Shots in the Dark

By Patty Smith
from Details, November 1992

 

Self-Portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1985

 

“When Robert and I were young, scarcely twenty, we’d sometimes go to Coney Island, have a Nathan’s hot dog, sit on the long pier, and dream about the future. Robert wanted to be a rich and famous artist. (He did it.) I wanted to do something great. (I’m still working on it.) We’d cast our wishes like the shoeless kids and old men who cast out their fishing lines. We’d sit there until dawn, then head back into Brooklyn. We were never afraid. New York was tough but kind. We were always all right. Maybe just a little hungry.

It was the summer of 1967. I had left the security of family, cornfields, and billowing New Jersey skies to seek my fortune in New York. I met Robert, a smiling, barefoot kid as misfit as myself. That fall, we got a place on Hall Street in Brooklyn, across from Pratt Institute, where he was a student. The streets were run by painters and poets. Everybody had a vision. Everybody was broke. Nobody had a TV.

Ours was a bleak little apartment that he brightened with Indian cloths, religious objects, and his own work. I tacked pictures of Rimbaud over my writing desk, played my Juliet Gréco records, and read Illuminations. Robert had a Timothy Leary book–one of the few books he actually read. (He often fell asleep in foreign movies. It was the subtitles, he said.) He was always working on a drawing, an installation, or a new piece of sculpture. He’d work twelve hours straight, listening to the same Vanilla Fudge album over and over. His work was asymmetric, psychedelic, and he was always scavenging for materials. I had to hide my best stuff, for many a wolf skin, brocade, or crucifix was sacrificed on the altar of art.

At twenty, we were still learning about ourselves, trying to make sense of what was going down. Assassinations, Vietnam, universal love, where our next meal was coming from. New York was going though its own changes–the Beat residue of the early ’60s was giving way to the divine disorder of 1968. All this was new to me–beaded curtains and LSD were not big sellers in South Jersey.

Robert and I rarely fought. We did bicker, though, like siblings, over everything. Trivial things. Who would do the laundry. Who would get the last sheet of drawing paper. Who was the better dancer. (He refused to acknowledge the superiority of my South Jersey over his own Long Island style.) What to eat. All he ever wanted was spaghetti and chocolate egg creams.

Our main preoccupations were art and magic. Magic was an intuitive thing you either had or you didn’t, and Robert was sure he had it. It was a gift from God, and he pinned his faith upon it. I always admired his confidence. It wasn’t arrogance, it was just there, unshakable. And he was generous with it–if he believed in what you were doing, he somehow infected you with it. His major source of anxiety was money, because executing his ideas required it and he loathed employment.

We were not the hippest people. That was not the thing. The thing was to develop a vision that would be worthy of remembrance, or even a bit of glory.

Sometimes we’d pass the night by sitting on the floor, looking at books. Some my mother gave me: The Fabulous Life of Diego Rivera, Brancusi, The Sacred Art of Tibet. And his own big coffee-table books on erotic art, Tantric art, and Surrealism. I’d plait my hair like Frida Kahlo, he’d stretch out in an old black turtleneck and dungarees, and we’d find refuge in the pages and emerge inspired, full of resolve.

Robert loved the large-format book. He wasn’t much of a reader, but he’d study the plates–the work of Michelangelo, Blake, Duchamp–and extend what he saw in works of his own. He dreamed of having such a book someday, devoted to his own particular vision that was, in the late ’60s, still forming.

This was on my mind recently when I opened the package containing the unbound sheets of his forthcoming book, Mapplethorpe. A large, exquisite book, admittedly not for every coffee table, but coffee-table size, just as he wanted. It forms a visual diary of his life, opening not with his name, nor a text, but with an image of a proud, frayed American flag. The stars block, and are therefore illuminated by, the sun. Toward the end of the book is one of his last self-portraits, in which he is aged considerably from physical suffering, stubborn, stoic, and a bit frayed, like the proud and weathered flag.

Robert took his first pictures in 1970. We had parted as a couple, but we stayed together as friends. We tackled Manhattan: The Chelsea Hotel. Max’s Kansas City. The Factory. The ’70s. Robert loved Manhattan, its perpetual twilight. He felt alive there, free. He loved socializing-even though he was shy–and he loved Andy Warhol, who was also shy and loved to socialize.

Like many exploring their sexual identity at that time, he cased the emerging frontier. Christopher Street. Forty-second Street. The leather, bars. The baths. He shifted identities, not out of crisis, but out of delight. One month, the sailor; the next, the hustler. “How do you like this new image!” he’d ask, pleased with himself in a black net T-shirt, tight pants, and a piece of red silk tied around his throat. In that same black net tee he hung out on Fifty- third Street, where he observed the hustlers, photographed the hustlers, and perhaps hustled himself. He wore the T-shirt executing art. And when he finally took it off, he stretched and mounted it on a frame and exposed it as art itself.

He was using at this time an old Polaroid. A pack of film was costly and might take the place of a meal, so each shot was important. Robert never took snapshots. He always knew beforehand the image he was after. He followed me around with that Polaroid constantly, issuing simple commands. “Can you stand in that shaft of light?” “Slowly face the wall.” Each shot taken with a studied economy, an economy he employed throughout his working life. Even later, as his work developed, he never used a motor drive, never shot roll after roll. His process was not a passionate one. His work was the result of a contemplative, deliberate act. He never drew lines; he crossed them, without apology, to create something present, new. A contact sheet would reveal just twelve images. They were all alike, except for the one he had marked, the perfect one. “The one with the magic,” he’d say.

I admit I hoped his photography was a passing phase. Somehow, being shot with a cheap Polaroid didn’t correspond to my notion of the role of the French artist’s model. But he took it seriously. He liked the speed, the immediacy. He was convinced that the common Polaroid print, in his hands, was a viable work of art.

He drew his subjects from life’s walk, and his work reflected change–both personal and social. Many of his models were biker boys, call boys, men of the street. His form was classic, stylized–“I’m not after beauty,” he would say, “I’m after perfection, and they’re not always the same.”

In the early ’70s he began to use the large-format camera, and he committed himself to photography, championing its elevation and exploration. Portraits, still lifes, early flowers, the S&M suite. At first I found the S&M photographs, which were difficult by most standards, frightening. I once asked him what it was like being there, observing, immortalizing the private rituals of these people. He said it was “somewhat scary. But they know what they’re doing. And so do I. It’s all about trust.” He used these photographs, which caused such a stir years later, to tease me relentlessly. He knew I was squeamish about them, and he’d slip prints into my books. So on a rainy Sunday, I’d open a beautiful copy of Peter Pan or Arabia Deserta and be assaulted by an image of a bloodied member in a vice grip. “Robert!” I’d yell. And I could hear him, through the wall that separated our studios, giggling.

I think the furor his work caused after his death would have amused him. But the attention paid to just the sexual aspect would have surely dismayed him. He was not intentionally political. He was not an activist. He shot what he saw–just as Genet wrote what he experienced–with grace. All his work–from the translucent skin of a lily to the arched torso of a black male–represented him, his vision of the world. Just as Pollock hated being called an Abstract Expressionist and Manet deplored the title Impressionist, Robert never wanted to be pegged. Not even as a photographer. The true artist desires, and deserves, to be remembered only as an Artist.

Shortly before he died, I sat with Robert in his studio. He still worked, despite terrible bouts of coughing, vomiting, and excruciating pain. With the aid of his youngest brother, the photographer Edward Maxey, he was able to produce some final, perfect images. We sat amongst large, exquisite prints. A cluster of deeply ripe grapes. A single rose. And a marble portrait of Hermes. The skin of the white statue burned and seemed to emit its own light against a field of black. It was as if, through Robert’s eye, it had glimpsed life.

“I think I’ve done everything I can with the photograph,” he said. “I think I’ll go back to sculpture.”

He had on that day the anxious, fervent gaze he often wore when he worked. I remember that same look as he photographed me in Burbank, California, in full sun before a drying palm. It was 1987, I was six months pregnant and feeling the strain. Robert was not well. His hand trembled and, as he worked, he dropped and broke his light meter. But we took the picture anyway, barely saying a word. He checked the image and drew the camera closer. “Can you raise your head just a little!” It was much like the first pictures. High concentration. Simple and direct. Within that modest photograph is all our experience, compassion,, and even a mutual sense of irony. He was carrying death. I was carrying life. My hair is braided and the sun is in my eyes. And so is an image of Robert, alive.”

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Poetry Spoken and Sung

Baptism: A Journey Through Our Time was a 1968 album of poetry spoken and sung by Joan Baez.

Artwork by Robert Peak. Design by Jules Halfant

 

TRACK LISTING

Old Welsh Song” (Henry Treece)
2.”I Saw the Vision of Armies” (Walt Whitman)
3.”Minister of War” (Arthur Waley)
4.”Song In the Blood” (Lawrence Ferlinghetti/Jacques Prévert)
5.”Casida of the Lament” (J.L. Gili/Federico García Lorca)
6.”Of the Dark Past” (James Joyce)
7.”London” (William Blake)
8.”In Guernica” (Norman Rosten)
9.”Who Murdered the Minutes” (Henry Treece)
10.”Oh, Little Child” (Henry Treece)
11.”No Man Is an Island” (John Donne)
12.”Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man” (James Joyce)
13.”All the Pretty Little Horses” (traditional)
14.”Childhood III” (Arthur Rimbaud/Louis Varese)
15.”The Magic Wood” (Henry Treece)
16.”Poems from the Japanese” (Kenneth Rexroth)
17.”Colours” (P. Levi, R. Milner-Gulland, Yevgeny Yevtushenko)
18.”All in green went my love riding” (E. E. Cummings)
19.”Gacela of the Dark Death” (Federico García Lorca/Stephen Spender)
20.”The Parable of the Old Man and the Young” (Wilfred Owen)
21.”Evil” (N. Cameron/Arthur Rimbaud)
22.”Epitaph for a Poet” (Countee Cullen)
23.”Mystic Numbers- 36″
24.”When The Shy Star Goes Forth In Heaven” (James Joyce)
25.”The Angel” (William Blake)
26.”Old Welsh Song” (Henry Treece)

 

Joan Baez‘s most unusual album, Baptism is of a piece with the “concept” albums of the late ’60s, but more ambitious than most and different from all of them. Baez by this time was immersed in various causes, concerning the Vietnam War, the human condition, and the general state of the world, and it seemed as though every note of music that she sang was treated as important — sometimes in a negative way by her opponents; additionally, popular music was changing rapidly, and even rock groups that had seldom worried in their music about too much beyond the singer’s next sexual conquest were getting serious. Baptism was Baez getting more serious than she already was, right down to the settings of her music, and redirecting her talent from folk song to art song, complete with orchestral accompaniment. Naturally, her idea of a concept album would differ from that of, say, Frank Sinatra or The Beatles. Baptism was a body of poetry selected, edited, and read and sung by Baez, and set to music by Peter Schickele (better known for his comical musical “discoveries” associated with “P.D.Q. Bach,” but also a serious musician and composer). In 1968, amid the strife spreading across the world, the album had a built-in urgency that made it work as a mixture of art and message — today, it seems like a precious and overly self-absorbed period piece.

A clip of Whitman’s poem spoken by Joan Baez can be listened on The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

Sunflower Sutra

Sunflowers, M.C. Escher, 1918

 
 

I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and sat down under the huge shade of a Southern Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the box house hills and cry.

Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, surrounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of machinery.

The oily water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that stream, no hermit in those mounts, just ourselves rheumy-eyed and hung-over like old bums on the riverbank, tired and wily.

Look at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust—

—I rushed up enchanted—it was my first sunflower, memories of Blake—my visions—Harlem

and Hells of the Eastern rivers, bridges clanking Joes Greasy Sandwiches, dead baby carriages, black treadless tires forgotten and unretreaded, the poem of the riverbank, condoms & pots, steel knives, nothing stainless, only the dank muck and the razor-sharp artifacts passing into the past—

and the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset, crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye—

corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face, soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sunrays obliterated on its hairy head like a dried wire spiderweb,

leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear,

Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O my soul, I loved you then!

The grime was no man’s grime but death and human locomotives,

all that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad skin, that smog of cheek, that eyelid of black mis’ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuberance of artificial worse-than-dirt—industrial—modern—all that civilization spotting your crazy golden crown—

and those blear thoughts of death and dusty loveless eyes and ends and withered roots below, in the home-pile of sand and sawdust, rubber dollar bills, skin of machinery, the guts and innards of the weeping coughing car, the empty lonely tincans with their rusty tongues alack, what more could I name, the smoked ashes of some cock cigar, the cunts of wheelbarrows and the milky breasts of cars, wornout asses out of chairs & sphincters of dynamos—all these

entangled in your mummied roots—and you there standing before me in the sunset, all your glory in your form!

A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden monthly breeze!

How many flies buzzed round you innocent of your grime, while you cursed the heavens of the railroad and your flower soul?

Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? when did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and shade of a once powerful mad American locomotive?

You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower!

And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not!

So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck it at my side like a scepter,

and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack’s soul too, and anyone who’ll listen,

—We’re not our skin of grime, we’re not dread bleak dusty imageless locomotives, we’re golden sunflowers inside, blessed by our own seed & hairy naked accomplishment-bodies growing into mad black formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our own eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sitdown vision.

Allen Ginsberg

Berkeley, 1955

Two Sunflowers Move in the Yellow Room

Two Cut Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh, 1887

 
 

“Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,”

said the sunflowers, shining with dew.

“Our traveling habits have tired us.

Can you give us a room with a view?”

They arranged themselves at the window

and counted the steps of the sun,

and they both took root in the carpet

where the topaz tortoises run.

William Blake

The Face of Contemporary Art

Kate, Sir Peter Blake, 2013

 

Model by Allen Jones, 2013. With a whiff of art nouveau, it pays homage to her love of a vintage frock

 

Body Armour , Allen Jones, 2013

‘Photography has replaced the artist’s eye in the depiction of reality. For most people Kate exists as a photograph. It is harder to draw somebody than to take their photograph. Painting Kate was a challenge in my world, but first I wanted to prove myself in her world — the world of professional photography.’

Allen Jones

 

Porcelain Kate on white background, Nick Knight, 2013.
Moss and Knight have collaborated often – but this is the photographer turning his muse into something 3D, a sculpture. Still, Moss is an angel here so reality is still a long way off

 

Kate Jacquard Tapestry by Chuck Close, 2007.
Close, a famously meticulous artist, turns Kate into a tapestry. All about a stripped back and natural Moss, this is a reprise – in thread – of Close’s 2003 daguerreotype portrait of her

 

A gold statue of supermodel Kate Moss entitled Siren by British artist Marc Quinn, circa 2008

 

Sphinx (Road to Enlightenment), Marc Quinn, 2007

 

Eyescape, Rankin, 2012

 

Naked Portrait, Lucian Freud, 2002

 

Kate, Gary Hume, 1996

 

One of the world’s best-known faces, Kate Moss has long been a favorite of Mario Testino, Bruce Weber, Juergen Teller and a legion of top fashion photographers. But her latest incarnation as a gleaming goddess provides new confirmation that she’s equally as popular with artists.

In fact, the world’s most enduring super-model has probably been portrayed more often than anyone in recent history, and an ever-growing body of art testifies to the true cultural icon she’s become.

The emergence of BritArt, which started to make its presence felt when Kate was already an international star, was certainly a major factor. Moss hung out with Damien Hirst, became pals with Tracey Emin, and at one point was said to be romantically involved with Jake Chapman. Painter Gary Hume famously portrayed Kate in 1996, and it wasn’t long before others followed suit.

In September 2003, W Magazine commissioned leading American art stars to produce their own take on Kate.

Hungry for Music

 
 

The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983), starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon, is the story of a love triangle between a doctor who specializes in sleep and ageing research and a vampire couple. The film is a loose adaptation of the 1981 novel of the same name by Whitley Strieber, with a screenplay by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas.

Howard Blake was musical director on The Hunger. Although a soundtrack has been available since the film’s release this issue omits much of the music used in the film. Blake also composed the orchestral score for Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges, 1980) alongside rock band Queen, and the Oscar winning animated short film of Raymond Briggs‘, The Snowman (1982).

Bowie was excited to work on the film, but was concerned about the final product. He said “I must say, there’s nothing that looks like it on the market. But I’m a bit worried that it’s just perversely bloody at some points.”

The Hunger was not particularly well-received upon its initial release, and was attacked by many critics for being heavy on atmosphere and visuals but slow on pace and plot. Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, described the film as “an agonizingly bad vampire movie”. Camille Paglia writes that The Hunger comes close to being a masterpiece of a “classy genre of vampire film”, but that it is “ruined by horrendous errors, as when the regal Catherine Deneuve is made to crawl around on all fours, slavering over cut throats.”

However, the film has found a cult following that responded to its dark, glamorous atmosphere. The Bauhaus song Bela Lugosi’s Dead plays over the introductory credits and beginning. The film is popular with some segments of the goth subculture and inspired a short-lived TV series of the same name. On 23 September 2009, Warner Bros. announced it planned a remake of the film with the screenplay written by Whitley Strieber.

 
 

To watch the movie trailer and promotional pictures, please check out The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

Humanistic Paeans for the People

When it comes to exposing the truth, both William Blake and John Lennon have done it successfully. The Human Abstract and Imagine are both memorable pieces that have encouraged people to develop new perspectives of society. From the start of each piece, the writer sparks the reader’s imagination of a world without the barbaric standards set by organized religions. Lennon recognized that a mutual fear of other countries’ motives, along with contrasting religious ideals in the world, created unnecessary war. It is almost as if Lennon was amending Blake on his warnings of the deadly wars that would results from society being placed under a heavy cloud of religion. The rhythm and instrumental background of John Lennon’s Imagine successfully reflects the mood of William Blake’s The Human Abstract. A slow, constantly flowing rhythm, such as the piano in Imagine fits perfectly into the background of Blake’s poem. The statement that both of these writers made, although cautiously unaccepted at first, live on forever and will be applicable to generations to come.

 
 

The poem was originally drafted in Blake’s notebook. The illustration shows a gowned old man with a long beard who kneels with his legs outspread. He raises his arms to grip the ropes as if he tries to free himself. There is a tree trunk with a broad base on the right and the edge of another on the left. The colour of the sky suggests sunrise or sunset. A muddy river runs along the lower edge of the design in front of the man. The picture portrays the supreme God of Blake’s mythology and the creator the material world, whom Blake named “Urizen” (probably from your reason), struggling with his own nets of religion, under the Tree of Mystery, which symbolically “represents the resulting growth of religion and the priesthood (the Catterpillar and the Fly), feeding on its leaves”.

 
 

William Blake was a mystic. His poetry, illustrations, and songs were embedded with obscurity to evoke bizarre and unique thoughts within the reader. His poems and paintings were regarded as two flames that introduced new, intellectual concepts to society. However, the population saw and still sees his work as impure, though not many people have had the motivation to move past that barrier and dig deeper for Blake’s true intentions. Blake was often categorized as anti-Christian, but he felt that this was exaggerated.Although his ideas were different than his peers, he felt that no one’s thoughts should be entirely rejected.

In William Blake’s book titled Songs of Experience, released in 1794, his poem named The Human Abstract depicts the false virtues that the Church casts upon society, along with the detrimental effect it presents in the human brain. It describes how religious figures use a cruel combination of pity, mercy, fear,and war to bind everyone in society to only one form of good. The symbols and mythological figures behind the stanzas give trustworthiness to an idea that was vastly rejected in Blake’s time. The poem and the illustration of Urizen, chained to the earth, leave the reader with a realization of the true, barbaric intentions of the Church and a shared desire with Blake to revolt against them.

John Lennon’s popularity with the Beatles allowed him to reach a broad audience with his solo songs. Just like William Blake, he wanted to present a unique message to the reader that could evoke a new manner of thinking and behavior in society. Both Blake and Lennon saw the destruction that was being created by the wars for religious dominance and desired a way to awaken people’s perspectives through their writing. John Lennon had a deep interest in finding out the truth, which eventually developed into an anger toward the system, politicians, and hypocrisy of important figures in the world.

 
 

J

 
 

John Lennon wrote Imagine to address his fellow citizens with a new, refreshing idea of a peaceful state of mind. When the song was written, there was a myriad of war, political battles, and religious controversy brewing in the United States with the decision to enter the Vietnam War. Lennon was one of the many protesters against the War, choosing to spend time only with his wife, Yoko Ono, in their apartment.

Several poems from Yoko Ono’s 1964 book Grapefruit inspired Lennon to write the lyrics for Imagine—in particular, one which Capitol Records reproduced on the back cover of the original Imagine LP titled Cloud Piece, reads: “Imagine the clouds dripping, dig a hole in your garden to put them in.” Lennon later said the composition “should be credited as a Lennon/Ono song. A lot of it—the lyric and the concept—came from Yoko, but in those days I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted her contribution, but it was right out of Grapefruit.” When asked about the song’s meaning during a December 1980 interview with David Sheff for Playboy magazine, Lennon told Sheff that Dick Gregory had given Ono and him a Christian prayer book, which helped inspire in Lennon what he described as:

The concept of positive prayer … If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing—then it can be true … the World Church called me once and asked, “Can we use the lyrics to Imagine and just change it to ‘Imagine one religion’?” That showed [me] they didn’t understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea.

With the combined influence of “Cloud Piece” and the prayer book given to him by Gregory, Lennon wrote what author John Blaney described as “a humanistic paean for the people.”

 

Paen: from the Greek παιάν (also παιήων or παιών), “song of triumph, any solemn song or chant.”

Blake’s Effort to Redeem Errors

William Blake illustrated Paradise Lost more often than any other work by John Milton, and illustrated Milton’s work more often than that of any other writer. The illustrations demonstrate his critical engagement with the text, specifically his efforts to redeem the “errors” he perceived in his predecessor’s work.

There are twelve plates in each of the Paradise Lost sets, one for each of the books in the poem. While some of these, such as Satan, Sin and Death: Satan Comes to the Gates of Hell, depict specific scenes from the epic; others, such as Satan Watching the Endearments of Adam and Eve, are syntheses of several scenes. In the latter case, Blake employed visual barriers to separate the elements from different scenes, such as the arc of the bower in Satan Watching the Endearments of Adam and Eve.

In Blake’s mythology, Albion’s fall from a divine androgyny to a sexual nature divides him into the Four Zoas, their spectres (representative of hypocritical morality), and their emanations (female halves). In the Paradise Lost illustrations, Adam is analogous to the fallen Albion, Satan to Adam’s Spectre and Eve to Adam’s emanation.

 
 

Satan Watching the Endearments of Adam and Eve

 
 

Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels

 
 

Adam and Eve Asleep

 
 

Raphael Warns Adam and Eve

 
 

The Creation of Eve

 
 

The Temptation and Fall of Eve

 
 

The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden

It’s Not Where You Take Things From…

«Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”»

Jim Jarmusch
The Golden Rules of Filming

 
 

 
 

His films have often included foreign actors and characters, and (at times substantial) non-English dialogue. In his two later-nineties films, he dwelt on different cultures’ experiences of violence, and on textual appropriations between cultures: a wandering Native American’s love of William Blake, a black hit-man’s passionate devotion to the Hagakure (Hidden by the Leaves or Hidden Leaves), a practical and spiritual guide for a warrior. The interaction and syntheses between different cultures, the arbitrariness of national identity, and irreverence towards ethnocentric, patriotic or nationalistic sentiment are recurring themes in Jarmusch’s work

Jarmusch’s fascination for music is another characteristic that is readily apparent in his work. Musicians appear frequently in key roles – John Lurie, Tom Waits, Gary Farmer, Youki Kudoh, RZA and Iggy Pop have featured in multiple Jarmusch films, while Joe Strummer and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins appear in Mystery Train and GZA, Jack and Meg White feature in Coffee and Cigarettes. Hawkins’ song I Put a Spell on You was central to the plot of Stranger than Paradise, while Mystery Train is inspired by and named after a song popularized by Elvis Presley, who is also the subject of a vignette in Coffee and Cigarettes. In the words of critic Vincent Canby, “Jarmusch’s movies have the tempo and rhythm of blues and jazz, even in their use – or omission – of language. His films work on the senses much the way that some music does, unheard until it’s too late to get it out of one’s head.”

In the early 1980s, Jarmusch was part of a revolving lineup of musicians in Robin Crutchfield‘s Dark Day project, and later became the keyboardist and one of two vocalists for The Del-Byzanteens, a No Wave band whose sole LP Lies to Live By was a minor underground hit in the United States and Britain in 1982.

Some Are Born to Sweet Delight

“Some are born to sweet delight, some are born to endless night.”
William Blake

 
 

Jean-Michel Basquiat and John Lurie. Photo by Andy Warhol

 
 

In an interview Lurie revealed how he met Basquiat:

“I met him at the Mudd Club. He loved to dance but was a horrible dancer. His face looked so delighted by his own dancing. And it reminded me of something my father had told me about seeing Willie Mays play baseball. Mays was 19 at the time and coming up to the majors through the minor league, and my father said he’d play with this absolute delight on his face. So I started calling Jean-Michel, Willie Mays.”

Wine and Whore of Babylon

Wine of Babylon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1984

 
 

In May 1984, Jean-Michel Basquiat has his first one-artist exhibition at the Mary Boone Gallery. Paintings include Bird as Buddha, Brown Spots, Eye, Untitled (Africa), and Wine of Babylon. The show was met by mixed reviews:

“The early work is of an original primitivism, with a graffiti heritage. The originality has quickly become stylized and somewhat self-conscious in this current show” (Donald Kuspit)

“The young artist uses color well …. But more remarkable is the educated quality of his line and the stateliness of his compositions, both of which bespeak a formal training that, in fact, he never had” (Vivien Raynor).

“And throughout floated a disembodied eye, which seemed to allude both to the self-the ‘I’-and to the witness or seer. But one sensed little of what Basquiat is witness to, or of why it bears accounting” (Kate Linker).

 
 

Whore of Babylon, William Blake, 1809

 
 

Babalon (also known as the Scarlet Woman, Great Mother or Mother of Abominations) is a goddess found in the mystical system of Thelema, which was established in 1904 with English author and occultist Aleister Crowley‘s writing of The Book of the Law (although the name Babalon does not occur in that text). In her most abstract form, she represents the female sexual impulse and the liberated woman; although in the Creed of the Gnostic Mass she is also identified with Mother Earth, in her most fertile sense. At the same time, Crowley believed that Babalon had an earthly aspect in the form of a spiritual office, which could be filled by actual women—usually as a counterpart to his own identification as “To Mega Therion” (The Great Beast)—whose duty was then to help manifest the energies of the current Aeon of Horus.

Her consort is Chaos, the “Father of Life” and the male form of the Creative Principle. Babalon is often described as being girt with a sword and riding the Beast. She is often referred to as a sacred whore, and her primary symbol is the Chalice or Graal.

As Crowley wrote in his The Book of Thoth, “she rides astride the Beast; in her left hand she holds the reins, representing the passion which unites them. In her right she holds aloft the cup, the Holy Grail aflame with love and death. In this cup are mingled the elements of the sacrament of the Aeon”.

Perhaps the earliest origin is the ancient city of Babylon, a major metropolis in Mesopotamia (modern Al Hillah in Iraq). Babylon is the Greek variant of Akkadian Babilu (bāb-ilû), meaning “Gateway of the god”. It was the “holy city” of Babylonia from around 2300 BC, and the seat of the Neo-Babylonian empire from 612 BC.

One of the goddesses associated with Babylonia was Ishtar, the most popular female deity of the Assyro-Babylonian pantheon and patron of the famous Ishtar Gate. She is the Akkadian counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna and the cognate to the northwest Semitic goddess Astarte. The Greeks associated her with Aphrodite (Latin Venus), and sometimes Hera. Ishtar was worshipped as a Great Goddess of fertility and sexuality, but also of war and death, and the guardian of prostitutes. She was also called the Great Whore and sacred prostitution formed part of her cult or those of cognate goddesses.

Keeping the Beautiful Butterfly

Design for a fashion contest under the Theme The Woman of the Future , Salvador Dalí, 1953

 
 

Eternity

He who binds to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.

William Blake

 
 

Blake’s short poem Eternity may have resulted from an encounter with a butterfly, but whether or not such an encounter took place, Blake, in his customary way, sought in this poem some insight into the nature of life. And also in his customary way, he seems to be considering life as it extends far beyond the years allotted each of us on earth.

Blake implies what we already know as we grow older, that joy and beauty cannot be possessed and thus are never commodified except in the minds of shallow people or people who are certain that they are entitled to privileges denied to others. Keeping the beautiful butterfly can be done only by destroying its life, which is a path many people follow, unaware of the fact that by doing so they undo its beauty.

Eternity implies something quite opposite to the material world in which we must live our lives. That we have glimpses of beauty in nature makes us all the more aware that Eternity, like beauty, is immaterial, and thus eternal. Blake asks us to live in “Eternity’s sunrise” with a sense of reassurance that somehow we will “see” that sunrise, that metaphoric beginning of something, like joy and beauty, that has no beginning and no end.

Innocence Juxtaposed with Evil and Corruption

Homage to Damien Hirst – The Butterfly Man, Venice, by Sir Peter Blake

 
 

Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.

A dove-house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro’ all its regions.
A dog starv’d at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.

A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.

A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm’d for fight
Does the rising sun affright.

Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul.

The wild deer, wand’ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus’d breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher’s knife.

The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won’t believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever’s fright.

He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov’d by men.
He who the ox to wrath has mov’d
Shall never be by woman lov’d.

The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider’s enmity.
He who torments the chafer’s sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.

The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother’s grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgement draweth nigh.

He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar’s dog and widow’s cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.

The gnat that sings his summer’s song
Poison gets from slander’s tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy’s foot.

The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist’s jealousy.

The prince’s robes and beggar’s rags
Are toadstools on the miser’s bags.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Throughout all these human lands;
Tools were made and born were hands,
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;

This is caught by females bright,
And return’d to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven’s shore.

The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar’s rags, fluttering in air,
Does to rags the heavens tear.

The soldier, arm’d with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer’s sun.
The poor man’s farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric’s shore.

One mite wrung from the lab’rer’s hands
Shall buy and sell the miser’s lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.

He who mocks the infant’s faith
Shall be mock’d in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne’er get out.

He who respects the infant’s faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child’s toys and the old man’s reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.

The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.

The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar’s laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour’s iron brace.

When gold and gems adorn the plow,
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket’s cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.

The emmet’s inch and eagle’s mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne’er believe, do what you please.

If the sun and moon should doubt,
They’d immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.

The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation’s fate.
The harlot’s cry from street to street
Shall weave old England’s winding-sheet.

The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,
Dance before dead England’s hearse.

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro’ the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.

God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

William Blake

 
 

An augury is a sign or omen. Auguries of Innocence is a poem from one of William Blake’s notebooks now known as The Pickering Manuscript. It is assumed to have been written in 1803, but was not published until 1863 in the companion volume to Alexander Gilchrist‘s biography of William Blake. The poem contains a series of paradoxes which speak of innocence juxtaposed with evil and corruption. The poem is 132 lines and has been published with and without breaks that divide the poem into stanzas.

The Terror of Lust

“Don’t let yourself die without knowing the wonder of fucking with love.”
Gabriel García Márquez
Memories of My Melancholy Whores

 
 

Wasserschlangen I or Freundinnen I (Water Serpents I), 1904 Gustav Klimt’s painting on the book cover of the English version of 眠れる美女

 
 

House of the Sleeping Beauties is a 1961 novella by the Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata. A story about a lonely man, Old Eguchi, who continuously visits the House of the Sleeping Beauties in hope of something more. As the great Japanese writer Yukio Mishima expresses it perfectly in his introduction, this book is a pregnant reflection on ‘the terror of lust by the approach of death.’

Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s last written work, has some similarities to Kawabata’s short novel, which Marquez even quotes in the epigraph:

 

“He was not to do anything in bad taste, the woman of the house warned old Eguchi. He was not to put his finger into the mouth of the sleeping girl, or try anything else of that sort.”

 

Kawabata’s book is about an old man who watches sleeping young women and feels himself overwhelmed by desire for them. Marquez’s book is about an even older man who first desires a sleeping young woman, and then feels himself overwhelmed by platonic love. Thus, Marquez inverts Kawabata’s painful yearning into a sentimental fantasy.

And of course he replaces Kawabata’s old man with the typical Marquez protagonist. Marquez protagonists are men who invariably possess amazing virility, miraculous longevity, and larger-than-life charisma. They are never good-looking, but they can always get any woman they want. In this book, the protagonist explains that he had been with 514 different women by the age of fifty. It is also typical for Marquez to give the exact number. It’s not enough for his character to have had great success with the ladies, he has to have had exactly 514 of them. Marquez did this exact thing in Love In The Time Of Cholera, where Florentino Ariza filled some similarly huge number of notebooks with descriptions of his romantic conquests.

In 1982 Gabriel García Márquez wrote a story, Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane, in which Kawabata is specifically alluded to. Seated in the first-class cabin of an airplane crossing the Atlantic beside a young woman of extraordinary beauty who sleeps throughout the flight, García Márquez’s narrator is reminded of Kawabata’s novel. As a work of fiction the “Sleeping Beauty” story is undeveloped, no more than a sketch. Perhaps for this reason, García Márquez feels free to reuse its basic situation —the no longer young admirer side by side with the sleeping girl— in Memories of My Melancholy Whores.

House of the Sleeping Beauties is a study of the activities of eros in the mind of a sensualist of an intensive and self-aware kind, acutely—perhaps morbidly—sensitive to odors and fragrances and nuances of touch, absorbed by the physical uniqueness of the women he is intimate with, prone to brood on images from his sexual past, not afraid to confront the possibility that his attraction toward young women may screen desire for his own daughters, or that his obsession with women’s breasts may originate in infantile memories.

 
 

FILM ADAPTATIONS

 
 

Das Haus der schlafenden Schönen (Vadim Glowna, 2006)

 
 

Sleeping Beauty (Julia Leigh, 2011). The film is based in part on the novel House of the Sleeping Beauties. In writing the script, Leigh drew from several literary inspirations— Yasunari Kawabata’s novella; Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; a story in The Bible in which King David as an old man spends the evening alongside sleeping virgins; and the eponymous fairytales by Charles Perrault and The Brothers Grimm. She also noted the phenomenon of images of sleeping girls on the internet, presumably in somnophilia pornography. Mia Wasikowska was originally cast as Lucy but she dropped out when offered the title role in the adaption of Jane Eyre.