Category Archives: subversion

I was three years old when May 68 happened

May 1968

burning Citroën DS during May 68 from here.

I was three years old when May 68 happened. May 68 was the direct precursor of the hippie movement here in Western Europe. Most of our teachers had been brought up in the “hippie” climate.

Yesterday E-L-I-S-E posted this burning Citroën DS (the photo is new to me and is unsourced at E-L-I-S-E). It brings me to repost one of my favorite quotes on art and politics.This is from one year before May 68.

The juvenile delinquents — not the pop artists — are the true inheritors of Dada. Instinctively grasping their exclusion from the whole of social life, they have denounced its products, ridiculed, degraded and destroyed them.

A smashed telephone, a burnt car, a terrorised cripple are the living denial of the ‘values’ in the name of which life is eliminated. Delinquent violence is a spontaneous overthrow of the abstract and contemplative role imposed on everyone, but the delinquents’ inability to grasp any possibility of really changing things once and for all forces them, like the Dadaists, to remain purely nihilistic.

They can neither understand nor find a coherent form for the direct participation in the reality they have discovered, for the intoxication and sense of purpose they feel, for the revolutionary values they embody. The Stockholm riots, the Hell’s Angels, the riots of Mods and Rockers — all are the assertion of the desire to play in a situation where it is totally impossible.

All reveal quite clearly the relationship between pure destructivity and the desire to play: the destruction of the game can only be avenged by destruction. Destructivity is the only passionate use to which one can put everything that remains irremediably separated. It is the only game the nihilist can play; the bloodbath of the 120 Days of Sodom proletarianised along with the rest. —Timothy Clark, Christopher Gray, Donald Nicholson-Smith & Charles Radcliffe in The Revolution of Modern Art and the Modern Art of Revolution (1967) via http://www.notbored.org/english.html

Maurice Girodias @90

Maurice Girodias @90

Tropic of Cancer, first edition published by Maurice Girodias's father. Cover drawing by Girodias himself. by you.

In 1934, at the age of 15, Girodias drew the disturbing crab picture seen on the original cover of Tropic of Cancer.

The cover states: “Ne doit pas etre exposé en étalage ou en vitrine,” in English that is: “Cannot be displayed in show window.”

Ah … the good old “sous le manteau” days

“I remember a very funny story told to me by Maurice. He once had to take the train to Belgium, where he needed to bring a great deal of money. He had hidden the money bills in his shorts. Once on the train, he was overcome by diarrhea and forgot to remove the money from his shorts when he went to the toilet with the unfortunate result of soiling this small fortune. He cleaned the money as best as he could and afterwards reserved those bills to use as — quite literally — dirty money.” —Sholem Stein

Maurice Girodias (12 April 19193 July 1990), was the founder of the The Olympia Press. At one time he was the owner of his father’s Obelisk Press, and spent most of his productive years in Paris.

Girodias’s involvement with his father’s business started early. In 1934, at the age of 15, Girodias drew the disturbing crab picture seen on the original cover of Tropic of Cancer. After his father’s early death in 1939, Girodias took over publishing duties, and at the age of 20 managed to survive Paris, World War II, Occupation and paper shortages.

The Affaire Miller ended with Girodias out of jail, but bankrupt and no longer in control of his company.

Olympia Press

Olympia Press was a Paris-based publisher, launched in 1953 by Maurice Girodias as a rebadged version of the Obelisk Press he inherited from his father Jack Kahane. It published a mix of erotic novels and avant-garde literary works, and is best known for the first print of Vladimir Nabokov‘s Lolita.

Most, if not all, Olympia Press publications were promoted and packaged as “Traveller’s Companion” books, usually with simple text-only covers, and each book in the series was numbered.

Olympia Press was also the first publisher willing to print the controversial William S. Burroughs novel, Naked Lunch. Other notable works included J. P. Donleavy‘s The Ginger Man; the French trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett; A Tale of Satisfied Desire by Georges Bataille and Story of O by Pauline Réage.

English-language presses in Paris

The Enlish-language literary expatriates depended on the presence in Paris of a substantial number of English-language presses, periodicals, and bookstores. These small presses included such famous names as the Contact Press (of American poet Robert McAlmon), the Three Mountains Press (of Bill Bird), the Hours Press (of Nancy Cunard), the Black Sun Press (of Harry and Caresse Crosby), the Obelisk Press (of Jack Kahane), and the Olympia Press (of Maurice Girodias, son of Kahane).

French erotica, and, icon of erotic art #42

In the history of world erotica I present you with Le Poitevin’s diableries.

Les Diableries Erotiques by Eugène le Poitevin (1806 - 1870)

From the Les Diableries Erotiques by Eugène le Poitevin

Eugène le Poitevin (18061870) was a French artist, author of Les Diableries Erotiques.

He is an underrated figure in the history of French erotica and his engraving above from the aforementioned Les Diableries Erotiques is icon of erotic art #42.

Diableries are an interesting genre and illustrates how — before the “invention” of erotica and pornography — body parts and the people possessing them were used for subversive purposes, here as a form of satirical pornography or pornographic satire. The genre goes back to Rabelais, although his masterpiece Gargantua and Pantagruel was more emetic than erotic.

Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais, illustrated by Gustave Doré in 1873

Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais, illustrated by Gustave Doré in 1873

Cardinal Armand de Rohan-Soubise by anonymous  Anonymous satirical caricature of the Cardinal Armand de Rohan-Soubise (1717-1757); this engraving is a good example of "pornography" as a tool for political subversion during France's ancien régime.

Cardinal Armand de Rohan-Soubise by anonymous
Anonymous satirical caricature of the Cardinal Armand de Rohan-Soubise (1717-1757); this engraving is a good example of “pornography” as a tool for political subversion during France’s ancien régime.

Of course, artists such as Le Poitevin deserve a place in the history of derision, a playful and benign derision that is turned toward ourselves, toward the very core of human nature. As such it is also a piece of toilet philosophy.

Remarkably, the writeup on a Poitevin engraving not depicted here in my edition of Erotic Art of the Masters the 18th, 19th, 20th Centuries Art & Artists , author and editor Bradley Smith notes “penises and vaginas fly through the air like butterflies, are gathered in baskets and, personified, play games with adults and children.” This quote echoes the following by Deleuze and Guattari, “Flying anuses, speeding vaginas, there is no castration” (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 32).

Nikolai Gogol @200

Nikolai Gogol @200

Poprishchin (protagonist of the novel by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol “Diary of a Madman”.  by Ilya Yefimovich Repin by you.

Poprishchin, protagonist of Nikolai Gogol‘s “Diary of a Madman” painted by Ilya Repin

Nikolai Gogol will be 200 tomorrow morning (that’s the day after tomorrow, I skipped a day here). Like so many of us of the internet generation, we stumbled upon Gogol via Mario Bava’s Black Sunday.

He is an icon of 19th century literature, Russian literature, grotesque literature and fantastic literature.

“What an intelligent, queer, and sick creature!” —Ivan Turgenev

“I don’t know whether anyone liked Gogol exclusively as a human being. I don’t think so; it was, in fact, impossible. How can you love one whose body and spirit are recovering from self-inflicted torture?” —Sergei Aksakov

Gogol wrote in the literary tradition of E.T.A. Hoffmann (The Sandman) and Laurence Sterne (Tristram Shandy), often involving elements of the fantastic and grotesque. In addition, Gogol’s works are often outrageously funny. The mix of humor, social realism, the fantastic, and unusual prose forms are what readers love about his work.

RIP Ronald Tavel (1936 – 2009)

RIP Ronald Tavel

Poster by Alan Aldridge for Chelsea Girls (1966), for which Tavel wrote the script.

Ronald Tavel (May 17, 1936 – March 23, 2009) was an American writer, director and actor, and was known for his work with Andy Warhol and The Factory. He was involved in the Playhouse of the Ridiculous and wrote the scripts for Chelsea Girls, Poor Little Rich Girl and Vinyl.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti @90

Lawrence Ferlinghetti @90

A Coney Island of the Mind by you.

A Coney Island of the Mind (1958)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born Lawrence Ferling on March 24, 1919) is an American poet, painter, Liberal, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. Author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration, he is best known for A Coney Island of the Mind.

A Coney Island of the Mind is a collection of poetry by Lawrence Ferlinghetti originally published in 1958 and dedicated to Carl Solomon. It contains some of Ferlinghetti’s most famous poems, such as I am Waiting, and Junkman’s Obbligato, which were created for jazz accompaniment (see jazz poetry). There are approximately a million copies in print of A Coney Island, and the book has been translated into over a dozen languages. It remains one of the best-selling and most popular books of poetry ever published.

Coney Island was written in the conservative post-war 1950s, and his poetry resonates with a joyful anti-establishment fervor.

Carl Solomon (1928-1993) was an American writer, artist and criminal. He was friend of Allen Ginsberg and an important inspiration for Ginsberg’s “Howl” (full title: “Howl for Carl Solomon.”). Ginsberg had met Solomon in the mental institution of Bellevue Hospital Center and became friends with him. Outside of being a member of the The Times Square Underworld, Solomon was a Dada and Surrealism enthusiast (he introduced Ginsberg to Artaud) who suffered bouts of depression.

Solomon wanted to commit suicide, but he thought a form of suicide appropriate to dadaism would be to go to a mental institution and demand a lobotomy. The institution refused, giving him many forms of therapy, including electroshock therapy. Much of the final section of the first part of “Howl” is a description of this.

Ginsberg admitted later this sympathy for Solomon was connected to bottled up guilt and sympathy for his mother’s condition (she suffered from schizophrenia and had been lobotomized), an issue he was not yet ready to address directly.

Although in style and theme Ferlinghetti’s  writing is very unlike that of the original New York based Beat circle, he had important associations with the Beat writers, who made City Lights Bookstore their headquarters when they were in San Francisco. He has often claimed that he was not a Beat, but a bohemian of an earlier generation. Over the years Ferlinghetti published work by most of the Beats, most notably Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs. He was Ginsberg’s publisher for over thirty years.

Nothing is true, everything is permitted

Grafitti subversion of the original phrase, from the photostream of Paul Neve

A post[1] by Valter on Lev Shestov’s influence on Georges Bataille leads me again to the aphorism Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted. I think I’ve known this phrase from my Wired days, but first absorbed it consciously last summer while reading Burroughs’s excellent Cities of the Red Night.

Research of the last hour:

“Nothing is true, all is permitted”: so said I to myself. Into the coldest water did I plunge with head and heart. Ah, how oft did I stand there naked on that account, like a red crab!Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted” is the famous aphorism attributed to Hassan i Sabbah.

The aphorism was first used by Friedrich Nietzsche in his 1880s work Thus Spoke Zarathustra (original German Nichts ist wahr, Alles ist erlaubt). Like Crowley‘s “‘Do what thou wilt’ shall be the whole of the law“, this phrase is often interpreted in its most literal sense to mean that objective reality does not exist (see relativism) and therefore that free will is unlimited. However, “Nothing is True and Everything is Permitted” is more widely interpreted to mean “there is no such thing as an objective truth outside of our perception; therefore, all things are true and possible”. It is a basic tenet in chaos magic and a core concept in discordianism and pirate utopias.

The aphorism is mentioned in the 1938 novel Alamut and in William Burroughs’s novel Cities of the Red Night. It is used as a credo on Axiom, Bill Laswell’s record label and alluded to in the title of Isis’s album In the Absence of Truth. Brion Gysin‘s biography is titled Nothing Is True – Everything Is Permitted: The Life of Brion Gysin.

P. S. Surya notes in his biography of Bataille that the phrase “nothing is true” originates with Dostoevski. There could be some truth in that since Dostoevski was born 20 years before Nietzsche.

“Sex Without Stress” is WMC #288

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OtuZjBc_H0

Sex Without Stress” by the Au Pairs

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. As I explained, I now do music on Facebook almost exclusively (join me there at Jan Geerinck with a brief note).

It’s been so long that I need to explain what WMC stands for: World music classics is an ongoing series of World Music Classics.

It had been a while since I’d heard “Sex Without Stress” by the Au Pairs.

Sex Without Stress” is a musical composition by the British post-punk band the Au Pairs first released in 1982. It was also released on their album Sense and Sensuality. The song is also featured on Stepping Out of Line: The Anthology.

From the lyrics:

“Would you like to express
your sex without stress?
Would you like to discover
physical conversations of different kinds?”

The Au Pairs were a post-punk band who formed in Birmingham in 1979. Musically they were very similar to bands such as Ludus, Gang of Four and the Delta 5. That is, the rhythm section was tight and funky (obvious influences were James Brown and Funkadelic), but the guitars were light and “scratchy” (like Subway Sect). All these bands shared a strongly left wing social outlook, but the Au Pairs stood out due to their frontwoman, Lesley Woods, being an outspoken feminist and lesbian: the band were greatly influential in this respect on the riot grrrl movement a decade later. Music historian Gillian G. Gaar noted in her history of women in rock (She’s A Rebel: The History of Women In Rock & Roll) that the band mingled male and female musicians in a revolutionary collaborative way as part of its outspoken explorations of sexual politics.

André Pieyre de Mandiargues @100

Yesterday would have been André Pieyre de Mandiargues‘s 100th birthday, had he not died in 1991.

Some quick finds:

Les Incongruités Monumentales by André Pieyre de Mandiargues by you.

Les Incongruités monumentales, Robert Laffont, 1948.

The Devil's Kisses, anthology edited by Linda Lovecraft

Featuring his story “The Diamond”Catelogue of Bellmer engravings prefaced by Les Incongruités Monumentales by André Pieyre de Mandiargues

Prefaced by Mandiargues

Le Merveilleux by Les Incongruités Monumentales by André Pieyre de Mandiargues

Arcimboldo le merveilleux, Robert Laffont, 1977.

His story La Marée and the 1967 novel La Marge were both made into film by Polish film director Walerian Borowczyk and it is de Mandiargues’s collection of pornographic items that is featured in Borowczyk’s Une collection particulière . He wrote several prefaces, amongst others to  Pauline Réage‘s Story of O and a catalogue raisonné of Hans Bellmer engravings.

La Motocyclette by Mandiargues

La Motocyclette

His novella La Motocyclette was the basis for Jack Cardiff‘s The Girl on a Motorcycle. He was also the author of works of non-fiction, such as a photography book devoted to Bomarzo entitled Les Monstres de Bomarzo and a book on Arcimboldo. His stories are collected in Le Musée Noir [The Black Museum] (1946) and Soleil des Loups [The Sun Of The Wolves] (1951).

His book Feu de braise (1959) was published in 1971 in an English translation by April FitzLyon called Blaze of Embers (Calder and Boyars, 1971).

One of his most controversial books is L’Anglais décrit dans le château fermé (1953).

Salute to Bacchus

Today is the feast of the Roman god Bacchus, known by the Greeks as the Greek god Dionysus. In my hometown Sint Niklaas, there used to be a bar called Bacchus. That was in the late seventies and early eighties.

I had to wait until the 1990s and the first issue of Wired Magazine to be properly introduced to Bacchus via Camille Paglia’s interview on her recently published Sexual Personae in which Paglia mentions the Nietzschean dichotomy of Apollonian and Dionysian.

Popular perceptions of Dionysus and Bacchus

Dionysus was seen as the god of everything uncivilized, of the innate wildness of humanity that the Athenians had tried to control. The Dionysia was probably a time to let out their inhibitions through highly emotional tragedies or irreverent comedies. During the pompe there was also an element of role-reversal – lower-class citizens could mock and jeer the upper classes, or women could insult their male relatives. This was known as aischrologia – αἰσχρολογία or tothasmos, a concept also found in the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Bacchus is less wel documented in text, but all the better in painting (Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio). His name is connected with bacchanalia, a term in moderate usage today to indicate any drunken feast; drunken revels; as well as binges and orgies, whether literally or figuratively.

Bacchanal by Rubens

Rubens

Bacchanalia

The bacchanalia were wild and mystic festivals of the Roman and Greek god Bacchus. Introduced into Rome from lower Italy by way of Etruria (c. 200 BC), the bacchanalia were originally held in secret and only attended by women.

Bacchanalia by Auguste (Maurice François Giuslain) Léveque  The Bacchanalia were traditionally held on March 16 and March 17

The festivals occurred on three days of the year in a grove near the Aventine Hill, on March 16 and March 17. Later, admission to the rites was extended to men and celebrations took place five times a month. According to Livy, the extension happened in an era when the leader of the Bacchus cult was Paculla Annia.

Cornelis de Vos Triumph of Bacchus

Cornelis de Vos

Paculla Annia

Paculla Annia was a priestess from the southern Italy who, according to Livy, largely changed the rules of Bacchanalias so that regarding nothing as impious or forbidden became the very sum of Bacchuscult. In the rites, men were said to have shrieked out prophecies in an altered state of consciousness with frenzied bodily convulsions. Women, dressed as Bacchantes, with hair dishevelled, would run down to the Tiber with burning torches, plunge them into the water, and take them out again. The rites gradually turned into sexual orgies, particularly among the men, and men who refused to take part were sacrificed. It is said these men were fastened to a machine and taken to hidden caves, where it was claimed they were kidnapped by the gods.

Prohibition by the Roman Senate

The festivities were reported to the Roman Senate which authorized a full investigation. In 186 BC, the Senate passed a strict law (the Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus) prohibiting the Bacchanalia except under specific circumstances which required the approval of the Senate. Violators were to be executed.