Sunday, September 4, 2011

Antonin Artaud

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) was born on this day

“Antonin Artaud’s holy despair breaks all old verse forms…Artaud’s physical breath has inevitable propulsion toward specific insight on “Moloch whose name is the Mind”

“I had been fascinated”, Ginsberg recalls, “by the thought and the poetry of the French maudite, anti-physical, mystical poet, Antonin Artaud, who had died toothless, and, it is said, mad, in Paris in 1948, only seven years before our Six Gallery reading"

It had been Carl Solomon (his companion in “the bug house”) who had first turned him on to him – “I’m with you in Rockland/ where you scream in a straight-jacket that you’re losing the game of the actual ping-pong of the abyss”

Electro-shock therapy. Schizophrenia. Solomon had actually witnessed, first-hand, the ranting and raving Artaud, in Paris (in 1947 at the Theatre du Vieux Colombier), prior to his own mental breakdown - a very different figure to the matinee-idol handsome actor, twenty years earlier, that we see in Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc.

Pour en finir avec le jugement de Dieu (To Have Done With The Judgement of God), recorded for Radiodiffusion Francaise in November of ’47, but banned from transmission by the station’s director, is a (the) key late work - cacophonous, scatological, confrontational, still, after all these years, deeply deeply disturbing. It can be listened to in its entirety here. Jean-Jacques Lebel and Ruth Hirschman discuss the piece here.

It is also discussed in Joanna Pawlik’s recent article, Artaud in Peformance - Dissident Surrealism and The Post-War American Avant-Garde (“paying particular attention to his work both on and in the theatre informed both the Beat and the San Francisco writers poetics of performance”) which serves as a useful summary of Artaud’s post-war American reception.

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