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.