Painterly Comments 0n Radical Dehumanization Of Humanity

S. Dali, “Geopolitical Child Watching the Birth of the New Man”, 1943

In the very middle of WWII which was a kind of existential resume of European history, Dali’s wild and brave intuition produced the image of United States as the place where a new man, opposite to the warmongers of human history is to be born (he made this painting while living in New York). Dali was never suspected of being a profound painter capable of producing an art uniting meaning and style as growing from the same inspirational bud. He rather illustrates his provocative ideas by his sharp images. At the same time he is a dedicated craftsman of painting. His “Geopolitical Child” has the ability to shock if the viewer can grasp the implications of painter’s idea. Indeed, if Christian foundation of Western culture gave life to the use of Concentration camps and chemical and nuclear weapons, perhaps, it is time to stop to praise Western so called humanism, founded by the god becoming man through sacrificing himself, and even try the egg instead of maternal womb. But what if Dali’s “new man” will be even more destructive than the old Christian “humanists”? Christian culture is full of intolerance and hate for otherness, but it created Christ with his self-sacrificial passion and ideology of kindness, although Christian countries have killed in wars more people than pre-Christian, with the help of super-destructive technology. Christians (with their globalist ideology, sectarianism and messianic pathos) are kind in a small and obvious sense while murderously cruel on a mass scale.

Today what is this sacred warmth – the Christian aura of sacredness around the human flesh based on people’s unconscious memory of the warmth of mother’s body, in comparison with worthiness of money and power of high-tech weapon systems? What is the value of human bonds when a planned pauperization of the populations (austerity measures) is seriously considered as a solution to economic problems? To think like this means not only to forget mother, but, as if, never knew her. And it is exactly what Dali’s painting about the “new man” emphasizes. Of course, the very idea of a planetary egg from which we, Americans, are coming, could be imagined before the 21st century’s “conservative revolution” (of the two percent of population) only by Dali. I never thought of him as a prophet, but today it looks that his intuition sometimes can be. The American financial elite and its conservative political pit-bulls are Dali’s “new men“, not born by woman but having appeared from an egg. They live completely artificial life dedicated to multiplication of their assets. They don’t take into consideration the humanistic factors at all (they are ready to destroy their compatriots for the sake of their obsession with profit). They are really were not born by women (and conceived from men) – situation idealized and aggrandized to the size of the sky by the Christian paradigm. Being born from human beings, from human embrace makes you identified with humanity with its imperfections but, simultaneously, with its humanness. But this painting suggests that for those of us, Americans, who worship wealth and wealthy, power and powerful, it is no longer true. We are more and more coming from a planetary egg, not from womb, not from human flesh.

In Dali’s intuition South America is melting out of the globe, Africa is crying, Europe is disappeared, and Middle East is swollen, while US is monstrously deformed by the struggle of the “new man” to rip away the earthly crust-shell. And Dali’s “geo-political child” is … the Child-Christ and his mother is his Virgin Mother. According to the painting, the Christian idea of uniting the Godly and Human is a thing of the past, a “fruitless idealism”. In the painting Christ and Mary are marginalized, are “banished” from the earthly globe. Their time is over, together with the Christian dream of humanization of the god and moral ennoblement of the human race.

But who laid Dali’s planetary egg – who has created it? The answer can be helped by two paintings of Wifredo Lam which are concentrating on the genealogy of creatures which can be called “head-eggs”.

Wifredo Lam, Mother-monster producing the Human Head-Eggs
Wifredo Lam, “Beautiful Thorn”, lithograph, 1974 (Mother-monster producing the Human Head-Eggs)

Where is in Lam’s picture mama-monster? Why and how is she producing the human head-eggs? And what will hutch out of them, like in Dali’s painting – a “new man” comes out the egg of our planet Earth? In the upper part of the picture we see the mama-monster’s head – a vertical form protected with mighty spurs. Her flexible body to the left of her head (in the right side of the painting from viewer’s perspective) is directed down. We see the head-eggs (inside her body) moving down towards the opening from which head-eggs are appearing. We see a tiny egg inside her reproductive channel, close to her head, and the bigger head-egg closer to the maternal, vaginal opening of her body. But we see even bigger head-egg already out of mama-monster, who keeps it nearby by her arm-like spur. Her body is the eggs delivery tract, and her eggs are sliding down along this tract. The “externalized” head-eggs carry inside our (human) future posterity – our future. What it will be like? – And why is the future of human race in the prickly hands of mama-monster? And who is this mama-monster with her mammalian reproductive system? Is it the planet earth? Does she personify for Lam the “human nature”? In both cases Lam is not too complimentary. Mama-monster here is rather satirical metaphor.

Wifredo Lam, “Innocence”, 1974

Mama-monster’s head-eggs look a bit like human heads, don’t they? Lam’s “Innocence” suggests, that mama-monster, as if, posing for the painter with her eggs (the work’s composition hints at a family portrait). Why is it important for us to see this… family where eggs look like the heads of human children? Even if we didn’t know that the title of the painting is “Innocence” we can still relatively easily to see that the mama-monster’s eggs look like human children’s naiveté personified. Are these innocent children we, adults of human species? On the very tale of the mama-monster we see a tiny head-egg, recently laid. And under her body we see the other three, bigger ones, elder and fully formed egg-heads, which already look more like human heads. We are even ready to say that the middle head-egg can be of a girl while head-eggs to her right and her left are of the boys. What is inside these heads? Here, mama-monster’s “facial” features are more obvious than it was in the previous picture – may be because here she feels more relaxed in the presence of the painter, less suspicious and defensive (she is posing). We can clearly see her eyes, nose and mouth.

The most important thing at this point of human history is, it seems, that we don’t know our future – we don’t know if it will be human or monstrous. Wifredo Lam, as we see, gave it some thought and asked himself this question already then, in the second part of the 20th century. The recent developments (one manmade disaster after another) make us even more skeptical about our humanistic future. Lam feels that human problem is inside human heads – in our morally perverted thinking, in the transformation of our god given gift of thinking into weapon (of calculation, manipulation and conquest).

The Christian paradigm in its idealism is it seems the direct object of Lam’s humorous representation of our very thinking about the future of a Christian society. The question that Lam addresses here is about the success or failure of god’s creation – will it be able to produce a human intelligence the creator in his wisdom could desire for us to have or will it be wasted in the fires and swamps of earthly life?

Lam as a maverick artistic mind questions in these works the value of human race as god’s creation, expresses a critical doubt about the very greatness of our species, doubt which we today, in the 21st century feel with a renewed intensity. Will we, moved by blind obsession with power and money, destroy ourselves and our intellectual potential or will we be able to restrain our hysterical, obsessive and phobic reactions on our fellow human beings and otherness of the world and become more than head-eggs – the wise beings of life and future?

Lam symbolizes our human nature in Mama-monster and us in our present condition – as head-eggs that carry our future as a mystery of what is inside us as head-eggs. We can only be admiringly amazed not only by the insightfulness of Lam’s intellectual juxtapositions, not only by his ambition to offer us such an original view on god’s creation, but by the critical angle of his ideas challenging the Western intellectual narcissism.

*The analysis of Wifredo Lam’s watercolor on paper “Hector, Andromache and Their Son Astyanax”, 1940, was posted on 5th of September 2013.
  Jacques Louis David’s (1748 – 1825) “Andromache Mourning Death of Hector” (1783) and Wifredo Lam’s (1900 – 1982) “Hector, Andromache and Astyanax” (1940) by Acting-Out Politics