Artaud, The Art of Cruelty and duende

Artaud_manrayMaggie Nelson pays much attention to Antonin Artaud in The Art of Cruelty. Especially to the ideas laid out in his manifesto and then seemingly put into practice in his 1947 banned radio play, To Have Done with the Judgement of God, to which Nelson says is “the closest Artaud may have come to ‘cutting to the core.'”

“…to be someone,” Artaud says, “one must have bone, not be afraid to show the bone, and to lose the meat in the process.”

What is Artaud wrestling with? Where is that place he goes that’s so raw and real, and yet so close to madness?

This all reminded me of the concept of duende. Considered one of the hardest Spanish words to translate, duende is in effect a dark-leaning power that the artist, especially the performance artist, summons and then wrestles with.

From Federico Garcia Lorca’s In Search of Duende and his 1933 lecture, Play and Theory of Duende:

“Duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet. The artist must battle it skillfully, on the rim of the well. (It seizes) not only the performer but also the audience, creating conditions where art can be understood spontaneously… a sort of corkscrew that can get art into the sensibility of an audience.”


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