Bo I. Cavefors & Martin Bladh : Qualis Artifex Pereo

Bo I. Cavefors :

Georges Bataille is the mystic of eroticism and faith.

Bataille never speaks of sainthood as a righteous way for those who want to preach the message of good. Instead Bataille analyses mankind’s inner silence. In Being's meaninglessness he sees an exhortation not to despair and resign; his inheritance is Laughter.

Bataille doesn’t recommend therapy, no hedonistic cock-worshipping-cult, no ars erotica; Bataille invites the initiated into a friendship with a well-preserved individual sovereignty. Ecstasy is not a means to individual liberation, according to Bataille; there is anxiety in ecstasy. Pleasure and anxiety wash over humanity when, confronted by terror, it loses its ego. Ernst Jünger's In Stahlgewittern also deals with this subject matter. The fascination for death signifies the increased potency of the Ego when man loses the ground beneath his feet and enters the horizontal world. Man is born into a world of subject and object, the continuity of the Being reaches beyond life into the kingdom of the dead. The orgasm of the transition is simultaneously an erotic and mystic-religious intoxication.

Bataille rejects all engagement literature because it leads to the abuse of the author as well as the literature by powers that betray humanity, the arts and ecstasy - the innermost being. Man who wants to preserve his intrinsic value is reduced to a mere piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Happiness and liberation are only made possible if the author, philosopher, artist or average man avows to the freedom of God, which he lodges within himself. When the author guides his readers towards politics, social, religious and scientific goals, he reduces literature to authenticity, a loss of sovereignty.

Georges Bataille – The Sacred Conspiracy:
Man has escaped from his head just as the condemned man has escaped from his prison. He has found beyond himself not God, who is the prohibition against crime, but a being who is unaware of prohibition. Beyond what I am, I meet a being who makes me laugh because he is headless; this fills me with dread because he is made of innocence and of crime; he holds a steel weapon in his left hand, flames like those of a Sacred Heart in his right. He reunites in the same eruption Birth and Death. He is not a man. He is not a god either. He is not me but he is more than me: his stomach is the labyrinth in which he has lost himself, loses me with him, and in which I discover myself as him, in other words, as a monster.

Bataille, Blanchot, Jünger and André Malraux, perceive happiness in excess; even Nietzsche, Genet, Gide, Cocteau, T.E.Lawrence, Green, Pasolini, Gombrowicz, Klaus Mann and many others know how to appreciate the apocalyptic intoxication in the moment of death, when erotic and mystic ecstasy creates the experience of total isolation - the joy of death. To omit oneself, to step outside oneself is always akin to the death of the Ego, the life-giving sperm from the exploding cock’s entry into Nirvana.

For German romantics like Novalis and von Kleist, and for Nietzsche, the peak of pain are identical with the summit of pleasure when the Ego dies and the human that is against annihilation is annihilated.

Michel Surya – Georges Bataille, An Intellectual Biography: Death is linked to the earth, only to the earth (and not to the heavens), to rotting, decomposition, to the buried body turning into a cadaver. The body is root, teeming beneath the skin of the forest, or a volcano swarming with entrails. Acéphale was this recognition: a community of seers, eyes wide open on the stupefying work of death. We are reminded of The Solar Anus. The sun as a corpse at the bottom of a well, with the sky upturned. We are reminded of everything most violently anti-idealist in Bataille’s writings, as a way of gaining an approximate idea of the disruptive meaning Acéphale’s orgies were meant to have.To exceed oneself, to reach beyond what is referred to as the unreachable and thereby surpass oneself, to soil and to sacrifice oneself, that is what it means to be united with God, according to many mystics. Not to Bataille. Bataille finds nothing or very little beyond the here and now, and dismisses ascetic ways as non-sovereign ways to ecstasy. Transcendence can only be reached by means that demand the definite transgression of all boundaries, all inhibitions must be cast aside.

According to Bataille the eroticism is equivalent to a mysticism of the genitals during man’s preparations for death, he loves death unconditionally and ruthlessly, the Being rejoices during the transgression.

Bataille frequently takes the Nietzschean pilgrimage to Taormina. Battaile sees the holy and the sovereign and the meaningful Dionysian ego-rejection as mankind’s struggle towards the totality of the Ego, identity and perfection. Bataille is an exceptional analyst and commentator on Nietzsche. To rightfully understand Nietzsche the disciple has to be Nietzsche. What is it like to be Nietzsche?

More than anything else it is (in the absence of the actual possibility to physically move backwards in time) to travel to the city of Taormina on the slope of Monte Tauros through the German photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden's photographs of naked Sicilian boys. When the philosopher grows tired of the Basel bourgeois’s tittle-tattle he starts cruising for archaic, bronze-gleaming naked bodies, suckable cocks and the rounded arses of boys in Taormina. Here Nietzsche finds his Zarathustra. In a boy the masochist discovers his Superhuman. When Nietzsche speaks about the impossibility to separate the body from the soul he sets out from the experiences of being queer.

The current age’s problem with Nietzsche is that the recluse never committed himself to any concrete mission. He never joins any processions for a better world or the emancipation of women. This sovereignty implicates a non serviam, the dissociation of every profitable act or generous favour which doesn’t stand in a masochistic relation to sadism. This saves Nietzsche from becoming a slave, a servile.
The worries of the future are the foundation of every moralistic value, every discipline and every effort to tear humanity away from the insight that the individual’s sovereignty consists of knowing where it is and not where it is going. In contrast to the opponent Sartre, Bataille rejects the social focal points of his time. The friendship with Blanchot becomes significant after his friend has urged him to live as if he was Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, the last man, who is also the most beautiful man. For Blanchot the inner experiences are the answer that awaits mankind when it finally decides to only ask questions, only to perceive the riddle’s answer. The not-knowing leads humanity into the night of emptiness and nothingness, into the erotic and mystic ecstasy of non-existents.

Bataille seeks the spiritual dissolution of the soul, the annihilation of the validity of every “truth”, the abolition of all authorised philosophies.

Being as Time. The Time is now. In the present, Nietzsche wants to rescue and heal the human being which has been fragmented and butchered by humanitarian psychoanalysts. If he survives it is only because he is able to separate his true identity from the conception of the philistine bourgeois’s utility.

Man is a fool, his own god, a lunatic, a Dostoevskyan idiot. In the reality of Nietzsche and in Bataille’s recreation of the Nietzschean reality man is the universal fool, a divine insane Dionysian and holy creature who exists to the full only after he has overcome Being. Then he is free, a slave only to himself, a Superhuman. André Masson quoted in Critique, 1956: I saw him immediately as headless, as becomes him, but what to do with this cumbersome and doubting head? – Irresistibly it finds itself displaced to the sex, which it masks with a “death’s head.” Now, the arms? Automatically one hand (the left!) flourishes a dagger; while the other kneads a blazing heart (a heart that does not belong to the Crucified, but to our master Dionysus). (…) The pectorals starred according to whim. Well, fine so far, but what to make of the stomach? That empty container will be receptacle for the Labyrinth that elsewhere had become our rallying sign. This drawing, made on the spot, under the eyes of Georges Bataille, had the good luck to please him. Absolutely.

The essence of Nietzsche’s philosophy is ecstasy, the orgy of man’s possibilities on a road to total freedom. William Blake speaks about the marriage of heaven and hell, freedom is the practise of evil; Bataille interprets Nietzsche’s will to power as the will towards evil. Nietzsche’s eternal return doesn’t imply a constant monotonous recurrence, but is an attempt to always remain within oneself - one’s inner core. The return is in the moment of ecstasy within itself the implement to reach the goal, the power over oneself through an ecstatic orgasm; the moment when life and death connects, when good and evil melts together.

Clark V. Poling –
André Masson and the Surrealist Self: Allusions to death and rebirth abound in Masson’s images of Dionysus, as in the scenes opposing destructive violence to sexual orgy. The god’s decapitation and gushing wound in the first drawing, Dionysus, suggest Nietzsche’s declaration: “While the sun is obscured by stormy skies in the first two drawings, reinforcing the idea of cataclysm, its rays nevertheless pierce the clouds in the first, promising a re-emergence, and it shines fully in the third. Fires appear as agents of both destruction and transformation. Grape-laden vines in all three drawings, signs of Dionysius and the loss of the self in the inebriation he offers, further contribute to the idea of rebirth following annihilation, as does the positioning and huge scale of the central mythical figure, which arises from the midst of destruction.

Bataille doesn’t perceive the libertine’s way as constant repetition of the trauma of the passion (which separates him from de Sade and Genet). The philosopher’s goal is not a generous annihilating ecstasy. Bataille’s mysticism is no inner meditation or reclusion but deep open communication and confrontation. Pure black energy is incarnated within the sun.

Bataille’s language is pure and clean. Bataille writes about sexuality, sadomasochism, voyeurism, exhibitionism and oral-anal games without the use of obscenity at the same time as the sharp black arrows of his heart, brain and cock discharge; the precision of language hammers down upon the cultivated bourgeois society which Bataille’s exquisite evil renounces.

Bataille writes about Lust, about Cock and Cunt. Bataille hates consumption hedonism and interest promiscuity – he speaks of a piercing, all-consuming, passion. Bataille arouses the lust for ecstasy and holy whoring within the reader’s body and soul. The language of his novels is angelic and pure but it leads the reader straight into the sovereign voluptuous obscenity of death which doesn’t have anything to do with Kierkegaard’s pale death, with Heidegger’s intellectualism or the Freudian death-wish. Bataille polishes hard marble cocks, not with words but through the Word; he allows man to enjoy the martyrdom of the orgasm through the final moment of death.

Patrick Waldberg – Acéphalogramme:
The war had burst upon us, Acéphale vacillated, undermined by internal dissensions, its conscience shattered perhaps by its obvious incongruity in the face of world-wide disaster. At the last meeting in the heart of the forest, there were only four of us and Bataille solemnly requested whether one of the three others would assent to being put to death, since this sacrifice would be the foundation of a myth, and ensure the survival of the community. This favour was refused him. Some months later the war was unleashed in earnest, sweeping away what hope remained.
He is ten years old. One of the young men, who also travel with the same train as his stepfather every day between work and the summerhouse, hooks up with him from the station, puts his arm over his shoulder and strokes his neck. They walk a detour across the dunes, and by the pier the young man unzips his pants, he knells in front of him and takes his cock in his mouth. The procedure is repeated several times during that summer. He thinks it feels good and he feels secure when the young man grabs his buttocks with his warm hands. He becomes aware of his power over his lover, to have a grown man lying at his feet.

When the boy in the Greek masterpiece the Iliad says to his lover, a grown man: “I am the flesh, you are the knife”, he depicts the same experience I had as an eleven-year-old of being fucked for the first time. It felt as if a knife separated my body into two halves. But isn’t this just how sadomasochism matures? The pain soon transfers into pleasure and then into exhibitionism. And then one wants to share this pleasure: to give and take.
Teresa of Avila: I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it...

Teresa of Avila’s documented experience of severe penetration is similar to what I and the boy in the Iliad perceived. Sadomasochism is a way to - voluntarily or involuntarily – transcendence; to transform oneself or let oneself be transformed into an absolute and totally sexual creature - an ascendance which transgresses the limits into an experience outside of the intellectual range. This is why sadomasochism also can be a part of a religious experience.

Saint Sebastian represents the sadomasochistic culture and the continuity of the Catholic Church through the centuries. Saint Sebastian is the patriot saint of queers and soldiers, but he has also had an influence on painters and authors. The depiction of Sebastian by Guido Reni which Oscar Wild sees in Palazzo Rosso in Genua 1877, has of course been reproduced in various art books. And in his father’s library Yukio Mishima finds such a book with this one picture of Sebastian. Mishima experiences his first ejaculation while dreaming of Sebastian. He writes: ”The arrows have eaten into the tense, fragrant, youthful flesh and are about to consume his body from within with flames of supreme agony and ecstasy”. Mishima’s description of this “jerk-off”, which he experiences as an intercourse, are quiet similar to the statement from the Iliad: “I am the flesh, you are the knife”. Mishima develops into a sadomasochistic fag. In 1966 he is the subject of an arranged photo session in which he personifies the role of Saint Sebastian. And the final enactment of his death by seppuku in 1970 is by all rights the perfect sadomasochistic suicide and most brilliantly planned performance piece of all time.

John Nathan – Mishima, a Biography:
In mid-September Mishima posed for the young photographer Kishin Shinoyama for the first of a series of photographs called Death of a Man. The series was Mishima’s inspiration and Mishima designed the scenes. They included Mishima drowning in mud, Mishima with a hatchet in his brain, Mishima beneath the wheels of a cement truck, and of course Mishima as Saint Sebastian, arms roped above his head to a tree branch and arrows burning deliciously into his armpit and flank. The photographs were intended for publication in a magazine called Blood and Roses, but when Mishima died, Shinoyama could not bring himself to release them. The photograph that most unnerved him was one he had taken in jest; Mishima sits naked on the floor with a short sword buried in his abdomen, and standing behind him, with a long sword raised waiting to behead him on his signal, is Shinoyama. What can Mishima have been thinking? Were these moments when stage blood and the real thing came confused in his mind and he looked forward to his actual death as simply another more sensational pose? In all the hours of talk about each scene while it was being planed and photographed, Shinoyama’s only impression was that Mishima was intensely serious about the project, “the most demanding and the most cooperative” model he had ever had.
Jean Genet’s severe sadomasochistic experiences from the time spent in prison are well-known, as is the continuation of his praxis outside the prison walls. But even a boy with a very different childhood, of a very different social belonging can develop according to the same sadomasochistic praxis as Genet engenders. In the book Zöglingschaft der Jean Genet the Austrian author Josef Winkler, born in 1970s, depicts how the environment of his hometown Kärnten, Austria, literally smothers him to death. How he is mentally castrated. Winkler's only way out of this hellish existence is by descending into homosexual sadomasochism. Winkler enacts the Saint Sebastian-role and becomes liberated. He leaves behind all the disgust he has felt in the past, and he focuses all his love and tenderness on the dead Genet, by trying to imitate the same sexual liberation as his hero once did. What was considered indecent and unwanted in Kärnten, Winkler insists has a worth of its own, the gay-life contains a great poetic beauty. Reality is, like William Burroughs says, not what it seems to be. Jean-Paul Sartre maintained that Genet always remained faithful to the morality of the reformatories of his childhood; because of the “crises of childhood” he learned to know himself. Winlker reaches this state of maturity when he drapes himself in the master’s cloak, when he learns to understand Genet’s morality, when he dares to touch another boy’s naked body, when he dares to caress it and whip it.
Of course sadomasochism between men doesn’t need to involve whipping or tying each other up. Pier Paolo Pasolini was a master also when it came to depict this non-violent sadomasochism (even though the accounts of the activities in the city of Salò are very physically violent). But Pasolini’s death, even if it was not as rigorously planned as Mishima’s seppuku, was in its own subtle way prepared in advance by himself (even if the murder turned out to be an inside job carried out by political enemies from the right or left). Pasolini spoke openly about his homosexuality, and especially of his love of young boys. He couldn’t be unaware that the life he led would sooner or later lead to his doom. The death of Pasolini became a sacrificial death in the catholic sense of the word, a kind of flagellation.

Gideon Bachmann – Pasolini and the Marquis de Sade:
It is the classic scene of every pornographic novel, with or without literary pretensions, the first moment of the manifestation of supremacy of one being over another. Since the film is to be made without emotion, I find it hard to understand the willingness, even complicity, with which these boys, even as film actors, expose themselves to the camera’s anatomical panning and tilting. There is joggling for position, pride of the chosen, sly jockeying and competition. For a moment, the film scene and the reality of its filming seem one. These boys are proud of their bodies in front of Pasolini as they might have been, in their innocence, in de Sade’s castle in Switzerland two hundred years ago. When they were picked for the film, they were not told about the script. There might be some nudity, they knew, seeing that it was a Pasolini film. But none were aware of the portent of what they were involved with. And yet, so strong is the career strife, so important the parts in a Pasolini film for their financial future, that none rebels

It is worth mentioning that in general, there are Catholics who depict queer-sadomasochism through text and image. In the world of Pasolini this praxis is carried out defencelessly; the total submission to boys’ and men’s demand for sex. In the novel Petrolio he exposes himself in all his nakedness to such degree that all aesthetic boundaries are transgressed. Lights and colours, landscapes and portraits are subordinated to the intensity of the naked main character Pier Paolo Pasolini when he sucks the sperm of his subjugators, when he kneels before twenty young men who demands that he will suck, fuck and clean twenty cocks of various length and thickness on the meadow at Casilina in the outskirts of Rome. Sandro, Sergio, Claudio, Gianfranco and the other sixteen bodies smells of flour and motor oil, of dried sperm and sweat; Pasolini’s alter ego, Carlo, “kneels in eternal tenderness, yes with delicacy, in front of their cocks”; and “hardly dares to touch them with his hands, hence he approaches them with his lips”. The grass smells of dry hay when Carlo lies with Claudius' cock in his ass this night of love when “the moon is high” and moonlight is “different, brighter, purer” than sunlight.

Suetonius – The Life of Nero:
He so prostituted his own chastity that after defiling almost every part of his body, he at last devised a kind of game, in which, covered with the skin of some wild animal, he was let loose from a cage and attacked the private parts of men and women, who were bound to stakes, and when he had sated his mad lust, was dispatched by his freedman Doryphorus; for he was even married to this man in the same way that he himself had married Sporus, going so far as to imitate the cries and lamentations of a maiden being deflowered. I have heard from some men that it was his unshaken conviction that no man was chaste or pure in any part of his body, but that most of them concealed their vices and cleverly drew a veil over them; and that therefore he pardoned all other faults in those who confessed to him their lewdness.

When I left Malmö for London and later, when I was home back in Malmö during the school holidays, and in Kungsparken and Slottsparken, behind the birdcages, offered myself to men, it was according to my own premises. The boys longing after grown men might have several reasons. I was the one seducing, not the one being seduced. This wasn’t without risk. Senior police officers with peaked caps and fast bicycles were patrolling the park. When they suspected that I or any of the other boys where hiding in the bushes, they came running and when we fled they shouted threats “I know who you are, I will call your mother and father”. But nobody ever called. I did the same thing as my poor, shabbily dressed, almost starving classmates did at the Honour of Work-statue on Möllevångstorget, but I never charged money for my services, I was free, it didn’t disgust me, I enjoyed it.

Gerard de Nerval – To Alexander Dumas:
Was this young Nero, the idol of Rome, the handsome athlete, the dancer, the poet whose only wish was to please the populace? Is this what history and the conceptions of our poets have left of him? Ah, give me his fury to interpret; his power I would fear to accept. Nero! I have comprehended thee, not alas! according to Racine, but according to my own heart, torn with agony whenever I have ventured to impersonate thee! Yes, thou wast a god, thou who wouldst have burned Rome. Thou wast right, perhaps, since Rome had insulted thee!

Qualis Artifex Pereo: Martin Bladh

Jenny Murphy – Art Therapy with Young Survivors of Sexual Abuse:
As we would have anticipated, Sally and Sonia were confident in expressing anger towards their abusers and the desire to punish them. I feel it is so important for these children to express symbolically the abusive feelings aroused in them, so that there is less chance of perpetuating the cycle of abuse. We know how many sexually abused boys go on to enact their abusive feelings by becoming perpetrators and how other survivors of abuse re-abuse by harming themselves. I think it is an important part of our groups to allow a different expression of abusive feelings and in this session, Sonia and Sally did pictures that were very punishing and used strong language which would have been unacceptable elsewhere. They continued their abuse by cutting up the clay models of their abusers and disposing of them.
Cavefors: Today, to what extent do you think these war games might be the origin of your later fascination with violence... if you see connections between victim and perpetrator, and victim turning perpetrator? Today even though it is about abused children the subject matter is still basically the same.

Bladh: The nature of the war game was obviously very single minded… it was all about the perpetrator, who was always the winner. Somewhere along the way this wasn’t good enough… But it wasn’t until I reached my early teens that I got obsessed with the ambivalent roll of the executioner… what makes him tick? But the war game might very well have been an early, childish way of expression for the same kind of feelings and energies which occupy my daily life even now. I often dream about war games. But in the dream the line between play and reality has been erased… Sometimes it’s a struggle of life and death, but even then my gun is always loaded with blanks, I have to approach my opponent and scream in his ear that he is dead and has to lie still.
My later interest in sexually abused children is not based upon some authentic, traumatic experiences. What interests me is how the child changes shape through the years and develops from the roll of victim into that of the executioner… the unwilling masochist who slowly “matures” into a willing sadist.

Cavefors: Isn’t there ANY kind of personal experience… why else would you spend so much effort to prove that the victim (the raped boy) becomes perpetrator (paedophile). It is true that I myself wasn’t raped, possibly treated roughly, but that only increased my pleasure, if you could call it a pleasure to be the one “in charge”, that is to give more than the other who wanted my body could take. There might very well be raped or sexually abused boys turning into paedophiles. But I don’t believe it is very common. My own experiences were of a positive nature.

Bladh: I don’t try to prove anything. I’m referring to the heap of source material I’ve read; material of an especially delicate matter. I’m interested in the cases where young boys have been exposed to very harsh sadistic abuse; experiences that’ll manifest themselves by deep pathological scars. And these special cases can’t be compared to your own personal childhood experiences. Of course there’s something which attracts me to this kind of material in the first place… but it has not to do with personal childhood experiences, although I’ve felt a strong urge to personify that kind of “victim-role” through my work. So, when I speak about this subject matter, I’m not referring to some ten-year-old boy who got jerked-off by an uncle. I agree that it sounds ridiculous that such individuals would develop into sexual predators when reaching a mature age; there’s no real victim or abuser in these cases. Then I’m not interested in discussing the damage or benefit caused by the ancient Greeks; if a society which indulges in legal paedophilia would be based upon mass neurosis. I’ve to my own knowledge no sexual feelings towards children, and I’m not fighting for the child’s or paedophile’s right to a functioning sex life.

Cavefors: I think the majority of paedophiles are sexually inhibited men, that are basically afraid of sexuality, their own and others – then to approach and violate children becomes the only way out when the urge becomes too demanding and masturbation to pictures of children won’t give enough stimuli. The question remains – is it not the struggle of good and evil, THE WAR between the boy and the perpetrator that is the REAL subject that you’re looking for.

Bladh: Not the war between two separate individuals. It is the war that’s fought within the scull of the separate individual. When the victim suddenly becomes aware of the executioner within himself, and vice versa, and loses himself in the grey area between good and evil. The paedophile is one of those figures that best embodies the victim/executioner-role in one single individual, whether he was a victim of sexual abuse or not. He’s something of the ultimate outsider who doesn’t fit in anywhere and is despised by everybody, even though he has been sexually inactive during his whole life, because his inner urges – his creativity – is basically consider criminal. He is forced to walk through life as a pariah forced to conceal his identity, and to hide away his pornography. Not to expose himself and the other to life threatening risks. He’s forced to a life in exile, to a life of fantasy in front of computer screens, photographs, reproductions of artworks and short clips. And we all know the aesthetic triumphs of the inhibited mind. Art history is filled with beautiful examples of more or less smothered paedophilia. But… then I can’t deny that a topic such as this may fascinate me more because the majority describes it as pure evil...


Dennis Nilsen quoted in Brian Master´s Killing for Company:
He looked really beautiful like one of those Michelangelo sculptures. It seemed that for the first time in his life he was really feeling and looking the best he ever did in his whole life. I wanted to touch and stroke him, but did not. I placed two mirrors around the bed, one at the end and one at the side. I lay naked beside him but only looked at the two bodies in the mirror.

The narcissistic sensation could be compared to a pendulum rocking between the opposite poles of anxiety and pleasure. To my opinion a piece is no good if it doesn’t have the ability to seduce and at the same time, put me in a state of discomfort. It’s about resistance - a resistance that spurs me on. There is no obvious connection to direct sexual ecstasy or orgasm. The aim is a painful, sustained process, a ritualistic monotonous tension without definite ejaculation; the moment before and after the performance might be as rewarding as the actual act (It’s not unusual that the act hits me more violently when I watch the reproduction afterwards and the piece is revealed to me in all its complexity). So, the sensation is happening on a childish, abstract fantasy plane where it’s treated for a quiet a long time. It’s a sadomasochistic sensation, an idea, or a scenario which I find quite repugnant, but holds a great attraction to me and thereby has to be carried out. It’s very important that this act has a spectator; if no psychical audience is present I would like to have the knowledge that it can be observed later through reproduction apparatuses.

Even when I’m alone, in front of the mirror, the hidden audience is there by proxy within me the actor’s and the spectator’s fantasy; through your own gaze you perceive the other. I recognise this as a kind of communication, feedback or mute dialogue, where I reflect myself in the spectator. I’m very attracted to the tension between the victim and the perpetrator. Both parts are of equal importance to me. When I put myself in a situation which I find degrading or even repugnant, I put myself in a condition where I’m the wound; when I make use of “authentic” voices from real life victims, putting them in a different context where they are forced to act as characters in a peepshow under my direction, I’ve become the executioner by proxy. I fantasies about further depths, to go even deeper, to force my work into a sadomasochistic cul-de-sac where the actual work itself represent the sadistic part and I’ve become a mere masochist trying to endure it.

Diana Milia – Self-Mutilation and Art Therapy; Violent Creation:
Despite the degree of morbidity involved in self-mutilation, there does appear to be present an active urge towards separation and change that is not apparent in the use of the fetish. Like the sado-masochistic behaviour that is confined to sexual practices, fetishistic behaviour is not usually ego-dystonic. That is, the behaviour is incorporated and accepted into the personality, and does not interfere with functioning in other areas of life. It is in fact a compromise, a compromise that fulfils its function smoothly and continuously. However, as has been discussed, the self-mutilating person is often concerned with personality change, and with taking control over his or her body. While the self may be split between victim and aggressor identities, there is an attempt to move from a passive to an active position, such as in the “identification with the aggressor”. Taking control by the self, even in rudimenentary and impulsive forms, is a manifestation of an attempt at separation and individuation.

The need to use different masks has always been a way of controlling and perhaps even to shield myself off from certain aspects of the work. I’ve always inhibited the ability to adopt a certain persona, to reflect myself in other human beings that I hail or whose life stories fascinate me, to find mutual references. I’m quite eclectic in the post-modern sense, above all when it comes to form, how something “should” be represented. I like to take samples from other artist’s works and put them together to into new pieces, into a new personality: my own. By acting out that certain role you respect (or despise), you’ll finally be able to incarnate the persona you always wanted to be. A certain exaggeration, masquerade or even dandyism could be quite useful to help you there. I sometimes compare myself to a tabula rasa, which is constantly filled with new content in an empirical search for perfection. The masks all coincide in this pathological search for perfection, the elevation of the being, the creation of an ideal-self - the perfect ego puzzle.

Yukio Mishima – Kyoko’s House: All we know or ever know is that death must always have been his desire. Death confronted him wearing a variety of masks. One by one he took them of and put them on his own face. When he removed the final mask, death’s real face must have been revealed, but we cannot know whether even that was terrifying to him.
Until then his desire for death had made him fervently desire the masks too. With the masks he gradually made himself beautiful. You must realize that a man’s determination to become a beautiful person is very different from the same desire in a woman; in a man it is always the desire for death.

The very idea of the body, isolated on the stage in front of the audience certainly brings an obvious erotic tension quite similar to the arranged, theatrical gestures in front of the mirror (which craves an audience by proxy). What I do wouldn’t make sense without the obvious references to the stage, the props and the mirror. I don’t believe a performance-piece could be everyday, relaxed or “natural”, it demands a dramatically heightening of the senses, of the ego; a state of mind which is different than other sorts of artistic expressions. The body becomes elevated when it’s placed within this particular, exposed context, both erotically and heroically; a body that brings together an amount of different fragments; my own mythology of voices, heroes and monsters. My body reflection covered with real- or fake wounds is to me equivalent to an abstract masturbation fantasy where the shame transforms into ecstasy. As the principal actor I’m the master of this self invented universe. The body is the arena and the projection screen where the obsession and the (forbidden) fantasies blend together. In this new, often paradoxical reality I’m the sole judge, jury, and executioner, prosecuted and convicted. I might choose to believe that what I do brings harm both to myself and to others through thoughts, fantasies, words and different kinds of arranged scenarios. Does it even matter in the end, if the result becomes either risky or safe? This balance could sometimes be quite terrifying, but it is this “stage fright” that makes me want to search out the terribly beauty of the reflection, the violence of the mirror. What I want is a kind of condensation, a concentration of all the impressions I’ve stolen. Voices, reproductions and bodies assume the shape of a collage – the body and arena of the spectacle, the sustained process of violence, which becomes immortalised and refined through the reproduction.

Georges Bataille – Tears of Eros:
This photograph had a decisive role in my life. I have never stopped being obsessed by this image of pain, at once ecstatic (?) and intolerable. I wonder what the Marquis de Sade would have thought of this image, Sade who dreamed of torture, which was inaccessible to him, but who never witnessed an actual torture session. In one way or another, this image was incessantly before his eyes. But Sade would have wished to see it in solitude, at least in relative solitude, without which the ecstatic and voluptuous effect is inconceivable.

I find a certain kinship with Georges Bataille, who eroticised evil and praised it as an essential “holy” act of transgression. What sometimes puzzles me is which role art has to play in this discourse. Why did I choose to express myself in the first place? Why did I choose these types of media? Why wasn’t true crime pictures, mondo films, public executions, deviant pornography, medical pictures, video recorded operations enough? Why this constant search for the perfect image, performance, annihilation? Wouldn’t numbered and catalogued scrapbooks - year after year of collected impressions - meet the same need, desire, satisfaction? Doesn’t the aesthetic expression lack the stench of putrefaction and death that so urgently is needed? Is it necessary at all? During an interview Genet stated that if he could choose between the poetics of words and the poetical force of an actual murder, he would always choose the word instead of the actual deed.

Jim Fielder – Slow Death:
Standing right next to the Satan’s Den sign was a tall tripod with a very expensive RCA Victor camcorder pointing toward a large black leather table/chair rigged up with metal stirrups, electrodes and dozens of red plastic straps. Hanging from the ceiling next to what looked like the gynaecology table was a RCA Victor television set, positioned so the female victims could see what Ray was doing to them.
I want to see everything. All the violence has to be registered, consumed and then grinded into a concentrate. To me this compulsive longing manifests itself most violently in the paintings of Francis Bacon. Here the artist private life and aesthetic obsession blend together perfectly. Bacon often used photographs of war- and crime victims as raw material for his paintings, although the motive itself was never that important to him; the violence becomes obvious through his choice of colours and movement in the composition. What Bacon was seeking was an immediate yet abstract attack on the nervous system, which only can be defined by raw sensation. Thus Bacon comes closer to the actual core of the violence then most other artist that shares a similar interest ever done, and does so without developing any kind of ideology. By going beyond all universal, religious and post Freudian system, Bacon managed to find a private sanctuary that speaks for him, but still owns the power to seduce an outside audience. I return to Bacon constantly, particular to the triptych Three Studies for a Crucifixion. It’s the mid-panel that attracts me the most. Bacon has translated his flamboyant nature - sex-violence-alcohol - into one marvellous condensation. Spread out on the bed, the naked, bloody piece of meat: an animal, a human?... Not entirely different from the photographs of Jack the Ripper’s last, painstakingly lacerated victim Mary Kelly, but in this case the condensation of expressions, the eye of Francis Bacon, overcomes reality. The threatening, aggressive red hues, the black blinds lowered and the resilient bed which Bacon choose to place the flogged meat upon; all these components perfectly blend together in one suggestive totality. Is the room part of an exclusive penthouse apartment? A torture chamber? The set for a snuff-film recording? How many hours have I spent in front of this picture?

Robert Hughes – The Fall and Decline of the Avant-garde (Times Magazine, Dec 18 1972):
Those interested in the fate of the avant-garde should reflect on a Viennese artist named Rudolf Schwarzkogler. His achievement (and limited though it may be, it cannot be taken from him; he died, a martyr to his art, in 1969 at the age of 29) was to become the Vincent Van Gogh of body art. As every moviegoer knows, Van Gogh once cut off his ear and presented it to a whore. Schwarzkogler seem to have deduced that what really counts is not the application of paint, but the removal of surplus flesh. So, he proceeded, inch by inch, to amputate his own penis, while a photographer recorded the act as an art event. In 1972, the resulting prints were reverently exhibited in that biennial motor show of Western art, Documenta V at Kassel. Successive acts of self-amputation finally did Schwarzkogler in. That the man was clearly mad as a hatter, sick beyond rebuke, is not thought important: wasn’t Van Gogh crazy too? But Schwarzkogler’s gesture has a certain emblematic value. Having nothing to say and nowhere to go but further out, he lopped himself and called it art. The politics of experience give way to the poetics of impotence. Farwell Jasper, hullo Rudolf!
The beauty of the semiotic wound will never be revealed if the artist doesn’t go to extremes such as the cases of Chris Burden, Marina Abramovic and David Nebreda. In spite of the fantastic myths: Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Bruce Louden and John Fare, only Yukio Mishima and possibly also Bas Jan Ader, died as a direct result of their own private theatre. The danger often lies in the psychical realm; often as it’s represented through the written word. Literature has left the deepest wounds and the most beautiful scars. In the profound analysis of one’s own sublime desire, the author is destined to descend the bottomless pits without safety-strings, without the knowledge if he’ll ever make it back to the surface again. To authors such as Sade, Lautreamont, Céline and Artaud, the creative process became almost unbearable, and at times almost annihilating. The great descending; to never look back; those beautiful depths penetrated and revealed in the words of Baudelaire, Strindberg, Genet and Mishima.

Joel Black – The Aesthetics of Murder:
Going back to antiquity, we can find the modern artist-criminal’s ancestors in the early Roman emperors, particularly Caligula and Nero, whom Leo Braudy has depicted as performance artists:”Both emphasized the element of performance in the role of the emperor and presented themselves as great artists, even entertainers, for whom approval had to be immediate.” Lacking their predecessor Augustus’s achievements and abilities, these emperors could only demonstrate their sovereignty by taking crime to a theatrical extreme. “When one’s inheritance was absolute power, only the striking colours of art or crime could make one truly distinctive.
When Sarah Kane writes “There isn’t anything you can’t represent on stage”, she’s got my admission. Sadly enough, it seems like this ambitious craving can never be fully satisfied. In a British production of Kane’s Cleansed, the “blood” was substituted with serpentines, as a way to “desensitise” the experience. So, what’s left when the violence has been desensitised? I would not say that I’m all too familiar with Kane’s intentions, but what demands to be represented on stage, hasn’t been represented yet. This leaves us with the written instructions of the actual drama - fantasy - with pure, concentrated, uncorrupted words and the images they conjure up. Only words can liberate the artist from morals, conventions and human rights – all that must be cast aside; that he can lose himself in the impossible experience. When Hermann Nitsch writes about using the corpses of dead boys, I take him literally. When I witness the animal carcasses and the blood in his actions, I always imagine the picture of the disembowelled “six-year-old”. But the actual action is a limitation, a maimed version that never will be realised. Still, the vision lives on and keeps its artistic authenticity on paper. Although, the text must be written as if the author had the intention to realise it in the flesh, on stage, or in front of the camera; it should neither be impossible to realise in a strictly practical way, but still comes short because it involves the “freedom” of other people. Once in my life, I want to experience a drama, performance-piece, or film which has been directed by a full-fledged sadist. A work in which the cast either consist of willingly masochists, but more preferably of involuntarily victims; a production in which the sadist is locked within his own pathological trap: his own private implosion which evolves into explosive expression; the balance between instant sexual gratification and the sublime aesthetic immortality; the carnal itch caught somewhere in middle of what’s sacred and profane, now concentrated in the eye of the camera, which reflects the terror through the eyes of the crew.

Guido Ceronetti – The Silence of the Body:
Maybe Gilles de Rais should have been put in an asylum and asked to make collages at the first sign of the cravings for orgies and massacres seething within him. He would have found and outlet for his madness and been cured. His extraordinary collages would have sparked endless discussions. He would have been reborn as an artist who carried the seed of great crimes. But we would never have known that he carried them, just as we do not know how much crime is contained and submerged in the expiating ergon of certain great artists who never cease to amaze.

Copyright©Martin Bladh & Bo I. Cavefors, 2009.


Johannes Flink's interview with Bo I. Cavefors : CAVEFORS ON CAVEFORS

Cavefors on Cavefors

Johannes Flink’s interview with Bo for Tidningen Kulturen.

For decades on end Bo Cavefors was, by far, Sweden’s foremost alternative publisher. As a publisher, his attitude was one of curiosity and fearless exploration, expressed in the long list of radical titles (including Mao, Nietzsche, Jünger, Dali, Lautréamont, Marx, Pound, Pasolini, etc.) edited at his Bo Cavefors Bokförlag. His own magazine Svarta Fanor (Black Flags), along with his parallel German and Swedish edition of the texts of the Red Army Fraction, remain unique and unsurpassed events in a publishing climate otherwise marked by complacence and cowardice. Educated by the Jesuits in England and ever an engaged catholic, Cavefors has constantly perceived matters from an international perspective vastly divergent from the provincial concerns prevalent in Swedish culture. Always siding with the intellect against power, always longing for transgression, he remained in some ways marginal despite the magnitude of his contribution to the Swedish book-publishing scene. However, for those of us who agree that the duck-pond is too small for our spirits, Cavefors will always remain a key figure of Swedish radicalism.

Arousing somewhat less attention, so far, is Bo’s series of short memoir books (even if they are gradually acknowledged by the critics) and the performance art he has developed over the last few years. For this reason, I wanted to ask him some questions about these subjects and to give him a chance to explain his own artistic development to a wider audience. I wanted to put his history as a publisher to the side for a while, to focus instead on the man, the author and the artist Bo Cavefors, and to ask him about his present … and his future …

Welcome Bo Cavefors! My first question is simply what you are doing right now? What I’m after, however, is not just a definition of your present activities. Rather, I would like to know if you are sensing a definitive direction in your artistic development, and, if so, a direction from what beginning to what end? What is it that you hope to explore by your recent and present activities?

Over the last years, I have clearly noted a return to my all-embracing, adolescent pre-occupations from … let’s say from my teenage years and up to my thirties. And this applies both to my writing – where it is specifically obvious in my three plays Rebellion in the Kasbah, Sade and the Japanese and The Leper in Aosta – and to the films I have written, acted out and produced in collaboration with Martin Bladh. My interest in the theatrical mode of presentation, in speech and acting as they are performed on a stage, emerged during my school years. I did my first performance in the first grade, in my Latin school in Malmö, when I was asked to read my home assignment to the rest of the class. It was a relief to suddenly stand there in front of the others and feel that they actually had to listen to what I had to say ... I guess it gave me the childish kick of manipulation… And the thing went on at my Jesuit college in England, where an important part of the education was focused on ideas and their enactment in terms of direct research (e.g. reading specific passages of the Bible), to write ideas down and to develop them by way of such research, to dramatize it all, to present the religious personae on the stage, to render them living and to direct their interactions … On the surface, our little exercises might have seemed naïve, but those dramatizations of Biblical motifs gave me important insights into religious rites and how religious figures such as the Disciples or the Apostles might have reacted on a verbal, mental or physical plane. At that time, I was falling in love with some of my school-mates and those one-act plays really gave us a chance to disclose our mutual affection. Later on, after my school-years, I tried out various ways to express my growing political awareness (I was reacting strongly against colonialism, racism, injustice, etc.) and, among other things, managed to enter the director’s education at RADA, but that environment did not suit me, not back then, which I find regrettable today at least in so far as it would have made me more professional - had I finished the education - at what I’m doing now. There is a certain exhibitionism involved in all writing as well as in all kinds of performance, and in that respect my present performances are nothing new. Only the form is new, the exhibitionism was there in me already as a child. The only thing that has changed is my intellectual and physical resources of enactment. On the other hand, what I want to show differs surprisingly little from those biblical one-act plays I have been speaking about. It is present in mine and Martin’s performances, just as it was back then – it is all about sabotaging the sadistic plotting, by individuals against each other, by the society against individuals, in order to show that pain can be transformed into pleasure, that pain can be beautiful, that a total capitulation of body and soul can be a liberating experience. Nobody can attack me, nothing can harm me, when I am completely naked, when I am bleeding and disappearing into my sexual ecstasy. And today I also believe that I – I should say we because all this goes for Martin as well – that we have built up an emotional and intellectual resource-bank that can guarantee the authenticity of our ideas, our texts, our acting. To but it briefly: I find to my surprise that my life has been a fairly straight journey, that I did not depart from the set course even during those twenty years when I was intent on editing other people’s texts and ideas … as well as getting entangled in other problems that seemed to compel me back then. Instead, I now find that the whole publishing experience was a foundation for my real ambitions.

I soon want to move deeper into the aesthetical, political and religious aspects of your artistic projects. But can you please just give the readers a more concrete idea about those films and action-performances that you are mentioning. How are they realized and what is their content? Can you give the readers some clues to your latest film- and performance-works, perhaps some favorite scenes?

Put broadly, they divide into two categories. Firstly, we have the formal structure of the plays I mentioned (Rebellion in the Kasbah, Sade and the Japanese, The Leper in Aosta), that all share a theatrical character but with strong references to above all Artaud, but also to the Greek tragedies and to political theatre. What distinguishes our theatrical practice is that there are virtually no props on stage and that all the participants are naked. This, I claim, is a necessary precondition for the pure transmission of texts and activities from the scene unto the audience which is always disturbed by furniture, clothes and other trumpery. The nakedness is also necessary for the accentuation of the text. The nakedness is soon perceived as natural by the audience, since it was the original state of mankind. And through nakedness, moreover, it becomes possible to avoid all fictive representations of sexuality and violence. Real sexual intercourse, masturbation scenes, real whippings or cuttings, become natural parts of the acting. In our “actions” on the other hand, these principles are not only a tendency but brought into their full consequence. So, for example, in Three Studies for a Crucifixion, dedicated to Francis Bacon, we used real (pig’s) blood, real intestines, real women’s hair burning, oral sex, intercourse, masturbation. It is my conviction that “Crucifixion” could never be realized without this nakedness, without this completely anti-ornamental rendering of a crucifixion with its subsequent emotional turmoil. At executions, the victim often gets a strong erection. The violence surrounding an execution is in itself an exciting moment where homosexual acts feel at their place. In mine and Martin’s performance about Heliogabalus, the Roman teenage emperor who got murdered by his soldier lovers, it thus became natural to increase the number of naked participants and to reproduce the men’s excesses.

Here, many interesting threads arise. But let us try to get some overview and structure so we don’t get lost. Even if politics, philosophy, religion and aesthetics seem to be closely interwoven in your art, let us start with one of the threads: let us begin by focusing on the political aspect. I assume (perhaps mistakenly?) that you would agree that all art is political in some sense. The question then becomes: in what way is your present art political? Where does it stand on the political scale? Is there a general politics there, related to the political ideas you hint at in your answers, such as subversion, liberation, sabotage, etc.? And is there not a risk that your art may be perceived as a kind of amoral speculation, apolitical pornography or, in the worst case, as a crypto-fascistic orgy with its excesses of violence and its references to the Roman Empire? I don’t mean to pose these questions critically. What I want to know is in what way your art, which you seem to claim, nourishes a deep and effective idea of the political as a genuine path to the self-reformation of mankind?

I call my theatre The Theatre of Decadence and when Martin and I stage our performances we call it The New Theatre of Cruelty and Decadence. That says something about both the differences and the resemblances. Yes, I agree, all art is political in so far as it is produced and consumed in societies which are themselves political creations and by audiences that are political in the sense of living in and being forced to partake in exactly such societies. Each word, each posture, each gesture, whether obscene or not, that is performed on a stage in such a society becomes political, gets endowed with political meaning. Thus, my art is necessarily political and cannot be otherwise, even if my point of departure, or I should rather say my ambitions, are anti-political. In our Manifesto, Martin and I write among other things that we want to present a permanent discourse on the theme violence-sex-death-cruelty and that our aim is to show forth a decadent alternative as an agere contra … as an answer to the terrorism of normality. It is not I or we who are terrorists since we feel no urge to crush this or that hegemony. Rather, it is all about the normal finding its own death in its own destiny. We abstain from confrontation and from proposing a political agenda. Instead, I/we want to liberate rites, gods and traditions from the ancient Greeks and Romans, from the Middle Ages, etc., in order to realize their knowledge and experience, their kind of expressivity, their sensual life-forms in a theatre or a set of performances that are relevant today. Our performance about Gilles de Rais is representative of these ambitions since it takes up an actual topic, how boys are exposed to sexual abuse. That question could of course be thematized within a more conventional, theatrical framework or by way of slogans, posters, slander, scaremongering and all other kinds of moral indignation. Our performance, where I play one of de Rais’ former lovers, who, himself having reached old age, lies surrounded by beautiful young men who fuck him and caress him collectively, rather displays fascination with de Rais’ feudal life-style, that wasn’t particularly extreme except for the fact that he, contrary to most men in his position and with his sexual preferences, proceeded to kill the boys. This was a society and a class that spent its leisure time with religious sex-games, alchemy, etc. That can never be shown by the conventional theatre machinery with its masks, clothes, etc. Only nakedness enables us to enact what was happening in a full sense. How can it be possible to show the use and abuse of the boys without showing all the precious details of desire, lust, violence, pleasure, longing and – tenderness. This paradox was present already in Hermann Nitsch’s performances, but I maintain that we are taking one step further in the realization of the artaudian, absurd theatre that, once it is drawn to its absolute limit, ceases to be absurd to instead become absolutely real. It doesn’t matter to me in the slightest if someone should want to brand my art as “amoral speculations”, “crypto-fascistic excesses” or “apolitical pornography”. I don’t work now and have never worked on the basis of other people’s expectations. What meaning would there be for me to work with literature, art, music or theatre if I merely did what other people expected and not what I expect from myself? Within the temporal framework of the last two thousand years, I/we want to reveal how the rites and the eucharistia are changing yet remaining the same. What separates the ancient Greeks from Heliogabalus, from de Rais, from de Sade or Mishima, from the Leper in Aosta, from the painter Francis Bacon? Nothing. The fashion changes, of course, the heels of the boots differ, but the nakedness remains the same, always soft and desirable in spite of the lashes of the whip, in spite of the violence to which it is perpetually subjected. Around the naked body, around the sexual games for which it is apt, the rites get structured along with the mystique, the eucharistia, the symbols on the alchemists table, the sacrifices of the holy. How this is later perceived in the cultural sphere, in the political movements or by individuals is not mine/our business.

I wonder about the relevance of death and of murder in relation to what you say about religious rites, and especially since you have chosen to dramatize Gilles de Rais who murdered his boys and not one of the many noble-men who didn’t. But your last statement made me curious about another thing which might still count as both political and religious, namely how your art is perceived. Here, I would like to ask, not ideologically about your relation to your audience, its socio-historical context, not about possible revolutionary shock-waves into society etc., but rather how you would like your audience to feel, what effect you would like your films and “actions” to have on those who see them … what would be your ultimate audience?

Yes, but Heliogabalus also treats murder, though in the reverse direction. Here, it is the boy who takes the initiative and wants to get fucked by his soldiers and ends up getting killed by them. In this case, there is not a grown-up seducing a boy but rather a boy who acts as the seducer of grown-up men. This version of the subject interests me, it was intriguing for me to play that very role and to succumb to the grown-up men, to enjoy it and to actually feel that I dominated them even while they were fucking and caressing me. How my art, including my writing, is perceived is of course hard for me to say. I get confronted by directly negative reactions only rarely. What I can say generally after almost sixty years of work is that there is one group of fiercely negative readers/spectators and another group of strongly engaged readers/spectators; this latter group Hägglund would surely call elitists. Anyway, I imagine that my different activities actually do send what you call “shock-waves into society” since they they are speaking to (albeit not always attracting) people who are passing their knowledge and experiences on to wider circles. This became increasingly obvious to me during my twenty years of running a publishing house. My “ultimate audience” is open, critical, initiated and interested in transgression. A good example is provided by the two female reviewers who visited our opening show for the Bacon-film at Galleri 21 in Malmö. They constantly felt the urge to get out of their seats and leave the venue since they were so affected by the film that they felt intimidated – and yet they remained seated because they were so fascinated that they had to finish the adventure then and there.

You seem to be very fascinated by simultaneous attraction and repulsion. What I would like to do now is to connect precisely this tendency to a question about religion. A lot of people seem to associate religious liberation with harmonic concepts like Satori or Nirvana. But into what religious context do we drift by witnessing your provocative and ecstatic invocations? You mention Artaud, who was himself repeatedly proposing a religious kind of theatre. Is there in your stage ideology, like there was in his, a general, spiritual thematic directed at salvation and transcendence? And if so, is this about reaching (how?) an inner state, or is it about really getting in contact (how?) with some external, spiritual powers that are normally out of our reach? And you speak about “reality” and “nakedness” in this context. How, then, is the palpable action on the stage (the naked presence of bodies, the physical aspects of human activity) related to the drama as symbolically perceived? In what ways do your means and ends here differ from and resemble the rites established by the Christian, heathen and occult traditions?

My goals and means aren’t really separated from any of the rituals you are mentioning, except for the fact that I’m living here and now and have to say something about our contemporary situation. For me, I guess, “salvation” would mean to enter into a kind of ecstasy that is all-embracing and that, for participants and spectators alike, enhances the feeling of reaching deeper into the mysteries … AND to an infiltration, a feeling sensed directly by the body, an emotion perceived at the depths of the soul, of the social questions that are thematized in my plays. My plays concretely deal with colonialism … man’s freedom against all political ideologies … homosexuality … Is it possible to show total freedom more explicitly than by exposing naked bodies and sexual practices? Generally speaking, it is impossible to pierce deeply into the contemporary world without recycling and rejuvenating old forms of expression. This is really not about explaining, and even less about analyzing. What I mean is that the more extreme you make the repulsive (your word) element in the rites …, the nakedness of the Crucifixion (and Crucifixion here has many meanings – a boy who gets harassed because of his homosexuality is also getting, in a practical sense, crucified …) An example: in my play Sade and the Japanese all the five female characters are played by naked men … the “message” is perhaps becoming a little bit too obvious: gender transgression gets presented as a non-normal normality … what is demanded by the participants (I generally abstain from using the word actor) in that play, just like in the others, just like in the performances I do with Martin, is a kind of total trust between everybody involved, the ability to improvise, the lust to be naked and to act with the naked body, the ability to communicate emotions and ideas better than the actor in his costume and in the same time manage to make the audience horny or, which is even better, excited … It is not UNTIL THEN, I think, that we become able to really get the ”message” through to the audience. I am trying to explain what can’t be explained. It is all about emotions, intuitions … a desire for the inexpressible. I made a thorough decision a long time ago never to analyze what I am doing, but you have caused my downfall. You speak of a “general, spiritual thematic” and of “transcendence” in a Christian sense. Yes, that is of course also a part of it, but this transcendence, even if it strives toward a kind of “nirvana” has as its core, its main ingredient, the Crucifixion and the naked infant, and here we must always account for the nakedness of the body, the torment, the pain, the wound at the side, the birth, the crown of thorns … Only when we have passed through all these stages that are really a description of man’s way from birth to death, we become ready to receive harmony and grace. I don’t believe in a “spiritual thematic” – your words again – that would exclude the inconvenient, the shocking … that which may make us turn away and vomit … these are necessary ingredients, experiences, insights on the way to some kind of catharsis. I think this is demonstrated in a fairly concrete ways in all my plays and in our performances, as for example in Qualis artifex pereo – Finis … the boy’s voice, the flickering images, Martin tied up, the black hood, my energetic masturbation, the caresses, the kisses, the handling of the whip that ends by some hard lashes over Martins open, bleeding wound at the side and finally the resolution, the ejaculation, the ecstatic fucking with sperms flying … Here, I find that the ”palpable action on the stage” is harmonizing neatly with the Christian themes of birth, death and violence … the intercourse and spermatozoa conquering death and destruction. You assume that there is a clear demarcation line between heathen, occult and Christian rites, but I think this is a mistake, you can’t perceive the traditions separately like that. Nor is their kinship rejected, neither by the church historians or by catholic theology … the Christan church has of course taken over and transcended a number of ancient rites and deities.

I am trying to move in a wide circle (politics, religion, philosophy) that will hopefully clear the ground for some more detailed questions. Now we have reached philosophy – if you agree with me that there is such a thing as a philosophical realm autonomous from politics and religion? In any case, I would like to ask you if your works express a certain philosophy, firstly in the sense of a “life philosophy” or an “existential philosophy”, secondly in the sense of an “ontological view of reality”? To which philosophers or philosophies do you feel most closely related? Where does your work stand in the tensions between chaos and science, between hedonism and discipline, etc.? Is there in your work any message about how we are to lead our own lives? And is there, aside from the ecstasy, the mystery and the transformation, any purely intellectual revelation that you want people to get from your works?

No, there is no connection to any specific philosophy or even political movement in anything I am or do. The foundation of the existence, the becoming, the being of me and art derives from no such source. What is real for me and what I try to enact in my art is only what comes to the fore by my life itself and through what I create. Are my life and my creations then really real? For me they are, and this is enough for me. Hopefully, this can make me seem real, and make my art seem real to other people, which seems very plausible since I myself perceive how reality gets involved in my life and my art. What is existential philosophy? I do not feel related to any specific philosopher or philosophical movement. Of course, I am influenced by this and that philosophy on a subconscious level, how could it be otherwise? The only role model I can come to think of that has affected me more than any other on a conscious level is Jünger’s Anarch. On the other hand, many traits of Jünger’s novel character are things which I became acquainted with much earlier thanks to Kartusian Mysticism and to Loyolas Spiritual Exercises … I could perhaps call it Stoicism - a total reliance on God’s presence in my deeds as well as in my spirit. In this total freedom inside my body-soul system I feel that chaos and order get along pretty well, and that precisely the interplay between pleasure and discipline is one of the corner-stones of my theatre and of my performance collaborations with Martin. For me, all this represents a classical kind of catholic creativity, in contrast to the protestant view of pleasure as a sin and discipline as a punishment. What I have learnt from this is that I get along well with the Catholic Church.

Your last answer really hurts, like a whip-lash, on my Lutheran skin! I myself belong to the fraction which has been very uncomfortable with Your Favorite Church. However, that debate must be saved for another occasion. Here, we must continue with your film- and theatre-art and also with your literature. I have made a tour and find myself at the starting-point once again. So now I would like to specify my initial questions about your activities and their development. Can you describe a little closer how your performance-art has emerged? Which are your methods and criteria, not objectively but rather in your own mind, for defining and accomplishing a good performance? What do you see as your personal aims with your performance art, how are you trying to make it better and better? Which are your resources and limitations in this respect? Do you have any future projects in mind? And if you possessed infinite resources, what would then stand out as your dream project?

I continue doing what I have been doing over the last eight or nine years. The course – if it is at all possible to speak of a course – is set, as political leaders always say. The goal is to stop the inflation. In other words: if I get any good ideas I will write them down. I have made good use of my plays, my performances with Martin, our books on theatre, the editions on Hammarströms förlag and now recently my Memoirs on Styx Förlag. Add to that the records (Vodou and Survival Unit), the dvd’s about Bacon, the Qualis dvd, etc. etc. And then the readings, the actual performances on stage etc. etc. I have used the last decade very well and I find no reason not to proceed. I can’t say if I will ever reset my course. I never strive for changes of direction, but should they arise spontaneously and as natural continuations I will not be foreign to new initiatives. My performance art has developed within its given frames. I think it found its form so fast (with Bacon) because we immediately discovered a type of collaboration where we get along well, respect each other and feel an immense safety in working with each other. Here, I would like to name all participants in alphabetical order: Johan Adolphi, Peter Andersson, Martin Bladh, Lars Bosma, Bo Cavefors, Erik Jarl, Jacob Ohlin, Mikael Oretoft. And then your question about the characteristics of a good performance. Performance is not theatre; performance is direct communication between the participants and the spectators; performance must transcend the political, social, sexual and ethical limits that constitute the people of the normative society; performance needs to have a message and an urge to transmit this message at any cost; performance should not be confused with political theatre, since it is neither political nor theatre; performance does not take sides in political, ideological or religious issues since it is intent on relying on its own internal force to distribute its visions and experiences among the participants as well as the spectators. Then, of course, the moment of improvisation is also crucial to a good performance, the general direction is set, there is a plan for what is going to happen, but what really happens on stage remains unknown until the very moment of materialization. That’s my aesthetic ambition. What I would like to do if I got the “infinite resources” you are speaking about is to stage my plays Rebellion in the Kasbah and Sade and the Japanese in front of audiences, to perform Heliogabalus and de Rais with Martin, to film these four shows and release them as a dvd. And I also want to go on with my Memoirs. I hope that I could accomplish to write something more in the style of the libretto of Die Toteninsel. What could all this cost? I have no idea, but I guess I just need a stage and then two, three million crowns (gages to participants etc.) … then it’s just about getting going...

I have tried to take a theoretical approach to your works. Yet I must say it fascinates me how your answers seem to be theoretically balanced even though they are really displacing the focus from the theoretical to the practical mode. So let us move along with this tendency and put the spot-light on the practical aspects for a while. What does your artistic surrounding consist of? What kind of culture do you consume yourself? And your collaborations with your co-actors, with the Styx Publishing House, etc. … who are your artistic partners and how does one become that? And how are your activities practically structured – a day in the life of Bo Cavefors, what does it presently contain?

Practical? My artistic surrounding? Well, I don’t really know if I have any ”artistic surrounding”. My room is filled with books but I’m trying to sell most of them. The only ones I’m going to keep are a couple of thousand volumes that I have a special relation to or that I need for references, etc. I have two paintings here, one by Zbigniew Makowski from 1965 representing a female sex and one representing garden flowers in a drinking glass. My mother’s teacher, Lundberg, made it for her confirmation in 1914. All my other paintings have been sold over the last 25 years. There is a bed, a peasant’s chest from 1818 that I inherited from my mother, an Italian chair in carved wood-work from the 19th Century, a modern Italian chair that I got from Marianne on my 50th birthday, a Danish arm-chair and 4 chairs for the dinner table, three of them made at NK in the 30’s, the fourth a rococo-chair, all of them inherited from my mother. There is also a beautiful, large table from Leksand which invites me to put newly arrived books, magazines and letters on it. And a computer, including printer and scanner. Covering half of one of the shorter walls is a tapestry from Skåne that I find exceedingly beautiful (from my mother). On the bed a beautiful pillow (from Skåne, also inherited). On the Leksand table there is a two-branched, silver chandelier – my great grandmother and grandfather got six of those from their children at their silver wedding. On the table there is also a case in which my great grandmother used to keep her rings. In my room there is a little, one-legged drop-leaf table with a very nice table top, I am not sure what kind of wood it is made of. On this table I keep three ceramic bowls that Marianne sculptured for me. At the long side of the rooms are three windows with three quadratic panes in each window-half , the curtains are blue-striped (and need to get washed I just discovered), so I get a lot of light into the room especially since they are facing to the east, but I always keep the curtains closed except for just one window. On the floor is a standard lamp and hanging from the ceiling is one of those Italian, florid, cut-glass chandeliers for which you use those light-bulbs that are forbidden since the first of September this year. On one of the sides of my bookshelf a crucifix - of course - is hung, and on top of the books on one of the shelves there is a wonderful chess-game in ivory that I got from a school-mate who came back from China, in the days where we were becoming free, young men. On another shelf there is a little wooden cask that used to belong to my grandfather. It’s a mystery to what he might have used it for, but it always stood on his desk my mother told me. One side of the cask is carved out to look like spines. I was going to continue this inventory by mentioning some of the books that I am never going to sell, but it seems more difficult than I thought as I just became aware that at least a third of the books and dvds are gifts from friends with dedications, letters, etc. ranging in time from the original edition of T. E. Lawrences Seven Pillars of Wisdom that Jacob gave me in 1955 and all the way to Kristian’s and Martin’s latest dvd’s. What surprises me after having answered you like this is that I am actually surrounded by furniture that I haven’t bought myself (with the sole exceptions of the Danish arm-chair and the bed). Am I so enmeshed in traditions? The fact is that even the towels that I use after the morning shower are inherited: they were woven at the Igridsborg estate for Anders, my grand-mother’s brother, by his sisters … I meet people sometimes. I go to a vernissage occasionally. Almost never to the theatre. More often I go to see to music-live shows, noice art, heavy metal bands, etc. The movies very seldom. Leif sometimes shows me good films on his TV. I have few but very good friends. I can mention some of them that I speak with fairly often, just having a coffee and chatting away: Måns, Mårten, Pär, Leif, Jacob, Adam. I maintain rather intense email-correspondance with friends in other parts of the world and from other times in my life, like Jacob and Thomas, Claude and Michel. I email Henrik almost every day. Some days, Patrik comes from an antiquarian book-store in Lund to decide what is possible to sell. It is stimulating to meet old and new friends here and there, as when we were doing performance-nights on Fylkingen or at the release party for my latest Memoirs. Good injections. I don’t consume so much culture aside from what I’ve already mentioned, but I read quite a lot of books, mostly literature in German, political literature, theology, art-books, etc. I still get books for free from a number of German publishing houses like Suhrkamp, Echter and Schöningh, even now when the editors I was once “making business with” are dead. Strange but nice. I read Sydsvenskan in the morning. Glance at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and The Times on the net. In my “artistic surroundings” I would like to include all the flowers that Marianne has arranged outside of my windows. My collaborations proceed by way of email-correspondence until we meet and realize what we have agreed upon. When Martin and I were writing and preparing for our actions we sent hundreds of emails forth and back in much the same way as this interview is taking shape. Before we met to record Bacon, I hadn’t me anybody except for Jacob who lives here in Malmö (but yes, I do recall a ten minute rendezvous with Martin when he visited Malmö with his own performance). I took the train to Norrköping together with Jacob where Martin came to meet us. The morning after we all went to Stockholm/Fylkingen where we were joined by Leif Elggren and Kent Tankred. We performed and recorded and went back to Norrköping during the night. This is how all our preparations have worked, and how they are still working. This method works because we really get along well and have the same ambitions and the same attitude to what should be done and how, even if our points of departure may diverge. The collaboration with the Styx Movement is another one of these positive experiences. It all started a couple of years ago when CM Lundberg was exhibiting at Gallery Thomas Wallner here in Malmö. Someone recommended me to go and see it, and so I did. We said hello and he immediately suggested that he would illustrate some of my texts. Ok, I said, I can write my memoirs. And that’s what happened. How does anyone become my collaborator? I don’t know, really. I think the question should be reformulated: how do I become somebody’s collaborator? Ask if I want to join is my suggestion for an answer. As Leif and Kent did, as they all did, Kristian, Johan, Lina, Martin, Måns, Lena, Guiliano, Guido and … and … and … like you Johannes!

(Interviewer’s note: I collaborate with Bo within the Styx Movement. Furthermore, Bo and I have talked about staging a 30’s-inspired, political cabaré on the basis of Erika Mann’s Pfeffermühle. We urge readers interested in participating in this project – and especially maecenats or sponsors – to contact us through Tidningen Kulturen.)

But if we turn our gazes out towards society again … what do you see? What do you think about today’s society … about early 21st century culture? Are there any presently active artists or writers that attract your attention? Are there any cultural collectives that you detest? And how is your relation to the cultural sphere if you look at it on a more practical level? How are you perceived, do you think, by the ordinary people, the cultural workers, the “cultural elite”, etc.? Are you at all interested in the cultural debates that “rage” in the papers? And lastly: where is there any real hope for the future, politically and/or culturally, if we are to believe Bo Cavefors?

Society and culture are pretty boring phenomena today, not only in Sweden but generally, at least in Europe and the United States. I have some good friends, pictorial artists and performance artists that are exhibiting their works in China, Japan, India, etc., and they tell me about another reality which is still engaging in a number of ways. It is of course futile to long for past decades, the 60’s or 70’s … and the 50’s were even worse with all the moral preachers from king and all the way down to the chairman of the Communist Party. In England where I lived the situation was in principle the same, but if you lived in London like I did and mainly frequented certain circles you belonged to a life and a world where you didn’t partake in such bourgeois nonsense. And all the hopes that people invested in the leftist movements of the 60’s and 70’s disintegrated in as little time as it took for the ideologists and opportunists to re-saddle into lucrative top-positions in business corporation boards and in academic institutions. The real remnants of those movements are probably a couple of hundred thousand pensioners who attended courses and lectures and tried to live according to their beliefs – to no use at all. I am thoroughly convinced that their bookshelves are now hosting the main part of the books I have edited. So how do I perceive today’s society in the light of these disheartening experiences? Really not so bad, I say, since I have always tended to be an optimist. In those days, we had the Red Army Fraction, the Red Brigades, the Sandinists, the Liberation Movements of various African states. And say what you will about Mao, but his thousand flowers - which were supposed to bloom but never really got the chance – at least got the whole thing going. I published Mao’s Military-Political Writings and sold out three whole editions, all in all 9000 copies. Sometimes I wonder whether the effect of reading that book on those who were young back then didn’t saw a seed which is beginning to bloom in their grandchildren. But today and since a few years back, if I sometimes write anything political, it is by necessity focused on the terror of normality which totally dominates all the channels which are supposed to contain free communication. The stagnation is absolute. There will be no way out of this mud puddle except by some well-planned and ambitious attacks on areas such as politics, culture, economy, etc. I sympathize with many individuals and with groups as well, but as through all my life I abstain from collective engagement. I refer again to Jünger’s Anarch and his principle of individual action. It has always been like that for me. I was never a member of a political party or anything like that (with the sole exception of belonging to Clarté during the 50’s). I never voted and thereby belong to the third biggest party of this country, those who sort under the worn-out phrase “abstainers”. I would lie if I tried to pretend that this position does not entail its own risks. Certainly, there is a marginalizing function directed at those who are not subscribing to the hypocrisy. On the other hand, my relation to the parts of the cultural sphere that I sympathize with is very good. The other parts of the cultural sphere – which is really just one, big homogenous sphere … I don’t want to have any contact with that world whatsoever. What it produces is of no importance to me. I do what I like and what I think I should do without waiting for the opinions of the homogenous sphere. If they dislike my existence, it is their problem, not mine. And that’s why I seldom read contemporary Swedish literature. All those names that are flickering past in the “cultural pages” of the newspapers. Liza Marklund, Guilou, Mankell, etc., all those people are like space aliens to me, I am sorry but that’s the way it is. But it happens that I find some young (eh, well …) writers who really speak to me. During the last year I come to think of Karl Larsson, Leif Holmstrand, Lotta Lotass and some others. And then I have been reading some manuscripts that will hopefully get published, by Eli and Måns and Mårten and Leif. But generally speaking the interesting things don’t happen in literature anymore but in performace-art, where you are able to combine images, action, music and word in new and revolutionizing ways. Traditional theatre is stone dead … and not only in Sweden … the whole theatre world is choked to death by all the quasi-psychological bullshit from Bergman to … you know who. People will undoubtedly find a way out of these dead end streets. Soon, I hope, since I would really like to see when it starts moving…

We have reached the end of this little journey. And now I find that your very last statement suits med perfectly, since I was anyway going to finish by the broadest possible perspective: the future, or more specifically the future of mankind. Do you then think that there is also a “way out” of the claws of imperialist aggression, of slave-mongering, of our hysterical production with its devastating consequences for the environment? Will intelligence finally win the battle against stupidity? What do you think we will have accomplished in, let’s say, 300 years? If you could chose to return in a specific future era, when would you come and as whom? What would you become able to see? Which one of all the dramas of humanity do you think would be most intriguing to follow to its conclusion?

I look at Pieter Brueghel’s painting Hunter in the snow from the middle of the 16th Century and cannot help associating to the cod-fishing in the Baltic Sea, the trade with polluting-licences, the threats against the polar bear and I find myself asking, rhetorically: why couldn’t those planes just have crashed at the turn of the Millennium, why couldn’t it all just collapse? Intelligence will never win against stupidity. Reason will never circumvent the recurring political nonsense. I would not like to be reborn and I will not, when I’m dead, say that I would have preferred to have lived in another time. My life has been pretty exciting, that’s what I think at least. But there is one thing I regret having missed, and by quite a number of centuries: I really would have loved to get close to Hamlet.

Copyright©Johannes Flink, 2009.




Martin Bladh and Bo I. Cavefors
Action: Johan Adolphi, Martin Bladh, Bo I. Cavefors and Mikael Oretoft
Photo: Peter Andersson and Lars Bosma
Music: Martin Bladh and Erik Jarl

Produced 12th June 2009 in Norrköping, Sweden
Published as a dvd together with QUALIS ARTIFEX PEREO (Aryan Kaganof) 2009-2010

Copyright©Martin Bladh & Bo I. Cavefors 2009-2010
Copyright Photo©Peter Andersson & Lars Bosma 2010