Thursday, 16 February 2012

yer wallet [pt. 3] @ london_resonance

selection _ gian paolo galasi

"Carnal Art" Manifesto

(L'Art Charnel)


Carnal Art is self-portraiture in the classical sense, but realised through the possibility of technology. It swings between defiguration and refiguration. Its inscription in the flesh is a function of our age. The body has become a "modified ready-made", no longer seen as the ideal it once represented ;the body is not anymore this ideal ready-made it was satisfaying to sign.


As distinct from "Body Art", Carnal Art does not conceive of pain as

redemptive or as a source of purification. Carnal Art is not interested in the plastic-surgery result, but in the process of surgery, the spectacle and discourse of the modified body which has become the place of a public debate.


Carnal Art does not inherit the Christian Tradition, it resists it! Carnal Art illuminates the Christian denial of body-pleasure and exposes its weakness in the face of scientific discovery. Carnal Art repudiates the tradition of suffering and martyrdom, replacing rather than removing, enhancing rather than diminishing - Carnal Art is not self-mutilation.

Carnal Art transforms the body into language, reversing the biblical idea of the word made flesh; the flesh is made word. Only the voice of Orlan remains unchanged. The artist works on representation.

Carnal Art finds the acceptance of the agony of childbirth to be anachronistic and ridiculous. Like Artaud, it rejects the mercy of God -Henceforth we shall have epidurals, local anaesthetics and multiple analgesics ! (Hurray for the morphine !) Vive la morphine ! (down with the pain !) A bas la douleur !


ORLAN, No Comment
I can observe my own body cut open without suffering !....I can see myself all the way down to my viscera, a new stage of gaze. "I can see to the heart of my lover and it's splendid design has nothing to do with symbolics mannered usually drawn.

- Darling, I love your spleen, I love your liver, I adore your pancreas and the line of your femur excites me.


Carnal Art asserts the individual independence of the artist. In that sense it resists givens and dictats. This is why it has engaged the social, the media, (where it disrupts received ideas and cause scandal), and will even reached as far as the judiciary (to change the Orlan's name).


Carnal Art is not against aesthetic surgery, but against the standards that pervade it, particularly, in relation to the female body, but also to the male body. Carnal Art must be feminist, it is necessary. Carnal Art is not only engages in aesthetic surgery, but also in developments in medicine and biology questioning the status of the body and posing ethical problems.


Carnal Art loves parody and the baroque, the grotesque and the extreme.

Carnal Art opposes the conventions that exercise constraint on the human body and the work of art.

Carnal Art is anti-formalist and anti-conformist.

yer wallet [pt. 2] @ london_resonance

selection_ gian paolo galasi

Francesca Woodman, Untitled
4.1. In the legend “Before the Law,” Kafka represented the structure of the sovereign ban in an exemplary abbreviation.
Nothing – and certainly not the refusal of the doorkeeper – prevents the man from the country from passing through the door of the Law if not the fact that this door is already open and that the Law prescribes nothing. The two most recent interpreters of the legend, Jacques Derrida and Massimo Cacciari, have both insisted on this point, if in different ways. “The Law,” Derrida writes, “keeps itself [se garde] without keeping itself, kept [gardée] by a doorkeeper who keeps nothing, the door remaining open and open onto nothing” (“Préjugés,” p. 356). And Cacciari, even more decisively, underlines the fact that the power of the Law lies precisely in the impossibility of entering into what is already open, of reaching the place where one already is: “How can we hope to ‘open’ if the door is already open? How can we hope to enter-the-open [entrare-l’aperto]? In the open, there is, things are there, one does not enter there. . . . We can enter only there where we can open. The already-open [il già-aperto] immobilizes. The man from the country cannot enter, because entering into what is already open is ontologically impossible” (Icone, p. 69).

Seen from this perspective, Kafka’s legend presents the pure form in which law affirms itself with the greatest force precisely at the point in which it no longer prescribes anything – which is to say, as pure ban. The man from the country is delivered over to the potentiality of law because law demands nothing of him and commands nothing other than its own openness. According to the schema of the sovereign exception, law applies to him in no longer applying, and holds him in its ban in abandoning him outside itself. The open door destined only for him includes him in excluding him and excludes him in including him. And this is precisely the summit and the root of every law. When the priest in The Trial summarizes the essence of the court in the formula “The court wants nothing from you. It receives you when you come, it lets you go when you go,” it is the originary structure of the nomos that he states.

Stan Brakhage, Dog Star Man, part II

 In an analogous fashion, language also holds man in its ban insofar as man, as a speaking being, has always already entered into language without noticing it. Everything that is presupposed for there to be language (in the forms of something nonlinguistic, something ineffable, etc.) is nothing other than a presupposition of language that is maintained as such in relation to language precisely insofar as it is excluded from language. Stéphane Mallarmé expressed this self-presuppositional nature of language when he wrote, with a Hegelian formula, “The logos is a principle that operates through the negation of every principle.” As the pure form of relation, language (like the sovereign ban) always already presupposes itself in the figure of something nonrelational, and it is not possible either to enter into relation or to move out of relation with what belongs to the form of relation itself. This means not that the nonlinguistic is inaccessible to man but simply that man can never reach it in the form of a nonrelational and ineffable presupposition, since the nonlinguistic is only ever to be found in language itself. (In the words of Benjamin, only the “crystal-pure elimination of the unsayable in language” can lead to “what withholds itself from speech” [Briefe, p. 127].)

4.2. But does this interpretation of the structure of law truly exhaust Kafka’s intention? In a letter to Benjamin dated September 20, 1934, Gerschom Scholem defines the relation to law described in Kafka’s Trial as “the Nothing of Revelation” (Nichts der Offenbarung), intending this expression to name “a stage in which revelation does not signify [bedeutet], yet still affirms itself by the fact that it is in force. Where the wealth of significance is gone and what appears, reduced, so to speak, to the zero point of its own content, still does not disappear (and Revelation is something that appears), there the Nothing appears” (Benjamin and Scholem, Briefwechsel, p. 163). According to Scholem, a law that finds itself in such a condition is not absent but rather appears in the form of its unrealizability. “The students of whom you speak,” he objects to his friend, “are not students who have lost the Scripture . . . but students who cannot decipher it” (ibid., p. 147).

Being in force without significance (Geltung ohne Bedeutung): nothing better describes the ban that our age cannot master than Scholem’s formula for the status of law in Kafka’s novel. What, after all, is the structure of the sovereign ban if not that of a law that is in force but does not signify? Everywhere on earth men live today in the ban of a law and a tradition that are maintained solely as the “zero point” of their own content, and that include men within them in the form of a pure relation of abandonment. All societies and all cultures today (it does not matter whether they are democratic or totalitarian, conservative or progressive) have entered into a legitimation crisis in which law (we mean by this term the entire text of tradition in its regulative form, whether the Jewish Torah or the Islamic Shariah, Christian dogma or the profane nomos) is in force as the pure “Nothing of Revelation.” But this is precisely the structure of the sovereign relation, and the nihilism in which we are living is, from this perspective, nothing other than the coming to light of this relation as such.

[From Giorgio Agamben, "Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life", Stanford University Press, 1998]

yer wallet [pt.1] @ london_resonance

selection _ gian paolo galasi

Lucian Freud, Naked Portrait
"Alcibiades is about to begin his public and political life. He wishes to speak before the people and be all-powerful in the city. He is not satisfied with his traditional status, with the privileges of his birth and heritage. He wishes to gain personal power over all others both inside and outside the city. At this point of intersection and transformation, Socrates intervenes and declares his love for Alcibiades. Alcibiades can no longer be the beloved; he must become a lover. He must become active in the political and the love game. Thus, there is a dialect between political and erotic discourse. Alcibiades makes his transition in specific ways in both politics and love.

An ambivalence is evident in Alcibiade's political and erotic vocabulary. During his adolescence Alcibiades was desirable and had many admirers, but now that his beard is growing, his lovers disappear. Earlier, he had rejected them all in the bloom of his beauty becuase he wanted to be dominant, not dominated. He did not wish to be dominated by youth, but now he wants to dominate others. This is the moment Socrates appears, and he succeeds where others have failed: He will make Alcibiades submit, but in a different sense. They make a pact - Alcibiades will submit to his lover. Socrates, not in a physical but in a spiritual sense. The intersection of political ambition and philosophical love is "taking care of oneself".

2. In that relationship, why should Alcibiades be concerned with himself, and why is Socrates concerned with that concern of Alcibiades? Socrates asks Alcibiades about his personal capacity and the nature of his ambition. Does he know he meaning of the rule of law, of justice or concord? 

Paolo Gioli, Commutazioni Con Mutazione, 1969

Alcibiades clearly knows nothing. Socrates calls upon him to compare his education with that of the Persian and Spartan kings, his rivals. Spartan and Persian princes have teachers in Wisdom, Justice, Temperance, and Courage. By comparison, Alcibiades' education is like that of an old, ignorant slave. He doesn't know these things so he can't apply himself to knowledge. But, says Socrates, it's not too late. To help him gain the upper hand - to acquire techne - Alcibiades must apply himself, he must take care of himself. But Alcibiades doesn't know to what he must apply himself. What is this knowledge he seeks? He is embarrassed and confused. Socrates calls upon him to take heart.

In 127d of the Alcibiades we find the first appearance of the phrase, epimelesthai sautou. Concern for the self always refers to an active political and erotic state. Epimelesthai expresses something much more serious than the simple fact of paying attention. It involves various things: taking pains with one's holdings and one's health. It is always a real activity and not just attitude. It is used in reference to the activity of a farmer tending his fields, his cattle, and his house, or to the job of the king in taking care of his city and citizens, or to the worship of ancestors or gods, or as a medical term to signify the fact of caring. It is highly significant that the concern for the self in Alcibiades I is directly related to a defective pedagogy, one which concerns political ambition and a specific moment of life.

3. The rest of the text is devoted to an analysis of this notion of epimelesthai, "taking pains with oneself". It is divided into two questions: What is this self of which one has to take care. and of what does that care consist? 

[From: Martin, L.H. et al (1988) Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. London: Tavistock. pp.16-49.]

Sunday, 5 February 2012

a tribute to adonis @ the mosaic rooms 02/04/2012

words + photos _ gian paolo galasi

Adonis at the Mosaic Rooms, London - Feb. 04, 2012

On Augut 28, 2011 Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said Asbar, well known to the world as Adonis, was gifted with the Goethe prize in Frankfurt. First Arab poet, Adonis was granted for being “the most important Arab poet of our time” and claimed for his "eminent literary talent, his cosmopolitanism and his contribution to world literature"Born in Syria in 1930, on a public conference at the Mosaic Rooms during the exhibition Tribute to Adonis on February 4, 2012, the poet states that “poetry really gave me life”

If at the age of 12 the poet Edward Said referred to as ‘the most eloquent spokesman and explorer of Arab modernity’ encountered the then Syria’s first president - Syria gained independence from a French mandate in 1946, just to enter the Arabi-Israeli war in 1948 and subsequently pass through a period of instability until 1970's Hafez Al-Assad coup - to make him the gift of a poem; in this occasion the young poet asked him for the possibility to go to school, and once settled in Lebanon in 1956 Adonis helped establish the literary magazine Shi’r.

“When I first came to Beirut I really started to live freely, I regarded the city as my second home, as far as my intellectual development. Me and my friends founded a cultural magazine so to discuss about a poetic and intellectual revolution to make it spread through the Arab world”.

Adonis collages at the Mosaic Rooms exhibition until March 30, 2012
The idea of questioning Islamic tradition and its close relationship between culture, politics and religion passed through the inspiration coming from European philosophers like Nietzsche and Heraclitus and poets Charles Beaudelaire and Ezra Pound, just to find out how much similarities there were between the French symbolist poet and the Persian poet Abu Nuwas (756-814): “In Baudelaire the idea of life and of city change, leading to the modern Western world, and it was the same with Abu Nuwas centuries before.”

While Shi’r ceased his publications in 1964, Adonis started issuing his poems since 1968 with Lebanese literary periodical Mawaqif settling, before his scholarship in Paris in 1960-61, his peculiar mix of social revolution and poetic mysticism.

“Arabic culture was revolting against linearity, because linearity started to become associated with power, while uprightness was linked to the revolutionary thinking. […] As far as I’m concerned, a poem is a revolutionary presence. To see the world artistically means to see the world culturally, intellectually, integrally. There’s unity between culture, thinking, art.”

This striving for unity explains also Adonis interest in Sufi mysticism. While in 2005 the poet issued the book “Sufism and Surrealism”, claiming that if “in Christianism the Jewish God was changed in that, that he can become a man and the man can become a God”, while in Judaim and Islamism the human and the divine are split up forever, Sufi mystics were injecting this aspect of transformation into the Islamic tradition.

So, even if Dervisces were marginalized by Arabic society, Adonis claim mystics as the only, true revolutionary thinking coming out of the Islamic culture: “God usually is seen as a force external to the world, while in mysticism God embodies himself in the human”. If you think about what does it mean living under a religious dictatorship claiming that Mohamed’s is the last truth, and that so “man can only obey and pray”, you can easily understand the consequences of this choice.

“I fight in order to set up a society in which religion has been split up from society, where the woman has the same rights of a man, and society gives shape to his own identity. The problem doesn’t underlie only in power. Everybody talks about changing the power, but nobody talks about changing society. That’s why I chose Nietzsche, and Heraclitus”. This is the reason why Adonis says often that the tools of a revolutionary poet are not the same of a revolutionary politician.

And even if Adonis personally is “with Gandhi, against Che Guevara”, the issue of identity leads directly to the relationship between Sufism and Surrealism: “For Surrealists you can’t find reality on the surface, in the appearances, but in what’s invisible, in what’s underlying, it what’s hidden. Identity in mysticism is a perpetual creation, and men will become men in the future; their own identity doesn’t come from their own past.” And so the individual is central, in opposition to the collective.

For the unaware reader, the influence of Adonis in contemporary culture is wide, huge and sometimes unexpected. In 2003, the contemporary avant garde performer and singer Diamanda Galàs brought in his Defixiones: Will and Testament, dedicated to the Armenian genocide, Adonis’ poem “The Desert – Diary of Beirut Under Seige 1982. In 2008, the French post rock band L’Enfance Rouge performed on their album Trapani – Halq Al Waady, dedicated to migrations from Tunisi to Europe, beautifully enriched by the harmonics of oud and qanun, the poem “Tombeau pour New York”.

You can find traces and quotations from Adonis poems through plays as Wajidi Mouawad's Encendies, but the presence of his work is massive even in theatrical representations coming from North and central Africa, creating an interesting mélange with the poetics of metamorphosis and psychological notations on the disruption between politics and society à la Durenmatt.

While the extremely beautiful exhibition at Earl’s Court Mosaic Rooms shows the interest Adonis developed in Arabic writing – “my collages helped me in understanding the visual aspect of the art world, they are an extention of my poetry, and I think that sooner or later someone would have to start to write the history of the silent geniuses of Arabic manual ability”, one of Adonis last statements, about the proximity of Israel to the Islamic dictatorships, remembers the notes of another ‘exiled’ intellectual, Israeli-born documentarist Eyal Sivan, on the idea of memory and modernity, when he says, quoting his friend and Italian poet Andrea Zanzotto, that:

“In every society lies a conservative spirit and a innovator spirit. They both coexist. The conservative spirit is tied to money, power and religion. [...] Memory is a process, not something existing in someone’s mind. You have to connect everything but you have also to forget”.

This is the schedule for the remaining events at the Mosaic Rooms:
07.02.12 Islam, Sufism & Arabic Literature - in conversation with Omar Al-Qattan

08.02.12 Reflections on the Role of the Intellectual in Society - With the award-winning Chinese dissident poet Yang Lian 

01.03.12 20th century Baghdad: Architecture and Urban Space Lecture by Caecilia Pieri

The Mosaic Rooms

A.M. Qattan Foundation

Tower House, 226 Cromwell Road
London SW5 0SW

Related features:
Maya Jaggi interview with Adonis from The Guardian