Wednesday, April 18, 2007

dalí; or, same shit different day

Bryan Larson, "Just the Beginning" (2001)

in the end, dalí proved to have a better grasp of surrealism and what it was than did breton and the others who were at the origins of the movement. they fantasized it as a force of liberation to be aligned with communist political aims. to breton and the others, surrealism's attempt to thematize the unconscious, to bring to light those dark drives which were hidden from humanity, was going to somehow free that humanity.

but as dalí saw, when others did not, the unconscious was not a haven of paradise where the edenic humanity could be rediscovered in all its natural glory. the irrational was not salvation from an increasingly rationalized world, rather, what was being uncovered by surrealism was the anglo and continental unconscious (for lack of a better term) which was never absent from the conscious drives of technological expansion and domination of the world (both as industrialization and colonization), was never absent from any act, no matter how mundane, decadent or benevolent. thus the surrealists were not showing the way to the future, but were merely revealing the truth of the present: the unsaid in everything that persons, society, and culture did.

it is not surprising, then, that freud was impressed by dalí upon meeting him. dalí alone of the surrealists had understood him: this was freud's assessment; and it was dalí alone who could make him reconsider surrealism as something more than art without understanding.

dalí's understanding has indeed been vindicated by the fact that the anglo and continental culture was able to absorb surrealism so easily and make it part of its cultural currency. and dalí was glad to be its superstar, while never forgetting that he was merely returning our own shit to us for us to enjoy: the scatological innards of that which the ego always presents with a clear and shiny face.


Salvador Dalí, "The Visage of War" (1940)

Memory says: Want to do it right? Don't count on me.
I'm a canal in Europe where bodies are floating
I'm a mass grave I'm the life that returns
I'm a table set with room for the Stranger
I'm a field with corners left for the landless
I'm accused of child-death of drinking blood
I'm a man-child praising God he's a man
I'm a woman bargaining for chicken
I'm a woman who sells for a boat ticket
I'm a family dispersed between night and fog
I'm an immigrant tailor who says "A coat
is not a piece of cloth only" I sway
in the learnings of master-mystics
I have dreamed of Zion I've dreamed of world revolution
I have dreamed my children could live at last like others
I have walked the children of others through the ranks of hatred
I'm a corpse dredged from a canal in Berlin
a river in Mississippi I'm a woman standing
with another woman dressed in black
on the streets of Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem
there is spit on my sleeve there are phonecalls in the night
I am a woman standing in line for gasmasks
I stand on a road in Ramallah with naked face listening
I am standing here in your poem unsatisfied
lifting my smoky mirror


Adrienne Rich, #10 from "Eastern War Time", An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems, 1988-1991

Edward Hopper, "Cape Cod Morning" (1950)


a. said...

hello again -

i notice you have adopted the use of lower case letters for everything - is that a surface stylistic change or a visual clue to inner humility? :) I jest...

I have to say, reading your pieces on art/artists suddenly makes things fall into place for me. I am always touched and interested and want to know more. I really thank you for that, because I have never had an understanding of visual art. Reading your commentary and insights though, makes it all full of sensibility and purpose - and it begins to sound like my first love: literature.

Like Dali - all I could see before was that smth was supposedly important in these pictures and that they are rather ghastly and strange (like the melting clocks picture). A wasteland of the mind or body or an industrial wasteland... I have never understood really why it is artistic. I guess I've never understood what various things "art" can mean either.

anyway, thanks again.

Lawrence of Arabia said...

i'm not sure i can entirely explain (to myself or anyone else) why i use lower-case in most posts. in "the struggle" series i do it in order to emphasize the few things i do capitalize. when i moved some things over to eteraz, ali asked me to fix that, which i did on some, but not on "the stuggle".

anyway, i am glad you find the art posts helpful. i am not surprised to hear that my way of talking about them reminds you of literature, because i tend to "read" paintings and painters.

best wishes,

thekingpin68 said...

Hi Lawrence,

Thanks for the article on Dali, and I am impressed with Bryan Larson, "Just the Beginning" (2001). It strikes me as being in Manhattan perhaps.