March 09, 2009
So, I posted a few months back about Belgian Surrealist and mate of Magritte's Louis Scutenaire. The post was spotted by Robert Archambeau who, as well as being a poet and critic whose books include "Home and Variations," "Word Play Place," and the forthcoming "Laureates and Heretics," is Professor of English at Lake Forest in Chicago (I think?) and blogs at samizdatblog.blogspot.com. Anyway, in his spare time Mr Archambeau is something of an authority on the Belgian Surrealists (or, at the very least, more of an authority than me) and he and Jean-Luc Garneau bashed out a rather fine translation of this document... Remember, it was the catalogue essay for Magritte's Periode Vache paintings, painted in 1948 apparently with the sole aim of pissing off the Parisian art world...
Putting a Foot in It
Essay to accompany René Magritte’s “Period Vache” Exhibition in Paris
translated by Robert Archambeau and Jean-Luc Garneau
However you run the race — on foot, on horseback, in a car — you win some, you lose some. This time, we win.
We’ve had it with this living deep in the forests and in our grassy pastures. We said — without the usual hangups, the envy, inferiority complexes and our other asshole attitudes — we said to each other “Well, those guys with their fancy paved streets, their indoor plumbing, their trellised gardens, they exaggerate. They want to lick our asses? To suck us off? To massage our temples? The nerve! Still, it opens our asses and swells our heads.”
And then it happened: Mag found it, the thing that really worked. No matter how much you guys play with your own balls, try to whitewash your shacks, shake the shit down in your shit-bucket, aggravate your ulcers, play lovebirds, poke at your adverbs and ablatives, bleach your straight jackets, or spit-shine your dirty dreams, your shorts still have skidmarks. So you can’t give us any shit. Not any more. So there!
Don’t worry, guys. Don’t freak. See, we don’t want to hurt you. That’s why we put on our big, black, American minstrel show. It puts you at ease. We’re willing to talk shit to you politely, in your fake-ass language. Because we, the cow turd-munching peasants, we don’t understand etiquette, right? But we want to be nice, and speak to you like your little kids: gaga purty tinky, rinkyroo and picopoo, coochee be-bum zim-boom tra-la-la, itty bitty Célinie doggy missus kitty mister ah ah kiss kiss oh but but but but butt butt see you ploppy-plop!
So you’re okay, right? Still with me? Don’t get crazy and think we’re Dadas. We ride the little rocking horse Dada gave us, right? Real cavaliers.
So, Mag grabs me one day (not by the ass, don’t misunderstand me — just because we speak the same language doesn’t mean we go around fucking each other the same way), and then he lets me go, saying:
“It’s as good as done. We go down to Paris (“city of slights”), we show them our work, a good little show. I’ll make an effort, and you’ll really kick it in gear.”
“Glue and bird-lime!” I answer, “Screws, bolts, and sticky jam! Let’s do this!”
We lay it on and lay it on, then we double it. So we’re happy. Everything’s cool.
We know, we know: you look at it with your heart in your mouth, your pupils dilated, your eyeballs rolled into your head, your fingers fanned out in shock. “That isn’t something you see at any old circus,” you’ll say, “It can’t be! This hayseed? You can do something with this! Seriously—it puts the capital to shame! Ah! Yeah! Right there! But then again, who is this monkeyboy coming to eat our lunch? And what about tradition, revolution, research, revelation, proportion, irrationality, concretization, systematization, and the subconscious, and analysis, and reality, and myth, what does this eccentric do with them? No, it’s not kind to say so, but, all the same, why do we make it so easy on lowlifes like this nowadays? I mean, really: don’t you see how they exaggerate the forms and the nuances? They couldn’t find their own cocks, or their assholes, even if they fell into them. See, General? Put your nose up to it and have a proper look. It’s just politics, that picture. We don’t want politics — that’s over with. Long live Franco-Pança, long live Proutman, long live John Foster Dullness, long live Saletzariste and the Great Turk, but down with the politics, right darling? Yes, my little treasure, let’s go back to our public urinals, and to our cruxifixes.”
It’s sad, how weak your public urinals and your cruxifixes will look after this parade of fire, these skies of gold, myrrh and wine, these roads of ebony, of milk and of rose-wood, these sumptuous emeralds and rubies, these objects whose freedom shows us how we should carry ourselves. They’ll look so bad that you may just throw up on them, the way Ned Beaumont used to puke in the gutter after eating someone’s fist for lunch.
And you will vomit, if you are not completely rotten, and after vomiting you’ll say: “Yes, it’s over. Someone has won, and not us. We lost. But why? How?”
Why? How? We have no idea. And, anyway, fuck it. Because this time, we know there’s nothing left to prove. We have eyes. We can see. This one time out of a thousand we don’t have any doubts. We ask the questions. You tell us why you’re the losers. We’ll be honored to hear it. And a little surprised.
Freedom guides our steps. We laugh at all the busted corsets, broken rhetorics, blown-out trouser-seams, and all the burst belts and terrors.
That being said, let’s set aside these earthly sorrows and end with good-humor: painting, like salt, the trapeze, flowers, and Madame’s thighs, is a means of knocking the universe over. That’s the way Magritte sees it.
Let me tell you another little story that has more to do with my argument than you might think. Mr. Man was saying to Mrs. Woman: “I heard your husband’s a painter — I bet he makes beautiful things!” “Oh no,” she said, “he just does portraits.”