Author Archives: jahsonic

Bronisław Malinowski, Luis Buñuel, and the transvaluation of values

While I was investigating the first comprehensive study on Marquis de Sade, The Revolutionary Ideas of the Marquis de Sade (1934) by Geoffrey Gorer, I stumbled upon this quote:

“The natives of the Trobriand Islands […] consider eating as private as any other bodily function.”

I’d heard this before but never before had I considered the rather obvious link to the food taboo scene in Luis Buñuel‘s The Phantom of Liberty.

I started to investigate.

Wikipedia has it wrong, it attributes the following citation to a certain Jenefer Shute, who obviously copied it from here:

“Given the social importance of food, it might seem strange to discover that the Trobrianders eat alone, retiring to their own hearths with their portions, turning their backs on one another and eating rapidly for fear of being observed.” —Consuming Passions: The Anthropology of Eating (1980), p. 8-9, Peter Farb, ‎George J. Armelagos

Now, there is only one anthropologist associated with the Trobriand Islands and that is Bronisław Malinowski.

First I found this in a 1958 issue of The Humanist:

B. Malinowski in his opus magnum reports that in the Trobriands males and females may have premarital sexual intercourse but never must they be seen eating together.”

I then combed through the three books on the Trobriand Islands and eventually found this in The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia:

“Food is displayed in all forms and on all occasions […] yet meals are never taken in public, and eating is altogether regarded as a rather dangerous and delicate act […] the custom of eating in common is limited […] people retire to their own fireplaces with their portion, each group turning its back on the rest […] they eat rapidly, no one else witnessing the performance […].”


RIP Austryn Wainhouse (1927 – 2014)

I only now became aware that Austryn Wainhouse (1927 – 2014) passed away. He was best-known for translating the work of Marquis de Sade and the novel Story of O.

It is of course the work of Marquis de Sade that interests us here. It so happens that one of the translations of Wainhouse, Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings is freely available online. And the most interesting item in that collection is “Yet Another Effort“, perhaps the first piece of writing anyone who wishes to acquaint himself with de Sade should read.

Here is that link[1].

RIP André S. Labarthe (1931 – 2018)

André S. Labarthe was a French actor, film producer and director.

He starred alongside Anna Karina in the 1962 film Vivre sa vie and was a celebrated television documentary maker.

He directed the documentary Georges Bataille – À perte de vue (1997) and David Cronenberg: I Have to Make the Word Be Flesh (1999).

Georges Bataille – À perte de vue (1997)

David Cronenberg: I Have to Make the Word Be Flesh (1999)


“Is the Bible Indictable?” by Annie Besant

As you may have heard, I have resumed my work as pornosopher and I am currently writing my master’s thesis which investigates whether porn can be art. In my research I get lost very often (which kind of seems to be the purpose).

However, it is time for me to stop getting lost, because I have another paper to finish on political myth, a paper which I have tentatively titled “Mythe, meute, Europa,” which translates as “Myth, mob, Europe.”

Before I start that work, one of my most satisfying finds of the latest obsessive quest: Annie Besant’s sublime pamphlet: “Is the Bible Indictable?” (illustration).

Besant asks (in 1877, mind you!):

“Does the Bible come within the ruling of the Lord Chief Justice as to obscene literature? Most decidedly it does, and if prosecuted as an obscene book, it must necessarily be condemned, if the law is justly administered.” 

RIP Gillo Dorfles (1910 – 2018)

Gillo Dorfles  was an Italian art criticpainter, and philosopher best known for his 1968 book on kitschKitsch: The world of Bad Taste.

He was 107.

The photo: When I just started buying books, somewhere in the late 1990s, I saw this at Vulcanus, a book store in the Volkstraat 3 run by a lady named Yvette. I didn’t buy the book. I see they have it at my university. Maybe I’ll lend it one day.

RIP Linda Nochlin (1931 – 2017)

Linda Nochlin  was an American art historian.

A prominent feminist art historian, she became well known for her pioneering articles “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” (1971) and “Eroticism and Female Imagery in Nineteenth-Century Art” (1972). The title of the first article speaks for itself. The second article argues that “erotic art” implicitly means “erotic-for-men”.

Photo: Left: Achetez des Pommes ,(Buy Apples), anonymous nineteenth-century photograph, courtesy of Linda Nochlin. Right: Linda Nochlin, Achetez Bananes (Buy My Bananas). This juxtaposition proved that the implication “erotic” is “erotic-for-men.”

Dropping dead on ‘The Sublime Void’

I visited the Jozef Peeters apartment on De Gerlachekaai 32 in Antwerp.

The apartment overlooks the Schelde and features artwork by Peeters himself, including murals and furniture he designed. Also, there is work by Michel Seuphor (personal favorite) and Jo Delahaut.

Photo: On the table of the living room: The last book Godelieve Peeters (his daughter who preserved the apartment as total artwork until her death in 2004) was reading before she died. On it are her glasses. It has been conserved as a crime scene. I imagine her falling dead on her book. There is a letter from De Witte Raaf under the book. The book is The Sublime Void.

I used to live in the apartment on the other side of the street, our windows faced each other. At the time, this must ‘ve been around 2000, I did not know who Jozef Peeters was.


“Pornography is […] like the Western and science fiction […] a form of pop art” –Leslie Fiedler

While I’m researching my master thesis on the possibility of pornographic art I stumble across new information all the time.

One of the best finds was the cluster theory of art by Berys Gaut which I found via Ian Jarvie (was happy to see mentioned by Simon Fokt).

But the best was this: as I was writing a possible rationale for why pornograpy had become salonfähig in the 1960s and 1970s and I wanted to write about nobrow and Sontag and Fiedler I did some extra research on Cross the Border — Close the Gap and found the whole transcript of the 1969 Playboy article[1] including the page scans and including the illustration by Karl Wirsum (above).

Dance of the Peacock by Makhmud Esambayev

Dance of the Peacock by Chechen actor/dancer Makhmud Esambayev is a clip[1] which is currently doing the rounds on Facebook.

It intrigued me because of its kitschiness and I decided to investigate.

It did not take long to figure out that the soundtrack to which Esambayev is dancing, is a cover of the theme of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Sergio Leone. It has a drum break which is not in the original.

It took me more than an hour to find the original film the clip was taken from.

First I found a version with a little bit more footage at the beginning (below).

For a while I thought it came from a children’s movie and I scrubbed through two. These were actually quite nice.

Then, by machine translating the Russian Wikipedia page of Esambayev I found out that the clip comes from a film called Dances of the Peoples of the World (above) in which the Chechen dancer performs a huge number of various dances: “Chaban” (Chechen-Ingush, Uzbek), “Warrior” (Bashkir), “Golden God” (Indian), ritual “Dance of Fire” to the music of de Falla, “La Corrida” (Spanish ) and “Dance with knives” (Tajik)”.