Arcane Gestures

Claude Cahun-1929-1930
Claude Cahun-1929-1930

Following the arcane gestures of your hands
That replicates and duplicates the movement
Of your swaying rolling hips against my pelvis
I stare long and hard into your glittering eyes
Focused on the middle distance chasing down
An ecstasy among the chimeras and paradoxes
The beauty of your distracted expression
Is a provocation, an exhalation of pure spirit
A command from above that I dare not refuse
For you alone can take me there to where I belong
Drenched with colour and drowning in sound
Overwhelmed by sensation and alive in love

Family Portrait

Dorothea Tanning-Family Portrait 1954
Dorothea Tanning-Family Portrait 1954

Dorothea Tanning remarked on her childhood in Galesburg, Illinois that nothing happened but the wallpaper, however everything, even wallpaper, is grist to the true artists mill and she succeeded during her long and incredibly productive life to create memorable works set in conventional domestic spaces filled with mystery, confrontation and revelation.

Family Portrait was painted in Sedona, Arizona, where Tanning lived with her husband Max Ernst for part of every year until they moved to France permanently in 1957 . The painting is dominated by the huge father (or husband) figure wearing sinister mirrored round glasses in the background. The size of each figure seems entirely dependent on their status within the family group. The perky daughter (or wife) with her large and expressive eyes sits level at the table with its crisp linen and strange dishes, dwarfing the housekeeper who is little bigger  than the small dog on its hindquarters begging for its dinner. The muted colours add to the ominous and oppressive atmosphere. Family Portrait is a suburban Gothic drama of hidden tensions and Wonderland-like changes in scale that lingers unnervingly in the memory.

The Ideal City in the Mind’s Eye

Claude Nicolas Ledoux-Symbolic Representation of the auditorium of the Theatre at Besançon as seen through the pupil of one eye
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Symbolic representation of the auditorium of the Theatre at Besançon as seen through the pupil of one eye

The triumvirate of Utopian Neoclassical architects, Étienne-Louis Boullée, Jean-Jacques Lequeu and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux would have an major influence on Modern architecture in the 20th Century, as well as being hailed by the Surrealists as precursors, particularly Ledoux, who held notably progressive and egalitarian ideals for his time.

The Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans was conceived by Ledoux as the first phrase in the construction of an ideal city near the forest of Chaux. Ledoux thought that luxury shouldn’t just be confined to the nobility, it should also be used in the building of a workshop or a barn. The grandiose buildings were laid out in a circle, houses for workers were palatial and the forges had Doric columns. Unfortunately, but not altogether surprisingly Ledoux had to abandon work on the Royal Saltworks in 1778 before its final completion.

This didn’t deter Ledoux from envisaging ever more audacious and grandiose projects for his ideal city though. All public buildings such as the Pacifere (Temple of Concilation), the Oikema (House of Pleasure) were based on the theory of pure forms; pyramid, cube, sphere, cylinder. Statues would be erected for the sake of their effect on perspective or the casting of shadows.

In 1784 Ledoux was selected to design the Théâtre de Besançon. Among his radical and innovative designs was the introduction of seating for all patrons, (a right previously reserved for the nobility), and the screening of musicians in the orchestra pit.

Claude-Nicholas Ledoux-House of Supervisors Ideal City of Chaux
Claude-Nicholas Ledoux-House of Supervisors-Ideal City of Chaux
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema (House of Pleasure)
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema (House of Pleasure) Detail
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema (House of Pleasure) Detail
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Farm Guards House
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Farm Guards House
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Chaux
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Chaux
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Pacifere
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Pacifere
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-house of Circles-Artists Studio
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-House of Circles-Artists Studio
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Maison de campagne ou Temple de la memoire
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Maison de campagne ou Temple de la memoire







The Glitches of Fear

August Natterer, My eyes at the moment of the apparitions, 1911-1913
August Natterer, My eyes at the moment of the apparitions, 1911-1913

Do you ever get that eerie feeling that something is not quite right?
The time is out of joint, unsynced, slowing right down,
Woozy with inertial entropy, cackling and hissing with static,
A soundtrack of ghosts residing in obsolete machinery
That reveals in the memory troubling gaps, the lacuna
Of shifting, impermanent assembled identities,
Assumed from random incidences, baroque notions
Jumbled together with jump-cuts, replays and glitches
Washed out and bleached of colour by false recollections,
Subject to the drifting haze of hypnagogic hallucinations,
The reverb and sinister echo of malevolent technologies,
That transforms all that is most tender and unique
Into a single freeze-framed image of absolute, stock fear.

Sacrifice for Pleasure

Exquiste Corpse-Man Ray, Joan Miro, Yves Tanguy & Max Morise
Exquiste Corpse-Man Ray, Joan Miro, Yves Tanguy & Max Morise

There always comes the moment
When you receive the confirmation
Of what you half intuited all along
No more evasions or denials
The truth is written on the wall
Writ large and quite plain to see
You are entangled within the trap
Held fast now there is no escape
It was all a set up a complete illusion
A vast conspiracy centred on you
Always and forever you alone
How can you ever begin to fathom
The depths you are plunging into
You never even knew it was a game
Until I showed you the aces in the hole
And demanded payment or satisfaction
So many questions you wanted to ask
But crumpling beneath the realisation
Of all I had in store you remained silent
Submitted docilely to my desires
However perversely strange or subtle
All your striving had come to naught
Think of this as a complete education
Now maybe you will understand
What I would sacrifice for pleasure.