Disturbing and philosophical come together in an illuminating book on one of the directions taken by contemporary art, taking into consideration above all the waste element of the human body, a body turned into a sack of blood and faeces, now totally desacralised. A book that seems to be weird, but which in reality simply reveals what we all have before our eyes and which we often hide from ourselves, deluding ourselves in a reassuring dichotomy between good and evil that has now totally disappeared.
Jean Clair needs no introduction. Among his various activities and the many literary works he has written, more than once he has been interested in the morbid, the terrifying, the horrific and, indeed, the unclean. De Immundo is a book that speaks to us of the body, taking into consideration that of the artist, in its most real and septic terms, of the debasement of its functions and visible form, of its deformations, mutilations and self-mutilations, of its fascination with blood, bodily humours and excrement. An alienating book, simultaneously elegant and excessive.
Themes linked purely to artistic philosophy – at one point we read, summarising the discourse: “The jet of urine extinguishes the aura” – are mixed with religious themes – “È sacer ciò che appartiene simultaneamente al campo del sacro e della lordura”, says Clair, quoting Rudolf Otto – to psychological themes – with Sigmund Freud in the theoretical absoluteness and with Georges Bataille in the imminence of sensations – to political themes – many commentators considered the aktion of the Viennese Actionists to be anti-fascist actions – to gender themes – for Louise Bourgeois, venerator of the body and the relics it produces, ‘anatomy is a destiny’.
The book deals with many other nuances related to a body that has lost all feeling of anguish and pleasure in evil, to embrace its essence in its purity, sometimes in trivialising terms, sometimes in purely biological terms, and sometimes in a disorienting sacredness.
Is this a book for lovers of the genre? No, but of course, if you love the philosophical implications of the last Sadian Pasolini, if you recognise the iconological power of bodily humours, if you believe that the ‘ugly’ has an extremely greater aesthetic power than the ‘beautiful’, it is a book that cannot be missing from your library.
Jean Clair, De Immundo, (Editions Galilée, 2004)