Category Archives: theory

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 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.”

“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).

Everybody continually kills the Mandarin

Examining the bibliography of Art and Its Objects for my thesis Can Porn Be Art?, I came across Alain‘s System of the Fine Arts which in turn led me anew to the “killing of the hypothetical Mandarin“, a subject I had contemplated in some detail for the first time in 2013. I spent about six hours on the subject over the afternoon, time I did not spend on my thesis.

A new element in this afternoon reading and studying binge was “Killing a Chinese Mandarin“, an essay by Carlo Ginzburg (the current heir to Umberto Eco?) first published in 1994 and essential to the parable, referencing Aristotle’s Rhetoric, “Conversation of a Father with his Children” and “Letter on the Blind” (Diderot), Charles de PougensModeste Mignon (Balzac), Ordinary Men (Christopher Browning) and David Hume.

As far as I’m concerned Alain made the definitive statement about the “hypothetical Mandarin” when he said “everybody continually kills the Mandarin“, proving that we are all victims of collective guilt, a point particularly poignant in the current migrant crisis.

Having lost a lot of time (time I should’ve spent on my thesis), I decided to write this snippet reporting my vagrancies. As I was thinking of a picture that could illustrate it, I suddenly thought of Death by a Thousand Cuts. Are we not guilty — with every Chinese product we buy — of the violations of human rights in China perpetrated on a daily basis? But then I couldn’t. The image is just too cruel.

Instead, I give you a cover of Alain on Happiness [above], from whence came Alain’s dictum on the mandarin, not referenced by Ginzburg in his sublime essay on emotional and social distance.

Icons of erotic art #56

In the history of 20th century eroticaWalter Sickert kicks off the era with a series of oils known as the The Camden Town Nudes.

Nuit dété (Summer Night) [above] is one of them. Sickert’s erotica is exemplary of the cult of ugliness. Nevertheless, I like his nudes better than Lucian Freud’s, which belong to the same ‘cult of ugliness’ category. Of note is also that Sickert wrote of eroticism in the visual arts in writings such as “The Naked and the Nude“.

I say “writings“, but I’m not sure he did more writing on the nude than this one.

A way out of the ‘tautological genre-trap’

I finally started writing my master thesis for a degree in philosophy.

The subject?

“Can porn be art?”

The answer: “Yes it can be but usually it’s not.”

Anyway, to get to this answer, one needs to define art and porn.

Defining art is notoriously difficult.

Defining porn less so. First you need to get rid of the tautological genre-trap (see genre theory, corpus and tautology).

Page 135 from ‘Theories of Film’ (1974)

I finally read the original page on which the problem of the tautological genre-trap is first elaborated [above].

The page is from Andrew Tudor’s 1974 Theories of Film, the chapter’s title is “Critical Method: Auteur and Genre”, the page 135.

The text reads:

“To take a genre such as a ‘Western’, analyse it, and list its principal characteristics, is to beg the question that we must first isolate the body of films which are ‘Westerns’. But they can only be isolated on the basis of the ‘principal characteristics’ which can only be discovered from the films themselves after they have been isolated. That is, we are caught in a circle that first requires that the films be isolated, for which purposes a criterion is necessary, but the criterion is, in turn, meant to emerge from the empirically established common characteristics of the films.”

Tudor calls this an ’empiricist dilemma’.

More philosophically, you might call ‘genre’ an ostensive definition.

My way out of this quagmire?

Make use of Venn-diagrams. Some works are part of the ‘western’ set but can overlap with other sets.

Kings and philosophers shit – and so do ladies

Kings and philosophers shit – and so do ladies(Montaigne (1533-1592) in his Essays)

Der kleine Narr illustrates the first draft of the translation of my “Satirical pornography and pornographic satire, the caveman is agitated” chapter in The History of Erotica.

Mind the turd.

The sinister silence of the Laocoön marble

A depiction by Charles Bell of of the Laocoon marble in The Anatomy and Philosophy of Expression

Laocoon marble: a depiction.

Surprise! David Toop in Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener (see prev. post [1]) does not refer to the Laocoon marble. Granted, Toop mentions The Scream by Munch, which is the direct heir to the Laocoon.

The Laocoon is central to the ekphrasis concept, and the ekphrasis concept should be central to the “Act of silence” and “Art of silence” chapters in Sinister Resonance.

In fact, the whole area of writing about music is an act of ekphrastic transposition, some have even found completely nonsensical, testimony to this is the famous maxim “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

PS: I was glad to see that Toop cites Victor Stoichita, an author who writes about the self-reflexivity of painting in the same way that Toop writes about sound culture.

PPS: Jahsonic loves the work of David Toop, who is part of his canon, so any criticism you read in this post is non-existent.