Ripped Out Pages

What Battaile says about prohibition and transgression is fascinating, ‘the fulness and reality of the game man plays are his consequences overstepping what is prohibited’, he refers of course to a conscious transgression, this knowingness is part of ‘the desire, the need for a more profound, a richer, a marvelous world, the need, in a word for a sacred world.’ This he calls Authentic Transgression, which occurs in contrast to accident or indifference to the rules. This is illustrated most clearly, I discovered at page 49-50, which has been torn out of the book. This act of vandalism to a rare and valuable book disrupts my reading and induces irritation rather than a sense of the marvelous or mysterious. There are two other missing pages, their jagged remains jut out from the binding, I can only guess that  were taken for their colour images.

I deduce that an image or images of the Main Hall of the caves proceeds the diagram above, and that they must have been stunning. Bataille describes the hall as 30 x 100 ft, and ‘the most important part of the cave’, and therefore the most important part of the book. Now I realise they have gone I really want to see them.

My annoyance has turned to curiosity, where did they go? Would it be possible to locate them, perhaps using library records to track down every person who had borrowed the book and send a letter asking, ‘did you steal pages 49-50, 51-52 and 89-90? It seemed arduous and pointless. The idea of replacing the missing pages myself seems a much more interesting idea.

It’s funny the urge one has to fill the void, replace what is missing with something else. However it seems strangely appropriate that through this gesture the problems of prohibition and transgression could be explored. Prohibition: Don’t damage books. Transgression: Ripping pages out. In this case, an unsatisfactory transgression. It serves no purpose, except perhaps that my outrage has made the book a sacred object. I hold back the urge to get hold of another copy of the book or google search the images. I want to hold on to the sensation that belongs to them not being there.

Perhaps another prohibition is: Don’t change the content of books. But I find that this is something that can be transgressed or played with more easily. The authoritive voice of the author, who’d been to Lascaux and researched the work of others could be replaced by my own guessed facts, deduced from the other pages, the voice of someone scrambling in the dark. This would be something i would enjoy, it reflects the reality of the caves themselves. We can only make educated guesses at what the paintings were for or what they may have meant to the people who made them. Bataille himself makes wonderful use of this guess-work, he explores the instincts of modern day people and draws logical conclusions from this. For me this act of creativity, or even just the thought of restoring the pages might be redemptive, it would make the initial transgression worthwhile.


This is Norman, he is a little white ceramic gnome who watches over the strawberries in my garden. He isn’t real but the squirrels think he is, thats how it works. I’m not too sure how he fits with the subject of this post, other than the fact that he depicts a magical being. He looked so nice out in the sunshine that I had to take his picture and show it to you.

Back to Bataille in the caves of Lascaux. He says that those paintings were not necessarily magic, they didn’t all serve a function, i.e. to help the hunter etc.. he offers the suggestion that the people who painted those images were playing. It is play that distinguishes our kind of human from the Neanderthal, who just made tools and worked. Art making was the first playful act. In this light it makes sense that the advert, I’m going back to the ‘Rowntrees’ Randoms’, is a kind of magical act/image. It most certainly serves a purpose and it does this through enchantment.

Two pieces in this years Northern Art Prize highlight my preoccupations. Crowe and Rawlinson’s video ‘Twinkle’, shows two figures wearing leprachaun outfits. The video image has been filtered to create an hallucinatory colouring and twinkle effect and the figures have been mirrored so as they move the fixed symmetry of their faces makes them appear beast-like. I felt as though i should have liked this work but it didn’t really move me, it was a bit horrific but what happens after that?. It was all effect and the way it had been made sort of stripped it of interest. On the other hand Pavel Buchlers ‘il castillo’, two tiny pencil ends sharpened down to spell the title out of their remaining text was all about work and play. The real magic is in the relationship between the two. He doesnt need to dress up and behave like a shaman to induce the feeling of joy or understanding one gets when encountering art. He just showed a little bit of himself, enough to reach out…

Random Adventure

At the bus stop recently there was a poster advertising some sweets called Rowntrees’ Randoms. If you buy the sweets you might win a random adventure. Others have observed it far more eloquently than me, that these adverts are not just selling stuff, in this case sweets, but a life style (See the TV. series The Century of the Self). These sweets are for random and quirky types who aren’t influenced by adverts, they make their own choices. It occurred to me that some people really want to win these competitions that winning a competition makes a dream become a reality. Someone else will look after you, provide a reality for you. I always wanted to win something like this when I was a child, not just because of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but because some of my reality was lived out through product related media. Things like Coca-Cola and fruit pastilles were a real and important part of my world.

The advert is a kind of message from someone, and it appears as if they care. I’m pretty sure they don’t. Compare this to Batailles’ interpretation of the cave paintings at Lascaux. He sees the marks on the walls as distant messages, akin to friendship, reaching out through time with warmth and humanity. The two images communicate very different things on the surface but both relate to public-private modes of communication in different ways and for different purposes. In the caves what was made in the dark was part of a sacred ritual meant only for a few. Now they can be seen by anyone, yet we don’t fully understand what they are or who made them. Clever adverts tap into our deep-rooted, subconscious desires and are designed to be seen by as many eyes as possible. Its all secular and democratic yet it feels so wrong compared to the secrets of Lascaux. We used to put our dreams and desires into the hands of a Shaman, his was the world of light and dark, illumination and ignorance. He read the signs for our ancestors, the world was full of them, now its full of adverts.


When a new life form is discovered it’s details are noted down in a small notebook, a sketch is made, a photograph taken. This information may be taken away and compared with previously collected data. A decision is soon made about what it is you’ve actually seen. You may look at it as if it were something else, you may see what no one else sees and read the thing as if it were a text full of hidden meaning.

These spillages are a part of the urban or suburban landscape, common-place pollution of the street. They are something that may catch your eye if you walk with your head down. Eventually I formed a picture of these forms scattered around the city. Each different, but similar, the form influenced by the environment, the slope of the hill it happened to be spilled on. I imagined Darwin moving around the Galapagos Islands, differentiating all of those different tortoises… I felt like Darwin in a new landscape finding these forms. I looked upon them as the monster in Frankenstein might have, when he starts to discover the world as a feral child. He might start to recognise himself in them.

Alfred Gell says a kind of enchantment is produced by our contact with technical skill, we are impressed by what appears to be difficult to do, or as Berger might put it, difficult to obtain. A patch of accidentally spilled paint is produced not by a skilled act of painting but by a clumsy, thoughtless mistake. It only remains because it is difficult to clean up. It is not impressive. It is beautiful, like a natural form, ugly because in some ways it is formless, unintentional, homeless and unwanted. It has become a Romantic object.