Terra Incognito

I go to sleep
Dreaming of a place
That isn’t quite the same
High noon sun at midnight
The usual rules don’t always apply
Two plus two equals something odd
There are even still areas of terra incognito
Beyond the four cardinal points there be monsters
Territories only mapped by opium addicted cartographers
Cities constructed by the divine ordinance of extravagant fantasists
Cities of the Black Sun, Cities of the Crimson Night
Where I can indulge my imperial delusions
Of the conquest of a golden beloved
Though I have to sail upon the sea
Seething wine dark becalmed
Ultramarine equatorial zones
For looping return cycles
Until I can finally enter
The so long dreamed of
Safe harbour of your
Tenderest embrace
Where exhausted
I can finally
Go to sleep

Too Many Voices

White Rabbit-Jan Svankmajer-Neco Z Alenky 1988
White Rabbit-Jan Svankmajer-Neco Z Alenky 1988

-I’m going to be late
-You’re always late
-Have we met before?
-You have always known me
Since the end anyway
-Quick hurry hurry quick
Underhill overvalley
Up up and away
This is a bird
This is a train
This is a bullet
-I would like to propose
A dialectic of chance
-Rather a toast
To the innumerable charms of women
Jade eyed goddess spare ribs
Heavenly portraits exquisite sculptures
-Hang on that is rather rich
Coming from you that gives
A whole new world of meaning
To every derogatory term I can think off
-Blue blue neon blue
Flashes and blinks the colour
Of my mid-morning dreams
-Too many voices
Subject to a savage distortion
Sending the cats and dogs
Of the neighbourhood into
A barking yowling frenzied cacophony
-Of course this is utterly without consequence
-But it may in fact be highly significant
-I will give you sixty seconds of pleasure
A moment outside time
A concentration of experience
The naked truth the bare essentials of existence
I’ll open your eyes when you spread those legs
-Droning on vocals fried
Ante post meta
Morpheus alpha omega
-The legends of a life
-Monsters behind the myths
-Cutting scratched breaking
A chorus echo of amens
-Immobile face and as heavy featured
As an Easter Island stature
Watching waiting before turning away
-Now I’ll never make it intime

Glossolalia

Alexandra Levasseur
Alexandra Levasseur

I will have you
You will be speaking in tongues
Crying out harsh barbaric invocations
Shouting entreaties to forgotten deities
Babbling away in rapturous ecstasy
Before this night is over but you better
Believe that this is only the beginning

For I will have you
Over and over and yet once again
Every element of these arcane rituals
Have to be satisfied in every aspect
The right word said in the right place
At the right time this is the right action
That will cause the doors to open wide

I will have you
I will take you there to a place you
Can only vaguely remember in dreams
A world of mesmerising fascinations
Inevitably leading to intoxicating danger
Nothing is true nothing is real everything
Shapeshifts you only have your self to lose.

The Postman Cheval’s Ideal Palace

the-postman-cheval-1932[1]
Le Facteur Cheval-Max Ernst 1932
Max Ernst’s 1932 collage Le Facteur Cheval is a homage to the extraordinary creator of the Ideal Palace, that marvellous folly that the Surrealists so loved: Ferdinand Cheval.

Born in 1836 in the Drome departement of France, approximately 30 miles south of Lyon, Ferdinand Cheval left school at 13 with an apprenticeship to a baker, however he eventually became a postman. One day in 1879 while doing his 18 mile round in the small village of Hauterives where he lived, Cheval in his haste stumbled over a stone. Stopping to examine the cause of his trip, Cheval was stuck by the strange shape and beauty of the stone and it reminded him of a dream that he had fifteen years previously and which he had almost forgotten. In the dream, which he found hard to express in words, he had built a palace or castle or caves. He had told nobody about this dream for fear of ridicule, it felt ridiculous to himself. However the stone had brought back the dream and he put it into his pocket to examine at leisure.

The next day he returned to where he found the stone and to his delight he found many more stones even stranger and more beautiful than the cause of his near fall. Cheval said that the stones “represents a sculpture so strange that it is impossible for man to imitate, it represents any kind of animal, any kind of caricature. I said to myself: since Nature is willing to do the sculpture, I will do the masonry and the architecture.”

For the next thirty-three years Cheval built his Ideal Palace, pushing a wheelbarrow on his postal rounds to carry all the stones he collected. He frequently worked late into the night with the aid of a oil lamp, binding the stones together with lime, mortar and cement. The images of exotic locales that he saw on the postcards and illustrated magazines he delivered on his route inspired his imagination and found expression in the eclectic mix of architecture of the Ideal Palace, where Hindu Temple, Arabic Mosque and Swiss Chalet (among others) styles somehow form a unified whole.

Cheval, as he feared, was scorned by the local community, and his visionary Ideal Palace was derided as the work of a madman. This changed however when the project was featured in national newspapers and tourists started visiting. In 1905 a tourist register was opened. Cheval declared the Ideal Palace finished in 1912 and inscribed on the building ,”The work of one man.” He also stated his desire to be buried underneath the Ideal Palace.

Although Cheval comes across as a charming eccentric he was obviously a man of dogged determination, so when he learnt that French law strictly forbade his burial upon the grounds of the Ideal Palace, he set about building his own mausoleum, at the age of eighty. He spent the next seven years building another fantastical and beautiful structure. One year  after its  completion Ferdinand Cheval died and was buried in the mausoleum that he had constructed.

As well as the Surrealists, who would often embark on pilgrimage to a site which they considered to be a monument to naive art and the transformative powers of the imagination, the Ideal Palace was much admired by Picasso and Anais Nin, who published an essay on Cheval. In 1969 the Minister of Culture, the novelist Andre Malraux declared the Ideal Palace a cultural landmark and later in 1986 the Facteur Cheval was featured on his own postage stamp: a touching and luminous irony.

Today the Palais Ideal Du Facteur Cheval Monument Historique receives 120,000 visitors yearly and is considered one of the most outstanding examples of Art Brut/outsider art in the world.

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Ideal Palace
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Ideal Palace
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Ideal Palace
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Ideal Palace

Ideal Tomb
Ideal Tomb

Uneasy City

Paul Delvaux-La Ville Inquiete 1941
Paul Delvaux-La Ville Inquiete 1941

Every nerve ending in her body told the Ingénue that she had to get the hell out of dodge. Time. To. Leave. Right quick in fact right now if not sooner like yesterday preferably. The vague anxiety that was the hallmark of life in Uneasy City had deepened into nothing less than sharply defined dread and terror. Terror and dread.
The clocks, never the fastest in Uneasy City, had slowed down to a crawl during the blistering summer of the Fourth Decadency. Although resistant to change the City couldn’t deny that something wicked was coming this way, the very air was charged with potent change. In the streets the horse’s hooves would shatter and grind down the already splintered bones and skulls that lined the cobblestones. Several virulent viruses had taken hold of the panicking populace, but even with the rampant mortality overcrowding was severe, as a constant swell from the war-torn provinces and drought stricken territories filled the Uneasy City to bursting point.
The sense of imminent catastrophe generated a sinister erotic tension that was evident everywhere. One of the few jobs the Ingénue had been offered lately was a bit part in a dubious movie about the orgies that were so fashionable during the period of the Black Death. Billed as a certain kind of historical fiction it could have been shot as a straightforward documentary during these uncertain times. She could this feel eroticising current coursing all throughout the City; in the hesitant country girls with their jaunty hats embracing each other in doorways, in the fleshy middle aged divorcees reclining naked in the lobbies of faded hotels, in the society ladies somnambulating at night through the arcades and alcoves of the station where the train never stops; but most of all in the calculating glances of be-suited men who could no longer be bothered to conceal their predatory inner selves.
Through a contact of a contact the Ingénue had heard about a train that would almost connect to a boat that could take her away from this whole benighted region of Centralia. She packed in a hurry, barely pausing to rifle through the medicine cabinets. Along with four days worth of outfits she concealed a little heat, just in case she had to put someone on ice to get where she was going.

Eden Falls

Joseph Cornell Rose Castle
Joseph Cornell-Rose Castle

Different day a different stage set, yet another illusion conjured up by Le Bateleur. Yet the Melancholy Lieutenant had to admit that there was something beguiling about the ersatz realm of Eden Falls, this vast pile comprised of the elements and detritus of his unconscious mind; dim memories, vague recollections, submerged dreams and hopeless longings.
Well maybe to others there was nothing to see hear there and would move on right away but as he lay in bed listening to the incessant rain beat against the windows and the gables or wandered through corridors that sometimes veered and forked unexpectedly, leading to previously undiscovered and undisturbed rooms that somehow seemed caught in flagrante before hastily re-assuming an innocent expression he would be soothed and think that this was maybe the home he had searched for so long, it seemed that it was what we dream of. But no, this couldn’t be the case, for where in the world was the Ingénue? At best this was a luxurious rest stop for the weary soul of the inter-dimensional adventurer, but more probably than not a trap, a monumental fur-lined prison to facilitate an eased institutionalisation.
The Melancholy Lieutenant knew he had to be on guard, always on the look-out for clues, searching for the way out of Eden Falls. Maybe he would find the key to escape in the jigsaw puzzles, pop-up books and illustrations in the volumes lining the infinite shelves?

A History of Sleep

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Although sleep is one of the few shared activities common to all humanity, it is also the most private. What we experience during our sleeping hours is untranslatable during the daylight.

The way we sleep depends upon time and place, especially latitude. The view depicting in movies of our prehistoric ancestors huddled together for warmth and safety from predators in the communal cave as soon as the sun set is probably not far from the mark as the same basic pattern can be found, in a more sophisticated fashion, in Anglo-Saxon and Viking settlements, where all members of the clan would sleep on a raised parapet above a sunken, blazing fire in the Great Hall of a powerful chieftain, who would nevertheless sleep amongst his subjects. In the fortified keeps and castles of the later medieval period in Ireland and Britain elements of social stratification can be seen as now the presiding figures that controlled life within the castle have their own separate bedchambers.

Great changes in societal patterns were occurring in the city states of what is now Italy. A benevolent climate where the amounts of daylight and night-time are more equally distributed throughout the year led to lives less overwhelmed by the struggle for mere survival and the flourishing of the first recognizable modern cities. From these states came merchant princes and an artisan middle class involved in completely new professions. At night the streets were lit and families lived more spaciously in single family dwellings. As lives were less arduous it was no longer necessary to retire as early or to rise at dawn. It is a curious fact that the two presiding genius of the Renaissance, Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci slept for less than four hours a night.

From this point onwards Western society was bent upon colonizing the night. With electricity the conquest was completed. Whereas candlelight and oil lamps seemed to re-enforce the nature of the surrounding night, electricity completely dispels darkness, replacing it with an artificial daytime. Soon the traditional conceptions of diurnal night and day will have no meaning, instead we have a twenty-four hour neuter-time that neither begins or ends. Technical acumen has made possible the manufacture of machines, robots and computers, whose main selling point is that they never tire, never sleep and never stop.

Increasingly prevalent in the work-driven and success haunted West is the idea that sleep is an enemy, only enjoyed by the idle and unambitious. Go getters only unwillingly submit to a hopefully dreamless sleep when absolutely required to preserve sanity, and even then for the shortest period possible. Upon waking the inexplicable images that the helpless dreamer witnessed are dispelled by the light of the working day and dismissed as irrelevant.  Are we too far off a time when a sleep deprived scientist, every hour ridden by waking nightmares re-engineers and genetically alters an unborn child so that it will never sleep? And when that happens can we consider that person who, having never experienced nightly oblivion, that plunge into an endless ocean where unremitting self-consciousness is blissfully, if only temporarily relinquished, human at all?

Subtle Substance

Labyrinth-Leonora Carrington 1991
Labyrinth-Leonora Carrington 1991

A subtle substance,
Nymphlight or gaslight,
Shimmers and shifts
On the event horizon
Before vanishing.

Emerging patterns,
Esoterically strange,
Point to the discovery
Of imaginary countries
And new crimes.

Chasing chymeras,
And weepy willow wisps.
Stumbling at every twist
And left-hand turning
Of the labyrinth.

Blinking in the sunlight,
Sleepwalking through days,
Only truly awake and aware
When asleep in the arms
Of Mother Night, and dreaming.

Sleep Spaces

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Robert Desnos-Man Ray

In 1922 Rene Crevel told his friend and mentor Andre Breton about a visit he had made to a Spiritualist seance. It was the time of  the mouvement flou, the increasingly nihilistic Dada had negated itself out of existence and Surrealism was yet to come into being. Breton was intrigued and arranged an event with his friends. The results were startling; and this was the beginning of the Period of the Sleeping Fits. Crevel and Robert Desnos were particularly  susceptible to  falling into the trance state and answering questions that was put to them by the group, sometimes with unnerving effect. Each day they would spend longer in a trance, Desnos even had the ability to write while asleep. Both Crevel and Desnos began to rapidly lose weight and Desnos became convinced that he was possessed by Rrose Selavy, Marcel Duchamp’s female alter ego, even though he had never met Duchamp. Events began to spiral out of control and the experiment with trance states was abandoned completely when Crevel led a group suicide attempt.

Desnos loved to sleep (most photographs show him asleep) and his poetry vividly evokes that universal yet nebulous state  Below is  his 1926 poem Sleep Spaces, translation by Mary Ann Caws.

Sleep Spaces

In the night there are naturally the seven marvels of the world and greatness and the   tragic and enchantment.
Confusedly, forests mingle with legendary creatures hidden in the thickets.
You are there.
In the night there is the nightwalker’s step and the murderer’s and the policeman’s     and the streetlight and the ragman’s lantern.
You are there.
In the night pass trains and ships and the mirage of countries where it is daylight. The last breaths of twilight and the first shivers of dawn.
You are there.
A tune on the piano, a cry.
A door slams,
A clock.
And not just beings and things and material noises.
But still myself chasing myself or going on beyond.
You are there, immolated one, you for whom I wait.
Sometimes strange figures are born at the instant of sleep and disappear.
When I close my eyes, phosphorescent blooms appear and fade and are reborn like carnal fireworks.
Unknown countries I traverse with creatures for company.
You are there most probably, oh beautiful discreet spy.
And the palpable soul of the reaches.
And the perfumes of the sky and the stars and the cock’s crow from two thousand years ago and the peacock’s scream in the parks aflame and kisses.
Handshakes sinister in a sickly light and axles screeching on hypnotic roads.
You are most probably there, whom I do not know, whom on the contrary I know.
But who, present in my dreams, insist on being sensed there without appearing.
You who remain out of reach in reality and in dream.
You who belong to me by my will to possess you in illusion but whose face approaches mine if my eyes are closed to dream as well as to reality.
You in spite of an easy rhetoric where the waves die on the beaches, where the crow flies in ruined factories, where wood rots cracking under a leaden sky.
You who are at the depths of my dreams, arousing my mind full of metamorphoses and leaving me your glove when I kiss your hand.
In the night there are stars and the tenebral motion of the sea, rivers, forests, towns, grass, the lungs of millions and millions of being.
In the night there are the marvels of the world.
In the night there are no guardian angels but there is sleep.
In the night you are there.
In the day also.

A Glove

Max-Klinger-–-Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove-1881
Max Klinger-Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove 1. Place-1881

One of the most prominent artists of his time, the German Symbolist Max Klinger is now predominantly remembered for his series of ten etchings entitled Paraphrase über den Fund eines Handschuhs (Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove) first completed in 1877-1878, then revised in a mixed technique of engraving, etching and aquatint in 1881.

A Glove is widely considered to be an important link between Symbolism and Surrealism with it dream-like narrative, changes in size and scale and its symbolic fetishism. It is hard to deny the sexual significance of A Glove and it definitely lends itself to a Freudian interpenetration, though it predates Freud by nearly two decades.

Here is the entire series which I hope you enjoy and I would also be very interesting in what ‘A Glove’ suggests to my readers.

2.Action
2.Action
3. Yearnings
3. Yearnings
4.Rescue
4.Rescue
5 Triumph
5 Triumph
6. Homage
6. Homage
7. Anxieties
7. Anxieties
8. Repose
8.Repose
9.Abduction
9.Abduction
10. Cupid
10, Cupid