collapse of the soul: the flux of the IT

He could never really control what he did or what he wrote. Artaud said these defects of form  were often rescued from complete nothingness. The raw results attributed to ” a collapse of the soul at its center, a kind of erosion of ideas. …there is something that destroys my thinking, something that prevents me from being what I could be, but that leaves me, as it were, in suspense.”…

As one of his friends said, “he had a vocation for madness, he entered it as one enters the priesthood. ” To Antonin Artaud, the rational world was deficient; he welcomed the hallucinations that abolished reason and gave meaning to his alienation. He purposely placed himself outside  the limits in which sanity and madness can be opposed, and gave himself up to a private world of magic and irrational visions. As Artaud said, “No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modeled, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell.” Certainly Artaud, and perhaps Brecht  deserve credit for analyzing and restructuring the concept of theater and gesture as a rethinking both of language and the political space.

Artaud:I propose then a theater in which violent physical images crush and hypnotize the sensibility of the spectator seized by the theater as by a whirlwind of high forces. A theater which, abandoning psychology, recounts the extraordinary, stages natural conflicts, natural and subtle forces, and presents itself first of all as an exceptional power of redirection. A theater that induces trance, as the dances of Dervishes induce trance, and that addresses itself to the organism by precise instruments, by the same means as those of certain tribal music cures which we admire an records but are incapable of originating among ourselves». (A. Artaud, The Theatre and its double, 1938)Read More: image:

de Gramont said that Artaud could have served as a model for Georg Groddeck, a contemporary of Freud who believed that illness was a vital expression of the human organism, and that every illness, mental or physical, was caused by an inner conflict:

For the patient, Groddeck sought to interpret, through the vagaries of outward symptom and clinical manifesta­tion, the hidden language of the It. “I do maintain,” he writes, “that man creates his own illnesses for a definite purpose, using the outer world merely as an instrument, finding there an inexhaustible supply of material which he can use for this purpose, today a piece of orange peel, tomorrow the spirochete of syphilis, the day after, a draft of cold air, or anything else that will help him pile up his woes. And always to gain pleasure, no matter how un­likely that may seem, for every human being experiences something of pleasure in suffering; every human being has the feeling of guilt and tries to get rid of it by self­-punishment.” Read More: a

Clearly, Artaud’s world was that of alternative realities with an underlying belief in the distrust of representation that harks back to some elements of romanticism of the wild and savage liberated from the shackles  of imposed and false moral values.  Artaud understood representation as the only product of a translation;  the mental and artistic process that turns the untamed and unwashed into art. However, the core  of the original thought, the barbarism, violence and emotion at the most primal level vaporizes in its materialisation  and thus becomes de-sensualised though he did not really wander into the realm of the pose, the gesture and the gaze as a back-door into the recesses of the cerebral cortex.To Artaud,  this materialisation of art separates it from the body and distances it from its original conception; consequently, it dies,logically to diluted to hold its sensuality in the physical universe.We are left with archetypes. Ultimately, asserted Artaud,  acts of representation minimalized the final (art)efact,  to an empty casing, superficial, ” a mere tombstone marking its former life.” ( Jamieson)


Jamieson:the post-structuralist thinking in Artaud’s æsthetics is striking. Specifically, Derrida employed Artaud’s dispirited relationship with representation as a platform for his own ideas, which subsequently laid the foundations for post-structuralism. In a metaphor borrowed from Artaud, Derrida compares defecation to the process of creating art. Derrida claims that, like the artist passing excrement, art is also a product of the body – of the self. However, once the product has left the body, it cannot retain the life force it once had: the work, as excrement, is but matter without life, without force or form. It always falls and collapses as soon as it is outside of me. Read More: image:

To Groddeck, the artist was by definition a patient, but one who is able to exploit his illness: “The artist is not an interesting cripple but someone who has by the surrender of his ego to the flux of the It- the mysterious power which animates the individual- become the agent and translator of the extra-causal forces which rule us.” Artaud would have approved without qualification. He often said he was “exploiting his madness.”

Just as the Romantics fought for liberty, Artaud also demanded freedom from traditional societal thought in his Theatre of Cruelty. Artaud was convinced that individuals within society are prevented from conceiving things in new ways because of their reverence and respect for masterpieces from the past . Holding onto tradition does not allow society to move forward. Artaud believed that the dominant social powers, with their hegemonic influences, prevent individuals from living as they are meant to: “Artaud repudiated all literature written to be performed, …and civilization itself. For Artaud, civilization only corrupts the essence of humanity: humankind was ferocious, hungry, and afraid, and all cultural conventions deluded us into thinking otherwise” (Rivera). Artaud rejected traditional thoughts since traditions are artificial ideals established by those holding the most influence within society. He did, however, encourage humanity to go against society and view itself in all its primitiveness, since in a primitive state, things are not affected by social influence. As primitive beings, people can liberate the emotions that society prefers remain oppressed (Rivera). This echoes the desire of Romantics to escape traditional notions of representation, but at the same time return to a state of childhood and innocence untainted by societal pressures. Read More:

"Artaud however, used the explosive metaphor that van Gogh’s art was like an artistic atomic bomb, uncontainable by the power elites; consequently, their way of defending themselves was to declare van Gogh mad. This is in line with the anti-psychiatric claim that the stigma of madness is a means of social contro

ike van Gogh, Artaud’s love affairs were total, absolute, and hence impossible. He also regarded art as a goal in itself and not as a means to any material aim. Art is communication through an epistemic wall, which only the creative energy of a van Gogh can effect ...Read More: image:

Artaud was obviously eccentric, a manipulator, weird, and what is commonly known as “mad,” yet in spite of his efforts to bask in this state there were effect  on him that brought insights into the creative domain. Admittedly, being mad revealed to him the meaning of the world, at least in his sense of the word. Hence, insanity for him delineated the limits of understanding, yet for the stigmatizing others such reaching out towards the normative boundaries of comprehension constituted madness, since the agencies of social control take deviant and antisocial behavior as the principal indication of insanity, and the main pretext for disposing of the marginal. Artaud’s writings are as explosive as van Gogh’s paintings. The difference is the painting of van Gogh was structured and very communicative, whereas Artaud chose a variant of intellectual anarchism,a scattershot affair , an anti-writing that abstained itself from the structures of form, meaning its communicative qualities were very abstruse. Which in the last analysis is often not communicative, which in theory means it doesn’t  amount to art. In Artaud’s case its a meta-conceptual art, an “archive” of performance art in a language that is gestural and private.

Artaud identified with van Gogh and felt an inner affinity with him. Yet essentially he wrote about himself since his experience with insanity was very similar to van Gogh’s, and both regarded psychiatry and mental asylums as tools of social control, and not of therapy. The expression of love was just too painful and too burdensome for Artaud; in his theory it was simply not translatable and not dilutable at the primary level.

Erich Fromm:This fact can be fully understood only if we consider what love is directed toward. It is the opposite of hatred. Hatred is a passionate wish for destruction; love is a passionate affirmation of its “object”. That means that love is not an “affect” but an active striving, the aim of which is the happiness, development, and freedom of its “object.” This passionate affirmation is not possible if one’s own self is crippled, since genuine affirmation is always rooted in strength. The person whose self is thwarted, can only love in an ambivalent way; that is, with the strong part of his self he can love, with the crippled part he must hate.Read More: a

Artaud:Theater of cruelty means a theater difficult and cruel for myself first of all. And, on the level of performance, it is not the cruelty we can exercise upon each other by hacking at each other's bodies, carving up our personal anatomies, or, like Assyrian emperors, sending parcels of human ears, noses, or neatly detached nostrils through the mail, but the much more terrible and necessary cruelty which things can exercise against us. We are not free. And the sky can still fall on our heads. And the theater has been created to teach us that first of all...Read More: image:

Derrida: Music, nature, seeing: the same: seen [vue]. Such a proximity confines you to madness, but the one that snatches you from the
other madness, the madness of stagnation, of stabilization in the inert when sense becomes a subjectivized theme, introjected or objectivized, and the subjectile a tomb. But you can force the tomb. You can unsense the subjectile until — unsensed from birth — it gives way to the innate which was assassinated there one day. A violent obstetrics gives passage to the words through which, however, it passes. With all the
music, painting, drawing, it is operating with a forceps. Of course, Artaud was speaking of van Gogh here. But without giving in to a cliche
such as “speaking of van Gogh he is speaking of himself,” and so on, we still have to recognize that Antonin Artaud couldn’t have entered into that relationship, into the realm of the relation with van Gogh, except in giving himself over to the experiment that he is describing just at the moment when he is refusing to describe the stability of a painting. Read More:

heinrich Maria Darvinghausen."Originally staged in Vienna in 1909, Murderer, The Hope of Women is generally regarded as the first Expressionist play. Its obsession with sex and death is expressed in grand gestures and archaic language, while its physical risks, and its chants and screams, so vividly presaged the theories and plays of Antonin Artaud that it could almost be called a paradigm of the Theatre of Cruelty. " Read More:

Shoham:The relationship, however, between pain and creativity is not linear but curvilinear. Some suffering may be enriching, but too much may break the artist, which it actually did both to van Gogh and Artaud. Not only the bourgeoisie rejects the “mad” outsiders, but society itself, aided by its controlling agents, fights the “insane,” creative innovators, and the deviants which expand man’s limits of awareness and which widen their own, and others’, normative being and conception of aesthetics. The bourgeois begrudges the creative individuals for being creative, which he is not. Hence, he ever pushes them in line and if they dare not comply, they pay dearly, with their wellbeing, freedom, and sometimes with their very lives. Such agencies of social control are the crows in van Gogh’s last painting, pumping dark lead into the clouds and blood into the earth. Artaud’s main concern was his crusade against the psychiatric establishment and its total institutions. He realized that madness is culture-bound, yet he demanded to know what justified declaring van Gogh insane and committing him to a mental institution – this in a world where one eats vaginas cooked in green sauce, where around most of the globe anarchy reigns supreme, and in the so-called orderly western world, government corruption is rife, white-collar crime is the rule, and the bourgeoisie is as dishonest and hypocritical as ever . Read More:

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