Artaud provided us no iron clad grip on the exterior dimension, though prolific with human contact throughout his years on Earth. Consumed by the grandeur of suffering his taction with waking reality ignited his writing of address to addressee as if embodied by the dialectics the of nothingness. For him “Mundane relations…do not touch the kernel of the individual, the search for redemption undercuts all social solutions.” His correspondents, as substantive they were, transmute to gnostic foils within his swarming verbal barrages. Not that they fail to respond with their own powers, but they seem to be bound to Artaud’s smouldering inner sun, there never seems to be the one to one relation one finds in conventional correspondence. There is always the underlying realia of Artaud “exhorting”, or defending himself, and as he once stated, and I am paraphrasing, no one writes or draws, except to get out of hell. His creations are suffused by this drama.
To know Artaud was to be instantly singed by his struggle. His correspondence, from Riviere to Breton never resolves itself on the horizontal plane, or coruscates as day to day relation. No one is left unmarked, one becomes engaged in telepathic endurance, for Artaud is relentless. There is no aspect of matter which is not engaged in his war against darkness. Witness the fiends who roam the pages of his Heliogabalus, or the palpable aggression he directed towards the Surrealists, when he accuses them of the error of political engagement which he inscribed in his “Total Darkness or The Surrealist Bluff”, or his rejection of Breton’s offer to exhibit his drawings in The International Surrealist Exhibition in 1947. He remained a free standing singularity.
For Artaud, the plunge into darkness was the overcoming of darkness. Simplicity of tenor was not a part of his character. Anais Nin once related that on a bright sunny Parisian afternoon Artaud was exhorting passersby to overcome their inner darkness which they clearly had no consciousness of. His warfare with the caliginous consumes all of his tragic moments. He is constantly hounded by the friction which imbues his body and his mind. For Artaud, the body and the mind were inextricable, and functioned as one. His fire was always struck on the hylic plane. He was lightning struck petrifaction, unclassifiable, moody, plagued by seeming error, yet always staunch with perseverance. A perseverance which enabled his pursuit of the Tarahumara, all the while engaged in mountain climbing on a burro, simultaneouusly disgorging heroin. Unlike Cesaire, Artaud’s activity did not commit itself to correcting the great social issues of the day. He seems to be constantly engaged in the overthrow of a fradulent God. A God whom the Gnostics accused of holding all souls in universal embranglement. Thus, he imparts his absence to others, so that they, at some level, no longer partake in their own biographical deception. Within this gnostic drama Artaud’s two dates of 1896-1948 become nothing more than an ancillary item. His, was a realm where only forces were exchanged. This was the true invisible grammar, the grammar where superficial fact could never extend.
The writer as agent of literature was loathsome to Artaud. He knew this to be the author as conductor of distortion. Such was the sub-text of his reasoning in rejecting Breton’s invitation to participate in “The International Surrealist Exhibition of 1947. He states to Breton “Î have my own idea of birth, of life, of death,of reality, and of destiny, and I do not participate in any of the general ideas through which I could have with any man than myself.” He states further that he has been “in open struggle every night and day with all the sects of all the sorcerers and initiates of the earth.”
He is not being subversive for reasons of personal enhancement, he is uttering a language of mortal burning, like fumes from a smouldering radium fish. Radium in this instance, not as super-imposed disturbance, but as power which issues from interior agony. Again, he states to Breton, “The human body has enough suns, planets, rivers, volcanoes, seas, tides, without still going to seek those of so-called exterior nature and others.” Thus, to point to the personalities which hurtled in and out of Artaud’s life would consist in this context, of superfluous scholarship.
Saying this, I am In no way dissolving the irradiating power which issued from Gance, Paulhan or Paule Thevenin; or from the tapestry of giants which extended from Miro and Leiris to the Peruvian Vallejo. Artaud was a mortal striding in oneiric lock-step into the well of disappearance. For him, there was no colloquial stationing, there was only the harried rejoinder which sought through its emission the expulsion of universal poison.