Some of the Best bits of a book about Antonin Artaud
By Stephen Barber
p3 In Artaud's perception, the human body is a wild , flexible but flawed instrument that is still in the process of being forged. The body suffers malicious robberies( by society, family and religion) which leave it fixed and futile, smothered to the point of a terminal incoherence and inexpressivity. Throughout his life, A. worked through ideas and images which explore the explosion of that useless body into a deliriously dancing, new body, with an infinite capacity for self-transformation. The body would become a walking tree of will.
This imagery recurs throughout A's work, forming the core of an anatomical reconstruction from the material of abject fragmentation.
All A's writings , recordings and images of theatre, film and dance have a similar incisiveness. A multiplicity of means is used to dissect what A saw as the infinite potential of human substance.A was not only a writer, he was also a visual artist. a vocal performer,a dancer, a film actor, a theatre actor and director, a traveller, a destroyer of languages.
These components of his life cut across each other. Media are stripped of their superficial closure, and open out into each other to produce works of great density and force.
p11 For A, the contents of the unconscious mind could never be applied to political and social arenas without, firstly a drastic anatomical transformation, All his rapports with social and cultural institutions were disrupted by this preoccupying imagery of an individual human body in a process of grinding metamorphosis.In A'd writings , culture and nature are amalgamated, crushed and brought down to a zero point. They are subjugated to a physical activity which must be set into movement before any other living structure may exist.
The body comes before the word and before the world.
p19......A's view of the fragment- the 'failed' text- as more vital and exploratory than the 'whole' or 'successful' poem. In writing fragments, A articulated his independence from and refusal of the coherent, unified aesthetic object. This intentional failure ensured that they would be banished into the territory of the self which was A's only subject matter. His letters forma correspondence whose axis is silence,erosion and abandonment.
p23 Breton would remember the 'impulsion' A exerted on the Surrealist movement to
develop a language' stripped of all that could have lent it an ornamental character'- a language that wa sintended to be 'scathing and glowing, but glowing in the way a
p29 For A himself, revolution could not be political, it had to be physical. This is
one of the few positions he held consistently throughout his life.
p34 In his film script, 'The Butchers Revolt', the primacy of the image broke with
'filmed theatre' which predominated at the time( and which A detested), while stressing the spatial quality of the reinforced sounds which would be employed.'The voices are in SPACE, like objects'. Since, for A, representation works on a temporal level- sound and image repeat themselves to convey themselves - his determination to introduce a spatial rather than a temporal element into film signals a denial of the pull towards diminution which he believed any completed, represented aesthetic object makes.
p144About the drawings he used to punctuate his exercise-book fragments: each of the drawings was a "machine that is breathing" A. had no regard whatsoever for the technical skill and abilities of an artist. He denounced abstract art as an insincere amalgam of technique and money. And he stressed the savagely unartistic, exploratory nature of his own drawings,which he intended to work at the limits of what could be done with corporeal substances.
He wrote: None of them, to speak exactly, is a work. they are all attempts, that is to say blows-probings or thrustings in all the directions of hazard of possibility, of chance,or of destiny.
p147 This reading took place this evening, fri 18 July, 1947, and by moments it was as thoughI skimmed the opening of my heart's tone. I would have had to shit blood through my navel to arrive at what I want.