Sunday Sep 09, 2007

authentic paranoid fantasies

On 1 July 1936 Salvador Dali gave a fantastic presentation at the New Burlington Galleries in London. He arrived carrying a billiard queue in one hand , accompanied by 2 large dogs and determined to present his talk "Authentic Paranoid Fantasies" in a diving suite.

I read this story a year ago in Berlin whilst browsing the philosophy section of a large bookstore. On page 156 of "Spheres III: Foam", Peter Sloterdijk - a famous contemporary German philosopher, who now teaches in Vienna - quotes the following passage from Dali's Memoirs "Comment on Devient Dali", which in turn I have translated for your enjoyment below:

I had determined to give a talk during the exhibition in a diving suite as a representation of the subconscious. I was placed in the armor and even fitted with heavy lead shoes, making it completely impossible for me to move my legs. I had to be carried onto the stage. Then they placed the helmet on my head and screwed it tightly shut. I started my talk behind the thick glass in front of a microphone that clearly could not record anything. Nevertheless my mimicry fascinated the public. Soon though I ran out of air, my face turned red, then blue, and my eyes turned upwards. Clearly they had forgotten to provide me with access to air, and I was close to asphyxiation. I signaled to my friends through desperate gestures that my situation was becoming critical. One of them ran for some scissors and tried without success to puncture the costume; another one tried to unscrew the helmet, and as that did not succeed he started banging on the screws with a hammer... Two men tried to tear off the helmet and a third one continued whacking the metal so hard that I nearly lost consciousness.
On the stage one could only see a mass of wildly moving hands, from which I emerged now and again like a dismembered puppet, and my helmet sounded like a gong. The public applauded heavily to this successful Daliesque melodrama, which in their eyes clearly represented how consciousness was trying to communicate with the unconscious. I though nearly died during this triumph. As they finally ripped off my helmet I was as white as Jesus as he returned after his forty days of fasting from the desert.
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