louise bourgeois on the difficulty of expression

How are you going to turn this around and make the stone say what you want when it is there to say “no” to everything? It forbids you. You want a hole, it refuses to make a hole. You want it smooth, it breaks under the hammer. It is the stone that is aggressive. It is a constant source of refusal. You have to win the shape…

Gaston Bachelard would explain this by saying that the thing that had to be said was so difficult and so painful that you have to hack it out of yourself and so you hack it out of the material, a very, very hard material.

I read Bachelard when I was over seventy-five. If I had read Bachelard before, I would have been a different person, I would not have been divided inside since I would have taken the materials, with their different characters, and I would have been more friendly towards them. In the past, every time somebody asked me about materials, I used to answer, “What interests me is what I want to say and I will battle with any material to express accurately what I want to say.” But the medium is always a matter of makeshift solutions. That is, you try everything, you use every material around, and usually they repulse you. Finally, you get one that will work for you. And it is usually the softer ones–lead, plaster, malleable things. That is to say that you start with the harder thing and life teaches you that you had better buckle down, be contented with softer things, softer ways.
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Excerpted from Louise Bourgeois’ Destruction of the Father / Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews 1923-1997.

Louise Bourgeois with soft head sculpture, 2009.

Louise Bourgeois with soft head sculpture, 2009.

More about Louise Bourgeois’ soft sculpture faces and the restorative act of joining things together HERE.

kathy acker – from “my mother: demonology” (1994)

But the desire you have for me cuts off my breath – These blind eyes see you, and no one else – My blind eyes see how desire is contorting your mouth – They see your mad eyes-
To see.  I must see your face, which is enough for me, and now I don’t need anything else.
None of this is realizable.
As soon as I knew this, I agreed that we had to meet in person.
But at the moment we met, all was over.  At that moment, I no longer felt anything.  I became calm.  (I who’ve been searching so hard for calmness.)
I can’t be calm, simple, for more than a moment when I’m with you. Because of want. Because your eyes are holes.  In want, everything is always being risked; being is being overturned and ends up on the other side.
It’s me who’s let me play with fire: whatever is ‘I’ are the remnants.  I’ve never considered any results before those results happened.

At this moment if I could only roll myself under your feet, I would, and the whole world would see what I am…,
Etc.
Etc.
Do you see how easy it is for me to ask to be regarded as low and dirty?  To ask to be spat upon?  This isn’t… The sluttishness… But the language of a woman who thinks: it’s a role.  I’ve always thought for myself.  I’m a woman who’s alone, outside the accepted.  Outside the Law, which is language.  This is the only role that allows me to be intelligent as I am and to avoid persecution.

But now I’m not thinking for myself, because my life is disintegrating right under me. My inability to bear that lie is what’s giving me strength.  Even when I believed in meaning, when I felt defined by opposition between desire and the search for self-knowledge and self-reclamation was tearing me apart, even back then I knew that I was only lying, that I was lying superbly, disgustingly, triumphally.

Life doesn’t exist inside language: too bad for me.

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Excerpted from Kathy Acker’s My Mother: Demonology, A Novel (pp 252-3). (1994)

acker - my mother: demonology

Based loosely on the relationship between Colette Peignot and Georges Bataille, My Mother: Demonology is the powerful story of a woman’s struggle with the contradictory impulses for love and solitude. At the dawn of her adult life, Laure becomes involved in a passionate and all-consuming love affair with her companion, B. But this ultimately leaves her dissatisfied, as she acknowledges her need to establish an identity independent of her relationship with him.

Yearning to better understand herself, Laure embarks on a journey of self-discovery, an odyssey that takes her into the territory of her past, into memories and fantasies of childhood, into wildness and witchcraft, into a world where the power of dreams can transcend the legacies of the past and confront the dilemmas of the present.

With a poet’s attention to the power of language and a keen sense of the dislocation that can occur when the narrative encompasses violence and pornography, as well as the traumas of childhood memory, Kathy Acker here takes another major step toward establishing her vision of a new literary aesthetic.

“Memories do not obey the law of linear time,” reads one of the many aphorisms in this novel, and it seems a key point of departure for Acker’s unconventional exploration of memory and its manifestations in dreams. Here, a woman tries to come to terms with her vulnerability and with the excess mental baggage conferred by time. But that simple narrative is just one of the many important levels in the work, which also contains vast psychological wallpaper. Visceral, unflinching, wildly experimental with shifting contexts and settings, this is written in the “punk” style for which Acker (In Memoriam to Identity , LJ 7/90) is well known. Forget categories, though. Her formidably talented hand gives the cacophonous materials compelling poetic rhythm and balance.

les rallizes dénudés


Album: Cable Hogue Soundtrack (1992)

Been listening to this band a lot lately. They originally began in 1962 as a musical theatre troupe, however the formation of the band was not until 1967 at Kyoto University. The band’s style is typified by simple, repetitious instrumental passages, shrieking, cacophonous guitar feedback, extensive improvisation reminiscent of free jazz, and folk arrangement. Their discography is made up mostly of live bootlegs, soundboard archives and even a few rare aborted studio recording attempts as they have never officially released any of their own material. [SOURCE]


Album: Caress & Violence (1987)

About their faux-French name:

“Les rallizes dénudés” is their international name, in Japan they’re known as “Hadaka no rariizu”… Hadaka no translates to nu or dénudé; rariizu is a foreign word (or combination of sounds?) that was transliterated to the French-sounding “rallizes” when they got their international, French-sounding name.
So… From a mysterious foreign word to a Japanese approximation, then to a French approximation of the Japanese. May well have been Larrys… Might have been another word… Could be something else entirely, that has meaning only for them… In any case, better not look for a French meaning in it!
“The Naked/Stripped/Bare Larries/Rallies” would be the English approximation.
 images (2)

walter benjamin – surrealism: the last snapshot of the european intelligentsia (1929)

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Max Ernst – collage from The Hundred Headless Woman (1929).

… There is always, in such movements, a moment when the original tension of the secret society must either explode in a matter-of-fact, profane struggle for power and domination, or decay as a public demonstration and be transformed. Surrealism is in this phase of transformation at present. But at the time when it broke over its founders as an inspiring dream wave, it seemed the most integral, conclusive, absolute of movements. Everything with which it came into contact was integrated. Life only seemed worth living where the threshold between waking and sleeping was worn away in everyone as by the steps of multitudinous images flooding back and forth, language only seemed itself where, sound and image, image and sound interpenetrated with automatic precision and such felicity that no chink was left for the penny-in-the-slot called ‘meaning’.

Image and language take precedence. Saint-Pol Roux, retiring to bed about daybreak, fixes a notice on his door: ‘Poet at work.’ Breton notes: ‘Quietly. I want to pass where no one yet has passed, quietly! After you, dearest language.’ Language takes precedence. Not only before meaning. Also before the self. In the world’s structure dream loosens individuality like a bad tooth. This loosening of the self by intoxication is, at the same time, precisely the fruitful, living experience that allowed these people to step outside the domain of intoxication.

This is not the place to give an exact definition of Surrealist experience. But anyone who has perceived that the writings of this circle are not literature but something else – demonstrations, watchwords, documents, bluffs, forgeries if you will, but at any rate not literature – will also know, for the same reason, that the writings are concerned literally with experiences, not with theories and still less with phantasms. And these experiences are by no means limited to dreams, hours of hashish eating, or opium smoking. It is a cardinal error to believe that, of ‘Surrealist experiences’, we know only the religious ecstasies or the ecstasies of drugs. The opium of the people, Lenin called religion, and brought the two things closer together than the Surrealists could have liked.

I shall refer later to the bitter, passionate revolt against Catholicism in which Rimbaud, Lautreamont, and Apollinaire brought Surrealism into the world. But the true creative overcoming of religious illumination certainly does not lie in narcotics. It resides in a profane illumination, ‘a materialistic, anthropological inspiration, to which hashish, opium, or whatever else can give an introductory lesson. (But a dangerous one; and the religious lesson is stricter.)

This profane illumination did not always find the Surrealists equal to it, or to themselves, and the very writings that proclaim it most powerfully, Aragon’s incomparable Paysan de Paris and Breton’s Nadja, show very disturbing symptoms of deficiency. For example, there is in Nadja an excellent passage on the ‘delightful days spent looting Paris under the sign of Sacco and Vanzetti’; Breton adds the assurance that in those days Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle fulfilled the strategic promise of revolt ‘that had always been implicit in its name. But Madame Sacco also appears, not the wife of Fuller’s victim but avoyante, a fortune-teller who lives at 3 rue des Usines and tells Paul Eluard that he can expect no good from Nadja.

Now I concede that the breakneck career of Surrealism over rooftops, lightning conductors, gutters, verandas, weathercocks, stucco work – all ornaments are grist to the cat burglar’s mill-  may have taken it also into the humid backroom of spiritualism. But I am not pleased to hear it cautiously tapping on the window-panes to inquire about its future. Who would not wish to see these adoptive children of revolution most rigorously severed from all the goings-on in the conventicles of down-at-heel dowagers, retired majors, and emigre profiteers?

In other respects Breton’s book illustrates well a number of the basic characteristics of this ‘profane illumination’. He calls Nadja ‘a book with a banging door’. (In Moscow I lived in a hotel in which almost all the rooms were occupied by Tibetan lamas who had come to Moscow for a congress of Buddhist churches. I was struck by the number of doors in the corridors that were always left ajar. What had at first seemed accidental began to be disturbing. I found out that in these rooms lived members of a sect who had sworn never to occupy closed rooms. The shock I had then must be felt by the reader of Nadja.)

To live in a glass house is a revolutionary virtue par excellence. It is also an intoxication, a moral exhibitionism, that we badly need. Discretion concerning one’s own existence, once an aristocratic virtue, has become more and more an affair of petty-bourgeois parvenus. Nadja has achieved the true, creative synthesis between the art novel and the roman-a-clef.

Moreover, one need only take love seriously to recognize in it, too – as Nadja also indicates – a ‘profane illumination’. ‘At just that time’ (i.e., when he knew Nadja), the author tells us, ‘I took a great interest in the epoch of Louis VII, because it was the time of the ‘courts of love’, and I tried to picture with great intensity how people saw life then.’ We have from a recent author quite exact information on Provencal love poetry, which comes surprisingly close to the Surrealist conception of love. ‘All the poets of the ‘new style’,’ Erich Auerback points out in his excellent Dante: Poet of the Secular World, ‘possess a mystical beloved, they all have approximately the same very curious experience of love; to them all Amor bestows or withholds gifts that resemble an illumination more than sensual pleasure; all arc subject to a kind of secret bond that determines their inner and perhaps also their outer-lives’. The dialectics of intoxication are indeed curious. Is not perhaps all ecstasy in one world humiliating sobriety in that complementary to it? What is it that courtly Minne seeks, and it, not love, binds Breton to the telepathic girl, if not to make chastity, too, a transport? Into a world that borders not only on tombs of the Sacred Heart or altars to the Virgin, but also on the morning before a battle or after a victory.

Max Ernst - Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness]. La clé des chants 1 [The Key of Songs 1] 1933

Max Ernst – Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness]. La clé des chants 1 [The Key of Songs 1] 1933

The lady, in esoteric love, matters least. So, too, for Breton. He is closer to the things that Nadja is close to than to her. What are these things? Nothing could reveal more about Surrealism than their canon.Where shall I begin? He can boast an extraordinary discovery. He was the first to perceive the revolutionary energies that appear in the ‘outmoded’, in the first iron constructions, the first factory buildings, the earliest photos, the objects that have begun to be extinct, grand pianos, the dresses of five years ago, fashionable restaurants when the vogue has begun to ebb from them. The relation of these things to revolution, no one can have a more exact concept of it than these authors. No one before these visionaries and augurs perceived how destitution – not only social but architectonic, the poverty of interiors/enslaved and enslaving objects – can be suddenly transformed into revolutionary nihilism. Leaving aside Aragon’s Passage de I’Opera, Breton and Nadja are the lovers who convert everything that we have experienced on mournful railway journeys (railways are beginning to age), on Godforsaken Sunday afternoons in the proletarian quarters of the great cities, in the first glance through the rain-blurred window of a new apartment, into revolutionary experience, if not action. They bring the immense forces of ‘atmosphere’ concealed in these things to the point of explosion. What form do you suppose a life would take that was determined at a decisive moment precisely by the street song last on everyone’s lips?

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