Author: Rainald Schumacher --- Date: 10/01/96 --- Copyright: ThingReviews NYC

Antonin Artaud

Works on Paper

MOMA, New York

Oct.3,1996 - Jan.7,1997

"Jamais reel et toujours vrai ..."

Near the end of World War II, confined in the psychiatric hospital of Rodez south of Paris, Antonin Artaud received over a period of nineteen months a series of fifty-one electroshocks.

The war took place inside his own body. He lived his life fighting with himself. He took drugs, in his last years, large doses of heroin, chloral hydrate and cocain--to combat the real pain of his as-yet undiscovered rectal cancer. His writings mirror the hallucinatory feelings of his organs spewing themsevles out and his skin melting inward. Artaud is the body when it nolonger has boundaries--but takes part in the everlasting alchemistic fountain of Dasein-on-drugs. In that moment his bioglyphic organs-without-bodies spill into our present condition of electronic doubles and plagues.

The drawings from the last years of his battered life point to his loss of faith in language, of his belief in language to engage his pain and the world's. As he wrote in 1947 in a letter to Andre Breton--society doesn't understand language anymore--only bombs, machine guns, and all that follows. For Artaud society became a spasm of battles outside the theater of language and only lines and shadows could trace out the wounds of Western Culture.

The exhibition has been organized by Margit Rowell, Chief Curator, Department of Drawing and is accompanied by an excellent catalogue and an intense series of Artaud-related programs.

Rainald Schumacher

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Joseph Nechvatal --

MANIFESTO IN CLEAR LANGUAGE by Antonin Artaud for Roger Vitrac If I believe neither in Evil nor in Good, if I feel such a strong inclination to destroy, if there is nothing in the order of principles to which I can reasonably accede, the underlying reason is in my flesh. I destroy because for me everything that proceeds from reason is untrustworthy. I believe only in the evidence of what stirs my marrow, not in the evidence of what addresses itself to my reason. I have found levels in the realm of the nerve. I now feel capable of evaluating the evidence. There is for me an evidence in the realm of pure flesh which has nothing to do with the evidence of reason. The eternal conflict between reason and the heart is decided in my very flesh, but in my flesh irrigated by nerves. In the realm of the affective imponderable, the image provided by my nerves takes the form of the highest intellectuality, which I refuse to strip of its quality of intellectuality. And so it is that I watch the formation of a concept which carries within it the actual fulguration of things, a concept which arrives upon me with a sound of creation. No image satisfies me unless it is at the same time Knowledge, unless it carries with it its substance as well as its lucidity. My mind, exausted by discursive reason, wants to be caught up in the wheels of a new, an absolute gravitation. For me it is like a supreme reorganization in which only the laws of illogic participate, and in which there triumphs the discovery of a new Meaning. This Meaning which has been lost in the disorder of drugs and which presents the appearance of a profound intelligence to the contradictory phantasms of the sleep. This Meaning is a victory of the mind over itself, and although it is irreducible by reason, it exists, but only inside the mind. It is order, it is intelligence, it is the signification of chaos. But it does not accept this chaos as such, it interprets it, and because it interprets it, it loses it. It is the logic of illogic. And this is all one can say. My lucid unreason is not afraid of chaos. I renounce nothing of that which is the Mind. I want only to transport my mind elsewhere with its laws and organs. I do not surrender myself to the sexual mechanism of the mind, but on the contrary within this mechanism I seek to isolate those discoveries which lucid reason does not provide. I surrender to the fever of dreams, but only in order to derive from them new laws. I seek multiplication, subtlety, the intellectual eye in delirium, not rash vaticination. There is a knife which I do not forget. But it is a knife which is halfway into dreams, which I keep inside myself, which I do not allow to come to the frontier of the lucid senses. That which belongs to the realm of the image is irreducible by reason and must remain within the image or be annihilated. Nevertheless, there is a reason in images, there are images which are clearer in the world of image-filled vitality. There is in the immediate teeming of the mind a multiform and dazzling insinuation of animals. This insensible and thinking dust is organized according to laws which it derives from within itself, outside the domain of clear reason or of thwarted consciousness or reason. In the exalted realm of images, illusion properly speaking, or material error, does not exist, much less the illusion of knowledge: but this is all the more reason why the meaning of a new knowledge can and must descend into the reality of life. The truth of life lies in the impulsiveness of matter. The mind of man has been poisoned by concepts. Do not ask him to be content, ask him only to be calm, to believe that he has found his place. But only the madman is really calm.

Cezaris --