into thin air...

The reader, in fact, never sees Oza/Zoya as a complete picture or a portrait. She is never there as a body or a fully-fledged subject. She is only obliquely present, as an attitude of listening ("A woman stands by the cyclotron,/Graceful, fine-boned./She listens, magnetised."), or as a partial object ("she still has her bracelet on"). She is reduced to an ornament, an accessory, a dim figure standing by the larger-than-life 'scientific' object, the object par excellence: the cyclotron. She is mutable, elusive, neither absent nor present - the presence of an absence:

She is changing, changing;
Now she's with she's gone...

Oza/Zoya is thus not a traditional female heroine but comes close to being the zero-subject of postmodern literature. [64] 'She' fuses with the lines of the poem, of which she is not only the 'content' but the very inner core, out of which its lyric emerges. She is the invisible or transparent 'foundation stone' of the poem, a sacrifice to the structure of the poetic edifice. The poet 'kills' her ("I had hoped to make you live forever;/ instead, I have brought you only ruin."), in order to erect the poem out of Oza's absence, just as medieval stonemasons immured a young mother into the castle's foundation walls as an offering to the gods in South Slav folk legends. It is the poet's unremitting search for Oza which propels the poem to its inconclusive, open-ended ending. The poet's search never ends, his yearning for Oza/Zoya is never extinguished. Oza/Zoya is the poet's desire and this desire is the prime mover of his verse. The anxiety and the sense of threat displayed by the poet merely mask this desire. If Oza/Zoya were present, if she and the poet were united and allowed to consummate their love, there would be no poem. The quest for the heroine Oza/Zoya, the poet's desire, muse, beloved, is the raison d'tre for his artistic creation. The fundamental support, on which the poem rests, is just this: Oza - a name - as the metonymy of desire and absence. [65]

This foundation of the poem, which is grounded in absence, is captured in the strikingly sentimentalized image of a pair of shoes found in Canto VIII. Voznesensky's shoes, like so many pairs of empty shoes, which have figured so prominently since Van Gogh's famous A Pair of Old Shoes (1888), are a representation of the absent or 'zero' human subject. The fact that Voznesensky gushes over his shoes makes his 'sonnet' - which is thematically an echo of the 'object' or 'concrete poetry' of the Herbert and Popa type - close to the affectivity of Modernism. But like the poet's 'lament' about his beloved, this affectivity is not genuine. It is only a mask or gesture, on the whole incongruous with the 'coldness' of the 'scientific' object, which is the alter ego or metonymy of the poet's beloved. The same symbol of absence is portrayed by Andy Warhol in his Diamond Dust Shoes (1980). Warhol's representation of the object lacks affectivity and "mortifies the reified eye of the viewer," as put so evocatively by Jameson. Voznesensky's image does not quite rise to the challenge of postmodernism's parting with appearance in order to embrace the order of the 'real'. It does not complete the erection of the simulacrum as alternative reality. But in his basic thrust of privileging a 'dead' object (the cyclotron) as the central image of the poem, Voznesenky engages with postmodernism on the tenuous 'historical' boundary, at which it meets its not quite dialectical 'Other', residing in the 'sentimentality' of a socialist realism or the affectivity of the monumental-declamatory poetics of a Mayakovsky.

The poet as the subject, who experiences Oza/Zoya as his desire and his muse, is in fact not the creator of his lyrical heroine. The lyrical "I" of the poem is not the immediate originator of the images and action of the poem. Since the poem is framed as a 'diary,' found at a bedside-table in a hotel in Dubna, the atomic village near Moscow, the poet who speaks is not 'the author' of his poem. The poet is a mediator of 'someone else's thoughts', inscribed in this well-thumbed copy of the anonymous 'diary' found by chance. The poet who speaks is not even the first or only 'reader' of the 'diary', which is replete with banal marginalia and even contains interpolated texts, such as an excerpt of someone's science lecture notes.

What the 'diary' represents in the structure of Voznesensky's poetic text is memory, which has no particular origins and no boundaries. For the 'memory' of the 'diary' is appropriated by and merges with the 'memory' of the 'poet' who speaks. This memory of the lyrical "I", in turn, overlaps with scraps of memory of an anonymous female inner voice, wondering about the 'physicist Zoya' in Canto XII. But any of the 'previous' readers of the diary, whose physical 'traces' are left on its pages, are all potential proprietors of the diary's memory.

The subject of the diary's and the poet's memory is Oza/Zoya, but this does not make her into a 'human' subject. On the contrary, there is nothing 'human' about Oza/Zoya despite the poet's protestations and apparent efforts to 'save' her from destruction. Instead, Oza/Zoya is indestructible by virtue of the fact that she is not a human being but a memory trace. [66] The ultimate transformation of her name from an ordinary Russian girl's name, Zoya, into the coded name Oza, which is apotheosized at the end, in Canto XIV, is a reflection of this. The elusive Oza/Zoya, who undergoes several mutations in the course of the poem, ends in complete lucidity or transparency, "bright, like a light behind a lantern slide." 'She' - this memory trace named Oza, whose name is no longer the name of a woman but a cypher - comes and goes from the poet's life. 'She' cannot be marshalled by the poet's will, nor summoned by him. 'She' is completely indeterminate, without origins, boundaries or contours. She is an original objet petit a, which is unrepresentable except as the artificial monstrosity of the cyclotron. That is why 'she' is so intimately associated not with the 'poet' but with this machine, which can, in one of its variants, mass-produce people or their organs, which in turn become partial objects. Oza, one of whose masks is that of a 'woman physicist', is in fact the 'soul' of the cyclotron, the 'soul' of an object that has no soul. She is suffused with the energy of the cyclotron, which turns her into an energy or magnetic field:

A woman stands by a cyclotron,
Graceful, fine-boned.
She listens, magnetized.
Light flows through her body
To the tip of her little finger
As red as a wild strawberry.

This field, which Oza radiates in her symbiotic relationship with the larger-than-life object, the cyclotron, is the elusive and unrepresentable field of the unconscious. Unrepresentable except through dreams, images, memory traces and the entire process of thought production. Voznesensky's poem is the 'staging' of just such a thought production process or performance. The lyrical narrator of the poem, the lyrical "I" who speaks in the poem, does not experience life or love or nature in any immediate sense, but only mediately, at second remove, or as a reality of the second order. This is the reality of memory or the memory trace. That is why all the sequences in the poem, segmented into cantos, appear so fragmented and disconnected while at the same time displaying the plasticity of dream-images. That is also why these memory or 'dream' sequences are so heterogeneous in form: they vary in metric measure, style, intonation and even graphically, in typeface.

The 'heroine' of the diary, found by the 'poet', is thus not a woman but an object. This object is not 'of this world', but exists on the boundary between matter and non-matter. The allusions to quantum mechanics and to atomic particles which the cyclotron can isolate parallels this bi-polarity of the object on the level of 'scientific discourse' - in the poem actually a metaphor for the 'discourse of the Other' - which has the task of legitimating the poetic discourse. Oza, the cypher, the 'soul' of the cyclotron, is thus a heroine of this boundary zone, situated between heaven and earth, between the visible and the invisible, a zone without tangible form that is yet not form-less either in its incessant mutability. This zone is recognizable as the zone of the limit. [67] This limit is "the ontological void", [68] which has opened up in the wake of an 'event' of radical significance for Western philosophy, an 'event' described metaphorically, by Nietzsche and others, as 'the death of God'. Instead of 'God', conceived traditionally as a transcendental totality, modern humanity has 'sexuality' (Foucualt) or, as we would say with the Lacanian psychoanalyst, desire. It is the relationship between 'sexuality', read (in Foucault's seminal "A Preface to Transgression") as desire or 'lack', and the language spoken by the human subject, which now determines the latter's ontology, knowledge, truth or reality:

"Sexuality is only decisive for our culture as spoken, and to the degree it is spoken: not that it is our language which has been eroticized now for nearly two centuries. Rather, since de Sade and the death of God, the universe of language has absorbed our sexuality, denatured it, placed it in a void where it establishes its sovereignty and where it incessantly sets up as the Law the limits it transgresses". [69]

Oza/Zoya personifies this 'denatured' sexuality or desire, 'absorbed' by language. 'Desire' used in this psychoanalytic context has nothing to do with the physical union of two beings in a sexual relationship. 'Desire' is a concept which describes a psychic agency or energy field, which is the foundation of all human psychic and cultural production. A direct predecessor of the psychoanalytic concept of desire is the Schopenhauerian concept of a Will whose 'teleological' aim is death (the 'will to death'). The Freudian libido is also a related concept. However, this desire, although the mainspring of all human second-order production (that is, the production of thought), is groundless. That is, it is grounded in a void, in nothingness, in absence, in silence, in a split and in a lack. The reason for this is bound up with the nature of representation.

According to phenomenological theory of representation, which overlaps with the psychoanalytic theory of the subject, things we see manifest something that transcends both vision and the consciousness of the one who sees. This is, according to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the "transcendent invisible". [70] This invisible involves the operation of the gaze. Thus Mearleau-Ponty writes:
"What there is then are not things first identical with themselves, which would then offer themselves to the seer, nor is there a seer who is first empty and who, afterwards, would open himself to them - but something to which we could not be closer than by palpitating it with our look, things we could not dream of seeing 'all naked' because the gaze itself envelops them, clothes them with its flesh". [71] Just as desire is defined in terms of an Other, who is an absence ("desire is the desire of the Other"), so the gaze is defined as being 'outside' and 'anterior' the subject of consciousness : "I am looked at, that is to say, I am a picture". [72]
Thus the subject becomes 'a-given-to-be-seen',[73] which exists only in relation to an imagined gaze projected on the subject from outside. The gaze figures in Surrealist art as silence or absence. It is captured programmatically in Marcel Duchamp's last work, entitled ‰tant donn... [Given that...]. It is also echoed in Wittgenstein's Tractatus, in the opening proposition: "The world is all that is the case". [74] Transcribing this into a logicized version of desire, one might say that the world is all that can be constructed through desire and the gaze.

The gaze is thus part of the dialectic of the void or negativity, which is this newly discovered limit of human existence, located in human 'sexuality' or desire and circumscribed by the finitude of language. The "experience of the realized in language", [75] in a new distance which separates "a speaker from his words (in a diary, notebooks, poems, stories, meditations, or discourses intended for demonstration)". [76]

Such a separation of the lyrical "I" from his creation is just what obtains in Voznesenky's poem. This lyrical "I", the 'poet' who speaks in the poem, not only is not the 'author' of the 'diary' that is the source of his 'inner experience' [77]: the "I" that is the consciousness of the poem also has no stable identity or even presence. In Canto X, in the scene set in Moscow's Hotel Berlin, under the mirrored ceiling, the 'poet' attends a birthday party for his beloved. However, at the banquet table, there is an empty place, [78] right next to the birthday girl. This empty place is occupied by the poet, who is invisible during the entire episode. He seems to be located in another world (or at 'another scene'), in the world which is on the other side of the mirror on the ceiling. This gives the 'poet' a peculiar, Escheresque [79] perspective on the mundane world of the birthday party. The poet perceives it upside-down, as if in/from another dimension of reality or in reverse perspective . [80] The 'reverse perspective' characterises the mode of vision of the 'gaze', which is not the vision by the (organ of the) eye; hence not vision in the ordinary sense, but vision as a function of the 'scopic' drive, which is allied to desire as 'desire of the Other'. What the function of the 'gaze' invokes is: "You want to see? Well, take a look at this!" [81] The 'gaze' is thus the function which 'inscribes' the subject in a 'picture', makes of the subject a 'representation' for 'others', and hence an 'object' of the desire of the Other. In trying to attract the spectator to the image, the 'gaze', which produces the subject (and not vice versa) functions as 'lure'. Thus the ultimate aim of representation is seduction. This is also the poet’s design out of his virtual space of the mirror. This space is like a 'hole' or a 'trap', into which he pulls the virtual 'spectator' - the reader of his poem. Or rather, by inverting the perspective on the 'seen world' of the poem, the poet turns his virtual spectator into a peeping-tom, who must look at the picture presented to him through a hole in the ceiling.

The guests at the party are seen only from "obtuse" [82] angles, from the tops of their heads. They thus appear to be faceless, without subjective identities. They are like indeterminate objects in an indeterminate space. The 'two' worlds are inverted reflections of one another, analogous to the picture of an hourglass. They flow into one another and are separated or united by a limit: the limit which is the divide between the visible and the invisible. The 'poet' is placed in this double alienation of the limit or the 'gaze'. He is invisible to the birthday party guests, but he is also out of touch with himself, with his own body, which the dancing guests criss-cross with high-heel marks as 'he' lies prone in a phantasmic posture, flattened into a two-dimensional extension or surface on the dance-floor. Voznesenky's poet thus achieves with admirable accuracy an artistic representation of the 'gaze' in its "pulsatile, dazzling and spread out function", - the manner in which Lacan interprets it as figuring in Holbein's Ambassadors, in the enigmatic elongated non-object (which has been compared to a 'cuttlebone'), thrown in amongst the other 'gifts' but not resembling anything on earth. [83]
The poet's 'flat' body is literally transformed into its own object, which is inscribed by an impersonal 'writing', represented by the anonymous stylus-like high heels of the dancing couples who are 'there' but invisible for the reader. As surface and object, the poet's body thus comes close to the concept of the 'absent' or non-existent organ of the libido, which Lacan has called the "lamella". Thus both poet and muse form one identity albeit a metonymically 'split' one. They are 'united' through the objet petit a - the absent cause of desire. Both poet and muse are metonymic presences of this unrepresentable desire. They are thus metonymies of metonymies or metonymies of absence.

The poet, who places himself 'on the other side' of the limit (the mirror), thus disappears as a subject, only to reappear instantaneously as a function of the 'gaze', which structures his poem through word (concept) and image. The poem Oza thus becomes the poet's 'visible' representation or embodiment, just as earlier the lines of his verse had been evoked as the earthly and visible body ('cage') of his heroine Zoya.

The 'poet' himself, though, remains invisible. Like his beloved, 'he' is never present. He never faces the reader but only a 'thou' (ty), who is in the realm of his inner experience, his memory. The 'poet' (the lyrical "I" or Lacan's psychoanalytic Je ) thus fades inside the folds of the poem, its text, its imagery, its scenes, its structure and its language. This 'fading' of the poet is also thematised through the appearance of his various verbal doubles - the 'fashionable poet' (a self-parody of Voznesensky), who is invited by the Toastmaster to recite a paradox: "something close to life, something out of this world", followed by the 'dead drunk' poet. Both recite poems about Oza/Zoya, both seem to share in the quest for this mysterious 'woman' or to possess 'her' as a memory and as a mainspring for their poetry. These 'other' poets are thus metonymies of the 'poet'. They, too, have no identity except through their voice [84] and their verse. They might as well be invisible, just like the 'poet', who is invisible. The 'poet' and his 'doubles' thus become 'extensionless points', co-ordinated with the space which contains the plastic representations, the images and metaphors, which form their poems. These plastic representations have the quality of solidity, of concreteness and thus of objects. But this materiality and positivity has a non-positive and non-material source: language. Language is a product of the unconscious, of memory. Language is a memory trace, the product of deferral and difference. The memory trace has no ground except the absence and the silence of the Other.

Oza/Zoya, who is the absent heroine of the poem, is this Other. At her own birthday party, she appears to be ecstatic but it is an ecstasy that is simultaneously strange and alienating. Wrapped in cellophane paper, she looks like her own birthday present. She never speaks and is not endowed with knowledge: she is 'un-knowing'. She thus has all the attributes of an object. One might say, she is 'commodified'. [85] Bearing in mind her close affinity with the larger-than-life object of science - the cyclotron - one can say that Oza/Zoya is the original lost object, the objet petit a and cause of desire. Since Oza/Zoya is the poet's desire, out of which the entire poem is generated as a text, we can say that Oza/Zoya is the poet's phantasy out of which the thought of the poem is constituted.

Although Zoya/Oza is at the centre of the poem, the poet is never in a position to confront her face-to-face. Either she is present at her birthday party but the poet is 'absent', in another dimension (his place is empty). Or else, she is the poet's absent beloved, whom he searches for in time and space. Her attributes of femininity, vulnerability and beauty do not in any way concretise her. And although she is given a name by the poet - Zoya/Oza - ,her name is not generally known. This Zoya/Oza is, like Umberto Eco's title The Name of the Rose, unfinished, 'unsaid' to the end, unuttered. Even the Toastmaster at her birthday party does not know what name to attach to her. Thus Oza remains an aloof and elliptical presence, silent and 'ecstatically other' (vostorzhenno chuzhaia). She is the unrepresentable, the objet a, manifest in 'pure' form and given embodiment in Voznesenky's verse.


[1] Compare Haim N. Finkelstein, Surrealism and the Crisis of the Object (Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1979), 13 ff.

[2] Compare Four Modern Masters: De Chirico, Ernst, Magritte and Miro. (The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1981), 18-19, plate 3.

[3] Compare Magritte's La Leon de Choses[The Object-Lesson], in Magritte: Retrospective Loan Exhibition, Oct-Nov 1973, Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd, 97, plate 53. This picture, which represents a woman's torso cut up in three parts, each part fitting into a lower portion of the torso following the principle of a Matryoshka doll, is distinguished from a similar picture, entitled Delusion of Grandeur (1948) only by the protruding head and arms of a natural-size woman inside the Matryshka torso, with a white dove resting on her left hand. The film script, the full title of which is "Magritte, or, the Lesson of Objects" (A Luc de Heusch film, 1960, with Rene Magritte), has nothing to do with the 1947 picture of the woman coming out of the enlarged embedded torso. What they share is the principle of representation of the object, which in both cases eschews the 'normal' dimension of mimetic or realistic representation. In the case of the 1947 painting, the object (the torso, the body) transgresses all the viewer's expectations about how such an object relates to the dimension of space. In the film script, the object ( a 'real' piece of cheese and a painted piece of cheese) is offered to the viewer to 'try and eat it'. Through this impossible offer, Magritte re-states the main tenet of his Surrealist art, namely that in perception there is no boundary between 'reality' and representation. Compare "Magritte, or, the Lesson of Objects", in Harry Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, tr. by Richard Miller New York, 1977), 46. Compare also Suzi Gablik, Magritte, 2nd printing (London, 1971), 102.

[4] Compare Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp (New York, 1969), 291, plate 101 and 300, plate 111.

[5] The notion of art as 'technique' or as techne can best be understood in the context of Heidegger's definition, in which it is related to power and not to skill: "The power, the powerful, in which the action of the violent one moves, is the entire scope of the machination [Machenschaft], machanoen , entrusted to him. We do not take the word 'machination' in a disparaging sense. We have in mind something essential that is disclosed to us in the Greek word techne.Techne means neither art nor skill, to say nothing of technique in the modern sense. We translate techne by 'knowledge'. ...Knowledge means here not the result of mere observation concerning previously unknown data...Knowledge in the authentic sense of techne is the initial and persistent looking out beyond what is given at any time." Martin Heidegger,An Introduction to Metaphysics, tr. Ralph Manheim, Yale U P, 1987, 159 (first published by Yale 1959) [based on Heidegger's lecture notes from 1935]. Heidegger's reinterpretation of the Greek concept of techne as 'knowledge', 'power ' - amounts to a new poetics of art as an 'essent' of being, which provides a perfect philosophical backdrop for the Futurist/Surrealist poetics of 'defamiliarization' (Russian Futurists), transgression (Bataille, Duchamp) and violence (Artaud's 'theatre of cruelty'):"The work of art is a work not primarily because it is wrought [gewirkt ], made, but because it brings about the phenomenon in which the emerging power, physis, comes to shine [scheinen ]. It is through the work of art as essent of being that everything else that appears and is to be found is first confirmed and made accessible, explicable, and understandable as being or not being." Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, opt cit., 159. Compare also Derrida's use of the term techne as a synonym for 'art' or 'representation' in Jacques Derrida, "...That Dangerous Supplement..." , in Jacques Derrida,Of Grammatology, tr. G C Spivak, Johns Hopkins UP, 1976: 144.

[6] Compare Viktor Shklovsky, Iskusstvo kak priem[Art as Technique](1917), Poetika (Petrograd, 1919), 101-114. See also Victor Shklovsky, "Art as Technique," in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, ed. Lee T Lemon and Marion J Reis, U Nebraska P, 1965, 3-25.

[7] Compare, for example, Dziga Vertov's Constructivist cinema, which moves the factory conveyer-belt and the anonymous labouring individual to centre-stage, assimilating the factory product to a work of art and the anonymous working masses to producers of this new art form. Compare also Vladimir Tatlin's constructed (Constructivist) object, like the project for the Monument to the IIIrd International (1919-20). See Camilla Gray, The Russian Experiment in Art 1863-1922, (New York, 1962), 226, plate 203. See also Vlada Petric, Constructivism in Film: The Man with a Movie Camera - A Cinematic Analysis, (Cambridge, 1987).

[8] Compare Walter Benjamin's influential essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1936), in Walter Benjamin: Illuminations, Essays and Reflections, ed. and with intro. by Hannah Arendt (New York, 1969), 217-251. See also an excellent commentary on Benjamin's poetics of the reproducible art object by Joel Snyder, "Benjamin on Reproducibility and Aura: A Reading of 'The Work of Art in the Age of Technical Reproducibility'", in Benjamin:Philosophy, Aesthetics, History, ed. Gary Smith (Chicago and London, 1989), 158-174.

[9] These words belong to Denis Hollier, who discusses the relationship between the 'ethnographic' and the 'surreal' object as this difference was perceived by the Documents group of Georges Bataille and Michel Leiris in the 1930s. The ethnographer wanted to include all existing objects, no matter how trivial or formless, in the Museum of Man. The Surrealists of the Documents group gave the 'formless' a much more radical meaning. For Bataille, the "formless declassifies (declasse )". The 'formless' "destabilises the difference between object and world, between part and whole". The 'formless' is thus the ultimate particularity, the 'absolute exception,' the unique but without 'properties.' See Denis Hollier,"The Use-Value of the Impossible", October 60, 20.

[10] Magritte said, for instance: "Reality . . . Many people confidently speak of it as if they knew it. For me it is a word as devoid of meaning as, for example, the words God or matter". See Rene Magritte,"Magritte, or, the Lesson of Objects", op. cit., 46.

[11] Lacan says, for instance, that "since the opposite of the possible is certainly the real, we would be lead to define the real as the impossible". Jacques Lacan, Four Fundamental Concepts of Psych-Analysis , ed. by J-A. Miller, tr. by Alan Sheridan (New York, London, 1981), 167. The impossible is thus the 'unrepresentable', that which does not exist in the logical space of possibilities. The 'real' is, among other things, the 'genotext', defined by Julia Kristeva as the 'semiotic', pre-Oedipal, pre-Symbolic realm of rhythm and pure structure without a referent. Compare Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, (New York, 1984), 87.

[12] Compare Haim N. Finkelstein, pt. cit., 19, who points to the similarity between the Surrealists' exploration of the mind and of the 'unknown', and Freud's study of the Unconscious.

[13] Compare Sigmund Freud, Interpretation of Dreams, tr. by James Strachey, ed. by James Strachey, assisted by Alan Tyson, volume editor Angela Richards (Penguin, 1975), 114-115. Although Freud makes much of the manner in which dreams 'think' in images, while waking thought 'thinks' in verbal concepts, he nevertheless arrives at the conclusion that all thought, like all dreaming, is wish fulfilment: "Thought is after all nothing but a substitute for a hallucinatory wish". Interpretation of Dreams, 721.

[14] Compare Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, tr. D F Pears & B F McGuinness, Routledge, 1974 [First published in German 1921, in English 1922]: "What is the case - a fact - is the existence of states of affairs". [Tractatus , paragraph 2]'States of affairs' are thus a generalized logical space in which objects ('facts') can relate to each other in order to form a signifying 'grid'.

[15] Compare Slobodanka Vladiv-Glover, "Post-Modernism in Eastern Europe After WWII: Yugoslav, Polish and Russian Literatures",Australian Slavonic and East European Studies, vol. 5, no. 2 (1991), 123-143, in which I deal with the 'thing' poetry of the Polish poets Zbigniew Herbert, Miron Bialoszewski, Jerzy Zagorski, Czeslaw Milosz and the Yugoslav poets Vasko Popa and Aleksandar Ristovic. This poetic genre is certainly genealogically related to 'concrete poetry' of Modernism (like the zaum or 'trans-sense' poetry of the Russian Futurists and the chosiste poetry of the French avant-garde, triggered by Mallarme's 1897 piece Un coup de des. Compare the reference to this in Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes , U California P, 1994: 179, and Jay's note 98, citing Augusto de Campos' study of the French phenomenon: "Points - Periphery - Concrete Poetry", in Kostelanetz, ed., The Avant-Garde Tradition in Literature. Jay also quotes Lyotard's approving comments on Mallarme's devaluation of communication and privileging of the 'word' as 'thing' and 'absence': "When the word is made thing, it is not to copy a visible thing, but to render visible an invisible, lost thing: it gives form to the imaginary of which it speaks". Quoted in Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes, opt cit., 179.

[16] Zbigniew Herbert, Selected Poems, tr. by Czeslaw Milosz and Peter Dale Scott, with an intr. by A. Alvarez (Penguin Books, 1968), 104-7.

[17] Vasko Popa, Pesme (Belgrade, 1976), 178. The translation from the Serbo-Croat is my own.

[18] Aleksandar Ristovic, Ta poezija - pesem[That Poetry - Verses], (Belgrade, 1979). The translation from the Serbo-Croat is my own. Both Popa and Ristovic are now deceased.

[19] The constitutive quality of 'absence' can be observed in childhood anxieties, such as being afraid of the dark, of being alone, disliking strangers. "It would seem that the child's fear crystallises around an absence - that of the loved and longed for-person". Juliet Mitchell,Psychoanalysis and Feminism, Penguin, 1990: 81.

[20] Compare Sigmund Freud, "The Ego and the Id" (1923), in The Freud Reader, ed. by Peter Gay, (London, 1995), 628-658. See also: Sigmund Freud, Studienausgabe, Band III: Psychologie des Unbewussten, herausgg. von Alexander Mitscherlich, Angela Richards & James Strachey (Frankfurt-am-Main, 1982), 273-330.

[21] Freud captured the fundamental importance of the structure of difference in the constitution of the pre-adolescent individual when he observed his grandson at the fort-da game. The child played this game as a gestural and vocal reenactment of the 'loss' of its mother (who had to be absent from the child for significant periods) and a symbolic retrieval of the 'lost object' through a language game. Compare Jonathan Scott Lee's exposition of Freud's fort-da dialectic in his ,Jacques Lacan, opt. cit., 51-2.

[22] The relationship of the subject or Self to desire was first illuminated philosophically by Hegel in the sections on Lordship and Bondage of his Phenomenology of Spirit. Hegel's Master/Slave dialectic, in turn, was interpreted for Western intellectuals, who made up the Surrealist and Structuralist movements in the 1930s, by Alexander Kojeve, in his influential Sorbonne lectures on Hegel. Compare G.W.F. Hegel,Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), tr. by A.V. Miller, with analysis of text and foreword by J.N. Findlay (Oxford, New York, Toronto, Melbourne, 1977),"Lordship and Bondage", 111-119. Compare also Alexander Kojeve,Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit , assembled by Raymond Queneau, ed. By Allan Bloom, tr. By James H. Nichols, Jr., fifth printing (Ithaca and London, 1993), chapter 2, 31-71.

[23] Lacan, who re-appropriated Freud's term, explains:". . . Freud named the locus of the unconscious By a term that had struck him in Fechner (who, incidentally, is an experimentalist, and not the realist that our literary reference books suggest), namely, ein anderer Schauplatz, another scene; he makes use of it some twenty times in his early works." Jacques Lacan,Ecrits: A Selection , op. cit., 193.

[24] Compare Sigmund Freud, "The Ego and the Id", in The Freud Reader, op. cit., 636.

[25] Jacques Lacan, "On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis", in Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection, tr. By Alan Sheridan (New York, London, 1977), 179-221. Compare also the commentary By Andre Green, "The Logic of Lacan's objet (a) and Freudian Theory: Convergeneces and Questions", in Interpreting Lacan, eds. Joseph H. Smith, William Kerrigan (New Haven and London, 1983), 161-191.

[26] That the various 'phases' of psychic transformation of the subject are not strictly chronological categories has been stated time and again. The best way to eliminate the notion of progression in time when speaking of the manner in which the 'self-conscious' subject comes into being and into signification is to conceptualise the subject, with Lacan, in its three 'registers' - the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic, which interlock in a 'Borromean knot'. Compare Jacques Lacan, "Seminar of 21 January 1975", in Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and The Ecole Freudienne, ed. By Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose, tr. By Jacqueline Rose (London, 1983), 169. Compare also the elucidation of the Borromean knot By Jonathan Scott Lee,Jacques Lacan, (Amherst, Massachusetts, 1990), 196. Compare also Philippe Julien "An Imaginary with Consistency", in Philippe Julien,Jacques Lacan's Return to Freud: The Real, the Symbolic and the Imaginary, (New York and London, 1994), 172-184.

[27] Ellie Ragland, "An Overview of the Real",Reading Seminars I and II: Lacan's return to Freud, eds R Feldstein, B Fink, M Jaanus, SUNY Press, 1996: 195.

[28] Ellie Ragland, ibid., 195.

[29] Lacan defines the objet a in terms of a primary separation or splitting of the subject, which determines the subject's future existence in permanent alienation from himself: "Through the function of the objet a, the subject separates himself off, ceases to be linked to the vacillation of being, in the sense that it forms the essence of alienation." Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, op. cit., 258. In the French phrase objet petit a- the 'a' stands for the French word autre, meaning other .

[30] I am using the term 'subject' as a grammatical masculine form, and hence a generic term subsuming both the masculine and feminine genders.

[31] Lacan states that "the symptom is a desire is metonymy", in Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection, opt cit., 175. However, as he will concede elsewhere, the two basic mechanisms of language (metaphor and metonymy) are reciprocal constituents of the 'field of the signifier': the "one side" is "metonymy", "The other side is metaphor". Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection, opt. cit., 156. For metonymy is present in metaphor, like a repressed ( 'occulted') signifier, which goes 'under' (or 'fades') in the process of substitution, which is metaphor. For the "creative spark of metaphor does not spring from the presentation of two images, that is, of two signifiers equally actualized. It flashes between two signifiers one of which has taken the place of the other in the signifying chain, the occulted signifier remaining present through its (metonymic) connexion with the rest of the chain. One word for another: that is the formula for the metaphor..." By contrast and concomitantly, "it is in the word-to-word connexion that metonymy is based." Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection , opt. cit., 157, 156. Compare also Jonathan Scott Lee's lucid summary of the interaction of absence/presence in the relationship of metonymy to metaphor: "Metaphor's ability to make present something that is absent is the basis for language's ability to represent (in some sense) a reality that is external to and thus absent from language. This metaphoric power remains ultimately dependent on metonymy, however, reinforcing the centrality of the chain of signifiers for Lacan." Jonathan Scott Lee, Jacques Lacan, opt. cit., 56.

[32] Lacanian "things", as Maire Jaanus points out, "are psychic or mere traces of a real thing." Maire Jaanus, "The Demontage of the Drive", in Reading Seminar XI: Lacan's Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, ed. R Feldsein, B Fink, M Jaanus, SUNY Press, 1995, 125.

[33] Jonathan Scott Lee puts the 'divisions' of the subject somewhat differently: "The Lacanian subject is the uneasy coexistence of three distinct moments. There is, first of all, the real 'presence that is speaking to you', the speaking body, the subject of the actual act of enunciation. Secondly, there is the symbolic subject indicated By the je of the speaking body's discourse, the subject of the statement actually uttered. The third moment of the the imaginary moi constructed ...early in childhood to give the subject an identity that it really lacks." Jonathan Scott Lee, Jacques Lacan, opt. cit., 82.

[34] Ellie Ragland, "An Overview of the Real", in Reading Seminars I and II: Lacan's return to Freud, eds R Feldstein, B Fink, M Jaanus, SUNY Press, 1996: 195. I&II:195.

[35] The term jouissance is a key concept in Lacan's psychoanalysis. It designates an 'excess[ive]' [ in] enjoyment or pleasure, analogous to sexual orgasm, and having the effect of transporting the subject beyond the limits of the Self without actually killing him in the process, although jouissance is close to 'death' (as evidenced in the French synonym for orgasm, which is petite morte). Compare Ellie Ragland: "The subject lives in the blind spot between his objectal being and the language that seeks to represent this. Put another way, repression is repression of the fact that we are first and foremost creatures of jouissance." Ellie Ragland, in Reading Seminars I and II: Lacan's Return to Freud, eds R Feldstein, B Fink, M Janus, SUNY Press, 1996, 195.

[36] Ellie Ragland's interpretation of jouissance as an 'excess' bearing on language, and thus not on bodily (sexual) but on 'psychic' pleasure, carries, I think, the correct emphasis. Compare Ellie Ragland, "An Overview of the Real", Reading Seminars I and II: Lacan's Return to Freud, eds R Feldstein, B Fink, M Janus, SUNY Press, 1996, 195. Jonathan Scott Lee's elaboration of Lacanian jouissance in terms of male and female desire, and his distinction between 'phallic jouissance' and "jouissance proper" (what is this 'proper' jouissance?), based, it would seem, exclusively on Lacan's cryptic Seminar XX, Encore 1972-3, is over-determined through the questionable polarising of jouissance in relation to gender. Compare Jonathan Scott Lee,Jacques Lacan, opt. cit., 179.

[37] Jacques Lacan, "On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis", in Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection , tr. By Alan Sheridan (New York, London, 1977), 192.

[38] "Moreover, the ego seeks to bring the influence of the external world to bear upon the id and its tendencies, and endeavours to substitute the reality principle for the pleasure principle which reigns unrestricted in the id..." S. Freud, "The Ego and the Id", in The Freud Reader, op. cit., 635-6.

[39] Sigmund Freud, "The Ego and the Id", in The Freud Reader, opt. cit., 636-7.

[40] Alphonso Lingis, Excesses: Eros and Culture(Albany, 1983).

[41] Compare Elizabeth Grosz, A Feminist Introduction to Lacan, (Wellington, London, Boston, 1990), 72-74 and Jonathan Scott Lee, Jacques Lacan, op. cit., 142-143.

[42] Jonathan Scott Lee, Jacques Lacan, op. cit., 144.

[43] Jacques Lacan, quoted By Jonathan Scott Lee,Jacques Lacan, op. cit., 144 (reference to E, 817/315).

[44] Jacques Lacan, quoted By Jonathan Scott Lee,Jacques Lacan , op. cit., 144 (reference to E, 817/315). The "mamilla"(a variant of the "lamella") is an imaginary organ of the libido. Compare Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, opt. cit., 197: "The lamella is something extra-flat, which moves like the amoeba.(...) This lamella, this organ whose characteristic is not to exist, but which is nevertheless an the libido. It is the libido qua pure life instinct...immortal life, irrepressible life. It is precisely what is subtracted from the living being By virtue of the fact that it is subject to the cycle of sexed reproduction."

[45] Jonathan Scott Lee, Jacques Lacan, op. cit., 144.

[46] It is perhaps not clear why faeces, for instance, should have no 'specular image'. What is meant is not that faeces cannot be represented as an image, but that faeces and all the other 'objects a' are non-refracting. They cannot refract anything off their surface since they are pure 'surface', pure 'flatness' which cannot be imagined separating form itself (as in 'surface from surface' to make a 'third' or 'difference'). Similarly, a rim cannot be other than a rim, something between inside and outside, but neither; the slit of the eyelids and the aperture of the ear cannot be anything but 'slit' and 'aperture' - that is, an opening or a hole, a nothing or a lack. There is no such thing as a 'non-aperture', a 'non-rim', a 'non-surface' or a 'non-slit'.

[47] Compare Lacan's assertion that "the phantasy is really the 'stuff' of the "I" [Je] that is originally repressed." Quoted By Jonathan Scott Lee, Jacques Lacan, opt. cit., 144. Compare also Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection, opt. cit., 314.

[48] Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection, opt. cit., 234: "For interpretation is based on no assumption of divine archetypes, but on the fact that the unconscious is structured in the most radical way like a language..." Compare also Jonathan Scott Lee, Jacques Lacan, opt. cit., 46.

[49] "The real, the grimace of which is reality, the unconscious." Jonathan Scott Lee, Jacques Lacan, opt. cit., 136.

[50] Jacques Lacan, "Seminar of 21 January 1975", in Jacques Lacan & the Ecole Freudienne, opt. cit., 164.

[51] Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language [L'Archeologie du Savoir], 1969, tr. A M Sheridan Smith, Pantheon, 1972:7.

[52] As we know from various sources, "all his adult life Mallarme was haunted By the idea of the Book into which he was to put everything, for, he wrote, 'tout, au monde, existe pour aboutir a un livre'('everything, in the world, exists to end up in one book')." Stephan Mallarme,Mallarme: The Poems, bilingual ed., tr. with an introduction By Keith Bosley, Penguin, 13. Mallarme's poetics is privileged By postmodern critics like Foucault and Kristeva as representing a radical shift from 'classical' to 'modern' aesthetics.

[53] "The tendency to look for something in common to all the entities which we commonly subsume under a general term. - We are inclined to think that there must be something in common to all games, say, and that this common property is the justification for applying a general term 'game' to the various games; whereas games form a family the members of which have family likenesses. Some of them have the same nose, others the same eyebrows and others again the same way of walking; and these likenesses overlap. The idea of a general concept being a common property of its particular instances connects up with other primitive, too simple ideas of the structure of language." Ludwig Wittgenstein, Preliminary Studies for the "Philosophical Investigations", generally known as The Blue and the Brown Book, (Oxford, 1969), 17.

[54] Larry McCaffrey (ed.), Postmodern Fiction: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide, (Greenwood Press, New York, Westport, Connecticut, London, 1986), ix - xxviii.

[55] Even when Western thought steers a course away from difference as the ground of non-essentialism, as in Deleuze and Guattari's excursion into 'anti-Oedipus', it still remains 'inside' discourse as an arche-trace (arche - being a metaphor for the Unconscious), in which a subject determined By desire and the 'object petit a' is constituted within a 'rhizome' instead of the totality of the signifier. All attempts to eliminate 'difference' as a founding trace (as in some Feminist discourses) have not so far been successful in establishing a 'counter culture' of 'universal' (in the Kantian sense) validity: that is, a culture that would subsume all cultural phenomena that are 'other' than the counter-culture. For example, the gay counter-culture can be subsumed quite comfortably within the model of difference of non-gay discourses, but it does not itself offer a universal model (one that would apply to all who are non-gay). Thus a Pascal de Duve, writing his 'diary' Sida, Mon Amour! just before his death, evokes the 'real' of aids, but only as the 'real' within a structure of language - namely as metaphor. On the cultural modelling of anti-Oedipus compare my analysis of Liudmila Petrushevskaya's Three Girls in Blue elsewhere in this volume.

[56] Naturally, every culture has its 'Other' and, in so far as European culture has had various 'Others' over the centuries, Eduard Said is right to claim 'Orientalism' as its 'Other' of the 19th and early 20th century. However, as interesting as his study of the 'European' construction of the 'Oriental' may be (even if one finds it hard to imagine how one could study the construction of the 'Oriental' from a point of view outside European culture, unless one took the position of an extra-terrestrial or of God), it is not a study of 'otherness' as such, nor does it bring out any 'essential' features of the 'Oriental', which might transform the 'Oriental' from an 'object' into a 'subject' in his/her own right. To do that, Said would have had to study the original Oriental discourses, which are the 'documents' analysed By the Orientalists, who mediate the Oriental world for Said. This would involve using not a 'descriptive' method, but a non-excluding one of the type Foucault tries to implement in his study of 'madness from inside madness'. To study the Oriental as a 'subject' would involve letting the Oriental speak for himself, a practice introduced into post-Structuralist anthropology By Pierre Bourdieu and described in his Logic of Practice, (1st posthumous ed. 1972, French edition 1980, Polity Press 1990).

[57] For example, the Australian native Koorie people (generally known as the 'Australian Aborigines') do not belong to the 'Western' cultural paradigm of the 1990s with their nomadic and tribal culture, but they 'operate' through the democratic processes of 'European' Australia, which is in intention and principle a pluralist culture, to obtain recognition for their own cultural specificity. Whether it is acknowledged or not, their 'voice' is derived from the 'European' universal cultural paradigm. If it did not come from that source, it would not exist, since to communicate their needs otherwise (through an imagined 'tribal' or 'original' voice ) to the 'European' majority, which now populates the Australian continent, they would have to bring that majority to the level of their tribal, nomadic culture (make nearly 18 million people follow nomadic, tribal practices) - in other words,'universalise' the Aboriginal culture and turn it into a context for shared cultural practices and symbolic exchange.

[58] A classic representation of the Other appears in Albert Camus' first novel L'tranger (1942) and Jorge Luis Borges' story The Other (in The Book of Sand, tr. By N Thomas DiGiovanni, New York, 1977). Kafka's major novels are also, in the main, nightmare-like experiences of this absent and uncanny Other, represented By the metaphor of 'the castle' or 'the law'.

[59] In contemporary American poetry, the genre of object or concrete poetry is represented By the American-Serb Charles Simic, whose poetic roots are in the Belgrade Surrealist school, established By Disan Matic and inherited By the post-war Serbian poets, Vasko Popa and Aleksandar Ristovic. Compare Slobodanka Vladiv-Glover, "Vasko Popa's Thing Poetry and the American Poet Charles Simic", Serbian Studies (Journal of the North American Society for Serbian Studies), vol. 7, no 2 (Fall, 1993), 96-105.

[60] I have in mind, in particular, Anthony Burgess's Clockwork Orange (1962), Hubert Selby's Last Exit to Brooklyn(1957), the 'dirty realism' of American fiction represented in Granta 8 (1983) and Granta 19 (Fall, 1986) and D. M. Thomas's novel The White Hotel (1981). In Russian fiction, pornography and violence made their reappearance in works such as Leonid Gabyshev's novella Odlian, or the Air of Freedom [Odlian, ili vozdukh svobody ], in Alexander Kabakov's novella No Return [Nevozvrashchenets], reaching its apotheosis in Vladimir Sorokin's prose. It is interesting to note that the first American novel of 'artistic' pornography, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, proscribed in the USA in the 1950s, was a virtual 'transplant' of Russian Modernism onto American soil. In Lolita, Nabakov embodied the eroticism of his early (1917) Russian Modernist prose through a theme based on contemporary American life.

[61] Compare Willi Beitz , ed., Vom 'Tauwetter' zur Perestroika: Russische Literatur zwischen den fonfziger und neunziger Jahren, (Bern, 1994).

[62] Voznesensky's Oza appeared in Molodaia gvardia, no. 4, 1964 and in Literaturnaia gazeta , Oct 31, 1964.

[63] Andrei Voznesenky, "Oza", in Antiworlds and the Fifth Ace. A Bi-Lingual Edition, ed. P. Blake and M. Hayward, Oxford, 1968, p. 201.

[64] It was Roland Barthes who initially put forward the term "zero degree prose", in his first book of criticism Writing Degree Zero (1953), as a concept to describe prose that was "instrumental" and not necessarily the expression of a "content" of ideas or ideologies. From there the term spread to postmodern criticism and was applied to the subject or hero of such prose, who appeared untypical and unrepresentative or even un-representable. Compare Frederic Jameson, A Prison House of Language: A Critical Account of Structuralism and Russian Formalism, (Princeton, N.J., 1972) and especially his essay "Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism", New Left Review, no. 146 (Jul-Aug 1984), 53-93.

[65] 'Metonymy' is used here to designate the 'occulted presence' of something which is By definition an 'absence' or a 'lack' - namely desire.

[66] The "memory trace" (facilitation or Bahnung) is a concept used By Freud to designate the original inscription of 'concepts' or 'thoughts', which are then stored as unconscious thoughts. The memory trace is thus equivalent to a proto-sign or arche-signifier, generated in the unconscious. For Derrida, the memory trace translates into the concept of writing - the inscription that precedes speech. This anteriority of writing is due to the fact that it is in signs that the signifying process is instituted. Compare Jacques Derrida's elucidation and appropriation of Freud's concept in "Freud and the Scene of Writing", in Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, tr. By Alan Bass (London and Henley, 1978), 206.

[67] Compare Michel Foucault, "A Preface to Transgression", in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, ed. with an intro. By Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Cornell, Ithaca, 1977).

[68] Michel Foucault, "A Preface to Transgression", op. cit., p. 50.

[69] Michel Foucault, "A Preface to Transgression", op. cit., p. 50.

[70] Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, (Evanston, 1968), p. 131.

[71] Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, opt. cit., 131. Compare also Jonathan Scott Lee, Jacques Lacan, op. cit., 155-6.

[72] Lacan quoted By Jonathan Scott Lee, Jacques Lacan, op. cit., 157.

[73] Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, opt. cit., 74.

[74] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, op. cit., 5, paragraph 1.

[75] Michel Foucault, "A Preface to Transgression", op. cit., p. 51.

[76] Michel Foucault, "A Preface to Transgression", op. cit., p. 43.

[77] Georges Bataille, Inner Experience, tr. By Leslie Anne Boldt (New York, 1988). In this 1954 'Surrealist' theoretical-philosophical text, Bataille raises 'inner experience' to the status of the only truth criterion available to the human subject. This 'inner experience' is not 'sense-certainty', already deconstructed By Hegel. It is the experience of 'presence' and 'communication,' which is at the same time an 'excess' and an 'absence'. It is, ultimately, the experience of language.

[78] In Danilo Kis's postmodern novel Houglass(1972), the motif of 'an empty space' at a dining-room table is used to symbolise the play of absence in memory.

[79] Compare, for instance, M. C. Escher's print The Puddle , in which sky and earth appear inverted so that the sky is perceived from an 'impossible' space 'inside' the ground or the earth. The entire 'representation' is, moreover, structured like a 'gap'. This 'gap' is the 'real', the impossible or the unrepresentable.

[80] Pavel Florensky's 1919 study of 'reverse perspective' in the Russian icon ("Obratnaia perspektiva", in Sv. Pavel Florensky, Sobrabie sochinenii I: Stat'i po iskusstvu, por red. N A Struve, YMCA-Press, 1985: 117-192; also in an abridged English version, entitled "The Point", in Geo-Graffity, a publication of the Quantum Bureau of the Russian Academy of Sciences, vol. 1, no 1 [Jan 1993]:29-39) preempts Lacan's exposition on the gaze in "Anamorphosis", The Four Fundamental Concept of Psychoanalysis, opt. cit., 79-90."Anamorphosis" is a geometral structure which relies on "the inverted use of perspective". The introduction of 'geometral perspective' revolutionised European painting since the 16th century (Holbein, Durer) By introducing "the mapping of space, not sight". Following Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology, Lacan postulates a split between the (organ of the) eye and the (function of the)'gaze' as fundamental to the constitution of the subject of language. In Merleau-Ponty's essay "Cezanne's Doubt", in which the Modernist painter's manner of 'seeing' becomes a model of the psychoanalytic function of the 'gaze,' the latter emerges as something akin to the Freudian concept of 'Bahnung' or 'trace'. The 'gaze' therefore does not 'copy' reality, but engages in what in the world of insect life is referred to as 'mimicry'. Lacan makes reference to an article By Roger Caillois (evidently similar to Caillois' 1937 "Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia", October 31, 17-33), in which a small crustacean, known as caprella , who settles in the domain of 'other' minute animals-qua-plants, known as briozoaires, 'imitates' its environment not for purposes of survival, but in order to be "inscribed in the picture". Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, opt. cit., 99.

[81] Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, opt. cit., 101. Tatyana Nazarenko, the Russian Conceptualist painter, has a picture entitled "The Dance" (1980 -Taniets ), in which she emulates the 'gaze' as a vaudeville gesture (of, say, Gypsy Rose Lee's "Let Me Entertain You" type), performed By the artist and a girlfriend, dressed fetishistically, in jeans and calf-high cowboy boots, evoking the costume of the street girl, who 'lures' with her 'banal'('real') appearance.

[82] Compare Roland Barthes' concept of the 'third meaning' or 'obstude meaning', which he derived from the images in some of Eisenstein's stills of the silent film Ivan the Terrible. This 'third meaning' comes close to the concept of the 'unrepresentable' or the object small a. See Roland Barthes, Image, Music, Text, (Flamingo, 1984).

[83] Compare Jacques Lacan's analysis of Holbein's Ambassadors in "Anamorphosis", in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, opt. cit., 88-89.

[84] As was cited earlier, Lacan included the voice in his list of the 'objects small a', and in this way raised it to the status of the 'gaze'.

[85] Frederic Jameson sees 'commodification' as one of the salient characteristics of culture in the postmodern era. This feature is played on, in particular, in the work of the artist Christo, who has 'wrapped up' various monuments of European culture and who is about to wrap up the German Reichstag in Berlin in June 1997.


Magritte: Precursors- Joan Miro 

Thursday, April 16, 2009 8:48:31 PM

Magritte: Precursors- Joan Miró

When Rene Magritte moved to le Perreaux-sur-Marne on the outskirts of Paris in 1927 one of the first surrealists he spent time with was Joan Miro. They met at art dealer Camille Goeman's in the rue Tourlaque in Montremont almost every Thursday for lunch. Goeman's left Brussels for Paris only one year before Magritte. Magritte surely spent some time in Miro's studio which was located nearby. According to Sylvester: "'Magritte paid visits to Miro's studio- which would explain both of the important new developments in his work which came about in the autumn of 1927." One of the developments Sylvester is referring to is Magritte's use of words and images which started in 1927 after his exposure to Miro's work.

The Catalan Surrealist Joan Miro 1893-1983 was born to the families of a goldsmith and watchmaker, the young Miró was drawn towards the arts community that was gathering in Montparnasse and in 1920 moved to Paris, France. There, under the influence of the poets and writers, he developed his unique style: organic forms and flattened picture planes drawn with a sharp line.

For Miro painting was poetry and poetry, painting. Is is thus not surprising to find caligraphic words intermingling on their own accord with the objects and images in many of Miró's paintings. It is rumored that he on occasion deprived himself of sleep for days to paint the subliminal organisms and hallucinatory animalitos crawling the walls of his studio. However, as with the other Surrealists, images from dreams and the use of Automatism as a means for free-flowing design were used as creative tools.

Photo: This Is the Color of My Dreams, 1925
Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893–1983)
Oil on canvas; 38 x 51 in. (96.5 x 129.5 cm)
The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection, 2002 (2002.456.5)

Between 1924 and 1927, Miró created a group of paintings that are radically different from his earlier work. Known as peinture-poésie, these canvases, with broad and loosely brushed fields of color, are animated by just a few enigmatic signs. They are linked to his association, in the early 1920s, with the poets who later joined the Surrealist movement. The poets were the friends of his neighbor, the painter André Breton.

The present work, with its simple composition, is the most evocative of these works. Only three elements float on the white empty canvas: the word "Photo," the patch of blue, and the sentence "ceci est la couleur de mes rêves" (this is the color of my dreams). The black letters sit on faint, barely visible pencil lines that serve as guides for their sizes, as in a child's writing primer. When asked by the writer Georges Raillard about the meaning of the word "Photo," Miró said, "I started with the idea of a photo—I don't remember at all what photo it was. I neither did a collage nor a reproduction of it. I simply painted the word 'photo.'"

This painting had an illustrious chain of owners beginning with the poet Jacques Viot, who acted as the artist's first dealer in Paris.

Magritte: Table, Ocean, Fruit 1927

It's easy to see the connection of "Table, Ocean, Fruit," one of Magritte's early word and image paintings done in 1927, with Miro's 1925 "Photo: This Is the Color of My Dreams." What Magritte did was apply a twist- the words did not match the image of object.

Magritte also used forms to represent objects and people, perhaps also borrowed from Miro.

The Muscles of the Sky- 1927

Several of his paintings are clearly influenced by Miro.

The Quandary of Painting (Les embarras de la peinture) 1927

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