dolljunkies.com

 

As Karl Marx warned: we all become the objects we are conditioned to crave ... obsessively producing the objects that objectify us.

Reason's dream: that Nature should become the infinitely fecund mother of all objects.

 1. The mother of Maria ...

2. Richard Calder: his novel: Dead Girls

3. The deaths of Balthus and Barry Burman. One day and the next ... 

4. The Noh ...

5.  The House of the Sleeping Beauties. Kawabata reviewed by Mishima

***

1.  The mother of Maria ...  Nora, the Satin Woman's dream ... to become an object in Herr Nachtingall's hands.

Her collection of erotic Russian dolls ... ... ...

Nora's fate at the hand of her father ... Maria's revenge.

2.  Richard Calder: Dead Girls 1992.

"Was she beautiful? No; like all her kind she possessed, not beauty, but the overripe prettiness that is the saccharine curse of dollhood. Beauty has soul. Beauty has resonance. But a doll is a thing of surface and planes. Clothes, make-up, behavioural characteristics, resolve, for her, into an identity that is all gesture, nuance, signs. She has no psychology, no inner self, no metaphysical depths. She is the glory, the sheen of her exterior, the hard brittle sum of her parts. She is the ghost in the looking glass, the mirage that, reaching out to touch, we find is nothing but rippling air. She is image without substance, a fractal receding into infinity ... she is her allure.

    ... 'Sometimes, Iggy, you're so full of shit. I know I can't love; I'm a doll.

But you're a doll junkie; you can't love either.'

... 'Thirteen,' said Titania. 'I've been thirteen for twenty eight years.'

My father's bedroom was a twilight world of pulled drapes, old books ... there were paintings, too: amongst them originals by twentieth-century artists such as Hans Bellmer, Balthus, Leonor Fini.

(My favourite picture was by the British artist Barry Burman. It was called Judith and depicted a pubescent girl holding, from a leather-gloved hand, the severed head of Holofernes.)

3. The deaths of Barry Burman and Balthus.

18 February 2001

"Controversial painter of disquieting themes.

BALTHUS

Balthazar Klossowski, Count de Rola, better known as Balthus, who has died aged 92, was arguably the last great figurative painter of the 20th century. Balthus created a private and poetic universe which revolved around a few obsessively repeated themes: landscapes full of foreboding, portraits which laid bare the inner lives of their sitters, and, most notoriously, his favourite subject - the bodies of pubescent girls.

Influences John Tenniel and Wuthering Heights ... 

He lived a secluded lif life in an 18th-century mansion with his Japanese wife of over thirty years, Setsko Ideta, and their daughter Harumi.

Died Feburary 18th, 2001

The Guardian.

17 February 2001

His paintings had a visceral, disturbing beauty.  

BARRY BURMAN 

Burman was always a figurative artist. His early paintings were meticulous and controversial images which addressed his ideas on women's sexuality; provocative schoolgirls on black leather sofas; malevolent nudes clutching Victorian dolls; and threatening femmes fatales grasping severed male heads.

In the end he took an overdose. He leaves his beloved wife, Rosy, and many faithful friends.

The Guardian

***

Floating on the Ship of Fools, now, together ... reminiscing.

The hell they shared. The albatross they always carried around their necks.

4. The Noh.

The mask, the dancer ... who can tell the dancer from the mask?

5. The House of the Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties ...

A novel by Kawabata

Sleeping Beauties: an Introduction by Yukio Mishima

There would seem to be, among the works of great writers, those that might be called of the obverse or the exterior, their meaning on the surface, and those of the reverse or interior, the meaning hidden behind; or we might liken them to exoteric and esoteric Buddhism. In the case of Mr Kawabata, Snow Country falls in the former category, while 'House of the Sleeping Beauties' is most certainly an esoteric masterpiece.

In the esoteric masterpiece, a writer's most secret, deeply hidden themes make their appearance. Such a work is dominated not by openness and clarity but by a strangling tightness. In place of limpidness and purity we have density; rather than the broad, open world we have a closed room. The spirit of the author, flinging away all inhibitions, shows itself in its boldest form. I have elsewhere likened 'House of the Sleeping Beauties' to a submarine in which people are trapped and the air is gradually disappearing. While in the grip of this story, the reader sweats and grows dizzy, and knows with the greatest immediacy the terror of lust urged on by the approach of death. Or, given a certain reading, the work might be likened to a film negative. A print made from it would no doubt show the whole of the daylight world in which we live, reveal the last detail of its bright plastic hypocrisy.

'House of the Sleeping Beauties” is unusual among Mr. Kawabata's works for its formal perfection. At the end the dark girl dies,  and 'the woman of the house” says: 'There is the other girl.' With this last cruel remark, she brings down the house of lust, until then so carefully and minutely fabricated, in a collapse inhuman beyond description. It may appear to be accidental, but it is not. At a stroke it reveals the inhuman essence in a structure apparently built with solidity and care— an essence shared by 'the woman of the house' with old Eguchi himself.

And that is why old Eguchi 'had never been more sharply struck by a remark.'

Eroticism has not, for Mr. Kawabata, pointed to totality, for eroticism as totality carries within itself humanity. Lust inevitably attached itself to fragments, and, quite without subjectivity, the sleeping beauties themselves are fragments of human beings, urging lust to its higher intensity. And, paradoxically, a beautiful corpse, from which the last traces of spirit have gone, gives rise to the strongest feelings of life. From the reflection of these violent feelings of the one who loves, the corpse sends forth the strongest radiance of life.

At a deeper level, this theme is related to another of importance in Mr. Kawabata's writing, his worship of virgins. This is the source of his clean lyricism, but below the surface it had something in common with the themes of death and impossibility. Because a virgin ceases to be a virgin once she is assaulted, impossibility of attainment is a necessary premise for putting virginity beyond agnosticism. And does not impossibility of attainment put eroticism and death forever at that same point? And if we novelists do not belong on the side of 'life' ( if we are confined to an abstraction of a kind of perpetual neutrality), then the 'radiance of life' can only appear in the realm where death and eroticism are together.

'House of the Sleeping Beauties' begins with old Eguchi's visit to a secret house ruled over by a 'small woman in her mid-forties.' Since the reason for her presence is to make that extremely important remark at the conclusion, she is drawn with ominous detail, down to the large bird on her obi and the fact that she is left-handed.

One is struck with admiration at the precision, the extraordinary fineness of detail, with which Mr. Kawabata describes the first of the 'sleeping beauties' the sixty-seven-year-old Eguchi spends the night with— as if she were being caressed by words alone. Of course it hints at a certain inhuman objectivity in the visual quality of male lust.

'Her right hand and wrist were at the edge of the quilt. Her left arm seemed to stretch diagonally under the quilt. Her right thumb was half hidden under her cheek. The fingers on the pillow beside her face were slightly curved in the softness of sleep, though not enough to erase the delicate hollows where they joined the hand. The warm redness was gradually richer from the palm to the fingertips. It was a smooth, glowing right hand.'

'Her knee was slightly forward, leaving his legs in an awkward position. It took no inspection to tell him that she was not on the defensive, that she did not have her right knee resting on her left. The right knee was pulled back, the leg stretched out.'

Thus the girl who has become a 'living doll' is for the old man 'life that can be touched with confidence.'

And what a splendidly erotic technique we have when old Kiga sees the aoki berries in the garden. 'Numbers of them lay on the ground. Kiga picked one up. Toying with it, he told Eguchi of the secret house.' From this passage or near it, the feeling of confinement and suffocation begins to come over the reader. The usual techniques of dialogue and character description are of no use in 'House of the Sleeping Beauties,' for the girls are asleep. It must be very rare for literature to give so vividly a sense of individual life through descriptions of sleeping figures.

YUKIO MISHIMA

***

***

Introduction by Jack Sargeant to the Creation Books publication. BABY DOLL, by Peter Whitehead.

Peter Whitehead is probably best known for the films he directed in the Sixties. These include Charlie is My Darling (1965), the first, and best, depiction of

the Rolling Stones, shot when the band were on the brink of stardom; Wholly Communion (1965), a documentary account of the Beat poetry performances at the Albert Hall; and The Foil (1968), a depiction of the occupation of Columbia University in 1 967. Throughout all of these films Whitehead explored the limits of 'verité' representation, of just being an observer. The films repeatedly ask the question: at what point does the director/filmmaker stop watching and start engaging within the events which transpire around him? For Peter Whitehead, who pioneered the usage of light-weight cinema technologies in order to 'catch' the 'moment', the representation of events became immediately mediated by his role as filmmaker as soon as he held a camera, and decided exactly what to film, and how to construct the subsequent footage in the editing suite. Thus throughout these three films a style develops, from the 'verité' fly-on-the-wall style of the Stones documentary, through the 'interpretative' Wholly Communion, which 'edits' poems to highlights and 'extends' shots via editing effects, and finally to The Foil, with its Godard-inspired 'deconstruction' of the process of film making and the various devices used to construct cinematic verisimilitude. In Whitehead's work the camera documents events, but the director as auteur manipulates the depiction of these events.

In 1 972 Peter Whitehead travelled to Southern France, and spent a month staying in a château with Mb  an heiress cum teenage model. In this secluded château, Whitehead and Mia commenced work on a series of psychedelic-influenced erotic photographs. These photographs  like Whitehead's films  appear as an attempt to capture an 'actual' event (Whitehead suggests that they form a diary of sex and narcotic inspiration), yet they also draw attention to their own artifice and construction. Thus, for example, the young model sits on a cot, her face looking into the camera, yet simultaneously the ghost of the model hangs in the air, and a careful viewer will notice that on the left side of the image the model's face is again visible, marginally distorted, as if a

phantasmagoric trace of the model has been secretly glimpsed from the very corner of the photographer's eye. Similar reflections, and echoes of the woman's image, occur in other photographs from this 'lost four weeks'.

This emphasis on the spectral and phantasmagoric within the photographs serves as a visual signifier of their construction, and also raises questions not just about the 'reality' of the images, but also on the 'nature' of the hallucination itself. The photographs' depiction of this 'mirrored' 'other' Mia must act as a demand that the phantom be viewed as pertaining to the same ontology of the 'real'. The pictures question the nature of representation, suggesting that once something has been photographed it is already a phantom. Only convention makes the viewer perceive the image as pertaining to the 'real', but this multiplication of images throws doubt on any spurious claims to 'authenticity'. The photographs are clear: each image is equally as 'real' or 'false' as the other.

Further, Whitehead repeatedly chooses to frame the model within the jail-cell-like bars of a quasi-Edwardian style cot. This device serves to emphasise the very act of photography, an act in which the image is framed both within the spatial and temporal borders which frame the picture. Yet, by depicting secondary and reflected figures and forms, Whitehead may be seen as attempting to cross these borders of the image, opening out the traditionally ascribed focal point of gaze to a potential zone of fragmentation and recurrence; the viewer must be as aware of the images at the (occasionally literal) darkened borders of the photographs as s/he is of the image at the centre of the picture. This is further reiterated via the volume of photographs that make up the Baby Doll series, and the repetition of images and iconography across these pictures, which, when presented as a 'whole', create a hypnogogic visual atmosphere of sexual, narcotic and most importantly  visual, ocular, decadence. The semidiaristic narrative which informs these pictures similarly engages an interpretation in which the pictures exceed their boundaries, into the larger metanarratives of photographer/model relationships.

The phantasmagoric element of the photographs is also apparent within the dreamlike iconography (the cot, Mia 's gown, sleeping images, etc.). Iconography which is also strangely reminiscent of John Tenniel's illustrations of the child Alice in Lewis Corral's Alice In Wonderland, and Alice Through The Looking Glass. Two books which emphasise the erotic chaos, and distortion and multiplication of the self, during both the dreams of hazy sleep, and the trance of lengthy self-contemplation. Whitehead's young model is, in many ways, an openly psychedelicised Alice, who replaces the thinly veiled sexual and narcotic symbolism of the novel with an occasionally stoned confrontational eroticism.

Through these photographs Peter Whitehead can be seen to be continuing his examinations of the representation and interpretation of events, building on his previous incarnations and questioning not just the representation of a 'real' event, but the actual nature of the 'real' itself.

 

Back Top of Page Map