DETONATING VOCABULARY: Invisible Fame Of An Anti-Language

The final paradox of the search for purity is that it is an attempt to force experience into logical categories of non-contradiction. But experience is not amenable and those who make the attempt find themselves led into contradiction. — Mary Douglas

A publisher once invited him to write his memoirs; naturally, he refused. Another suggested bringing out “Les Nouvelles en Trois Lignes”; he replied angrily: “I aspire only to silence.” Feneon’s perceptions were acute, his writing astrigent, and he often annoyed those around him by operating on another plane of reality; a reality, a state of being marked by contempt for the functional , the prosaic and the vulgar locutons of crass society at large.

Maximilien Luce. portrait of felix Feneon. Chirot:Read in this sense, as the production of notices of methods to attack and destroy the media hidden within that very media as "anonymous" "news items" which offer a camouflaged insight into these methods to incite the "cutting of" of the media's "power" cables and wire "connections," and "services" in the name of State control of social geographies, Fenoen's "Faits Divers" still carry those "explosive charges" which he was put on trial for, "charged" with the possession of detonators found in the closet of his room, which he had claimed were "found on the street" by his father, during an innocent stroll around Anarchist haunted Paris.

In art, Georges Seurat and others were engaging linguistic themes that were also being debated in apparently unrelated domains of official culture. Seurat invented the neo-impressionist point: a delicately, putating, regularized mark, and he set space against anti-space- by drawing a lunging perspective, then aggressively subverting it. At the same historical moment that such artists attacked mimesis by complicating and subverting visual representation, the complexity of verbal representation was addressed as well in domains ostensibly far removed form the aesthetic realm….

Felix Feneon was a fin de siecle aesthete and anarchist.”Thadee Natanson sat in the audience during the Process de Trente of August 1894 & took notes on the proceedings. He was so impressed by Felix Feneon’s performance at this trial of anarchist intellectuals & militants, as well as by his earlier art criticism, that he hired him for the “Revue Blanche” staff after the trial. & Feneon soon became its editor in chief, a position he retained until the journal ceased publication in 1903.”

Paul Signac. Breakfast. "All the arguments the police gave against the thirty did not meet jury's approval and on August 12, Fénéon and the majority of the other defendants were discharged. Despite the discharge the police didn't believe in Fénéon's innocence. Once the prefect told Mme Fénéon who came to complain that the police continued shadowing her husband, "Madam, I'm sorry to say this, but you've married a killer.'" The Military Ministry fired M Fénéon, of course. His lawyer T. Natanson, offered him a post as editorial secretary of his "La Revue Blanche". He worked for the magazine until 1903, and also organized exhibitions. In 1906-1925 Fénéon was the Director of the Bernheim-Jeune art gallery. His sharp remarks and snobbism towards 'bad taste' might have repelled customers, but his unmistakable sense for real art, his inability to cheat while selling items of art attracted them. If he offered to buy an item of art, it meant that he admired it himself. ---

Both Proust and Feneon, it seems, were aware of the danger of this particular media form, by which unique and unequal events are flattened and reduced to the ubiquitous and consumable quality of ‘news’. Yet both were equally awake to the potential which the medium disguises. The potential for the imaginative leap, for the hidden illumination:One may read in Feneon’s “Faits Divers” the influences of Mallarme, Poe, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, LaForgue, popular black humor. and their all coinciding in their “effect to be produced” with Feneon’s own Anarchist beliefs in the melding of the “Propaganda of the Deed” with that of the “Propaganda of the Word,” in the “detonations” which Feneon was suspected of and tried for, with those of which Mallarme observed–that Feneon’s words themselves were detonators.

-A Nancy dishwasher, Vital Frerotte, recently returned from Lourdes forever cured of tuberculosis, died, on Sunday, by mistake.
-Miss Verbeau did manage to hit Marie Champion, in the breast, but she burned her own eye, for a bowl of vitriol is not an accurate weapon.
-At skittles apoplexy felled Mr. Andre, 75, of Levallois. While his bowl was still rolling, he ceased to be.
-A madwoman of Puechabon (Herault), Mrs. Bautiol, nee Herail, used a club to awaken her parents-in-law.
-At finding her son Hyacinth, 69, hanged, Mrs. Ranvier, of Bussy-Saint-Georges, was so depressed she couldn’t cut the rope.
-‘Ouch!’ cried the cunning oyster-eater. ‘A pearl!’ Someone at the next table bought it for 100 francs. It had cost 30 cents at the dime store.

The actual “works” of Fénéon, then, are not written objects per se, but anonymous actions, ephemeral pseudonymous “appearances in print,” and the works of others which he affects a passage for in his editorship and translations, in his promoting and selling the art works of others. This “accumulation” which one finds “at a distance” in time as his “complete works,” is often unobserved and unknown to his contemporaries, who know of him primarily via his “way of acting,” his manner of dressing, his speech mannerisms, and as the public triptych of images of him existing as a painted portrait by Signac, a Dandy-pose photo and a mug shot taken when tried as part of an Anarchist “conspiracy.” Fénéon’s “identity as a writer” does not exist as “an author,” but as a series of “performances,” “appearances” and “influences,” many of them “unrecognized” and “unattributed.” ( Chirot )

Menick:Most of the blurbs concerned violent, ironic, and morbid everyday encounters: citizens run over by trains, strikes where no one showed up, household murders. Fénéon — and the rest of France it seems — saw the short writings as worthless ephemera.

was Fénéon’s mistress who collected, without the author’s knowledge, 1220 of these contributions. They were later published as the posthumous book we know today in English as Novels in Three Lines.

-Again and Again Mme Courdec, of Saint-Quen, was prevented from hanging herself from her window bolt. Exasperated, she fled across the fields.

-Near Saint-Mihiel, Lieutenant Renault was found unconcious beneath a yew. He has not yet spoken and his major doesn’t know what to say.

-For fun, Justin Barbier was scattering pistol shots in all directions, in Stains. Jules Courbier, a roofer, caught one.

-Dead sick of himself after reading the book by Samuel Smiles (Know Thyself), a judge just drowned himself at Coulange-la-Vineuse. If only this excellent book could be read throughout the magistracy.

-A policeman, Maurice Marullas, has blown out his brains. Let’s save the name of this honest man from being forgotten.

One easily sees why he was anonymously conveying this hidden in plain site “insight to incite” In the everyday appearing pages of every day events – Those detonators just happening to be lying in the streets—Not simply “literarily” but “literally”— A potential the Feneon’s absurd claim masked as indeed the very fear of al the “Good Citizens of Paris”— That al around them hidden in plain sight, were indeed detonators hidden in plain sight …Which someday might indeed begin to detonate…

Barnes:In 1890, the neo-Impressionist Paul Signac offered to paint Félix Fénéon, the very coiner, four years previously, of the term ‘neo-Impressionist’. The critic-subject responded with modest evasiveness, and then a proviso: ‘I will express only one opinion: effigy absolutely full-face – do you agree?’ Signac did not agree. Five months later, the best-known image of Fénéon emerged: in left profile, holding top hat and cane, presenting a lily to an off-canvas recipient (homage to an artist? love-gift to a woman?) against a circusy pinwheel of dashing pointillist colour. Fénéon, whether from vanity or critic’s pique at the artist’s disobedience, strongly disliked the image, commenting that ‘the portraitist and the portrayed had done one another a cruel disservice.’...

“But this profilism was also psychologically and aesthetically accurate: a representation of Fénéon’s obliqueness, his decision not to face us directly, either as readers or as examiners of his life. In literary and artistic history he comes down to us in shards, kaleidoscopically. Luc Sante, in his introduction to Novels in Three Lines, describes him well as being ‘invisibly famous’ – and he was even more invisible to Anglophone readers until Joan Ungersma Halperin’s fine study of him appeared in 1988. Art critic, art dealer, owner of the best eye in Paris as the century turned, promoter of Seurat, the only galleryist Matisse ever trusted; journalist, ghost-writer for Colette’s Willy, literary adviser then chief editor of the Revue Blanche; friend of Verlaine, Huysmans and Mallarmé, publisher of Laforgue, editor and organiser of Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations; publisher of Joyce and translator of Northanger Abbey. He was invisible partly because he was a facilitator rather than a creator, but also because of his manner, which was elliptical, ironic, taciturn.” ( Julian Barnes )

Vincent in Conversation with Felix Feneon, Paris 1888. Pissarro."Sartre, writing about Jules Renard’s Journal, described the dilemma of the French prose writer at the end of the 19th century. The great descriptive and critical project that had been the realist novel – from Flaubert via Goncourt and Maupassant to Zola – had run its course, had sucked up the world and left little for the next generation of practitioners. The only way forward lay through compression, annotation, pointillism. "

“Fénéon went further, and barely bottled a drop. Sante calls this ‘an aggressive silence, as charged, dense and reverberating as Malevich’s black canvas. It affirms that all writing is compromise, that conception will always trump execution, that ego and politics are everyone’s co-authors. It may be rooted in despair but it grows in the direction of transcendence. It wishes to free poetry from books and release it into daily life.’ These rather grand claims provoke two immediate responses: first, that Malevich’s black canvas did at least exist; and second, that if such was indeed the intention behind the writer’s silence, then what is the quality of disobedience in the actions, first of Paulhan, and then of Sante?”

Feneon was among the first early recognition of the powerful new direction in Pierre Bonnard's first nude paintings, sombre though the palette was. Both The Indolent Woman and Blue Nude are brillaint compositions, portraying a mood of languid eroticism through a series of angles.


…Perhaps it’s also the fact that newspapers are, by their nature, collages ( even if they pretend that they aren’t) which makes them capable of such rupture: the soap ad directly beside the story of refugees dying in Africa, for example. The Herald Sun for one, quite openly utilises this tension on its front page, deliberately confusing the headline of one story with the picture from another. Perhaps it’s the very nature of the photograph and of language itself that the newspaper calls into question by miming objectivity with such flagrancy.

Perhaps the job of the newspaper is to situate us, at a safe distance and in a way which is comprehensible, amongst the otherwise incomprehensibly numerous lives of other people. Perhaps, the newspaper’s historic function is not thematic after all, but numerical, in that it allows us to calculate ourselves within the incalculable, by rendering the almost-infinite readable.

Anna C. Chave:And maybe Feneon got it right; for Les Demoiselles might almost be read as a giant cartoon. What is comical to me are those two mischief-makers in outlandish masks galling their prospective johns as their co-workers coolly take the measure of the (now unnerved) men who dawdle and gawk before them--men as interchangeable as the currency in their wallets which surely forms their only true appeal. What amuses me no less, however, is the nervous response to this spectacle of feminine effrontery by my fellow historians; for no other modern picture has elicited such widespread and visceral discomfort, mounting at times to a hysterical pitch.

Which leaves the job of articulating the particular, to Literature. Perhaps Felix Feneon, a (probably) militant anarchist, came the closest to doing both at once. ( Miles Allinson)
David Baptiste-Chirot: A lot of my work has continually been an investigation of the ways in which language is a means by which people are able to split into separate compartments poetry and the arts from politics, from life in any form off the page, canvas, or screens or to argue that there is being created a liberating language in which “the reader is ALLOWED to construct their own meanings,” when this in practice is a form of double speak. Taking language as the symtom of the corruption eating away within what makes it so easily possible for Torture, Apartheid, Walls, Prisons, illegal sales and uses of weapons, to be justified and accepted as ROUTINE—taking language in this light means to not simply refuse it, but to use paradox and contradictions to begin to take it apart and understand its mechanisms. There is already a body of work on understanding the methods and functioings of language in creating and maintaining a fascist and totalitarian State and I think that with time and work it is possible to show how this exists in the daily discourses of al kinds in the US. That is my hope, and what I am working on for the last few years now.

In examining the “avant” and “avant garde” it is I think necessary to return the term to its shared origins with the military, as Italian Futurism understood in its calls for Violence, Speed and “War, the world’s hygiene” which was followed by Dada’s Anti War stance leading to the Anti-Art which was Anti-everything the Western establishments and institutions had shackled people with until they were marched off like sheep by the millions to die in WW1.

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