Antonin, you looked on as tears ran down her—joan of arc’s—face. Why?
AA: I am getting out of hell.
so the dead walk the earth ; incongruous, with fatty tissue around them — what do they want exactly ?
AA: living is living off the dead . When i say hell, there is grit, and wild flesh . Everything chatters. In fact hell is nothing if not frozen. That is in your Inferno, their heads submerged in crystal. And their mouths too.
I want a quiet life. Why can’t you give me that?
AA: i want to obliterate you, to confuse and enrapture you; i want to stun you into seeing. You’re sucking on my death, even now. The ivry-sur-seine was the final place i saw with my eyes, a bitter and plaid curtain, moved by air. Now the streets have been complicated by a knot of stone. What a mace would look like if it were buried in sand, or in a body.
What would you make of today—our present moment?
AA: i’m dead. Don’t be stupid, you witless shit. Don’t bring me into this. I refuse to let you dine on my body.
Is cruelty necessary?
AA: Yes. But when you say ‘cruelty,’ you don’t mean devices of torture; the impossible and club-headed violences of Saint-Just, who decimated armies; who saw even his own death as necessary, and did not complain when they took away his head. Cruelty is discomfort. It is the making-toward discomfort. Nothing worthwhile was achieved from feeling comfortable.
What is theatre?
AA: Theatre is nothing. Your question should have been, what should theatre become? Theatre should become an act of organized anarchy. It should become sensory, arousing the nerves and the heart. Text is meaningless. Gesture alone fulfils meaning. The audience should be swallowed by the performance.
[at this point Artaud stands; knocking over his chair. He rises and walks to the wall, turning on—one by one—each of the room’s lights. The space is bare; damp. Seven strip lights hang above our heads. He turns all of them on. I wince. I cannot see, it is so bright]
AA: I’m dead.
[Artaud uprights the chair, and sits]
Do you enjoy musical theatre?
Why is Joan of Arc shot at a tilted angle? Your face became a pyramid, stabbing at my eye.
AA: cinema, like theatre, must disrupt. The camera is an instrument of confusion; of sensorial awakening. It drags, or can drag, the body into sense. But it can also be a lazy dog; it can flatten itself, and do nothing; and just drink our faces and bodies. The camera (and this is a lesson your beloved Sergei Eisenstein realized) is a tool; and an instrument of formal experiment.
AA: why are you tilting your head on its side?
Let’s talk about Peter Brook’s 1964 production of The Persecution and Assassination of Marat. It was influenced by your theories on cruelty and the theatre. Have you seen it?
AA: I’m dead, and have been dead, and will continue
—to be dead. Yes. Have you seen it?
AA: I have seen it. There were no props. The soundtrack was jagged; riotous; and harsh. Lunatics and beggars and the mad spilled blood into holes, gutters, and made marks with it. I was bathed in noise and complication. Marat cut his god-damned throat in the bathtub. No. His throat was cut. I want to remember a painting, of his body at rest—and wrapped in white linen. Death is never so pretty. That scenic laying out of the dead, as if to spill your seed over it; with very dry hands.
You’re thinking about tom ford’s nocturnal animals? The bodies of the women, laid out like that.
AA: fuck that. It was so very horrid.
Do you keep up with cinema?
AA: Films should be watched, and then destroyed. The dead should let way for others. All true language is incomprehensible. Burn these, destroy these words. My pain is enormous, and i am burning through one thousand lives. Actually, there is heat; simply, in the paper. I needn’t say anything else.
[Artaud rises again, and begins fucking with the radio. He’s turned the volume to its maximum, and is just dragging the dial from one station to another. He is creating—that which is jagged. I begin to sweat, but decide to sit it out. Anyway, the door is locked; i wonder when the warden will open it. I realise i am blinking very quickly, and have stopped sweating. My skin has the temperature of raw meat stored in a fridge.]
Owen is a writer and artist living in London. His written works include The Adrift of Samus Aran (Fathom Books) and Everything, Desire (Salo). His visual work has been exhibited at Edicola Radetzsky, Milan, and as part of The Wrong Biennale. During October, he is undertaking a residency for London-based art platform isthisit?