Yes, it was always you

Yves Klein-Fire 5-1961

You were always on the lookout for trouble and if none came your way you created it. At school, if the teacher ever left the class you were the eye of the hurricane, calm and unmoving while all around you the other children were screaming, crying, rocking anxiously in the corner and you were the cause of this chaos. All it took was a look, a clenched fist, a snarling threat of violence that you were only too happy to follow through with at the slightest hint of non compliance. You had a way of making people do things they really, really didn’t want to do. Yes,it was always you.
You dreamed of terrorising the clever ones with all their book smarts using fancy words in their plum posh accents. So polite, always ‘Yes Sir’ this and ‘No Madam’ that. Teachers’ pets them all, how you hated them and their self assured ways. You were sturdy, slow moving and you had trouble following the inky squiggles and peculiar shapes against the too white pages when the sadistic teachers picked you, yes it was always you, to read to the class, self consciously stumbling over the syllables, your ears pricked, tuning into the inevitable sniggers, whispers and giggles that accompanied this object lesson in humiliation. As your clumsy tongue faltered over the sounds you were thinking that one day you would make them pay, big time and with dizzying rates of interest, like the interest that the heavies of the loan sharks made your Dad pay that time he lost big at the track. One day you thought.
Then one day while holding court with your bully boy friends at an abandoned barn you discovered the power of fire to install a bowel loosening fear in people. You weren’t afraid however, no not at all, with you it was the absolute opposite. Never had you felt such pleasure, a nerve tingling, tension releasing wave of intoxication came over you as you watched the tongues of fire adoringly lap the dry tinder. A wall of heat caressed your face and you smiled. You loved the way that fire consumed only, the purity and intensity of its singular nature. You were awestruck by its immense force but you were the master of this destruction.
Your craven, idiot friends had run away at the first sign of trouble, of course. You found one of them hiding behind a tree, gibbering to himself. You pulled him away and told him to get a hold of himself and then you smelt the excrement. You asked him if he had shit himself but he only babbled. You punched him hard in the mouth in disgust and that made you feel better. After the delicious aroma of the fire the stench of his panicked defecation was unbearable to you.
People around town said that you would end in jail or the madhouse or an early grave, but they were wrong. Because it was people like you who began to run the show and suddenly book smarts and the right accent didn’t mean automatic success anymore. It meant that you would prosper in your dream job of burning books, watching the print fade to grey before the pages curled into a dense mass of ashes and all the time with a never dimming smile upon your unblinking, incurious face.


Yves Klein-MG17- 1960

There is an anecdote about the young Yves Klein (see Dreams of Desire 48 (Blue) lying on a beach in the South of France with his friends, the artist Arman and the poet Claude Pascal, where they decided to divide up the universe between themselves.  Arman wanted the riches of the earth and tangible, material things, while Pascal claimed words and language itself. Klein chose ‘le vide’, the void, ethereal space empty of all matter.

Klein spent his career, cut short by his early death at 34, giving pictorial representation to the void, most famously in his blue monochromes using his own patented colour International Klein Blue, but also in the fire paintings, painted in his last years. Klein was something of an esotericist and was familiar with Rosicrucian and alchemical doctrine. As he noted ‘…fires burn in the heart of the void as well as in the heart of man.

The above golden monochrome is part of a triptych (the other colours are blue and pink) that represents the colours seen in the heart of a flame. In a lecture given at the Sorbonne, Klein further elaborated on the transformative and unifying  nature of fire . ‘Fire is both intimate and universal. It resides in our hearts; it resides in a candle. It rises up from the depths of matter, and it conceals itself, latent, contained, like hate or patience. Of all phenomena it is the only one that so obviously embodies two opposite values: good and evil. It shines in paradise, and burns in hell. It can contradict itself, and therefore it is one of the universal principles.’  Such comments are reminiscent of the patron philosopher of occultists, the gnomic Heraclitus who remarked that ‘everything is fire.’

Klein made his fire paintings using a flame thrower on specially treated cardboard. Supplementary techniques were also involved to evoke a synthesis of the four classic elements, for example a nude model would be moistened with water and directed to leave an imprint on the surface before Klein applied the flame.

Persistent Rumours of Encroaching Ice

DSC00470 Encroaching Ice-Thea Kiros

Do you live in fear of Judgement Day? Are you feeling all alone in the face of Armageddon, isolated before the Apocalypse? Do you dream of any of the following:

A). The end of the world by flood

B). The end of the world by famine

C). The end of the world by fire

If the answer is yes to any of the above, do you believe that the causation will be:

1). Nuclear annihilation

2). Ecological catastrophe

3). Divine eschatological judgement

Or is it the case that you are more concerned with  the Violent Unknown Event*, or perhaps you can no longer ignore the persistent rumours in your head of the encroaching ice? Maybe it is the ultimate  heat death of the universe, as per the Second Law of Thermodynamics (that is, of course, dependent on whether the universe can be considered a closed system), that troubles your peace of mind?

Regardless of the exact nature and cause of Ragnarok, the collection Motion No. 69 is perfect material for the End Times. Although even a kabbalistic reading of its dense pages will not yield a definite date (however certain clues suggest that the world will end on a Wednesday, to at least break up the week), it does offer the possibility of a recurrence, this time with feeling.

* Or VUE for short-See Peter Greenaway’s 1980 documentary The Falls.

The Principle

Valentine Hugo-1948

I propose a motion:
To elucidate the principle
Of absolute pleasure;
You may demur and say,
Well, that it is incompatible
With the fundamental nature
Of ultimate reality,
Or at least suggest
Tabling an amendment.
But just give me a night,
To capture a moment
An imitation of eternity,
To turn you on—To turn you out:
Upside down, round and round,
Within 360 seconds
I would take you
Beyond the Seventh Heaven,
Transport you higher still
To the abyss of the Empyrean,
That realm of fire
That burns deep inside
Between your spreading thighs,
I will accept the invitation
Of your parted lips
And swollen nipples:
Then pause— —
— — just for a while,
Not longer than a series
Of hammering heartbeats,
Because I’m cruel like that
And I want to be sure,
That you want me
As much as I need you,
So that when we
Are finally indivisible,
And I have seeded you
With the light of supernovas
And the unbearable heat
Of a million blazing suns
You come —
— not with a scream
But with the softest
And most heartrending of sighs
For after such pleasures,
There will be no sequels
And no tomorrows
Of such agonising intensity.

Soul on Fire

Self-Portrait, Spanish Influenza-Edvard Munch 1919

At beginning of 1919, the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (see Madonna) who painted one of the most famous paintings of all time, 1893’s The Scream, became seriously  ill with the Spanish Influenza that had already claimed the lives of millions across the world.

Munch painted hundreds of self-portraits throughout his career, most notable are Self-Portrait with Burning Cigarette from 1895 and 1903’s startling Self-Portrait in Hell (see below). Munch’s art which encompassed Symbolism and paved the way for Expressionism, brought a new and unprecedented focus on subjectivity and psychological states, naturally found raw material in the unflinching and  dramatic presentation of the diseased and tormented self.

Self-Portrait, Spanish Influenza,  though of a later period, is no exception in its neurotic intensity. The jarring colours are suggestive of sickness and trauma and Munch’s sallow mask-like face seems to be staring straight at death.

Munch would survive the Spanish Influenza, dying in 1944 at the age of 80. His paintings and prints retain an evocative urgency in their depiction of the universal states of anguish, illness, sexual anxiety and the dissolution of the body.


Self Portrait with Burning Cigarette-1895

Self Portrait in Hell 1903