Notes on Vision
Look where we worship.
We all live in the city.
The city forms—often physically, but inevitably psychically—a circle. A Game. A ring of death with sex at its center. Drive towards outskirts of city suburbs. At the edge discover zones of sophisticated vice and boredom, child prostitution. But in the grimy ring immediately surrounding the daylight business district exists the only real crowd life of our mound, the only street life, night life. Diseased specimens in dollar hotels, low boarding houses, bars, pawn shops, burlesques and brothels, in dying arcades which never die, in streets and streets of all-night cinemas.
When play dies it becomes the Game.
When sex dies it becomes Climax.
All games contain the idea of death.
Baths, bars, the indoor pool. Our injured leader prone on the sweating tile. Chlorine on his breath and in his long hair. Lithe, although crippled, body of a middle-weight contender. Near him the trusted journalist, confidant. He liked men near him with a large sense of life. But most of the press were vultures descending on the scene for curious America aplomb. Cameras inside the coffin interviewing worms.
It takes large murder to turn rocks in the shade and expose strange worms beneath. The lives of our discontented madmen are revealed.
Camera, as all-seeing god, satisfies our longing for omniscience. To spy on others from this height and angle: pedestrians pass in and out of our lens like rare aquatic insects.
Yoga powers. To make oneself invisible or small. To become gigantic and reach to the farthest things. To change the course of nature. To place oneself anywhere in space or time. To summon the dead. To exalt senses and perceive inaccessible images, of events on other worlds, in one’s deepest inner mind, or in the minds of others.
The sniper’s rifle is an extension of his eye. He kills with injurious vision.
The assassin (?), in flight, gravitated with unconscious, instinctual insect ease, moth-like, toward a zone of safety, haven from the swarming streets. Quickly, he was devoured in the warm, dark, silent maw of the physical theater.
Modern circles of Hell: Oswald (?) kills President. Oswald enters taxi. Oswald stops at rooming house. Oswald leaves taxi. Oswald kills Officer Tippitt. Oswald sheds jacket. Oswald is captured.
He escaped into a movie house.
In the womb we are blind cave fish.
Everything is vague dizzy. The skin swells and there is no more distinction between parts of the body. An encroaching sound of threatening, mocking, monotonous voices. This is fear and attraction of being swallowed.
Inside the dream, button sleep around your body like a glove. Free now of space and time. Free to dissolve in the streaming summer.
Sleep is an under-ocean dipped into each night. At morning, awake dripping, gasping, eyes stinging.
The eye looks vulgar
Inside its ugly shell.
Come out in the open
In all of your Brilliance.
Nothing. The air outside
burns my eyes.
I’ll pull them out
and get rid of the burning.
Crisp hot whiteness
Occupants of plague zone
(Santa Ana’s are winds off deserts.)
Rip up grating and splash in gutters.
The search for water, moisture,
“wetness” of the actor, lover.
“Players”—the child, the actor, and the gambler. The idea of chance is absent from the world of the child and primitive. The gambler also feels in service of an alien power. Chance is a survival of religion in the modern city, as is theater, more often cinema, the religion of possession.
What sacrifice, at what price can the city be born?
There are no longer “dancers,” the possessed. The cleavage of men into actor and spectators is the central fact of our time. We are obsessed with heroes who live for us and whom we punish. If all the radios and televisions were deprived of their sources of power, all books and paintings burned tomorrow, all shows and cinemas closed, all the arts of vicarious existence...
We are content with the “given” in sensation’s quest. We have been metamorphosised from a mad body dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes staring in the dark.
Not one of the prisoners regained sexual balance. Depressions, impotency, sleeplessness...erotic dispersion in languages, reading, games, music, and gymnastics.
The prisoners built their own theater which testified to an incredible surfeit of leisure. A young sailor, forced into female roles, soon became the “town” darling, for by this time they called themselves a town, and elected a mayor, police, aldermen.
In old Russia, the Czar, each year, granted—out of the shrewdness of his own soul or one of his advisors’—a week’s freedom for one convict in each of his prisons. The choice was left to the prisoners themselves and it was determined in several ways. Sometimes by vote, sometimes by lot, often by force. It was apparent that the chosen must be a man of magic, virility, experience, perhaps narrative skill, a man of possibility, in short, a hero. Impossible situation at the moment of freedom, impossible selection, defining our world in its percussions.
A room moves over a landscape, uprooting the mind, astonishing vision. A gray film melts off the eyes, and runs down the cheeks. Farewell.
Modern life is a journey by car. The Passengers change terribly in their reeking seats, or roam from car to car, subject to unceasing transformation. Inevitable progress is made toward the beginning (there is no difference in terminals), as we slice through cities, whose ripped backsides present buildings. Sometimes other vessels, closed worlds, vacuums, travel along beside to move ahead or fall utterly behind.
Destroy roofs, walls, see in all the rooms at once.
From the air we trapped gods, with the gods’ omniscient gaze, but without their power to be inside minds and cities as they fly above.
June 30th. On the sun roof. He woke up suddenly. At that instant a jet from the air base crawled in silence overhead. On the beach, children try to leap into its swift shadow.
The bird or insect that stumbles into a room and cannot find the window. Because they know no “windows.”
Wasps, poised in the window.
detached, are not inclined
into our chamber.
Room of withering mesh
read love’s vocabulary
in the green lamp
of tumescent flesh.
When men conceived buildings,
and closed themselves in chambers,
first trees and caves.
(Windows work two ways,
mirrors one way.)
You never walk through mirrors
or swim through windows.
Cure blindness with a whore’s spittle.
In Rome, prostitutes were exhibited on roofs above the public highways for the dubious hygiene of loose tides of men whose potential lust endangered the fragile order of power. It is even reported that patrician ladies, masked and naked, sometimes offered themselves up to these deprived eyes for public excitements of their own.
More or less, we’re all afflicted with the psychology
of the voyeur. Not in a strictly clinical or
criminal sense, but in our whole physical and
stance before the world. Whenever we seek to break
this spell of passivity, our actions are cruel and
awkward and generally obscene, like an invalid who
has forgotten how to walk.
The voyeur, the peeper, the Peeping Tom, is a dark
comedian. He is repulsive in his dark anonymity,
in his secret invasion. He is pitifully alone.
But, strangely, he is able through this same silence
and concealment to make unknowing partner of
within his eye’s range. This is his threat and
There are no glass houses. The shades are drawn and “real” life begins. Some activities are impossible in the open. And these secret events are the voyeur’s game. He seeks them out with his myriad army of eyes—like the child’s notion of a Deity who sees all. “Everything?” asks the child. “Yes, everything,” they answer, and the child is left to cope with this divine intrusion.
The voyeur is masturbator, the mirror his badge, the window his prey.
Urge to come to terms with the “Outside,” by absorbing, interiorizing it. I won’t come out, you must come in to me. Into my womb-garden where I peer out. Where I can construct a universe within the skull, to rival the real.
She said, “Your eyes are always black.” The pupil opens to seize the object of vision.
Imagery is born of loss. Loss of the “friendly expanses.” The breast is removed and the face imposes its cold, curious, forceful, and inscrutable presence.
You may enjoy life from afar. You may look at things but not taste them. You may caress the mother only with the eyes.
You cannot touch these phantoms.
French Deck. Solitary stroker of cards. He dealt himself a hand. Turn stills of the past in unending permutations, shuffle and begin. Sort the images again. And sort them again. This game reveals germs of truth, and death.
The world becomes an apparently infinite, yet possibly finite, card game. Image combinations, permutations, comprise the world game.
A mild possession, devoid of risk, at bottom sterile. With an image there is no attendant danger.
Muybridge derived his animal subjects from the Philadelphia Zoological Garden, male performers from the University. The women were professional artists’ models, also actresses and dancers, parading nude before the 48 cameras.
Films are collections of dead pictures which are given artificial insemination.
Film spectators are quiet vampires.
Cinema is most totalitarian of the arts. All energy and sensation is sucked up into the skull, a cerebral erection, skull bloated with blood. Caligula wished a single neck for all his subjects that he could behead a kingdom with one blow. Cinema is this transforming agent. The body exists for the sake of eyes; it becomes a dry stalk to support these two soft insatiable jewels.
Film confers a kind of spurious eternity.
Each film depends upon all the others and drives you on to others: Cinema was a novelty, a scientific toy, until a sufficient body of works had been amassed, enough to create an intermittent other world, a powerful, infinite mythology to be dipped into at will.
Films have an illusion of timelessness fostered by their regular, indomitable appearance.
The appeal of cinema lies in the fear of death.
The modern East creates the greatest body of films. Cinema is a new form of an ancient tradition—the shadow play. Even their theater is an imitation of it. Born in India or China, the shadow show was aligned with religious ritual, linked with celebrations which centered around cremation of the dead.
It is wrong to assume, as some have done, that cinema belongs to women. Cinema is created by men for the consolation of men.
The shadow plays originally were restricted to male audiences. Men could view these dream shows from either side of the screen. When women later began to be admitted, they were allowed to attend only to shadows.
Male genitals are small faces
forming trinities of thieves
Fathers, sons, and ghosts.
A nose hangs over a wall
and two half eyes, sad eyes,
mute and handless, multiply
an endless round of victories.
These dry and secret triumphs, fought
in stalls and stamped in prisons,
glorify our walls
and scorch our vision.
A horror of empty spaces
propagates this seal on private places.
may not appear
but the odor of her flesh
is never very far.
A drunken crowd knocked over the apparatus, and Mayhew’s showman, exhibiting at Islington Green, burned up, with his mate, inside.
In 1832, Gropius was astounding Paris with his Pleorama. The audience was transformed into the crew aboard a ship engaged in battle. Fire, screaming, sailors, drowning.
Robert Baker, an Edinburgh artist, while in jail for debt, was struck by the effect of light shining through the bars of his cell through a letter he was reading, and out of this perception he invented the first Panorama, a concave, transparent picture view of the city.
This invention was soon replaced by the Diorama, which added the illusion of movement by shifting the room. Also sounds and novel lighting effects. Daguerre’s London Diorama still stands in Regent’s Park, a rare survival, since these shows depended always on effects of artificial light, produced by lamps or gas jets, and nearly always ended in fire.
Phantasmagoria, magic lantern shows, spectacles without substance. They achieved complete sensory experiences through noise, incense, lightning, water. There may be a time when we’ll attend Weather Theaters to recall the sensation of rain.
Cinema has evolved in two paths.
One is spectacle. Like the Phantasmagoria, its goal is the creation of a total substitute sensory world.
The other is peep show, which claims for its realm both the erotic and the untampered observance of real life, and imitates the keyhole or voyeur’s window without need of color, noise, grandeur.
Cinema discovers its fondest affinities, not with painting, literature, or theater, but with the popular diversions—comics, chess, French and Tarot decks, magazines, and tattooing.
Cinema derives not from painting, literature, sculpture, theater, but from ancient popular wizardry. It is contemporary manifestation of an evolving history of shadows, a delight in pictures that move, a belief in magic. Its lineage is entwined from the earliest beginning with Priests and sorcery, a summoning of phantoms. With, at first, only slight aid of the mirror and fire, men called up dark and secret visits from regions in the buried mind. In these seances, shades are spirits which ward off evil.
The spectator is a dying animal.
Invoke, palliate, drive away the Dead. Nightly.
Through ventriloquism, gestures, play with objects, and all rare variations of the body in space, the shaman signaled his “trip” to an audience which shared the journey.
In the seance, the shaman led. A sensuous panic, deliberately evoked through drugs, chants, dancing, hurls the shaman into trance. Changed voice, convulsive movement. He acts like a madman. These professional hysterics, chosen precisely for their psychotic leaning, were once esteemed. They mediated between man and spirit-world. Their mental travels formed the crux of the religious life of the tribe.
Principle of seance: to cure illness. A mood might overtake a people burdened by historical events or dying in a bad landscape. They seek deliverance from doom, death, dread. Seek possession, the visit of gods and powers, a rewinning of the life source from demon possessors. The cure is culled from ecstasy. Cure illness or prevent its visit, revive the sick, and regain stolen, soul.
It is wrong to assume that art needs the spectator in order to be. The film runs on without any eyes. The spectator cannot exist without it. It insures his existence.
The happening/the event in which ether is introduced into a roomfull of people through air vents makes the chemical an actor. Its agent, or injector, is an artist-showman who creates a performance to witness himself. The people consider themselves audience, while they perform for each other, and the gas acts out poems of its own through the medium of the human body. This approached the psychology of the orgy while remaining in the realm of the Game and its infinite permutations.
The aim of the happening is to cure boredom, wash the eyes, make childlike reconnections with the stream of life. Its lowest, widest aim is for purgation of perception. The happening attempts to engage all the senses, the total organism, and achieve total response in the face of traditional arts which focus on narrower inlets of sensation.
Multimedias are invariably sad comedies. They work as a kind of colorful group therapy, a woeful mating of actors and viewers, a mutual semimasturbation. The performers seem to need their audience and the spectators—the spectators would find these same mild titillations in a freak show or Fun Fair and fancier, more complete amusements in a Mexican cathouse.
Novices, we watch the moves of silkworms who excite their bodies in moist leaves and weave wet nests of hair and skin.
This is a model of our liquid resting world
dissolving bone and melting marrow
opening pores as wide as windows.
The “stranger” was sensed as greatest menace in ancient communities.
Metamorphose. An object is cut off from its name, habits, associations. Detached, it becomes only the thing, in and of itself. When this disintegration into pure existence is at last achieved, the object is free to become endlessly anything.
The subject says “I see first lots of things which dance...then everything becomes gradually connected.”
Objects as they exist in time the clean eye and camera give us. Not falsified by “seeing.”
When there are as yet no objects.
Early film makers, who—like the alchemists—delighted in a willful obscurity about their craft, in order to withhold their skills from profane onlookers.
Separate, purify, reunite. The formula of Ars Magna, and its heir, the cinema.
The camera is androgynous machine, a kind of mechanical hermaphrodite.
In his retort the alchemist repeats the work of Nature.
Few would defend a small view of Alchemy as “Mother of Chemistry,” and confuse its true goal with those external metal arts. Alchemy is an erotic science, involved in buried aspects of reality, aimed at purifying and transforming all being and matter. Not to suggest that material operations are ever abandoned. The adept holds to both the mystical and physical work.
The alchemists detect in the sexual activity of man a correspondence with the world’s creation, with the growth of plants, and with mineral formations. When they see the union of rain and earth, they see it in an erotic sense, as copulation. And this extends to all natural realms of matter. For they can picture love affairs of chemicals and stars, a romance of stones, or the fertility of fire.
Strange, fertile correspondence the alchemists sensed in unlikely orders of being. Between men and planets, plants and gestures, words and weather. These disturbing connections: an infant’s cry and the stroke of silk; the whorl of an ear and an appearance of dogs in the yard; a woman’s head lowered in sleep and the morning dance of cannibals; these are conjunctions which transcend the sterile signal of any “willed” montage. These juxtapositions of objects, sounds, actions, colors, weapons, wounds, and odors shine in an unheard-of way, impossible ways.
Film is nothing when not an illumination of this chain of being which makes a needle poised in flesh call up explosions in a foreign capital.
Cinema returns us to anima, religion of matter, which gives each thing its special divinity and sees gods in all things and beings.
Cinema, heir of alchemy, last of an erotic science.
Surround Emperor of Body
Bali Bali dancers
Will not break my temple.
suck eyes into the head.
The rosy body cross
secret in flow
controls its flow.
in body weights dance
and music, mimesis, body.
sweet dangerous thrust flow.
The Lords. events take place beyond our knowledge or control. Our lives are lived for us. We can only try to enslave others. But gradually, special perceptions are being developed. The idea of the “Lords” is beginning to form in some minds. We should enlist them into bands of perceivers to tour the labyrinth during their mysterious nocturnal appearances. The Lords have secret entrances, and they know disguises. But they give themselves away in minor ways. Too much glint of light in the eye. A wrong gesture. Too long and curious a glance.
The Lords appease us with images. They give us books, concerts, galleries, shows, cinemas. Especially the cinemas. Through art they confuse us and blind us to our enslavement. Art adorns our prison walls, keeps us silent and diverted and indifferent.
Dull lions prone on a watery beach.
The universe kneels at the swamp
to curiously eye its own raw
postures of decay
in the mirror of human consciousness.
Absent and peopled mirror, absorbent,
passive to whatever visits
and retains its interest.
Door of passage to the other side,
the soul frees itself in stride.
Turn mirrors to the wall
in the house of the new dead.