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La Sensibilità Sospesa

Willem van Aelst. Still Life with flowers, 1675

Sapete che cos’è la sensibilità sospesa, questa specie di vitalità terrifica e scissa in due, questo punto di necessaria coesione a cui l’essere non s’innalza più, questo luogo minaccioso, questo luogo costernante?
da Il Pesa-Nervi, Frammenti, Antonin Artaud, 1925-1927

‘For people who have no critical acumen, a state is a mythical entity, for those who think critically it is a rational fiction, created by man in order to facilitate human coexistence’ Friedrich Dürrenmatt

Rodney Smith Photography

Friedrich Dürrenmatt, (born Jan. 5, 1921, Konolfingen, near Bern, Switz.—died Dec. 14, 1990, Neuchâtel), Swiss playwright, novelist, and essayist whose satiric, almost farcical tragicomic plays were central to the post-World War II revival of German theatre.

Dürrenmatt, who was educated in Zürich and Bern, became a full-time writer in 1947. His technique was clearly influenced by the German expatriate writer Bertolt Brecht, as in the use of parables and of actors who step out of their roles to act as narrators. Dürrenmatt’s vision of the world as essentially absurd gave a comic flavour to his plays. Writing on the theatre in Theaterprobleme (1955; Problems of the Theatre), he described the primary conflict in his tragicomedies as humanity’s comic attempts to escape from the tragic fate inherent in the human condition.

His plays often have bizarre settings. His first play, Es steht geschrieben (1947; “It Is Written”), is about the Anabaptist suppression in Münster in 1534–36. In it, as in Der Blinde (1948; “The Blind Man”) and Romulus der Grosse (1949; Romulus the Great), Dürrenmatt takes comic liberties with the historical facts. Die Ehe des Herrn Mississippi (1952; The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi), a serious play in the guise of an old-fashioned melodrama, established his international reputation, being produced in the United States as Fools Are Passing Through in 1958. Among the plays that followed were Der Besuch der alten Dame (1956; The Visit); Die Physiker (1962; The Physicists), a modern morality play about science, generally considered his best play; Der Meteor (1966; The Meteor); and Porträt eines Planeten (1970; Portrait of a Planet).

In 1970 Dürrenmatt wrote that he was “abandoning literature in favour of theatre,” no longer writing plays but working to produce adaptations of well-known works. In addition to plays, Dürrenmatt wrote detective novels, radio plays, and critical essays.

via Friedrich Durrenmatt (Swiss author) : Introduction — Britannica Online Encyclopedia.
Friedrich Durrenmatt.com

The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin

sculpture by Brian Dettmer

Sto leggendo un saggio profezia del filosofo tedesco Walter Benjamin,’The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, scritto al tempo in cui Hitler era stato già elevato Chancellor of Germany e l’Europa si ripreparava alle armi. In questo Benjamin spiega le ragioni del postmodernismo a partire da un’indagine all’avanguardia marxista d’esito nella produzione delle arti e della riproduzione delle arti, l’impatto delle arti nella sfera politica e sociale. Meglio questo saggio delinea una teoria
[..]a theory of art that would be “useful for the formulation of revolutionary demands in the politics of art.In the absence of any traditional, ritualistic value, art in the age of mechanical reproduction would inherently be based on the practice of politics. L’arte come atto di ribellione.
Ho trovato un articolo di Claudio Bianco (FILOSOFICO.NET – La filosofia e i suoi eroi) che ne fa una critica molto interessante
Dice
Il saggio L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica viene scritto da Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) nel 1935 subito dopo aver partecipato come uditore al I Congresso internazionale degli scrittori, organizzato a Parigi al fine di dar vita a un’ampia mobilitazione intellettuale contro la diffusione del fascismo . Nel 1936 il saggio è pubblicato, nella traduzione francese di Pierre Klossowski , sulla celebre rivista Zeitschrift fur Sozialforschung , che in quel periodo si stampava a Parigi e il cui gruppo dirigente era costituito da Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno (1903-1969) , Max Horkheimer (1895-1973) e Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) , fondatori dell’Istituto per la ricerca sociale di Francoforte. In una lettera del 16 ottobre 1935 a Horkheimer, Benjamin descrive il saggio come “una puntata in direzione di una teoria materialistica dell’arte”; in effetti la sua problematica adesione al marxismo e i rapporti con il gruppo di Adorno e con Bertolt Brecht costituiscono un quadro di riferimento imprescindibile per comprendere un testo che lega il problema del mutato statuto dell’opera d’arte – a seguito della diffusione di nuove tecniche di riproduzione- a considerazioni di carattere politico e sociale.

L’adesione di Benjamin al “materialismo storico”, ossia alla dottrina associata principalmente alle figure di Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) e Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) , secondo cui le produzioni cosiddette “spirituali” degli uomini – arte, religione e filosofia – sarebbero determinate, in quanto “sovrastruttura” , dalle strutture economiche soggiacenti delle diverse relazioni sociali e dei diversi modi di produzione, è sin dall’inizio assai problematica e originale. Nel saggio Eduard Fuchs, il collezionista e lo storico, Benjamin individua come compito del materialismo storico il superamento dell’atteggiamento “contemplativo” e neutrale assunto dallo storicismo per introdurre una visione dialettica della storia. Il passato non deve essere considerato come inserito in un ordine lineare e progressivo, bensì come qualcosa di unico, un’”esperienza originaria” in cui il presente si incontra con il passato in una “costellazione critica” che “fa deflagrare la continuità della storia”. L’idea di un presente nel quale si incontrano i diversi registri temporali dell’eternità e dell’istante era probabilmente maturata in Benjamin attraverso la lettura di Baudelaire, il quale, come abbiamo visto, nei saggi de Il pittore della vita moderna aveva definito la modernità come coesistenza, nel presente, del transitorio e dell’effimero con l’eterno e l’immutabile.

La critica della concezione della storia come progresso lineare e ascendente ritorna nelle tesi Sul concetto di storia (1940) , dove il compito del materialista storico è descritto come quello di “scardinare il continuum della storia”, a partire da “un presente che non è passaggio, ma nel quale il tempo è in equilibrio ed è giunto a un arresto (…) quel presente in cui egli, per quanto lo riguarda, scrive storia”. Il presente non è un istante astratto e anonimo dell’omogeneo fluire del tempo, né un’agostiniana distensio animi tutta racchiusa nell’interiorità della coscienza: esso è,invece, istanza originaria generatrice del tempo storico, luogo della sospensione e della critica in cui la storia è narrata e costruita guardando al futuro, a partire dalle urgenze dell’attualità (Jetztzeit). Questa costellazione di presente, passato e futuro, implicante al tempo stesso critica dell’esistenze e apertura verso il futuro, si rivela allo sguardo dello storico purificato dalle pecche dello storicismo sotto le sembianze di quella che Benjamin chiama un’”immagine dialettica”: un’immagine improvvisa, balenante, nella quale passato e futuro si illuminano a vicenda a partire dal presente.

E’nella sezione N del libro incompiuto dedicato ai passages di Parigi, intitolata “Elementi di teoria della conoscenza, teoria del progresso” che Benjamin sviluppa questo concetto, sostenendo che è solo attraverso le immagini dialettiche che la storia giunge alla leggibilità in una determinata epoca, là dove improvvisamente il passato subisce una sorta di “teléscopage” attraverso il presente: “Non è che il passato getti la sua luce sul presente o il presente la sua luce sul passato, ma immagine è ciò in cui quel che è stato si unisce fulmineamente con l’ora (Jetzt) in una costellazione. In altre parole: immagine è la dialettica nell’immobilità . Poiché, mentre la relazione del presente con il passato è puramente temporale,continua, la relazione tra ciò che è stato e l’ora è dialettica: non è un decorso, ma un’immagine discontinua, a salti. Solo le immagini dialettiche sono autentiche immagini (cioè non arcaiche); e il luogo, in cui le si incontra, è il linguaggio”. L’immagine dialettica appare là dove il pensiero si arresta in una costellazione, dove passato, presente e futuro si manifestano improvvisamente alla luce di una “vera sintesi” in cui appare ciò che Benjamin , riprendendo un termine fondamentale della morfologia goethiana , chiama un “fenomeno originario della storia”.

La riflessione benjaminiana su cosa significhi un approccio materialistico e dialettico alla storia e all’arte sta sullo sfondo del saggio L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica , che nella “premessa” è presentato come una raccolta di “tesi sopra le tendenze dello sviluppo dell’arte nelle attuali condizioni di produzione”. In apertura del saggio Benjamin cita un passo di un breve testo di Paul Valéry (1871-1945) , “La conquete de l’ubiquité”, pubblicato nel 1931 nella raccolta Pièce sur l’art. In questo testo Valéry si interroga sui mutamenti in atto nella nozione stessa di arte – nelle tecniche artistiche, nella concezione della creazione, nella riproduzione e trasmissione delle opere – in seguito all’incremento stupefacente del nostro “potere di azione sulle cose”. La futura diffusione di nuovi mezzi di comunicazione analoghi alla radio e al telefono avrebbe presto consentito, secondo Valéry, di “trasportare o ricostituire in ogni luogo il sistema di sensazioni – o più esattamente, il sistema di eccitazioni – provocato in un luogo qualsiasi da un oggetto o da un evento qualsiasi”. Nel caso dell’arte, ciò avrebbe significato la possibilità per le opere di avere una sorta di “ubiquità” , ossia di divenire delle “fonti” o “origini” i cui effetti potrebbero essere avvertiti ovunque. Su un piano più generale, lo scenario evocato da Valéry è quello di una società futura in cui sarebbe possibile suscitare un flusso di immagini visive o di sensazioni uditive con un semplice gesto, una società caratterizzata dalla possibilità di una “distribuzione della Realtà Sensibile a domicilio”. In questo aumentato potere di riprodurre e diffondere le opere, che Valéry vede già compiersi nel caso della musica, risiederebbe la “condizione essenziale della resa estetica più elevata”, ossia la possibilità di sganciare la fruizione dell’opera d’arte dall’hic et nunc della sua collocazione materiale o della sua esecuzione per renderla accessibile nel momento spirituale più favorevole e fecondo.

La stessa riflessione sui mutamenti in atto nello statuto e nella fruizione dell’arte in seguito all’elaborazione di nuove tecniche di riproduzione e trasmissione delle opere che anima il breve testo di Valéry è al centro del saggio di Benjamin, che ha come presupposto la grande diffusione della fotografia e del cinema nei primi decenni del secolo e il lavoro di sperimentazione condotto su queste due forme espressive da avanguardie artistiche come il dadaismo, il surrealismo o il costruttivismo. A differenza di Valéry, Benjamin conferisce però alla propria analisi una valenza esplicitamente politica, in quanto nelle nuove forme di produzione e trasmissione dell’arte messe in atto da cinema e fotografia vede la possibilità di liberare l’esperienza estetica dal sostrato religioso-sacrale che ne accompagnava la fruizione da parte della borghesia, impedendo l’instaurazione di un nuovo rapporto tra l’arte e le masse. Quelle proposte da Benjamin, secondo le sue stesse parole, sono tesi “che eliminano un certo numero di concetti tradizionali – quali i concetti di creatività e di genialità, di valore eterno e di mistero -, concetti la cui applicazione incontrollata (…) induce a un’elaborazione in senso fascista del materiale concreto”. Scopo dell’analisi deve essere elaborare concetti “del tutto inutilizzabili ai fini del fascismo”, concetti che consentano, al contrario, “la formulazione di esigenze rivoluzionarie nella politica culturale”.

Una riflessione sulla riproducibilità dell’opera d’arte non può non partire dalla constatazione che, “in linea di principio”, l’opera d’arte è sempre stata riproducibile”. La riproduzione intesa come imitazione manuale di disegni, quadri o sculture è sempre stata parte integrante della pratica artistica, dell’apprendimento e della messa in circolazione delle opere. Nel caso della musica,poi, l’opera stessa esiste innanzitutto come ri-esecuzione . Ciò che interessa a Benjamin , però, non è la riproduzione intesa in questo senso bensì la riproduzione tecnica delle opere d’arte, qualcosa che nella storia si è manifestato progressivamente nelle pratiche della fusione del bronzo, del conio delle monete, della silografia e della litografia come riproduzione della grafica e, soprattutto, della stampa come riproducibilità tecnica della scrittura. Con l’invenzione della fotografia e del cinema, la riproducibilità del visibile attinge a una dimensione nuova, sganciandosi ulteriormente dal condizionamento della manualità e velocizzandosi enormemente. Di fronte a una tale rivoluzione tecnica, il compito del critico, secondo Benjamin, consiste nel riflettere sul modo in cui questo tipo di riproducibilità dell’opera d’arte finisce per imporre una ridefinizione dello statuto stesso dell’arte nella sua forma tradizionale.

La tesi centrale del saggio di Benjamin risiede nell’affermazione che nella riproduzione fotografica di un’opera viene a mancare un elemento fondamentale : “l’hic et nunc dell’opera d’arte, la sua esistenza unica e irripetibile nel luogo in cui si trova”. Nell’unicità della collocazione spazio-temporale dell’opera risiede il fondamento della sua autenticità e della sua autorità come “originale”, ossia la sua capacità di assumere il ruolo di testimonianza storica. La trasmissione di un’eredità culturale poggia infatti sul permanere nel tempo dell’unicità e dell’autorità delle opere e sulla loro conservazione e celebrazione in spazi dedicati, come i musei, o nei quali esse si radicano nella loro unicità (una chiesa, un palazzo). Benjamin riassume i valori di unicità,autenticità e autorità dell’opera d’arte nella nozione di “aura” , un termine ricorrente nel lessico storico-artistico ed esoterico di inizio secolo nell’accezione di “aureola” (come quella che circonda le immagini dei santi) o in quella, assai più ambigua, di “alone” che circonda e avvolge ogni individuo, come negli scritti di carattere misterico o teosofico.

Il “declino”, il “venir meno” dell’aura (Verfall der Aura) determinato dall’avvento dei mezzi di riproduzione tecnica delle opere, sarebbe il sintomo, secondo Benjamin , di un più vasto mutamento “nei modi e nei generi della percezione sensoriale”: a ogni periodo storico corrispondono infatti determinate forme artistiche ed espressive correlate a determinate modalità della percezione, e la storia dell’arte deve essere accompagnata da una storia dello sguardo. Proseguendo la riflessione sul progressivo impoverirsi dell’esperienza avviata nel saggio Il Narratore. Considerazioni sull’opera di Nicola Leskov, in L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica Benjamin constata come nella società a lui contemporanea, mediante la diffusione dell’informazione e delle immagini, tenda ad affermarsi sempre più un’esigenza di avvicinamento, alle cose e alle opere.

Ciò che però viene meno, in un’epoca caratterizzata dal bisogno di “rendere le cose, spazialmente e umanamente, più vicine” e in cui “ si fa valere in modo sempre più incontestabile l’esigenza di impossessarsi dell’oggetto da una distanza il più possibile ravvicinata nell’immagine, o meglio nell’effigie, nella riproduzione”, è quel peculiare intreccio di vicinanza e lontananza nel quale risiede, secondo Benjamin, l’essenza dell’aura: “Cade qui opportuno illustrare il concetto, sopra proposto, di aura a proposito degli oggetti storici mediante quello applicabile agli oggetti naturali. Noi definiamo questi ultimi apparizioni uniche di una lontananza, per quanto questa possa essere vicina. Seguire, in un pomeriggio d’estate, una catena di monti all’orizzonte oppure un ramo che getta la sua ombra sopra colui che si riposa – ciò significa respirare l’aura di quelle montagne, di quel ramo”. Fine dell’aura significa fine di quell’intreccio tra lontananza, irripetibilità e durata che caratterizzava il nostro rapporto con le opere d’arte tradizionali, e avvento di una fruizione dell’arte basata sull’osservazione fugace e ripetibile di riproduzioni.

Originariamente, le opere d’arte erano parte inscindibile di un contesto rituale, prima magico e poi religioso; la loro autorità e autenticità, la loro aura, era determinata proprio da questa appartenenza al mondo del culto. In forme secolarizzate, l’atteggiamento rituale e culturale nei confronti dell’arte sarebbe poi trapassato nelle forme profane del culto della bellezza, che nasce nel Rinascimento e dura fino alle ultime derive del Romanticismo. L’avvento della riproducibilità tecnica e la sua diffusione mediante la fotografia segnano per la prima volta la possibilità di emancipare l’arte rispetto all’ambito del rituale: venendo meno i valori dell’unicità e dell’autenticità, si apre la possibilità di conferire all’arte una nuova valenza politica, al valore cultuale (Kultwert) dell’opera si sostituisce progressivamente il valore espositivo (Ausstellungswert).

Il discorso benjaminiano sulla fine dell’aura non è quindi riconducibile a una forma di nostalgia, bensì è un tentativo di individuare le potenzialità ancora non del tutto esplicitate della riproducibilità. Nella fotografia la dissoluzione del valore cultuale in favore del valore di esponibilità non è ancora completa, in quanto l’aura mantiene una sua ultima forma di sopravvivenza nel “volto dell’uomo”. Non è un caso che le prime fotografie siano state soprattutto dei ritratti, miranti a fissare e a tramandare nel tempo l’identità e lo sguardo dei soggetti fotografati:”Nell’espressione fuggevole di un volto umano, dalla prime fotografie, emana per l’ultima volta l’aura. E’ questo che ne costituisce la malinconica e incomparabile bellezza”. Il profondo legame tra l’immagine fotografica e l’unicità del soggetto rappresentato nell’hic et nunc del suo essere rappresentato, e quindi il legame tra immagine, temporalità e morte- che Roland Barthes (1915-1980avrebbe successivamente tematizzato tramite il concetto di punctum nel celebre saggio La chambre claire – viene meno con il cinema. La rappresentazione cinematografica, a differenza di quella teatrale, è fatta di mediazione , differimento, scomposizione: le azioni che ci si presentano nella loro sequenzialità sono girate in momenti diversi, e ciò che vediamo è il risultato di una serie di scelte legate all’inquadratura e al montaggio. A differenza del pittore – che è come un mago nel mantenere la distanza tra sé e ciò che è oggetto della rappresentazione e nel conferire un’autorità auratica alla rappresentazione stessa- l’operatore cinematografico è come un chirurgo ; penetra nelle immagini, le frammenta, le scompone, ne ridefinisce la sequenza, finendo però per eliminarne l’aura.

Lungi dal condividere il senso di disagio provato da Pirandello nei confronti della presenza del mezzo tecnico nella realizzazione dell’immagine cinematografica, come testimonia il romanzo Si gira del 1915, Benjamin afferma che proprio questa mediatezza consente al cinema di determinare un significativo approfondimento delle nostre capacità percettive. La possibilità di moltiplicare i punti di vista e le inquadrature mediante quella che Benjamin chiama “la dinamite dei decimi di secondo” rende infatti più libero e indipendente il nostro sguardo sulle cose. Lo spazio che si rivela alla cinepresa è, inoltre, profondamente diverso da quello che si rivela allo sguardo empirico: “ al posto di uno spazio elaborato dalla coscienza dell’uomo interviene uno spazio elaborato inconsciamente”. Quello rivelato dall’istantaneità dell’immagine fotografica e dalla sequenzialità dell’immagine in movimento è dunque un “inconscio ottico” che si rivela soltanto attraverso di esse, così come l’inconscio istintivo viene portato alla luce nella psicoanalisi.

La portata “rivoluzionaria” che Benjamin attribuisce alla fotografia come tecnica della riproduzione e,in maggior misura, al cinema, si esplica dunque su diversi piani: dissoluzione dell’aura attraverso riproduzioni che sottraggono l’opera d’arte all’hit et nunc della sua esistenza materiale e della sua fruizione, rivelazione di una visibilità che rimane inaccessibile all’occhio empirico e diventa invece accessibile grazie alla mediazione del dispositivo, contestazione di ogni atteggiamento cultuale e “feticistico”, tipicamente borghese, nei confronti dell’autenticità e dell’autorità dell’opera. Riguardo a quest’ultimo punto, Benjamin sottolinea come il cinema, a differenza della pittura, non consenta un atteggiamento puramente contemplativo, fatto di esaltazione e rapimento. Quella del cinema non è una fruizione fatta di raccoglimento ma una fruizione “distratta” in cui lo spettatore non si perde nell’opera, ma si mantiene in un atteggiamento nel quale piacere e giudizio critico coesistono senza limitarsi a vicenda. Il cinema, in altre parole, si allontana dal naturalismo e dall’illusionismo teatrale e consente di conservare la “distanza” e lo “straniamento” che erano al centro, negli stessi anni, della riflessione sul teatro di Brecht.

La capacità di ridefinire il rapporto tra l’arte e le masse aperta dal cinema, dunque, risiede per Benjamin nella possibilità di una fruizione collettiva nella quale la critica non è soffocata da una forma di devozione cultuale nei confronti dell’immagine. Certo, anche nel cinema è presente un residuo di aura, in particolare nel culto della personality che trasforma gli attori in divi, e del resto è chiaro che l’”industria cinematografica ha tutto l’interesse a imbrigliare, mediante rappresentazioni illusionistiche e mediante ambigue speculazioni, la partecipazione delle masse”. Alla ricognizione delle possibilità espressive del mezzo cinematografico operata da registi come Ejzenstejn si contrapponeva, in quegli stessi anni, l’impiego dell’immagine cinematografica da parte dei regimi fascisti a fini propagandistici – basti pensare al contributo della regista Leni Riefenstahl nel definire l’iconografia del nazismo – , testimoniando così come questa forma espressiva avesse un potenziale ambiguo, , che sarà poi analizzato da Adorno e Horkehimer , in relazione all’industria culturale americana, in Dialettica dell’illuminismo (1946). Rispetto a questo testo, l’analisi di Benjamin mostra di condividere l’interesse e le aspettative nutrite da diversi movimenti degli anni Venti e Trenta (neoplasticismo, costruttivismo, Bauhaus), oltre che dai giovani Lukàcs e Brecht , nei confronti dei nuovi mezzi espressivi, pur riconducendo la riflessione sull’arte a una finalità prettamente politica: Benjamin risponde infatti all’estetizzazione della politica e della guerra proposte dal fascismo, e condivise da futuristi come Martinetti, sostenendo la necessità di una “politicizzazione dell’arte” proprio a partire dal potenziale rivoluzionario e democratico del cinema.
via WALTER BENJAMIN. L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica (a cura di Claudia Bianco).

Il saggio si compone di tre parti
The Work of Art of Mechanical Reproduction
Franz Kafka: On the Tenth Anniversary of His Death
Picturing Proust
E questa è l’introduzione e il primo capitolo

_________The Work of Art of Mechanical Reproduction_____________

The establishment of the fine arts and their division into various categories go back to a time that differed radically from ours and to people whose power over things and circumstances was minute in comparison with our own.
However, the astounding growth that our resources have undergone in terms of their precision and adaptability will in the near future confront us with very radical changes indeed in the ancient industry of the beautiful. In all arts there is a physical component that cannot continue to be considered and treated in the same way as before; no longer can it escape the effects of modern knowledge and modern practice. Neither matter nor space nor time is what, up until twenty years ago, it always was. We must be prepared for such profound changes to alter the entire technological aspect of the arts, influencing invention itself as a result, and eventually, it may be, contriving to alter the very concept of art in the most magical fashion.
Paul Valery, Pieces sur l’art
FOREWORD
When Marx set out to analyze the capitalist mode of production, that mode of production was in its infancy. Marx so ordered his endeavours that they acquired prognosticative value. Looking back at the basic circumstances of capitalist production, he presented them in such a way as to show what capitalism might be thought capable of years to come. What emerged was that it might not only be thought capable of increasingly severe exploitation of proletarians; ultimately, it may even bring about conditions in which it can itself be done away with.
The transformation of the superstructure, which proceeds far more slowly than that of the substructure, has taken more than half a century to bring out the change in the conditions of the production in all spheres of civilization. Only now can the form that this has assumed be revealed. Of those revelations, certain prognosticative demands need to be made. However, such demands will be met not so much by prepositions concerning the art of the proletariat after it has seized power, let alone that of the classless society, as by propositions concerning how art will tend to develop under current conditions of productions. The dialects of those propositions makes itself no less apparent in the superstructure than in the economy. It would be wrong, therefore, to underestimate the combative value of such propositions. They oust a number of traditional concepts – such as creativity and genius, everlasting value and secrecy- concepts whose uncontrolled (and at the moment scarcely controllable) application leads to a processing of the facts along the lines of Fascism. The following concepts, here introduced into art theory for the first time, differ from more familiar ones in that they are quite useless for the purpose of Fascism. They can, on the other hand, be used to formulate revolutionary demands in the politics of art.
____________________CHAPTER 1_____________________

In principle, the work of art has always been reproducible. What mas has made, mas has always been able to make again. Such copying was also done by pupils as an artistic exercise, by masters in order to give works wider circulation, ultimately by anyone seeking to make money. Technological reproduction of the work of art is something else, something that has been practiced intermittently throughout history, at widely separated intervals though with growing intensity. The Greeks had only two processes for reproducing works of art technologically: casting and embossing. Bronzes, terracottas and coins were the only artworks that they were able to manufacture in large numbers. All the rest were unique and not capable of being reproduced by technological means. It was wood engraving that made graphic art technologically reproducible for the first time; drawings could be reproduced long before printing did the same for the written word. The huge changes that printing (the technological reproducibility of writing) brought about in literature are well known. However, of the phenomenon that we are considering on the scale of history here they are merely a particular instance- though of course a particularly important one. Wood engraving is joined in the course of the Middle Age by copperplate engraving and etching, then in the early nineteenth century by lithography.
With lithography, reproductive technology reaches a radically new stage. The very much speeder process represented by applying a drawing to a stone as opposed to carving it into a block of wood or etching it onto a market its products not only in great numbers (as previously) but also in different designs daily. Lithography made it possible for graphics art to accompany everyday life with pictures. It started to keep pace with printing.
However, in these early days it was outstripped, mere decades after the invention of lithography, by photography. With photography, in the process of pictorial reproduction the hand was for the fist time relieved of the principal artistic responsibilities, which henceforth lay with the eye alone as it peered into the lens. Since the eye perceives faster than the hand can draw, the process of pictorial reproduction was so enormously speeded up that it was able to keep pace with speech. The film operator, turning the handle in the studio, captures the images as rapidly as the actor speaks. Whilst in lithography the illustrated magazine was present in essence, in photography it was the sound film. The technological reproduction of sound was tackled at the end of the last [nineteenth] century. These convergent endeavours rendered foreseeable a situation that Paul Valery described in the sentence: ‘Just as water, gas and electric power come to us from afar and enter our homes with almost no effort on our part, there serving our needs, so we shall be supplied with pictures or sound sequences, at the touch of a bottom, almost a wave of the end, arrive and likewise depart.’ Around 1900 technological reproduction had reached a standard at which at had not merely begun to take the totality of traditional artworks as its province, imposing the most profound changes on the impact of such works; it had even gained a place for itself among artistic modes of procedure. As regards studying that standard, nothing is more revealing than how its twin manifestations – reproduction of the work of art and the new art of cinematography – redound upon art in its traditional form.
Text entirely taken from ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, by Walter Benjamin, 1936

Production and Metaphysics*


In the background Sodom and Gomorra still burn. Lot and his daughters could escape in time before the inferno began. Lot’s wife was not that fortunate: she was transformed into a pillar of salt because she looked back, against God’s command. She can be seen standing on the wooden bridge.

As Lot has no male children, his daughters decide to help him. They make him drunk with lots of wine. The children that were conceived that night would become the ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites, neighbours of Israel.

via Lucas van Leyden: Lot and his Daughters (oil paint).

There is a work by a primitive painter in the Louvre, whether known or unknown I cannot say, who will never represent a major school in art history. The artist’s name is Lucas van Leyden and to my mind he invalidates the four or five hundred years of painting coming after him, rendering them useless. The painting in question is entitled Lot and His Daughters, a biblical subject in the style of the period. The Middle Ages certainly did not interpret the Bible as we do today and this painting is a strange example of the mystical inferences which can be deduced from it. In any event, its phatos is noticeable even from a distance, since it affects the mind by a kind of sticking visual harmony, intensely active in the whole work yet caught at a glance.
Even before we have made out the subject, we get the feeling something important is happening and it seems the ear is as affected by it as the eye. A tremendously important mental drama appears accumulated there, like a sudden cloud formation which the wind or some more immediate fate has blown there to assess their thunderbolts.
And, in fact, in the painting the sky is dark and overcast, but even before we can make out that this drama originated in the heavens, took place in the heavens, the strange colouring and jumble of forms, the impression emanating from it at a distance, all foretells a kind of natural drama, and I defy any other artist of the Golden Ages to offer us anything like it.
A tent is pitched on the shore, in front of which Lot is seated, wearing a breastplate and sporting a fine red beard, watching his daughters parade before him as if he were a guest at a prostitutes’ banquet.
And in fact they strut about, some mothers, others Amazons, combing their hair or fencing, as if they had never had any other object than to please their father, to serve as his creatures or playthings. Here we see the deeply incestuous nature of this old subject which the artist has developed in sexual imagery, a proof that he has fully understood all its deep sexuality in a modern way, that is to say as we would understand it ourselves. A proof that its deeply sexual but poetic nature did not escape him any more than it did us.
On the left of the painting, slightly in the background, a black tower rises to fantastic heights, its base supported by a network of rocks and plants, twisting roads marked by milestones, with houses dotted here and there. And by an apt perspective effect, one of these paths which had been threading its way through the maze stands out at a given spot, crosses a bridge, is finally caught in a shaft of that stormy light spilling out between the clouds, in which the region is fitfully bathed. In the background, the sea is very high besides being extraordinarily calm, considering the fiery web seething in one corner of the sky.
Sometimes, when we are watching exploding fireworks, some details of the landscape stand out against the darkness in the ghostly light, in the nocturnal gunfire of shooting stars, sky rockets and Roman candles; trees, tower, mountains and houses appear in relief before our eyes, their colour and appearance for ever remaining associated in our minds with a notion of ear-splitting noise. There is no better way of conveying how the various aspects of the landscape conform to this fire revealed in the sky than by saying that although they possess their own colour, in spite of everything, they remain related to it like muted echoes, like living points of reference born within it, put there to allow it to exert its full destructive power.
Besides, there is something horribly forceful and disturbing about the way the painter depicts this fire, like active, changing features in a set expression. It makes little difference how this effect is achieved, it is real. One has only to see the painting to be convinced of it.
In any case, this fire, which no one will deny gives one the impression of an evil intellect emanating from it, by its very violence mentally serves to counterbalance the heavy material solidity of the remainder.
To the right, on the same perspective level as the black tower, a narrow spit of land surrounded by a ruined monastery juts out between the heavens and high seas.
This spit of land, however near it may appear to the shore where the Lot’s tent is pitched, still leaves room for a vast gulf where an unprecedented maritime disaster seems to have taken place. Ships broken in two but not yet sunk are propped on the sea as if on crutches, while the water round about them is full of their uprooted masts and broken spars.
It is hard to say why such an impression of absolute disaster emanates from the sight of one or two shipwrecked vessels.
It seems as though the painter knew certain secrets about linear proportion and how to make it affect the mind directly like a physical reagent. In any case this impression of intellect spread abroad in outdoor nature, especially the manner of portraying it, is apparent in several other details on the canvas, such as the bridge standing out against the sea, high as an eight-storey house, with people filing across it, like Ideas in Plato’s cave.
It would be untrue to claim that the thoughts emerging from this painting are clear. At all events they are of a grandeur to which we have become totally unaccustomed during the last few centuries by painting that was merely painting.
In addiction, Lot and his daughters suggest an idea of sexuality and reproduction, and Lot seems placed like a drone, to take improper advantage of his daughters.
This is almost the only idea in the picture.
All the other ideas are metaphysical. I am sorry to have to use that word, but that is what they are called. And I might even say their poetic greatness, their tangible effect on us arises from the fact that they are metaphysical, that their mental profundity cannot be separated from the painting’s formal, external symmetry.
Furthermore there is an idea of change in the different landscape details and the way they are painted, their levels annulling or corresponding to one another, that leads us into the mind in painting the same way as in music.
There is another idea about Fate, revealed not so much by the appearance of that sudden fire as by the solemn way in which all forms are arranged or disarranged beneath it, some as of bent beneath a gust of irresistible panic, the others motionless, almost ironic, all obeying a powerful intelligent consistency, seemingly nature’s mind externalized.
There are also ideas on Chaos, the Marvellous and Balance. There are even one or two on the importance of Words, this supremely anarchic, material painting seeming to establish their futility.
In any event I must say this painting is what theatre ought to be, if only it knew how to speak its own language.
Text entirely taken from ‘The Theatre and its Double’, by Antonin Artaud, 1978
Off Production and Metaphysics*

On Love and Shame

Da qualche tempo è uscito nelle sale cinematrografiche ‘Shame’, film drammatico del regista inglese Steve McQueen. La pellicola racconta di un uomo ‘deviato’ emotivamente e vittima di un’insaziabile dipendenza sessuale che non risparmia e seduce la sorella minore, coinvolta nell’incesto tra sensi di colpa e vertiginose isterie. Questa un’attenta e sofisticata recensione del film: Zettel Film Reviews » Shame: Steve McQueen – victimhood and the medicalisation of lust.
Il tema dell’incesto,  ricorda una tragedia di cui mi capitò leggere ne The theatre and its double, di Artaud. L’opera in questione è Tis Pity She’s a Whore, del commediografo inglese John Ford, e racconta di Giovanni e Annabella, fratello e sorella, consumati da un amore blasfemo e immortale, che non è peccato ma limite e sublimazione. Idealmente c’è molta più tensione, più coraggio, più carattere, in questa tragedia che nei piagnistei di Michael Fassbender. McQueen si limita ad accusare, Ford a interpretare un istinto e soddisfare una passione, senza giudizi nè morale
Dice Artaud
‘As soon as the curtain goes up on Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore’, to our great surprise we see before us a man launched on a most arrogant defense of incest, exerting all his youthful, conscious strength both in proclaiming and justifying it.
He does not hesitate or waver for one instant, thereby demonstrating just how little all the barriers mean that might be set up against him. He is heroically guilty, boldly, openly heroic. Everything drives him in this direction, inflames him, there is no heaven and no earth for him, only the strength of his tumultuous passion, which evokes a correspondingly rebellious and heroic passion in Annabella.
‘I weep,’ she says, ‘not with remorse, but for fear I shall not be able to satisfy my passion.’ They are both falsifiers, hypocrites and liars for the sake of their superhuman passion, obstructed, persecuted by the law, but which they place above the law.
Revenge for revenge, crime for crime. While we believed them threatened, hunted, lost and we were ready to feel pity for them as victims, they show themselves ready to trade blow for blow with fate and threat for threat.
We follow them from one demand to the other, from one excess to the next. Annabella is caught, convicted of adultery and incest, she is trampled upon, insulted, dragged along by the hair but, to our great astonishment, instead of trying to make excuses she provokes her executioner even more and sings out in a kind of stubborn heroism.
This is final rebellion, exemplary love without respite, making the audience gasp with anxiety in case anything should ever end it.
If one is looking for an example of total freedom in rebellion, Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore’ offers us this poetic example coupled with a picture of ultimate danger.
And just when we think we have reached a climax of horror and bloodshed, of flaunted laws, in short, poetry consecrating rebellion, we are obliged to continue in a vortex nothing can stop.
At the end we tell ourselves there must be retribution and death for such boldness and for such an irresistible crime.
Yet it is not so. Giovanni, the lover, inspired by a great impassioned poet, places himself above retribution and crime by a kind of indescribably passionate crime, places himself above threats, above horror by an even greater horror that baffles both law and morals and those who dare to set themselves up as judges.
A clever trap is laid; orders are given for a great banquet where henchmen and hired assassins hide among the guests, ready to pounce on him at the first sign. But this lost, hunted hero inspired by love will not allow anyone to judge that love.
He seems to say, you want my love’s flesh and blood, but I mean to hurl it in your face, I intend to splatter you with the blood of a love whose level you could never attain.
So he kills his rival before his execution, his sister’s husband who had dared to come between himself and his mistress, slaying him in a final duel which then appears to be his own death throes.
Text entirely taken from The Theatre and Its Double, by Antonin Artaud, 1938

The Nerve Meter by Antonin Artaud via The Poetry Foundation

An actor is seen as if through crystals.
Inspiration in stages.
One musn’t let in too much literature.

I have aspired no further than the clockwork of the soul, I have transcribed only the pain of an abortive adjustment.
I am a total abyss. Those who believed me capable of a whole pain, a beautiful pain, a dense and fleshy anguish, an anguish which is a mixture of objects, an effervescent grinding of forces rather than a suspended point
—and yet with restless, uprooting impulses which come from the confrontation of my forces with these abysses of offered finality
(from the confrontation of forces of powerful size),
and there is nothing left but the voluminous abysses, the immobility, the cold—
in short, those who attributed to me more life, who thought me at an earlier stage in the fall of the self, who believed me immersed in a tormented noise, in a violent darkness with which I struggled
—are lost in the shadows of man.
In sleep, nerves tensed the whole length of my legs.
Sleep came from a shifting of belief, the pressure eased, absurdity stepped on my toes.
It must be understood that all of intelligence is only a vast contingency, and that one can lose it, not like a lunatic who is dead, but like a living person who is in life and who feels working on himself its attraction and its inspiration (of intelligence, not of life).
The titillations of intelligence and this sudden reversal of contending parties.
Words halfway to intelligence.
This possibility of thinking in reverse and of suddenly reviling one’s thought.
This dialogue in thought.
The ingestion, the breaking off of everything.
And all at once this trickle of water on a volcano, the thin, slow falling of the mind.
To find oneself again in a state of extreme shock, clarified by unreality, with, in a corner of oneself, some fragments of the real world.
To think without the slightest breaking off, without pitfalls in my thought, without one of those sudden disappearances to which my marrow is accustomed as a transmitter of currents.
My marrow is sometimes amused by these games, sometimes takes pleasure in these games, takes pleasure in these furtive abductions over which the sense of my thought presides.
At times all I would need is a single word, a simple little word of no importance, to be great, to speak in the voice of the prophets: a word of witness, a precise word, a subtle word, a word well steeped in my marrow, gone out of me, which would stand at the outer limit of my being,
and which, for everyone else, would be nothing.
I am the witness, I am the only witness of myself. This crust of words, these imperceptible whispered transformations of my thought, of that small part of my thought which I claim has already been formulated, and which miscarries,
I am the only person who can measure its extent.
Antonin Artaud, “The Nerve Meter” from Selected Writings of Antonin Artaud (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976).
via The Nerve Meter by Antonin Artaud : The Poetry Foundation.

The Vagina WorkShop


[A slight English accent]
My vagina is a shell, a round pink tender shell,opening and closing,closing and opening. My vagina is a flower, an eccentric tulip,the center acute and deep, the scent delicate, the petals gentle but sturdy.
I did not always know this. I learned this in the vagina workshop. I learned this from a woman who runs the vagina workshop, a woman who believes in vaginas, who really sees vaginas, who helps women see their own vaginas by seeing other women’s vaginas.
In the first session the woman who runs the vagina workshop asked us to draw a picture of our own “unique, beautiful, fabulous vagina”. That’s what she called it. She wanted to know what our own unique,beautiful,fabulous vagina looked like to us. One woman who was pregnant drew a big red mouth screaming with coins spilling out. Another very skinny woman drew a big serving plate with a kind of Devonshire pattern on it. I drew a huge black dot with little squiggly lines around it. The black dot was equal to a black hole in the space,and the squiggly lines were meant to be people or things or just your basic atoms that got lost there. I had always thought of my vagina as an anatomical vacuum randomly sucking up particle and object from the surrounding environment.
I had always perceived my vagina as an independent entity, spinning like a star in its own galaxy, eventually burning up on its own gaseous energy or exploding and spitting into thousands of other smaller vaginas, all of them then spinning in their own galaxies. [WOW-me]
I did not think of my vagina in practical or biological terms. I did not, for example, see it as a part of my body, something between my legs, attached to me.
In the workshop we were asked to look at our vaginas with hand mirrors. Then, after careful examination, we were to verbally report to the group what we saw. I must tell you that up until this point everything i knew about my vagina was based on hearsay or invention. I had never occurred to me to look at it. My vagina existed for me on some abstract plane. It seemed so reductive and awkward to look at it, getting down there the way we did in the workshop, on our shiny blue mats, with our hand mirrors. It reminded me of how the early astronomers must have felt with their primitive telescopes.
I found it quite unsettling at first, my vagina. Like the first time you see a fish cut open and you discover this other bloody complex world inside,right under the skin. It was so raw, so red, so fresh. And the thing that surprised me most was all the layers. Layers inside the layers, opening into more layers.
My vagina amazed me. I couldn’t speak when it came my turn in the workshop. I was speechless. I had awakened to what the woman who ran the workshop called “vaginal wonder”. I just wanted to lie there on my mat, my legs spread, examining my vagina forever.
It was better than the Grand Canyon, ancient and full of grace. It had the innocence and freshness of a proper English garden. It was funny, very funny. It made me laugh. It could hide and seek, open and close. It was a mouth. It was a mourning.
Then, the woman who ran the workshop asked how many women in the workshop had had orgasms. Two women tentatively raised their hands. I didn’t raise my hand, but I had had orgasms. I didn’t raise my hand because they were accidental orgasms. They happened to me. They happened in my dreams, and I would wake in splendor. They happened a lot in water, mostly in the bath. Once in the Cape Cod. They happened on horses, on bicycles, on the treadmill at the gym. I did not raise my hand because although I had had orgasms, I did not know how to make one happen. I had never tried to make one happen. I though it was a mystical, magical thing. I didn’t want to interfere. It felt wrong, getting involved-contrived, manipulative. It felt Hollywood. Orgasms by formula. The surprise would be gone, and the mystery. The problem, of course, was that the surprise had been gone for two years. I hadn’t had a magical accidental orgasm in long time, and I was frantic. That’s why I was in the workshop.
And then the moment had arrived that I both dreaded and secretly longed for. The woman who ran the workshop asked us to take out our hand mirrors again and to see if we could locate our clitoris. We were there, the group of us women, on our backs, on our mats, finding our spots, our locus, our reason, and I don’t know why, but I started crying. Maybe it was sheer embarrassment. Maybe it was knowing that I had to give up the fantasy, the enormous life-consuming fantasy, that someone or something was going to do this for me-. the fantasy that someone was coming to lead my life, to choose direction, to give me orgasm. I was used to living off the record, in a magical, superstitious way. This clitoris finding, this wild workshop on shiny blue mats,was making the whole thing real, too real. I could feel the panic coming. The simultaneous terror and realization it as mainstream and consumerist because I was, in fact, terrified that I did not have a clitoris, terrified that I was one of those constitutionally incapables, one of those frigid, dead, shut-down, dry, apricot-tasting, bitter-oh, my God. I lay there with my mirror looking for my spot, reaching with my fingers, and all I could think about was the time when I was ten and lost my gold ring with the emeralds in a lake. How I kept diving over and over to the bottom of the lake, running my hands over the stones and fish and bottles caps and slimy stuff, but never my ring. The panic I felt. I knew I’d be punished. I shouldn’t have worn it swimming.
The woman who ran the workshop saw my insane scrambling, sweating and heavy breathing. She came over. I told her, “I’ve lost my clitoris. It’s gone. I shouldn’t have worn it swimming”. The woman who ran the workshop laughed. She calmly stroked my forehead. She told me my clitoris was not something I could lose. It was me, the essence of me. It was both the doorbell to my house and the house itself. I didn’t have to find it. I had to be it. Be it. Be my clitoris. Be my clitoris. I lay back and closed my eyes. I put the mirror down. I watched myself float above myself. I watched as I slowly began to approach myself and reenter. I felt like an astronaut reentering the atmosphere of the earth. It was very quiet, this reentry: quiet and gentle. I bounced and landed, landed and bounced. I came into my own muscles and blood and cells and then I just slid into my vagina. It was suddenly easy and I fit. I was all warm and pulsing and ready and young and alive. And then, without looking, with my eyes still closed, I put my finger on what had suddenly become me. There was a little quivering at first, which urged me to stay. Then the quivering became a quake, an eruption, the layers dividing and subdividing. The quaking broke open into an ancient horizon of light and silence, which opened onto a plane of music and colors and innocence and longing, and I felt connection, calling connection as I lay there trashing about on my little blue mat.
My vagina is a shell, a tulip, and a destiny. I am arriving as I am beginning to leave. My vagina, my vagina,me.
Taken from ‘The Vagina Monologues ‘by Eve Ensler,1998

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Antonin Artaud-Theater of Cruelty, 1st Manifesto(1938)

Antonin Artaud

The Theater of Cruelty (First Manifesto)
By Antonin Artaud
We cannot go on prostituting the idea of theater whose only value is in its excruciating,
magical relation to reality and danger.Put in this way, the question of the theater ought to arouse general attention, the implication being that theater, through its physical aspect, since it requires expression in space (the only real expression, in fact), allows the magical means of art and speech to be exercised organically and altogether, like renewed exorcisms. The upshot of all this is that theater will not be given its specific powers of action until it is given its language.That is to say: instead of continuing to rely upon texts considered definitive and sacred, it is essential to put an end to the subjugation of the theater to the text, and to recover the notion of a kind of unique language half-way between gesture and thought.This language cannot be defined except by its possibilities for dynamic expression in space as opposed to the expressive possibilities of spoken dialogue. And what the theater can still take over from speech are its possibilities for extension beyond words, for development in space, for dissociative and vibratory action upon the sensibility. This is the hour of intonations, of a word’s particular pronunciation. Here too intervenes (besides the auditory language of sounds) the visual language of objects, movements, attitudes,and gestures, but on condition that their meanings, their physiognomies, their combinations be carried to the point of becoming signs, making a kind of alphabet out of these signs. Once aware of this language in space, language of sounds, cries, lights,onomatopoeia, the theater must organize it into veritable hieroglyphs, with the help of characters and objects, and make use of their symbolism and interconnections in relation to all organs and on all levels.
The question, then, for the theater, is to create a meta-physics of speech, gesture, and expression, in order to rescue it from its servitude to psychology and “human interest.”But all this can be of no use unless behind such an effort there is some kind of real metaphysical inclination, an appeal to certain unhabitual ideas, which by their very nature cannot be limited or even formally depicted. These ideas which touch on Creation,Becoming, and Chaos, are all of a cosmic order and furnish a primary notion of a domain from which the theater is now entirely alien. They are able to create a kind of passionate equation between Man, Society, Nature, and Objects.
It is not, moreover, a question of bringing metaphysical ideas directly onto the stage, but of creating what you might call temptations, indraughts of air around these ideas. And humor with its anarchy, poetry with its symbolism and its images, furnish a basic notion of ways to channel the temptation of these ideas.
We must speak now about the uniquely material side of this language–that is, about all the ways and means it has of acting upon the sensibility.
It would be meaningless to say that it includes music, dance, pantomime, or mimicry.
Obviously it uses movement, harmonies, rhythms, but only to the point that they can con-cur in a sort of central expression without advantage for any one particular art. This does not at all mean that it does not use ordinary actions, ordinary passions, but like a spring board uses them in the same way that HUMOR AS DESTRUCTION can serve to reconcile the corrosive nature of laughter to the habits of reason.
But by an altogether Oriental means of expression, this objective and concrete language of the theater can fascinate and ensnare the organs. It flows into the sensibility. Aban-doning Occidental usages of speech, it turns words into in-cantations. It extends the voice. It utilizes the vibrations and qualities of the voice. It wildly tramples rhythms underfoot. It pile-drives sounds. It seeks to exalt, to benumb, to charm, to arrest the sensibility. It liberates a new lyricism of gesture which, by its precipitation or its amplitude in the air, ends by surpassing the lyricism of words. It ultimately breaks away from the intellectual subjugation of the language, by conveying the sense of a new and deeper intellectuality which hides itself beneath the gestures and signs, raised to the dignity of particular exorcisms.
For all this magnetism, all this poetry, and all these direct means of spellbinding would be nothing if they were not used to put the spirit physically on the track of something else, if the true theater could not give us the sense of a creation of which we possess only one face, but which is completed on other levels.
And it is of little importance whether these other levels are really conquered by the mind or not. i.e., by the intelli-gence; it would diminish them, and that has neither interest nor sense. What is important is that by positive means the sensitivity is put in a state of deepened and keener perception and this is the very object of the magic and the rites of which the theater is only a reflection.
TECHNIQUE
It is a question then of making the theater, in the proper sense of the word, a function;
something as localized and as precise as the circulation of the blood in the arteries or the apparently chaotic development of dream images in the brain, and this is to be
accomplished by a thorough involvement, a genuine enslavement of the attention.
The theater will never find itself again–i.e., constitute a means of true illusion by
furnishing the spectator with the truthful precipitates of dreams, in which his taste for
crime, his erotic obsessions, his savagery, his chimeras, his utopian sense of life and matter, even his cannibalism, pour out, on a level not counterfeit and illusory, but interior.In other terms, the theater must pursue by all its means a reassertion not only of all the aspects of the objective and descriptive external world, but of the internal world, that is,of man considered metaphysically. It is only thus, we believe, that we shall be able to speak again in the theater about the rights of the imagination. Neither humor, nor poetry,nor imagination means anything unless, by an anarchistic destruc-tion generating a prodigious flight of forms which will consti-tute the whole spectacle, they succeed in organically re-involving man, his ideas about reality, and his poetic place in reality.To consider the theater as a second-hand psychological or moral function, and to believe that dreams themselves have only a substitute function, is to diminish the profound poetic bearing of dreams as well as of the theater. If the theater, like dreams, is bloody and inhuman, it is, more than just that, to manifest and unforgettably root within us the idea of a per-petual conflict, a spasm in which life is continually lacerated, in which everything in creation rises up and exerts itself against our appointed rank; it is in order to perpetuate in a concrete and immediate way the metaphysical ideas of certain Fables whose very atrocity and energy suffice to show their origin and continuity in essential principles.This being so, one sees that, by its proximity to principles which transfer their energy to it poetically, this naked lan-guage of the theater (not a virtual but a real language) must permit, by its use of man’s nervous magnetism, the transgression of the ordinary limits of art and speech, in order to realize actively, that is to say magically, in real terms, a kind of total creation in which man must reassume his place between dream and events.
[following the whole text]
Artaud, Antonin 1938 – Theater of Cruelty, 1st Manifesto.

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