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LA VIE D’ANTONIN ARTAUD: EN ANGLAIS
EARLY LIFE : Born Antoine Marie Joseph Artaud in Marseille, France in 1897. His parents had given birth to nine children, however only Antonin and one sister survived infancy. When he was four years old, Artaud suffered a severe case of meningitis, leaving him with a nervous, irritable temperament throughout his adolescence. He also suffered from neuralgia, stammering and severe bouts of clinical depression, which was treated with the use of opium – resulting in a life-long addiction.
1920’s : Artaud was active in theatre, literature and cinema in the 20’s. He acted with Chalres Dullin’s company and in films by Abel Gance (Napolean, Artaud played Marat) and Carl Dreyer (Jeanne d’Arc, Artaud played a monk), to name a few. He was a member of the Surrealist group for a brief time, editing the third issue of La Révolutionn surréaliste. He wrote poetry all through the 20’s and his first published work was his correspondance with Jacques Rivière, editor of the Nouvelle Revue Française. Other collections of writing were L’Ombilic des limbes (The Ombilicus of Limbo) and Le Pese nerfs (The Nerve Meter).
1930’s : Along with Roger Vitrac Artaud formed the Théâtre Alfred Jarry and they put on several plays with a distinctive anti-bourgeoise flavour. He continued to act in films to make money and he started to formulate his theories about theatre that would eventually be published as The Theatre and It’s Double. This was a seminal work of theatre theory for the 20th century and contained Artaud’s manifestoes for his theatre of cruelty as well as essays about Theatre and the Plague and the Balinese theatre. With the failure of his play The Cenci (due in part to sabotage from Andre Breton and the surrealists), he moved further away from the theatre. During this period he gave «performance lectures» which were supported by Dr. René Allendy, also his psychoanalyst. During this time Artaud had a brief, ardent affair with Anais Nin. Towards the end of the 30’s his mental and physical health was deteriorating. He took a trip to Mexico, on a French government grant, to lecture about theatre and participated in peyotl rituals. Afterwards he voyaged to Ireland to return a cane in his possession that he claimed had belonged to St. Patrick (and originally to Lucifer and to Christ himself). He was deported from Ireland for vagabondage and was put in a straight jacket on the voyage back to France after he became violent. In 1937 he was interned and would spend the next nine years in various asylums.
1940’s : In the early 40’s Artaud’s mother and Robert Desnos, a friend from the Surrealist years, had him transferred out of the Occupied Zone (where mental patients nearly died of starvation under the Nazi rule) to the asylum at Rodez. Rodez was run by Dr. Gaston Ferdière, who associated with the surrealists in his youth. Ferdière submitted Artaud to 51 electroshock sessions, during which Artaud lost most of his teeth and fractured a vertebrae in his back. However, the therapy did rescue Artaud from imminent psychosis and after the sessions, however violent they were, he began to write and draw again with a new passion (he would write more than he had in his entire life during his last 3-4 years). At the intercession of his friends he was released from Rodez in 1946 and lived in relative independence at the Clinic Ivry just outside of Paris. After his liberation he performed at an evening organzied by his friends at the Theatre Sarah Bernhardt where he read several poems and recounterd the story of his life. Among the audience was Andre Gide, Picasso, albert Camus, Jean-Louis Barrault, Jean-Paul Sartre, and many other prominent French intellectuals and artists. He won the St. Beuve Prize for his book Van Gogh: The Man Suicided by Society and he was commissioned to record a radio play for Radio France, To Have Done With the Judgement of God, which was banned before it aired causing a scandal. In 1948 Artaud was diagnosed with rectal cancer and died of an accidental overdose of chlorophyl. He died at the foot of his bed, his shoe in his hand. He left his estate to Paule Thévenin, who took care of him in the last years of his life. Paule Thévenin subsequently oversaw the publication of his complete works, published by Gallimard in 24 tomes.
The Pursuit of Fecality
(La recherche de la Fecalité)
There where it smells of shit
it smells of being.
Man could just as well not have shat,
not have opened the anal pouch,
but he chose to shit
as he would have chosen to live
instead of consenting to live dead.
Because in order not to make caca,
he would have had to consent
not to be,
but he could not make up his mind to lose
that is, to die alive.
There is in being
something particularly tempting for man
and this something is none other than
To exist one need only let oneself be,
but to live,
one must be someone,
to be someone,
one must have a BONE,
not be afraid to show the bone,
and to lose the meat in the process.
Man has always preferred meat
to the earth of bones.
Because there was only earth and wood of bone,
and he had to earn his meat,
there was only iron and fire
and no shit,
and man was afraid of losing shit
or rather he desired shit
and, for this, sacrificed blood.
In order to have shit,
that is, meat,
where there was only blood
and a junkyard of bones
and where there was no being to win
but where there was only life to lose.
o reche modo
do padera coco
At this point, man withdrew and fled.
Then the animals ate him.
It was not a rape,
he lent himself to the obscene meal.
He relished it,
he learned himself
to act like an animal
and to eat rat
And where does this foul debasement come from?
The fact that the world is not yet formed,
or that man has only a small idea of the world
and wants to hold on to it forever?
This comes from the fact that man,
one fine day,
the idea of the world.
Two paths were open to him:
that of the infinite without,
that of the infinitesimal within.
And he chose the infinitesimal within.
Where one need only squeeze
or the glans.
And god, god himself squeezed the movement.
Is God a being?
If he is one, he is shit.
If he is not one
he does not exist.
But he does not exist,
except as the void that approaches with all its forms
whose most perfect image
is the advance of an incalculable group of crab lice.
“You are mad Mr. Artaud, what about the mass?”
I deny baptism and the mass.
There is no human act,
on the internal erotic level,
more pernicious than the descent
of the so-called jesus-christ
onto the altars.
No one will believe me
and I can see the public shrugging its shoulders
but the so-called christ is none other than he
who in the presence of the crab louse god
consented to live without a body,
while an army of men
descended from a cross,
to which god thought he had long since nailed them,
and, armed with steel,
with fire, and with bones,
advances, reviling the Invisible
to have done with GOD’S JUDGMENT.
Here’s our thoughts on Artaud, our production and the festival in general
Tickets available HERE
Playing at the Scotia Bank Studio Theatre at Pia Bouman’s Studio
6 Noble Street, Toronto, Ontario
Tickets are now on sale HERE
Written by Michele Smith and Adam Paolozza using letters and poems by ANTONIN ARTAUD
Directed by Michele Smith
Featuring Coleen MacPherson and Adam Paolozza
Lighting design by Kim Purtell
“Intimate…beautiful…the kind of work we want to see more of in Toronto.”
– Sophie Perceval, TFO – Radio Canada
– Marjorie Murhpy, Radio Canada
“Stylish and cinematic”
– Patricia Marceau, actor/director
We’re proud to announce that our 2012 production of Dostoevski’s The Double, which premiered at the Factory Theatre in February was nominated for 2 Dora awards for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Lighting Design. It went on to win for André Du Toit’s lighting design. Congratulations André!
We will be continuing to work on The Double at Tarragon theatre as part of Adam Paolozza’s Urjo Kareda Residency.
We also want to send out a huge congratulations to Dan Watson’s A Fool’s Life which was nominated for 6 Dora awards and to our great friend and theatrical brother Ravi Jain who was the recipient of this year’s Pauline McGibbon award. Congrats to our talented friends and colleagues!