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The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud by Jacques…
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The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud

by Jacques Derrida

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Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) was a stage and film actor, director, writer, drug addict, and visual artist. This volume presents two texts translated into English which describe Artaud's drawings and portraits. In one, Jacques Derrida examines the works that he first saw on the walls of Paule Thevenin's apartment. His text struggles with Artaud's language and is punctuated by footnotes and asides that reflect this strain (How will they translate this?). The more straightforward text of Paule Thevenin describes the history of Artaud's drawings and portraits.… (more)

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In other conditions, with time enough and taking the necessary precautions I would be tempted to insist on the possible encounters which did not take place between Heidegger and Artaud.

Well, that sort of clinches it -- what could have been. This bastard text is a wonderful failure. The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud offers an example of art criticism without presenting the examined art. Apparently the Artaud estate refused permission to reproduce the drawings and sketches. What follows is a string quartet without instruments. Half of this enterprise is by Paule Thevenin who describes the history of Artaud's commitment to art, as opposed to his groundbreaking work in Theatre. This is accomplished in a linear and arid fashion. The concluding half of the text is Derrida's treatment of Artaud's use of the word subjectile, which appears three times in his correspondence. Subjectile according to myriad sources is both subject and object, both ground and support in aesthetics endeavor, it may also be the stuff dreams are made of or even what glows in strange briefcases. Derrida's pursuit is maddening. I remain unsure whether this is deliberate. Is this a highlighting of Artaud's mental state? Is Artaud's "recorded" expression really transgressive and revelatory? Few answers had arrived when I wearily put down this book.

I read most pages 3-4 times, I thought that Derrida's emphasis upon trajectory and "thrown-ness" would seek a privileged, if Heideggerian, definition. I had no such luck. I will express my gratitude for Ralph Vaughan Williams' 7th Symphony "Sinfonia antartica", which I listened to several times as I struggled with this cryptic text. My experiences with Derrida have proved uneven. When I have enjoyed him the most it usually concerns his treatment of familiar authors i.e. Shakespeare, Marx and Nietzsche. That obviously wasn't the situation here. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
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