The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Galerie Dennis Cooper presents … 23 tableaux vivants


‘A tableau vivant is a representation of a personage, character, scene, incident, etc., or of a well-known painting or statue, by one person or a group of persons in suitable costumes and attitudes, silent and motionless. Historically, tableaux vivants denoted figures posed, silent and immobile, for twenty or thirty seconds, in imitation of well-known works of art or dramatic scenes from history and literature. The phrase and practice of tableau vivant originated as medieval liturgical dramas when a mass ended in a short, dramatic series or tableaux. Although its emblematic and allegorical characteristics recall medieval drama, the “tableau” emerged as a true art form on the Continent and in England in the eighteenth century.

‘Another facet of the use of tableau vivant was the pose plastique, where the performer would imitate classical statuary, introducing the nude and transforming these larger portrayed scenes, while still portraying a decided moment. One could compare the manifestation of the tableau vivant with Roland Barthes’ consideration of the film still; both being an analysis of a pregnant moment. Barthes believes the film still has the capacity to extract the whole diegesis of a film. In The Third Meaning, Barthes cites Eisenstein’s thoughts about the film still offering us “inside the fragment.” He agrees with Eisenstein’s belief about the film still being the, “basic center of gravity.”

‘Tableau vivant’s beginnings were associated within a class structure that could not only afford time but consideration of this activity. Goethe acknowledges this by saying “Here the place is to think of still another decided hobby of the Neapolitaner …. presenting angels and kings, more or less completely, richly and preciously together grouped. Goethe believed that tableaux vivant functioned merely as entertainment (diversions, evening amusement) once they were appropriated.” One commonality to this practice is the consideration of mimesis. The term mimesis is derived from the Greek mimesis, meaning to imitate. The tableau vivant acts as an imitation; the act of copying a copy. Walter Benjamin believed it was inherently human and part of the natural order of man to imitate.

‘Before radio, film and television, tableaux vivants were popular forms of entertainment. Before the age of colour reproduction of images the tableau vivant (often abbreviated simply to tableau) was sometimes used to recreate paintings “on stage”, based on an etching or sketch of the painting. This could be done as an amateur venture in a drawing room, or as a more professionally produced series of tableaux presented on a theatre stage, one following another, usually to tell a story without requiring all the usual trappings of a “live” theatre performance. Since English stage censorship often strictly forbade actresses to move when nude or semi-nude on stage, tableaux vivants also had a place in presenting risqué entertainment at special shows. In the nineteenth century they took such titles as “Nymphs Bathing” and “Diana the Huntress” and were to be found at such places as The Hall of Rome in Great Windmill Street, London. Other notorious venues were the Coal Hole in the Strand and The Cyder Cellar in Maiden Lane. Such shows had largely died out by the 1970s.’ — collaged from various sources





MELODROM tableau vivant PREMIKI


Tableau vivant Pontormo


Tableau Vivant ‘Dissecting Sebastian’


Tableaux vivant Caravaggio


Tableau Vivant, Kasper Julian en Nick


Tableau vivant Le nozze di Cana di David Gerard


Starring Lucas, Pearl, Cosi, Elisa, Bess, Claudia, Allen, Isaac.




Raft of the Medusa (100 Mile House)


Tableau vivant de majorettes


Tableau Vivant Willem


Act 2 of King Lear


Security Passing Rodin’s Age of Bronze


Tableau Vivant. Jarvis and Liam smoking


Princes Day in 3D at the Pageant of the Masters


Tableau Vivant – Jan Vermeer


Tableau Vivant – Dumbo Arts Festival – powerHouse Arena2




p.s. Hey. ** Shane Christmass, Hi, Shane. I love the first Alice Cooper album. I saw them live a couple of times during that period. Really, about Bertolucci? I think his early film are incredible and very powerful. Two of them — ‘The Conformist’, ‘Luna’ — are on my all-time fave films list. I don’t like his films from ‘The Last Emperor’ forward, but the early ones were/are important to me. I like Visconti too, though. I should try the Alexander Chee book. I’ve never been that blown away by his essays, but people seem to think he’s the bee’s knees, so I should trying digging in. Thanks for the AC vid. I love that band, one of the best bands ever, I think. I love all their albums up until ‘Muscle of Love’, which is where it ends for me. And I think Alice is easily one of the greatest rock singers ever. Anyway blah blah, hope all is swell on your end. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Oh, people here are very pissed about the raised taxes on diesel fuel. It’s pitched as a pro-environment move to get people to switch to electric cars, but everyone is rightfully saying that if that’s the goal, he should raise taxes on the oil companies, etc., not on people who can’t afford electric cars, but he won’t do that, being a big pro-business and pro-rich people kind of guy. People are pretty pissed about most of what Macron its doing. But it’s nothing all that unusual. As you know, the French take to the streets and protest the government all the time. The only difference is Macron is ignoring the protests, which is not the way governments here usually respond to public outcry, and so they’re getting more aggressive to try to get his attention. It’s interesting, not a problem. I hope it went well at Japan House last night. How was it? ** Steve Erickson, Thanks for the adds. That Steve Miller track is wack. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Yes, I know those Davis tracks, and I can only think that’s thanks to you. Wow, the class is already almost finished? I certainly think your story idea is very ripe. How is the writing/developing going? ** Dominik, Hi, Dominik! I was never into Franz West’s stuff, but seeing a whole bunch of it together, I finally think I got it, and it’s odd enough work to interest me. Okay, good that the last meeting went well and warmly, and very good news that your using the facilities seems like it will work out! Cool. And of course your long Skype with Anita must have been wonderful. I delayed the Xmas fair visit because the first night I was going to go were the big riots here taking place right near the fair, and it’s been raining every night since. But I think maybe today it’ll be sort of dry, and, if so, I’ll wander over there. I did take a shortish break from the TV script, which was needed, and now I have plunge again. Urgh. I hope your week has a very spectacular nature. How was it? Take care until soon! ** Korpston, Hey. Aw, I’m the one who got the goods from your story. You only got the goods of making it, not revelling in its existence with objective pleasure supreme like me. I think I like punky Pop more than Punk Pop, if I can draw a distinction that I can’t quite define. Big up on the writing career plan. I mean, obviously. And, yeah, I wouldn’t do it for the dough if I’m any kind of comparison. I do not know anything about that CCR5 gene thing, but now I simply must find out something. Thank you. ** Chris Cochrane, Howdy, Chris! Thanks for your blog attention. I’m good, no real complaints. Colds are almost everywhere over here. I had mine, but it was relatively kindly. Want to hear more on the music possibilities, and jobs too, when your time is right. Birthday gig! Do, do, do record that thing. Live album! We’re percolating on our next film, but until the TV thing is bedded or toasty or whatever, we’re stuck, but, hey, could be worse. With love also, me. ** Misanthrope, Ha ha, yeah, I simply don’t believe people practice things that are hard to say with a mirror. Unless movies have made people think that’s what you’re supposed to do. That seems possible bordering on likely. I could rattle off thousands of movie tropes that drive me nuts, but life is too short. See, if they’d titled it ‘Cold Summer Nights’ or ‘Chilly Summer Nights’, you could see the title and go, ‘Huh, that’s weird. I wonder why a summer night would bee cold’, and then there would be the remote possibility that you want to see the film and find out. ** Nik, Hi, Nik! Great to see you! A music adaptation of ‘The Three Sisters’ sounds weird enough that I’m intrigued. Well, depending on what the music was like. I’m guessing it wasn’t Black Metal. I would def. love a peek at any video evidence you end up getting. I’m glad it was interesting and that you got props. Cool. Gisele is working on a new piece that is an adaptation of a Robert Walser play, but, since there’s already text, there’s nothing for me to do on it, although I think I’m going to be ‘consulting’ or something. The TV script work is in its hopefully late stages, and it’s a pain, but it’s also interesting to be trying to do something we like and also ace ARTE’s rules in a way. I do hope it will be finished apart from minor fiddling by early next year because enough is enough. Great that your writing is back to being a central effort and that it goes well. Your thinking about it sounds very right-on and fruitful. Excited to get to read the spoils at some future point. My plan is to dive back into my novel as soon as the TV script is finished. Yeah, there are a number of experiments going on it. It’ll be easier for me to talk about them when it’s the thing I’m concentrating on. Right now, with my attention forcibly fixed on the script, it sort of seems cloudy. But, yeah, it’ll be a complicated but ideally very clear novel. Have a lovely day! ** Okay. If you’re not already interested in tableaux vivant, I’m gambling that you will be the time today is done. See you tomorrow.


  1. Tableau Vivants are fascinating. The opening GIF reminds me of “India Song” which is at heart a tableau vivant.

    The Kurosawa event went spectacularly well. The place was packed and there was much in-depth discussion of Japanese narrative forms and the way Kurosawa used the. George Takei was adorable as always.

  2. Your books on my shelves (actually in Grandmas basement) are easy to spot, its a section of shining gold. I feel confused. I just want to be in the Offspring but way cooler. They all use the same basses except Fat Mike, he uses a Dano. Haha, I guess its like the old Cooleridge story – he says anything you do people are going to ignore. That’s why inside of each one of my books somewhere near the center there is something better than “Teen Pussy”. Haha, I don’t know something like that. I want the first novel to be bad, the stories to be the standard, and the second novel to be Keatonic Grillet/Guyotat. That gene thing is totally neat, its like 1% outside of Europe 10% in Europe. One copy part resistance, double deletion, full resistance. The gene thing is going to be a big mess, much more so than the transhuman thing with the machines. I love these. I think of so many things… Mannerism, Matthew Barney, the SP video for Zero, “Jeremy”, “Long Way Outta Hell”, guitar ads, and the probably millions of these I have seen of Caravaggio. French Classicism is probably best for these. They remind me of the ghost that chased me around Grevin, was fond of Murats bathtub and then got lost in Liberty Leading the People.

  3. Hey D.,

    Oh, wow, this is really fascinating. I love how the intensity of each project alters, contrasting the amateur stuff with the costumed reenactments and how they complicated in concept, dedication, violence, etcetera was awesome. Once I got to ‘Security Passing Rodin’s Age of Bronze’ the synthesis made my head do a mini-explosion. Plus the way this form of media interacts with your gif fiction is really interesting, it’s like an inversion of the form in a way, if that makes sense. Thanks for putting this together.
    Ha, it was definitely not Black Metal. It’s weird how it worked out. The director is a very naturally collaborative and accepting person, which has been a was inspiration to me in a lot of ways and allowed the actors to come into the characters in a natural engaged way. But she also let anyone who could play an instrument make up the band, so the end result was an ensemble of acoustic guitars, a piano, a baritone sax, and a flute. All playing well structured but a pretty conventional contemporary musical soundtrack. I think in some ways it’s an attempt to make Chekhov relevant, but the audience feedback seemed to really like the actual play and find the music kinda intrusive, which is how I felt (that could have to do with the instrumentation though). The weird stuff that actually worked had a lot more to do with staging, lighting, and movement, which was really smartly done and enhanced the show rather than distracted from it.
    That’s such a bummer that this ARTE script has been almost exclusively laborious. Are there any experiments you’re focusing on within the script? Or is the experiment mostly on Gisele’s end? Or has ARTE just erased any traces of experimentation that were ever there? Either way, I hope the script really is in the late stages and you get to work on something less constrained.
    Hope your day’s lovely too!

  4. Hmmm is this Bow Wow Wow sleeve a Tableau Vivant? How about Jeff Wall artworks? Have I got this right?

    I was at the short story writing class this evening and again, I’m finding it very enjoyable. I just read out the first paragraph of my untitled “gambling addict schoolboy obsessed with the Bet365 adverts” story and it got a good response. The class is too big for anyone to get detailed feedback but still, I’m feeling more confident in my writing just from getting words down on the page and reading those words out to an audience is gratifying. I plan to flesh out the beginnings over the weekend and aim to have a completed draft next week.

  5. D, the St Sebastion could/should have been pushed much further. I mean really? Bodybuilt bullshit and flaky fake blood?! The Caravaggios’ r much better, almost memorizing. Though Caravaggio is one of my favorites right up there with Friedman and my most beloved Goya….whose etchings are amazingly beautiful in person.

    Jarrod and I stared at them for a while when they were presented at the Met. However Jarrod takes Goya’s genius for granted having studied him over much.

    How are you? I got a raise recently which will help with our x.xk rent. My fault, I had a manic stage and spent WAY too much. I’ve since cancelled all credit cards but one.

    Jarrod says hi. He’s watching me type to you all. Did you get the email with the requested drawings for the beer label? They photoshopped his original drawing which has his shaky/steady/studious lines that’s in the now expensive The Weaklings. He hasn’t changed. I can take a picture of the original which is just laying on our couch. Let me know. Hi to all. And love, Joey.

  6. Dennis, These are really cool. I like them.

    Yes, “Cold Summer Nights” would make one think, no? And would cause a little intrigue in a person’s brain. Very much like “Freddy Got Fingered” did for me all those years ago.

    I’m about to finish The Remains of the Day tonight. Great book…if you want to learn how to be a butler. 😛 Nah, it’s actually pretty good, very subtle in its writing and presentation of the story. I like it. I think that next I’ll read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

  7. It’s cool that the models in the first video could hold the pose for 4 minutes.

    I finally heard Pig Destroyer’s HEAD CAGE all the way through. I know that the band has been around for 21 years, but I like the way they use samples and have a sense of rhythm and dynamics as well as going for brutal aggression. There are a lot of recent hardcore bands influenced by groove metal and even nü-metal; HEAD CAGE reminds me of that sound – even the first 2 Slipknot albums – done really well.

    Hopefully, I will be able to see the 2nd cut of CULTURE SHOCK tomorrow. I’m still planning to meet with my editor Thursday afternoon.

    Alice Rohrwacher’s HAPPY AS LAZZARO is excellent, like a modern version of the ’60s and ’70s post-neo-realist films of directors like Pasolini and the Tavianis. I feel like I’m heading towards a stuck groove on this subject, but while it’s great that Netlif is picking up a film like this and thus people nowhere near an arthouse across the US will be able to see it Friday, the price is that people who *do* live near an arthouse outside NYC and LA won’t have a chance to see it theatrically. I know its NYC run will only last a week. Since it was shot on Super 16, I know the cinematography will suffer on video. Is it opening in French theaters, or do you need a Netflix subscription in Europe as well to see it?

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