Salvador Dali swore he remembered life inside the womb. He called his recollections “intra-uterine” memories. Two images he claims to have seen inside the room later reminded him of eggs.
Eggs helped to define his style: imagine a timepiece as soft and flimsy as a fried egg. Imagine how’d it look if you laid this timepiece on a branch or on the edge of a table. Such perversions of reality led to his most famous painting, “The Persistence of Memory,” indebted to eggs—and Dali’s insistence that he could remember life inside the womb.
He made brilliant, always unexpected associations. Even if we bracket his wild claims—such as remembering the womb or biting off the head of a dead bat to shock a maid—we can discern a method to his singular vision. Dali himself explicitly tells us how to do it. (more…)
So strong is the belief in life, in what is most fragile in life – real life, I mean – that in the end this belief is lost. Man, that inveterate dreamer, daily more discontent with his destiny, has trouble assessing the objects he has been led to use, objects that his nonchalance has brought his way, or that he has earned through his own efforts, almost always through his own efforts, for he has agreed to work, at least he has not refused to try his luck (or what he calls his luck!). At this point he feels extremely modest: he knows what women he has had, what silly affairs he has been involved in; he is unimpressed by his wealth or his poverty, in this respect he is still a newborn babe and, as for the approval of his conscience, I confess that he does very nicely without it. If he still retains a certain lucidity, all he can do is turn back toward his childhood which, however his guides and mentors may have botched it, still strikes him as somehow charming. There, the absence of any known restrictions allows him the perspective of several lives lived at once; this illusion becomes firmly rooted within him; now he is only interested in the fleeting, the extreme facility of everything. Children set off each day without a worry in the world. Everything is near at hand, the worst material conditions are fine. The woods are white or black, one will never sleep. (more…)
Some say Swiss-born performance artist Milo Moiré is a provocateur without a point, a nudist more suitable for Instagram than the art world. Her critics have denounced her work as vacuous, devoid of meaning. As with much performance art, people ask if her work even qualifies as art. Is it pointless exhibitionism or is she trying to convey something meaningful?
Of course, we could ask that question about many performance artists, but in Milo Moiré’s case, it’s relevant. Another relevant question: how do her performances, and reactions to them, reflect the world in the second decade of the 21st century? (more…)
When we hear the words “pervert” or “perversion,” we tend to think of them in terms of sexual deviancy. As with most words, “pervert” and “perversion” can convey a variety of senses. You can pervert meaning, for example. In this sense, you’re altering the meaning of a word or phrase to fit your agenda. Or you can pervert the system, changing it to achieve your goals.
Perversion as a concept isn’t limited to sex and sexuality. It can also mean actors or behavior outside cultural norms. We’ll focus on these two meanings of the word and how they’re sometimes, but not always, interconnected.
You could argue that every art movement since the mid-to-late nineteenth century is either predicated on or incorporates some sense of perversion. If we use “perversion” is the sense of an unorthodox approach, then modern art is explicitly founded on it. Institutions dictated what constituted art—and they did so with an iron fist: you could only paint in a studio, not outdoors; you had to hide your brushstrokes; you could only depict historical or didactic scenes or imagery, and so on. Institutions dictated style and form and, to a degree, content. (more…)
Surrealism encompassed a variety of media and artists of all kinds, many of whom found a place in the Modern Art canon. Some artists, such as Dali and Magritte, produced imagery we still encounter. Melting clocks and apples obscuring faces represent the kind of imagery surrealists excelled at producing. It unsettled you, disoriented you, confused you.
Few surrealists managed to match Hans Bellmer in the ability to confound and disturb. His pieces simultaneously deconstruct and fetishize the human form, the sum of which stirs a sense of disquiet—and occasional eroticism—in the viewer. By perverting the human form, he managed to express his own tortured mind while allowing the viewers to glimpse something inside themselves—something perhaps not altogether pleasant. (more…)
In France in the nineteenth century, an elite group dictated art. The Academy, as it’s known in English, held strict ideas about art–all of them derived from the classical world, the Renaissance, and the baroque era. The men who ran the Academy dictated artistic tastes by preserving the past. New artists didn’t stand a chance if the Academy refused to exhibit their work.
Their power constituted a form of cultural totalitarianism–and few people challenged them. If you were an artist in the nineteenth century and you wanted them to consider your work, then you had to follow their rules. Paintings could only depict mythological, historic, or religious scenes or stories. Artists had to conceal brushstrokes. They couldn’t depict modernity. They could stage models or paint modern landscapes, but they had to present them as ancient or historic stories or allegories.
An artist violating these and other rules didn’t stand a chance with the Academy. And if the Academy rejected you, you’d probably never make it. (more…)