Here is a man, whose defiant brilliance emanates from the utmost of human anguish. He was a true visionary of his age, but he also transcended all space, time, all caverns of thought and disrepute. Like a feral jackal he stalked the unknown, unexplored realms and states of mind in search of his true self, and in doing so, managed to share his own anatomy, his higher thoughts and soul with us, his readers, in ways that border on the occult in their brilliance. But behind all these mournful blasphemies against man there is real love. And he is genuine, for every sentence was written as it had been lived. – Tengal
Before committing suicide, I ask that I be given some real assurance of being; I should like to be sure about death. To me, life seems merely a consent to the apparent legibility of things and their coherence in the mind. I no longer feel like some irreducible crossroad of things death heals, heals by severing us from nature; yet what if I am no longer anything but a mere detour ridden by pains but not by things?
If I commit suicide, it will not be to destroy myself but to put myself back together again. Suicide will be for me only one means of violently reconquering myself, of brutally invading my being, of anticipating the unpredictable approaches of God. By suicide, I reintroduce my design in nature, I shall for the first time give things the shape of my will. I free myself between the beautiful and the hideous, the good and evil. I put myself in suspension, without innate propensities, neutral, in the state of equilibrium between good and evil solicitations.
For life itself is no solution, life has no kind of existence which is chosen, consented to, and self-determined. It is a mere series of hungers and adverse forces, of petty contradictions which succeed or miscarry according to the circumstances of an odious gamble. Like genius, like madness, evil is unequally apportioned in each man. And as with evil, likewise with good: both are the product of circumstances and of a more or less active leavening.
Certainly, it is abject to be created and to live and feel yourself in the darkest corners of your mind, down to the most unthought of ramifications of your irreducibly predetermined being. After all, we are only trees and it is probably written in some crook or other of my family tree that I shall kill myself on a given day.
The very idea of the freedom of suicide falls down like a lopped tree. I create neither the time nor the place nor the circumstances of my suicide. I do not even invent the thought of it; will I at least feel it when it uproots me?
It may well be that at the very instant my being will dissolve; but what if it remains whole? How will my ruined organs react? With what impossible organs will I register the laceration of this suicide?
I feel death upon me like a torrent, like an instantaneous bound of lightning whose capacity surpasses my imagination. I feel a death loaded with pleasures, with swirling labyrinths. Where is the idea of my being therein?
But look at God all of a sudden like a fist, like a scythe of slicing light. I willingly severed myself from life, I wished to turn my destiny inside-out.
This God has disposed of me to the point of absurdity. He has kept me alive in a void of negations and furious renunciations of myself; he destroyed in me everything , down to the finest dust of conscious, sentient life.
He reduced me to being like a walking robot, but this robot felt the rupture of his unconscious self.
And how I have wished to produce proof of my life. I wish to get back in touch with the resonant reality of things, I wish to smash my pre-destination.
And what does this God say to that?
I had no feeling of life, every moral idea was like a dry arroyo in my veins. For me, life was no object or shape; it had become a series of rationalizations. But these rationalizations, like a motor running, didn't even get off the ground, but were inside me like possible 'diagrams' which my will vainly tried to rivet on.
But even to get to this state of suicide, I must await the return of my conscious self; I must have a free hand in all the articulations of my being. God has placed me in despair as in a constellation of dead-ends, whose radiance culminates in me.
I can neither live nor die, nor am I capable of not wishing to die or live.
And all mankind resembles me.
Post script to Antonin Artaud's Van Gogh: The Man Suicided by Society (see Artaud Anthology edited by Jack Hirschman. City Light Books San Francisco.1965. Page 139.)(translated by Mary Beach and Lawrence Ferlinghetti):
"Van Gogh did not die of a condition of delirium proper but of having bodily become the field of a problem that the iniquitous spirit of mankind has debated since the beginning of time,the predominance of flesh over spirit, or body over flesh or the mind over one or the other.
And where in this delirious thinking is there room for the human ego?
Van Gogh searched for his during his entire lifetime, and with a strange energy and determination.
And he did not commit suicide in a fit of insanity, in terror of not succeeding; on the contrary, he had just succeeded and had just discovered what he was and who he was, when the collective consciousness of society punished him for tearing himself away from it, and suicided him.
And it happened to Van Gogh as it usually happens, during an orgy, a mass, an absolution or any other rite of consecration, possession, succubation or incubation.
and possessed of the devil,
effaced the supernatural consciousness he had just acquired,
and like a flood of black crows in the fibers of his internal tree,
submerged him in a last swell
and, taking his place,
For it is the anatomical logic of modern man to never have been able to live nor think of living except as one possessed."
People who leave the obscure and try to define whatever it is that goes on in their heads, are pigs.
The whole literary scene is a pigpen, especially this one.
All those who have vantage points in their spirit, I mean, on some side or other of their heads and in a few strictly localized brain areas; all those who are masters of their language; all those for whom words have a meaning; all those who are the spirit of the times, and have named these currents of thoughts -- and I am thinking of their precise works, of that automatic grinding that delivers their spirit to the winds --
Those for whom certain words have a meaning, and certain manners of being; those who are so fussy; those for whom emotions are classifiable, and who quibble over some degree or other of their hilarious classifications; those who still believe in 'terms'; those who brandish whatever ideologies belong to the hierarchy of the times; those about whom women talk so well, and also those women who talk so well, who talk of the contemporary currents of thought; those who still believe in some orientation of the spirit; those who follow paths, who drop names, who fill books with screaming headlines,
are the worst kind of pigs.
And you are quite aimless, young man!
No, I am thinking of bearded critics.
And I told you so: no works of art, no language, no word,
no thought, nothing.
Nothing; unless maybe a fine Brain-Storm.
A sort of incomprehensible and totally erect stance in the midst of
everything in the mind.
And don't expect me to tell you what all this is called, and how
many parts it can be divided into; don't expect me to tell you in
weight; or to get back in step and start discussing all this so that by
discussing I may get lost myself and even, without even realizing it,
start THINKING. And don't expect this thing to be illuminated and
live and deck itself out in a multitude of words, all neatly polished as
to meaning, very diverse, and capable of throwing light on all the attitudes
and all the nuances of a very sensitive and penetrating mind.
Ah, these states which have no name, these sublime situations of the
soul, ah these intervals of wit, these minuscule failures which are the
daily bread of my hours, these people swarming with data... they
are always the same old words I'm using, and really I don't seem to
make much headway in my thoughts, but I am really making more
headway than you, you beard-asses, you pertinent pigs, you masters
of fake verbiage, confectioners of portraits, pamphleteers, ground-floor
lace-curtain herb collectors, entomologists, plague of my tongue.
I told you so, I no longer have the gift of tongue. But this is no
reason you should persist and stubbornly insist on opening your mouths.
Look, I will be understood ten years from now by the people who
then will do what you are doing now. Then my geysers will be recognized,
my glaciers will be seen, the secret of diluting my poisons will
have been learnt, the plays of my soul will be deciphered.
Then all my hair, all my mental veins will have been drained in,
quicklime; then my bestiary will have been noticed, and my mystique
become a hat. Then the joints of stones will be seen smoking, arborescent
bouquets of mind's eyes will crystallize in glossaries, stone aeroliths will fall,
lines will be seen and the geometry of the void understood:
people will lean what the configuration of the mind is, and
they will understand how I lost my mind.
They will then understand why my mind is not all here; then they
will see all languages go dry, all minds parched, all tongues shrivelled up,
the human face flattened out, deflated as if sucked up by shriveling leeches.
And this lubricating membrane will go on floating in the
air, this caustic lubricating membrane, this double membrane
of multiple degrees and a million little fissures, this melancholic and vitreous membrane,
but so sensitive and also pertinent, so capable of multiplying,
splitting apart, turning inside out with its glistening little cracks,
in its dimensions, its narcotic highs, its penetrating and toxic injections,
all this then will be found to be all right,
and I will have no longer further need to speak.
INQUESTYOU LIVE, YOU DIE. WHAT HAS FREE WILL GOT TO DO WITH IT ALL? IT SEEMS YOU KILL YOURSELF THE WAY YOU HAVE A DREAM. THIS IS NO MORAL QUESTION WE ARE ASKING:
IS SUICIDE A SOLUTION?No, suicide is still a hypothesis. I claim the right to be skeptical about suicide, just as I am skeptical about all the rest of reality. For the moment, and pending further orders, one must be frightfully skeptical, not about existence itself, which anybody at all can grasp, but rather about the inward agitation and profound feelings in things, in acts, in reality. I beleive in nothing I am not joined to by the tangible and meteoric umbilical cord of my own thoughts. Even so, too many meteors are out of action. And I am vexed by other man's sentient blueprints of existance, and I resolutely abominate all reality. Suicide is no more than the fabulous and distant conquest of clear-thinking men, but suicide itself as a state of being is absolutely incomprehensible to me. An invalid doing himself in would be utterly without representational value, but the state of a soul of a man who planned his suicide well, down to the material circumstances, the exact minute of undoing, would be marvelous. I have no idea what things really are, no idea of human state; nothing of this world turns for me, nothing turns in me. Being alive, I suffer horribly. I fail to reach any existing state. And most certainly I died long ago; my suicide has already taken place. That is, I have already been suicided. But what you think of is an anterior state of suicide, a suicide that would make us retrace our steps on the yonder side of existence rather than the side of death. For that would be the only suicide that might make sense to me. I feel no hunger for death; I simply hunger not to be, never to have dropped into this sink of imbecilities, abdications, renunciations, and obtuse contacts which make up the conscious self of Antonin Artaud and are even weaker than he is. The conscious self of this wandering invalid, who from time to time keeps trying to exhibit his shadow, which he himself spat on a long time ago; this self on crutches, limping along; this virtual, impossible self which nevertheless is part of reality. None like him ever felt his weakness, yet his weakness is the most important weakness of all mankind. To be destroyed, not to exist.
DESCRIPTION OF A PHYSICAL STATECorrosive sensation in the limbs, muscles as if twisted, then laid open; brittle feeling of being made of glass; wincing and cringing at any move or sound. Unconscious incoherence of steps, of getstures, of movements. Willpower constantly inhibited in even the simplest gestures, renunciation of simple gestures, overwhelming and CENTRAL fatigue, sort of a dark horse fatigue running for something or other. Body motions run haywire in sort of death exhaustion, mind fatigued at simplest muscular tension like gesture of grasping -- unconsciously clinging to something, holding it together by constant will power. A fatigue of cosmic Creation, sensation of the body being dragged on and on, feeling unbeleivable fragility become splitting pain, state of numbness, sort of localized numbness on skin surface which does not hinder a single motion but alters nevertheless that internal feeling in your limbs so that the mere act of standing vertical is achieved only at the price of a victorious struggle. Localized (in all probability) on the skin surface but felt like the radical suppression of a limb, transmitting to the brain no more than images of bloody old cottons pulled out in the shape of arms and legs, images of distant and dislocated members. Sort of inward breakdown of entire nervous system. Giddiness in motion, some kind of oblique dizziness accompanying each attempted effort, heat coagulation enclosing the whole skull area or detatching itself bit by bit, moving slabs of heat. Painful exascerbation of the skull, bladelike pressure on the nerves, back of neck determined to suffer, temples turning into glass or marble, head stamped on by horse's hooves. So now it is high time to speak of the disembodiment of reality, this sort of breakdown which, one would think, is applied to a self-multiplication proliferating among things and the perceptions of them in our mind, which is where they do belong. This instantaneous classification of things in the brain cells and not so much in their particularly logical order but in their own sentimental affective order, (which is no longer done): These things no more smell, no more sex. But their logical order is sometimes broken precisely because they do lack this emotional smell. Words decay at the unconscious command of the brain, all words for whatever and no matter what mental operation, especially those which have to do with the most habitual and active states of mind.
ELECTROSHOCK [fragments]And so, on the surface of daily life, consciousness forms beings and bodies that one can see gathering and colliding in the atmosphere, to distinguish their personalities. And these bodies form hideous cabals where every eventuality comes into the world to argue against what is beyond appeal. I am not Andre Breton and I did not go to Baltimore but this is what I saw on the banks of the Hudson. I died at Rodez under electroshock. I died. Legally and medically died. Electroshock coma lasts fifteen minutes. A half an hour or more and then the patient breathes. Now one hour after the shock I still had not awakened and had stopped breathing. Surprised at my abnormal rigidity, an attendant had gone to get the physician in charge, who after examining me with a stethoscope found no more signs of life in me. I have personal memories of my death at that moment, but it is not on those that I base my testimony as to the fact. I limit myself strictly to the details furnished me by Dr. Jean Dequeker, a young intern at the Rodez asylum, who had them from the lips of Dr. Ferdiere himself. And the latter asserts that he thought me dead that day, and that he had already sent for two asylum attendants to instruct them on the removal of my corpse to the morgue, since an hour and a half after shock I had still not come to myself. And it seems that just at the moment that these attendants arrived to take my body out, it gave a slight shudder, after which I was suddenly wide awake. Personally I have a different recollection of the affair. But I kept this recollection to myself, and secret, until the day when Dr. Jean Dequeker on the outside confirmed it to me. And this recollection is that everything which Dr. Jean Dequeker told me, I had seen, but not from this side of the world but from the other, and quite simply from the cell where the shock took place and under its ceiling; although for moments there was neither cell nor ceiling for me, but rather a rod above my body, floating in the air like a sort of fluidified balloon suspended between my body and the ceiling. And I shall indeed never forget in any possible life the horrible passage of this sphincter of revulsion and asphyxia, through which the criminal mob of beings forces the patient in extremis before letting go of him. At the bedside of a dying man there are more than 10,000 beings, and I took note of this at that moment. There is a conscious unanimity among all these beings, who are unwilling to let the dead man come back to life before he has paid them by giving up his corpse totally and absolutely; for existence will not give even his inert body back to him, in fact especially his body. And what do you expect a dead man to do with the body in the grave? At such a time, "I am you and your consciousness is me," is what all the beings say: salesmen, druggists, grocers, subway conductors, sextons, knifegrinders, railroad gatekeepers, shopkeepers, bankers, priests, factory managers, educators, scientists, doctors, not one of them missing at the crucial moment. Pity that no other dead person outside myself should have returned to confirm the matter, for generally the dead do not return. The electroshock accomplished, this one didn't run its course, as had the first two. I felt that it wasn't going away. And my whole inward body, the whole lie of this inward electric body which for a certain number of centuries has been the burden of every human being, turned inside out, became in me like an immense turning outward in flames, monads of nothingness bristling to the limits of an existance held prisoner in my lead body, which could neither get out of its lead body nor stand up like a lead soldier. I could no longer be my body, I didn't want to be this breath turning to death all around it, until its extreme dissolution. Thus wrung out and twisted, fiber on fiber, I felt myself to be the hideous corridor of an impossible revulsion. And I know not what suspension of the void invaded me with its groping blind spots, but I was that void, and in suspension, as for my soul, I was nothing more than a spasm among several chokings. Where to go and how to get out was the only one thought leaping in my throat blocked and secured on all sides. Every wall of charred meat assured me it would be neither through the soul nor the mind, all that is of a former world, this is what each heartbeat told me. It is the body that will remain without the mind, the mind, i.e., the patient. N.B. Cool dry pluton in its encounter with hot black pluton: that's me. * He affirms that his sin was in wishing a place in the mother of the fathermother and bullshitting the holy ghost to render it favorable to his plans This sin consisted of a temptation visited upon me to pass the breath of my heart through a tube to both sides of the surface to consent to the worm and to leer of my own free will like a knifeblade at my own soft flop at the flop world at the total exhaustion of the body in front of a galastralgical gluttonous curiosity bloated on the pus of the notorious father, white pus of blood curdled in laughter; and to have taken after this child's sweet laughter who sacrifices himself for life, his whole rosy body seized by love in his alterboy's vestements; and gives the zob or nob of strength to the thick being spreads over the rice baby who is laughing at the surprised blood of his whole life as an eggwhite emptied then volatized in the gas of the holy ghost * The night of the 10 earthquaked cities, of the Irish who were dismissed and who returned, of the 300 houses collapsed, of the 100,000 corpses left unburied, of the Tibetans of abominations paid by the saw of the virgin mother, of the mouths gagged and charred, of the grey-suited beards, of the newsreel images: vessels opened on the high seas, losing their crew like tons of cargo flaming out of their jagged portholes, then of the anti-flesh inventions, of sexuality observed over the truncated shoulder of the dolmen which I myself am when I amass my slaughtered totems, which I've just resuscitated * It is I who commited suicide one day and tore my body from myself and battle against what is left of it and wish forever to come back to myself who have founded a false world in the mean time: this one * When consciousness overflows a body, there is also a body detatching itself from consciousness, no, there is a body overflowing the body this consciousness came from, and the whole of this new body is consciousness: Think hard and long about someone you... 1) the vampire with its arms folded in my left ball 2) the woman with the supported nape 3) the grey devil 4) the black father a laying-on of black crablice 5) and finally last night at the New Athens the great revealation concerning the whole system of forming god in the slimey eggwhite of my left ball after the revealation of the antichrist abyss. The life we lead is a front for all which the frightful criminal filthymindedness of some of us has left us. A grotesque masquerade of acts and sentiments. Our ideas are only the leftovers of a breath, breath of our choked and trussed lungs. Which is to say for example that if the arterial tension of man is 12, it could be 12 times 12 if it were not constrained and squashed down some place so as not to surpass this sordid level. And damned if some physician doesn't come telling me that this is called hypertension and it is not good to be in a state of hypertension. As for me, I answer that we are all in a state of hypertension, we can't lose an atom without the risk of immediately becoming a skeleton again; while life is an incredible proliferation, the atom, once hatched, proceeds to lay another, which in fact immediately explodes another. The human body is a battlefield where we would do well to return. Now there is nothingness, now death, now putrefaction, now ressurection: to wait for I don't know what apacolypse beyond that, what explosion of what beyond in order to get straightened out with things, is a dirty joke. Have to grab life by the balls right now. Who is the man who decided to live with the notion he was not being fitted for the coffin? Who, on the other hand, is the man who thinks he still may profit by his own death? Try as they may to make us beleive it, we gain no profit from the notion that we will be dead men, going back to the dead, taking our places in the legion of the dead, letting our limbs seperate from our selves, and falling down in a heap of the serical charnal houses (liquids). One doesn't die because one has to die, one dies because it is a wrinkle forced on the consciousness one day not so long ago. For one doesn't die in order to come back and remake one's life, but only in order to give up life and get rid of whatever life one had. And whoever dies, dies because he wanted the coffin. He accepted one day this spasm of being put through the coffin -- a forced acceptance perhaps, but effective nonetheless, and no man dies without consenting to it. Consciousness lives before birth. It lives somewhere, if only for an hour. All living consciounesses have existed, I don't know in what sphere or what abyss. And these abysms consciousness rediscovers here. What good in fact would the unconscious be if it were not to contain, in the very depths of itself, this pre-world, which is not one anyway, but merely the old burden, rejecte (by others than ourselves), of everything which the consciosness could not or would not allow, cannot or will not admit, not under our own control but under the control within us of this other who is not who is not the double or counterpart of the self, who is not the the immanent derma of all that the conscious self envelops, and who is not the being that it is not and will become or will not become, but really and palpably an other, a sort of false spy-glove that keeps it under surveillance from morning to night in the hope that consciousness will put it on. And this other is no more than what all the others are who have always wanted a finger in every person's consciousness. Psychoanalysis has written a book on the failure of the old Baudelaire, whose life did not precede him by 100 years but rather by this sort of secular infinity of time which came back to him when he lost his speech and learned and tried to say it, but who beleived him, and who beleives the affirmations of great poets who have become sick trying to dominate life? For Baudelaire did not die of syphillis, as has been said, he died from the absolute lack of belief attatched to the incredible discoveries he had made in his syphillis and repeated in his aphasia. When he learned it, then he tried saying it, that he had lost one of his selves in Thebes, 4,000 years before Jesus Christ. And that this self was that of an old king. When he discovered and tried saying that he was not and never had been Mumbledepeg, but on the contrary that poet in a paradise alley where they were mending poetry, in Brittany, long before the Druids ever settled there. And the skeleton of th human cock, against all onomatopoeia and reason, in order to rediscover life, found a sound without echo or cry, without shadow or double in life, without the old yoke of the organ that accounts for the five senses, one day, much later, when the time came for the consciousness of the masses, and the sound of his poetry was the inert weight of planks, the horrible squishing of those six planks they could never fit his corpse into. For to cure Charles Baudelaire, it would have been necessary to surround him with only a few organisms enough never to be afraid of facing a delirium in order to rediscover truth. Therefore psychoanalysis was unable not to fear reality, however monstrous it might seem, and not to reject -- in the dream-symbols representing it -- the whole sadistic machinery of crime, the weaver of a vital stuff which Charles Baudelaire wished to mend, and for the sake of which I ask that, for who knows how much time to come, the few men who are its victims continue, as they are condemned prisoners born to be fated scapegoats.
The body without OrgansThe body is the body, alone it stands and in need of no organs, organism it never is, organisms are enemies of the body, things done happen all by themselves with the support of no organ, organs are parasites always, covering parasitic tunctions designed to make a being live who shouldn’t be. Organs are rnade to feed beings, while these at the outset condemned have not to existence a claim. Reality is yet unconstructed for the legitimate organs of the human body are still to be composed and set. Created was the theater nt cruelty, to accomplish this arrangement and undertake, with a new dance of man’s body, the disruption of this world of microbes which is but clotted nothingness. The theater of cruelty wants a dance of eyelids coupled up with elbows and kneecaps and femurs and toes, and wills it seen.Translated by Roger McKeon Translation of [Le théatre de la cruauté], Oeuvres compléxea, XIII, Gallimard, p. 287. Written on Nov 18, 1947Who am I? Where do I come from? I am Antonin Artaud and I say this as I know how to say this immediately you will see my present body burst into fragments and remake itself under ten thousand notorious aspects a new body where you will never forget me.