Unearthly Raptures

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Another time, a different season
Another place, without reason
You and I indivisible
With desires non-negotiable

Instead I observe obsessed
Your body remaining uncaressed
Breasts uncapped by my hands
Your thighs undiscovered lands
Leading to untouched territory
An unchartered perilous country
Where there lies unknown pleasure
Unearthly rapture beyond measure
Your eyes cause ecstatic distress
Your lips an agony of excess
Your breath to me untasted
My lust so terminally belated.

With desires non-negotiable
You and I indivisible
Another place, without reason
Another time, a different season

Stars of The Atrocity Exhibition: Ronald Reagan

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Ronald Reagan
The motion picture studies of Ronald Reagan Reagan’s hairstyle. Studies were conducted on the marked fascination exercised by the Presidential contender’s hairstyle. 65 percent of male subjects made positive connections between the hairstyle and their own pubic hair. A series of optimum hairstyles were constructed.

J.G Ballard-Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan-The Atrocity Exhibition 1968

At the 1980 Republican Convention in San Francisco a copy of my Reagan text, minus its title and the running sideheads, and furnished with the seal of the Republican Party, was distributed to delegates. I’m told it was accepted for what it resembled, a psychological position paper on the candidate’s subliminal appeal, commissioned from some maverick think-tank.

Annotations-The Atrocity Exhibition 1990

Stars of The Atrocity Exhibition: Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Diptych 1962 by Andy Warhol 1928-1987
Andy Warhol-Marilyn Diptych 1962
The ‘Soft’ Death of Marilyn Monroe. Standing in front of him as she dressed, Karen Novotny’s body seemed as smooth and annealed as those frozen planes. Yet a displacement of time would drain away the soft interstices, leaving walls like scraped clinkers. He remembered Ernst’s ‘Robing’; Marilyn’s pitted skin, breasts of carved pumice, volcanic thighs, a face of ash. The widowed bride of Vesuvius.

J.G Ballard-You:Coma: Marilyn Monroe-The Atrocity Exhibition 1966

Marilyn Monroe’s death was another psychic cataclysm. Here was the first and greatest of the new-style film goddess, whose images, unlike those of their predecessors, were fashioned from something close to the truth, not from utter fiction. We know everything about Marilyn’s sleazy past-the modest background, the foster homes and mother with mental problems, the long struggle as a starlet on the fringes of prostitution, then spectacular success as the world embraced her flawed charm, loved by sporting idols, intellectuals and, to cap it all, the US President. But she killed herself, slamming the door in the world’s face.

A kind of banalisation of celebrity has occurred; we are now offered an instant, ready to mix fame as nutritious as packet soup. Warhol’s screen-prints show the process at work. His portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy drain the tragedy from the lives of these desperate women, while his day glow palette returns them to the innocent world of the child’s colouring book.

Annotations-The Atrocity Exhibition 1990

 

 

 

Super-Imposed Love

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I was seeking a greater resolution
Wishing to bring life into focus
Love, I thought,
Would throw into sharp relief
The chiaroscuro background,
The shadowed contours
Of my hidden existence.
Yes love would lend clarity
To the inane hours
Expose the precious beauty
Of everything that happens,
Just because it happens.

Compare, for instance,
The blunt contrast
Between the monochromatic
Intercityscape
With it glistening rot;
Everything is hard here
Oh so fucking hard
Surfaces bodies smiles
All so unyielding
So potentially damaging
If you happen to
Fuck it up,
The concrete is unforgiving
Of accidental missteps
If you happen to fall
You will find
That plenty
Take advantage
Of weakness
They are unforgiving
Towards failure;
So different are
My fever dreams
That I dream of you
I envision you
Bedecked with jewels
Dripping with pearls
Surrounded by
Blank-eyes studs
And pretty doll-
Like girls that smell faintly
Of honey and vanilla,
Throughout the night,
They anoint you with oils
As they fondle
Your heavy breasts,
Tender lips bruise
Your neck
Loving finger caress
And part your sex
Many hands glide over
Your contours
Travelling to the places
Where your pleasure
Resorts:
The whole world feasts
On the banquet of your body,
Beloved slut,
Divine whore of my heart
You reside in a region
A timeless azure realm
Beyond good and evil
How I envy you
For reasons you can never know.
If I unlock the cage
And set you free
Would you one day
Return to me?

Melencolia I

Melencolia I (B. 74; M., HOLL. 75)*engraving  *24 x 18.8 cm *1514
Albrecht Durer-Melencolia I-1514
The most famous of the many outstanding works by the genius of the Northern Renaissance, Albrecht Durer’s etching Melencolia I (Melancholy I), is replete with esoteric and alchemical  references and has been the subject of much debate and interpenetration. The title is taken from the German occultist Cornelius Agrippa’s theory of melancholy, in his influential book  On the Occult Philosophy he states that in artists Melencolia Imaginativa predominates over both mind and reason.

A winged figure, Lady Melancholy sits slumped surrounded by symbolic objects. In Medieval and Renaissance medicine, melancholy was a humour caused by an excess of black bile and her posture suggests the  contemplative attitude and the mental anguish produced in people who suffer with this temperament. Artists, philosophers, theologians and craftsmen were thought to particularly susceptible to melancholy and were often said to have a Saturnine nature, that is to be under the influence of the planet Saturn. Further allusions to Saturn can be found in the purse and keys which are traditional attributes of the patron god of melancholy.

Directly above Melancholy’s head is an hourglass showing the passing of time, and a magic square that adds up to 34 every which way. Additional references to alchemy can be found in the darkened countenance of the brooding figure, the so-called facies nigra, pointing to the adept that the first stage of the Great Work is nigredo (blackness), the putrefaction necessary for all creation. The geometric tools are symbols of various other stages of the magistery, leading up to the six-sided prism (imprinted with a faint human skull) which represents Prime Matter and the seven steps of the ladder, each rung a phrase in the Magnum Opus. The blazing comet in the sky and the rainbow heralds its final completion.

Contrary to the contemporary belief that melancholy has to be banished at all costs, either by chemical means or positive thinking, the Renaissance view of melancholy was that it was the necessary, preliminary stage of all creativity.  Without the putrefaction of melancholy you cannot take the first step on the journey that will led to a transformation of matter and, more importantly, the self. Only art can produce this metamorphosis.

Pay Close Attention

 

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Pay close attention.

Open the door, no,
Not that door, the right door
The one on the left straight ahead,
That’s it just keep on going
Nearly there now, I think;
Step inside the dissolving mirror
And what happens?
What do you see?
Come on, spit it out
I need to know
No, you can’t
Or won’t divulge.
Time now to recast
This production its
In a terminal turnaround
However the show goes on
Between the ivory thighs
Of Lady Babalon lies
The possibility of
A new beginning
Even in fact
The Second Coming
But not very likely,
In all probability
It will be
Yet another
Botched Messiah
Jesus the doomed sequel
Christ one point five
Leaving us with the
Ashen taste of revelation
My God I am tasting stars
But they are burnt-out
Extinguished, just inert
Dead heavenly bodies.
This jerry built universe
Badly designed
By a preening savant
Does it ever end?
No, the joker
Hits repeat
And it replays on
And on and on
This infernal loop.

The final curse
Is that we once saw
That unknowable face
Of the untouchable
Goddess up above.
Giving us
A distant glimmer
Of hope in this hell
Of eternal exile
Down here,
Down below.

Surrealist Women: Kay Sage

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Le Passage-Kay Sage  1956
Although her work is unmistakably Surrealist in style and content, was married to the Surrealist Yves Tanguy and she always considered herself a Surrealist, Kay Sage occupies a marginal position within the history of the movement. However Sage’s disquieting vision of a hastily abandoned future set in a largely depopulated world where the vast horizons exude a tangible atmosphere of menace and doom places her firmly in the fore-front of New World surrealists.

This neglect may be accounted for by Sage’s, by most accounts, difficult personality. Born into a wealthy and powerful New York family, she grew up mainly in France and Italy and her first marriage was to idle, dissolute Italian nobleman. In 1935 she decided to become a independent artist and left her husband, obtaining a divorce through Papal decree. In 1938 she visited the International Surrealist Exhibit at Galerie Beaux-Arts and was so struck by a work by Di Chirico, La Surprise, that she brought the painting which was to remain in her possession until her death. Sage also saw and adored a Tanguy , ‘I’m Waiting For You’. She changed her style from semi-abstraction to the surreal. In one of her first solo exhibitions Tanguy was so moved that he decided to seek Sage out. A meeting was arranged where they were immediately taken with one another. They certainly shared artistic affinities; their respective dream worlds are among the strangest envisioned by any of the Surrealists. The other members of the Surrealist group were not so taken with Sage however. They disliked her haughty and imperious manner and the relationship caused a rift between Tanguy and Breton, who had formerly been close.

With the outbreak of WWII Sage moved back to the States and arranged for Tanguy to join her. They were married in Reno in 1940. They settled in Woodbury, Connecticut where they would remain until their deaths. The relationship was an intense and difficult one. Sage’s solitary and forbidding character discouraged the many artists who visited Woodbury from returning, not helped at all by their explosive drunken arguments at parties. Regardless of any difficulties experienced Sage was devastated by Tanguy early death, caused by a stroke, in 1955. She almost completely stopped painting, the above work Le Passage being one of the few notable exceptions, also notable in that a recognizable human figure, believed to be a self-portrait, is depicted. Instead she made small sculptures made out of wire and bullets, an eerie premonition of her suicide in 1963 when she shot herself in the heart. Her poignant suicide note reads “The first painting by Yves that I saw, before I knew him, was called ‘I’m Waiting for You.’ I’ve come. Now he’s waiting for me again — I’m on my way.”

The Moment

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Along with a very sweet tooth I share with the Marquis De Sade a quasi-mystical obsession with numbers. Certain numbers that have cropped up recently suggested a piece on the 18th century libertine tradition in French which the Divine Marquis radically re-envisioned at its culmination.

Originally the term libertine was used to describe political opponents of Calvin in Geneva, and went on to develop connotations of atheism and dangerous free-thinking. However by the 18th century the definition had narrowed to describe someone who was a sexual adventurer and debauchee. In the narrow homogeneous confines of French aristocratic circles in the Ancien Regime there flourished a literature which was entirely dedicated to examining the erotic manoeuvres and cynical mores of a fashionable society that pursued pleasure at all costs yet had to hypocritically maintain face .

Several novels including Diderot’s Les bijoux indiscrets (The Indiscreet Jewels) and Crebillon fils La Sopha (The Sofa) transposed the setting to Oriental locations to disguise the political satire of the court of Louis XV. Others were less cautious and set their novels in a contemporary setting with thinly veiled portraits of famous influential figures; the resulting scandals ruined careers and damaged reputations. Laclos the author of the masterpiece of libertine fiction and to my mind the greatest novel ever written, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liasions) never escaped the notoriety that the book brought him; he unjustly became the byword for cynicism and Machiavellian scheming.

One of the central features of the libertine novel is the conflict between sense and sentiment that readers of Jane Austen will be familiar with. However unlike Austen they resolve themselves as an unsentimental education where the hero or heroine is taught the ways of the world and learns how to exploit others for their sensual gratification. As the prophet of the enlightenment Voltaire noted ‘Pleasure is the object, duty and the goal of all rational creatures’, and the aristocrats portrayed are above all rational creatures.

During their education, which always involves seduction and a subtle corruption the characters are taught about the moment. The moment is a key concept in libertine philosophy, it is when the object of desire is most susceptible to seduction. The newly minted libertines are made aware of when the moment is approaching, how to take full advantage of the moment and even how to manufacture the moment in someone who is inimical to seduction. The classic novels of sexual education are Crebillon fils  Les Égarements du cœur et de l’esprit ou Mémoires de M. de Meilcour (The Wayward Heart and Head or the Memoirs of M. de Meilcour) and the Marquis De Sade’s La Philosophie dans le boudoir ou Les instituteurs immoraux (Philosophy in the Boudoir or The Immoral Teachers). De Sade of course is notably more extreme than his predecessors and combines elements of the Gothic and Baroque while pointing forward to Romanticism and Decadence.

Modern Hotel Rooms

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We get along better
Far away from home
In modern hotel rooms.
They become us
No horror here
Not when you are
This high up anyway
The Thirty Third floor
Down below maybe
With it uncertainties
And the people
Walking between
Fearful terraces
Realm of coruscating
Trapped sunlight
Down there
Out of place
We feel and are
Not for the likes
Of you and me
Better to stay
Up here watching
Inside a cliff face
Cloud-scraping
Rarefied altitude
Closer to a heaven
Of promised oblivion
Then the hell
Around every corner
Down there, below.

Hotel rooms have to be
Absolutely modern
Belonging to no one
Except the absentee owners
Hilton-Tetragrammaton Inc
Trading as the Very
Heavenly Heaven Hotels
Registered in Paradise, NV
Ten miles above the Strip
Somewhere in the stratosphere
Belonging to the now
Existing only for a moment
Nothing of other past
Occupants must remain
As our traces in time
Will be likewise eradicated
For you and me dear
Are ourselves only
Temporary residents
Restlessly shuffling
In between places
Solace seeking
Desiring respite
From ourselves
Here in these rooms
Devoid of relevance
Of even semblance
Except the resemblance
To other rooms
The urgent necessities
Of our inmost beings
Can be unleashed
We can be free
Not to be ourselves
Shed the accumulations
Of settled habits
The accrued hours
Between these walls
So neutrally tinted
May we be granted
Requisite anonymity
To become, at last
Something other than
What we have become.

The Object of the Eye

René Magritte, The Eye (1932-35)
René Magritte, The Eye 1936
Magritte’s The Eye from 1936 presents the image of an eye and the surrounding areas of the face, painted in Magritte’s usual dry, meticulous and unsettling bland style. The painting is contained within a Victorian shadow-box that gives the illusion that the unblinking eye is staring through a peep-hole. The effect is profoundly unnerving; the object we are looking at returns our gaze and exposes us for the voyeurs that we are. Everything we see we objectify, with the exception of ourselves, of course.