[2 pics of Artaud]

antonin artaud

[contributed by Mary Lynch, w/ additions by Fiona Webster]

[Patti Smith's] aesthetic program is one that owes an incalculable debt to Antonin Artaud, who, in the words of Roger Shattuck, "concocted a magic amalgam of theatrical style, occult and esoteric knowledge . . . antiliterary pronouncements, drug cultism and revolutionary rhetoric without politics."
—Jonathan Cott, New York Times

Antonin Artaud: 1896-1948.
Actor, director, writer, artist, founder of the "theatre of cruelty".

A visionary and a mystic. He saw the theatre as a ritual able to give rise to a numinous experience within the spectator.

He believed that new myths must be found for modern audiences, as we no longer participate in the same mysteries as in the past.

In his article "Metaphysics and the mise en scene," Artaud discusses the decline in the meaningfulness of certain myths to painting.

Artaud called his theatre the Theatre of Cruelty. He wrote two manifestos entitled "The Theatre of Cruelty" and "The Theatre and Cruelty". Through it, he meant to enable the viewer to project his or her feelings and sensations beyond the usual limits imposed by time and space. The audience would be capable of having a powerful metaphysical experience whle watching the stage. Afterwards, the audience would feel purified.

A sample quotation:

I employ the word cruelty in the sense of an appetite for life, a cosmic rigor,an implacable necessity,in the gnostic sense of a living whirlwind that devours darkness, in the sense that pain apart from whose ineluctable necessity life could not continue; good is desired, it is the consequence of an act; evil is permanent.

[from Antonin Artaud: Man of Vision by Bettina Knapp]

Numerous critics have commented on the influence that Patti's performance style in particular owes to Artaud. For example.
Patti's a smart performer. Using techniques similar to those recommended by Antonin Artaud, who created the "Theater of Cruelty," she sets up a powerful dramatic tension by alternately scaring and eliciting protective feelings from an audience. She aims for the groin and the spine, and as soon as people realize she wants them to like her, they usually do, and things start to cook. Energy flows up the spine. The words, Patti's own, are generally very important and occasionally just there to set up a texture of good old straight id material. Patti explains that she tries to work herself into a certain state where she won't know what she's going to say next, but can speak directly from a certain myth-generating part of her mind.

[from article by Tony Hiss and David McClelland, The New York Times Magazine, December 21, 1975]

During the '70s, Patti commented on Artaud and his influence in various interviews. Talking with Lisa Robinson in '76, for example, she described how she felt when she first arrived in New York City:
There was so much inside of me ... I always had these rhythms, but I didn't know what to do with them, It's like that line Artaud said, about a white tiger clawing to get out of him. I always felt there was something good to get out of my body, but I was constipated in a way.
In the same interview, Patti has also saw a parallel between Artaud and Jim Morrison:
Jim Morrison probably got the closest to being an artist within rock and roll, I think. I don't know what Hendrix was -- he was like some prophet madman. He was like a rock and roll Artaud, because he had some kind of demon within him and he was trying to express it, or find a forum for it, but it just swallowed him up like it did to Artaud.
In June of '96, Patti was invited to a conference on Artaud and Genet given at the London Institute for the Contemporary Arts -- to participate in a panel discussion and give a performance. At that time, she had some remarks published in the London Evening Standard about how she first encountered Artaud:
I first learned about Artaud, the Surrealist visionary, from seeing him in the movie, The Passion of Joan of Arc. I was very taken with his ability to express himself in so many forms -- writing, acting, directing, drawing. Despite his drug abuse, he had a tremendous work ethic.
More from Artaud-Genet conference:
Patti's published remarks

article about the conference

Patti was also invited to perform in connection with an exhibition of Artaud's artwork at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, November 7, 1996. (No specific Artaud content is mentioned, but here's a review of that gig.)

Some links:

Arnaud Hubert's website about Artaud -- still under construction, but has good bibliography and some links

Peter Krapp's website about Artaud -- interesting, with some very good links

article on Artaud's final work, "a radiophonic creation"

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