L'ombelico di Svesda



Martin Eden | Jack London | CHAPTER I

Demuth Charles, Incense of a New Church, 1921
Demuth Charles, Incense of a New Church, 1921

The one opened the door with a latch-key and went in, followed by a young fellow who awkwardly removed his cap. He wore rough clothes that smacked of the sea, and he was manifestly out of place in the spacious hall in which he found himself. He did not know what to do with his cap, and was stuffing it into his coat pocket when the other took it from him. The act was done quietly and naturally, and the awkward young fellow appreciated it. “He understands,” was his thought. “He’ll see me through all right.”
He walked at the other’s heels with a swing to his shoulders, and his legs spread unwittingly, as if the level floors were tilting up and sinking down to the heave and lunge of the sea. The wide rooms seemed
too narrow for his rolling gait, and to himself he was in terror lest his broad shoulders should collide with the doorways or sweep the bric-a-brac from the low mantel. He recoiled from side to side between the various objects and multiplied the hazards that in reality lodged only in his mind. Between a grand piano and a centre-table piled high with books was space for a half a dozen to walk abreast, yet he essayed it with trepidation. His heavy arms hung loosely at his sides. He did not know what to do with those arms and hands, and when, to his excited vision, one arm seemed liable to brush against the books on the table, he lurched away like a frightened horse, barely missing the piano stool. He watched the easy walk of the other in front of him, and for the first time realized that his walk was different from that of other men. He experienced a momentary pang of shame that he should walk so uncouthly. The sweat burst through the skin of his forehead in tiny beads, and he paused and mopped his bronzed face with his handkerchief.
“Hold on, Arthur, my boy,” he said, attempting to mask his anxiety with facetious utterance. “This is too much all at once for yours truly. Give me a chance to get my nerve. You know I didn’t want to come, an’ I guess your fam’ly ain’t hankerin’ to see me neither.” “That’s all right,” was the reassuring answer. “You mustn’t be frightened at us. We’re just homely people–Hello, there’s a letter for me.”
He stepped back to the table, tore open the envelope, and began to read, giving the stranger an opportunity to recover himself. And the stranger understood and appreciated. His was the gift of sympathy, understanding; and beneath his alarmed exterior that sympathetic process went on. He mopped his forehead dry and glanced about him with a controlled face, though in the eyes there was an expression such as wild animals betray when they fear the trap. He was surrounded by the unknown, apprehensive of what might happen, ignorant of what he should do, aware that he walked and bore himself awkwardly, fearful that every attribute and power of him was similarly afflicted. He was keenly sensitive, hopelessly self-conscious, and the amused glance that the other stole privily at him over the top of the letter burned into him like a dagger-thrust. He saw the glance, but he gave no sign, for among the things he had learned was discipline. Also, that dagger-thrust went to his pride. He cursed himself for having come, and at the same time resolved that, happen what would, having come, he would carry it through. The lines of his face hardened, and into his eyes came a fighting light. He looked about more
unconcernedly, sharply observant, every detail of the pretty interior registering itself on his brain. His eyes were wide apart; nothing in their field of vision escaped; and as they drank in the beauty before
them the fighting light died out and a warm glow took its place. He was responsive to beauty, and here was cause to respond.
An oil painting caught and held him. A heavy surf thundered and burst over an outjutting rock; lowering storm-clouds covered the sky; and, outside the line of surf, a pilot-schooner, close-hauled, heeled over
till every detail of her deck was visible, was surging along against a stormy sunset sky. There was beauty, and it drew him irresistibly. He forgot his awkward walk and came closer to the painting, very close. The beauty faded out of the canvas. His face expressed his bepuzzlement. He stared at what seemed a careless daub of paint, then stepped away. Immediately all the beauty flashed back into the canvas. “A trick picture,” was his thought, as he dismissed it, though in the midst of the multitudinous impressions he was receiving he found time to feel a prod of indignation that so much beauty should be sacrificed to make a trick. He did not know painting. He had been brought up on chromos and lithographs that were always definite and sharp, near or far. He had seen oil paintings, it was true, in the show windows of shops, but the glass of the windows had prevented his eager eyes from approaching too near.
He glanced around at his friend reading the letter and saw the books on the table. Into his eyes leaped a wistfulness and a yearning as promptly as the yearning leaps into the eyes of a starving man at sight of food. An impulsive stride, with one lurch to right and left of the shoulders, brought him to the table, where he began affectionately handling the books. He glanced at the titles and the authors’ names, read fragments of text, caressing the volumes with his eyes and hands, and, once, recognized a book he had read. For the rest, they were strange books and strange authors. He chanced upon a volume of Swinburne and began reading steadily, forgetful of where he was, his face glowing. Twice he closed
the book on his forefinger to look at the name of the author. Swinburne! he would remember that name. That fellow had eyes, and he had certainly seen color and flashing light. But who was Swinburne? Was he dead a hundred years or so, like most of the poets? Or was he alive still, and writing? He turned to the title-page . . . yes, he had written other books; well, he would go to the free library the first thing in the morning and try to get hold of some of Swinburne’s stuff. He went back to the text and lost himself. He did not notice that a young woman had entered the room. The first he knew was when he heard Arthur’s voice saying:- “Ruth, this is Mr. Eden.”

The book was closed on his forefinger, and before he turned he was thrilling to the first new impression, which was not of the girl, but of her brother’s words. Under that muscled body of his he was a mass of
quivering sensibilities. At the slightest impact of the outside world upon his consciousness, his thoughts, sympathies, and emotions leapt and played like lambent flame. He was extraordinarily receptive and responsive, while his imagination, pitched high, was ever at work establishing relations of likeness and difference. “Mr. Eden,” was what he had thrilled to–he who had been called “Eden,” or “Martin Eden,” or just “Martin,” all his life. And “_Mister_!” It was certainly going some, was his internal comment. His mind seemed to turn, on the instant, into a vast camera obscura, and he saw arrayed around his consciousness endless pictures from his life, of stoke-holes and forecastles, camps and beaches, jails and boozing-kens, fever-hospitals and slum streets, wherein the thread of association was the fashion in which he had been addressed in those various situations.
And then he turned and saw the girl. The phantasmagoria of his brain vanished at sight of her. She was a pale, ethereal creature, with wide, spiritual blue eyes and a wealth of golden hair. He did not know how she was dressed, except that the dress was as wonderful as she. He likened her to a pale gold flower upon a slender stem. No, she was a spirit, a divinity, a goddess; such sublimated beauty was not of the earth. Or perhaps the books were right, and there were many such as she in the upper walks of life. She might well be sung by that chap, Swinburne. Perhaps he had had somebody like her in mind when he painted that girl, Iseult, in the book there on the table. All this plethora of sight, and feeling, and thought occurred on the instant. There was no pause of the realities wherein he moved. He saw her hand coming out to his, and she looked him straight in the eyes as she shook hands, frankly, like a man. The women he had known did not shake hands that way. For that matter, most of them did not shake hands at all. A flood of associations, visions of various ways he had made the acquaintance of women, rushed into his mind and threatened to swamp it. But he shook them aside and looked at her. Never had he seen such a woman. The women he had known!
Immediately, beside her, on either hand, ranged the women he had known. For an eternal second he stood in the midst of a portrait gallery, wherein she occupied the central place, while about her were limned many
women, all to be weighed and measured by a fleeting glance, herself the unit of weight and measure. He saw the weak and sickly faces of the girls of the factories, and the simpering, boisterous girls from the
south of Market. There were women of the cattle camps, and swarthy cigarette-smoking women of Old Mexico. These, in turn, were crowded out by Japanese women, doll-like, stepping mincingly on wooden clogs; by Eurasians, delicate featured, stamped with degeneracy; by full-bodied South-Sea-Island women, flower-crowned and brown-skinned. All these were blotted out by a grotesque and terrible nightmare brood–frowsy, shuffling creatures from the pavements of Whitechapel, gin-bloated hags of the stews, and all the vast hell’s following of harpies, vile-mouthed and filthy, that under the guise of monstrous female form prey upon sailors, the scrapings of the ports, the scum and slime of the human pit.
“Won’t you sit down, Mr. Eden?” the girl was saying. “I have been looking forward to meeting you ever since Arthur told us. It was brave of you”
He waved his hand deprecatingly and muttered that it was nothing at all, what he had done, and that any fellow would have done it. She noticed that the hand he waved was covered with fresh abrasions, in the process of healing, and a glance at the other loose-hanging hand showed it to be in the same condition. Also, with quick, critical eye, she noted a scar on his cheek, another that peeped out from under the hair of the forehead, and a third that ran down and disappeared under the starched collar. She repressed a smile at sight of the red line that marked the chafe of the collar against the bronzed neck. He was evidently unused to stiff collars. Likewise her feminine eye took in the clothes he wore, the cheap and unaesthetic cut, the wrinkling of the coat across the shoulders, and the series of wrinkles in the sleeves that advertised bulging biceps muscles.
While he waved his hand and muttered that he had done nothing at all, he was obeying her behest by trying to get into a chair. He found time to admire the ease with which she sat down, then lurched toward a chair facing her, overwhelmed with consciousness of the awkward figure he was cutting. This was a new experience for him. All his life, up to then, he had been unaware of being either graceful or awkward. Such thoughts of self had never entered his mind. He sat down gingerly on the edge of the chair, greatly worried by his hands. They were in the way wherever he put them. Arthur was leaving the room, and Martin Eden followed his exit with longing eyes. He felt lost, alone there in the room with that pale spirit of a woman. There was no bar-keeper upon whom to call for drinks, no small boy to send around the corner for a can of beer and by means of that social fluid start the amenities of friendship flowing.

“You have such a scar on your neck, Mr. Eden,” the girl was saying. “How did it happen? I am sure it must have been some adventure.”

“A Mexican with a knife, miss,” he answered, moistening his parched lips and clearing hip throat. “It was just a fight. After I got the knife away, he tried to bite off my nose.”

Baldly as he had stated it, in his eyes was a rich vision of that hot, starry night at Salina Cruz, the white strip of beach, the lights of the sugar steamers in the harbor, the voices of the drunken sailors in the distance, the jostling stevedores, the flaming passion in the Mexican’s face, the glint of the beast-eyes in the starlight, the sting of the steel in his neck, and the rush of blood, the crowd and the cries, the two bodies, his and the Mexican’s, locked together, rolling over and over and tearing up the sand, and from away off somewhere the mellow tinkling of a guitar. Such was the picture, and he thrilled to the memory of it, wondering if the man could paint it who had painted the pilot-schooner on the wall. The white beach, the stars, and the lights of the sugar steamers would look great, he thought, and midway on the sand the dark group of figures that surrounded the fighters. The knife occupied a place in the picture, he decided, and would show well, with a sort of gleam, in the light of the stars. But of all this no hint had crept into his speech. “He tried to bite off my nose,” he concluded.

“Oh,” the girl said, in a faint, far voice, and he noticed the shock in her sensitive face.

He felt a shock himself, and a blush of embarrassment shone faintly on his sunburned cheeks, though to him it burned as hotly as when his cheeks had been exposed to the open furnace-door in the fire-room. Such sordid things as stabbing affrays were evidently not fit subjects for conversation with a lady. People in the books, in her walk of life, did not talk about such things–perhaps they did not know about them, either.

There was a brief pause in the conversation they were trying to get started. Then she asked tentatively about the scar on his cheek. Even as she asked, he realized that she was making an effort to talk his talk, and he resolved to get away from it and talk hers. “It was just an accident,” he said, putting his hand to his cheek. “One night, in a calm, with a heavy sea running, the main-boom-lift carried away, an’ next the tackle. The lift was wire, an’ it was threshin’ around like a snake. The whole watch was tryin’ to grab it, an’ I rushed in an’ got swatted.”

“Oh,” she said, this time with an accent of comprehension, though secretly his speech had been so much Greek to her and she was wondering what a lift was and what swatted meant.

“This man Swineburne,” he began, attempting to put his plan into execution and pronouncing the i long.
“Swineburne,” he repeated, with the same mispronunciation. “The poet.”
“Swinburne,” she corrected.
“Yes, that’s the chap,” he stammered, his cheeks hot again. “How long since he died?”
“Why, I haven’t heard that he was dead.” She looked at him curiously. “Where did you make his acquaintance?”
“I never clapped eyes on him,” was the reply. “But I read some of his poetry out of that book there on the table just before you come in. How do you like his poetry?”

And thereat she began to talk quickly and easily upon the subject he had suggested. He felt better, and settled back slightly from the edge of the chair, holding tightly to its arms with his hands, as if it might get away from him and buck him to the floor. He had succeeded in making her talk her talk, and while she rattled on, he strove to follow her, marvelling at all the knowledge that was stowed away in that pretty head of hers, and drinking in the pale beauty of her face. Follow her he did, though bothered by unfamiliar words that fell glibly from her lips and by critical phrases and thought-processes that were foreign to his mind, but that nevertheless stimulated his mind and set it tingling. Here was
intellectual life, he thought, and here was beauty, warm and wonderful as he had never dreamed it could be. He forgot himself and stared at her with hungry eyes. Here was something to live for, to win to, to fight for–ay, and die for. The books were true. There were such women in the world. She was one of them. She lent wings to his imagination, and great, luminous canvases spread themselves before him whereon loomed vague, gigantic figures of love and romance, and of heroic deeds for woman’s sake–for a pale woman, a flower of gold. And through the swaying, palpitant vision, as through a fairy mirage, he stared at the real woman, sitting there and talking of literature and art. He listened as well, but he stared, unconscious of the fixity of his gaze or of the fact that all that was essentially masculine in his nature was shining in his eyes. But she, who knew little of the world of men, being a woman, was keenly aware of his burning eyes. She had never had men look at her in such fashion, and it embarrassed her. She stumbled and halted in her utterance. The thread of argument slipped from her. He frightened her, and at the same time it was strangely pleasant to be so looked upon. Her training warned her of peril and of wrong, subtle, mysterious, luring; while her instincts rang clarion-voiced through her being, impelling her to hurdle caste and place and gain to this traveller from another world, to this uncouth young fellow with lacerated hands and a line of raw red caused by the unaccustomed linen at his throat, who, all too evidently, was soiled and tainted by ungracious existence. She was clean, and her cleanness revolted; but she was woman, and she was just beginning to learn the paradox of woman.
“As I was saying–what was I saying?” She broke off abruptly and laughed merrily at her predicament.
“You was saying that this man Swinburne failed bein’ a great poet because–an’ that was as far as you got, miss,” he prompted, while to himself he seemed suddenly hungry, and delicious little thrills crawled up and down his spine at the sound of her laughter. Like silver, he thought to himself, like tinkling silver bells; and on the instant, and for an instant, he was transported to a far land, where under pink cherry blossoms, he smoked a cigarette and listened to the bells of the peaked pagoda calling straw-sandalled devotees to worship.
“Yes, thank you,” she said. “Swinburne fails, when all is said, because he is, well, indelicate. There are many of his poems that should never be read. Every line of the really great poets is filled with beautiful truth, and calls to all that is high and noble in the human. Not a line of the great poets can be spared without impoverishing the world by that much.”
“I thought it was great,” he said hesitatingly, “the little I read. I had no idea he was such a–a scoundrel. I guess that crops out in his other books.”
“There are many lines that could be spared from the book you were reading,” she said, her voice primly firm and dogmatic.
“I must ‘a’ missed ‘em,” he announced. “What I read was the real goods. It was all lighted up an’ shining, an’ it shun right into me an’ lighted me up inside, like the sun or a searchlight. That’s the way it landed on me, but I guess I ain’t up much on poetry, miss.”
He broke off lamely. He was confused, painfully conscious of his inarticulateness. He had felt the bigness and glow of life in what he had read, but his speech was inadequate. He could not express what he felt, and to himself he likened himself to a sailor, in a strange ship, on a dark night, groping about in the unfamiliar running rigging. Well, he decided, it was up to him to get acquainted in this new world. He had never seen anything that he couldn’t get the hang of when he wanted to and it was about time for him to want to learn to talk the things that were inside of him so that she could understand. She was bulking large on his horizon.
“Now Longfellow–” she was saying.
“Yes, I’ve read ‘m,” he broke in impulsively, spurred on to exhibit and make the most of his little store of book knowledge, desirous of showing her that he was not wholly a stupid clod. “‘The Psalm of Life,’
‘Excelsior,’ an’ . . . I guess that’s all.”
She nodded her head and smiled, and he felt, somehow, that her smile was tolerant, pitifully tolerant. He was a fool to attempt to make a pretence that way. That Longfellow chap most likely had written countless books of poetry.
“Excuse me, miss, for buttin’ in that way. I guess the real facts is that I don’t know nothin’ much about such things. It ain’t in my class. But I’m goin’ to make it in my class.”
It sounded like a threat. His voice was determined, his eyes were flashing, the lines of his face had grown harsh. And to her it seemed that the angle of his jaw had changed; its pitch had become unpleasantly aggressive. At the same time a wave of intense virility seemed to surge out from him and impinge upon her.
“I think you could make it in–in your class,” she finished with a laugh. “You are very strong.”
Her gaze rested for a moment on the muscular neck, heavy corded, almost bull-like, bronzed by the sun, spilling over with rugged health and strength. And though he sat there, blushing and humble, again she felt drawn to him. She was surprised by a wanton thought that rushed into her mind. It seemed to her that if she could lay her two hands upon that neck that all its strength and vigor would flow out to her. She was shocked by this thought. It seemed to reveal to her an undreamed depravity in her nature. Besides, strength to her was a gross and brutish thing. Her ideal of masculine beauty had always been slender gracefulness. Yet the thought still persisted. It bewildered her that she should desire to place her hands on that sunburned neck. In truth, she was far from robust, and the need of her body and mind was for strength. But she did not know it. She knew only that no man had ever affected her before as this one had, who shocked her from moment to moment with his awful grammar.
“Yes, I ain’t no invalid,” he said. “When it comes down to hard-pan, I can digest scrap-iron. But just now I’ve got dyspepsia. Most of what you was sayin’ I can’t digest. Never trained that way, you see. I like books and poetry, and what time I’ve had I’ve read ‘em, but I’ve never thought about ‘em the way you have. That’s why I can’t talk about ‘em. I’m like a navigator adrift on a strange sea without chart or compass. Now I want to get my bearin’s. Mebbe you can put me right. How did you learn all this you’ve ben talkin’?”
“By going to school, I fancy, and by studying,” she answered.
“I went to school when I was a kid,” he began to object.
“Yes; but I mean high school, and lectures, and the university.”
“You’ve gone to the university?” he demanded in frank amazement. He felt that she had become remoter from him by at least a million miles.
“I’m going there now. I’m taking special courses in English.”
He did not know what “English” meant, but he made a mental note of that item of ignorance and passed on.
“How long would I have to study before I could go to the university?” he asked.
She beamed encouragement upon his desire for knowledge, and said: “That depends upon how much studying you have already done. You have never attended high school? Of course not. But did you finish grammar
“I had two years to run, when I left,” he answered. “But I was always honorably promoted at school.”
The next moment, angry with himself for the boast, he had gripped the arms of the chair so savagely that every finger-end was stinging. At the same moment he became aware that a woman was entering the room. He saw the girl leave her chair and trip swiftly across the floor to the newcomer. They kissed each other, and, with arms around each other’s waists, they advanced toward him. That must be her mother, he thought. She was a tall, blond woman, slender, and stately, and beautiful. Her gown was what he might expect in such a house. His eyes delighted in the graceful lines of it. She and her dress together reminded him of women on the stage. Then he remembered seeing similar grand ladies and gowns entering the London theatres while he stood and watched and the policemen shoved him back into the drizzle beyond the awning. Next his mind leaped to the Grand Hotel at Yokohama, where, too, from the sidewalk, he had
seen grand ladies. Then the city and the harbor of Yokohama, in a thousand pictures, began flashing before his eyes. But he swiftly dismissed the kaleidoscope of memory, oppressed by the urgent need of the
present. He knew that he must stand up to be introduced, and he struggled painfully to his feet, where he stood with trousers bagging at the knees, his arms loose-hanging and ludicrous, his face set hard for
the impending ordeal.

taken from Martin Eden, Jack London, 1909


Transcending Matter by Morgan Meis | The Smart Set

Mc Sorley's Bar, John Sloan, 1912
Mc Sorley’s Bar, John Sloan, 1912

The Ashcan painters may have “lost” most battles during their time, but we should remember them by their goal: to paint the force of life.
By Morgan Meis

Bernadita, Robert Henri, 1922
Bernadita, Robert Henri, 1922

Human history is written from the perspective of the winners. But it is also the case that the winners are, more often than not, assholes. Looking back over the wreckage of past ages, losers can come off looking pretty good in comparison. The story of what-could-have-been sometimes beats the story of what-actually-was.
One scenario for meditations upon history’s winners and losers took place in New York City, 1913 when a group of painters decided to put on a show at the Armory building. The idea behind the show was simple. One of the organizers, John Quinn, expressed it in his opening address, “The members of this association have shown you that American artists — young American artists, that is — do not dread, and have no need to dread, the ideas or the culture of Europe.”

America was ready to confront the big boys (and a couple of girls) of European art. American art would no longer be perceived as the mostly provincial, second-order stuff of a colonial backwater. The Armory exhibit would display American artists like Oscar Bluemner, Patrick H. Bruce, James Earle Fraser, and Henry Twachtman alongside Cezanne, Redon, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, and Duchamp. Likewise, art enthusiasts in the U.S. would get their first glimpse of Continental art movements: Neo-Impressionism, Futurism, Fauvism, Abstraction, and Cubism.

Viewers of the exhibit were also going to see the newest creations of those American artists who had come to be known as The Ashcan School. Painters like William Glackens, Robert Henri, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and a young Edward Hopper. The Ashcan artists painted with a dark and sooty realism. They favored street scenes, often at night, frequently in less-savory parts of town. They were not prim and proper artists of the salon. They were artists making art about real people doing real things. In the confrontation with the newest in European painting, the Ashcan School was bringing to the Armory show a blend of social relevance and a brazen, forward-looking painting style. It was going to be a good fight.

Suffice it to say, the Ashcan School lost. Badly. A headline in the Sun — a New York newspaper of the time — read, “Cubists, Futurists, and Post Impressionists Win First Engagement, Leaving the Enemy Awestruck.” The Ashcans were overshadowed. They weren’t, it turned out, as radical as they thought they were. Next to the wild lines of a Kandinsky, the utter breakdown in form of a Duchamp, the Ashcan paintings looked tame.

The Ashcan School has since been deemed a minor movement. They failed at the Armory and they were forgotten. Art history, like all history, is usually written from the perspective of the winners. But of what does this “winning” really consist? The “victory” of, say, Futurism over the Ashcan School in 1913 has much to do with the outbreak of WWI one year later. Futurism’s vision of a mechanized and war-torn reality was confirmed by real-world events. But are we to judge the worth of a school of painting by its prophetic powers or by, in this case, its celebration of industrialized war? Maybe the road not taken deserves a second look. What do we really know about the Ashcan School?

Because the Ashcan painters often painted scenes from urban life, from the immigrant-strewn streets of New York City, their work is often judged, positively or negatively, as a form of journalism. They were thought to be “documenting” the reality of life on the Lower East Side, “editorializing” the plight of the urban poor. In fact, neither of these motivations drove the Ashcan painters.

The Ashcan painters followed a specific path that was laid down by the charismatic painter and teacher Robert Henri. Henri was born in 1865. He recognized, as did most painters of the late 19th and early 20th century, that painting was at a crossroads. Newer technologies like photography and early moving pictures had displaced painting as the means for creating documents of record. Painting was forced to find itself anew, forced to ask what it could do that a medium like photography could not.
Keep on reading via The Smart Set: Transcending Matter

World Is Not Big Enough For Me And A Picasso

John William Godward, A Roman Matrone, 1905
John William Godward, A Roman Matrone, 1905
Jean Michel Basquiat, Mona Lisa, 1983
Jean Michel Basquiat, Mona Lisa, 1983

‘Il mondo non è grande abbastanza per me e un Picasso’, lasciò scritto John William Godward (1861-1922) in una nota rinvenuta nel 1922 in occasione del suo suicidio. La geometria volumetrica di certe ‘bizzarrie cubiste’, la rigida e netta scomposizione delle figure in spigoli e tangenti, devono avere indignato il pittore neoclassico al punto da spegnere in lui il desiderio di dipingere. Non oso immaginare la reazione di Godward in risposta all’Espressionismo o alle opere dell’indisciplinato ‘nipote’ Basquiat, la pecora nera della famiglia, quel drogato malato di mente. ‘Ah, i giovani. Sono finiti i tempi di una volta’.
Vero. Nel 1922 la Belle Epoque è già finita da un pezzo e la Guernica si configura come il quadro che meglio rappresenta un lungo periodo di conflitti civili culminato nella seconda guerra mondiale e destinato a durare fino ai giorni nostri.
Credo la nota di Godward interessante perchè mette in discussione molti dei principi su cui ruotano buona parte delle considerazioni sull’arte e sul concetto di bellezza. Splendor veritatis, armonia, o mera rappresentazione della realtà?
La fotografia (a esclusione di quella concettuale, surrealista e manipolata digitalmente) offre una visione della realtà scevra di finzioni e ‘artefatti’. Tuttavia la fotografia rimanda esclusivamente alla prospettiva di chi guarda all’obiettivo e scatta la foto, dunque a una visione particolareggiata della realtà. Nelle arti la realtà è un ‘fatto’ soggettivo, una ‘questione’ personale. Idealismo e soggettivismo?
Fra tutti un quadro di John William Godward mi piace particolarmente. Si intitola Sweet Nothings, ovvero Dolce far niente.

John William Godward, Sweet Nothings, 1904
John William Godward, Sweet Nothings, 1904

In questo quadro la realtà è un sogno. Un giardino di orchidee in fiore, fontane gorgoglianti, dolcissimi usignoli cinguettanti. Col favore degli dei, vien voglia di chiudere gli occhi e immaginarsi perduti nella tranquillità di un mattino romano, neo classico, soleggiato, all’ombra di un ciliegio, con in mano un libro e ore e ore a disposizione per scrivere, studiare, cucinare, mangiare, dipingere. Niente traffico, smog, scadenze, invasioni aliene, complotti marziani, catastrofi naturali, guerre atomiche, attentati militari. Per certi versi un paradiso e una noia. Una noia paradisiaca di improbabile realizzazione.
La realtà è che se non mi decido a darmi una mossa finirò per fare tardi a lavoro ed essere licenziata. Allora si, sarà Guernica.

Felix Vallotton’s Erotic Observations from the Fringes of the Bourgoisie via Art Tattler

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Born in Lausanne in 1865, Vallotton (1865–1925) studied in Paris and became closely associated with the Nabis artists’ group, which also included Edouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard. Vallotton worked as an illustrator and journalist, and also wrote plays that – like his paintings – were highly provocative and critical of bourgeois conventions. He lived in Paris during the Belle Époque – a society oscillating between the poles of decadent spectacle and severe economic depression. Having risen to the ranks of the bourgeoisie through marriage, he then turned his unsparing gaze on the double standards of the Parisian bourgeoisie, the raging battle of the sexes and the new self-assurance of women. In his paintings and prints he exposes his protagonists by placing them in carefully constructed, stage-like settings.

Vallotton’s nudes and interiors depict scenes of exposure and adultery, concealed by heavy curtains and surrounded by knickknacks and cheap ornaments; his protagonists are caught up in a tightly woven net of betrayal and oppression. In stylistic terms, it is above all the artificiality of his subjects that makes his works so unsettling: still lifes characterised by fields of intense colour, empty landscapes defined by bold chiaroscuro, and portraits painted with uncustomary harshness.

In their veiled eroticism and starkly realistic style of painting, Vallotton’s nudes are surprisingly modern. For his contemporaries, Vallotton’s open depiction of the conflict between human desire and moral codes, his complex atmospheric weave of distance and proximity, often overstepped the boundaries of acceptability. He surveyed his naked models in an almost psychoanalytic manner, portraying them realistically — and sometimes unflatteringly — with a slight squint, unevenly shaped breasts or a low hairline. In 1936, the collector Hedy Hahnloser-Bühler commented upon Vallotton’s portraiture: “Nobody was keen to be dissected by that unrelenting eye, so careful not to leave any physical or moral blemish unseen.”


Girl On A Red Carpet

Felice Casorati, Girl on a red carpet, 1912
Felice Casorati, Girl on a red carpet, 1912

The World Of The Novel ‘“Petersburg’” By Andrei Bely

Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, City Types, City Grimaces, 1908

The Russian symbolist Andrei Bely was one of the pioneers of experimental aesthetics. Bely’s creative
method in the novel Petersburg was based on his perception of symbolism, which he associated
with ethics and religion. To create the world of the novel, he used symbolic-anthroposophical artistic
approaches. The world of the novel differs from reality, which is, according to non-materialistic philosophies,
apart from God, because it is created by God. It is as if the symbolic reality of Petersburg
were divine, as if it should have been God or God-Devil, here represented by the author’s subject.
Steiner’s deity, the most universal being of the human ego, so-called manas comes to life. It embodies
the author’s anthroposophical “ego”. The text of the novel, which is simultaneously the author’s world,
was created in the disharmonious relation of the author’s subject to external reality. It can be perceived
as a form of the occult text that became popular in twentieth-century literature.
Continue to read The World Of The Novel ‘“Petersburg’” By Andrei Bely (application/pdf Object).

Une Barque Sur l’Ocean

Gustave Courbet, The Wave, between 1869 and 1870

Maurice Ravel, “Une Barque sur l’Ocean”, from Miroirs, 1904-1905.
Performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

Ernest Hyde

Fred Lebain

My mind was a mirror
It saw what it saw, it knew what it knew.
In youth my mind was just a mirror
In a rapidly flying car,
Which catches and loses bits of the landscape.
Then in time
Great scratches were made on the mirror,
Letting the outside world come in,
And letting my inner self look out.
For this is the birth of the soul in sorrow,
A birth with gains and losses.
The mind sees the world as a thing apart,
And the soul makes the world at one with itself.
A mirror scratched reflects no image-
And this is the silence of wisdom.

Taken from the Spoon River Anthology, Edgar Lee Masters, 1915

Discorso Sui Massimi Sistemi

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Gualtiero Nativi

Eliogabalo o L’ Anarchico Incoronato

The Roses of Heliogabalus, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1888), oil on canvas (via wikipedia)

Per esempio quant’è sguaiato Artaud in questo testo ‘Eliogabalo o l’anarchico incoronato’ (1934), che l’altro giorno mi è saltato agli occhi nella camera di Federica e non ho potuto fare a meno di chiedere in prestito. E’ la prima volta che leggo Artaud in italiano

‘Se intorno al cadavere di Eliogabalo, morto senza tomba, e sgozzato dalla sua polizia nelle latrine di sangue e di escementi, intorno alla sua culla vi è un’intensa circolazione di sperma. Eliogabalo è nato in un’epoca in cui tutti fornicavano con tutti; nè si saprà mai dove e da chi fu realmente fecondata sua madre. Per un principe siriano, quale egli fu, la filiazione avviene attraverso le madri; – e, in fatto di madri, vi è intorno a questo figlio di cocchiere, appena nato, un pleiade di Giulie; – e ch’esse influiscano o no su un trono, tutte queste Giulie sono delle fiere puttane.’

‘Dall’alto delle torri costruite recentemente del suo tempio del dio pitico, egli [Eliogabalo] getta il grano e i membri virili.
Egli nutre un popolo castrato
Certo, non vi sono teorbe, tube, orchestre d’asor, in mezzo alle castrazioni che egli impone, ma che ogni volta impone come tante castrazioni personali, come se fosse egli stesso, Elagabalus, ad esser castrato. Sacchi di membri sono gettati dall’alto delle torri con la più crudele abbondanza nel giorno delle feste del dio Pizio.
Non giurerei che un’orchestra d’asor, o di nebel dalle corde stridule, dai vetri duri, non sia nascosta da qualche parte nei sotterranei delle torri a spirale, per coprire le grida dei parassiti che vengono castrati; ma a quelle grida di uomini martirizzati rispondono, quasi allo stesso tempo, le acclamazioni di un popolo festante, a cui Eliogabalo distribuisce il valore di parecchi campi di grano.
Il bene, il male, il sangue, lo sperma, i vini rosati, gli olii profumati, gli aromi più costosi creano, intorno alla generosità d’Eliogabalo, innumerevoli irrigazioni.
E la musica che esce di là trascende l’orecchio per raggiungere senza strumenti e senza orchestra lo spirito. Voglio dire che i ritornelli, gli arabeschi delle deboli orchestre non sono nulla vicino a questo flusso e riflusso, a questa marea che va e viene con strane dissonanze, dalla sua generosità alla sua crudeltà, dal suo gusto per il disordine alla ricerca di un ordine inapplicabile al mondo latino’

Aiuto, culle di sperma, piogge di membri virili, castrazioni pubbliche, lo scisma d’Irshu, lo zodiaco di Ram. Le Giulie, tutte puttane. Artaud soffriva di meningite e nevralgia, e si serviva di oppio per curare il dolore (ce n’eravamo accorti); l’opera di Artaud è delirio, spassosissimo delirio surrealista e le vicende e gli eccessi di Eliogabalo si prestato bene a soddisfare la morbosità di Artaud; il quadro sopra ‘The Roses of Heliogabalus’, del pittore olandese Lawrence Alma-Tadema, che Federica mi ha suggerito e di cui mi ha parlato, rappresenta appunto un mito secondo il quale Eliogabaldo, una sera e in occasione di un trionfale banchetto, uccise i suoi ospiti facendo cadere dal soffitto tonnellate di petali di rose.
Delle volte mi chiedo in che razza di prostrazione intellettuale deve essersi trovato Artaud per tirare fuori immagini così forti come quelle suggerite nelle sue opere. Quanto di vivo dev’esserci stato in tutto quel nervo malato strappato fuori dalle parole e chissà, curato solo attraverso la scrittura.
Ho trovato questa critica al testo, molto interessante, di Fabrizio Bandini (che io non conosco ma ringrazio per aver scritto e pubblicato online il testo)

ELIOGABALO, O L’ANARCHICO INCORONATO__________________________
Pubblicato in “Valley Life”, Anno III, n° 21 (2006)

L’Eliogabalo di Antonin Artaud è uno di quei rari libri che mostrano i simboli per come sono, nella loro essenza metafisica, e offrono squarci illuminanti sulla storia dell’uomo.
Artaud rilegge la biografia dell’imperatore romano, secondo una prospettiva metafisica assolutamente interessante, con molti punti di contatto con il pensiero tradizionalista, Guénon in primis, come nota giustamente Albino Galvano in una sua Prefazione al libro.
Eliogabalo, o l’anarchico incoronato, insomma, il dipinto di un’epoca affascinante e terribile, l’epoca dello sfacelo del grande Impero Romano, l’epoca del tracollo dell’Ordine, l’epoca della lotta fra il Femminile e il Maschile, l’epoca dell’esplodere del Caos.
Roma, oramai si era indebolita, politicamente, militarmente, e soprattutto spiritualmente.
L’antica etica, regale e nobile, che aveva forgiato l’Impero, oramai si era dissolta, e l’antica religione romana aveva aperto le porte da tempo ai culti matriarcali e tellurici dell’Asia minore.
Eliogabalo proviene proprio da quel pantano matriarcale, da Emesa, sacerdote effeminato di un culto solare posto sotto il dominio della Dea Madre, della Luna, del Femminile.
Quattro donne della sua stirpe si stagliano nella sua vita, imperiose, e forgiano letteralmente il suo destino: Giulia Domna, Giulia Mesa, Giulia Soemia e Giulia Mamea.
Sono donne forti, donne virili, donne sensuali, donne impudiche, donne prive di scrupoli, donne che fanno la storia e manipolano gli uomini, che d’altro canto appaiono deboli, passivi, invertiti ed effeminati.
Scrive Artaud: “Si può dire in proposito che Eliogabalo è stato fatto dalle donne…e che quando ha voluto pensare da sé, quando l’orgoglio del maschio frustrato dall’energia delle sue donne, delle sue madri, le quali hanno tutte fornicato con lui, ha voluto manifestarsi, si è visto cosa ne è risultato”.
La salita di Eliogabalo al trono imperiale di Roma, propiziata e voluta dalle virili e impudiche donne siriache della sua stirpe, segna uno dei punti più bassi nella decadenza dell’Impero.
Il disordine, l’anarchia, il caos, lo sconcio e la perversione travolgono tutto e tutti, senza pietà.

Roma entra nel Kali Yuga, in una atmosfera crepuscolare, da tregenda, il pantano Femminile spodesta l’ordine Maschile e virile, aprendo le porte al Caos.
La marcia di Eliogabalo sulla città eterna si assomiglia più ad un corteo dionisiaco, di falli, tori, baccanti, fanciulle ignude, ubriachi, pederasti, invertiti, e galli castrati, che ad un corteo imperiale.
Il sesso, il sangue, e l’ebbrezza, i tre segni del dionisiaco, vi dominano, scatenati.
Eliogabalo entra nella Città Eterna nell’autunno del 219.
“Davanti a lui vi è il Fallo, tirato da trecento fanciulle dai seni nudi che precedono i trecento tori, oramai intorpiditi e calmi…” scrive Artaud, “E, dietro ancora, le lettighe delle tre madri: Giulia Mesa, Giulia Soemia e Giulia Mamea…”.
Artaud paragona il suo ingresso a Roma ad un rito potente, ma invertito, dissolutore.
“Eliogabalo entra in Roma da dominatore, ma col didietro…Terminate le feste dell’incoronazione segnate da questa professione di fede pederastica…s’insedia con la nonna, la madre e la sorella di quest’ultima, la perfida Giulia Mamea, nel palazzo di Caracalla”.
Da quel giorno gli storici romani, Lampridio in testa, non fanno altro che annotare le turpitudini e le sconcezze del suo comportamento, con tono inorridito e schifato.
Artaud cita le fonti romane a man bassa e dispiega tutto il lungo elenco di scelleratezze dell’imperatore, che fa rimanere a bocca aperta.
Eliogabalo completamente succube della madre, Giulia Soemia, che non prende alcuna iniziativa di governo senza il suo consenso, mentre quella vive da meretrice e pratica ogni genere di lussuria; Eliogabalo che fa sedere la madre al Senato; Eliogabalo che istituisce un senatino delle donne; Eliogabalo che si veste da prostituta e si vende per quaranta soldi nelle strade di Roma; Eliogabalo che fa eleggere un ballerino a capo della sua guardia pretoriana; Eliogabalo che a Nicomedia si da alla più sordida depravazione, abbandonandosi con altri uomini a rapporti omosessuali attivi e passivi; Eliogabalo che sposa una vergine Vestale e profana i sacri culti romani.
E’ il trionfo del Caos, dell’anarchia, della dissoluzione.
L’Ordine decade totalmente, il Maschile si confonde con il Femminile, verso la dissoluzione completa dell’esistente, verso l’Unità originaria delle cose.
Eliogabalo, l’anarchico incoronato, anela a quell’Unità originaria delle cose, a quel Caos primordiale, secondo l’acuta interpretazione di Artaud, e per ripristinarlo spinge al massimo la via invertita della sovversione. Attore e spettatore, nello stesso tempo, di un terribile processo metastorico.
E’ troppo, Roma stessa non può più reggere.
La fine di Eliogabalo è nota: inseguito dai pretoriani venne trucidato in una latrina e gettato nel Tevere con la madre. Il suo regno era terminato. Un’altra tappa di un declino spaventoso.
L’Impero Romano non gli sopravvisse ancora a lungo.

via Eliogabalo, o l’anarchico incoronato Fabrizio Bandini.

Die Brücke: Origins of Expressionism – review | Art and design | Guardian Weekly

Dresden Street, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1907

Until the 1970s and 80s, French museums showed little interest in Die Brücke, a group of artists formed in Dresden, Germany, in 1905. They made the mistake of surfacing at the same time as Fauvism in Paris.

This led to comparisons that patriotically concluded that Matisse and Derain were better than Kirchner and Heckel. The argument was always the same: the French had a sense of harmony and balance, the Germans were brutal and exalted – in a word, expressionists.

Only in 1992, with the remarkable Figures du Moderne exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, did things started to change. But slowly. Matisse has had four shows at the Pompidou Centre since 1977, whereas neither Kirchner nor any other Die Brücke artist has ever had a look-in.

Since 1992 the only attempt to remedy this omission has been the Emil Nolde retrospective at the Grand Palais in 2008. Otherwise works have been loaned by German museums to Strasbourg or the Musée Marmottan in Paris. So the current exhibition in Grenoble (until 17 June) is all the more valuable. The Brücke-Museum in Berlin has loaned a substantial part of its collection, with more than 120 paintings, drawings and woodcuts, from the beginning of the movement till 1914. That it should have happened at all is gratifying, but the exhibition is well designed too, bringing out the common ground among the artists.

Kirchner, Heckel, Pechstein and Schmidt-Rottluff did not only agree on aesthetic issues. All four were born in the early 1880s and grew up to reject the world as they found it. They did not want its principles or its mores, nor its art. The form of impressionism that was then spreading through Germany seemed emblematic of a bourgeois society ruled by money and Christian morality. In opposition they advocated bodily freedom, life in the wild, communion with the elements. They spent the summer painting in the countryside, setting up temporary communes. Their shows were collective too and it is hard to distinguish a Heckel from a Pechstein, a Pechstein woodcut from one by Nolde, who joined the group in 1908.

Their unity of style reflected their common aspirations. They painted nudes, landscapes and nudes in landscapes. The intensity of the colours bore out the force of their desires and pleasure. The models were very youthful, shameless and mocking. Forms were defined by just a few lines, interspersed with red or yellow patches worthy of Van Gogh and Munch. Outlines hardened when the group started taking an interest in art from Africa and Oceania examples of which they saw in the ethnographic museums of Dresden and Berlin.

To satisfy their curiosity they travelled abroad. In 1913 Pechstein sailed to the Palauan archipelago in Micronesia; the same year Nolde visited New Guinea where he was horrified by the effects of colonisation. Later, in 1917, Kirchner retired to a chalet in the Swiss Alps, where he sculpted wooden effigies of women and encouraged his female friends to dance naked, as a distraction from Europe and modern warfare.

Today, when society is beset by doubts about what science and technology have done to the world, Die Brücke seems to have been one of the 20th century’s earliest movements of revolt, advocating and practising revolt by art and in art. The anger and provocation that inspired its founders has lost nothing of its force. Perhaps it is because the artists still scare some people that their work is shown so little.

This article originally appeared in Le Monde

via Die Brücke: Origins of Expressionism – review | Art and design | Guardian Weekly.

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig (1880 – 1938), was a German Expressionist painter who was an original member of the Brücke. From 1917 Kirchner lived in Switzerland suffering from tuberculosis until his eventual suicide in 1938. Many of his pictures were confiscated by the Nazis, but the best collection is now in Stuttgart. He also made a large number of woodcuts and some sculpture. Kirchner formulated the programme for the Brücke in 1906 and wrote its obituary in 1913, although his close friend Heckel was the most enterprising member.
It’s said that Kirchner occasionally deliberately dated some of pictures too early in order to claim priority. There are works by him in Edinburgh and New York and other American museums as well as those in Germany.

Taken from Dictionary of Art and Artists, by Peter and Linda Murray, 1959

Le Douanier, Henri Rousseau

The Dream, Henri Rousseau, 1910

When I go out into the countryside and see the sun and the green and everything flowering, I say to myself Yes indeed, all that belongs to me!.
Nothing makes me so happy as to observe nature and to paint what I see.
Beauty is the promise of happiness.
It is often said that my heart is too open for my own good.
I cannot now change my style, which I acquired, as you can imagine, by dint of labour.
via Henri Rousseau – ArtinthePicture.com.

Rousseau, Henri, called ‘le Douanier’ (1844 – 1910), was an amateur or ‘Sunday’ painter with a direct, simple and hauntingly naive vision who painted some unusually large and complicated pictures of elaborately fanciful and pituresquely exotic subjects in a matter-of-factly pedestrian technique and strong colour. He served as a Regimental bandsman – according to his own account, in Mexico in 1861-7, which provided him with his fantastic settings – and as a Sergeant in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1. He entered the Paris municipal Customs service (hence ‘le Douanier’), and began painting about 1880, exhibiting at the Independants from 1886. A dinner in his honour was given in Picasso’s studio in 1908, and this gesture has played its part in the transmogrification of ‘le Douanier’ into a symbol of sophisticated interest in the pseudo – Primitive and in the opening of the floodgates of both psychological and the sentimental school of writers on art. He seems to have combined a certain peasant shrewdness and bland self-esteem with gullible simplemindedness; he kept a school where he taught elocution, music, and painting, wrote two plays, got himself involved, though guiltlessly, in a trial for fraud, and finally died, it is said, as a result of a disappointment in love in pursuit of a third wife.
There are works in London (Tate, Courtauld Inst.), New York (M of MA), Paris (Louvre), Zurich, and elsewhere.

Taken from ‘Dictionary of Art & Artists’, by Peter and Linda Murray, 1959

Lunar Caustic

Louis Stettner.Times Square Sailor, c. 1952

‘A man leaves a dockside tavern in the early morning, the smell of the sea in his nostrils, and a whisky bottle in his pocket, gliding over the cobbles lightly as a ship leaving harbour’

quell’uomo si chiama Bill Plantagenet ed è un pianista jazz e un ex marinaio sopravvissuto alla guerra. Un poeta maledetto, alla maniera di Baudelaire, nostalgico, alla maniera di Rimbaud. Uno scrittore alcolizzato, e romantico, l’alter Ego letterario di Malcolm Lowry nel breve romanzo autobiografico Lunar Caustic, del 1968.
Lo scrittore inglese, già apprezzato dalla critica per il romanzo Under the Volcano ( del 1947, undicesimo nella classifica dei cento romanzi migliori votati dalla Modern Library, dal quale è stato tratto l’omonimo film del regista John Huston, nel 1984), racconta di un uomo in rovina, approdato a New York e confinatosi, di propria volontà, presso il Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, il più antico manicomio newyorkese (fondato nel 1736), dove effettivamente lo scrittore chiede ricovero per un breve periodo a causa di un crollo nervoso; la biografia dello scrittore fa nota di un evento tragico, all’origine dell’inquietudine di Lowry: ancora ai tempi del college, nel 1931, il compagno di stanza Paul Frite, innamoratosi di lui (e da Lowry mai corrisposto), si suicida,  lasciandolo preda di un senso di colpa onnipresente e tale da consumarlo nello spirito.
Finito il college, Lowry si rifiuta di lavorare per il padre e a una carriera manageriale preferisce il mare, arruolandosi come marinaio; gira il mondo, subisce gli orrori della guerra, va a caccia di storie (in buona parte contenute nel romanzo di debutto Ultramarine, del 1933). Insegue la propria stella.
In Lunar Caustic, Lowry, figlio della luna, si scopre un uomo vinto dalle passioni, tanto sensibile quanto irrequieto; un eroe romantico e dimesso, decadente e smanioso d’avventure in mare; Bill Plantagenet sembra barcollare tra realtà e sogno, flashbacks e finzione, in uno stato febbrile di oscena lucidità e delirio; dentro il manicomio realizza l’orrore della follia, le deprecabili condizioni in cui vivono i pazienzi ricoverati nell’ospedale. La vita non è un baccanale, e il mare, quel mare d’inquietudine e sregolatezze, notti di whisky e jazz,  non è che una sfida senza vincitori, nè gloria.

‘Darkness was falling through the clearing haze the stars came out. Over the broken horizon the Scorpion was crawling. There was the red, dying sun, Antares. To the south-east, the Retreat of the Howling Dog appeared. The stars taking their places were wounds opening in his being, multiple duplications of that agony, of that eye. The constellations might have been monstrosities in the delirium of God. Disaster seemed smeared over the whole universe. It was as if he were living in the preexistence of some unimaginable catastrophe, and he steadied himself a moment against the sill, feeling the doomed earth itself stagger in its heaving spastic flight towards the Hercules Butterfly’

Questi i links a un sito dedicato a Lowry e un articolo, nel quale si racconta della vita dello scrittore
Malcolm Lowry @ The 19th Hole
Life and Letters: Day of the Dead : The New Yorker.
Sotto, il primo capitolo del libro
A man leaves a dockside tavern in the early morning, the smell of the sea in his nostrils, and a whisky bottle in his pocket, gliding over the cobbles lightly as a ship leaving harbour.
Soon he is running into a storm and tacking from side to side, frantically trying to get back. Now he will go into any harbour at all.
He goes into another saloon.
From this he emerges, cunningly repaired; but he is in difficulties once more. This time is serious: he is nearly run over by a street car, he bangs his head on a wall, once he falls over an ashcan where he has thrown a bottle. Passers- by stare at him curiously, some with anger; others with amusement, or even a strange avidity.
This time he seeks refuge up an alley, and leans against the wall in an attitude of dejection, as if trying to remember something.
Again the pilgrimage starts but his course is so erratic it seems he must be looking for, rather than trying to remember something. Or perhaps, like the poor cat who had lost an eye in a battle, he is just looking for his sight?
The heat rises up from the pavements, a mighty force, New York groans and roars above, around, below him: white birds flash in the quivering air, a bridge strides over the river. Signs nod past him: The Best for Less, Romeo and Juliet, the greatest love story in the world, No Cover at Any Time, When pain threatens, strikes-
He enters another tavern, where presently he is talking of people he had never known, of places he had never been. Through the open door he is aware of the hospital, towering up above the river. Near him arrogant bearded derelicts cringe over spittoons, and of these men he seems afraid. Sweat floods his face. From the depths of the tavern comes a sound of moaning, and a sound of ticking.
Outside, again the pilgrimage starts, he wanders from saloon to saloon as though searching for something, but always keeping the hospital in sight, as if the saloons were only points on his circumference. In a street along the waterfront where a bell is clanging, he halts; a terrible old woman, whose black veil only partly conceals her ravaged face, is trying to post a letter, trying repeatedly and falling, but posting it finally, with shaking hands that are not hands at all.
A strange notion strikes him: the letter is for him. He takes a drink from the bottle.
In the Elevated a heavenly wind is blowing and there is a view of the river, but he is walking as though stepping over obstacles, or like Ahab stumbling from side to side on the careening bridge, ‘feeling that he encompassed in his stare oceans from which might be revealed that phantom destroyer of himself.’
Down in the street the heat is terrific. Tabloid headlines: Thousands collapse in Heat Wave. Hundreds Dead. Roosevelt Raps Warmongers. Civil War in Spain.
Once he stops in a church, his lips moving in something like a prayer. Inside is cool: around the walls are pictured the stages of the cross. Nobody seems to be looking . He likes drinking in churches particularly.
But afterwards he comes to a place not like a church at all.
This is the hospital: all day he has hovered round it; now it looms up closer than ever. This is objective. Tilting the bottle to his mouth he takes a long, final draught: drops run down his neck, mingling with the sweat.
‘I want to hear the song of the Negroes,’ he roars.’Veut-on que je disparaisse, que je plonge, à la recherche de l’anneau…I am sent to save my father, to find my son, to heal the eternal horror of three, to resolve the immedicable horror of opposites!’
With the dithering crack of a ship going on the rocks the door there was grass growing down to the East River. But between
taken from Lunar Caustic, cap 1, by Malcolm Lowry, (1968)

Gerhard Richter

Golden Gate, 1989, Oil on photograph
Corvatsch,1989,Oil on photograph
Ohne Titel (9.1.89),1989,Oil on photograph
Ohne Titel (25.3.89), 1989, Oil oh photograph
Ohne Titel,1989, Oil on photograph
Ohne Titel (12.Jan.90), 1990, Oil on photograph
Sils Maria, 1989, Oil on photograph

via Gerhard Richter.

Gerhard Richter was one of the first German artists to reflect on the history of National Socialism, creating paintings of family members who had been members, as well as victims of, the Nazi party. Continuing his historical interest, he produced the 15-part work October 18 1977 1988, a sequence of black and white paintings based on images of the Baader Meinhof group. Richter has continued to respond to significant moments in history throughout his career; the final room of the exhibition includes September 2005, a painting of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001.

via Tate Modern| Current Exhibitions | Gerhard Richter: Panorama.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza più scosse.
Ma perciocché giammai di questa fondo
Non tornò vivo alcun, s’i’ odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Allora andiamo, tu ed io,
Quando la sera si stende contro il cielo
Come un paziente eterizzato disteso su una tavola;
Andiamo, per certe strade semideserte,
Mormoranti ricoveri
Di notti senza riposo in alberghi di passo a poco prezzo
E ristoranti pieni di segatura e gusci d’ostriche;
Strade che si succedono come un tedioso argomento
Con l’insidioso proposito
Di condurti a domande che opprimono…
Oh, non chiedere « Cosa? »
Andiamo a fare la nostra visita.

Nella stanza le donne vanno e vengono
Parlando di Michelangelo.

La nebbia gialla che strofina la schiena contro i vetri,
Il fumo giallo che strofina il suo muso contro i vetri
Lambì con la sua lingua gli angoli della sera,
Indugiò sulle pozze stagnanti negli scoli,
Lasciò che gli cadesse sulla schiena la fuliggine che cade dai camini,
Scivolò sul terrazzo, spiccò un balzo improvviso,
E vedendo che era una soffice sera d’ottobre
S’arricciolò attorno alla casa, e si assopì.

E di sicuro ci sarà tempo
Per il fumo giallo che scivola lungo la strada
Strofinando la schiena contro i vetri;
Ci sarà tempo, ci sarà tempo
Per prepararti una faccia per incontrare le facce che incontri;
Ci sarà tempo per uccidere e creare,
E tempo per tutte le opere e i giorni delle mani
Che sollevano e lasciano cadere una domanda sul tuo piatto;
Tempo per te e tempo per me,
E tempo anche per cento indecisioni,
E per cento visioni e revisioni,
Prima di prendere un tè col pane abbrustolito

Nella stanza le donne vanno e vengono
Parlando di Michelangelo.

E di sicuro ci sarà tempo
Di chiedere, « Posso osare? » e, « Posso osare? »
Tempo di volgere il capo e scendere la scala,
Con una zona calva in mezzo ai miei capelli –
(Diranno: « Come diventano radi i suoi capelli! »)
Con il mio abito per la mattina, con il colletto solido che arriva fino al mento,
Con la cravatta ricca e modesta, ma asseríta da un semplice spillo –
(Diranno: « Come gli son diventate sottili le gambe e le braccia! »)
Turbare l’universo?
In un attimo solo c’è tempo
Per decisioni e revisioni che un attimo solo invertirà

Perché già tutte le ho conosciute, conosciute tutte: –
Ho conosciuto le sere, le mattine, i pomeriggi,
Ho misurato la mia vita con cucchiaini da caffè;
Conosco le voci che muoiono con un morente declino
Sotto la musica giunta da una stanza più lontana.
Così, come potrei rischiare?
E ho conosciuto tutti gli occhi, conosciuti tutti –
Gli occhi che ti fissano in una frase formulata,
E quando sono formulato, appuntato a uno spillo,
Quando sono trafitto da uno spillo e mi dibatto sul muro
Come potrei allora cominciare
A sputar fuori tutti i mozziconi dei miei giorni e delle mie abitudini? .
Come potrei rischiare?
E ho già conosciuto le braccia, conosciute tutte –
Le braccia ingioiellate e bianche e nude
(Ma alla luce di una lampada avvilite da una leggera peluria bruna!)
E’ il profumo che viene da un vestito
Che mi fa divagare a questo modo?
Braccia appoggiate a un tavolo, o avvolte in uno scialle.
Potrei rischiare, allora?-
Come potrei cominciare?

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Direi, ho camminato al crepuscolo per strade strette
Ed ho osservato il fumo che sale dalle pipe
D’uomini solitari in maniche di camicia affacciati alle finestre?…

Avrei potuto essere un paio di ruvidi artigli
Che corrono sul fondo di mari silenziosi

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

E il pomeriggio, la sera, dorme così tranquillamente!
Lisciata da lunghe dita,
Addormentata… stanca… o gioca a fare la malata,
Sdraiata sul pavimento, qui fra te e me.
Potrei, dopo il tè e le paste e, i gelati,
Aver la forza di forzare il momento alla sua crisi?
Ma sebbene abbia pianto e digiunato, pianto e pregato,
Sebbene abbia visto il mio capo (che comincia un po’ a perdere i capelli)
Portato su un vassoio,
lo non sono un profeta – e non ha molta importanza;
Ho visto vacillare il momento della mia grandezza,
E ho visto l’eterno Lacchè reggere il mio soprabito ghignando,
E a farla breve, ne ho avuto paura.

E ne sarebbe valsa la pena, dopo tutto,
Dopo le tazze, la marmellata e il tè,
E fra la porcellana e qualche chiacchiera
Fra te e me, ne sarebbe valsa la pena
D’affrontare il problema sorridendo,
Di comprimere tutto l’universo in una palla
E di farlo rotolare verso una domanda che opprime,
Di dire: « lo sono Lazzaro, vengo dal regno dei morti,
Torno per dirvi tutto, vi dirò tutto » –
Se una, mettendole un cuscino accanto al capo,
Dicesse: « Non è per niente questo che volevo dire.
Non è questo, per niente. »
E ne sarebbe valsa la pena, dopo tutto,
Ne sarebbe valsa la pena,
Dopo i tramonti e i cortili e le strade spruzzate di pioggia,
Dopo i romanzi, dopo le tazze da tè, dopo le gonne strascicate sul pavimento
E questo, e tante altre cose? –
E’ impossibile dire ciò che intendo!
Ma come se una lanterna magica proiettasse il disegno dei nervi su uno schermo:
Ne sarebbe valsa la pena
Se una, accomodandosi un cuscino o togliendosi uno scialle,
E volgendosi verso la finestra, dicesse:
« Non è per niente questo,
Non è per niente questo che volevo dire. »

. . . . . . . . . . .

No! lo non sono il Principe Amleto, né ero destinato ad esserlo;
Io sono un cortigiano, sono uno
Utile forse a ingrossare un corteo, a dar l’avvio a una scena o due,
Ad avvisare il principe; uno strumento facile, di certo,
Deferente, felice di mostrarsi utile,
Prudente, cauto, meticoloso;
Pieno di nobili sentenze, ma un po’ ottuso;
Talvolta, in verità, quasi ridicolo –
E quasi, a volte, il Buffone.

Divento vecchio… divento vecchio…
Porterò i pantaloni arrotolati in fondo.

Dividerò i miei capelli sulla nuca? Avrò il coraggio di mangiare una pesca?
Porterò pantaloni di flanella bianca, e camminerò sulla spiaggia.
Ho udito le sirene cantare l’una all’altra.

Non credo che canteranno per me.

Le ho viste al largo cavalcare l’onde
Pettinare la candida chioma dell’onde risospinte:
Quando il vento rigonfia l’acqua bianca e nera.

Ci siamo troppo attardati nelle camere del mare
Con le figlie del mare incoronate d’alghe rosse e brune
Finché le voci umane ci svegliano, e anneghiamo.

Thomas Stearns “T. S.” Eliot (1915)

Domenico Gnoli

Domenico Gnoli, Lady's Feet, 1969
Domenico Gnoli, Red Hair on Blue Dress, 1969
Domenico Gnoli, Girocollo 15 1-2, 1966
Domenico Gnoli, Soutien- Gorge, 1964
Domenico Gnoli, Shoulder, 1969
Domenico Gnoli, Chevelure feminine,1966
Domenico Gnoli, Sotto la Scarpa, 1967
Domenico Gnoli, Purple Bust, 1969
Domenico Gnoli, Partizione Centrale, 1969

via Atlante dell’arte italiana.
Domenico Gnoli, the Alphabet of Illustrators.

Lucio Fontana’s Spatialism and Arte Povera

Hand with tool-Lucio Fontana photographed by Lothar Wolleh
Lucio Fontana-Concetto Spaziale, Attesa (1949)
Lucio Fontana-Concetto Spaziale, Attesa (1949)
Lucio Fontana-Concetto Spaziale, Attesa (1949)
Lucio Fontana-Concetto Spaziale, Attesa (1949)

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson. Umbrella, France. 1938
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Juvisy, France. 1938
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Italy,1933
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Briancon,France,1951
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Political Rally,1953
Henri Cartier-Bresson. New York,1947
Henri Cartier-Bresson.1947
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Martines Legs,1968
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Mexico,1964

Fernand Léger

da lontano un uomo
piccole mani da gigante,
sguardo fiero, sorriso gentile

Opera del Caso # 4

The Mechanic, 1920, by Leger Fernand
Le Moteur, by Fernand Leger

Fernand Leger (1881-1955), met Braque and Pablo Picasso in 1910 and eventually from his early block-life figures evolved , by c.1917, a form of curvilinear Cubism, dependent on the dynamic shapes of machinery and their geometrical bases: cones, cylinders, cogged wheels, pistons, and brilliant metallic surfaces. These forms also influenced his massive, robot- like figures, and increased the effect of his clear greys and his strong, unbroken colors. He designed for the Swedish Ballet in 1921-2, and in 1924 made the first abstract film, ‘Le Ballett Mecanique’, from actual objects, not animated abstract drawings as had been used by Eggeling and Ritcher some seven years earlier. Among his last works were the huge murals for the UN building in New York. He also made a set of stained- glass windows for the Sacre Coeur , Andincourt, nr.Belfort (Doubs)
There are works in Edinburg, London (Tate), New York (M of MA), Paris (Mus.d’Art Moderne), and there is a Musee Leger at Biot, Cote d’Azur
[taken from The Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin, 1959]

“But most of them believe that it is only by constraint they can get any good out of themselves, and so they live in a state of psychological distortion. It is his own self that each of them is most afraid of resembling. Each of them sets up a pattern and imitates it; he doesn’t even choose the pattern he imitates; he accepts a pattern that has been chosen for him. And yet I verily believe there are other things to be read in man. But people don’t dare to- they don’t dare to turn the page. Laws of imitation! Laws of fear, I call them. The fear of finding oneself alone- that is what they suffer from- and so they don’t find themselves at all. I detest such moral agoraphobia- the most odious of cowardice, I call it. Why, one always has to be alone to invent anything- but they don’t want to invent anything. The part in each of us that we feel is different from other people is just the part that is rare, the part that makes our special value- and that is the very thing people try to suppress. They go on imitating. And yet they think they love life.
“Do you know the reason why poetry and philosophy are nothing but dead-letter nowadays? It is because they have severed themselves from life. In Greece, ideas went hand in hand with life; so that the artist’s life itself was already a poetic realization, the philosopher’s life a putting into action of his philosophy; in this way, as both philosophy and poetry took part in life, instead of remaining unacquainted with each other, philosophy provided food for poetry, and poetry gave expression to philosophy- and the result was admirably persuasive. Nowadays beauty no longer acts; action no longer desires to be beautiful; and wisdom works in a sphere apart.”
Taken from The Immoralist,André Gide-1902

Robert Doisneau

Amour et barbeles-Tuileries,Paris,1944
Dactylo,Square du Vert-Galant,Paris,1947
La Baiser de l'Hotel de Ville,Paris,1950
L'Accordeoniste-Rue Mouffetard,Paris,1951
L'Enfer,Boulevard de Clichy,Paris,1952
Fox-terrier sur le Pont des Arts avec le peintre Daniel Pipart,Paris,1953

Robert Doisneau, one of France’s most popular and prolific reportage photographers, is known for his modest, playful, and ironic images of amusing juxtapositions, mingling social classes, and eccentrics in contemporary Paris streets and cafes. Influenced by the work of Kertesz, Atget, and Cartier-Bresson, in over 20 books Doisneau has presented a charming vision of human frailty and life as a series of quiet, incongruous moments. He has written: “The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.”
Text from ‘The Encyclopedia of Photography’ (1984) – Robert Doisneau
French photographer Robert Doisneau

The Flapper

The Flapper, Life Magazine-1922

image credit-Rotin by flickr
Ieri sera sono riuscita a trovare, su you tube,un vecchio classico del cinema muto in bianco e nero,anni ’20; The Flapper (secondo il dizionario inglese: young unconventional woman of 1920s who disdained conventions of decorum and established fashion) vede Olive Thomas nei panni dell’ingenua ragazzina annoiata che viene chiusa,dal padre, in un collegio femminile e si vedrà protagonista di diverse avventure e disavventure amorose; il film,a tratti malizioso,a tratti impertinente,è pensato per accontentare un pubblico educato e di facile indignazione e non manca di tutti gli stereotipi che rendono a incorniciare un’epoca in fermento sociale: giovane donna borghese,di provincia,costretta al rigore di un’educazione patriarcale,affascinata dal mistero della città,New York,innamorata di un milionario a cavallo,wild and strong, che le spezzerà il cuore (ad alto gradimento le scene al culmine del drammatico,seguite da immancabili svenimenti e lacrime di cerone) e per il quale cadrà in rovina dissipando giovinezza ed eredità,al bancone di un bar. Ripresa nel finale-redenzione della flapper,sposalizio = vita felice. Sebbene questo film, divenuto un fad degli anni’20,a tutt’oggi, farebbe rabbrividire di orrore persino la più moderata delle suffragette,e la più positiva delle femministe, centinaia,forse migliaia,di donne l’hanno iconizzato a modello di vita e le ragioni di questo sono da ricercare nella storia-società pratriarcale,’conservatorismo’,repressione,fine della prima guerra mondiale,proibizionismo,sintomi della grande depressione.
Lo stereotipo che ne deriva vede una donna sgomitare per l’affermazione della propria indipendenza e insieme giocare ora il ruolo di Betty Gramble,micetta sognante,indifesa e insicura, ora quello della più sfacciata Betty Page, femmina di animale indomito, maliziosamente sensuale e incredibilmente spregiudicata (that woman!)
Lo stereotipo vuole anche l’affermazione di un modello di donna assolutamente frivola e per questo sottovalutata intellettualmente; del 1946 Doll Face,con Vivian Blaine nei panni di una burlesque queen scartata a un’audizione perchè ritenuta non sufficientemente colta,e riscattatasi  dell’accusa di frivolezza dopo aver scritto un romanzo della propria vita,divenuto-nel film-premio letterario.
Il dato curioso riguarda il persistere,ancora oggi, di certi schemi mentali.Chiedete a un uomo come vede una donna e questo 6 volte su dieci vi risponderà Betty Gramble,nel ruolo della fidanzata,Betty Page,in quelli dell’amante.Sono pronta a ricredermi.
Ad ogni modo,la cosa che più mi affascina del cinema vintage (a parte l’affettazione degli attori e la leziosaggine dei dialoghi-nel caso dei muti,i ghirigori di decorazione alle lettere),è l’atmosfera, quasi magica,e il sortilegio che ne deriva,come viaggiare a mezzo una macchina del tempo proiettati indietro di quasi un secolo.Indipendentemente dal dibattito sociale,della critica femminista, io trovo i film muti,quell’epoca tutta e quella a seguire,nel dopoguerra, assolutamente affascinanti. Vorrà mia sorella,scherzando,darmi dell’antica.Vorrò rispondere lo sono,io sono antica. Io sono assolutamente,irrimediabilmente,antica.Adoro l’ingenuità maliziosa di quelle donnine vanitose e civettuole,in abiti da sera e piume di pavone ai capelli;l’orologio al panciotto e le moine decorose di quei signorotti gatsbiani,un po’sbruffoni un po’piacioni,furfantini;adoro il virtuosismo del nostro neorealismo,Fellini,la fotografia di città frettolose e pulsanti,gentlemen in carrozza,faccendieri in maniche di camicia,marinai ai bar del porto,solide matrone alla regia del focolare domestico.Bambini. Amo osservare le faccette,un po’curiose,un po’biricchine,dei bambini.
Specie nel caso del neorealismo, la suspance è palpabile,il dramma è reale, le ragioni radicate nella storia,e lo spirito della società è vivo e reso magnificamente attraverso l’esasperazione di un dramma,ora un’illusione,un sogno sfumato,un progetto di vita mancato di determinazione.Vizi,tic,manie,piccole miserie,vanità.E poi la speranza,l’amore ideale,la famiglia a epicentro della comunità sociale.
C’è niente di più delizioso che struggersi d’immotivata nostalgia e lasciarsi rabbonire,a volte incantare, da un romanzo in pellicola?

*Catherine Annette Hanshaw (October 18, 1901 – March 13, 1985) was one of the first popular female jazz singers. In the late 1920s she ranked alongside Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith and the Boswell Sisters in popularity and influence.
Her singing style was relaxed and suited to the new jazz-influenced pop music of the late 1920s. Although she had a low opinion of her own singing, she continued to have fans because she combined the voice of an ingenue with the spirit of a flapper. Hanshaw was known as “The Personality Girl,” and her trademark was saying “That’s all,” in a cheery voice at the end of many of her records”

Rolf Armstrong

Rolf Armstrong pin-up girl images – The Pin-up Files.

Fritz Henle


Gabriel Smy by flickr

“Lolita,light of my fire,fire of my loins. My sin,my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the plate to tap, at three,on the teeth.Lo.Lee.Ta.”

Ci sono libri dei quali si teme la lettura; le ragioni sono personali,i timori molto spesso infondati.Per molti anni ho voluto,intenzionalmente,tenermi alla larga dagli esistenzialisti per averne letto il manifesto di Sartre(motivo sufficiente a spiegare le ragioni di questa scelta),da Samuel Beckett, William Faulkner,Jorge Luis Borges-senza nessuna ragione in particolare(se non per il fatto di non ritenermi all’altezza della lettura e alla partecipazione critica ed empatica delle idee).
Ricordo di un libro,letto in adolescenza,di Luciano De Crescenzo-credo Panta Rei,nel quale lo scrittore racconta di una donna della quale si innamora perchè in grado di poter citare Finnegans Wake a memoria; inutile nascondere sono stata intrigata da questa sfida e ho desiderato potervi riuscire anch’io (sebbene consapevole quello di James Joyce un capolavoro della letteratura assai esclusivo,cui lettura è riservata a quei pochi in grado di smisurata conoscenza letteraria-che io non ho).
Forse un giorno.Il bello della letteratura sta proprio nel consentire a ciascuno,attraverso la lettura,di esplorare diversi,differenti,stati dell’essere a cavallo la pluralità di personaggi e storie,apparentemente diversi,fondamentalmente unici e peculiari l’uomo e la vita, i dubbi,le tensioni ideali, i moti dello spirito,le piccole battaglie interiori,gli armistizi dell’anima.Molti sottovalutano il potere indagativo,rivelativo,conoscitivo della letteratura,e riducono la lettura a perditempo,gli scrittori a giocolieri del verbo,mentre è alla letteratura e agli scrittori che bisogna riconoscere il merito d’avere esemplificato il temperamento di un’epoca,descritto l’umore della storia,ponderato patemi esistenziali,indugiato alternative,dal punto di vista intellettuale e sentimentale,emotivo e descrittivo,metafisico e reale.
Vorrà suonare strano,ma c’è un romanzo che,per qualche ragione,non ho mai avuto il coraggio leggere finora e questo romanzo è Lolita di Vladimir Nabokov.Probabilmente perchè suggestionata dalla critica sbrigativa e spicciola che se n’è sempre fatta per schedulare la trama entro uno steriotipo un po’accattivante/un po’ commiserativo-forse,o forse perchè insofferente all’idea di un uomo di mezza età attratto in maniera morbosa da una-appena dodicenne-ragazzina. In realtà,per comprendere le ragioni che fanno di Lolita un capolavoro meraviglioso della letteratura,e i motivi per cui lo stesso è considerato essere uno dei migliori classici del ventesimo secoli,è necessario leggerlo in inglese,perchè è soltanto in inglese, a mio parere, che questo romanzo si rivela in tutto il suo incredibile fascino narrativo; c’è niente di più misurato e sentimentale della prosa, del piglio visionario a contorno delle immagini a onore della ninfetta Lolita suggerite da Humbert.
Quello che secondo me è importante sottolineare per rendere onore al romanzo,non è tanto la trama( uomo attempato che si innamora di una dodicenne smaliziata,personificazione del Complesso di Elettra) quanto la psicologia di questo amore. Humbert si innamora di Lolita perchè è tramite Lolita che Humbert ritorna ragazzino; il richiamo,in questo romanzo,è a quell’amore smaliziato e puro della prima infanzia,poi dell’adolescenza,che poco ha a che fare con quello adulto,spesso controverso, difficoltoso, impegnativo, cerebrale,complesso. L’amore di Humbert per Lolita è un amore semplice,fatto ancora di sensazioni,di ricordi legati alla prima infanzia, al sapore, all’odore delle cose,alla primordialità degli istinti,d’amore,di passione,di pudore,di paure,di sussulti e nostalgie.
Lolita, rappresenta per Humbert l’incarnazione di Annabel,primo amore dell’uomo,morta in giovane età, e insieme,la possibilità di riamarla,averla vicina,rivivere quell’amore mancato.Il riferimento è spicciolo,palese,reso già al terzo capitolo,con naturalezza e quasi pudore,tatto e malinconia.
A mio avviso frainteso da Kubrick in una prima rappresentazione cinematogrfica del 1962, merita la seppure smielata e pietosa interpretazione di Adrianne Lyne,del 1992.
A seguire il terzo e quarto capitolo
Cap 3
Annabel was,like the writer, of mixed parentage: half English, half Dutch, in her case. I remember her features far less distinctly today that I did a few years ago, before I knew Lolita. There are two kinds of visual memory : one when you skillfully recreate an image in the laboratory of your mind, with your eyes open (and then I see Annabel in such general terms as: “honey-colored skin,””thin arms,””brown bobbed hair,””long lashes,””big bright mouth”); and the other when you instantly evoke,with shut eyes, on the darl innerside of your eyelids, the objective, absolutely optical replica of a beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors(and this is how I see Lolita).
Let me therefore primly limit myself, in describing Annabel, to saying she was a lovely child a few months my junior. Her parents were old friends of my aunt’s and, as stuff as she. They had rented a villa not far from Hotel Mirama. Bald brow Mr.Leight and fat, powdered Mrs.Leight (born Vanessa van Ness). How I loathed them! At first, Annabel and I talked of peripheral affairs. She kept lifting handfuls of fine sand and letting it pour through her fingers. Our brains were turned the way those of intelligent European preadolescents were in our day and set, and I doubt if much individual genius should be assigned to our interest in the plurality of inhabited worlds, competitive tennis,infinity,solipsism and so on. The softness and fragility of baby animals caused us the same intense pain. She wanted to be a nurse in some famished Asiatic country; I wanted to be a famous spy.
All at once we were madly,crumsily,shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other; hopelessly, I should add,because that frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other’s soul and flesh; but there we were, unbale even to mate as slum children would have so easily found an opportunity to do. After one wild attempt we made to meet at night in her garden (of which more later), the only privacy we were allowed was to be out of earshot but not out of sight on the populous part of the plage. There, on the soft sand, a few feet away from our eleders, we would sprawl all morning, in a petrified paroxysm of desire,and take advantage of every blessed quirk in space and time to touch each other; her hand, half-hidden in the sand, would creep toward me, its slender brown fingers sleepwalking nearer and nearer; then, her opalescent knee would start on a long cautious journey; sometimes a chance rampart built by younger children granted us sufficient concealment to graze each other’s salty lips; these incomplete contacts drove our healthy and inexperienced young bodies to such a state of exasperation that not even the cold blue water, under which we still clawed at each other,could bring relief.
Among some treasures I lost during the wanderings of my adult years, there was a snapshot taken by my aunt which showed Annabel, her parents and the staid, elderly,lame gentleman, a Dr.Cooper, who that same summer courted my aunt, grouped around a table in a sidewalk café. Annabel did not come out well, caught as she was in the act of bending over her chocolat glacé, and her thin bare shoulders and the parting in the hair were about all that could be identified ( as I remember that picture) amid the sunny blur into which her lost loveliness graded; but I, sitting somewhat apart from the rest, came out with a kind of dramatic conspicuousness; a moody, beetle-browed boy in a dark sport hirt and well-tailored white shorts, his legs crossed, sitting in profile, looking away. That photograph was taken on the last day of our fatal summer and just a few minutes before we made our second and final attempt to thwart fate. Under the flimsiest of pretexts ( this was our very last chance, and nothing really mattered) we escaped from the café to the beach, and found a desolate stretch of sand, and there, in the violet shadow of some red rocks forming a kind of cave, had a brief session of avid caresses, with somebody’s lost pair of sunglasses for only witness. I was on my knees, and on the point of possessing my darling, when two bearded bathers, the old man of the sea and his brother, came out of the sea with exclamations of ribald encouragement, and four months later she died of typhus in Corfu.
                                                                         Cap 4
I leaf again and again through these miserable memories, and keep asking myself, was it then, in the glitter of that remote summer, that the rift in my life began; or was my excessive desire for that child only the first evidence of an inherent singularity? When I try to analyze my own cravings, motives, actions and so forth, I surrender to a sort of retrospective imagination which feeds the analytic faculty with boundless alternatives and which causes each visualized route to fork and re-fork without end in the maddeningly complex prospect of my past. I am convinced, however, that in a certain magic and fateful way Lolita began with Annabel.
I also know that the shock of Annabel’s death consolidated the frustration of that nightmare summer, made of it a permanent obstacle to any further romance throughout the cold years of my youth. The spiritual and the physical had been blended in us with a perfection that must remain incomprehensible to the matter-of-fact, crude,standard-brained youngsters of today. Long after her death I felt her thoughts floating through mine. Long before we met we had had the same dreams. We compared notes. We found strange affinities. The same June of the same year (1919) a stray canary had fluttered into her house and mine, in two widely separated countries. Oh, Lolita, had you loved me thus!
I have reserved for the conclusion of my “Annabel” phase the account of our unsuccessful first tryst. One night, she managed to deceive the vicious vigilance of her family. In a nervous and slender-leaved mimosa grove at the back of their villa we found a perch on the ruins of a low stone wall. Through the darkness and the tender trees we could see the arabesques of lighted windows which, touched up by the colored inks od sensitive memory, appear to me now like playing cards- presumably because a bridge game was keeping the enemy busy. She trembled and twitched as I kissed the corner of her parted lips and the hot lobe of her ear. A cluster of stars palely glowed above us, between the silhouettes of long thin leaves; that vibrant sky seemed as naked as she was under her light frock. I saw her face in the sky, strangely distinct, as if it emitted a faint radiance of its own. Her legs,her lovely live legs, were not too close together, and when my hand located what it sought, a dreamy and eerie expression, half-pleasure,half-pain, came over those childish features. She sat a little higher than I,and whenever in her solitary ecstasy she was led to kiss me, her head would bend with a sleepy, soft,drooping movement that was almost woeful, and her bare knees caught and compressed my wrist,and slackened again; and her quivering mouth, distorted by the acridity of some mysterious potion, with a sibilant intake of breath came near to my face. She would try to relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine; then my darling would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then again come darkly near and let me feed on her open mouth, while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails,I gave her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion.
I recall the scent of some kind of toilet powder- I believe she stole it from her mother’s Spanish maid- a sweetish, lowly, musky perfume. It mingled with her own biscuity odor, and my senses were suddenly filled to the brim; a sudden commotion in a nearby bush prevented them from overflowing- and as we drew away from each other, and with aching veins attended to what was probably a prowling cat, there came from the house her mother’s voice calling her, with a rising frantic note- and Dr.Cooper ponderously limped out into the garden. But That mimosa grove-the haze of stars,the tingle,the flame,the honey-dew, and the ache remained with me,and that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since- until at last,twenty-four years later, I broke her spell incarnating her in another.
Taken from Lolita,by Vladimir Nabokov,1955
The Reading Life: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

Wolfgang Suschitzky-Steam Locomotive,Scotland,1943

Once upon a London Time

Wolfgang Suschitzky-Stepney,East End,London,1934
Wolfgang Suschitzky-Charing Cross Road,London,1936
Wolfgang Suschitzky-Charing Cross Road,London,1937
Wolfgang Suschitzky-Charing Cross Road,London,1937
Wolfgang Suschitzky-Embankment,London,1934
Wolfgang Suschitzky-Fog at Cambrige Circus,Charing Cross Road,1935

credit luzfosca,Facie Populi,on tumblr
Museum of London: Exploring 20th Century London home.

Anaïs Nin

Qualche giorno fa pensavo sarebbe interessante leggere il blog di molti dei personaggi chiave della letteratura-casomai questi potessero materializzarsi e vivere i giorni nostri; immagino Ulisse scrivere di viaggi e tempo libero,Anna Karenina trattare di relazioni sentimentali controverse; il grande Gatsby di business e nightlife,Santiago di pesca e fauna marina, Arturo Baldini ed Henry Chinaski di vini,cibo e scorribande notturne, il giovane Holden di disagi giovanili-la lista è pressochè lunga e gli argomenti svariati.
Qualche tempo fa leggevo di una scrittrice cubana di origini francesi, Anaïs Nin(21 Febbraio 1903 – 14 Gennaio 1977),femminista,nota per aver redatto e pubblicato un giornale della propria vita iniziato a scrivere all’età di 11 anni fino alla morte,per un totale di 60 anni di vita stampata e raccolta in un diario(‘The Diary of Anaïs Nin‘-composto da più di 150 volumi,edito per la prima volta nel 1966,in forma ridotta e comprendente soltanto gli anni dal 1931 al 1934, di maggiore fermento creatvo e artistico). Quella che a ragione varrebbe definire la blogger per eccezione, è meglio conosciuta dagli amanti del genere erotico;Anaïs Nin,infatti,amava scrivere delle proprie relazioni sessuali,di incesti,relazioni ambigue,tradimenti,e degli innumerevoli uomini che si sono succeduti nel corso della sua vita (fra questi Henry Miller,che avrà grande influenza nella sua carriera di scrittrice,Antonin Artuad [commediografo,di cui mi capitò parlare qualche post fa],Otto Rank-psicanalista, collega illuminato di Freud); fra gli scrittori che l’hanno maggiormente ispirata, sono da ricordare Djuna Barnes (di cui parlerò prossimamente),scrittrice americana,personaggio di spicco nell’allora Parigi bohemien,cui va il merito di aver portato alla luce la comunità lesbica,D. H. Lawrence,Marcel Proust,Arthur Rimbaud.
L’attività letteraria di Anaïs Nin segue la pubblicazione di oltre venti libri,tra prosa e poesia;Delta of Venus, rappresenta il testo maggiormente conosciuto dalla critica letteraria.Il libro raccoglie una serie di brevi racconti erotici scritti originariamente nel 1940 ma pubblicati in volume unico soltanto nel 1977.

Il testo nasce per volontà di un anonimo “Collezionista”che,inizialmente,chiederà a Henry Miller di scrivere una serie di racconti erotici di netto espliciti e densi in particolari. Lo scrittore,che per qualche ragione si dirà non interessato alla commissione, proporrà l’affare alla Nin, disponibile al progetto. Sebbene The Collector renderà chiaro alla Nin di evitare romanticismi in favore di un linguaggio prosaico,questa conferirà ai racconti quel tocco intimistico che varrà a rendere l’opera intera un caposaldo della letteratura erotica.
Del 1995 una versione cinematografica del libro diretta dal regista Zalman King.
Questo il link da cui accedere alla lettura della prefazione e un primo racconto del libro,in inglese

nin-anais-delta-of-venus.pdf (application/pdf Object).

“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”
Anaïs Nin

Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier,1954,New York
Vivian Maier,1955,New York
Vivian Maier, September 1953,New York
Vivian Maier,May 5,1955,New York
Vivian Maier,October 1978
Vivian Maier,Undated,New York
Vivian Maier,Undated,Vancouver,Canada
Vivian Maier,Untitled,Undated
Vivian Maier,Self Portrait,1960

^Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was an American amateur street photographer who was born in New York but grew up in France, and after returning to the U.S., worked for about forty years as a nanny in Chicago. During those years she took about 100,000 photographs, primarily of people and cityscapes most often in Chicago, although she traveled and photographed worldwide.
Her photographs remained unknown and mostly undeveloped until they were discovered by a local historian, John Maloof, in 2007. Following Maier’s death her work began to receive critical acclaim.Her photographs have appeared in newspapers in Italy, Argentina, and England, and have been exhibited alongside other artists’ work in Denmark and Norway.
London Street Photography Festival – July 2011.

The Lady of Musashino by Kenji Mizoguchi,1951

“Take the Japanese equivalent: Hideyoshi, the lowly soldier who became shogun,just like Stendhal’s Julien Sorel. They were both ambitious and free-spirited, in a similar way. Then came along Tokugawa Ieyasu and an age of rationalism. He consolidated the feudal system and used Confucianism to help maintain this system. Confucianism exalts loyalty and filial piety. This led to an heroism of basic freedoms, creating a restrictive and uninteresting society. This is how things remained until very recently.
In the lower classes, therefore, the only form of rebellion was to commit suicide or adultery. That’s my theory, anyway! I believe, therefore, that adultery is an expression of free will. Students of the après-guerre, what do you think?”
Questo il pensiero chiave su cui si snoda tutta la vicenda del film drammatico The Lady of Musashino (Musashino Fujin, il titolo originale dell’opera) del regista giapponese Kenji Mizoguchi, girato nel 1951 durante il periodo successivo la Seconda guerra Sino- Giapponese ( Second Sino-Japanese War) combattuta dal 1937 al 1945, prevalentemente fra la Repubblica di Cina e L’Impero Giapponese, e terminata con la resa del Giappone nel settembre del 1945 di svolta alla fine della seconda guerra mondiale. La storia racconta di Michiko, una giovane donna sposata ad Akiyama, un uomo che non l’ama (chiari i riferimenti ai matrimoni di convenienza in uso all’epoca); Akiyama è un professore che insegna Stendhal all’università del paese non lontano Musashino, villaggio di campagna presso cui vivono la donna, il marito, e la coppia di cugini, Tomiko e il marito.
Il monologo sopra è tratto da una scena in cui Akiyama tiene una lezione a un gruppo di studenti. Questi fa riferimento a Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black) un’opera di Stendhal del 1830,in due volumi,nella quale l’autore racconta dell’ascesa sociale di Julien Sorel, figlio di un umile falegname,divenuto personaggio di prestigio sociale attraverso duro lavoro, ambizione e furfanteria. Il romanzo indaga principalmente il conflitto fra borghesia e nobiltà durante la rivoluzione del 1830, i conflitti fra Parigi e la Provincia, gesuiti e giansenisti. Parallelamente, l’uomo fa riferimento al regime feudale istaurato da Tokugawa Ieyasu durante il periodo Edo, dunque a un periodo di dominio del potere che, successivamente, con l’avvento della guerra, porterà a una crisi sociale. Quando l’uomo fa riferimento all’adulterio come mezzo di ribellione delle masse, lo fa per sottolineare l’avvenuta crisi di valori, il tramonto di una morale comune e l’inizio della corruzione e della decadenza sociale.
Mizoguchi impianta l’intero film sulla base di questo concetto e per farlo, utilizzerà quattro personaggi,due di spicco, gli altri due di contorno e funzionali alla resa del dramma: Michiko e la cugina Tomiko,l’una rappresentante la moralità e la vecchia tradizione giapponese,l’altra rappresentante l’immoralità e la decadenza dei costumi della nuova società giapponese dopo guerra; ancora, Akiyama e Tsutomo, soldato rientrato dal fronte, cugino di Michiko. L’uno rappresentante la razionalità, l’altro il sentimento. La vicenda vede Akiyama tradire la moglie con Tomiko, e Michiko resistere alla tentazione di tradire il marito con Tsutomo,che ama segretamente. Se da una parte Akiyama e Tomiko non si faranno scrupoli nel consumare il loro amore (ragione per cui l’uomo chiederà il divorzio dalla moglie), dall’altra Michiko, sebbene tradita, unita in matrimonio a un uomo che non l’ama, in cuor suo innamorata di Tsutomo, si appella alla volontà del padre( dunque alla tradizione) per mantenere intatti i suoi doveri di moglie e donna di principio e moralità. Questo principio/ concetto viene espresso in un’altra scena chiave in cui Michiko e Tsutomo si allontanano da casa per una passeggiata nel bosco (d’incredibile poesia i dialoghi sulla natura, emblema di semplicità e bellezza autentica) quando un temporale li costringerà a trovare rifugio in una casa albergo non lontano dal bosco. Durante la notte Tsunomo tenterà di sedurre Michiko
Michiko: No, Tsunomo,don’t! Forgive me..Tsunomo! We have to behave properly, whatever happens. You think that because Akiyama does whatever he wants, we can do whatever we want too, don’t you? But the more selfishly Akiyama behaves, the more correctly we should behave.
Tsunomo: You say that because you don’t love me.
Michiko: That’s not true. I have to behave correctly for your sake.
Tsunomo: That just means you don’t care about me. You are torturing me! I want to help you,Michiko. I want to take you from that house. Love is freedom, freedom is power!
Michiko: Moraly is the only power. You have to understand that. Tsunomo..you must believe me when I tell you..that I Love you.
Tsunomo: You only love yourself!
Michiko: That’s not true.
Tsunomo: Or why bring up morally now? That’s cowardly.
Michiko: It’s all my fault. I believe there is something greater than morality.
Tsunomo: What?
Michiko: One’s word.
Tsunomo: One’s word?
Michiko: If we really love each other, if we swear we’ll always be true and never break that oath (giuramento), then society itself will start to change. The time will come when we can be together (cioè quando la lealtà trionferà sulla menzogna e la disonestà. Credo questo un passaggio meraviglioso. Michiko non si appella alla moralità fine a sé stessa,ma fa riferimento alla lealtà fra gli uomini, che poco ha a che fare con una moralità precostituita universalmente, dunque indipendente dall’individualità di ciascuno. Il principio di lealtà sulla moralità) without hurting ourselves or anyone else. (Appunto)
Tsunomo: It won’t happen during our lifetime.
Michiko: I don’t mind.
Tsunomo: What?
Michiko: Tsunomo, please swear this oath
Tsunomo: But..
Michiko: Please, trust me and swear it
Tsunomo: Swear on what? (su un dio, su un principio, su cosa promettere? Qui è evidente il disagio che deriva dal crollo di valori ideali di riferimento)
Michiko: I don’t know
Tsunomo: It’s ridiculous!
Michiko: I don’t know but there is something..Perhaps.
Tsunomo: I am not sure God exists.
Michiko: If we’re not sure, we must believe! It’s like you believing in freedom. I also believe I have a destiny on this earth.
Tsunomo: Who decided your destiny for you?
Michiko: Who decided that human beings are free? I don’t mind if our morality is wrong. Our oath will raise us above that ( non importa quanto la moralità è giusta o sbagliata, ciò che importa è la lealtà fra gli uomini, ancora-principio supremo)
Tsunomo: But everyone’s unhappy.
Michiko: If there are more and more unhappy people, morality will change ( chiaro invito a una presa di posizione individuale nei confronti della società).Please swear this oath. Swear it, please! Swear it!
[He doesn’t ]
Il film,vedrà un finale drammatico che non ho voglia di rivelare perchè mi pare giusto mantenerlo segreto nel caso vogliate vederlo. Intanto che andava, mi è venuto in mente Jules et Jim, film di François Truffaut, del 1962,nel quale a Chaterine è dato il compito di vivere una relazione parallela e con Jules e con Jim, entrambi amici, marito e amante della donna, cui relazione non è vissuta come un tradimento ma come il superamento dello stesso verso una pacifica convivenza ideale basata su delle affinità elettive comuni ai tre (secondo questa mia interpretazione il riferimento al romanzo di Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Di rilevanza anche L’Insostenibile leggerezza dell’essere,di Milan Kundera); dunque non una ma più questioni di dibattito: il tradimento come atto di disonestà contrario all’autenticità dei sentimenti all’interno di una coppia( intendendo per coppia due singole unità in una,centrale ed esclusiva ), e il tradimento come superamento di un “vincolo” che della coppia non prevede il possesso reciproco ma la libera realizzazione dell’individuo(intendendo per coppia il fattore comune che unisce insieme due singole e distinte unità). La coppia intesa al singolare, la coppia intesa al plurale.
Secondo la critica, questo film punta più che a mettere in risalto il tradimento, a stabilire il ribaltamento del ruolo delle donne all’interno della nuova società giapponese nel dopo guerra. Per una più attenta lettura e interpretazione del film, questo un articolo-a mio avviso-interessante
The Film Sufi: “The Lady of Musashino” – Kenji Mizoguchi (1951).

The Logic Of Sensation

Gilles Deleuze photographed by Gerard Uferas

L’altro giorno, in biblioteca, perchè ho ordinato un testo di Gilles Deleuze, anzichè ricevere The Logic of Sense,mi è stato consegnato The Logic of Sensation, un saggio-sempre di Deleuze, ma su Francis Bacon; Bacon, il pittore a cui ho fatto riferimento qualche giorno fa a proposito di Lynch ed Eraserhead (saggio di cui non conoscevo l’esistenza).
Gilles Deleuze (18 Gennaio 1925 – 4 Novembre 1995) è stato un filosofo francese fra i più influenti del secolo scorso nel campo della letteratura,del cinema, dell’arte, della musica.
Il testo che ho qui,The Logic of Sensation, tratta l’analisi delle opere di Bacon dal punto di vista figurativo e interpretativo.La pittura di Francis Bacon(Dublino, 28 ottobre 1909 – Madrid, 28 aprile 1992), espressionista, si caratterizza per l’incredibile violenza che traspare dai soggetti rappresentati(crocifissioni, mutilazioni,distorsioni fisiche);l’idea di Bacon,non è tanto quella di rappresentare il teatro dell’orrore,del dolore,quanto quella di rappresentare,manifestare, una reazione all’orrore, al dolore,dunque, di riflesso,trasmettere,attraverso lo strazio delle opere,le sensazioni che ne derivano.
Dicendo questo mi viene in mente quella foto/polaroid di Masahisa Fukase che postai qualche tempo fa; in quella è palesemente rappresentato questo concetto(è puntuale, ogni volta che la guardo,anche solo di sfuggita, la reazione, fisica, di”fastidio” alla lingua,quasi poter sentire la sensazione degli spilli attraverso la carne.Meravigliosa suggestione visiva).
Qui di seguito pubblicherò l’ottavo dei 17 capitoli che compongono il saggio (pubblicato in Francia per la prima volta nell’81,trant’anni fa). In questo Deleuze s’interroga circa la capacità della pittura di esprimere nozioni quali il tempo, il suono,attraverso figure e colori; quello che più di tutto mi pare interessante sottolineare è il riferimento al pessimismo di Bacon; il pessimismo di Bacon non nasce da una forza distruttiva, anzi,quanto più atroce e drammatica la pittura di Bacon, tanto più vitale e ottimistico sarà lo slancio vitale d’interpretazione,perchè- a livello inconscio- quello che spinge Bacon a rappresentare una distorsione, un urlo,è l’orrore che prova per il mondo,dunque-paradossalmente-l’incredibile attaccamento alla vita,la straziante passione disillusa,la manifestazione di un disagio che non tace,ma si esprime e mai reprime. Meravigliosa suggestione visiva 2.

Francis Bacon-Detail of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion,1944

Un giorno mi trovavo in metro quando una donna,d’improvviso (aveva in mano un drink,credo tea,forse caffè) lancia il contenuto del bicchiere-di cartoncino-contro una signora seduta al suo fianco; la signora,praticamente fradicia,inizia a inveirle contro,swearing at her in malo modo. La donna (palesemente disturbata a livello mentale) inizia a piangere, poi a gridare.La signora scende dal treno. La donna rimane. La guardo,mi guarda; cerco di rassicurarla dicendole di calmarsi e che tutto andrà bene,la donna si calma,mi dice che tutto andrà bene.
La donna si volta alla sua destra dove è seduto un ragazzo; questi la guarda, cerca di calmarla, dice lei che tutto andrà bene. La donna lo guarda, gli ride in faccia e gli dà una manata in pieno viso. Il ragazzo allora inizia a inveirle contro,swearing at her in malo modo. You piece of shit,le dice- you piece of shit,gridando. Inferocito,avvelenato,fuori di sè.La donna,allora,riprende a piangere e gridare. Intanto che piange e grida,dice di avere problemi,di stare male,di non poterne più.La donna mi guarda,io le sorrido,le dico di calmarsi,mi avvicino a lei,le tolgo di mano il drink,le dico di scendere con me alla fermata successiva.Tutt’intorno la gente ride.La donna continua a piangere.
Scendiamo alla fermata successiva.La donna adesso è calma,l’accompagno all’uscita.
Dunque? Dunque io ho trovato quella donna di una bellezza esasperante-viva tra i morti. Piuttosto che calmarla avrei voluto unirmi a lei e gridare, se possibile,ancora più forte,contro chiunque,come una forsennata. E se mai avessi avuto un drink,due,uno per dito,avrei voluto rovesciarli tutti quanti contro ognuna di quelle persone a ridere.E se possibile,vomitargli contro tutta la mia repressione.La gente a ridere,noi a gridare. La gente a darci delle matte, noi a compiacercene e compiacerci della nostra follia-di una bellezza esasperante, drammatica e vera.
Il testo
Chapter 8
Painting Forces

Paul Klee-Ancient Sound

[..]In art, and in painting as in music, It’s not a matter of reproducing or inventing forms, but of capturing forces. For this reason no art is figurative. Paul Klee’s famous formula-“Not to render the visible, but to render visible”- means nothing else. The task of painting is defined as the attempt to render visible forces that are not themselves visible. Likewise, music attempts to render sonorous forces that are not themselves sonorous. That much is clear. Force is closely related to sensation: for a sensation to exist, a force must be exerted on a body , on a point of the wave. But if force is the condition of sensation, it’s nonetheless not the force that is sensed, since the sensation “gives” something completely different from the forces that condition it. How will sensation be able to sufficiently turn in on itself, relax or contract itself, so as to capture these nongiven forces in what it gives us, to make us sense these insensible forces, and raise itself to its own conditions? It is in this way that music must render nonsonorous forces sonorous, and painting must render invisible forces visible. Sometimes these are the same thing: Time, which is nonsonorous and invisible- how can time be painted, how can time be heard? And elementary forces like pressure, inertia, weight, attraction, gravitation, germination – how can they be rendered? Sometimes, on the contrary, the insensible force of one art instead seems to take part in the “givens” of another art: for example, how to pait sound, or even the scream? (And conversely, how to make colors audible?)
This is a problem of which painters are very conscious. When pious criticized Millet for painting peasants who were carrying an offertory like a sack of potatoes, Millet responded by saying that the weight common to the two object was more profound that their figurative distinctions. As a painter, he was striving to paint the force of that weight, and not the offertory or the sack of potatoes. And was it not Cézanne’s genius to have subordinated all the techniques of painting to this task: rendering visible the folding force of mountains , the germinative force of a seed, the thermic force of a landscape, and so on? And Van Gogh even invented unknown forces, the unheard-of force of a sunflower seed. For many painters, however, the problem of capturing forces, no matter how conscious it may have been, was mixed with another problem, equally important but less pure. This other problem was the decomposition and recomposition of effects: for example, the decomposition and recomposition of depth in the Renaissance, the decomposition and recomposition of colors in impressionism, the decomposition and recomposition of movement in cubism. We can see how one problem leads to the other, since movement, for example, is an effect that refers both to a unique force that produces it, and to a multiplicity of decomposable and recomposable elements beneath this force.

Francis Bacon-Triptych,Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground) 1964

Bacon’s Figures seem to be one of the most marvelous responses in the history of painting to the question, How can one make invisible forces visible? This is the primary function of the Figures. In this respect , we will see that Bacon remains relatively indifferent to the problem of effects. Not that he despises them, but he thinks that, in the whole history which is that of painters he admires, particularly the problem of movement, of “rending” movement. But if this is the case, it is reason enough to confront even more directly the problem of “rendering” invisible forces visible. This is true of all Bacon’s series of heads and the series of self-portraits, and it is even the reason he made these series: the extraordinary agitation of these heads is derived not from a movement that the series would supposedly reconstitute, but rather from the forces of pressure, dilatation, contraction, flattening, and elongation that are exerted on the immobile head. They are like the forces of the cosmos confronting an intergalactic traveler immobile in his capsule. It is as if invisible forces were striking the head from many different angles.


The wiped and swept parts of the face here take on a new meaning, because they mark the zone where the force is in the process of striking. This is why the problems Bacon faces are indeed those of deformation, and not transformation. These are two very different categories. The transformation of form can be abstract or dynamic. But deformation is always bodily, and it is static, it happens at one place; it subordinates movement to force, but it also subordinates the abstract to the Figure. When a force is exerted on a scrubbed part, it does not give birth to an abstract form, nor does it combine sensible forms dynamically; on the contrary, it turns this zone into a zone of indiscernibility that is common to several forms, irreducible to any of them; and the lines of force that it creates escape every form through their very clarity, through their deforming precision (we saw this in the becoming-animal of the Figures).

Francis-Bacon-Four Studies For a Self Portrait,1967

Cézanne was perhaps the first to have made deformations without transformation, by making truth fall back on the body. Here again Bacon is Cézannean: for both Bacon and Cézanne , the deformation is obtained in the form at rest; and at the same time, the whole material environment, the structure, begins to stir: “walls twitch and slide, chairs bend or rear up a little, cloths curl like burning paper…” Everything is now related to forces, everything is force. It is force that constitutes deformation as an act of painting: it lends itself neither to a transformation of form, nor to a decomposition of elements. And Bacon’s deformations are rarely constrained or forced; they are not tortures, despite appearances. On the contrary, they are the most natural postures of a body that has been reorganized by the simple force being exerted upon it: the desire to sleep, to vomit, ti turn over, to remain seated as long as possible..
We must consider the special case of the scream. Why does Bacon think of the scream as one of the highest object of painting? “Paint the scream..” It is not at all a matter of giving color to a particularly intense sound. Music, for its part, is faced with the same task, which is certainly not to render the scream harmonious, but to establish a relationship between the sound of the scream and the forces that sustain it. In the same manner, painting will establish a relationship between these forces and the visible scream ( the mouth that screams).

Francis Bacon-Study for a Portrait 1952

But the forces that produce the scream, that convulse the bodyuntil they emerge at the mouth as a scrubbed zone, must not be confused with the visible spectacle before which one screams, nor even with the perceptible and sensible object whose action decomposes and recomposes our pain. If we scream, it is always as victims of invisible and insensible forces that scramble every spectacle , and that even lie beyond pain and feeling. This is what Bacon means when he says he wanted” to paint the scream more than the horror”. If we could express this as a dilemma, it would be: either I paint the horror and I do not paint the scream. Because I make a figuration of the horrible; or else I paint the scream , and I do not paint the visible horror, I will paint the visible horror less and less, since the scream captures or detects an invisible force. Alban Berg knew how to make music out of the scream in the scream of Marie, and then in the very different scream of Lulu. But in both cases, he established a relationship between the sound of the scream and inaudible forces: those of the earth in the horizontal scream of Marie, and those of heaven in the vertical scream of Lulu. Bacon creates the painting of the scream because he establishes a relationship between the visibility of the scream ( the open mouth as a shadowy abyss) and invisible forces, which are nothing other than the forces of the future. It was Kafka who spoke of detecting the diabolic power of the future knocking at the door. Every scream contains them potentially. Innocent X screams, but he screams behind the curtain, not only someone who can no longer be seen, but as someone who cannot see, who has nothing left to see, whose only remaining function is to render visible these invisible forces, that are making him scream, these powers of the future. This is expressed in the phrase” to scream at”- not to scream before or about, but to scream at death- which suggests this coupling of forces, the perceptible force of the scream and the imperceptible force that makes one scream.

Francis Bacon-Self Portrait,1972

This is all very curious, but it is a source of extraordinary vitality. When Bacon distinguishes between two violences , that of the spectacle and that of sensation, and declares that the first must be renounced to reach the second, it is kind of declaration of faith in life. The interviews contain many statements of this sort. Bacon says that he himself is cerebrally pessimistic; that is, he can scarcely see anything but horros to paint, the horrors of the world. But he is nervously optimistic, because visible figuration is secondary in painting, and will have less and less importance. Bacon will reproach himself for painting too much horror, as if that were enough to leave the figurative behind; he moves more and more toward a Figure without horror. But why is it an act of vital faith to choose “ the scream more than the horror” the violence of sensation more than the violence of the spectacle? The invisible forces , the powers of the future- are they not already upon us, and much more insurmountable than the worst spectacle and even the worst pain? Yes, in a certain sense,- every piece of meat testifies to this. But in another sense, no. When, like a wrestler, the visible body confronts the powers of the invisible , it gives them no other visibility that its own. It is within this visibility that the body actively struggles, affirming the possibility of triumphing, which was beyond its reach as long as these powers remained invisible, hidden in a spectacle that sapped our strength and diverted us. It is as if combat had now become possible. The struggle with the shadow is the only real struggle. When the visual sensation confronts the invisible force that conditions it, it releases a force that is capable of vanquishing the invisible force, or even befriending it. Like screams at death, but death is no longer this all-too-visible thing that makes us faint; it is this invisible force that life detects, flushes out, and makes visible through the scream. Death is judged from the point of view of life, and not the reverse, as we like to believe. Bacon, no less than Beckett, is one of those artists who, in the name of a very intense life, can call for an even more intense life. He is not a painter who “believes” in death. His is indeed a figurative miserabilisme, but one that serves an increasingly powerful Figure of life. The same homage should be paid to Bacon as can be paid to Beckett or kafka. In the very act of “representing”horror, mutilation, prosthesis, fall or failure, they have erected indomitable Figures, indomitable through both their insistence and their presence. They have given life a new and extremely direct power of laughter.
Since the visible movements of the Figures are subordinated to the invisible forces exerted upon them, we can go behind the movements to these forces, and make an empirical list of the forces Bacon detects and captures. Although Bacon likens himself to a “pulverizer” or a “grinder”, he is really more like a detective. The first invisible forces are those of isolation: they are supported by the fields, and become visible when they wrap themselves around the contour and wrap the fields around the Figure. The second are the forces of the deformation, which seize the Figure’s body and head, and become visible whenever the head shakes off its face, or the body its organism. (Bacon knows how to render intensely, for example, the flattening force of sleep. The third are the forces of dissipation, when then renders these forces visible is a strange smile. But there are still many other forces. What can be said, first of all, of that invisible force of coupling that sweeps over two bodies with an extraordinary energy, but which they render visible by extracting from it kind of polygon or diagram? And beyond that, what is the mysterious force that can only be captured or detected by triptychs? It is at the same time a force (characteristic of light) that unites the whole, but also a force that separates the Figures and panels, a luminous separation that should not the confused with the preceding isolation. Can life, can time, be rendered sensible, rendered visible? To render time visible, to render the force of time visible- Bacon seems to have done this twice. There is the force of changing time, through the allotropic variation of bodies, “down to the tenth of a second”, which involves deformation; and then there is the force of eternal time, the eternity of time, through the uniting- separating that reigns in the triptychs, a pure light. To render time sensible in itself is a task common to the painter, the musician, and sometimes the writer. It is a task beyond all measure or cadence.

Taken from “Francis Bacon-The Logic of Sensation” by Gilles Deleuze (Cap 8 of 17)

Francis Bacon-Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X,1953

Tate Liverpool Current Exhibitions René Magritte: The Pleasure Principle

René Magritte-L'Assassin menacé,1927
René Magritte-La trahison des images, 1928–29
René Magritte,Golconde,1953
René Magritte,Golconde,1953
René Magritte-The False Mirror,1928

“Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”
-René Magritte (21 November 1898 – 15 August 1967)

Tate Liverpool| Current Exhibitions | René Magritte: The Pleasure Principle.

Oh the Memories

Quello della fotografia vintage è un “hobby” a cui sto appassionandomi con morbosa dedizione man man che passano i giorni e sento forte il desiderio di conoscere,vedere,osservare,guardare,contemplare la realtà attraverso uno spioncino dietro cui il passato è una pellicola in bianco e nero,un teatrino di suggestioni e nostalgica allegoria;collezionare fotografie vintage su tumblr mi riporta indietro a quando ero bambina e usavo conservare dentro una scatola decine di figurine colorate,ritagli di giornale,letterine dattiloscritte a macchina-giocattolo regalo di Natale.Niente mi esaudisce quanto ascoltare Oscar Peterson alle cuffie,intanto che sfoglio un libro di fotografie e la tensione alle spalle mi si allevia,il respiro si fa regolare,l’atmosfera s’addensa di significato e tutto coincide a una parabola di piacere antico; come nascondersi in soffitta,accendere un lume,accovacciarsi sulle ginocchia,trattenere il respiro,aprire un baule,destare il tempo dal sonno dell’oblio,riportarlo in vita,vederne compiere le moine,gli slanci dell’immaginazione,annotarne la compiaciuta compostezza attraverso ognuno degli scatti.Ognuna delle foto che vedo colma di emozioni mancanze che non credevo avere,suggestioni legate a un tempo che non ho mai vissuto ma di cui ho come un ricordo appena sbiadito.
E’ da qualche giorno in esposizione alla Royal Accademy of Art (http://www.royalacademy.org.uk),una collezione dedicata alla fotografia ungherese e a cinque dei suoi maggiori esponenti: André Kertész(1894-1985 a cui,qualche post fa, ho dedicato una galleria di foto tratte dalla collezione-Distortion,riconoscibile per le alterazioni)

André Kertész

László Moholy-Nagy(1895-1946,pittore e fotografo altamente influenzato dal costruttivismo,movimento culturale russo che prende le distanze dal culto del bello,dell’arte per l’arte,attribuendo a questa una funzione sociale d’interazione nell’architettura degli ambienti)

László Moholy-Nagy-Massenpsychose

Robert Capa(1913-1954,fotografo di guerra e testimone della Guerra Civile Spagnola,la Seconda Guerra Sino-Giapponese,la Seconda Guerra mondiale,la Guerra Arabo-Islaeliana del 1948,la Prima Guerra D’Indocina, e co-fondatore,insieme con Henri Cartier-Bresson,David “Chim” Seymour,George Rodger e William Vandivert della celebre cooperativa fotografica Magnum Photos)

Robert Capa-Air Raid, Barcelona

Martin Munkácsi(1896-1963,giornalista sportivo e fotografo “in movimento”)

Martin Munkácsi

Brassaï(1899-1984,oltre che fotografo-regista e scultore,particolarmente conosciuto in Francia).
Senza nulla togliere all’innovazione di André Kertész e László Moholy-Nagy,al coraggio e al merito di Robert Capa per aver documentato la storia,mi piace più,in questo post,indugiare sulla fotografia di Brassaï,in questo caso funzionale a mantenere viva l’atmosfera sognante di cui parlavo.
Brassaï,cui nome originale è Halasz Gyula e Brassaï lo pseudonimo di Brassó,nasce in Ungheria ma si trasferisce presto a Berlino,dove lavorerà come giornalista e studierà arte. Sarà una volta in Francia che Brassaï acquisirà la passione per la fotografia,affascinato dalla bellezza di Parigi,dove vivrà fino alla morte. Di Brassaï la celebre collezione Paris de nuit,del 1933.Di seguito alcune foto tratte dalla collezione

Brassai,Lovers in a Cafè,1932

Interessante questo blog dedicato alla cultura ungherese
Hungarian Culture Exchange http://hungariancult.com

Elliott Erwitt


Henri Florence ( New York 1893 - 1982 ) Woman With Cards

Ho scordato dell’Amore,la sensazione
il toccare delle dita la pelle,lo spasmo di tremore
il tastare delle labbra i baci,la chimica degli umori
Ho scordato di quell’Amore,il candore
i singulti della carne,i capricci delle voglie
Ho scordato di quell’Amore vizio degli innamorati,
languore degli amanti,vaneggiare degli astemi
Ho scordato dell’Amore il vocabolario,il sospiro delle parole
le armonie segrete,le segrete alchimie

On Photography

Life itself is not the reality. We are the ones who put life into stones and pebbles.
Frederick Sommer
Il potente fascino che esercita la fotografia è intrinseco alla morbosità di ciascuno suscettibile all’estetica del bello,romantico e decadente.Quanto più una fotografia dettagliata nelle intenzioni del fotografo,tanto più questa susciterà in noi il sospetto di un’emozione antica, legata a una remota convinzione del Sublime. Un meravigliso saggio che sto leggendo,On Photography,del 1977,della scrittrice newyorkese Susan Sontag,positive feminist,attivista politica,morta nel 2004, è altamente godibile,a mio parere,non solo per l’analisi che la Sontag fa della fotografia dal punto di vista analitico ed estetico,morale e filosofico,ma anche,se non soprattutto,per l’eleganza della prosa sottilmente provocatoria,le incredibili intuizioni frasali d’irriverenza fulminea e la ricercatezza e insieme limpidezza del vocabolario, volutamente accurato e puntiglioso.
Questo il sito in suo onore dove trovare articoli e biografia della scrittrice
Sotto una parte del testo tratto dal capitolo primo- In Plato’s Cave

Recently, photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as an art. it is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.

Memorializing the achievement of individuals considered as members of families (as well as of other groups), is the earliest popular use of photography. For at least a century, the wedding photograph has been as much a part of the ceremony as the prescribed verbal formulas. Cameras go with family life. According to a sociological study done in France, most households have a camera, but a household with children is twice as likely to have at least one camera as a household in which there are no children. Not to take pictures of one’s children, particularly when they are small, is a sign on parental indifference, just as not turning up for one’s graduation picture is a gesture of adolescent rebellion.

Through photographs, each family constructs as portrait-chronicle of itself – a portable kit of images that bears witness to its connectedness. It hardly matters what activities are photographed so long as photographs get taken and are cherished. Photography becomes a rite of family life just when, in the industrializing counties of Europe and America, the very institution of the family starts undergoing radical surgery. At that claustrophobic unit, the nuclear family, was being carved out of a much larger family aggregate, photography came along to memorialize, to restate symbolically, the imperiled continuity and vanishing extendedness of family life. Those ghostly traces, photographs, supply the token presence of the dispersed relatives. A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family – and, often, is all the remains of it.

As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure. Thus, photography develops in tandem with one of the most characteristic of modern activities: tourism. For the first time in history, large numbers of people regularly travel out of their habitual environments for short periods of time. It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along. Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had. Photographs document sequences of consumption carried on outside the view of family, friends, neighbors. But dependence on the camera, as the device that makes real what one is experiencing, doesn’t fade when people travel more. Taking photographs fills the same need for the cosmopolitans accumulating photograph-trophies of their boat trip up the Albert Nile or their fourteen days in China as it does for lower-middle-class vacationers taking snapshots of Eiffel Tower or Niagara Falls.

A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it – by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience in an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs. The very activity of taking pictures is soothing, and assuages general feelings of disorientation that are likely to be exacerbated by travel. Most tourists feel compelled to put the camera between themselves and whatever is remarkable that they encounter. Unsure of other responses, they take a picture. This gives shape to experience: stop, take a photograph, and move on. The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic – Germans, Japanese, and Americans. Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures.

People robbed of their past seem to make the most fervent picture takers, at home and abroad. Everyone who lives in an industrialized society is obliged gradually to give up the past, but in certain countries, such as the United States and Japan, the break with the past has been particularly traumatic. In the early 1970s, the fable of the brash American tourist of the 1950s and 1960s, rich with dollars and Babbittry, was replaced by the mystery of the group-minded Japanese tourist, newly released from his island prison by the miracle of overvalued yen, who is generally armed with two cameras, one on each hip.

Photography has become one of the principal devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of participation. One full-page ad shows a small group of people standing pressed together, peering out of the photograph, all but one looking stunned, excited, upset. The one who wears a different expression holds a camera to his eye; he seems self-possessed, is almost smiling. While the others are passive, clearly alarmed spectators, having a camera has transformed one person into something active, a voyeur: only he has mastered the situation. What do these people see? We don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. It is an Event: something worth seeing – and therefore worth photographing. The ad copy, whit letters across the dark lower third of the photograph like news coming over a teletype machine, consists of just six words: “. . . Prague . . . Woodstock . . . Vietnam . . . Sapporo . . . Londonderry . . . LEICA.” Crushed hopes, youth antics, colonial wars, and winter sports are alike – are equalized by the camera. Taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events.

A photograph is not just the result of an encounter between an event and a photographer; picture-taking is an event in itself, and one with ever more peremptory rights – to interfere with, to invade, or to ignore whatever is going on. Our very sense of situation is now articulated by the camera’s interventions. The omnipresence of cameras persuasively suggests that time consists of interesting events, events worth photographing. This, in turn, makes it easy to feel that any event, once underway, and whatever its moral character, should be allowed to complete itself – so that something else can be brought into the world, the photograph. After the event has ended, the picture will still exist, conferring on the event a kind of immortality (and importance) it would never otherwise have enjoyed. While real people are out there killing themselves or other real people, the photographer stays behind his or her camera, creating a tiny element of another world: the images-world that bids to outlast us all.

Photographing is essentially an act of non-intervention. Part of the horror of such memorable coups of contemporary photojournalism as the pictures of a Vietramese bonze reaching for the gasoline can, of a Begnali guerrilla in the act of bayoneting a trussed-up collaborator, comes from the awareness of how plausible it has become, in situations where the photographer has the choice between a photograph and a life, to choose the photograph. The person who intervenes cannot record; the person who is recording cannot intervene. Dziga Vertov’s great film, Man with a Movie Camera (1929), gives the ideal image of the photographer as someone in perpetual movement, someone moving through a panorama of disparate events with such agility and speed that any intervention is out of question. Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) gives the complementary image: the photographer played by James Stewart has an intensified relation to one event, through his camera, precisely because he has a broken leg. And is confined to a wheelchair; being temporarily immobilized prevents him from acting on what he sees, and makes it even more important to take pictures. Even if incompatible with intervention in a physical sense, using a camera is still a form of participation. Although the camera in an observation station, the act of photographing is more that passive observing. Like sexual voyeurism, it is a way of at least tacitly, often explicitly, encouraging whatever is going on to keep on happening. To take a picture is to have n interest in things as they are, in the status quo remaining unchanged (at least for as long as it takes to get a “good” picture), to be in complicity with whatever makes a subject interesting, worth photographing – including, when that is the interest, another person’s pain or misfortune.
The industrialization of photography permitted its rapid absorption into rational-that is, bureaucratic-ways of running society.No longer toy images, photographs became part of the general furniture of the environment – touchstones and confirmations of that reductive approach to reality which is considered realistic. Photographs were enrolled in the service of important institution of control,notably the family and the police, as symbolic objects and as pieces of information.Thus, in the bureaucratic cataloguing of the world,many important documents are not valid unless they have,affixed to them,a photograph-token of the citizen’s face.
The “realistic” view of the world compatible with bureaucracy redefines knowledge- as techniques and information. Photographs are valued because they give information. They tell one what there is; they make an inventory. To spies, meteorologists, coroners, archeologists, and other information professionals,their value is inestimable. But in the situation in which most people use photographs,the value as information is of the same order as fiction. The information that photographs can give starts to seem very important at that moment in cultural history when everyone is thought to have a right to something called news. Photographs were seen as a way of giving information to people who do not take easily to reading. The Daily News still calls itself “New York’s Picture Newspaper”, its bid for populist identity. At the opposite end of the scale, Le Monde, a newspaper designed for skilled, well-informed readers, runs no photography at all. The presumption is that, for such readers, a photograph could only illustrate the analysis contained in n article.
A new sense of the notion of information has been constructed around the photographic image. The photograph is a thin slice of space as well as time. In a world ruled by photographic images, all borders (“framing”) seem arbitrary. Anything can be separated, can be made discontinuous, from anything else all that is necessary is to frame the subject differently ( Conversely,anything can be made adjacent to anything else. Photography reinforces a nominalist view of social reality as consisting of small units of an apparently infinite number- as the number of photographs that could be taken of anything is unlimited. Through photographs, the world becomes a series of unrelated, freestanding particles; and history, past and present, a set of anecdotes and faits divers. The camera makes reality atomic, manageable, and opaque. It is a view of the world which denies interconnectedness, continuity, but which confers on each moment the character of a mystery. Any photograph has multiple meanings, indeed, to see something in the form of a photograph is to encounter a potential object of fascination. The ultimate wisdom of the photograph image is to say: “There is surface. Now think- or rather feel, intuit- what is beyond it, what the reality must be like if it looks this way.” Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.
Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as camera records it. But this is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks. All possibility of understanding is rooted in the ability to say no. Strictly speaking, one never understands anything from a photograph. Of course, photographs fill in blanks in our mental pictures of the present and the past: for example, Jacob Riis’s images of New York squalor in the 1880s are sharply instructive to those unaware that urban poverty in late-nineteenth- century America was really that Dickensian. Nevertheless, the camera’s rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses. As Brecht points out, a photograph of the Krupp works reveals virtually nothing about that organization. In contrast to the amorous relation, which is based on how it functions. And functioning takes place in time, and must be explained in time. Only that which narrates can make us understand.
The limit of photographic knowledge of the world is that, while it can goad conscience, it can, finally, never be ethical or political knowledge. The knowledge gained through still photographs will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whenever cynical or humanist. It will be a knowledge at bargains prices- a semblance of knowledge, a semblance of wisdom; as the act of taking pictures is a semblance of appropriation, a semblance of rape. The very muteness of what is, hypothetically, comprehensive in photographs is what constitute their attraction and provocativeness. The omnipresence of photographs has an incalculable effect on our ethical sensibility. By furnishing this already crowded world whit a duplicate one of images, photography makes us feel that the world is more available than it really is.
Needing to ha reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution. Poignant longings for beauty, for an end to probing below the surface, for a redemption and celebration of the body of the world- all these elements of erotic feeling are affirmed in the pleasure we take in photographs. But other, less liberating feelings are expressed as well. It would not be wrong to speak of people having a compulsion to photograph: to turn experience itself into a way of seeing. Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in a public event comes more and more equivalent to looking at it in photographed form. That most logical of nineteenth-century aesthetes, Mallarmè, said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book. Today everything exists to end in a photograph.
Taken from “On Photography”by Susan Sontag,1977

Jacob Riis
Jacob Riis
Jacob Riis
Jacob Riis

Jacob August Riis (May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914),Danish American social reformer, “muckraking” journalist and social documentary photographer (New York based photographer)

“You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.”
Elliott Erwitt (26 July 1928 Paris, France)

Feminism,Goddesses and Stars

Madame Yevonde Self Portrait

Name:Yevonde Cumbers Middleton
Date of Birth and Anniversary:January 5,1893-December 22,1975
Nickname:Madame Yevonde
Political Views:Suffragist,Suffragette movement
Profession: Portrait Photographer,Party Girl
Education:liberal and progressive Lingholt Boarding School(Hindhead),Guilde Internationale(Paris)
Merit:First Woman to pioneer the use of colour in portrait photography(Vivex colour process from Colour Photography Limited of Willesden)
People who inspired Madame Yevonde:Mary Wollstonecraft,Lallie Charles,surrealist artists(particularly Man Ray)
Studio:92 Victoria Street,London
Most Famous Work:An evocative,dreamy,gallery inspired by a “Roman and Greek gods and goddesses“theme party held on March 5, 1935.Portrait series based on the signs of the zodiac and the months of the year.
Exhibitions:London,New York

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Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s Girl Beatnik

Ida Kar (Russia,Tambov 1908-UK,London 1974)

This girl comes from New York
but she does not belong.
Along the neon lights, this girl
runs away from herself.
To this girl the world seems odious-
a moralist who’s been howled down.
It holds no more truths for her.
Now the ‘twist’ alone is true.
With hair mussed and wild,
in spectacles and a coarse sweater,
on spiked heels she dances
the thinnest of negations.
Everything strikes her as false,
everything-from the Bible to the press.
The Montagues exist, and the Capulets,
but there are no Romeos and Juliets.
The trees stoop broodingly,
and rather drunkenly the moon
staggers like a beatnik sulking
along the milky avenue.
Wanders, as if from bar to bar,
wrapped in thought, unsocial,
and the city spreads underneath
in all its hard-hearted beauty.
All things look hard-the roofs and walls,
and it’s no accident that, over the city,
the television antennae rise
like crucifixions without Christ.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko(July 18,1933)Soviet and Russian poet
National Portrait Gallery (London)- Person – Ida Kar.

Raising a flag over the Reichstag[World War II 1933-1945]

Bolshoi Theatre Chorus-Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei
Berlin-Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei
Brelin Ruins-Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei
Berlin-Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei
Raising a flag over the Reichstag,Historic Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei

Yevgeny Khaldei (Russia 1917–1997 Red Army photographer)

Raising a flag over the Reichstag -(Wikipedia)

André Kertész’s Distortions

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André Kertész (Hungary 2 July 1894-USA 28 September 1985)

About Love and other Drugs and Sexual Dependencies

Nan Goldin

Di Nan Goldin si dice essere una delle fotografe più influenti dei nostri tempi-e non a caso;nata a Washington nel 1953,la Goldin si appropria della macchina fotografica ancora giovane facendo di questa-letteralmente- motivo di vita (in una delle sue interviste dice di usare la fotografia come terapia,d’aiuto nei momenti difficili).La ragione principale che la spinse a catturare il tempo in maniera ossessiva sta nel suicidio della sorella,trauma che segnerà una svolta decisiva nella sua vita.
Trasferitasi a New York nel 1979,la Goldan inizia da quel momento una sorta di diario fotografico che raccoglie i frammenti del proprio vissuto e i protagonisti della comunità in cui vive,caratterizzata da una sfrenata libertà e promiscuità sessuale, e dipendenza dalle droghe.
Ballad of Sexual Dependency“,prima raccolta fotografica,includerà anche alcune delle sue immagini più disturbate in cui appare violentemente deturpata in viso e nel corpo a causa delle violenze subite dall’allora fidanzato.Una successiva pubblicazione “The Other Side“,raccoglie le immagini di un gruppo di amici transessuali,mentre una decisiva e incisiva retrospettiva-“I’ll Be Your Mirror“-presentata a New York in occasione dei suoi 25 anni di carriera(di cui verrà realizzato un documentario per la BBC),la consacrerà fra le più prolifere fotografe americane d’ispirazione mondiale.

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Interview with Nan Goldin.

Fonte-20th Century Photography by Reuel Golden,1999

The Wall Of Love

Izis Bidermanas

Was it you or your loneliness
In the blind dark we opened bleary eyes
Last night’s curses on our lips
We would frequent art-lesbian-lovers,
Galleries and public places
My daily care was to remove you into the midst of men
An ammoniac flower in your button hole
My loneliness my incontinent countess
The lower we sink the better

We loitered in the pubs at Kumkapğ
With beanstew, beer and wine before us
And police battalions behind us; in the mornings
My Guardian Saints would find my carcass in the gutters
Hot as the garbage-collecfors’ hands,
With their hands I caressed you.
My loneliness my bristle-haired beauty,
The higher we stink the better

I looked in the sky a red flash a plane
Steel and stars and human beings galore
One night we leapt the Wall of love
Where I fell was so clear so open
You and the universe at my side.
Uncountable my deaths, their resurrections.
O loneliness my many songs
The more we can live without lies the better.
Can Yucel.
(Translated by Ruth Christie)

Мастер и Маргарита

Mikhail Bulgakov

Prodigio di Eclisse Lunare e le sfumature della notte diluite di rosso entro una cornice un poco torbida ed evocativa che rimanda alla magia di un romanzo per tutti,Il Maestro e Margherita,di Michail Bulgakov,nel quale Margherita impersonifica una strega a cavallo una scopa,in volo sui tetti e le strade di una Mosca di inizio novecento rischiarata dal sortilegio figurativo di una quantomai celebrativa Luna Piena.Questo romanzo,che io amo,inserito nel genere “realismo magico“,stile letterario che prevede un tocco di magia funzionale al realismo della narrazione,a mio parere,è quanto di più alto è possibile fare letteralmente di un’allegoria.Lo stesso Bulgakov si serve degli avvenimenti accaduti a Gerusalemme durante il periodo pasquale che videro il procuratore romano Ponzio Pilato assistere alla resurrezione di Gesù Cristo,da lui stesso condannato.Ed è sulla base di questa parabola che Bulgakov costruisce il romanzo,per sottolineare ingiustizia e abuso del potere nei confronti dell’allora società russa oppressa dalla dittatura staliniana.
Il romanzo,che Bulgakov inizierà a scrivere nel 1928,subirà diversi rimaneggiamenti fino alla stesura definitiva nel 1940,ultimata dalla moglie(Bulgakov morirà poco prima d’averlo concluso) e pubblicato soltanto nel 1967.
Il Maestro e Margherita si sviluppa su due piani narrativi;il primo di denuncia e funzionale a Bulgakov nel raccontare la venuta di Satana,Woland,stregone esperto di magia nera,il quale dice di avere assistito al processo di Gesù Cristo-condannato da Ponzio Pilato,e in visita a Mosca con una carovana di amici strambi(fra questi il gatto Behemot,personaggio principale del romanzo)che creeranno scompiglio nell’alta società aristocratica moscovita,invadendo la più importante delle associazioni letterarie a Mosca,la MASSOLIT(a indicare un circolo compiacente verso la letteratura di massa),in cui si riunisce la classe intellettuale moscovita.Bulgakov non si risparmierà dal puntare loro il dito denunciandone la corruzione e accusando la classe aristocratica di lascismo e inettitudine(cosa che per anni lo costringerà all’emarginazione)
Nel secondo libro,Bulgakov introdurrà Margherita,figura non centrale nel libro,ma d’aiuto a Bulgakov nel figurare il rapporto d’amore fra lei e il Maestro,personaggio chiave,uomo esiliato dal contesto intellettuale moscovita perchè detentore di una verità scomoda e malconciliante l’oscurantismo di propaganda,dunque un amore,il loro,simbolo di ritrovato rincongiungimento,rinascita e purificazione.
Il finale del romanzo vorrà la morte del Maestro e Margherita per mano di Woland,che conferirà loro il dono dell’immortalità,e l’assoluzione di Gesù Cristo risparmiato dalla morte.
Ribaltamento dei ruoli,egualitarismo sociale.
Il Maestro e Margherita rappresenta l’eterno conflitto tra bene e male,Dio Creatore- Dio Distruttore,il tutto narrato con incredibile ironia e sarcasmo; tante le trovate visionarie-uno spettacolo di magia,il gatto Behemot ubriacone e blasfemo.Tante le curiosità che riguardano questo romanzo anche;leggo su Wikipedia che il libro ha ispirato Salman Rushdie nella stesura dell’opera I versi satanici, e i Rolling Stones per la scrittura del pezzo Sympathy for the Devil.
Del 1972 il film omonimo diretto dal regista Aleksandar Petrovic.
Per una più attenta e dettagliata critica al romanzo,interessante questo articolo di Andrea Gussago
Sotto la parte finale del libro e il link da cui è possibile accedere alla lettura,in inglese,dell’intero romanzo.

Peter Pavlov, View of Red square, 1990.10

In the brilliant moonlight, brighter than an arc-light, Margarita could see the seemingly blind man wringing his hands and staring at the moon with unseeing eyes. Then she saw that beside the massive stone chair, which sparkled fitfully in the moonlight, there lay a huge, grey dog with pointed ears, gazing like his master, at the moon. At the man’s feet were the fragments of a jug and a reddish-black pool of liquid. The riders halted.’We have read your novel,’ said Woland, turning to the master,’ and we can only say that unfortunately it is not finished. I would like to show you your hero. He has been sitting here and sleeping for nearly two thousand years, but when the full moon comes he is tortured, as you see, with insomnia. It plagues not only him, but his faithful guardian, his dog. If it is true that cowardice is the worst sin of all, then the dog at least is not guilty of it. The only thing that frightened this brave animal was a thunderstorm. But one who loves must share the fate of his loved one.’ What is he saying?’ asked Margarita, and her calm face was veiled with compassion.’He always says ‘ said Woland, ‘ the same thing. He is saying that there is no peace for him by moonlight and that his duty is a hard one. He says it always, whether he is asleep or awake, and he always sees the same thing–a path of moonlight. He longs to walk along it and talk to his prisoner, Ha-Notsri, because he claims he had more to say to him on that distant fourteenth day of Nisan. But he never succeeds in reaching that path and no one ever comes near him. So it is not surprising that he talks to himself. For an occasional change he adds that most of all he detests his immortality and his incredible fame. He claims that he would gladly change places with that vagrant, Matthew the Levite.’ ‘Twenty-four thousand moons in penance for one moon long ago, isn’t that too much? ‘ asked Margarita. ‘Are you going to repeat the business with Frieda again?’ said Woland.’ But you needn’t distress yourself, Margarita. All will be as it should ;that is how the world is made.”Let him go! ‘ Margarita suddenly shouted in a piercing voice, as shehad shouted when she was a witch. Her cry shattered a rock in the mountainside, sending it bouncing down into the abyss with a deafening crash, but Margarita could not tell if it was the falling rock or the sound of satanic laughter. Whether it was or not, Woland laughed and said to Margarita:’Shouting at the mountains will do no good. Landslides are common here and he is used to them by now. There is no need for you to plead for him,Margarita, because his cause has already been pleaded by the man he longs to join.’ Woland turned round to the master and went on: ‘ Now is your chance to complete your novel with a single sentence.’The master seemed to be expecting this while he had been standing motionless, watching the seated Procurator. He cupped his hands to a trumpet and shouted with such force that the echo sprang back at him from the bare,treeless hills :’You are free! Free! He is waiting for you!’The mountains turned the master’s voice to thunder and the thunder destroyed them. The grim cliffsides crumbled and fell. Only the platform with the stone chair remained. Above the black abyss into which the mountains had vanished glowed a great city topped by glittering idols above a garden overgrown with the luxuriance of two thousand years. Into the garden stretched the Procurator’s long-awaited path of moonlight and the first to bound along it was the dog with pointed ears. The man in the white cloak with the blood-red lining rose from his chair and shouted something in a hoarse, uneven voice. It was impossible to tell if he was laughing or crying, or what he was shouting. He could only be seen hurrying along the moonlight path after his faithful watchdog.’Am I to follow him? ‘ the master enquired uneasily, with a touch on his reins.’No,’ answered Woland, ‘ why try to pursue what is completed? ”That way, then?’ asked the master, turning and pointing back to where rose the city they had just left, with its onion-domed monasteries,fragmented sunlight reflected in its windows.’No, not that way either,’ replied Woland, his voice rolling down the hillsides like a dense torrent. ‘ You are a romantic, master! Your novel has been read by the man that your hero Pilate, whom you have just released, so longs to see.’ Here Woland turned to Margarita : ‘ Margarita Nikolayevna! I am convinced that you have done your utmost to devise the best possible future for the master, but believe me, what I am offering you and what Yeshua has begged to be given to you is even better! Let us leave them alone with each other,’ said Woland, leaning out of his saddle towards the master and pointing to the departing Procurator.’Let’s not disturb them. Who knows, perhaps they may agree on something.’
At this Woland waved his hand towards Jerusalem, which vanished.’And there too,’ Woland pointed backwards. ‘ What good is your little basement now? ‘ The reflected sun faded from the windows. ‘ Why go back? ‘Woland continued, quietly and persuasively. ‘ 0 thrice romantic master,wouldn’t you like to stroll under the cherry blossom with your love in the daytime and listen to Schubert in the evening? Won’t you enjoy writing by candlelight with a goose quill? Don’t you want, like Faust, to sit over a retort in the hope of fashioning a new homunculus? That’s where you must go–where a house and an old servant are already waiting for you and the candle;s are lit–although they are soon to be put out because you will arrive at dawn. That is your way, master, that way! Farewell–I must go!’
‘Farewell! ‘ cried Margarita and the master together. Then the black Woland, taking none of the paths, dived into the abyss, followed with a roar by his retinue. The mountains, the platform, the moonbeam pathway,Jerusalem–all were gone. The black horses, too, had vanished. The master and Margarita saw the promised dawn, which rose in instant succession to the midnight moon. In the first rays of the morning the master and his beloved crossed a little moss-grown stone bridge. They left the stream behind them and followed a sandy path.’Listen to the silence,’ said Margarita to tlhe master, the sand rustling under her bare feet. ‘ Listen to the silence and enjoy it. Here is the peace that you never knew in your lifetime. Look, there is your home for eternity, which is your reward. I can already see a Venetian window and a cllimbing vine which grows right up to the roof. It’s your home, your home for ever. In the evenings people will come to see you–people who interest you, people who will never upset you. They will play to you and sing to you and you will see how beautiful the room is by candlelight. You shall go to sleep with your dirty old cap on, you shall go to sleep with a smile on your lips. Sleep will give you strength and make you wise. And you can never send me away– I shall watch over your sleep.’ So said Margarita as she walked with the master towards their everlasting home. Margarita’s words seemed to him to flow like the whispering stream behind them, and the master’s memory, his accursed,needling memory, began to fade. He had been freed, just as he had set free the character he had created. His hero had now vanished irretrievably into the abyss; on the night of Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, pardon had been granted to the astrologer’s son, fifth Procurator of Judaea, the cruel Pontius Pilate.

Mikhail Bulgakov. The Master and Margarita.

Photography and Surrealism

Hans Bellmer
Hans Bellmer
Hans Bellmer
Hans Bellmer
Maurice Tabard
Maurice Tabard
Maurice Tabard
Man Ray
Man Ray
Man Ray
Man Ray
Clarence John Laughlin
Clarence John Laughlin
Clarence John Laughlin
Clarence John Laughlin

Hans Bellmer (Germany,1902-1975)
Maurice Tabard (France,1897-1984)
Man Ray (USA,1890-1976)
Clarence John Laughlin (USA,1905-1985)

Mata Hari

Offri da bere a una danzatrice del ventre e ti ritrovi a letto con una spia!
Mata Hari,nata Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (Leeuwarden, 7 agosto 1876 – Vincennes, 15 ottobre 1917),affascina non solo per l’incredibile bellezza e astuzia,ma soprattutto per l’ambiguità del proprio vissuto che l’ha resa protagonista della storia;Mata Hari oltre che essere una danzatrice del ventre,fu anche spia olandese in corso alla Prima Guerra Mondiale e condannata a morte per spionaggio.
Fintanto bambina,il padre,mercante di cappelli e proprietario terriero,potè permetterle di studiare nelle migliori scuole e vivere agiatamente.Seguita la separazione dei genitori,la rovina econimica del padre e la morte della madre,Margaretha verrà “adottata”dal padrino,il quale sceglierà di farla studiare da maestra d’asilo.
Nel 1895 Margaretha risponderà ad un annuncio matrimoniale del capitano Rudolph Mac Leod (1856-1928),residente ad Amsterdam,con il quale convolerà a matrimonio trasferendosi ad Amsterdam a sua volta.
Per ragioni di lavoro,Margaretha e il marito si trasferiranno in Indonesia,dove i due avranno due figli,un bambino,Norman John,e una bambina,Jeanne Louise.
Promosso maggiore e comandante della piazza di Medan, sulla costa orientale di Sumatra,il marito organizzerà una grande festa che consentirà a Margaretha di conoscere i notabili del posto e le personalità di spicco dell’alta società; sarà in occasione di questo evento che uno di essi la trascinerà con sè in un tempio,facendola assistere a una danza del ventre,di cui Margaretha si innamorerà,decidendo da quella volta di volere imparare a sua volta.
Nel giugno del 1899,il piccolo Norman morirà avvelenato; di questo verrà ritenuta responsabile la domestica indigena,moglie di un subalterno del maggiore Mac Leod.Credendo questa non una disgrazia,ma un fatto premeditato(pare il marito della domestica fosse stato punito a causa del maggiore),Margaretha e la bambina si trasferiranno a Banjoe Biroe, nell’isola di Giava, dove Margaretha si ammalerà di tifo.
Giunta l’età del pensionamento,il maggiore Mac Leod si dimetterà dall’esercito e trasferirà in Olanda con il resto della famiglia.
In Olanda le cose non andranno bene,Maragaretha e il marito si separeranno,e la bambina verrà data in affidamento al padre.
Rimasta sola,Margaretha deciderà,nel 1903, di trasferirsi a Parigi,dove non conosce nessuno,per tentare la fortuna;lavorerà come modella e,probabilmente,come prostituta.Le cose non devono essere andate molto bene,dunque Margaretha rientrerà in Olanda in un primo momento,(immagino a racimolare qualche soldo)e nuovamente a Parigi poi,in affitto al Grand Hotel.Qui Margaretha farà l’amicizia del signor Molier,proprietario di un’importante scuola di equitazione e di un circo.Affascinato da Margaretha,Monsieur Molier,deciderà di prenderla con sè e farla lavorare come amazzone nel suo circo.
Nel 1905 Maragaretha debutterà ufficilamente in occasione di una serata di beneficenza organizzata a casa della cantante Kiréevsky; da allora Lady Mc Leod,come Margaretha si faceva chiamare,otterrà grande successo e il suo nome farà eco nei più prestigiosi salotti parigini.
Nello stesso anno,Margaretha verrà notata da monsieur Guimet, industriale e collezionista di oggetti d’arte orientale,che la vorrà protagonista del suo museo,dove questi teneva in esposizione i suoi diamanti.Da allora,Lady Mc Leod,sarà Mata Hari,Occhio dell’Alba-in malese-e inizierà a esibirsi nei salotti più importanti di finanzieri e banchieri,e in prestigiosi locali come il Moulin Rouge, il Trocadéro, il Café des Nations.Perchè il personaggio Mata Hari non deludesse le aspettative del pubblico,Margaretha dirà di essere nata ed essere cresciuta a Giva,Indonesia,e di avere appreso l’arte della danza nei templi,in onore a Shiva e Khali.
Dal 1905 in poi Mata Hari otterrà un successo internazionale che la porterà a esibirsi in tounee in Spagna,a Monaco,a Berlino,a Londra,in Egitto,a Montecarlo e perfino a Milano,al Teatro alla Scala,a Napoli,a Palermo.Verranno scritte biografie in suo onore e tutti i giornali parleranno di lei a gran voce.
Nel 1914 si sposterà a Berlino per inscenare uno dei suoi spettacoli,ma questo non avrà mai luogo a causa dell’assassinio del principe austriaco,e il conseguente scoppio della Prima Guerra Mondiale,che sancirà definitivamente la fine della Belle Epoque.
Intanto che l’esercito tedesco invadeva il Belgio,Mata Hari cercherà di rientrare a Parigi,ma sarà bloccata al confine in Svizzera e rispedita a Berlino.Qui conoscerà un industriale olandese,Jon Kellermann,il quale fornirà a Mata Hari i soldi per un viaggio fino a Francoforte,di rientro ad Amesterdam.
In Olanda,Mata Hari diventerà amante prima del banchiere van der Schalk,poi del barone Eduard Willem van der Capellen.
Nel dicembre del 1915 Mata Hari farà ritorno a Parigi per tentare nuovamente la fortuna,ma dovrà lasciare la città l’anno successivo per rientrare nuovamente in Olanda.
Sarà qui che conoscerà il console tedesco Alfred von Kremer, che proprio in questo periodo la incaricherà di lavorare come spia al servizio della Germania,in dovere di fornire informazioni sull’aeroporto di Contrexéville, presso Vittel, in Francia, dove Mata Hari poteva recarsi col pretesto di far visita al suo ennesimo amante, il capitano russo Vadim Masslov, ricoverato nell’ospedale di quella città.Mata Hari, divenuta agente H21, verrà istruita in Germania dalla spia Elsbeth Schragmüller, nota come Fräulein Doktor, che la immatricolò con il nuovo codice AF44.
Mata Hari,sorvegliata dal controspionaggio inglese e francese,nel maggio 1916, partirà per la Spagna e di qui, il 14 giugno, per Parigi dove, tramite un ex-amante, il tenente di cavalleria Jean Hallaure, a sua volta un agente francese, si metterà in contatto con il capitano Georges Ladoux, capo di una sezione del Deuxième Bureau, il controspionaggio francese, per ottenere il permesso di recarsi a Vittel. Ladoux le concederà il visto e le proporrà di entrare al servizio della Francia.Mata Hari accetterà, chiedendo la cifra di un milione di franchi, giustificata dalle conoscenze importanti di cui si vantava e sarebbero potute tornare utili.
A Vittel Mata Hari incontrerà il capitano russo e farà vita mondana con i tanti ufficiali francesi che frequentavano la stazione termale,facendo ritorno a Parigi a distanza di sue settimane. Qui, oltre a inviare informazioni sulla sua missione agli agenti tedeschi in Olanda e in Germania, riceverà anche istruzioni dal capitano Ladoux di tornare in Olanda attraverso la Spagna. Dopo essersi trattenuta alcuni giorni a Madrid, sempre sorvegliata dai francesi e dagli inglesi, a novembre s’imbarcherà da per L’Aia. Durante la sosta della nave a Falmouth, nel Regno Unito, verrà arrestata perché scambiata con una ballerina di flamenco, Clara Benedix, sospetta spia tedesca. Interrogata a Londra e chiarito l’equivoco, Scotland Yard la rispedirà in Spagna, dove arriverà nel dicembre 1916.
A Madrid si manterrà in contatto sia con l’addetto militare all’ambasciata tedesca, Arnold von Kalle, che con quello dell’ambasciata francese, il colonnello Joseph Denvignes, al quale riferirà delle manovre dei sottomarini tedeschi nel Marocco. Il colonnello von Kalle comprese che Mata Hari stava facendo il doppio gioco e telegrafò a Berlino che «l’agente H21» chiedeva denaro ed era in attesa di istruzioni: la risposta fu che l’agente H21 doveva rientrare in Francia per continuare le sue missioni e ricevere i 15.000 franchi.
[L’ipotesi che i tedeschi avessero deciso di disfarsi di Mata Hari – rivelandola al controspionaggio francese come spia tedesca – poggia sull’utilizzo, da loro fatto in quell’occasione, di un vecchio codice di trasmissione, già abbandonato perché decifrato dai francesi, nel quale Mata Hari veniva ancora identificata con la sigla H21, anziché con la più recente AF44.In tal modo, i messaggi tedeschi furono facilmente decifrati dalla centrale parigina di ascolto radio della Tour Eiffel.]
Il 2 gennaio 1917 Mata Hari rientrerà a Parigi dove verrà arrestata e rinchiusa nel carcere di Saint-Lazare.
Mata Hari verrà fucilata,dopo un lungo processo,il 15 ottobre 1917
Il mito di Mata Hari verrà inscenato nel cinema da diversi registi;nel 1931 da George Fitzmaurice,con Greta Garbo,che interpreterà i suoi ultimi giorni di vita.

here comes the clown,ladies and gentlemen

Charlie Chaplin-The Circus

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