‘Covered in soft black construction paper adorned with a pink title band, and filled with delicate pages accentuated by rapturously colored photographs, Hans Bellmer’s Les jeux de la poupée (The Games of the Doll) is the perfect Surrealist object. Bellmer began to experiment with his disquieting dolls in 1934—originally crafted from wood, broom-handles, metal rods, nuts and bolts, and plaster—before forming the second iteration which was constructed using ball joints for greater mobility and manipulation. Photographed from 1936 to 1938 in his native Germany, Bellmer then fled to Paris, where famed fellow Surrealist Paul Éluard selected fourteen images to be compiled into a book that would couple Bellmer’s vibrantly hand colored photographs with extensive text written by Éluard. A small edition titled Poupée II was created, but with the advent of the Second World War its publication was brought to a halt. A larger edition, published by Éditions Premières in Paris as Les jeux de la poupée was released a decade later in an edition of 136. While the great majority of these books have been broken up, the current lot is a rare example of a complete book, presented as Bellmer and Éluard had originally intended it.
‘Les jeux de la poupée dives deep into the realm of the uncanny. The doll, never anatomically complete, and clearly constructed from artificial parts, nonetheless evokes fear and sympathy from the viewer who cannot help but feel empathy for this tragic figure. Photography, with its unbreakable tie to the real, plays a significant role in the Doll’s surreal power, in what scholars Rosalind Krauss and Jane Livingston describe as “the seeming contradiction between the extravagant productions of the unconscious and the documentary deadpan of the camera.”
‘The prints placed within the book feature Bellmer’s doll posed in a series of sinister narrative tableaus, however on the cover Bellmer placed a print that has been trimmed to the edges of the doll itself, divorcing her from an semblance of reality. A nearly abstract form composed of two hips joined by a large ball-joint, lit from opposing sides and colored pink and yellow, the self-contained form appears a duality—conscious and unconscious, reality and fantasy. Like a reoccurring, effusive dream, we are greeted by another trimmed print on the cover page, a twin of the doll on the cover who has followed us into the book’s depths. Regarding Bellmer’s book is like walking through a stranger’s home in the dark. Each step is carefully taken through this strange, unsettling environment, and perhaps we yearn for the comfort of the familiar, but drawn in by Bellmer’s exquisite Surrealist mastery, we cannot bring ourselves to look away.’ — Phillips
‘Hans Bellmer adopted his controversial practice—the creation of provocative, often grotesque sculptures of pubescent female dolls—in the 1930s to rebel against the artistic rules and standards of beauty imposed by the Nazi government. After moving to Berlin in 1923, Bellmer became close with the Dada artists, particularly George Grosz, a politically minded painter who furthered Bellmer’s distrust of government. Fearing that his art would be outlawed by the Nazis as “degenerate”, in 1934 Bellmer sought acceptance abroad with André Breton and the French Surrealists, who embraced his work for its revolutionary nature and libidinous engagement with female youth. In addition to his sculptures, Bellmer produced prints, photographs, and drawings, always dealing with themes of abject sexuality and forbidden desire. Also a writer, he referred to his doll projects as “experimental poetry”.’
“I was aware of what I called physical unconsciousness, the body’s underlying awareness of itself. I tried to rearrange the sexual elements of a girl’s body like a sort of plastic anagram. I remember describing it thus: the body is like a sequence that invites us to rearrange it, so that its real meaning comes clear through the series of endless anagrams. I want to reveal what is usually kept hidden – it is no game – I tried to open peoples eyes to new realities: it is as true of the doll photographs as it is of Petit Traite de la Morale. The anagram is the key to my work. This allies me to the Surrealists and I am glad to be considered part of that movement, although I have less concern than some Surrealists with the subconscious, because my works are carefully thought out and controlled. If my work is found to scandalise, that is because for me the world is scandalous.” — Hans Bellmer
Hans BELLMER – La Poupée
Hijikata ‘three bellmers’
‘Paul Éluard was a French poet and one of the founders of the Surrealist movement. In 1916, he chose the name Paul Éluard, a patronymic borrowed from his maternal grandmother. He adheres to Dadaism and becomes one of the pillars of surrealism by opening the way to artistic action politically committed to the Communist Party. During World War II, he was the author of several poems against Nazism that circulated clandestinely. He became known worldwide as The Poet of Freedom and is considered the most gifted of French surrealist poets.’
Philip Roth: In your book, the great French poet Éluard soars over paradise and gulag, singing. Is this bit of history which you mention in the book authentic?
Milan Kundera: After the war, Paul Éluard abandoned surrealism and became the greatest exponent of what I might call the “poesy of totalitarianism.” He sang for brotherhood, peace, justice, better tomorrows, he sang for comradeship and against isolation, for joy and against gloom, for innocence and against cynicism. When in 1950 the rulers of paradise sentenced Éluard’s Prague friend, the surrealist Zalvis Kalandra, to death by hanging, Éluard suppressed his personal feelings of friendship for the sake of supra-personal ideals, and publicly declared his approval of his comrade’s execution. The hangman killed while the poet sang.
Paul Eluard : “Liberté” (dit par l’auteur)
Paul ÉLUARD – Portrait souvenir (DOCUMENTAIRE, 1964)
p.s. Hey. ** Misanthrope, Same here. The sky has multiple personalities that are very impatient with one another. Your David description makes him sound kind of like a cross between a typical hardcore pothead and Archie Bunker for some reason. I keep thinking that scenario you mentioned happened in one of my novels or stories, but I can’t remember. I used to know this boy/guy a long time ago who told me he was hitchhiking on acid when he was 11 years old and a guy gave him a ride and he (my friend) said the acid was making him acting totally hyper and weird, and that the guy got fed up and made him get out of the car, and that a few months later he saw the driver’s picture in the paper and it turned out he was this serial killer famous for killing teen and pre-teen hitchhiking boys who had just been arrested, so … that kind of counts but it isn’t literature. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Our being at severe odds about Errol Morris is old news since we’ve crossed swords about him many times, so I say let’s do the usual agree to disagree and go elsewhere and upwards. Disagree with you about ‘Safe’ too, and I think we’ve been there before as well. Everyone, Mr. E’s FaBlog tackles the impeachment hearings under the colorful title ‘Trump / Sade’ here. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Right? And yet the great majority of kids who take those classes turn out to be the usual occasionally horny heteros. I guess you and I had high artistic standards even when we were little. Yes, the musical love we cooked up is interesting indeed. If he had an escort profile, I’d be tempted. Ha ha, good one. Love that notices your love lying on the floor and thinks it’s a coffee bean and adds it to the beans in his coffee grinder and clicks ‘on’, G. ** _Black_Acrylic, That is good news! How in the world did the UK govt not include MS people in their vaccine priority list?! Wtf next! Anyway, very happy to hear that. The French govt’s vaccine roll out is such a mess I don’t when I’m going to get my chance, grr. ** Ferdinand, Thanks a lot, man. I hope you’re doing great. ** Steve Erickson, ‘MPLS’, in my opinion, is very good and has a lot of the qualities that make his films so great while not being among his very best and with a kind of lack of pay off at the end. I would add ‘Mr. Death’ and ‘Vernon, Florida’ to your faves list. ‘Fast, Cheap and Out of Control’ is in my all time top ten favorite films list. I pretty much stopped doing profile pieces before social media was in full swing, so it would have been harder to track my previous opinions. That current situation is nuts, and not a surprise at all. The only time I ever had publicist interference was when I interviewed Brad Renfro. He was very open in the interview, too open in his people’s opinion, and I started getting threatening phone calls from his publicist about what I could and couldn’t use before I even pulled my car out of the parking lot of the place where I’d interviewed him. ** politekid, Hi, O! Oh, my pleasure, man, I loved it. And I liked the voice/recitation too. Was the deliverer your choice? Did you monitor/supervise the recording? Great there’ll be a second part. Hopefully art spaces will even be open and enterable by then? I like the title. How does one hear that podcast you mentioned? And your essay sounds like it’s reaching nuclear must readability level. I love Kawabata. I … don’t think I know Naoki Urasawa. I’ll try to find ‘Monster’. Ace about your grandma’s shot. The Captain Tom thing is known to me, but I can’t quite figure out what I’m supposed to feel about it. I’ve been erring on the side of ‘aw, what a sweetie’. I’m good. Nah, not much of anything is happening here. Our 6 pm curfew pretty much kills everything. I’m just working on projects and stuff. There’s such a groundswell of anger/pressure from museums here that they might actually get reopened, which would be helpful. Take care, maestro! ** Brian O’Connell, Hi, Brian, good to see you. Thanks a lot about the post’s recent output. I highly recommend ‘Gates of Heaven’ and ‘Vernon, Florida’. ‘Fast, Cheap and Out of Control’ is my ultra-favorite. My week has been pretty fucking quiet. Just working and trying to work on stuff. I did go to that donut place, and they were very yum. Watched a few films, nothing especially noteworthy. My week needs an excitement breakout, and … maybe today? Doubt it. Glad your friends passed the ‘Salo’ test with flying colors. Yeah, Purdy, a very distinct stylist. I do like him. He is polarising, but I can’t quite figure out why. He seems to be more roundly respected in Europe. When I lived in Holland, he was considered a total god there. My favorite Purdy is ‘Eustace Chisholm and the Works’. I did a post a while back about his ‘Complete Stories’ book if it’s of interest. Here. I hope you’ve made it up early and hit all the necessary marks that required that wake up time. And had some fun too. ** Okay. The book under the blog’s spotlight today is so incredibly rare and so very expensive that basically those kind of crappy scans in the post are your only access unless you’re a book collecting millionaire. See you tomorrow.