January 5, 2010

Qualis Artifex Pereo: Martin Bladh interviewed by bo cavefors

Filed under: bo cavefors — ABRAXAS @ 7:21 pm

Diana Milia – Self-Mutilation and Art Therapy; Violent Creation: Despite the degree of morbidity involved in self-mutilation, there does appear to be present an active urge towards separation and change that is not apparent in the use of the fetish. Like the sado-masochistic behaviour that is confined to sexual practices, fetishistic behaviour is not usually ego-dystonic. That is, the behaviour is incorporated and accepted into the personality, and does not interfere with functioning in other areas of life. It is in fact a compromise a compromise that fulfils its function smoothly and continuously. However, as has been discussed, the self-mutilating person is often concerned with personality change, and with taking control over his or her body. While the self may be split between victim and aggressor identities, there is an attempt to move from a passive to an active position, such as in the “identification with the aggressor”. Taking control by the self, even in rudimenentary and impulsive forms, is a manifestation of an attempt at separation and individuation.

Cavefors: Today, to what extent do you think these war games might be the origin of your later fascination with violence… if you see connections between victim and perpetrator, and victim turning perpetrator? Today even though it is about abused children the subject matter is still basically the same.

Bladh: The nature of the war game was obviously very single minded… it was all about the perpetrator, who was always the winner. Somewhere along the way this wasn’t good enough… But it wasn’t until I reached my early teens that I got obsessed with the ambivalent roll of the executioner… what makes him tick? But the war game might very well have been an early, childish way of expression for the same kind of feelings and energies which occupies my daily life even now. I often dream about war games. But in the dream the line between play and reality has been erased… Sometimes it’s a struggle of life and death, but even then my gun is always loaded with blanks, I have to approach my opponent and scream in his ear that he is dead and have to lie still.
My later interest in sexual abused children is not based upon some authentic, traumatic experiences. What interests me is how the child changes shape through the years and develops from the roll of victim into that of the executioner… the unwilling masochist who slowly “matures” into a willing sadist.

Cavefors: Isn’t there ANY kind of personal experience… why else would you spend so much effort to prove that the victim (the raped boy) becomes perpetrator (paedophile). It is true that I myself wasn’t raped, possibly treated roughly, but that only increased my pleasure, if you could call it a pleasure to be the one “in charge”, that is to give more then the other who wanted my body could take. There might very well be raped or sexually abused boys turning paedophiles. But I don’t believe it is very common. My own experiences were of a positive nature.

Bladh: I don’t try to prove anything. I’m referring to the heap of source material I’ve read; material of an especially delicate matter. I’m interested in the cases where young boys have been exposed to very harsh sadistic abuse; experiences that’ll manifest themselves by deep pathological scars. And these special cases can’t be compared to your own personal childhood experiences. Of course there’s something which attracts me to this kind of material in the first place… but it has not to do with personal childhood experiences, although I’ve felt a strong urge to personify that kind of “victim-role” through my work. So, when I speak about this subject matter, I’m not referring to some ten-year-old boy who got jerked-off by an uncle. I agree that it sound ridicules that such individuals would develop into sexual predators when reaching a mature age; there’s no real victim or abuser in these cases. Then I’m not interested in discussing the damage or benefit caused by the ancient Greeks; if a society which indulges in legal paedophilia would be based upon mass neurosis. I’ve to my own knowledge no sexual feelings towards children, and I’m not fighting for the child’s or paedophile’s right to a functioning sex life.

Cavefors: I think the majority of paedophiles are sexually inhibited men, that are basically afraid of sexuality, their own and others – then to approach and violate children becomes the only way out when the urge becomes to demanding and masturbation to pictures of children won’t give enough stimuli. The question remains – is it not the struggle of good and evil, THE WAR between the boy and the perpetrator that is the REAL subject that you’re looking for.

Bladh: Not the war between two separate individuals. It is the war that’s fought within the scull of the separate individual. When the victim suddenly becomes aware of the executioner within himself, and vice versa, and loses himself in the grey area between good and evil. The paedophile is one of those figures that best embodies the victim/executioner-role in one single individual, whether he was a victim of sexual abuse or not. He’s something of the ultimate outsider who doesn’t fit in anywhere and is despised by everybody, even though he has been sexually inactive during his whole life, because his inner urges – his creativity – is basically consider criminal. He is forced to walk through life as a pariah forced to conceal his identity, and to hide away his pornography. Not to expose himself and the other to life threatening risks. He’s forced to a life in exile, to a life of fantasy in front of computer screens, photographs, reproductions of artworks and short clips. And we all now the aesthetic triumphs of the inhibited mind. Art history is filled with beautiful examples of more or less smothered paedophilia. But… then I can’t deny that a topic such as this may fascinate me more because the majority describes it as pure evil…

Jenny Murphy – Art Therapy with Young Survivors of Sexual Abuse: As we would have anticipated, Sally and Sonia were confident in expressing anger towards their abusers and the desire to punish them. I feel it is so important for these children to express symbolically the abusive feelings aroused in them, so that there is less chance of perpetuating the cycle of abuse. We know how many sexually abused boys go on to enact their abusive feelings by becoming perpetrators and how other survivors of abuse re-abuse by harming themselves. I think it is an important part of our groups to allow a different expression of abusive feelings and in this session, Sonia and Sally did pictures that were very punishing and used strong language which would have been unacceptable elsewhere. They continued their abuse by cutting up the clay models of their abusers and disposing them.


Dennis Nilsen quoted in Brian Master´s Killing for Company: He looked really beautiful like one of those Michelangelo sculptures. It seemed that for the first time in his life he was really feeling and looking the best he ever did in his whole life. I wanted to touch and stroke him, but did not. I placed two mirrors around the bed, one at the end and one at the side. I lay naked beside him but only looked at the two bodies in the mirror.

The narcissistic sensation could be compared to a pendulum rocking between the opposite poles of anxiety and pleasure. To my opinion a piece is no good if it doesn’t have the ability to seduce and at the same time, put me in a state of discomfort. It’s about resistance – a resistance that spurs me on. There is no obvious connection to direct sexual ecstasy or orgasm. The aim is a painful, sustained process, a ritualistic monotonous tension without definite ejaculation; the moment before and after the performance might be as rewarding as the actual act (It’s not unusual that the act hits me more violently when I watch the reproduction afterwards and the piece is revealed to me in all its complexity). So, the sensation is happening on a childish, abstract fantasy plane where it’s treated for a quiet a long time. It’s a sadomasochistic sensation, an idea, or a scenario which I find quiet repugnant, but holds a great attraction to me and thereby has to be carried out. It’s very important that this act has a spectator; if no psychical audience is present I would like to have the knowledge that it can be observed latter through reproduction apparatuses.
Even when I’m alone, in front of the mirror, the hidden audience is there by proxy within me the actor’s and the spectator’s fantasy; through your own gaze you perceive the other. I recognise this as a kind of communication, feedback or mute dialog, where I reflect myself in the spectator. I’m very attracted to the tension between the victim and the perpetrator. Both parts are of equal importance to me. When I put myself in a situation which I find degrading or even repugnant, I put myself in a condition where I’m the wound; when I make use of “authentic” voices from real life victims, putting them in a different context where they are forced to act as characters in a peepshow under my direction, I’ve become the executioner by proxy. I fantasies about further depths, to go even deeper, to force my work into a sadomasochistic cul de sac where the actual work itself represent the sadistic part and I’ve become a mere masochist trying to endure it.
The need to use different masks has always been a way of controlling and perhaps even to shield myself off from certain aspects of the work. I’ve always inhibited the ability to adopt a certain persona, to reflect myself in other human beings that I hail or whose life stories fascinate me, to find mutual references. I’m quite eclectic in the post-modern sense, above all when it comes to form, how something “should” be represented. I like to take samples from other artist’s works and put them together to into new pieces, into a new personality: my own. By acting out that certain role you respect (or despise), you’ll finally be able to incarnate the persona you always wanted to be. A certain exaggeration, masquerade or even dandyism could be quite useful to help you there. I sometimes compare myself to a tabula rasa, which is constantly filled with new content in an empirical search for perfection. The masks all coincide in this pathological search for perfection, the elevation of the being, the creation of an ideal-self – the perfect ego puzzle.

Yukio Mishima – Kyoko’s House: All we know or ever know is that death must always have been his desire. Death confronted him wearing a variety of masks. One by one he took them of and put them on his own face. When he removed the final mask, death’s real face must have been revealed, but we cannot know whether even that was terrifying to him.
Until then his desire for death had made him fervently desire the masks too. With the masks he gradually made himself beautiful. You must realize that a man’s determination to become a beautiful person is very different from the same desire in a woman; in a man it is always the desire for death.

The very idea of the body, isolated on the stage in front of the audience certainly brings an obvious erotic tension quite similar to the arranged, theatrical gestures in front of the mirror (which craves an audience by proxy). What I do wouldn’t make sense without the obvious references to the stage, the props and the mirror. I don’t believe a performance-piece could be everyday, relaxed or “natural”, it demands a dramatically heightening of the senses, of the ego; a state of mind which is different than other sorts of artistic expressions. The body becomes elevated when it’s placed within this particular, exposed context, both erotically and heroically; a body that brings together an amount of different fragments; my own mythology of voices, heroes and monsters. My body reflection covered with real- or fake wounds is to me equivalent to an abstract masturbation fantasy where the shame transforms into ecstasy. As the principal actor I’m the master of this self invented universe. The body is the arena and the projection screen where the obsession and the (forbidden) fantasies blend together. In this new, often paradoxical reality I’m the sole judge, jury, and executioner, prosecuted and convicted. I might choose to believe that what I do brings harm both to myself and to others through thoughts, fantasies, words and different kinds of arranged scenarios. Does it even matter in the end, if the result becomes either risky or safe? This balance could sometimes be quite terrifying, but it is this “stage fright” that makes me want to search out the terribly beauty of the reflection, the violence of the mirror. What I want is a kind of condensation, a concentration of all the impressions I’ve stolen. Voices, reproductions and bodies assume the shape of a collage – the body and arena of the spectacle, the sustained process of violence, which becomes immortalised and refined through the reproduction.

Georges Bataille – Tears of Eros: This photograph had a decisive role in my life. I have never stopped being obsessed by this image of pain, at once ecstatic (?) and intolerable. I wonder what the Marquis de Sade would have thought of this image, Sade who dreamed of torture, which was inaccessible to him, but who never witnessed an actual torture session. In one way or another, this image was incessantly before his eyes. But Sade would have wished to see it in solitude, at least in relative solitude, without which the ecstatic and voluptuous effect is inconceivable.

I find a certain kinship with Georges Bataille, who eroticised evil and praised it as an essential “holy” act of transgression. What sometimes puzzles me is which role art has to play in this discourse. Why did I choose to express myself in the first place? Why did I choose these types of media? Why wasn’t true crime pictures, mondo films, public executions, deviant pornography, medical pictures, video recorded operations enough? Why this constant search for the perfect image, performance, annihilation? Wouldn’t numbered and catalogued scrapbooks – year after year of collected impressions – meet the same need, desire, satisfaction? Doesn’t the aesthetic expression lack the stench of putrefaction and death that so urgently is needed? Is it necessary at all? During an interview Genet stated that if he could choose between the poetics of words and the poetical force of an actual murder, he would always choose the word instead of the actual deed.

Jim Fielder – Slow Death: Standing right next to the Satan’s Den sign was a tall tripod with a very expensive RCA Victor camcorder pointing toward a large black leather table/chair rigged up with metal stirrups, electrodes and dozens of red plastic straps. Hanging from the ceiling next to what looked like the genecology table was a RCA Victor television set, positioned so the female victims could see what Ray was doing to them.

I want to see everything. All the violence has to be registered, consumed and then grinded into a concentrate. To me this compulsive longing manifests itself most violently in the paintings of Francis Bacon. Here the artist private life and aesthetic obsession blend together perfectly. Bacon often used photographs of war- and crime victims as raw material for his paintings, although the motive itself was never that important to him; the violence becomes obvious through his choice of colours and movement in the composition. What Bacon was seeking was an immediate yet abstract attack on the nervous system, which only can be defined by raw sensation. Thus Bacon comes closer to the actual core of the violence then most other artist that shares a similar interest ever done, and does so without developing any kind of ideology. By going beyond all universal, religious and post Freudian system, Bacon managed to find a private sanctuary that speaks for him, but still owns the power to seduce an outside audience. I return to Bacon constantly, particular to the triptych Three Studies for a Crucifixion. It’s the mid-panel that attracts me the most. Bacon has translated his flamboyant nature – sex-violence-alcohol – into one marvellous condensation. Spread out on the bed, the naked, bloody piece of meat: an animal, a human?… Not entirely different from the photographs of Jack the Ripper’s last, painstakingly lacerated victim Mary Kelly, but in this case the condensation of expressions, the eye of Francis Bacon, overcomes reality. The threatening, aggressive red hues, the black blinds lowered and the resilient bed which Bacon choose to place the flogged meat upon; all these components perfectly blend together in one suggestive totality. Is the room part of an exclusive penthouse apartment? A torture chamber? The set for a snuff-film recording? How many hours have a spent in front of this picture?

Robert Hughes – The Fall and Decline of the Avant-garde (Times Magazine, Dec 18 1972): Those interested in the fate of the avant-garde should reflect on a Viennese artist named Rudolf Schwarzkogler. His achievement (and limited though it may be, it cannot be taken from him; he died, a martyr to his art, in 1969 at the age of 29) was to become the Vincent Van Gogh of body art. As every moviegoer knows, Van Gogh once cut off his ear and presented it to a whore. Schwarzkogler seem to have deduced that what really counts is not the application of paint, but the removal of surplus flesh. So, he proceeded, inch by inch, to amputate his own penis, while a photographer recorded the act as an art event. In 1972, the resulting prints were reverently exhibited in that biennial motor show of Western art, Documenta V at Kassel. Successive acts of self-amputation finally did Schwarzkogler in. That the man was clearly mad as a hatter, sick beyond rebuke, is not though important: wasn’t Van Gogh crazy to? But Schwarzkogler’s gesture has a certain emblematic value. Having nothing to say and nowhere to go but further out, he lopped himself and called it art. The politics of experience give way to the poetics of impotence. Farwell Jasper, hullo Rudolf!

The beauty of the semiotic wound will never be revealed if the artist doesn’t go to extremes such as the cases of Chris Burden, Marina Abramovic and David Nebreda. In spite of the fantastic myths: Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Bruce Louden and John Fare, only Yukio Mishima and possibly also Bas Jan Ader, died as a direct result of their own private theatre. The danger often lies in the psychical realm; often as it’s represented through the written word. Literature has left the deepest wounds and the most beautiful scars. In the profound analysis of one’s own sublime desire, the author is destined to descend the bottomless pits without safety-strings, without the knowledge if he’ll ever make it back to the surface again. To authors such as Sade, Lautreamont, Céline and Artaud, the creative process became almost unbearable, and at times almost annihilating. The great descending; to never look back; those beautiful depths penetrated and revealed in the words of Baudelaire, Strindberg, Genet and Mishima.

Joel Black – The Aesthetics of Murder: Going back to antiquity, we can find the modern artist-criminal’s ancestors in the early Roman emperors, particularly Caligula and Nero, whom Leo Braudy has depicted as performance artists:”Both emphasized the element of performance in the role of the emperor and presented themselves as great artists, even entertainers, for whom approval had to be immediate.” Lacking their predecessor Augustus’s achievements and abilities, these emperors could only demonstrate their sovereignty by taking crime to a theatrical extreme. “When one’s inheritance was absolute power, only the striking colours of art or crime could make one truly distinctive.

When Sarah Kane writes “There isn’t anything you can’t represent on stage”, she’s got my admission. Sadly enough, it seems like this ambitious craving can never be fully satisfied. In a British production of Kane’s Cleansed, the “blood” was substituted with serpentines, as a way to “desensitise” the experience. So, what’s left when the violence has been desensitised? I would not say that I’m all too familiar with Kane’s intentions, but what demands to be represented on stage, hasn’t been represented yet. This leaves us with the written instructions of the actual drama – fantasy – with pure, concentrated, uncorrupted words and the images they conjure up. Only words can liberate the artist from morals, conventions and human rights – all that must be cast aside; that he can lose himself in the impossible experience. When Hermann Nitsch writes about using the corpses of dead boys, I take him literally. When I witness the animal carcasses and the blood in his actions, I always imagine the picture of the disembowelled “six-year-old”. But the actual action is a limitation, a maimed version that never will be realised. Still, the vision lives on and keeps its artistic authenticity on paper. Although, the text must be written as if the author had the intention to realise it in the flesh, on stage, or in front of the camera; it should neither be impossible to realise in a strictly practical way, but still comes short because it involves the “freedom” of other people. Once in my life, I want to experience a drama, performance-piece, or film which has been directed by a full-fledged sadist. A work in which the cast either consist of willingly masochists, but more preferably off involuntarily victims; a production in which the sadist is locked within his own pathological trap: his own private implosion which evolves into explosive expression; the balance between instant sexual gratification and the sublime aesthetic immortality; the carnal itch caught somewhere in middle of what’s sacred and profane, now concentrated in the eye of the camera, which reflects the terror through the eyes of the crew.

Guido Ceronetti – The Silence of the Body: Maybe Gilles de Rais should have been put in an asylum and asked to make collages at the first sign of the cravings for orgies and massacres seething within him. He would have found and outlet for his madness and been cured. His extraordinary collages would have sparked endless discussions. He would have been reborn as an artist who carried the seed of great crimes. But we would never have known that he carried them, just as we do not know how much crime is contained and submerged in the expiating ergon of certain great artists who never cease to amaze.

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