“Artaud wishes to transform theatre much as Die Brucke artists transformed German Art in the Expressionist movement: because the expression of feeling, or the feeling of existence is that which he (Artaud) is after. But this feeling
‘cannot in reality be expressed. To do so is to betray it. To express it, however is to conceal it. True expression conceals what it exhibits. It pits the mind against nature’s real vacuum, by creating a reaction a kind of fullness of thought. Or rather it creates a vacuum in thought, in relation to the manifest illusion of nature.’
Then Wittgenstein’s beautifully epigrammatic leap.
'What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.’ ”
This was from a posting awhile ago. Okay, troubled and bored long enough. So I want to bury Artaud already. I want us to have a better, cleaner understanding of how this ties in to what we’re doing.
I enjoy Wittgenstein’s quote among the high-brow philosophical poignancy which I, in asking about Artaud, opened myself up to.
But I can’t help feeling incredibly broke and dissatisfied with what I will call a “clinical” (though incisive) account of art as it relates to the artist—and more importantly, the human experience.
Like most philosophy, Artaud confuses me. Confuses me in a way that reading essays of art criticism confuses me—too many words, too many ramblings, for what? the end result being mostly circular and pedantic. No beauty except in its absence. Frustrating and useful if I had a penchant for enemas.
I was however interested in the comparison to Die Brucke artists of the late 1800’s whom I am particularly fond of. Among them: Munch, Kirchner, Nolde. I believe perhaps they were responding to a higher call than Artaud.
This is a group that demands a good deal of attention; not least because they were reacting against many of the same social and political issues we are reacting against today. They have a very particular interest with internalization: that the image itself internalizes its own dark, symbolic, esoteric expression. Finally, ah, that’s poetry right? Indeed, many of these artists were friends and avid readers of poets like Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Rimbaud (only a short and French list).
“For the artists of Die Brucke, the metaphor of the bridge expressed their sense of the progressive evolution of art, of which they were the culmination, and captured the essential paradox of the human condition. Finite and earthbound, the human being is fulfilled only in risking everything to attain this transcendent self” (The Print in the Western World, Hults, 600).
I would encourage anyone that is at least mildly interested to look up these artists’ printmaking. If you do it now you’ll understand their impact; save yourself from these tired words.
Because I am interested in balancing the prints of Expressionism with “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence,”
I will depart or (perhaps) rather subcategorize this issue with Eastern influences.
The last excerpt, among others, reminded me of the Tao, the unnamable—secular yet wholly spiritual—path which is not to spoken of; for speaking of the Tao ruins its inherent complexity and weight.
Every stitch and fiber, each suspiration and neck-nod, all of our pain and joy and hate and love blended into a cosmic sense of balance.
Of the Satori poets of Japan, operating in the tradition of Zen-Buddhists, Shinkichi Takahashi writes in “Murmuring of the Water”:
One morning I woke onto a hill
Of withered grasses,
Myself, my family among them.
We swayed, all of us, under the wind,
And so did our shadows.
No more did the laughter of women
Assault my ears,
And I heard the murmuring
Of the limpid water of the Galaxy.
When, desperate, I stretched out
My thin dry arms,
Stars broke from the sky.
Tempered by profound spareness, there is profound enlightenment.
It seems beyond difficult to assume a relationship with these poets in a popular contemporary scene which values speed, fracture, witticisms and braggadocio OR drab retellings of the personal tumbling through the cycle of a drying machine.
But don’t be misled, we are still attached to the Expressionists too. They’re just quieter right now. Take Mathew Rohrer’s section of Ideograms:
I am all alone, writing this on a swing.
I can’t stop looking up.
It kills the mind.
A cloud looks like a pig and a rat embracing.
They’re breaking up.
I wonder if you can see it.
I wonder how much you miss me.
At night I make a little sound.
It sounds like a witch opening a birthday present.
Franz Wright and his father are on this train too, just in different cabs. F.W.:
Great big flakes like white ashes
at nightfall descending
in this hand like the host
on somebody’s put-out tongue, she
turns the crucifix over
to me, still warm
from her touch two years later
and thank you,
I say all alone—
Vast whisp-whisp of wingbeats
awakens me and I look up
at a minute-long string of black geese
following low past the moon the white
course of the snow-covered river and
by the way thank You for
keeping Your face hidden, I
can hardly stand the beauty of this world.
And a last poem from Quan Barry who values narrative here and (equally) an attention to distress and darkness of mood.
In hindsight the amazing thing wasn’t her surviving
but the fact that a stranger entered her room.
Of course it’s all supposition, nothing
too convicting. Perhaps they struggled.
Maybe he simply ordered her supine.
All they uncovered: a locked house, her bedroom door
slightly ajar, approximately four pints straining
her pillow, a one inch section atop the crown of her head
crushed as finely as herbs. Three days later
the paperweight came back from the lab
sticky with an unreadable palm, almost as if
someone were cupping it, racing to beat
a stack of papers before they stirred.
I’m not making this up. She was my sister’s best friend,
a teen with more than a hundred sutures
embedded in the scalp. Like a dead tree she went on,
maintaining she remembered nothing
about the incident, each night
sleeping behind the same door
across from his, desperate to believe
in the official version, in planned randomness.
I can’t tell you her name. I won’t tell
because it’s all you’ll remember, you’ll lie down at night
thinking it doesn’t apply.
I’ve been wrestling with Artaud like this for a few weeks and this message really does no justice at all. But perhaps it starts to flesh a little more of the scene we’re in, apart of, and need to talk about. Philosophy is useful in understanding that it is (as I have mentioned before and still maintain) one of the enemies of writing poetry. Too cumbersome, too ponderous.
In closing, rest in peace Artaud. Insights on violence, cruelty, the implication and culpability of our audience is noted (should be pocketed as a resource). To the Expressionists (especially those involved with Lithography and woodcut prints): rave on, your brooding mysticism must be apart of us too.
And to you, if anyone’s still with me, what I’ve written here is best used for kindling. Tear it up, burn it. Listen to the cello for yourself. Go to the mountain. Count a pulse out in hums. Just after this imperfect ending, a view below the silence. What a throne.