Duchamp’s great monument to eros, though, is the tableau called “Étant Donnés: 1. La Chute d’Eau, 2. Le Gaz d’Éclairage” (“Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas”). Created in almost complete secrecy between 1946 and 1966, it was his final work, and also his weirdest and most mysterious.
Julius LeBlanc Stewart (1855-1919)
Portrait Of Laure Hayman
a representative target of proust’s proustification was a middle-aged woman called laure hayman, a well-known courtesan, …, proust was in his late teens when he met and first began to proustify laure. he would send her elaborate letters dripping with compliments, accompanied by chocolates, trinkets and flowers, gifts so expensive that his father was forced to lecture him on his extravagance. “dear friend, dear delight” ran a typical note to laure, accompanied by a little something from the florist, “here are fifteen chrysanthemums, i hope the stems will be excessively long, as i requested … — alain de botton
— Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just. (via moonissharp)
just another moment in the certamen between vision and word, harking back from herodotus, through leonardo da vinci, lessing, and till the discussions of realism in cinema, the crossover between pornography and art, between performance and experience.
here is what linda williams says in ‘hard core: power, pleasure, and the frenzy of the visible’ (berkeley, ucpress, 1987, p. 185 ‘an ontological perversion’): “the inherent and unprecedented realism in movies seems to lead directly, then, to an equally inherent and unprecedented obscenity. most realist theorists of the cinema seem to come up against this “ultimate” obscenity of the medium at some point in their thinking. Stanley cavell in ‘a world viewed’ for example asserts that ‘the ontological conditions of the cinema reveal it as inherently pornographic’. and stephen marcus, who is not a film theorist but whose attitude to cinema could be termed realist, writes that ‘the motion picture was what the genre of pornography ”was all along waiting for”, since language in literary pornography had only been a ‘bothersome necessity’.”
well, i wish i could write a book-length essay discussing this point, especially the statement by marcus at the end of the passage. language will transform literary pornography into pornology and into artistic erotic writing: words are a very potent stimulant. a poetically inspired aesthetic composition harmonizing both word and image (rather than the silly challenge of choosing one over the other) is explosively stimulating, will bring a breath of fresh air to art cinema, to literature, and to pornology and pornography, and will also once and for all put to rest the futile contest.
von trier is not really innovating anything; catherine breillat made the initial moves more than ten years ago in the cutting edge between performance and authentic experience in cinematic sex scenes; the porno chic experiments were done in the 1970s, for example by wakefield poole; and in 1955 the artistically breathtaking, sublime use of words was applied to the description of the perversion of the nymphetophile humbert humbert, in a fiction fabricated by the word-pervert vladimir nabokov.
“come, then, rather let us go to bed and turn to love-making
never before as now has passion enmeshed my senses”
(homer, iliad, book 3, lines 441-2, lattimore translation)
paris painted by enrique simonet, 1904 (‘el juicio de paris’, ‘the judgment of paris).
the trojan prince paris (a.k.a. alexandros) is a connoisseur of women, not war, but he has enmeshed the world of his day in war, over helen — the most beautiful woman, wife of menelaus, whom aphrodite made available to him in return for choosing aphrodite as ‘fairest of them all’ in a rigged beauty contest (‘the judgment of paris’)
in book three of the iliad, the two men meet in battle in the fields of troy, and paris is beaten by menelaus. helen, who is afraid of aphrodite and must go into the bedroom, speaks harshly to paris, but this just seems to arouse him even more:
”lady, censure my heart no more in bitter reprovals.
this time menelaos with athene’s help has beaten me;
another time i shall beat him. we have gods on our side also.
come, then, rather let us go to bed and turn to love-making.
never before as now has passion enmeshed my senses,
not when i took you the first time from lakedaimon the lovely
and caught you up and carried you away in seafaring vessels,
and lay with you in the bed of love on the island kranae,
not even then, as now, did i love you and sweet desire seize me.’
speaking, he led the way to the bed; and his wife went with him.”
(homer, iliad, 3. 438-447, richmond lattimore translation)
Anonymous asked: Why would the story that cheaters never prosper be insufficient for persuading gyges to stop using his ring to plunder and exploit.
excellent question, anonymous! i don’t know how to answer this. the story of gyges in herodotus, interestingly, suppresses the whole element of the magic ring, and is more one of how fate changes, and at the same time is presented as being about ‘choice’, although the narrator somehow implies that although the queen gave gyges a choice, he had no choice. in the complementary narrative, as it is told in plato’s republic, the whole series of events involving kandaules showing off his wife and what unfolds, is suppressed, and the issue is more about how, given an opportunity to do injustice without getting caught, people (gyges) will try to ‘get away with murder’. it is embedded within the context of a dialogue on justice. although ostensibly, one never knows where one stands when one is enmeshed in the web of platonic irony, most readers take the ‘moral of the story’ as one in which without a system of legislature and enforcement, people will usually act immorally or unjustly. thanks for your question, which has directed me to think about the ideological dimension, usually when i read these stories and myths, i am blind to that aspect, and sink into the pathos, wit, and artistry of the narrative, and how its motifs have lived on in art.
“blanda venire Venus, tristis abire solet”
(Venus is accustomed to arrive sweetly, to leave sadly) — old latin proverb
‘la venus triste’ painted by romaine brooks, her last portrait of ida rubinstein.
Leontyne Price: Un Bel Dì - from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly
a second angle of ida rubinstein as zobeida — two translations (galland and mardrus), two modes of art (zobeida the independent merchantwoman in 1001 nights and zobeida the king’s favourite in fokine’s ballet), and two paintings.
zobeida painted by jacques emile blanche
“But, after casting her eye over the two translations, my mother would have preferred that I should stick to Galland’s, albeit hesitating to influence me because of her respect for intellectual liberty”
ida rubinstein as zobeide, painted by jacques-emile blanche, on the occasion of her performance in fokine’s ballet ’scheherezade’ in 1910.
Just a little more than two hundred years after Galland, Mardrus introduced Europe to “une traduction complète et fidèle des Mille nuits et une nuit.” Joseph Charles Mardrus was a French physician who was born in Cairo and worked abroad for the French government in Morocco and Asia. While Galland’s texts were fit for audiences of all ages, Mardrus emphasized the erotic aspects of the Arabian Nights, much like his English counterpart and contemporary Burton. When the narrator of A la recherche du temps perdu recalls his first taste of the Nights, he mentions that his mother gave him two translations, the Galland and the Mardrus. “But, after casting her eye over the two translations, my mother would have preferred that I should stick to Galland’s, albeit hesitating to influence me because of her respect for intellectual liberty” (Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time: Volume IV, translated by Moncrieff and Kilmartin, 318).
see teghan raleigh’s article ’scheherazade’s ventriloquists’ http://www.corpse.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55&Itemid=34
“fifty-fifty investment in the madness, yet she ends up with nine-tenths of the pleasure” (from ted hughes, ‘tiresias’, tales from ovid)
sculpture of hera and zeus from the statue at the front of the austrian parliament
“hera and zeus quarrelled on the question whether men or women derived more pleasure from sex, and asked the uniquely qualified tiresias, who said that of ten parts, the woman enjoyed nine and the man one” (from bernard williams, shame and necessity, ‘necessary identities’, p. 121).
“one time, jupiter, happy to be idle,
swept the cosmic mystery aside
and draining another goblet of ambrosia
teased juno, who drowsed in bliss beside him:
‘this love of male and female’s a strange business.
fifty-fifty investment in the madness,
yet she ends up with nine-tenths of the pleasure.’
juno’s answer was: ‘a man might think so.
it needs more than a mushroom in your cup
to wake a wisdom that can fathom which
enjoys the deeper pleasure, man or woman.
it needs the solid knowledge of a soul
who having lived and loved in woman’s body
has also lived and loved in the body of a man.’
jupiter laughed aloud: ‘we have the answer.
there is a fellow called tiresias. …’
(ted hughes, tales from ovid, ‘tiresias’)
semele’s laugh was as triumphant as she was ignorant of the game she was playing
Jean-Baptiste Deshays de Colleville, Jupiter and Semele c 1760.
“she asked her divine lover for a love-gift
a gift she would name only if it were granted.
jupiter smiled: ‘whatever you want—name it,
you shall have it. i swear
on the terror who holds all heaven in awe,
the god of hell’s river, you shall have it.’
semele’s laugh was as triumphant
as she was ignorant
of the game she was playing.
to have won the simple trick
that would wipe her out of existence
so easily. ‘i want to see you,’ she said,
‘exactly as juno sees you when she opens
her arms and body to you. as if i were juno,
come to me naked—in your divine form.’
jove guessed what she was asking…
(from ted hughes, tales from ovid, ‘semele’)
when extreme logic collides with extreme emotion
bach, piano concerto 1 in d minor, ft. glenn gould
‘to cry for’.
von karajan conducting wiener philharmoniker and singverein in mozart’s requiem in d minor. skip to 2:05 where the performance begins.
“Hail, child of fair-faced Semele! He who forgets you can in no wise order sweet song.”
(closing of the homeric hymn to dionysus, translated by evelyn-white)
dionysus painted by titian (‘bacchus and ariadne)
In his ‘birth of tragedy’, nietzsche argues that the Greek spectators, by looking into the abyss of human suffering and affirming it, passionately and joyously affirmed the meaning of their own existence. They knew themselves to be infinitely more than petty individuals, finding self-affirmation not in another life, not in a world to come, but in the terror and ecstasy alike celebrated in the performance of tragedies.
dionysus is drama incarnate. when we partake of his ‘bread and wine’, we cultivate the art, song, beauty, and emotions of the strong dramatic poets.
“The lover of life makes the whole world into his family, just as the lover of the fair sex creates his from all the lovely women he has found, from...”
“This willingness to continually revise one’s own location in order to place oneself in the path of beauty is the basic impulse underlying education....”