My Polar Disorder by Irreverent Sideshows
A stage performance created and directed by Anna Frisch
Performed by Laura Bradshaw, music written and performed by Chris Teckkam and Toby Jenkins
This should be allowed, this is not entertainment for kids, this is close to scandalous, this is innocence with a twist and a kick in the eye, this is tongue in cheek, this is not Disney land, this is real, this is raw, this is satyr and polemic, this is not a euphemism, this is not immoral, this is better than David Lynch, this is rock and pop in one hot **** dog, and eat your dummies Mr McCarthy, and swallow your floppy bunny Mrs Lucas, and who said pole dancing was a disgrace, and who said Mickey was a boy?
On the stage, a pet hero, saviour of our childhood dreams is not what it once appeared to be. Borders are crushed in an instant, illusions are shattered in one thrust of a hip, but then, who was this big eared four finger dude anyway? We have seen how Pop art lifted these cartoon characters from the safety of the bedside table and the family hour TV shows, enabling a conceptual transgression to operate through the re-manipulation of these contemporary symbols, either wise used by agents of the state, as sugar bates, filled with innuendos, for social consumption. Every cartoon character can turn into a designer celebrity as equally as celebrities can turn into rubber heroes. We are surrounded by them. Disney had a plan. He thought heaven on Earth yes, but as a subliminal propaganda tool directed at below 16, prior the age of consent. How to educate the masses at the root….Dingo, Mini, Donald duck, Mickey mouse…something like second life was burgeoning in the animation studios of the maestro. We are society. We demand indoctrination. We learn happily how to behave according to the code. What the code asserts is simple. Play it as we like it. But ‘we’ is not always ‘us’.
Some things are acceptable, they are what makes the world go round, and round…in circles without ever getting anywhere. Women are attached to the pole, not the May pole, that’s a men only club. They dance around the pole and milk the universe. They keep their breeches on, they do not shine the moon at a lascivious audience, they do not strip or bend over for a wanker to slip a small note between their breasts, even if some of them hide the equivalent in their bulging shirts. This funny creepy Mickey, better than just plain creepy, on the stage is a woman, but not like any other. She is not Jessica Rabbit or Betty Boop, she is not bionic woman, she is not even Joan of Arc. And we know Joan was also tied to a pole to be burnt, a necessary sacrifice from which she emerged as a saint, no longer of course a female in the flesh. This one though is a nightmare on beautiful legs, a psychological catastrophe digging a hole in the back of our mind. She will not be sacrificed, she is the interrogator. Her head is oversized, like Elephant man, and she is mute. But her distorted body speaks, it reflects the squalid fantasies of a public that refuses to remain passive, each eye a perpetrator, an invader, an insinuator. She embodies every thought that lurks back there, in the dark while she gesticulates sometimes gracefully around the phallic emblem, as if in a state of ecstatic adulation, in the scorching spotlight. What is already a caricature of sexuality is carried to its extreme, to a point at which even Clockwork Orange Alex would beg to abstain. Her voice is not missing; she is not as mute as we may wish her to be after all. Like Diamanda Gallas, her scream is filling our heads until we want to break our teeth on a steel rod. It is electric. She denies the crudity of violence in the soft curves of her motion as the guitars throw up a visceral crescendo. The sonic angles beat the air that surrounds her and sometimes, she hits back. That sound surges from the guts of Lilith, it does not let us off, it begins with her and ends with her. It is like an insidious knife turning in the wound. She seems encaged by this frenzy. But it is her anger, the fury carried silently by centuries of women. It sounds like someone is playing with a set of internal organs that have been stretched out of a living corpse. They pluck the womb of a female god.
She is wearing red high heels, goofy white gloves, red hot pants, too hot for Mickey, but she looks the part, dinky fury thing, full on seducer before an adulating crowd, in full control of the stage, of the musicians who like Orpheus have entered Hades to charm the serpents, and had hoped to have their eye lids sewn not to be tempted. She shines in the red spotlight with a killer smile. Too late, the game is out, she removes an item of clothing, then another, first, the white gloves. Then, the black jacket and the red shorts, the height of a fashion all cartoon Mice would die for if Pneuma had animated their limbs, fall inert at her feet. She strips to the skin, the blackness of the character’s asexual body crowned by scarlet g-strings, the matrix of cartoon Inferno, is revealed like a form of deceit. Her body is like a void; the black velvet leotard covers her in universal anonymity. A humanoid with the features of a famous rodent invites us to believe in a fantasy turned burlesque. The g-strings snap off, she pulled them off and we see nothing. What stands before us is a masterly subterfuge, all senses have been censored, a black out in the anti flesh of a myth. After what seemed like an eternity of one and a half minute, she moves straight into 4th gear. Only then does she break away from the 3 dimensional cartoon of her unsuspecting host. She takes the pole.
None of the American pet ‘heroes’ like Bugs Bunny, Supermouse, Underdog, Mickey mouse and his pals or even chilly Willy would transport or transform the thinking animal, but they were instrumental in the remodelling of the nascent contemporary imagination… as virtual tools remodel ancient design into ergonomic holograms. The naked mouse, the unidentified flashing object in the back of the 20th century mind, gets cracking, and the female hidden within destroys any hope of Hollywood redemption, unequivocally provocative in the safety of fake innocence.
Some say ‘woman’ was invented by men. Women too invent the ideal man. Perhaps the perfect being had to be challenged, and nature convened one night to snip the arm of one X and leave the others intact. War and love were thus borne out of a primeval Chromosome imperfection. Nevertheless, there were three XXXs, and the last remains the element of surprise. It is where art is conceived. It is where “my Polar Disorder” rises like a terrible phoenix. I think of Salome, of Hecate, of Medea, of woman scorned and betrayed, but also of a power to destroy beyond military carnage. An apocalypse of emotional proportion without a word.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2014
Duration of the show: less than 10 minutes
Drawings and paintings
Ania Sudol’s images are arresting to say the least.
We certainly perceive echoes of Surrealism and Dada, for example, look at Metamorphosis in Tribute to Kronenberg and Kafka. The tragi-comedy effect allies itself to a vicious circle or a cycle of endless futility. This is evoking the condition of a species on the brink of disaster, yet falling into repetition, the reproductive mode of blind progress. This stands out as a kind of montage, Sudol also using photography, since most of her work is based on craftsmanship, the application of the pencil, the brush, the pastel… an art that leads the memory right back to the caves, the manuscripts, the frescoes, the long history of painting. Hers is a contemporary response to the Renaissance in particular.
Tra Due Mundi, from Guerra e Pace, acrylic, pencil, paper, is a blood red incantation of a ghostly machine. It appears like a study of a quasi fleshed out canon although what emerges from its end is the element of surprise, impossible to name, dream like ectoplasm apparently containing fragments of shapeless faces. Most bizarrely, a clothesline with hanging garments has been stretched to create a diagonal separation between emptiness and the tool of war vomiting phantoms.
In Due Mundi, Head 6, a being not obviously female has been split, or is she floating in dark matter, entangled with her doppelgänger? It seems both are being consumed by the night that surrounds them, a brutal night, torn and spilt in the void. The pale blue streaks are like veins and nerves. Or do they show the watery grave slowly covering the form whose failure to rise to consciousness will drag below the horizon?
Due Mundi, Head 8 could have been created in Warhol’s Factory, it is humorous and the deep vivid blue is reminiscent of Ives Klein’s. This head looks at itself with an ironic smile thanks to the perfect positioning of both. Sudol turned what could have been a mere reflective trick into an ambiguous conversation and even a prelude to the kiss.
The satyre is an instrument of debate and Tonight I shall have a Kitten plays with ideas of art and life linguistics under the guise of a pictorial joke. Due Mundi, Head 3 is a great object , partly Medusa, hybrid, Hecate, but also a bibelot, an object of curiosity, and one could imagine this as the blue print of the Queen icon in an esoteric pack of cards.
In Due Mundi , Head 2, there is doubt, The Medusa rises from the deep enlaced with her mirror image, having been vanquished by the multiplied power of her own gaze, yet entranced, as Narcissus, by the perfect imitation of her abominable beauty. The green is almost that of oxidised Copper, the modelling is sensual; this feels as if it had been drawn from life.
The face with large glasses seen in Head 8 is now part of a Mother and Child image, Pace? Guerra e Pace. The embrace is questionable, the baby sliding uncomfortably, as if about to be broken by too much force or suffocated by the alien mother figure. It is not what we expect; instead of love, an uneasy sensation of violence leaks out. The central shape contains both mother and child as one entity, and it looks cut out of a cold sad chaotic environment.
Meat is expensive, Life is Cheap, hides in its apparent simplicity a dualistic alignment and a social comment. The egg is so egg like it invites the thought of taking a bite. The round object is more enigmatic and I suppose it must contain blood, but it may as well be ketchup. And this is the trick. Dead meat and ketchup symbolise fast cheap life, and careless consumerism. Sangue Profane from Guerra e Pace is clever and pertinent. The execution of this drawing as with most of Sudol’s works is precise but natural and fluid, but also offers a ruff edge, the weight of terrestrial physicality.
We know Titian was the inspiration but Sudol intends to subvert the original with what some would definitely say is a feminist coup in the guise of a giant tampon and an uncompromising title. This drawing is a good match for Susana and the Elders where the womanly figure in the foreground poses seductively while ugly men look on lasciviously.
Apparently, there is Strategy in every War could be an homage to Albrecht Durer and Marcel Duchamps in one stroke. A strange fusion, but it works miracles. A game board ravaged by nullity, and at the centre, the morbid presence of a fly drawn with mastery. Numbers and letters are placed along the four edges. It is as logical as it is absurd.
Io Pinguino also evokes mythology, the griffin, Lillith…We can detect Odilon Redon, the Pre-Raphaelites, like Gustave Moreau. This image is poetic, painterly, sombre and full of pathos. Sudol is not afraid of sampling, as a child of Postmodernism, although we have moved on into an undefined era.
She does it to strong effect as in the De Chirico pastiche picture called The uncertainty of Me where she adds elements and alters existing ones to create her personal conception of the piece used as well as the conception of herself.
La casa Io Cerco opens yet another doorway into the mind of the artist. This could be an allusion to Malpertuis, or the House of Usher. There is an eeriness and a nightmare feel to it. This belongs to the underworld, the shadows of the collective unconscious. The windows are scars, the stairways are ropes, the colonnades are catapillary tools of torture. The realism of the nocturnal mind lives here.
Guerra which has tones of Marc Chagall and Paul Klee with more gusto and Ad Infinitum, a sophisticated drawing approaching the loaded subject of diseased psychology, although very distinct in style, invite the viewer into a complex vision where all the rules have, are and will be broken.
The work is based on substance both sensual and intellectual. But it also shows a love of the art of drawing as seen in the series After Titian, Sacred and Profane Love for instance, where patience and attention, immersion and dedication allied to invention and opposition, must be preserved in order for each piece to breathe and speak out. The images created are in some cases satirical, or simply observational. They vary dramatically in style, yet the hand of this artist is gaining evident personality as we travel through each form invented for what we might call the necessity of spiritual pleasure. This artistic exploration looks into the dark corners of the psyche while never forgetting the beauty of nature.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2013
To view more work:
Curated by James Elphick of Guerrilla Zoo
Review by Pascal Ancel Bartholdi
Among many mobile sites of morbid origins, a crowd immersed itself in conversation, oblivious to the zoophical signs, the portrayals of decay and morosity, the vampiric outpourings, the dismembered cadavers, the distorted genitalia, the subtle torture instruments, the inquisitional glimpses. This was a plethora of Victorian oddities, the same objects we will find in the Last Tuesday Society, the Natural History Museum, or some other tiny shop hidden in the guts of a city eating its own past with ferocity. We wondered in these sanitised entrails… The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari without ever coming across the solution to a gothic puzzle that pursues the primitive imagination…can this severed hand move again? Can this coagulated blood flow once more?…can this man walk again despite a missing head? There is humour and there are humours. We are partly seduced by the sexual profligacy oozing out of this dissonant assemblage of innuendos to a past we wish for when the present seems so dull.
Miranda Benzies invites us to recall the Surrealists, Paul Delvaux, De Chirico, Max Ernst and even Dali.
Cedric Laquieze traps meticulous insects under four cloches, they may hold secrets from fantasy movies, nearby, a bird cage contains the skeleton of a sheep…or some other such animal…a winged skull, with spine still attached, a thermometer tied to its base and two fledglings, glistening with the arrested process of decomposition. Above, a cat fur, scalped only yesterday?…in its centre, a form resembling a vaginal caricature. Further, a figure, doll size, resembles the Mexican effigies of the departed…carried in farandoles during their celebration of death. The skeleton is covered in flowers. Incidentally , this brings back memories of an insurgent piece I felt compelled to create for an Easter show at Art school some years ago. I borrowed a life size skeleton and dressed it in an elegant silk indigo dress, placed a cigarette between its angular jaws, somehow emphasising its ironic smile, and adorned it with a long boa of colourful fake flowers. Needless to say absolute silence surrounded it, elevating me to the fulgurant role of the censored revolutionary voice, a great success I thought.
Louise Riley creates an optical illusion, a hologram image of Apple Test performer…Another piece looks like a luxurious piece of quilt, a thin-laced mattress that could turn into a flying carpet for Casanova and his concubines.
Martha Zmpounou shows deceptively two-dimensional works, multi media pieces gathering drawing, painting, and collage techniques. These are standing out, less obvious, more suggestive and beautiful. A second piece on paper attracts attention. Chaotic elements are intertwined as if a head, suggested, had exploded into enigmatic angular structures, drowned in reds and pinks, where the face of a woman can just be discerned.
Santiago Carouso also offers a more aesthetic experience with drawings, black and white, red and sepia man /angel/demon with a city on his head. Then the skull in profile, a gun protruding from it, the head made of composite instruments and tools in the manner of Giuseppe Arcimboldo. On the jacket of the dead, a man is drawn in many positions. He looks as if he is falling into nothing. The jacket is black, he is defined only by a white outline, like that of the victims around whom a chalk line marks the last spatial event of their life.
Andrew Hladky’s paintings are especially physical, having covered the surface with what a friend described as miniature vegetation used in architectural models for city planning…or I thought, also seen in model train landscaping. This was then painted over, irregularly, and seen from a distance looked like portions of the dark cosmos lit up here and there by unpredictable flashes of consciousness…black holes lurking in the vicinity of a nebulae, dying stars beginning to self combust… constellations on death row.
Chiho Iwase Has placed a rabbit head on a plinth. It is cut right below the bottom jaw, a violent separation from the voice box. Inside its erect ears, pink hands seem to wave at us, or try and send the sound back before it reaches the cochlea. It looks like a flesh cake, like the one presented to the last of four men in La Grande Bouffe, the epic gastronomic suicide movie by Marco Ferreri (1973). He chocks on the damp sugar breasts, an end some would envy. This belies a nuanced sordid sexuality.
Jazz Szu-Ying Chen has painted an 18th century aristocrat disfigured by surgical extraordinary cosmetics. One eye looks like a fungus form growing uncontrollably, a lazy eye on the other side trails nonchalantly. Flayed skins, as one saw in The Silence of the Lamb, are superimposed on the sinister face, stuck or sewn, no one can make it out. These layers of meat are added to non-organic innards, all of which resides neatly inside an antic frame, making this a sumptuous object of morbid devotion.
Craig La Rotonda, taking his name from the infamous haunt in Montparnasse in early 1900 where Susanne Valadon, then kiki and Simone de Beauvoir brushed elbows with Gauguin, Picasso, and Man Ray to name a few incandescent characters, has produced some kind of old masterpiece. The finish is varnished, certain areas show the subcutaneous layer, as if time had eroded the surface. It seems scrapped off quite brutally in fact. The central singular figure touches her own breast while the world darkens and falls to pieces.
Charlie Tuesday Gates’ s invention is particularly sinister. Another object of curiosity, this is a skeletal rabbit ‘crucified’ inside a violin case stuck on the arm of a missing instrument that acts as a spine, its legs are raised up as if in astonishment or fright. Above its head, the skull of another animal stares out glibly. The tail of the rabbit is tied to a series of strings to its own ribs thus transforming it into a macabre harp only a golem would dare pluck.
Nick Kushner’s sepia drawing of an octopus in black mount is an elegant interlude in this orgy of sardonicism.
Vort Man has embedded a thing in resin; it looks like a crustacean, a prop for the X Files or Dark skies.
Dan Hillier’s ink image of a woman with octopus tentacles instead of feet reminds us of antic visions of Hecate and the Medusa, luring the unstable mind of the wanderer into her lair. Some of his other drawings embody the age of surrealism. Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington, Paul Delvaux certainly are invoked.
Franco B(http://www.franko-b.com/)has immortalised a ferret holding a black bird in his mouth. Every thing is painted black including the plinth. A second piece, a white metal chair with thin white bars has become the last immutable resting place of a taxidermized starling.
Two little figures stand on wood structures that look like scaffolds sticking out of the wall. They are more like acrobats extracted from the movie about alien abduction, Communion by Philippe Mora (1989), Dan Gomer has made them faceless, white and plasticized. They look out of place in their synthetic smoothness.
Arcane Sin shows two paintings of women with black eyes that send me back to Klimpt.
But the real key to this show was laid bare with the body of the protagonist as it was hoisted up by the flesh and pierced, intruded upon, sodomised and paraded with the full consent of Mad Alan, http://madalan.co.uk/, fully tattooed and illuminated with twisted hubris, a rictus of febrile victory on his contorted face, whose genitals had also undergone a monstrous inflation giving us the deceptive impression of a congenital deformation. This may have been divulged prior to the show, but most of the audience would probably have been ignorant of the facts. We exposed ourselves to the violence of a sensory spectacle, no preconceptions fogging our vision as we stood and sat inundated with exhalations of hell and gore. I wondered what a Victorian public would have thought or felt, gorging on the vapid eccentricities of the circus master exhibiting the object of contempt. Then, this human being would have been fully exploited, kept in a cell, a dark corner under a thick flee ridden blanket, fed rotten beans, simmering in his own faeces, one of the vermin, but a delicacy to the warped eye of the morbidly curious gentry and the populace ready to spit in his grub, at his face, and mock the hanging beast, a weeping post and a scape goat…a ghost also, a shadow of our own mortified humanity. This was the prime cut of our languid sickness, manifesting itself in this agreed conjunction between the lunar decadence of the crowd and the lugubrious seduction of the victim. Antonin Artaud may have acknowledged this scene as a moderate example of the Theatre of Cruelty(http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/staffhome/siryan/academy/theatres/theatre%20of%20cruelty.htm)where sado-masochistic games are enacted repeatedly, mindlessly until a form of lobotomy wipes all means and the desired return to the most enslaving state of primitivism paradoxically liberates us from all inhibitions, the dictums of a subliminal religious order eating our souls with shame and fear. Disintegration, division, filtration, mortification, pulverisation, precipitation, purgation, reiteration, exaltation, fusion, resolution, projection, revivification, incorporation…the alchemical process occurs but the result escapes us. This man, risen like a lump of galvanized limbs, and with him, the spirit of rage and a desire to destroy all false idols, excites the entranced mass. Yet, an idol he himself has become for this brief moment, an event amongst many, in one of the most ferocious and alluring cities, London, the Babylonian hag in all her glory.
For we tilt in our age, on the edge of an iconoclasm, burning images of simulated beauty in our mind filled with idyllic promises the sacredness of which is soiled with the hollow sound of perfect symmetry. All ideas are merging and we need the blunt edge of erotic brutality to dismember the petty gods who led us, with the same full consent as Alan’s, up the garden path…although this garden is little more than a plastic lawn, and the up is down.
Or is this a variation on the theme of clandestine networking? What the urbanist Jane Jacobs(http://www.pps.org/reference/jjacobs-2/) called the phenomenon of “spillover” in the 1890s based on the concept emulated by economist Sir Alfred Marshall; how cities contained a resource of ideas ‘floating’ in the air; henceforth, as he believed, “if the crowd is right, people can pick up invaluable information through casual interactions in what is called a “dynamic externality”. (Humanities Magazine,November/December 2010, Why Paris by James Panero).
How contemporary is this?
The spectacle is over. We drift away from the crime scene; unsure of our feelings or certain we felt nothing; dressed to kill, killing time; we lick our lips, we sip our wine. The dead, the buried, the exhumed, all partake in this glimpse of a fruit; its name slips our mind, the juice dissolves on the tip of our tongue. We will pour into the streets again and share information.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
SUBTEXT with Héloise Bergman Coral Howard Kate Kotcheff
Three contemporary photographers exploring ‘surface’ image,
Presented for Photomonth 2012 at Doomed Gallery
Wednesday Oct 31st -Sunday Nov 4th
Review by Pascal Ancel Bartholdi
I was reading from my favorite book, Mysterium Coniunctionis when I came across a sentence that brought me right back to this somnolent circular film…the stop animation piece by Kate Kotcheff: The Hour Glass Machine. In the book, The Mound is described as a symbol of the ever growing womb of the matrix, and this sounds ambiguous, but the mound is in fact empty, yet alive with the promise of birth, of renewal, and becoming. Adjacent to the idea of a natural promontory lay the monumental construct of a civilisation, the Pyramid. This is no tomb but a catalyst. In effect, as has been established by certain anthropologists, the temple, were it be a Ziggurat in Mesopotamia or the”Khufu’s Pyramid”, this structure, is not a representation of a god but the incarnation of the deity on Earth, as the Koran in Islam. The Pyramid contains the flame of remembrance; it is also the fire itself. But these are dust hills, rising and decaying as the circus goes round indefinitely. And this is in itself reminiscent of memory as an auto destructive phenomenon. Some of us may see this shape as obviously female…a viewer mentioned the breast but the connotation in my view is too simplistic. This is a highly emotive metaphorical piece of work. Kate stumbled across this object as it was being thrown out and transformed it into a quasi spiritualistic ouija board. It is also inspired by Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray’s collaborative piece: Dust Breeding (Elevage de Poussiere) 1947, literally, photographed dust growth on the surface of The Bride Stripped bare by her Bachelors. In this aspect, the imagery is poetic and sinister. We are made aware it is dust, continuously piling up and disappearing; a vicious circle of cosmic entropy caught in the last stage of decomposition, the body fragmented into nonsensical particles, a random assembly of dead matter. It rises and falls like an ancient topography, glimpsed at briefly through a small window of opportunity, our vision controlled by the circular motion of earthly existence, while an enigmatic shape almost materialises in the inconstant centre, the distant face of the creator, Kate, remaining faceless in fact , in a state of blurred torpor, yet ‘insistently’ watching the viewer. But this is also the only visible part of the hour glass, the top half remaining celestial; an event beyond our reach. Time elapses and collapses on itself, balanced on the tip of an impossible revelation, the solution escapes us, as it never ceases to flow, to dissolve and to re-emerge, yet as unreadable as before, thus dragging our perception into the realm of the riddle right down to the root of mystical experience. But we are witnessing someone else’s, a motor-narrative under the illusion of motion. There is the emotion, hidden yet stretching out of the dance, trapped inside a blurred land our gaze is lured into by the hypnotic rotation. Kate had in some way constructed a type of Zeotrope, enclosing the terrible omen and the romantic escape into the belly of the great mother split by shifting mirrors. Is this in fact what it shows, the revolving axis of the tragic matrix, eating its own, and regurgitating an endless cycle of flesh, bone and gut, where the animating process has been ripped out of the core, and the mind inverts, desperate to find a host. The Zeotrope was the pre-figuration of cinema and heralded the age of “the persistence of vision” in ways not foreseen, but evident now in our era of multi-interactive visuality. This is surely a monument to the mother, but more so, to the implosive fragmentation of the self unable to absorb the violent supremacy of our new god, digital ego, no longer primarily concerned with biological survival but mutating into a web of social media strategy . Ironically, this piece feels like a super 8 movie; it carries the sense of loss, melancholia, nostalgia and a flicker of life tilting on the blade of dissolution. People stop, stare, and wonder. It is beautiful, there is no doubt, and I hesitate in pin pointing a message, since it is rather the vestige of a semi super natural sculpture.
On the left hang, as you enter, images of Barbie dolls by Coral Howard, in a state of rest, unrest, perhaps a state of joyous disturbance, so colourful and pretty…but they speak of social grooming, the bundle of indoctrination packed tight into the form of a perfected flexible female body, plasticized homogenic beauty, dead and unreal, yet pacifying the malleable mind of its innocent owner with surgical precision. This toy is a semiotic mine field, a social tool of control, the carrier of parasitical dogma. And millions of girls around the world possess the object of possession, unaware of its effect, its poisonous sting, its deafening noise, displacing the ability to cogitate and by Cartesian extension, the possibility of being.
To the right, a series of deep colour glossy portraits by Héloise Bergman, a beautiful collection showing each sitter in a pause some viewers could mistake for a provocation or a confrontation. What are they saying? The posture is indeed mostly frontal, unequivocal and almost arrogant in the sense that we are aware of an intention, an imposition of meaning. Smoke volutes escape from their mouth, and we may imagine a ghostly manifestation, the ephemeral sign of an etheric presence. The photographer leaves us in no limbo however. This is about smoking…(and what else?). Yet, the mea culpa stick fails to show up. It is an act in absentia, by proxy or derivative, because the object in question has become one of the most ridiculously controversial products on this planet, far above crack, alcohol, junk food or paedophiliac material. This object has served the associates of governmental powers very well, but has become counter productive. Firms all over are losing money because of this small pleasure, which has been with us for centuries. The agenda is simple, reverse the values, demonise the act by implying consequences abhorrent to the common mortal, such as the birth rate falling, or deformed babies, infertile men and women…all in the name of procreation, not in the name of hyper productivity. We want our workers in top notch. Killer sticks are a source of menace, our species has turned degenerate thanks to evil doom mongers and their nicotine lips, their toothless gob, their yellow fingers, their rotten breath, let us purify the human race and lynch a few Gitane and Camel lovers, and worst still, American Spirit skinner-ups; let us avenge the unborn, let us bring a smile on the face of our masters… But this photographer is not making a point, I am. The artist is a wonderful portraitist who dares revealing an oddity, a glitch in our certitudes. What does a smoker do when they inhale and exhale smoke? No more in fact than we, non smokers, when we inhale and exhale poisonous pollutants, radio-active fall outs, exhaust smoke while riding behind oblivious machines, drinking cumulative metals everyday, eating sugars, fats and unknown substances that have been labelled with such minuscule fonts we can t be bothered to decipher them, applying cosmetics tried out on harmless beasts, in the forced open eyes of living beings whose pain may not wash up so easily, cosmetics filled up with chemicals the long standing effect of which would make any mother cringe would she dare foresee the ravage it causes to the physiology of her child…because we are submerged with experimental drugs, fertilisers, pharmaceutics electronics…we primal Guiney pigs ready to forget our shame by accepting a few pathetic scape goats . So why not smokers…and what next? But this photographer is saying none of this. She is simply opening a debate. With whom? The decisions are cast in bulletproof glass. Who cares now if one more liberty has been snatched so long as the majority, another myth of unity, is comfortable enough?
There is much to ponder about, may be not so much time to have a right to our own thoughts.
This photographer was daring enough in the end to play a joke on the state as part of course of the ART performance, and none had the right or the cheek to complain. Whenever new comers rang a bell, the single smoker would light up while some of us held on to a fake fag, proud of the convincing subterfuge. I spotted renegades on numerous occasions all over Europe, spitting at the ban with gusto, enjoying that “Condor” moment behind the window, behind closed doors, in public and private spaces, in cars, corridors, cubicles, loos, offices, bars…with impunity, with a savage need to revolt against the dictates issued by a bunch of pedantic hypocrites. We may like the idea of being cared for by our politicians, but will find no compassion in them when heavy with chains, the majority crying pity will be looked upon with the most impassive sardonic smile by those who tricked the sheep into the slaughter house. I am not a smoker but I prefer passive smoking to passivity any day. And as for cinema backdated censorship, lets open a smokers’ cult cinema archive and rescue those jewels from the self-righteous philistines.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
Doomed: The Diamond In The Rough
Every now and then, you encounter a butterfly effect moment. This is where something small and seemingly insignificant happens, initiating a whole chain of events. All too often it would seem that the tornado at the end of the butterflies wings is one of sheer devastation, but sometimes you are fortunate enough to get caught up within a gust generated for greatness.
Tonight, after leaving a little club event where musical curators compile the soundtrack to your night as you sip your chosen alcoholic beverage and partake in some pizza fresh from the venue’s very own stone bake oven, I began to walk home with my friend Jordanne – one half of the ‘transounds‘ duo. As she braced herself against the wind and attempted to shelter us with an umbrella, she noticed an open doorway with a light on. She paused, peeked and went to carry on walking but I, being my usual curious self, silently slinked my way down the 4 numbered steps and with one final stride, the narrow entranceway opened up into a softly lit wide white room. Corners, edges and curves jutting out from all angles, a red sofa in the centre of the room and and four pairs of eyes staring up at me as I began to descend the steps onto floor level. I paused for a moment to look back and smile at Jordanne in response to her saying something along the lines of “don’t go too far” but it’s too late, I’m already intrigued and I’m already well on my way down the rabbit hole. A voice leaps out from the collective of eyes and welcomes me; Jordanne retracts her umbrella and follows me in, receiving a welcome of her own and just moments within this new space we are offered red wine and invited to look around.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, it’s Halloween season…we’ve just walked into a random building and accepted wine from a group of strangers, this is surely the beginning of some kind of dangerous situation that will make it to the news or perhaps the beginning of a horror movie. However, it was the beginning of a brilliant conclusion to an already lovely night.
For maybe an hour we stood and observed the pieces of art that adorned the walls around us, dissected them with our eyes, questioned them and each other as well as Pascal – featured artist AND curator of the exhibition – and just had very engaging general conversation with them all.
Pascal shared a lot of his personal philosophy with us, as well as the process he went through to achieve some very spectacular visuals. He had a couple pieces up that, to me, looked as if they wereDaguerreotypes due to the semi-mirror like quality to them and the very life-like capture which hung before me. Turns out I was wrong, the man is just very, very talented and was kind enough to stand and explain what he had actually done. Oh and, if anyone is unsure of what aDaguerreotype is, please go ahead google some information on them as they are definitely worth a look.
I will urge anyone local to the Dalston area to go to this gallery. The current exhibition – The Art Of Imperfection – is open until October 28th, at which point it will come down to make way for a new collection of work on the 31st so get in there while you can. There are very personal works on display here, and that is one of the things I loved about it. For me, art is always very personal. Anything you create will undoubtedly have a part of you in it and it is these fragments that we truly engage with as the consumer. Art is rarely as beautiful as when it is brutally honest, totally open and exposed because it is within this moment filled with chaos that we find so many people are able to relate to and connect with this single, otherwise random entity. One such piece stood out, quite literally, off to the back end of the room. At first glance I thought it was some odd merger of easel and birdhouse very shoddily constructed. Then I look up and see the picture hanging on the wall, of the wooden structure, which now makes me think oh wait…is it a watch tower? I could quite easily envision a sniper positioned up there about to inject a small yet powerful fragment of death into the airwaves. Pascal explained to me that this piece, for the artist who created it, was representative of the artists’ father and his relationship with him. His father played the role of a very strong man but actually, he was weak. Their relationship was weak. So this hunting lodge, a structure you would believe to be sturdy and steadfast, standing here looking all mangled deformed stood to speak of, for me, the fragility of relationships and life itself. I mean, I actually found myself purposefully keeping my distance from it even though I was drawn to it because it looked as though it would topple and fall apart from the slightest contact. It was fragile, asymmetrical, and imperfect…but that’s what made it perfect. That’s what made it relatable. I could connect with the shaky father-son relationship here because I have experienced that myself and that is one of the beautiful things about art. So much can be shared and said, often without anyone really knowing it’s there, but sometimes you are privileged enough to have the relevant information divulged to you and it just creates a whole new dimension to the experience.
I know I have a habit of making these very long, so I am going to bring this to an end now but seriously, go. Go and see this display of the brilliant convergence between order and disorder; this collation of work that, for me at least, spoke of the disestablishment of equilibrium and the beauty found within the creation or re-creation of a new equilibrium. The ‘Doomed Gallery’, situated deep within Ridley Road Market, is easily going to be one of those places to keep your eye on. The people there are friendly, the space is welcoming, and over the next few months there is going to be a lot to get involved in; such as an exhibition featuring the very beautiful Diana More, opening December 21st.
Besides, if these really are the Last Days, Judgement is coming and we are all doomed, you might as well enjoy everything while you can because no matter what happens, our equilibrium is about to be redefined.
I certainly will be frequenting the gallery and I hope to see you there at one point or another.
Check out the website: http://www.doomedgallery.com/
Like them on Facebook for more information:http://www.facebook.com/pages/Doomed-Gallery-Dalston/211111998946735
Or better still, just go there: 65-67 Ridley Road, E8 2NP
You won’t regret it. I leave you with this:
Diana and Actaeon painted by Titian
Of Actaeon caught in the Act
We are ushered in a scene of contained disorder. Who is the man pulling the thread of our gaze into the court of divine nudity? Actaeon leads us into a snare, yet, we watch on from the ivory tower of the future. His body does not incline forward, rather he already falters as if an unsuspected force was pushing his chest inward, emptying his lungs of precious air; he recedes in utter stupor, yet his expression has not reached a high pitch; it is a moment earlier than the full expression of despair. We can detect the line of his trajectory, a direct antipode to the figure of Diana.
As we approach from his angle, he appears vast and she, minuscule, her head even smaller, as if pulled into a far region , only reaching our field of vision as she enters the scene. She seems paradoxically to materialize out of an improbable recess of the cosmos, but her gaze belies the totality of her dominion in which she lets lose the hordes of her folly, a rage so venomous and so violent Actaeon, the hunter so divine in appearance, cannot assimilate the blow and hesitates, a gesture in arrest, arrested in the devastating uncertainty of his deed and in the fatal certainty of the consequence.
We cannot fail to notice irregularities only proper to the fabric of dreams. Behind him abides an absence of detail, a deep shadow, as if about to devour the flesh of a mortal. It is an omen, one of several half hidden on the stage set. And in this darkness glows the stream of a robe, like a rope, unfolding yet wrinkled, almost intestinal, evocation of an ectoplasmic sigh grown out of his heart linking his body to the edge of the frame, for he comes from the world of mortals where Titian himself resides, and paints his fated act of insolence with the ease of a god.
The shadow is indistinct, it rises behind him and covers the wall of an arch through which we are invited to contemplate a mountainous horizon, a landscape we may find inhospitable yet sublime, inhuman because of an inaccessible beauty, so blue in places it turns substance into vertigo, and thus is Diana.
Although her posture seems to reflect that of Actaeon, it defines the tensile momentum of a bow about to release its unfailing arrow. She is a predator reflecting her prey an instant before the assault, almost with a touch of sardonism, and an undeniable contempt for the puny life of Earthly beings who dare vex her. The roles have been reversed.
Titian painter of brutality, painter of bestiality, painter of rape and sacrifice paints man at the mercy of nature and in doing so unveils the deeper nature of his psyche, having unveiled the mystery of nature, unleashing a reality he, Actaeon, had not foreseen; and what of Titian ? What Actaeon sees is not Diana. He has no time, and we can suppose it is an impossibility since she does not spring from this plane of existence. This, Titian suggests in the instant where in one sweep, Diana has covered her presence with a cloak of invisibility, the veil falls upon her countenance as her eyes send a fatal jet of vitriol. She lets lose her bottomless anger, but we cannot follow the direction of her gaze, since she inhabits a realm light years away from the Earth. It seems to look inward, at a space undefined, yet filled with the absolute certainty of her judgement. Actaeon is immobilized; torpor has begun to coagulate the blood in his veins, for he is no longer truly of our world. His right foot almost touches the waters of an abyss where moribund exhalations seem to writhe, tortured by a shameless hunger for a life they will never possess. This is a river, yet it does not move. It stands still, a mirror in which no one can see themselves, lest they die, or only the faces of the demons they carry within them.
Even Actaeon’ s dog awaits, stunned, a command, still joined to his master, his jaws ready to open and shut, ready to snap, to grab, and to tear the body of the intruder. His nozzle lurks uncomfortably close to his unsuspecting owner, no longer a master but a designated target, a potentially volatile object to be seized upon and bled to death.
Actaeon has just flung the loose drapery to the side in a nonchalant and impatient way. The woman whose gaze coincides with his offers no rescue. But in her gaze, this man has found all the delights of love, devotion and abandon, for in this moment of tragic oblivion the nature of the soul reveals itself to him. She is the only nymph however who will not yield to our curiosity. She remains almost entirely dissimulated behind a pillar that separates Diana’s closest court, her privileged seat and attendant, from the rest of her flock. The deep redness of the velvet her sumptuous ass rests upon reminds us of the dark carmine rouge on the lips of a murderess; she Diana wears a particular tiara, a crescent moon of immense power only she can deploy and this bent force is reflected in strategic areas of the scene as a leitmotiv, creating a sense of tension on the edge of relief, the flux of a whirlpool Actaeon will not resist, let alone escape. His bow left there neglectfully is already covered and half consumed by the tendrils of vegetation, a cerebral extension of the godless.
His right foot hovers above the water, unaware as he is of the weightlessness of the firmament. Diana does not look at him, for he already belongs to the past, to the realm of spectres moving in the slow undercurrents of the river below.
She is outraged, not so much at the careless temerity and the bashful intrusion, but at his indifference to her. She covers her nudity as she affirms her sentence; her maid on the other hand carries the message. It is she who summons the hounds, she who condemns the hunter, she who commands his dogs to savage the predator. From the lobe of her ear hangs a red pearl, like a tear of blood. She is of an equivalent weight to Actaeon, an actor on the stage, yet attached by every fibre to her mistress, like a shadow made flesh. She reflects the shadow that follows Actaeon, but instead of a sinister embrace, her presence denotes an absolute devotion; instead of emptiness, we find corporeal warmth, instead of the cold chamber of infinite cosmos, we find the visceral heat of the Earth, the sensual and material voice of the goddess. Some of the nymphs are strangely distracted, absent minded, or simply bored. They do not pay heed to Actaeon as he stands almost insignificant, a technical incident. This torpor contrasts with the live wire glare of the maid and the polar opposite of the dual kill gaze, she who loves him.
At the feet of Diana, a small dog, a Chihuahua, the ancient companion of Toltec kings, barks dementedly. Yet, it will not cross over, for he is rooted to the ground of worship, the ground he rose from like a fungus. He drags an indistinguishable form behind him; the ghost of his rabid fury melts in the folds of the maid’s drapery, giving us the impression of an optical illusion. But it is undeniably there, and with it, the spirit of the hunt spreads to possess Actaeon’ s trusted hounds, and instils an increasing sense of languor in his motion.
While the liquid soil absorbs the unravelling narrative and exhales an irrevocable denouement, it also memorizes each instance of pain and each exhalation of despair. The paint, its thickness and layers, its nuances and accentuations encapsulates the life lost in that instant where we tip over irremediably from one universe into the next, as in a fall from a ledge we had believed to be solid, or having pushed our body against another, we realize too late this is nothing but a backdrop flapping open above a street 189 floors down. There is blood in each molecule, haemorrhaging from one mark to the next, coagulating in the shape of almost mundane objects.
The central point however is embodied in a single vessel. It seems to hold the entire vision in itself, the undisturbed transparency of its fullness, a symbol of immutability and serenity, at the heart of a tragedy. Actaeon has been lured, he is ensnared; all lines converge towards his material being and become entangled with his mass, arrested by formidable gravity. He is held captive, down to the ropes behind him, tightening, holding the curtain now raised and soon to fall again upon an ending, his ending.
We wish to see mere garments hanging from the branches above Diana, but they look increasingly like the sordid product of serial flaying, reminiscent of those painted by Michael Angelo in his Sistine Chapel Inferno. The lines are like those engraved in our palm, they remain half hidden in the structure of the scene. All point to action, there is no doubt, like arrows. He has been pacified, he is the target and forlorn. Yet, in that moment, his eyes err, wide open, open by love of an eternal kind.
A nymph, sited lower assesses Actaeon. We feel the sensual power of her gaze. She desires him as an object of curiosity. What would a man taste like that instant before perdition? And far away, the lullaby fairy glistens, white as the snows of long ago, behind the pillar on top of which a scull has been nailed, Actaeon’s fate, his place sealed in Diana’s kingdom, a trophy to her name. The nymph whose face turns away from him, in the wet shadow of the curtain, holds an object; it is a mirror. Is she a sibyl, an oracle? The mirror is turned in the direction of Actaeon but only reflects the blue robe of the nymph and the scintillating foam in the gushing of the stream as it hits the surface of the water below.
The antlers of the stag scull have become interlaced with bare branches; branches with no leaves, antlers with no life. On her head, Diana’s crescent moon is turned upward like a scythe. With it she cuts the aorta, she quarters the carcass, she severs the meat. At its centre, a black gem, like a third eye, where Egyptian Pharaohs were adorned with the head of a cobra, stares in nothingness, a pupil as dark as her heart. As we come closer, we know what hangs so pathetically from the tree; the skins of three deer, still soft, still wet with the blood of sacrifice. In all of this drama in suspension, the fountain pours quiet waters out into a deep unknown region of the heavens Diana reigns upon and the sculpted relief at its base shows tranquil putti playing, resting, holding an enigmatic leukocyte like disk, as they sit on a crescent barge. Most intriguing of all are the lines, once more, curved, like bones defining the shape of the arch. This element stands out as a reminder of the infallible law of destiny, the mathematical certainty of a fact once it has already happened and therefore once it has become a quantity rather than the property of ‘present’ defined by quality. They look like stylized lightening found in medieval manuscripts perhaps, lightening, root of certain death, root of a natural truth, of the certainty of death in the world of matter as it touches the numinous edge of a dream. And while human appearances act out the final act, the two dogs communicate a wordless verdict. At each pole of the scene, they enclose the path of Actaeon irreversibly.
Actaeon has encountered his fate in the polarized eclipse entangling him to the firmament momentum of two sisters, fallen under the singular spell of Nephthys, the tenebrous depth, he has stepped inside the night bark and awaits the veil that will erase all memory of his previous life…but for the ray of consciousness linking his soul to that of Isis. Diana and her shadow fuse with his own in a mortal coil, thus inducing his fall and the only way to rebirth. But there is no guaranty. Love weighs in the balance like a feather, the imponderable measure of the soul.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
Nothing will come of nothing speak Again
A theatrical collaborative project produced
by Charlotte Law and Jonny Liron
22d August 2012,Situation Room, Fountayn Road,London
“…is it not better abort than barren?…saying again”…so goes Samuel Beckett’s verse in his poem Cascando(1936). And here both Artaud and Cage would agree, or would they? ‘Barren’ can entail silence, it is a desert, a potential unfulfilled and some would affirm, impregnable. Nothing comes of nothing…other than chance. In Krapp’s last tape, by Samuel Beckett, the character is alienated from the public by a single device: a tape recorder to which he incessantly comes back. It is a destructive compulsion. A life backwards, as he rewinds, plays back and entraps himself in this shrinking loop. We listen to his monologue and still wonder, as we believe his person, did he make up the other one?
The audience is ushered into the situation room. We enter the stage unsuspectingly. The wheel of destiny has been stretched on the ground, a circle of signs, the I ching resounds through the playing field of a stage unsettled rather than set, a system of psychological divination that John cage included in his musicology. It seems to revolve in slow motion around the electric bulb, releasing a pattern that cannot be deciphered by the living. Above hangs a hammock made out of thick cardboard tubes that look like a flexible pan flute, it is held up by the counterbalancing weight of a red wheelbarrow. The object brings to my mind, by the tricky games of free association, the visual concepts concocted by William Burroughs, a symbol for the beat generation along Timothy Leary who wrote in the book The Psychedelic Experience “A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of space-time dimensions, and of the ego or identity.” On the hammock sits a figure bare chest, his face painted white. He is an oracle that suffers from unpredictable interferences, all of which compete for exposure. The man, a floating Pierrot speaks and forgets. He turns in his sleep, wakes, closes his eyes, glares at the light, asks a question “you write music or would you…” as he locks eye with me, and as suddenly disappears mentally from this impossible connection…” “touched by the emanation of emotional thought”. On each side of the central light, Charlotte Law has placed a curious object, each lame, useless, partially destroyed. One is a broken mirror. The other, the curvy leg of an antic table, reminds me of a similar piece of furniture that had been thrown on the street a few days prior to the event. I recalled one of its legs was missing. An uncanny coincidence.
‘Ghost in the Machine’ was a term first heard in 1949 coined by the philosopher Gilbert Ryle as a sarcastic reaction to fear of inhuman intrusions ravaging our inner life. This spectre would nevertheless become manifest in the re emergence, in the early 20th century of a certain Romanesque spirit, where organic movement, chimera and the grotesque, Saturnial impulses and the cult of harlequin would mount a resistance to “the age of mechanical reproduction”(Walter Benjamin) . Later in 1961, Marcel Duchamp who had been a fervent participator in this resistance concluded at a talk in Philadelphia:”The great artist of tomorrow will go underground.” This affirmation however could not be more relevant today. We should remember that art is alive within a great ecology of culture; a cyclical evolution also governs its migrations. Roland Barthes pointed out in his book Camera Lucida : ” History is hysterical: it is constituted only if we consider it, only if we look at it-and in order to look at it, we must be excluded from it. As a living soul, I am the very contrary of History, I am what belies it, destroys it for the sake of my own history.” This describes quite vehemently the condition of the ‘sub-cultural’ artist. And this condition was exemplified in the theatrical performance at the Situation Room.
”why do I write music” asks John Cage, and ‘sound’ is the answer, echoing the ‘voice of a scream’ Artaud was intent on liberating from the fashionable milieu of artistic etiquette. The protagonist here is using air, space and light to exorcise the silence in which the scream is perpetually sequestrated, distorted, extended in the realm of breath, struggling live against the extinction of vocal emotive power. Yet, Johnny Liron extracts the sound out of every motion, every limitation of motion. He vacillates precariously above an abyss, and his eyes stare as if into the enormity of the void, perhaps the dark liquids of an ancient ocean, the manifestation of a mind revolving on its own core of lead and sulphur, an alchemical instance. According to certain quantum theorists, we must now look at antique thoughts depicting the universe as a living coherent entity. According to the idea of ‘noetics'(to perceive with the mind) based on nous(mind), traces of a connection between present particles and the supposed big bang from which we all derive are beginning to be detected. It means, each molecule, each sub atomic particle knows every other, thus behaves non randomly but according to this ‘inner’ knowledge, this also implying an action or a thought will affect the very nature of the field we interact with and more specifically, will interact with distant objects with which we share a past. The actor and the public are interwoven in their intentions, anticipations and apprehensions.
In his floating ship wreck, the forlorn character of the play battles with his memory and the possibility of a future elsewhere. This future is metaphysical in the sense that as a potential value, its only access is through a process of imaginary recapitulation. Who is this man? Who or what has he been? Is he only a man, or is it a child, an exotic object? Why is he suspended in mid air ? Who is he talking to? To himself? The harsh lighting of a single bulb flays him when he approaches it like a moth, his face almost a blank, yet, reverberating an emotional narrative, to no one and every one. He swings, an ape above the lions, a grin of satisfaction, then as suddenly, his eyes become obscure pools, he trembles, he pivots, and belongs for a moment to yet another dimension. But he is a prisoner.
Like Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola, he knows the shape of his destiny in the arrival and mission of his assassin (the shadow)(or the public eye), and wills its accomplishment. The hero is not a hero; he seems to reign from the depth of a cave, his mind impregnating the walls of his enclosure. When he finally addresses the Captain whose motives begin to elude him, Kurtz engages us all in his monologue, from the edge of a world inhabited by no one, that is, by a ghost who despairs in finding peace. For our anti hero, the voice of Artaud’s words and the spatial expression of Cage, mortality is not an issue, but as in the case of Kurtz, his soul is the goal. The expression of this soul is problematic since the soul is associated to the moon and nature, an element of revolt and a crater of insanity. “Space action, time action”, caught in the phrase, uncertain of the difference between time and space…because there seems to be none after all. The tempo brakes into a cataract fall, the monologue turns into a dialogue into which we are implicated, still we remain excluded. In this epitome of insanity, we discern the product then of metaphysical solipsism, a state in which the sole existing principle is or resides in the self outside of which no world is coherent and all worlds by logical extension become a manifestation of the self, although this does not guaranty it will resemble us. This insanity is human; furthermore, we cannot be human without it. “the void was already within me”, “I no longer want to be one of the deluded”, “perhaps we would say we are going mad-we are certainly aimless”…”Schoenberg’s method is analogous to a society in which the emphasis is on the group and the integration of the individual in the group”…the contradiction of those phrases reveal the nature of the paradox in which human society immobilises the spirit of individual revolution. We are consumed by the comfort of anonymity, by the uniformity of our habitual environments while we hunger for freedom, for distinction and solitary fulfilment.
The character is also close to Zarathustra from Thus Spoke Zarathustra A Book for All and None by Friedrich Nietzsche. The ascetic delivers truth from his isolated sphere, and denies morality as much as the cause of it by claiming “god is dead”. He represents the anamnesis aspect in the sense of the decent of the soul to earth but also denotes a remembrance that reaches beyond perceptual knowledge, pre birth, the birth into reality. Here, truth as a living form is placed above dogma and idealism, a comparison Nietzsche would however probably abhor since it also suggests the body as a guilty element to be purified by reason and quintessence. “Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.” Nonetheless, katharsis through sensory memory lies at the heart of Artaud’s theatre and animates the theoretical core of Cage’s work in so far as it pushes the boundaries of experience as an epiphanic spectacle, finding and cleansing a channel between the outer realm of the senses and the source of emotion. The Pierrot, the foul summons his incarnations from his febrile throne of straws. The Naked god, Ubu Roi stands up and hangs, his head up side down, in the corner of the universe, like the lost demiurge painted by Hieronymus Bosch in his panel painting the Third Day of Creation. Ubu sprang to life as a mere puppet, and the actor seems to lose control of his body as if a puppeteer had left the strings dangling in a moment of oblivion to remember abruptly and lift the limbs into action in a disorderly manner. It is burlesque and Ubu is present in as far as one must confront the absurdity of his egocentric procrastinations and his absolute autistic containment.
We arrive thus at a point in the play-performance where the actor has integrated an intricate series of characters all of which emerge and dissolve with the tide of his enactment which is re enacted several times in one show. There is therefore no focus, no designated personification; we are presented with multiple personality disorder where one character will subside below the weight of another with no recollection…and we watch the nightmare unfold, although our protagonist unites all of them in his temporal peregrination with maturity and grace. He swims between them, disentangles them, dissects them, immolates them. He is all of them as he recovers from an epileptic feat, or as he drowns into slumber, as he stands upright in empty space or as he lights up, and we believe him as we watch each one unravel their incomplete story… “When I got there I explained it had all been a mistake”…And there, Jonny Liron adds in a way and at a particular pace I found particularly moving, just once, “you don’t believe me”, not really posed as a question but a terrible revelation of his status, of the entire social structure in the grip of which his personal version of the story had lost all credibility and meant nothing.
A body without organ in a Thousand Plateaux by Deleuze and Guattari presents the ‘corporeal’ as a series of phases or a phrase that will continue to extend beyond the condition of oppression it describes; a string where bids have been collated some sealed by heat and cumulating of dirt. This body is what Artaud would call the scatological form of primal being, along the ideas formulated by Alfred Jarry in Ubu Roi. Artaud also asks “of certain terrible microbes-which are-other human bodies. Where are they?” As if any eye could locate them, these figments of atrophied conscience. In The Theatre of Cruelty Artaud states: “But the demon’s world is absent. It will never meet with evidence. The best way to cure oneself of it and destroy it-is to complete the construction of reality. For reality is not completed, is not constructed yet”. Cage thus meets Artaud on the stage itself, not as a musician any more than a choreographer, but as a personal vindication of the voice in action, the voice of dissent, dissent against breathlessness, against predictive melody, against the arbitrary censorship of the emotional modulation of being. Both Cage and Artaud emphasise the percussive element, the heart beat of the stage although Cage’s perspective is rather mathematical and textual in its initial stage, a possible direction towards scientific mirage. They exchange places, they call for sweat, gut, natural gesture, non linguistic methods. They appear to grow from the same stump, a stump rejected by conventions. Yet, the gap is vast between them. A discrepancy Johnny from his perch will not attempt to correct. No reconciliation is possible between the rational inventor and the visionary. Who is Johnny’s character? A construct, a composite creature whose existence is fictional but whose presence is real.
This reality is not repeatable; it will live on in our memory which will act, if I may say, as a new stage in the theatre activated by emotional content, the dynamics of a mobile composition. In his invented cloud, the actor defies gravity, he embodies Anti-gravity, angel and demon at once, he materialises the idea of the push-pull/ Beat/ trance/ mobility/ audience/ act/ entanglement/ gesture/ skin/ motion/ alchemical division, and the disintegration of role play/ captive audience. The stage and the arena around the stage are entered through the act into a form of unconscious dialogue. This was what Guy Debord described thus: “to wake up the spectator who has been drugged by spectacular images…through radical action in the form of the construction of situations…situations that bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics, art”. And how Bertolt Brecht described his theatrical politics: “…a living spectacle…artistic, where everything, from the written creation to the accomplished representation are conditioned by the necessity to place the spectator in a state of freedom…in relation to the theatrical act”.
Lastly, we may wish to remain unaware that our act of partial participation in the ‘act’ contributes in the perpetuation of a slow motion eroticism based on the optical relation with the object playing before us. Being a relation of opposites, this amounts to a coniunctio oppositorum through which an erotic equilibrium oscillates like a metronome. Georges Bataille writes in Eroticism, Death and Sensuality: “in its vicissitudes eroticism appears to move away from its essence, which connects it with the nostalgia of lost continuity”. It can be supposed that nostalgia will be displaced by the re-formation of a continuity, not as an immortalisation but as an ephemeral affirmation of self within the elevated sense of consciousness engendered by the ‘magic-circle theatre’, the personal implication acting in direct response to that of the performer. Bertolt Brecht writes in Le Petit Organon: “Each isolated event possesses its own fundamental gesture”. Each gesture holds and withholds a sign, a punctuation by the activation of which the eye will open to the essence of the act, an act we may all wish or fear to perform ourselves, and as such, we gaze at ourselves in the actor, at this tragicomic object of destiny contained in the field of our vision.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
Coming up soon, a review of:
A showreel of art videos and Documentaries at Doomed Gallery: Artworks from members and guests of Magma Collective are hanged on the walls on the 21st of Sept and a spectacle transforms the gallery space on the 22d of Sept.
“The Kula is a ceremonial exchange system conducted in Papua New Guinea. All Kula valuables are non-use items traded purely for purposes of enhancing one’s social status and prestige.
a night of challenging and inspiring original performances and improvisations, into an environment where analogical and digital media interact in a chain of free associations and discoveries, alternating contrasting acts and feelings.”
Sebastian E.Wanguard interviews Pascal Ancel Bartholdi
My first question was put to you at the opening of your show by a good friend of yours, and I noticed you ducking…so , what do you want people to get when they see your pictures?
It’ s not so much what you can get, what you can take away like people going to the store, picking a product from the shelf. This is not meant as entertainment, or a quick fix to urban ennui. I mentioned la substantifique moëlle coined by Rabelais in the sixteenth century, age of the Renaissance, I.e. the marrow of the substance in reference to the origination of the image, the subterranean membranes of consciousness vibrating between dream and actuality….the core of the image. But if anything, the images I produce are very much a distant response to Rabelais, Francois Villon, maverick writers even if not especially in our time, and an homage to monochrome cinema from Murnau and Eisenstein to Pasolini, Francois Truffaut and Cocteau to name a few. To turn the question around a little, could I ask myself what I got from these artists, from their work. I have to answer everything or nothing. It is absurd to quantify or delineate my experience of their expression of self, humanity, our condition, our history, the legacy of our creative predecessors. But I can say that the experience of the ‘images’ whether generated through literature, painting, cinema etc, has modified the (sub) atomic structure of my vision of the world and that each of the images I create contains the remnants of that experience and stands as a living aftermath of it. They are not exactly ruins, or monuments, or documents…or perhaps they encompass all of these elements. They are present above all, almost as characters in a play, although this play is enacted naturally, among us, off stage.
Who is your audience?
Images are supposed to be a universal language, but we know this to be fallacious. My audience seems attracted to the uncanny, a more tenebrous form of beauty, something deeper than the average shoot, file and frame corpus of our electronic days. My audience, is its own master, not mine or any one else’s. It is not a one headed beast, even as it seeks a feeling , something partly uneasy because it cannot be pin pointed, a bit more risky, as a reminder that what we could comprehend is not only on the surface of things. My audience is one individual at a time. This particular member of the public is off/behind stage and stands in equilibrium with what they are witnessing, the image, the scene therein, the unknown quantity in the image. They are invited in the decent into the singularity of the form and will step in as it were. He/she will let the image come to life, come into itself through their unique vision. So my audience does not exist as a crowd or a multitude but as a separate entity searching for a way into the mystery of their own unconscious, a way to fathom the abyss. If I offer anything, then it may be this, a portal or pointer into the unconscious of each viewer, reflecting my own journey through the making of each image.
Are you influenced by new wave Italian cinema…Pasolini?
There is no doubt I am constantly inspired by the masters of cinema at least from the earliest movies to the 70s, yet it was almost to my astonishment that I heard a member of the audience state how some of the images in Metapocryphal Chimera seemed to rise straight out of a Pasolini movie, a very specific movie, very specific scenes. None before this show however had mentioned it. I myself sawVisconti characters, Antonioni’s lost souls, psychological portraits. I saw Bergman too, the ghostly faces, the forlorn gazes, early Tarkovski, Evan in Evan’s childhood, disappearing in the mist, Jean Renoir, tortured and beautiful faces, dilemma imprinted in their brow, then Eodipus Rex, a destiny, a tragedy,Theorem, a revelation in the midst of the mundane…La beaute du Diable by Rene Clair, L’Atalante by Jean Vigo , Faust by Murnau…all of these wonderful movies were buried deep in me and this viewer saw the resurgence of their roots with complete clarity.
Don’t you think some of the images have too much going on?
I feel more compelled to quote Amadeus Mozart when summoned by the Emperor Joseph II who promptly complained about the extravagant length of an opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio: “There are too many notes”. Mozart’s riposte was unequivocal: “There are just as many notes as there should be”. This showed a confidence some could mistake for temerity. Each piece is as it should be, and changing any of the values would transform it into a distinct work with its inherent meaning thereby also altered and therefore by logical extension, demanding and offering respectively a different vision, a different response.
Is your art political?
All images are in a sense political since their viewing will influence the way people see the world, people in general, others. I do not intend to make any specialized comment or statement however. There is no actual message. In a way, the meaning emanating from the image is the message in so far as the substance, i.e.
The form encapsulates and generates its own essence. The images do not hide a wish to change anything. They are the embodiment of metamorphosis, “outside of time”, as one member of the audience put it, therefore far from politics.
Why do you restrain the size of your work? Why not making larger prints?
My use of smaller sizes has been part of a deliberate gesture against the monumental trend deploying its vast horizons in equally vast rooms fit for lavish conferences, coronations and imperial pageantry. I felt a need to surpass this ‘void manufacture’ and instil greater intimacy by bringing the viewer physically close to the image in the knowledge that the photograph had to speak with its body, its grain, its chemical arrested fluctuations, its texture, its indexical potential, , not only with its tonal values, its depictions, its subject and its composition. It is also a small window enrapturing you in its world. I do not rule out larger work and have large scale pieces in mind, these are closer to landscapes…filled with objects and faces.
Is the title “Metapocryphal Chimera a reference to the bible and is ‘meta’ intended as a pun or a suggestion of other-worldliness?
First of all, the Apocryphal texts were censored on account of their potential subversion, the stories not really fitting with conventions; the conservative dogma. The message had to be levelled, over simplified and finally falsified. Those heretically charged texts offered a more obvious depth of meaning, a possibility of discovering truth outside of that prescribed by the dominant priesthood. I wished to deliberately add an extra dimension to the original dissension, to stretch the subversion, hence ‘meta’, as in metaphysics, although the letter ‘a’ acts as a link between meta and apocryphal (the two elements merge). I was asked if I meant this in the sense of the theatrical device by which a play begins to evolve as a sub (sequent) layer within the initial play, thus moving the action inward, generating a new strata, reflecting the possibility of a continuous process of mental implosion. I realized this was analogous to the process I was employing; the stripping of skins from the memory of the image, thus entering deeper into the structure of my own psyche.
Is your choice of frames relevant?
One of my favourite haunts is the National Gallery. There not one image is framed identically. Who chose or chooses the frames? When were they acquired? According to which criteria? Did they remove one and replace it with another? Some are so grandiose, so extravagant. If the work is powerful, the frame will act as a reverberator, radiating the quintessential luminosity of the thought encapsulated therein. I tend to push against the institutional grain by displacing the ubiquitous black/white, smooth, clean edge frame with the instinctive custom (found) made frame. This is a frame that is not there to domesticate the image but to enhance its spatial language. In fact, this principle I also apply to the outer margin of the image and to the passe partout.
Why do you see the white edges as problematic?
What is so indispensable about the whiteness of the edge? Why not black, grey, red…why should it be silenced, its chemical life frozen to artificially contain the image? Space for thought also exists there, back stage as it were. It feels like a straight jacket. I want to take it off, turn it into amontgolfière, a field of visions, the expansion of the imaginary beyond the consciousness intrinsic to the image.
Is that aim not over ambitious or presumptuous?
How so? Something amazing happens to me when I look at cave paintings ( and these are only reproductions), Icons, Giotto frescoes in Capella Scrovegni, a rembrandt in the National Gallery, a Titian behind the shadow of an alter, a Masaccio on the decaying walls of a church…and to the same extent when I watch a movie like Battleship Potempkin by Eisenstein, Les Quatre cent coups by Truffaut, Red Desert by Antonioni… I return to them ceaselessly, the scenes, the views, the depths, their identity indelibly interlaced with my own memories bringing forth a fictional biographical diary .New art rises from these living ashes.
What do you say to those who consider your imagery, your technique, your medium as passe, obsolete?
You should ask this question to the members of the audience, one of whom saw the photographs as ‘out of time’. Another felt there was an image behind the photograph, like a double skin, one visible, translucent, the other diaphanous, partially dissimulated. Someone else mentioned the transformation that occurs as you watch from a distance and getting closer, the composition makes an image, a shape only just apparent, which dissolves into the detail as you approach. It was also said the images felt very familiar, that they were not possible to locate (in history), that they afford an inward journey. Something happens and continues to happen. What is obsolete about that?
Copyright © Sebastian E.Wanguard & Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2011