Preface of Jacques Lafon
You have to start somewhere, always. To draw a margin, a line: a brutal gesture, cancelling the white noise.
Take Titian’s painting, The Flaying of Marsyas. Frank Stella remarks “A gash is cut in the skin of the fallen artist, then he is flayed alive. His body is openly desecrated in order to reveal the anatomy of pictorial creation, rather than the details of human suffering1.” Excruciating suffering is indeed necessary to tear off that skin, to grasp that visibility, to seize that particular moment in Art History, when a picture, a “poem” is painted with the very flesh of painting, where the subject is the very body of the poet. The painter’s touch on the surface of the painting is more like scratches, grazes, scrapes than regular brush strokes, which results in a palpitating and blurry density contributing to the brutality of the work. This is painting in the raw.
The flute loses to the lyre, modulation to arpeggio, breathing to plucking. In fact, Apollo cheats, then he decides to flay the faun. Later Marsyas is changed into a river. The god does not eliminate the voiceless poet in one stroke, but touch after touch, shred after shred, he smothers the insolent modulation. What should flow like time is now fragmented, divided, just like the reflections are scattered in the ripples of Heracliteus’ river.
Today, Marsyas wins over Apollo. True, the flute that Athena rejected is now lost in the vastness of a divided universe where time carries radio and television waves. But frequency modulation does not distort the figure: you can still talk, sing or even see.
I remember. A moment, or a thing? Definitely, the thing is there, but its image vanishes when I try to bring it forth. Or I try to summon the image, and I can only savour a trace of the thing. Its reverse is now missing. The thing as an image, I can neither turn around nor move along. Each time, the old fragment is covered by a new one.
Here now is a lyre lacerating other fluxes. An interstellar ship (Star Trek) receding from the earth fast enough to overtake radio waves would receive broadcasting in reverse, as though going back through time. Anybody listening would then inevitably grasp three realities: time is flowing, so do radio messages, the consciousness of the audience follows the same flux as the latter. The three realities are synchronized. It would be true also for images and a television audience.
You can well understand Apollo’s preoccupation when confronted with the faun’s hubris . Nothing is stable in a flowing consciousness. So he has to search for every feature or trait, every trace remaining on the surface, every scar left on the skin: he must flay, tear apart, lay bare any hypothetical underside, so that he can remember. Thus it may well be that the divided fluxes of the Advertising lyre, those of AmalgTV and those of Nicolas Boillot’s other projects are not the scattered fragments of an object which would have to be reconstructed – like a found marble foot might be enough to imagine Apollo’s statue, but more like the charming one that allows Poussin and Porbus to see the woman in Frenhofer’s painting2. They are fragments of the same nature as the fluxes, their skin and their flesh, and the kind of consciousness those imagining and listening are experiencing. But there is another surprising thing: this stripping has released yet more movements which had in effect escaped our attention. Apollo’s beauty is upset, turned upside down…
Honorary architect, Ph.D in aesthetic, sciences and technologies of arts
Director of the Angoulême site, European school of visual arts
1. Titian, The Flaying of Marsyas, ca 1570 – 1576, oil on canvas, 212/207 cm, State Museum, Kromeriz, Czecoslovakia.
Frank Stella, Working Space, Harvard University Press, 1986, Cambridge
2. Honoré de Balzac, Le chef d’œuvre inconnu, 1831, published in additional clauses of Georges Didi-Huberman, La peinture incarnée , Minuit, 1985.