at the approach of madness the tide recedes

Mercy. To be relieved of one’s own consciousness.  Codifying surrealism into a vernacular language.Not like the mutuality of life and death, the proximity of opening a heavy dark door and entering the blackness to grab your attention.If you can’t leave hell for one reason or another, should it be endured with dignity? Not as ingenious as Rimbaud in going from the known to the unknown, not as caught in the conundrum of preserving and surpassing, as remaining within the limits, and touching on madness. Still, a shipwreck somehow floating on its own, even if for a belated moment, a broken movement, and the collapse into the void. Chaos. Insanity disguised by a superficial appearance of a yearning for experience, but it is an impulse, however vigorous that is masked by a deranged sense of anticipation. Even these seers, exhausted, cannot search in the faint hope of discovering the possible beyond the collapse. Bataille said Rimbaud’s greatness was having led poetry to its own failure…

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It is necessary to understand, however, that Rimbaud was among the first to depart from  the Platonic notion of ideal forms,which reached its zenith  the romantic sensibility. Distortion had existed going back to Bosch, torment and underlying distrust of a new world; Rimbaud’s  individual consciousness interacting with the world was a departure from earlier forms; authentic art was marginalized; the poet was an equal with the rag picker and prostitute. Rimbaud was drawn to the personal, the obscure, whereas other writers in Paris were penning  didactic or sentimental verse. Kitsch. tripe. So, Wojnarowicz is working in a different habitat, but you could still call him one of the last of the angries. Rimbaud’s  self-described visions “sophisms,” an unmediated pain, was meant much like what later depth psychologists would term symptoms which both revealed and concealed processes of the psyche. Rimbaud the first surrealist….

The incurable, chronic inertia that Buber and others came to understand as the complex modern array of pathologies that would be fertilized under the category of boredom; the anti-hunger:

Kuspit: Their art did not save them; it permitted them to cope, temporarily. Rimbaud abandoned art when it could no longer help him, and in a sense Wojnarowicz abandoned art by using it to make political statements that blamed the world for his troubles and stopped his development. Indeed, he may have turned to politics because he had nothing more to say about his life. The ruins of their lives washed up on the shores of art, to our benefit, but not clearly to theirs….

---David Wojnarowicz - Untitled (Genet), 1979--- Read More:

…But the resemblance eventually breaks down: Rimbaud was an avant-garde innovator, Wojnarowicz an avant-garde decadent. Both were brilliant, but Wojnarowicz ended—brought to an ambiguous populist conclusion—what Rimbaud began: the idea of the artist as an experimental visionary. Wojnarowicz brought down to earth what for Rimbaud was a mystical way of ascending to psychic heaven. Wojnarowicz standardizes and stereotypes Rimbaud’s unusual techniques and puts Rimbaud’s surreal expressionist aesthetics to anti-aesthetic use. He, in effect, makes exoteric, naturalizes, what was once an esoteric art with an esoteric purpose. In short, he conventionalizes what was once unconventional, and does so with a casual ease that betrays its difficulty…. Read More:

…Wojnarowicz’s artistic career seriously began with Arthur Rimbaud in New York (1978-1979), a series of twenty-four black-and-white gelatin silver prints in which a friend, wearing a mask of Rimbaud, was photographed in a variety of New York settings, all more or less sordid and “underground.” Wojnarowicz’s identification with Rimbaud is clear, and there is a startling resemblance between their lives, and even their art….

---The conspicuously perverse David Wojnarowicz symbolizes the old-style angry, tortured gay, Gilbert and George the new style gay who was never in the closet, and whose acts of anal aggression no longer cause any avant-garde excitement and difference, suggesting that perversion, like the avant-garde, has been socially assimilated, and may even be the norm, and thus quite proper. --- Read More:

…Wojnarowicz was born in 1954, exactly a century after Rimbaud, and died in 1992, living one year longer than Rimbaud, who died in 1891. Both were the products of broken homes and abusive parents; both ran away from provincial homes to the big city; both traveled widely; both were gay. Both needed a loving relationship with an idealized father figure and artistic mentor to stimulate and support their own art—Paul Verlaine in the case of Rimbaud, the photographer Peter Hujar in Wojnarowicz’s case—and both were violent personal- ties—Rimbaud eventually shot Verlaine, and death and destruction run rampant in Wojnarowicz’s imagery, most famously in Untitled (Falling Buffalo), 1988- 1989. (In one film, bodies are mutilated and torn apart.) Both had a certain arrogance, evident in Wojnarowicz’s videotaped “performances” as a gay activist. Rimbaud was rejected by the Parisian literati as an arrogant, boorish drunk. At one time or another both lived beyond the social pale, Wojnarowicz as a child prostitute, Rimbaud as a gunrunner. The criminal or outlaw experience gave them pleasure—their art in fact is a kind of homage to the pleasure principle, celebrated as illicit—as Wojnarowicz’s writings, intense and eloquent as Rimbaud’s, indicate. They felt they could get away with being exceptions to the rules everyone else must follow and they paid a human price for it, whatever the artistic compensations. Both died horrible deaths, Rimbaud after having his cancerous right leg amputated—he apparently suffered from syphilis—and Wojnarowicz from AIDS-related illness. Read More:

---Using a stolen 35mm camera, David Wojnarowicz photographed anonymous figures posing in a mask of the 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud. According to Wojnarowicz, he was “playing with ideas of compression of ‘historical time and activity’ and fusing the French poet’s identity with modern New York urban activities, mostly illegal in nature.” From Times Square to the abando

Hudson River piers, the Rimbaud figure’s wanderings mirrored Wojnarowicz’s own transient life in the city. Published in the Soho Weekly News in June 1980, this series marks Wojnarowicz’s first serious effort in photography and his first publicly exhibited artwork.--- Read More:

…They are more clever than subtle, more blatant than intimate. Wojnarowicz lacks the emotional breadth, complexity, and depth of Rimbaud, tending instead to harp on one emotional note—usually rage, as he acknowledges. This is partly because of his populism—evident in his use of collective imagery, comic-strip style, and such social materials as supermarket posters as points of departure—and partly because he wants to make a political point, to put his firsthand experience to social use, which requires that one write one’s ideas large and simplify them. Mass consumption always involves reduction to a common denominator, and Wojnarowicz was torn between the wish to make high art and to influence the indifferent masses. Moreover, if his political imagery did not incorporate his personal narrative, which involved self-mythologizing, his activism would have lost its cutting edge and poignancy. ( ibid. )


My turn now. The story of one of my insanities.

For a long time I boasted that I was master of all possible landscapes and I thought the great figures of modern painting and poetry were laughable.

What I liked were: absurd paintings, pictures over doorways, stage sets, carnival backdrops, billboards, bright-colored prints; old-fashioned literature, church Latin, erotic books full of misspellings, the kind of novels our grandmothers read, fairy tales, little children’s books, old operas, silly old songs, the nave rhythms of country rimes.

I dreamed of Crusades, voyages of discovery that nobody had heard of, republics without histories, religious wars stamped out, revolutions in morals, movements of races and continents: I used to believe in every kind of magic.

I invented colors for the vowels! – A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green. – I made rules for the form and movement of every consonant, and I boasted of inventing, with rhythms from within me, a kind of poetry that all the senses, sooner or later, would recognize. And I alone would be its translator.

I began it as an investigation. I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still. Read More:
Bataille:In approaching madness, the poet sinks into darkness. Still, madness does not have the means to maintain itself by itself any more than poetry does. Since there are poets and madmen–as there are monkeys of one type or another–poets and madmen exist only during certain moments. The limit of the poet is similar to that of the madman in that it affects one’s personal life but not human life in general. These fixed points in time give shipwrecks the means to maintain themselves on their own. Thus, the movement of water around such shipwrecks is only a belated instant.

…poetry engaged in its own negation. But what touches on knowledge of one’s self is simply desire, evocation; it’s the void, the chaos, leftover from poetry. Any distinction can be made between madness (to which poetry succumbs) and the rational exhaustion of the possibilities of the being. Madness is masked by the appearance of a will for experience, and this will is disguised by a derangement. The inability to survive comes from excess of desire, which goes in many directions at the same time. The collapse felt during exhaustion keeps the mind from surpassing desire, and exacerbates it. Read More:

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