Antonin Artaud, a Greek Surrealist
Antonin Artaud belongs to the group of accursed authors and poets that I used to read in my youth, in my mind he was always one of the “bad authors”, the so called surrealists, that captivated my interest during that impressionable age: Baudelaire, Eluard, Rimbaud, Dali and many others. My youth was inspired by two movements: America’s beatnik revolution and Europe’s surrealism, especially the movement of France and Spain, at the beginning of the 20th century. When you are very young, you are intrigued by the meaning of revolution, the new and fresh ideas, the escape from the establishment, the meaning of romanticism. How is it possible not to fall in love with the man who wrote: “A society that constantly eats more and more what ever is unateable in order to show its malice, the only thing it should do is shut up.”
The years passed too quickly and I am now almost fifty. The wild reality of what we call “establishment” forced me into its rhythm: professional occupations, everyday activities, lovers, family obligations. The time passed, the era changed, a new fashion covers every aspect of life, even the fictional heroes of the younger generation. Still, the old loves of our youth remain inside us and they are not forgotten. They just need a tiny spark of fire to create a new burning desire.
For me this tiny spark was the theatrical performance that I watched last night. The play was written by a Greek authoress, who is called Ioli Andreadis. Its title was “Artaud, Van Gogh”. It is actually a monologue. Ms Andreadis based her play on true events and particularly on an essay that Artaud had written himself , regarding Van Gogh’s suicide, his correspondence and his relationship with Gauguin. She mixed all these elements up and she created a brilliant, imaginary lecture that “Artaud” delivers to the public. During this lecture, the poet, actor and director Antonin Artaud analyzes to the audience- that is, to all of us- the reasons that made the famous painter Van Gogh commit suicide. Van Gogh was not mad, as the majority of the society believed, the famous artist was a sensitive, misunderstood innocent and romantic creature who did not manage to find happiness and could not bear the misery and the cruelty of the average human being.
Who was Antonin Artaud? A surrealist poet, actor, director and theatrologist, who lived in France during the last century. For years he was confined in different madhouses. While he was free, he was writing poems and essays, in which he was imagining new methods of presenting theatrical plays. He had inspired Dali and Bunuel, who influenced by him created the classical film “Andalusian dog”. As an actor he starred in plays about Napoleon and Joan of Arc. He himself was inspired by the theatrical, traditional dances used by the inhabitants of Bali. He also travelled to Mexico, where he became an opium addict.
I would truly like to thank Ioli Andreadis, who reminded me of one of heroes of the past and who made me realize something I did not know: both parents of Antonin Artaud were Greeks, from Smyrna, who had immigrated to Marseille in France. Many theorists who have contacted researches into Artaud’s work believe that the Greek element had a huge impact into his personality and his work. I did not expect anything else from a man who was constantly in and out of madhouses, who was treated with numerous electroshocks, the man who invented the Theatre of Cruelty, who thought that the theatre is a new kind of hope for the people. He was the man who “sold the world”, as David Bowie has sung. He was the man who shouted: “Life consists of burning up questions.”