The Rotten Ass, 1928
Salvador Dalí - The Rotten Ass
A morally-inclined action could be provoked by the violently paranoid wish to render confusion systematic.
Paranoia itself, especially when seen as a mechanism of strength and power, leads us to the possibility of a mental crisis that is perhaps as serious as, though diametrically opposed to, the crisis induced by hallucination.
The moment is near, I believe, when, by means of a deliberately paranoid thought process (as through automatism and other passive states), it will be possible to systematize confusion and contribute to the total discrediting of the world of reality.
The new simulacra that paranoid thought could suddenly reveal will not only have their roots in the unconscious—more importantly, the strength of paranoid power will be placed at the service of the unconscious.
These threatening simulacra will act cleverly and corrosively with the clarity of everyday physical forms, in such a way that our minds, with their distinctive capacity for self-censorship, will dream of the old machinery of metaphysics and almost willingly confound this with the very essence of nature, which, according to Heraclitus, likes to hide.
As far removed as possible from the sensory phenomena that can be thought of as more or less connected to hallucination, paranoid activity always makes use of verifiable, recognizable materials. It is enough for someone in the grip of an interpretive delirium to link the meanings of heterogeneous paintings that happen to hang on the same wall for the real existence of such a link to become undeniable. Paranoia uses the external world to validate an obsessive idea, with the troubling result of validating its reality to others. The reality of the external world serves as illustration and proof of the paranoid idea and is subservient to the reality in our minds.
Physicians uniformly acknowledge the quickness of mind and incomparable subtlety of many paranoiacs, who, by seizing on themes and facts with a finesse that escapes normal people, often reach conclusions that cannot be dismissed or contradicted and which almost always defy psychological analysis.
It is a clearly paranoid process that has made it possible to achieve a double image—that is, a representation of an object which becomes, without the slightest figurative or anatomical modification, the representation of another, absolutely different object, it too devoid of any distortion or abnormality that could indicate some sort of manipulation.
This double image was made possible by the violence of paranoid thought, which cunningly and skillfully availed itself of the requisite number of pretexts, coincidences, and so forth in order to reveal the second image, which in this instance takes the place of the obsessive idea.
The double image (an example of which might be an image of a horse that is also an image of a woman) can be extended, following the paranoid process—the existence of another obsessive idea being sufficient cause for the appearance of a third image (of a lion, for example), and so on, with the total number of images limited solely by the paranoid capacity of the individual's thought.
I subject to materialist scrutiny the sort of mental crisis that such an image can provoke. I subject to the same scrutiny the still more complex problem of determining which such image is most likely to exist if one allows desire to intervene, as well as the more difficult and more general problem of determining whether the series of such representations has a limit or whether, as we have every reason to believe, such a limit either does not exist or whether its existence depends solely on the paranoid capacity of each individual.
Assuming that no other considerations intervene, the foregoing allows me at the very least to assert that images of reality itself depend on the magnitude of our paranoid faculty. Theoretically, moreover, an individual endowed with a paranoid faculty of sufficient magnitude might at will perceive a series of changes in the shape of a real object—as in the case of voluntary hallucination—but with the more destructive peculiarity that the various forms assumed by the object can be seen and verified by anyone, once pointed out by the paranoiac.
The paranoid mechanism, which gives rise to the multiple figurative image, is the key to understanding the nature and origin of simulacra, whose fury dominates the disguise beneath which the manifold appearances of the concrete conceal themselves. Indeed, it is the fury and traumatic nature of simulacra vis-a-vis reality and the absence of the slightest osmosis between reality and its simulacra that lead to the conclusion that comparison of any sort is a (poetic) impossibility. It would be possible to compare two things only if it were possible to conceive of a lack of any type of conscious or unconscious connection between them. Made tangible, such a comparison would clearly embody our idea of the gratuitous.
Because simulacra are inconsistent with reality, and because the gratuitous can exist in their presence, they can easily take the form of reality, while reality can in turn adapt itself to the violence of the simulacra, which one form of materialist thought stupidly confounds with real violence.*
Nothing can prevent me from acknowledging the multiple presence of simulacra in the example of the multiple image, even if one of its states takes on the appearance of a rotten ass, and even if this ass is truly and horribly rotten, covered with thousands of flies and ants; since in this case, moreover, one cannot assume that the distinct states of the image have any intrinsic significance apart from the notion of time, nothing can convince me that this cruel putrefaction of the ass is anything other than the harsh, blinding reflection of new precious stones.
And there's no way to know that the much-desired "treasure island" isn't hiding behind the three major simulacra—shit, blood, and putrefaction.
As connoisseurs of simulacra, we have long since learned to recognize the image of desire behind the simulacra of terror and even the dawn of "golden ages" behind ignominious scatological simulacra.
The acceptance of simulacra whose reality painstakingly strives to imitate appearances leads us to desire ideal things.
Perhaps no simulacrum has created structures to which the word ideal applies more exactly than the great simulacrum that constitutes the disruptive ornamental architecture of the Modern Style. No collective effort has managed to create a dream world as pure or as disturbing as these modern-style buildings that stand on the fringes of architecture as true realizations of solidified desire, in which the cruelest, most violent automatism achingly reveals a hatred of reality and a need to seek refuge in an ideal world that is common in childhood neurosis.
This is what we can still love, this imposing mass of cold, maniacal buildings scattered across Europe, scorned and neglected by anthologies and studies. This is all we need to combat our piggish contemporary aestheticians, who defend execrable "modern art." Indeed, this is all we need to combat the entire history of art.
Art critics, artists, and so forth need to be told once and for all that they should expect nothing from the new surrealist images but disappointment, disagreeableness, and repugnance. Far removed from all "plastic investigations" and other such imbecilities, the new images of surrealism will increasingly take on the forms and colors of demoralization and confusion. The day is not far off when a painting will have no value other than that of a simple moral yet gratuitous act.
The new images, as functional forms of thought, will freely follow the penchants of desire, even as they are violently repressed. The mortal activity of these new images can still, along with other surrealist activities, contribute to the destruction of reality for the benefit of those who, in opposition to infamous and abominable ideals of every sort, aesthetic, humanitarian, philosophical, and so forth, are leading us back to the limpid sources of masturbation, exhibitionism, crime, and love.
Idealists without sharing in any ideal. The ideal images of surrealism in the service of the imminent crisis of consciousness, in the service of the Revolution
* Here I am thinking in particular of the materialist ideas of Georges Bataille, along with all the old materialism that Bataille pretends to bring up to date with the gratuitous support of modern psychology.
Translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer