Living, Creative Understanding and Having a Dream

In his life Jean Genet was able to overcome the incompatibility between sexuality and spiritual needs. In his life sexuality became the area where spirituality asserts its yearnings. Did Genet profane meaning by messing it up with compulsive sexual imperatives? Or, conversely, was he able to sublimate the frustrated and capricious yearnings of the human flesh into sublime?

When he started to write prose he took a humorous and even ironic stance toward his existential experimentations. In Giacometti’s paintings Genet concentrates on reality that is far-away from everyday life. The intensity of his gaze tells us that he is moved by much more than just a curiosity. May be, he is engaged not so much with what there is to see and understand but with trying to imagine the modes of self-realization and the meaning of meaning in this distant place?

Genet found/created how to realize himself in the factual (available) environment: inside real life – it took eccentricity and perversity to do this. He learned how to fulfill himself through artistic creativity. It took daring and talent, and spiritual gift of separating from himself (the distance of introspection). But Giacometti is not interested in Genet’s existential or literary creativity. He wants to learn about his far-away dream; he examines Genet’s gaze to another reality.


Alberto Giacometti, “Portrait of Jean Genet”, 1954 – 1955

Genet’s gaze according to Giacometti starts with his posture. It is as though his whole body is looking through his gaze. Genet’s gazing body is a statue inside painting. The intensity of his concentration on what is other to earthly life as we know it has left with Genet and is staying in Giacometti’s painting frozen, mummified forever. The reality of this life is like the corner Genet is in while posing for Giacometti. Grayness and messiness of life envelops everything that is alive. But a strange reddish sign on Genet’s forehead marks his gift of a gaze that is directed out of the mud of just belonging to life. Genet’s gift of gaze into other world is Giacometti’s obsession that creates a double representation of Genet – as a statue (Genet’s passion of self-mortification to be capable of sustaining his own gaze) and as a painting (Giacometti’s passion of perceiving the world without any need to embellish it – to be able to sustain his creative gaze into an alternative to what is).


Alberto Giacometti, “Jean Genet”, 1954 – 1955

In Giacometti’s second painting Genet doesn’t see anymore. Is he blinded by another world’s glory or by another world’s absence? Did he become blind because it is nothing to see there, where sight is futile? And what Genet wants and wanted from another world? In the second painting this world that covers Genet (that is symbolized by Giacometti’s studio) became even darker and muddier. Is it because Genet and Giacometti have lost hope – have lost belief in another world, in the ability of the artist’s gaze to see the alternative to what we all know? Or is it exactly the dense darkness of this world that cures us from the desire to escape into hopes and forces us to look at the truth?

May be, this imagined place Genet was obsessed with in the first painting and Giacometti is obsessed with the very adventure of his art is not an object but the subject of spiritual gaze, is like a telescope directed at our world from outside? And then the lesson of two gazes of Genet (searching and blinded) and artistic gaze of Giacometti which is his whole creativity is that art reflects this world as if it is other world, that Genet and Giacometti’s gazes are directed at this world with all its darkness to be able to finally discern/to lit – a light, but that human creative talent doesn’t know this and need the illusion of other-worldly gaze to trigger itself into a creative action. What Genet and Giacometti’s eyes try to discern is their own gaze coming to them from far-away to penetrate the unknown alternative to our own world inside it.

Artistic creativity is creation of another world in the midst of this one. But to exist the creative ability needs the illusion of looking outside of this world (the prejudice created by the habit of living inside the coordinates of space). This is the reason for an incorrigible “idealism” of the artist who is always “against” the world as it is. Mass (commercial) art doesn’t have this idealism – it’s successful by the standards of a world we survive, succeed and die in. But it is made of crumbs of excrement of living, not of the sublimated dirt and dust in Giacometti’s studio or in sublime obscenities of Genet’s writings.

In the first painting of Genet (as a portrait) Giacometti paints the statue of Genet that sustains his gaze (theological, telescopic, microscopic, historically utopian), only to have this gaze to eliminate itself in the second painting where Genet’s gaze has awakened into a genuine meaning of searching for alternatives – searching inside our world of incarnated existence. Painting is added to the statue as Giacometti’s gaze to the gaze of Genet. The painting functions as an independent gaze of Giacometti reinforcing Genet’s gaze and reinforced by it. Blinded gaze is a time of acting as living meaningfully.

We don’t deserve the cognitive level of astrophysics, microbiology, nuclear physics, quant mechanics, history of future, etc. And we don’t deserve god. We are too weak – we tend to transform other worlds into fetish (and therefore are trying to manipulate them for our plebeian benefit today). The blind gaze of Genet is a recognition of this our weakness and an attempt to prevent our abuse of our own capability for cognition. It reminds us of our place. It tells us that we must work with ourselves before we go to the world, we are dangerous to creation.