I’m rereading Writing on Drugs by Sadie Plant, a book which is brilliant in its lateral connections, arguing amongst other things that the Industrial Revolution in England goes hand in hand with the legal use of opium as recreational drug.
Speaking of opium, I’ve published a photo of an oozing, exuding, secreting and leaking poppy seed head.
But that’s not what I wanted to show you.
On page 47 in Writing on Drugs is Flaubert and he is cited stating his desire to write ‘a book about nothing‘ (‘un livre sur rien’), in other words a plotless novel, an antinovel as it were.
“What strikes me as beautiful, what I would like to do, is a book about nothing, a book with no external tie, which would support itself by its internal force of style, a book which would have hardly any subject or at least where the subject would be almost invisible, if that can be so.” (Flaubert, Letters 170).
Did Flaubert fulfil his ambition?
Maybe he did. The closest he came to writing about nothing was in his Bouvard et Pécuchet and Dictionary of Received Ideas.
“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.
Surprise! David Toop in Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener (see prev. post ) 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.”
I want to read Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener.
In 2010, this lecture crystallized as the book Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener.
On the cover is a detail of «Soplones», nº 48 of Goya series Los Caprichos.
It is a book about listening, the way sound is portrayed in painting and other “silent arts”, about arts that involve sound, about the resonance of architecture, about auditory artefacts and about self-reflexivity.
Michaelangelo Matos called it “an exploration of sound in novels, poems, and paintings from before the era of sound reproduction.”
Threaded through the book is Marcel Duchamp’s observation “One can look at seeing but one can’t hear hearing” and his concept of the infrathin, those human experiences so fugitive that they exist only in the imaginative absences of perception.
A certain Guilherme Werneck has made a pinterest board consisting of a “visual guide” to Sinister Resonance.
Toop’s magnum opus is Ocean of Sound.
See also my current research on medium specificity.
Via peeking into Art/Porn: A History of Seeing and Touching (mentioned in previous post) come Diderot’s thoughts on the difference between decency and indecency, or, by extension, the difference between erotica and pornography. According to Diderot, “it is the difference between a woman who is seen and a woman who exhibits herself.”
Here are Diderot’s thoughts in full from an unidentified translation:
“A nude woman isn’t indecent. It’s the lavishly decked out woman who is. Imagine the Medici Venus is standing in front of you, and tell me if her nudity offends you. But shoe this Venus’ feet with two little embroidered slippers. Dress her in tight white stockings secured at the knee with rose-colored garters. Place a chic little hat on her head, and you’ll feel the difference between decent and indecent quite vividly. It’s the difference between a woman seen and a woman displaying herself. (translator unidentified, probably John Goodman)
“Une femme nue n’est point indécente. C’est une femme troussée qui l’est. Supposez devant vous la Vénus de Médicis, et dites-moi si sa nudité vous offensera. Mais chaussez les pieds de cette Vénus de deux petites mules brodées. Attachez sur son genou avec des jarretières couleur de rose un bas blanc bien tiré. Ajustez sur sa tête un bout de cornette, et vous sentirez fortement la différence du décent et de l’indécent. C’est la différence d’une femme qu’on voit et d’une femme qui se montre.”
Please do not take Diderot too seriously when it comes to eroticism, I’ve previously written on Diderot’s hypocrisy. In my view, if it isn’t indecent, it isn’t erotic. That is why I do not consider many pieces of erotic art, erotic at all since they do not provoke erotic arousal. Shame is the most powerful aphrodisiac.