Acting-Out Politics

Weblog opens discussion about the psychology of Bushmerican style of behavior.

Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980)

Kokoschka forcing us to know that while in military service during WWI he was seriously wounded (by a bayonet). He was very young, had just enlisted, and had to fight rifle against rifle battles.

Kokoschka suffered from poverty throughout his whole life, but mostly from endless cruelties of life and human mistreatments of one another. He was a successful painter, but it is observing the wounds of human life that made him feel himself as a morbid outsider. This tall man with a strong physique had a melancholic character. Looking here at his eyes it’s, as if, they’re filled with tears and pleading to persuade us, the inhabitants of the Earth – to stop the feeling of rancor/bitterness/vindictiveness and an ongoing desire for revenge and clash.

This and the following self-portrait are especially… strange and even magic – Kokoschka somehow has… stopped to look like himself. His face is not just melancholic, in this two self-representations (this and the next one), he, as if, is… transformed into a worker or subordinate insulted/offended by his superior. His face is distorted, as if, he was just addressed with something injurious, condemning and, as if doesn’t know how to react.

In this painting his blue eyes have lost life, as if, he is not looking as he was usually, as if, he doesn’t care about what is happening in the world. In the previous self-portrait he took what he was seeing seriously, but, now, here, he is, as if, distant from everything. Part of his lower lip is, as if, swelled, but he doesn’t pay attention. What happened? The light blue color wandering on his face superficially touches it as indifferently as light wind. He possibly have given himself over to drinking.

Here Kokoschka seems to be in the mood to self-assert. No, he is not quarreling with anybody or anything! But as though he is challenging the circumstances or even the world. He is not putting his face up as a snob with a proud gaze, but he, as if, saying that his gaze is still sharp, that he is still able to study life, human faces. His shirt collar is a bit outworn but his gaze belongs to noticing the world.

The painterly artistry of self-portraits is an exhausting and a careful craft. On the one hand it requires vigilant self-examination and honest self-criticism, but on the other – any artist would indulge in giving a free rein to one’s imagination. Artistic indulgence is dangerous because imaginary magic is a despotic player – it plays with the artist, often provoking him into exaggerations as the case may be with an inexperienced and an impulsive painter risking finding himself in the puddle of a sleazy or even stinking dirt. For a self-portraitist to love imagination it means to limit himself with self-love, but to admire himself it means the necessity to limit his creativity. That’s why Kokoschka sometimes uses humor and satire working with his own face and even parody his facial expressions, features and gesticulations in his self-portraits. Also, he experiments with changing his face in his self-portraits (two of them represented here). Kokoschka, as if, slightly modifies himself in each painting to accent how under concrete tormented condition of life and belligerent aggressive people around – his personality changes – for example, sometimes he is losing himself, even his inspiration is exhausted and he is transformed into a person without any creative desire or motivation. In such self-portraits we observe how Kokoschka depicts the loss of his human face and the ability to resist or capitulate to human despair or resist or surrender to human rudeness, stupidity and vulgarity.

It’s undoubtedly very pleasant to laugh or smile. Americans especially like to have fun, a good time. Starting with post-WW2 entertainment became an almost universal pastime. Indeed, why be sad when it’s possible to be cheerful? Multiple styles of entertainment starts to dominate the scene. Over-excitement, over-smiling, over-eating, over-doping, over-laughing, over-gunning, over-sporting, over-consuming and, of course, over-money-making started to make US the most cheerful and attractive place in the world. And TV entertainment added to more and stronger laughter. “Optimism” came to define American taste. Entertainment and pizza both started to gain weighty prominence.

When Boris Yeltsin (1931 – 2007) – the famous Russian provincial alcoholic – visited US, the country became even more cheerful. Yeltsin’s legendary personal pleasure was to pinch the female secretaries. In Russia it was a common occurrence when Yeltsin in Kremlin pinched female parts he produced a loud laughter, probably then feeling younger and more energetic. Angela Merkel the German Chancellor had the privilege of being the target of Yeltsin’s pinching indulgence – Americans had their national equivalent when it was Bush Jr. who allowed himself the same pinching liberties with the German Chancellor.

In the upper left photo Bill Clinton behaves as Yeltsin’s impresario. Yeltsin is not laughing in the manner of Russian opera – he was just presenting his smile to the public. In the moments of saying something Yeltsin talks about how Russians and Americans are similar when it comes to cheerfulness, generosity and kindness. He emphasized that Americans and Russians should “live together” as friends – that this will be amazing experiment for both nations in peace, laugh and love! Clinton’s task was to mediate Yeltsin alcoholic positivity not just by smiling but producing a more exciting, over-generous cheerful laughter. In the first photo on the left Clinton is enjoying Yeltsin, as if, they were on the way to dinner eating smiles and have drinks together. In the second photo Clinton has reached the limit of his Presidential laughing enthusiasm – yes, such a serious person as the American President should keep himself in hands and be silent, briefly. But in the third snapshot on the lower left Clinton started with calming gestures of mutual love between the eccentric Russian leader and the audience of a democratic Americans. Finally, in the fourth shot something exotic and perplexing happens with Bill Clinton, something like… as if, he wet his pans – Russo-American togetherness demands eccentricity, but with care and caution.

As attentive viewers noticed later, it’s always necessary to be very careful with the unconditional friendships between countries as exuberant as US and Russia. Bombastic excitement does not necessarily lead to reliable friendship. Smiles and laughter need to slowly develop into further contact between countries, heads of the States and, of course, between many other minds sharing serious mutual respect without bragging about technical achievements, military might and without desire to dictate and dominate. Smiles and laughter are often result of misunderstandings and the desire to cover up the real motivations and problems.

“Taking pleasure” is at the heart of dialectic, it is you, when I self-touch you. That’s why I love you, and sometimes so painfully, at the heart of pleasure itself.
Jacques Derrida

Marc Chagall, “Night Path or Night Escape into Life”

“Night Path or Night Escape into Life” is one of Marc Chagall’s universal topics – fear of being arrested or caught, being deprived of mobility and freedom, being humiliated, loss of self-respect. The desire to flee, to escape, running away, and the panic of being deprived of one’s dignity is an inevitable torture of the human heart and soul under fascism. Hunger, dream of, at least, a meager meal to fill the empty belly… The night in this context is a savior or even a kind of happiness.

In the painting we see a very young couple trying to escape and have just enough time to take a bit of vegetables, flowers along with themselves leaving behind the fish which there was no time to prepare.

The young man’s embrace of the woman seems to have a bit of a maniacal intensity. He knows that he cannot lose her – to lose her it would be the end for both. But somewhere in the sky we see a several fruits kept by the freshness of the heaven itself. In Chagall’s painting the motif of home or household and simultaneously the motif of rushing, running away contradict one another. People need comfort and simultaneously the readiness to be on the move – they dream about a quiet life and are at the same time afraid of the necessity of having to slide away from danger. They need quietness and contemplation, but also are ready to act on the spur of the moment for the sake of their salvation. They feel themselves at once nomadic and sedentary.

How strong and energetic is his embrace! His eyes are focused on what is ahead of them while his lips are permanently touching her back. And, unexpectedly, his wings on his back are helped by the bright moon – this magic protector keeping our young beloveds intact from what is ahead. Have our couple been sent on a journey with a magic goal – to a world of salvation? Will those who dream about freedom and independence be helped and reach their destiny successfully?

The young man is embracing his beloved with the blind power of youthful passion but – how young they both are! He is protecting his love and himself. By embracing her so… greedily he is, as if, also protecting himself – so strongly he is embracing her. Now, they both are flying with the speed of moon! Moon is their speed, their direction and help! Moon is for them, is theirs.

But today, in the 21st century we see how independence of free Democratic people is in danger and how Democracy is becoming weaker and weaker. Fascist activists are creating endless ways of frightening and traumatizing the population. Everyday poverty destroys their interest in life and desire to live. People shoot one another on the streets. For many the only dream is the dream to accumulate more wealth by any price. But what we need is the moon’s direction.

Marc Chagall, 1887-1985

Kazimir Malevich, “Women in Church”, 1912

It’s already a fact that shooting and killing with guns in US is for some a “bravura game” and for others a tragic disaster. It’s on a daily basis that we observe on TV the suffering families of the murdered victims of casual shootings. These people who suddenly lost their loved ones and became martyrs are, as if, resurrecting Malevich’s painting as tormented by the shooters.

Malevich’s peasant women didn’t lose their family members as often as Americans do today. They for the most part suffered from chronic hunger and poverty or lost their husbands and sons when they are taken to serve in Tsar’s army sometimes for as long as twenty years. But to lose your child, husband or parent in a so called Democratic and progressive country in the 21st century due to – not an enemy at war with us, but casual people who are citizens of our own country – it seems so… impossible, beyond belief – monstrously absurd.

By seeing the sick-and-pained eyes of the suffering Americans like the peasant women from Malevich’s painting we’re just reminded that the people we know as our relations and neighbors can be get killed because of the very presence of anarchic – reckless firearms in the hands of dangerous people. Of course, gun worshippers will say that it’s the presence of criminal “bad guys” around us who “abuse weapons”. They arguing that these “bad guys” are dangerous and we have to protect ourselves with more and stronger weapons. But in the same time, gun lovers know that these “bad guys” can so easily buy the military grade firearms with large capacity magazines, without even checking whether they’re qualified, and have or not the history of violence and mental health – and that makes such a “liberal” approach to them outrageously dangerous. Only those who have a special license and went through mental training and got psychotherapeutic qualification has a right to get permission to owe gun.

“Bad guy is coming to get you” – is what is written in numerous advertisements of gun sale. And also – “Rush to buy gun and ammo to protect yourself and you family!” And farther – “Here we have the strongest bullets you’ll ever find”. But how about this, for change – “The bad guy is danger only if he is with firearms!” But don’t forget – not to allow gun dealers to sell weapons to the bad guys! Don’t let them to allow “bad guys” to buy and have weapons! Here lies the danger of “a bad guy with a weapon” – the greedy and irresponsible dealers who are selling firearms. It’s matter not about guns, but about money! Good Americans are dying not because of guns, but because gun dealers need money!

The end of the “bad guys is coming after you” is not far. It’s the corrupt organizations and people who make profit by selling to the “bad guys” firearms – this is the only problem here. It’s rather greedy people enrich themselves through “Bad guys with firearms coming to get you”.

Kazimir Malevich, “Women in Church”, 1912

This is a full frontal face of a warrior after being blown up and burned by warfare technology and then restored through the help of medical technology in parallel with the military one. His eyes still appear alive. He obviously can see the world. His lips seem to be moving, and we, as if, can even hear him saying something. Yes, he is talking…

In his semi profile his eyes seem excited, even frightened, as if, looking back, remembering what he saw when a wave of firestorm hit and “embraced” his head. It’s, as if, he still sees the time when he was saying something to the scorching hell engulfing and surrounding him.

The profile is the most “monumental” and less humanly expressive – less soft than the other angles of the warrior’s face. His eyes are kind of semi-dead while his cheekbone and jaw are still stubbornly athletic.

The resilience of the human flesh is still astonishing. The survivor of a badly scared face, burned down to the bone is, as if, trying again and again to assert that he is alive, he is and communicates in spite of everything. Even the disfigured tortured left eye, as if, wants to see though it’s monstrously pulled apart.

When it’s impossible to avoid war – when the enemy overwhelms us with a planned sudden attacks, there is no choice for us but to defend our peace and resist to the very end. But what is especially, profoundly immoral is frivolous “offensive” wars of attacking, destroying and killing by the logic of hate and blind and proud ambition. Frivolous wars are result of financial greed and smiling megalomania. It’s not militancy itself that drives frivolous wars, but our self-aggrandizement – the desire to prove to the world and to the skies our superiority. And today we are living through the times of blind and absolutist self-aggrandizement. The rich manipulators will no longer tolerate and put up with the poor, some of whom still have some self-respect and the rights given to them during the democratic period in USA. The rich who are already trained in hating and lying – soon will hate and lie even more and they are ready to start arresting, torturing and murdering the Democrats and everybody who dares to democratically oppose them. The wealthy conservatives on top supported by criminal mobs mobilized against the poor and their children will start to unleash their “talents” mocking, insulting, intimidating, harassing, attacking and violating. We should never forget what frivolous wars between nations and inside the country are – wars of self-enrichment, wars for total domination.

One starts by wondering – whether it is true that one drinks from a glass and ends with no longer knowing whether the glass exists
Jean-Paul Sartre

Pablo Picasso, “Two Women at the Bar/Prostitutes in a Bar”, Barcelona, 1902

Is it the murmur of absinthe that lures the visitors to the blue bar? Or some other hint of mood? There are two of them but one presence. Their dresses seems to be slipping down with a magic slowness. For them nudity is a slow, gradual melancholy. Be dressed or nude is the same. To be nude is to be dressed by the bar.

The crude word prostitute is not relevant in blue bar. Here, undressing is desirously sad, sublimely solemn, and nudity is naturally elegant. Modern societies need male soldiers and female teachers, nurses, women’s pregnancies with male support. And it needs workers and entertainers of both genders and, of course, businessmen and secretaries, etc.,. But Picasso’s blue women undress before a glass of absinthe! The woman on the left is already losing her dress, while the woman on the right her blouse. But both women seem tender – they don’t belong to our today’s world. They’re doomed, not to die but… for avoiding life. Whose face is reflected on the glass? The one on the right or left? May be, both, but we can’t see it. What we see is our own faces, the viewers of the painting, reflected on the glass. Or we just think it is. But we like to think its theirs.

But we have to try to understand why the melancholically tender women are so sad. May be, because they are just in the process of getting rid of their bodies by gently melting. They want to live in their tender and… positive melancholy. The two anonymous faces have turned away from us with their… gentleness forever. They’re – contemplation without contemplating gazes or moods.

We will not compare the sublime sadness of Picasso’ blue women with today’s gluttonous drug consumption when people have lost and are out of touch with life around. Blue period atmosphere is the capacity to live with a gracious sadness of quiet contemplation without the pushing of impulses, characterizing our noisy, aggressive, competitive restlessness.

Francis Picabia, “Woman’s Idol”, 1940-1943

What miraculously happens between women and men in their desire to touch one another’s bodies in the silent music of mutual ecstasy has been happening since the very beginning of life. The protective darkness of feminine inner bodily warmth alerts life and then it comes – the future, gentle fury of a fairy, the living flower of the body, soul and mind.

Miracle of femininity – the ancient female statue of fertility drives women to want, dream, and the need to produce the future – eternity. They squeeze life from non-being. They hope that their Idol – “the idol of femininity”, the miracle of maternal plenitude will be its prophet. They climb onto their idol. They try to press their bodily materiality against the statue’s breasts and place their knees on its mightily colossal hand which will support their life. Look at the statue’s feet like root of a giant pine feeding life supports the female weight.

Women put their head on the idol, mix their hair with the idol’s hair, like a child. How absurd the modern woman’s decorative lingerie next to her Idol. One of the reasons seems to be that the modern women rather than being reverential toward their deep feminine power – are geared to surrender to superficial embellishments of dead clothing in order to appeal, seduce and be objects of desire for the males (these parasites of “femininity” looking to capture women through their external, superficial attractiveness, which can trigger men’s mechanical sexual excitement). As a result men are concerned with their own sexual erectile needs which automatically rewards them with their precious orgasmic sensations while women concerned – with men’s needs, with moving near them, being touched, held and kissed and burrow their face in males’ drunk-like gazes.

Simply speaking girls want boys “who look impressive” and boys want girls to look great. So much for the American mass culture and consumerism based on stimulating competition. In other words, sexes take interest in one another (even when not consciously) based on the American motto of recent times to successfully compete and outdo the competitors – competition as a stimuli for generating prosperity and life. Of course, appearance is not the only criteria of being successful. It is popularity and success amongst peers of competing individuals and even making career is more important. That’s how far we have stepped from Picabia’s “Woman’s Idol” and the exceptional woman touching her as we see in the painting, who cannot resist the importance of meeting with the ancient statue of Woman-Idol.

Women’s primordial power of internal vitality is the only guarantee for the possibility of a responsible life with children. Today, it’s more and more uncertain that mothers will have a stable bond and contact with their children. The underfunded schools create the atmosphere which is more and more formal and less and less can afford to address social issues, problems and be involved with the kids who are seduced by drugs and abused by videogames and all kinds of chaotically anarchic frivolities creating obstacle for the school kids’ psychological, mental and emotional developments. Social urban life in the cities with their over-crowdedness and anonymity destroys the chance for children to develop internal world. Biotech intervention into “sex change” has become a reality and mixing individual identities with fantasies and children’s internal world. Reading books about human life in the past and present has been replaced with the absurd and bombastic (TV and digital) entertainment.

With Picabia’s “Woman’s Idol” the idea of saving the modern women from artificial sheer lingerie and stockings, high hills and garter belts to the chance of returning to the condition that a child can be a child, woman a woman again, mother as a mother, and adult as an adult. But, of course, all of this will be impossible, when air, water and forests are being destroyed and destruction continues more rapidly than ever. Woman’s Idol has seized to exist and there is no way back. Sculptures of the past cannot become alive. And sexual trivialities-frivolities of the young people will not turn into serious relationships between men and women. But still, how it’s could be good if Earth could be as young as before, if oceans could return to their healthier condition, if air could once again become breathable, if water could be clean again and nuclear energy with its striking power couldn’t exist anymore. Super-duper smartphones and video-games, deep dope and guns to shoot one another on the streets are just toy-pleasures of a dying life.

To help modern women to be less frivolous, superficial and playful is hopelessly utopian. Of course, women can always say that by trying not to be too “serious” they’re trying to help men with stresses and pressures – women always assessing the situation through the side of feminine sympathy, care and love. But the question will remain intact – women could help themselves by – not choosing to follow men and live in men’s world but rather in their own world – basic, solid, reliable, experienced, responsible, but without excluding men. Sure, men like to always be in charge, and are always intent to “naturally” dominate. But for domination there is a high price to pay, and it is women and children who end up paying for it.

Balthus-Balthazar Klossowski, “Blanchard Children”, 1937

In a time of an ever growing mindless neo-conservatism we must help ourselves to understand this monstrous phenomenon of going back to our pre-democratic reflexes. Indeed, what is the difference between puritanism and neo-puritanism? Before democracy the religious norms and ideologies were culturally despotic – to morally regulate and dictate every aspect of human relations and conduct with outmost violence towards people with the “you shall” and “you shall not”. And that’s how people have come to judge life based on their sincere beliefs and opinions constructed according to habitual teachings, officially accepted ideas passed down from traditional dogmas. Neo-puritanism, on the other side, judges life and other people according to how this or that helps or doesn’t – the very sacred neo-puritan activities which are connected with or supported by money- and profit-making, growing private wealth in general, accumulation of and arming its believers with more and more high-tech weapons and stirring larger segments of the population to hate and eliminate those who not “like us with our standards”.

Balthus’ “Blanchard Children” is a typical puritan representation of children. The girl is certainly a “good girl” – look how scrupulously she is writing or drawing in her notebook – she observes her own work, but has simultaneously turned her face toward the adults, as if, to show how proud she is about her drawing. She wants to be praised by the elders and to be “appreciated and rewarded”. The boy, her brother, is at the desk seemingly bored. He may not be “a bad boy”, but it is not good to indulge oneself in doing nothing because then one will be in danger of having an “open mind for self-indulgence and vain thoughts, desires and activities”.

It’s noticeable that the boy’s eyes are opened, as if, he is looking into some faraway places to find some exciting details of what is in front of him, while the girl’s eyes are… closed – may be, she doesn’t want to show that she is looking for encouraging gaze of adults and will shortly go back to the “magic” of the paper to reinforce her success in front of the authorities. Of course, the boy’s gaze is not too curious, it’s rather passive or more exactly – inertias or lost or “not even found”.

Balthus-Balthazar Klossowski, “The Living Room”, 1942

The second painting by Balthus is much more versatile and in a substantial sense very “Balthusian”. It is a work that semantically “teases” the neo-puritanical taste. The girl is probably resting on the sofa after playing the violin – something like a violin case is lying on her right thigh. The girl being tired, probably fell asleep. Her brother is on the floor reading a book and helps himself not only with his hand but with his elbow. The famous almost permanent attribute of Balthus’ paintings – the presence of a feline is here – as if it is observing the boy’s effort to read and is also looking towards the viewers either with a didactic or just a humorous expression on its “face”. Of course, the anti-neo-puritanical interpretation of the girl sleeping and boy’s posture can be also mentioned here, if to underline Balthus’ hints and allusions about the difference between male and female genders. Neo-purists hate it when children and adults waste life on passive pleasure, but children love to waste it not for the sake of wasting it, of course, but exactly because of wasting it for using it. But adults prefer kids to belong to official entertainment and toys. Possession of new toys for children is a condemnation in the logic of their rivalry. How many fights, “wars” break out between kids and how much money must parents waste? The disastrous availability of electronic gadgets and toys are training and teaching children how to possess more than their friends have. Today kids are learning at a younger and younger age how to shoot and in perspective – how to fight and even kill. More and more kids are turned to learning how to operate with bullets and shooting.

Today for parents and their children all pleasure is supposed to be invested in accumulating things, build personal wealth, fitness, muscle power and participation in despotic ideology of economic plenitude. Parents hate the fact that children instead of preparing themselves for future career, business achievements and success or participation in competitive activities and militaristic type of video-games can still search for bodily pleasures – and they try to distract them through sports and athletic exercises. Some parents even love the idea of child labor as a means of discipline, thinking that hard work teaching them responsibility. Such parents are less humane and democratic than Balthus’ cat in his painting “The Living Room”.

The pictures below are incompatible with Balthus’ paintings above. In these photos adults and their children learn that the “reality” of satisfying their life comes from killing wild animals. Save us and our children with this kind of prowess.

They feel stronger than a lion

She feels more beautiful than horns

They have bigger teeth than even the King of the animals

Grateful to his parents – he is a heroic monkey killer

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