Finished an ready for hanging at ARTEC open exhibtion. I just love these robust figures of Spare….
Ive thought about this for many years: what is beauty?
It is surely death
When death is near, you love life, it’s beauty and it’s splendour. You think: how can one world be this beautiful? And the beauty overwhelms you like a blanket in the fever. You are standing on Friedrich’s sunset hill and you just wanna cry baby, cry.
Here’s a summary of my most important feminist works.
Sanity is a vague term. I think I might be losing my mind. I’m society-sick and I have no time for taking my meds (producing art) and I’m walking on the edge here. It’s beautiful. When you stand on cliffs your periphery expands and although I’m tense thinking about how far down it is, it’s still beautiful. So when one falls, or jumps, or tilts over, or whatever happens before you catch yourself in mid air…it’s still beautiful. We let go of many things then, when our feet leave the edge, we let go of our hopes and dreams and we let go of love. Sanity, of course, is long gone. Left that one first of all. But in mid air, it’s beautiful. So beauty is perhaps the only thing we hold onto right up until the very very end.
So I’ve got some big problems. And ‘on the side’ of all of these problems I teach full time and study part time. I’m so fucking fed up with this race for survival. Today is Saturday. Today I send the girls downstairs to play and I perve on art and blogs and I drink wine and smoke a zol and dance to Ellie Goulding’s Burn and I lock myself in my room and I just am. Full of Flaws. And aches and hungers and pains and pleasures and punctured dreams and all of that shit, you know? If only you knew how lonely I am right now. And I kinda wish you could give me a call and we can play our escape game “one more time”. Even though I know it’s just as fleeting as my wine and my zol, and just as deflated and long gone as all me dreams…
Show Your Wound 1974-75
Beuys originally created the environment Show Your Wound for a desolate underground passage in Munich. Its aura of melancholy and mourning arises from its subject matter: death, decay and a sense of trauma that Beuys referred to as the ‘wound’.
The ‘wound’ is a recurring theme in Beuys’s work and holds many associations, from individual illness and physical injury to collective grief. Beuys was wounded a number of times during the Second World War, and in the 1950s, he had a serious psychological breakdown. In 1975, the year Show Your Wound was completed, he suffered a heart-attack.
Beuys was one of the first German artists to reflect on his country’s recent political history in his work, and more specifically to focus on German responsibility for the Holocaust. The blackboards incorporated into this installation seem to be a call to action, a call for the German nation to ‘show your wound’. In this way, the work functions as an act of remembrance and a vehicle for mourning.
As in many of Beuys’s sculptural works, objects are presented as doubles. These include paired agricultural implements, twin blackboards and two mortuary dissection-tables, below which are double sets of containers filled with fat, as if bodily fluids had drained into them. Beuys often employed the concept of double identity to signal opposition and unresolved conflict.
…when little deaths don’t seem so little anymore.
The three of us (me and the girls) are taking a bath with candle light. The steam creates this eerie and wonderful setting. And now we are hearing the most beautiful account of who the middle sister is (my stillborn). My youngest say she saw her the other day. My oldest listens with wide eyes. “She had long hair, to the floor.” She now has our attention so she really goes all out. “And white skin. And glittery purple high heels. And we were having tea.” So we ask her a hundred questions, hungry to know every detail, hanging on her every word. “Is her hair curly or straight? Is she shy or not? Where did she go when you were done playing?” For that moment there exists no possibility whatsoever that she is not alive.
Lustmord is an installation which was prompted by the atrocities of the Ex-Yugoslavia war. Lustmord is the association of two German words: Lust, which means desire, and Mord which signifies murder or assassination. In German this building of words is ambiguous and can convey in the same time “sex-murder”, but also “rape-slaying”, “lust-killing”. This installation was at first a group of photographs (a selection is displayed on the exhibition), representing written sentences on human bodies. Those are fragments, following various points of view like the one the victim or the torturer, testimonies of horrible facts such as “she acts like a left animal for cooking”, “she has no taste left to her and this makes it easier for me”. For the exhibition the installation is composed by a group of human bones, masculine and feminine, lying on a wooden table. On the bones we discover silver bands where are engraved those same fragments. The choice of the material is here of a great intelligence. It puts into light with power the eternal mark of the violence which went trough the flesh and even penetrated until the bone. The fact of not engraving directly on it but on a silver band could refer to those chain bracelets we conserve all our life, where initials or significant sentence keeps rubbing against our skin. But here there is no more protection, no more frontier between the verb and our intimacy, since those women or girls got hurt far beyond their skin. The sanctuary of Lustmord could be the incarnation of the deep violence of this war, too often left apart.
it always amazes me, how you can shut me off with such ease
with your program, just turn me off like a button, a switch
I wish I could do it too, but I’m no happy machine, it hurts like hell
may you never realize your infliction, may you never know, never see
exactly how cruel, to me, your kindness is.
image by Takato Yamamoto
Extract from Georges Bataille’s Eroticism
From the introduction to Eroticism, translated by Mary Dalwood (London & New York: Marion Boyars, 1962 )
As often as not , it seems to be assumed that man has his being independently of his passions. I affirm, on the other hand, that we must never imagine existence except in terms of these passions…
…We are discontinuous beings, individuals who perish in isolation in the midst of an incomprehensible adventure, but we yearn for our lost continuity. We find the state of affairs that binds us to our random and ephemeral individuality hard to bear. Along with our tormenting desire that this evanescent thing should last, there stands our obsession with a primal continuity linking us with everything that is… this nostalgia is responsible for… eroticism in man.
…In essence, the domain of eroticism is the domain of violence, of violation… The most violent thing of all for us is death which jerks us out of a tenacious obsession with the lastingness of our discontinuous being. We blench at the thought that the separate individuality within us must be suddenly snuffed out… We cannot imagine the transition from one state to another one basically unlike it without picturing the violence done to the being called into existence through discontinuity. Not only do we find in the uneasy transitions of organisms engaged in reproduction the same basic violence which in physical eroticism leaves us gasping, but we also catch the inner meaning of that violence. What does physical eroticism signify if not a violation of the very being of its practitioners? — a violation bordering on death, bordering on murder?
The whole business of eroticism is to strike to the inmost core of the living being, so that the heart stands still. The transition from the normal state to that of erotic desire presupposes a partial dissolution of the person as he exists in the realm of discontinuity. Dissolution — this expression corresponds with dissolute life, the familiar phrase linked with erotic activity. In the process of dissolution, the male partner has generally an active role, while the female partner is passive. The passive, female side is essentially the one that is dissolved as a separate entity. But for the male partner the dissolution of the passive partner means one thing only: it is paving the way for a fusion where both are mingled, attaining at length the same degree of dissolution. The whole business of eroticism is to destroy the self-contained character of the participators as they are in their normal lives.
Stripping naked is the decisive action. Nakedness offers a contrast to self-possession, to discontinuous existence, in other words. It is a state of communication revealing a quest for a possible continuance of being beyond the confines of the self. Bodies open out to a state of continuity through secret channels that give us a feeling of obscenity. Obscenity is our name for the uneasiness which upsets the physical state associated with self-possession, with the possession of a recognised and stable individuality. Through the activity of organs in a flow of coalescence and renewal, like the ebb and flow of waves surging into one another, the self is dispossessed, and so completely that most creatures in a state of nakedness, for nakedness is symbolic of this dispossession and heralds it, will hide; particularly if the erotic act follows, consummating it. Stripping naked is seen in civilizations where the act has full significance if not as a simulacrum of the act of killing, at least as an equivalent shorn of gravity. In antiquity the destitution (or destruction) fundamental to eroticism was felt strongly and justified linking the act of love with sacrifice. When I come to religious eroticism which is concerned with the fusion of beings with a world beyond everyday reality I shall return to the significance of sacrifice. Here and now, however, I must emphasise that the female partner in eroticism was seen as the victim, the male as the sacrificer, both during the consummation losing themselves in the continuity established by the first destructive act.
…Eroticism always entails a breaking down of established patterns, the patterns, I repeat, of the regulated social order basic to our discontinuous mode of existence as defined and separate individuals… The stirrings within us have their own fearful excesses; the excesses show which way these stirrings would take us. They are simply a sign to remind us constantly that death, the rupture of the discontinuous individualities to which we cleave in terror, stands there before us more real than life itself.
…suffering alone reveals the total significance of the beloved object. Possession of the beloved object does not imply death, but the idea of death is linked with the urge to possess. If the lover cannot possess the beloved he will sometimes think of killing her; often he would rather kill her than lose her. Or else he may wish to die himself. Behind these frenzied notions is the glimpse of a continuity possible through the beloved. Only the beloved, so it seems to the lover — because of affinities evading definition which match the union of bodies with that of souls — only the beloved can in this world bring about what our human limitations deny, a total blending of two beings, a continuity between two discontinuous creatures. Hence love spells suffering for us in so far as it is a quest for the impossible…
We ought to take account of two conflicting possibilities.
If the union of two lovers comes about through love, it involves the idea of death, murder or suicide. This aura of death is what denotes passion… Through the beloved appears something I shall refer to in a moment in speaking of religious or sacred eroticism, to wit, full and limitless being unconfined within the trammels of separate personalities, continuity of being, glimpsed as a deliverance through the person of the beloved.
…Erotic activity, by dissolving the separate beings that participate in it, reveals their fundamental continuity, like the waves of a stormy sea. In sacrifice, the victim is divested not only of clothes but of life (or is destroyed in some way if it is an inanimate object). The victim dies and the spectators share in what his death reveals. This is what religious historians call the element of sacredness. This sacredness is the revelation of continuity through the death of a discontinuous being to those who watch it as a solemn rite. A violent death disrupts the creature’s discontinuity; what remains, what the tense onlookers experience in the succeeding silence, is the continuity of all existence with which the victim is now one. Only a spectacular killing, carried out as the solemn and collective nature of religion dictates, has the power to reveal what normally escapes notice…
“There is no better way to know death than to link it with some licentious image”
…I think I can make my ideas on continuity more readily felt, ideas not to be fully identified with the theologians’ concept of God, by reminding you of these lines by one of the most violent of poets, Rimbaud.
Elle est retrouvée.
C’est la mer allée
Avec le soliel.
[It is now refound!
It is the sea commingled
With the sun.] (from A Season in Hell)
Poetry leads to the same place as all forms of eroticism — to the blending and fusion of separate objects. It leads us to eternity, it leads us to death, and through death to continuity. Poetry is eternity; the sun matched with the sea.
the death caused me to see
how little life there was in there all along
only the resurrections
breathe deep enough
to stick around
Laura Cottingham, October 1991, New York City (catalogue essay)
These ten photographs from Martha Rosler’s Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, 1967-72, utilize the collage technique favored by the Surrealists and later the Pop artists; but Rosler’s central concern isn’t the unconscious, the ironic or the formal. Produced during the peak of U.S. military engagement in Vietnam and an outgrowth of Rosler’s own involvement with anti-war activities, these photomontages are a response to the artist’s “frustration with the images we saw in television and print media, even with anti-war flyers and posters. The images we saw were always very far away, in a place we couldn’t imagine.”1 Assembled from the pages of Life magazine — where the documentary accounts of blown bodies, dead babies, and anguished faces flow seamlessly into mattress ads and photo features of sophisticated kitchens, fastidiously fertilized lawns and art-hung living rooms — Rosler’s montages re-connect two sides of human experience, the war in Vietnam, and the living rooms in Amerika, which have been falsely separated.
The consumer media avoids directly referring to political and economic connection between your cozy sofa and someone else’s dead body: Rosler reveals the artificiality of this severed causality. The separation of us from them, here from there, is an illusion we want, as a war-profit society and as immediately war-free individuals, to maintain. In a culture like contemporary Amerika, misunderstanding between ourselves and the objects around us happens on two distinct but interdependent levels. As recognized by Marx and Lacan, things are substitutes for feelings; they are also mistaken for value-free objects, divorced, like a baby in the cabbage patch, from any material gestation. Rosler encourages us to remember where dead babies come from. Her war montages are not constructed from divergent sources: they derive from the same physical site, the same magazine, ironically called “Life.” The divorce between war and home imposed by publishing’s division between advertising and editorial, home features and war views, was also accepted by the viewer/reader of Life: irrational mis-reading, encouraged from without, is accepted from within. Or, as Horkheimer and Adorno, writing in Amerika, exclaimed: “ideology is split into the photograph of stubborn life and the naked lie about its meaning — which is not expressed but suggested and yet drummed in.”2 Could you enjoy your car, your TV, your painting in precisely the same way knowing someone died for your enjoyment? This is the central question to those who enjoy the spoils of post-colonial imperialism; it implicates all of us, as the material benefits of war are not limited to the rich, the multinationals, the government.
The idea that S&M is related to a deep violence, that S&M practice is a way of liberating this violence, this aggression, is stupid. We know very well that what all those people are doing is not aggressive; they are inventing new possibilities of pleasure with strange parts of their body – through the eroticisation of the body. I think it’s a kind of creation, a creative enterprise, which has as one of its main features what I call the desexualisation of pleasure … The possibility of using our bodies as a possible source of very numerous pleasures is something that is important. For instance, if you look at the traditional constructions of pleasure, you see that bodily pleasure, or pleasures of the flesh, are always drinking, eating and fucking. And that seems to be the limit of our understanding of our body, our pleasures.
One can say that S&M is the eroticisation of power, the eroticisation of strategic relations … the S&M game is very interesting because it is a strategic relation, because it is always fluid. Of course there are roles, but everyone knows very well that those roles can be reversed. Sometimes the scene begins with the master and slave, and at the end the slave has become the master. Or, even when the roles are stabilised, you know very well that it is always a game; either the rules are transgressed, or there is an agreement, either explicit or tacit, that makes them aware of certain boundaries. This strategic game as a source of bodily pleasure is very interesting….”
“The problem with Foucault, simply put, was his profound perversity, a quality that characterized both his life and his work. In fact, it would be all too easy to explain away Foucault’s work as the predictable consequence of a tortured psychological make-up: in this case, homosexuality and sadomasochism with a strong suicidal component. Miller, to his credit, never sucumbs to the temptation. Without judging or sensationalizing, he sets forth the dark side of Foucault’s life, from incidents of self-mutilation in his university days to his pursuit of the S&M leather-bar life in San Francisco. Miller is in many ways more direct about Foucault’s private torments than was the French journalist Didier Eribon in his recently published biography, Michel Foucault. Miller suggests that Foucault’s indifference to self-preservation was never more dramatically apparent than in his refusal to practice “safe” sex even after he learned about AIDS, the disease from which he died, at age 54, in 1984. (The less pardonable sin, if the rumors that Miller reports are true, was Foucault’s refusal to curtail his promiscuity after he knew that he had the virus.)..”
images from a French AIDS-awareness campaign inspired by Michel Foucault’s death.
I mourn each relationship I ever killed.
So strange. The people I had the relationships with are well alive, but the pain of the loss forces me to pretend they don’t exist.
Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Even if contact is made again, chances are it will still be dead. Still be gone.
It’s very rare to really mend a broken relationship.
Best to pick up the pieces and discard it.
It’s cleaner that way.
We have to survive.
I had to open the boxes with the Eyrie works today. These works were exhibited in Cape Town in 2010. They’ve been bubble-wrapped since then in boxes. I took out “Barbed wire woman” to photograph her for a book cover that she will be appearing on. Her colours are rapidly fading. I find her more beautiful than ever. She’s safe behind glass, but her colours are going. She looks much paler now, and it really suits her.
I’ve always loved second hand clothes. There’s something amazing about fabric that’s been ‘warn in’. Friends pass down clothes, mom spots some good gear at the church’s clothing sales etc. Recently this one lady died of cancer and some of her clothes ended up with me. When I wear the clothes, I think about her, wonder about her, as I’m protected against the autumn chill, still now and then getting a whiff of a distinct perfume lingering; a memory of someone I never knew but somehow feel close to.
My kids at school did a project called `scientific experiments gone wrong`where they drew lab bottles etc. They then made explosions by blowing paint with straws and making splashy effects with tooth brushes. Its’ amazing how psychologically revealing these images came out. The way each child ‘exploded’ on the page…some exploded really neatly, others over-exploded, some exploded using method, some without premeditation at all…then there was the boy whose parents died last year, with a huge,dark explosion hanging over his lab like an ominous cloud.
We have an acute fascination with death, even when we pretend we don’t, or if we believe we are immortal. My classroom overlooks a crematorium/cemetery. Some days, when the wind blows in the wrong direction, the smoke from the crematorium comes into the school and a hazy film hangs over the corridors. It was also in this very graveyard my friend and I spent hours taking photos of each other interacting with the graves.
I went to the university’s library the other day and when I entered, I went straight to the short loan section where I used to sit and spend hours going through a photography book of photos taken during autopsies. It’s fascinating how, I can spend hours looking at images of dead people, sliced open people, rotting people…but where it concerns my loved ones, I would do everything I can to prevent seeing their corpses. I deal with the theme of death a lot in my art and when I did ‘ Eyrie’ with Joop Bersee we really delved into human frailty, death etc. I never laid eyes on my stillborn and if one of my family members die, I would ask someone else to identify the body. It’s almost like being a ER doctor but not being able to put a plaster on my own family’s wounds.
Death should be beautiful, like birth.
But the pain of loss blinds the eyes.
The Eyrie series which was exhibited in White River and in Cape Town in 2010 is not whole anymore. Half of the works are in Mozambique and some were sold, some were given away…the handful of Eyrie works that are with me, will be exhibited within the next six months in the Ron Belling Gallery in Park Drive, Port Elizabeth. I am looking forward to have one more Eyrie show, which would be very intimate and small. The remaining works would be for sale, although I explained to the curator that it’s most definitely not “lounge material”.
Unfortunately Mr. Joop Bersee and I are not on speaking terms anymore. The works were based on Bersee’s poetry collection. We are both far too turbulent to keep lids on our emotions and our paths separated, although Eyrie is still very much alive and still circuiting.
One of the Eyrie works will also be used towards the middle of the year for another publication by Underground Voices. This will be my second book cover for UV. The first cover was for Chewing the Fat.
I’m Super excited about my video, The Chaos Within, that is going to be part of an exhibition opening tonight in London organized by curator Christine Eyene. This video was my very first video experiment and I’m thinking back to a time of my life when I found myself in a world of turmoil, due to the stillbirth of our baby girl, Gabrielle.
I find so much healing power in performance art and this was my first experiment. It really helped me get somewhere in the long road leading to getting over the tragedy and pain of losing her. I often analyse my performance and try to theoretically lay it out, but I find this a very hard process: going from a spontaneous reaction such as a performance and taking it to the opposite side/pole by rationally trying to lay it all out and ‘ explain’ it.
Once, when I was still blogging on Aryan Kaganof’s blog, he said that my urge to destroy my art might be a subconscious urge to commit suicide. I thought (and still think) this notion is ridiculous, since I don’t have a single suicidal bone in my body. However, this got my thinking and I do think it is all about trying to start over, or creating a rebirth. In The Chaos within, I slash up one of my self portraits, burn it and then urinate on it.
I am still in the possession of pieces of burnt canvas which remained after the performance.
Read in depth text about her work here