Unica Zürn / The Drawing Center

[…] of Zürn’s first projective test is significant as it predates almost the entirety of her body of work in drawing—that is, it was administered before her early Klee-influenced paintings and her encounter with Bellmer and Surrealism in 1953. In sharp contradistinction, the sec­ond test, administered in 1960, reflects the pictorial language of an automatist character that had already been developed over seven years of artistic production, making its content impossible to read solely as pathological. The variance between the two tests is indeed startling: from unremarkable and child-like illustration in 1951, to the errant linearity and motifs—chimerical beasts, disembodied eyes, janus-faced portraits—now so associated with her drawings.
The Wartegg-Zeichen test in fact perfectly encapsulates the prob­lematic place of the aesthetic production of mental illness, in which there is marked interest in psychiatric discourse in the early twen­tieth century. Mostly comprised of writing and drawing, often blurred in their orthographic character, this production of artifacts that are read as symptoms was defined by the presence of obsessive patterning, ornamentation, and hallucinatory motifs. In these qualities, Zürn’s drawings, many done in notebooks brought to her by Michaux [PLS. 51. 52), do bear similarities to the work of the men­tally ill, but these were also the qualities mined by modernist art­ from Jean Dubuffet to Max Ernst and Michaux himself—as aspects of a ‘pure’ or primitivist creative impulse. Michaux’s own flirtation with ‘madness’ is evident in his calligraphic notations—somewhere between writing and drawing—executed while under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs such as mescaline.


If as Foucault suggested, the mad are denied their own voice, Surrealist automatism produces a metaphorical one for them.


Through such a process, Zürn’s drawing made use of a repertoire of Surrealist techniques, including “entoptic graphomania,” in which dots are made on a sheet of paper and then connected by lines. This process bears a remarkable similarity to the premise of the Warrtegg test, in which the content is partially determined by preexisting graphic elements. Zürn seems to have employed a similar technique to entoptic graphomania in a number of late drawings whose loose, linear skeins recall the early automatic drawings of Masson, and which do not contain any directly representational imagery.


Unica Zürn, Dark Spring by The Drawing Center

// Now i know that i know absolutely nothing of the life of Unica Zürn (nor of Hans Bellmer’s).

“In the novel, a reader professes:

If a book truly interests me, I cannot follow it for more than a few lines before my mind, having seized on a thought that the text suggests to it, or a feeling, or a question, or an image, goes off on a tangent and springs from thought to thought, from image to image, in an itinerary of reasonings and fantasies that I feel the need to pursue to the end, moving away from the book until I have lost sight of it.

“I understand you perfectly,” another reader answers, explaining that

reading is a discontinuous and fragmentary operation. Or, rather, the object of reading is a punctiform and pulviscular material. In the spreading expanse of the writing, the reader’s attention isolates some minimal segments, juxtapositions of words, metaphors, syntactic nexuses, logical passages, lexical peculiarities that prove to possess an extremely concentrated density of meaning. They are like elemental particles making up the work’s nucleus, around which all the rest revolves. Or else like the void at the bottom of a vortex which sucks in and swallows currents. It is through these apertures that, in barely perceptible flashes, the truth the book may bear is revealed, its ultimate substance.

(The cited novel is: If on a winter’s night a traveler / Italo Calvino.)


We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week

“Some day the load we’re carrying with us may help someone. But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn’t use what we got out of them. We went right on insulting the dead. We went right on spitting in the graves of all the poor ones who died before us. We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, ‘We’re remembering’. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run. And some day we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steam-shovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up. Come on now, we’re going to go build a mirror-factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them.”

― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
/via someone some time ago.


“Through neglect, ignorance, or inability, the new intellectual Borgias cram hairballs down our throats and refuse us the convulsion that could make us well. They have forgotten, if they ever knew, the ancient knowledge that only by being truly sick can one regain health. Even beasts know when it is good and proper to throw up. Teach me how to be sick then, in the right time and place, so that I may again walk in the fields and with the wise and smiling dogs know enough to chew sweet grass.”

― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity


// J’ai commencé à lire il y a pas si longtemps  la récente traduction des essais mais repoussé ma lecture à plus tard…

Anna Kava, Ice / Neige

via kavan.land — “a semantic and fictional archive designed out of a collection of data related to the British novelist Anna Kavan (1901–1968).”

Partial ‘reblog’ from everythingisnice (text & quotes by them / only the pointless/boring pics are mine):

I had come back to investigate rumours of a mysterious impending emergency in this part of the world. But as soon as I got here she became an obsession, I could think only of her, felt I must she her immediately, nothing else mattered. Of course I knew it was utterly irrational. And so was my present uneasiness: no harm was likely to come to me in my own country; and yet I was becoming more and more anxious as I drove. (p. 6)

From the outset it is obvious that Ice is a novel about obsession but it rapidly becomes clear that it is overwhelmingly about illness. Our nameless narrator has returned to this country from business overseas and is involved with this brewing civil emergency but it is not clear what this is or what his role in it is. Government? Military? He is somehow an insider yet he seems to fear the police. It is a defining feature of the novel that the narrator is both victim and agent of authority.

It is unseasonably cold and the man at the petrol station warns him of ice as he sets off up the country lanes to visit the girl. Ethereal, blonde to the point of translucency, she is never named either. They knew each other when they were younger but she married another man:

This was past history. But the consequences of the traumatic experience were still evident in the insomnia and headaches from which I suffered. The drugs prescribed for me produced horrible dreams, in which she always appeared as a helpless victim, her fragile body broken and bruised. These dreams were not confined to sleep only, and a deplorable side effect was the way I had come to enjoy them. (p. 8-9)

So he is traumatised, hallucinating and addicted. The waking dream occurs again and again; it is always the same: she becomes trapped, entombed, in ice. “Motionless, she kept her eyes fixed on the walls moving slowly towards her, a glassy, glittering circle of solid ice, of which she was the centre.” (p. 7) Early on, the imagery recurs again and again – “Great ice-cliffs were closing in on all sides.” (p. 13); “The masses of dense foliage all round became prison walls, impassable circular green ice-walls, surging towards her.” (p. 19) – culminate in an extraordinarily intense evocation:

 “Despairingly she looked all round. She was completely encircled by the tremendous ice walls, which were made fluid by explosions of blinding light, so that they moved and changed with a continuous liquid motion, advancing in torrents of ice, avalanches as big as oceans, flooding everywhere over the doomed world. Wherever she looked, she saw the same fearful encirclement, soaring battlements of ice, an over-hanging ring of frigid, fiery, colossal waves about to collapse upon her. Frozen by the deathly cold emanating from the ice, dazzled by the blaze of crystalline ice-light, she felt herself becoming part of the polar vision, her structure becoming one with the ice and snow. As her fate, she accepted the world of ice, shining, shimmering, dead; she resigned herself to the triumph of glaciers and the death of her world.” (p. 21)


In his introduction, Priest says: “To work as allegory there has to be an exactness that the reader can grasp. In Ice the symbols are elusive, mysterious, captivating. It ends as it begins, with nothing that is practical or concluded.” If it is not an allegory, perhaps Ice is simply a wound; a raw insight into Kavan’s illness.

ocean of sound

“In a sense Thomas Pynchon, J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick predicted Brian Eno: Pynchon with his image of electronic sound as ambient entertainment; Ballard with his scenes of Vermilion Sands’ cloud sculptors and sonic statue salesmen; Dick with his musical reverie technology.”