This is one of the few times I have purchased an art work not by a close friend and it may have been talismanic, in that I feel open to inviting it to affect my work. I have been watching Foley's work since 1999. He thought I'd met him at the Webster-Wiley "What Is Art For?" show we were in in 1999, but I did not, since when I went up to him he was surrounded. Foley has a good way of beyond-overworking something while maintaining a liberating amount of white space, making verbal jokes, and ending up with a pleasing fusion of the raw and the cooked. Yes, he is interested in anthropology and the idea of artifact as a key or insight into the commodification of culture. And I see that I too am interested in the anthropological — in collecting and labeling as commodification, but so far when it has come up in my work (e.g., A Little Known Treasury of Scalps,
I was not programatically pursuing this idea. I noticed that Peter Foley's work makes a playful joke about the masculine, but that is not why I like it exactly.
I am really more interested in the passive so-called "feminine" voice (than in the egoic rational voice), in the same sense that the surrealists made much of Rrrose Sélavy, the fur-lined tea cup (in fact called Object), Duchamp's Nude Descending the Staircase, and André Breton's novel Najda. In Nadja the main (eponymous) heroine first shows up so very late in the novel, appears initially as a fleeting image in the arcades*, and is pursued as a soul figure or anima throughout the rest of the novel. All of these images act as an "objective correlative" to automatism and to the unconscious…. ..
*Walter Benjamin's celebrated last work, the Arcades Project, was a never-completed vast opus based on the all-glass malls in Paris, a labyrinth of iron and glass windows that became the first store windows and lead Benjamin to a wandering and brilliant exploration of the meaning of consumerism. Breton's novel Nadja was published in 1928 and Benjamin worked on the Arcades Project from 1927-1940, though the two works probably had nothing to do with each other except in one's fleeting imagination just now. But it is not out of the question that the arcades where Nadja first appears in the book are the arcades in Benjamin's work; and Benjamin's manuscript was left in the hands of Bataille when Benjamin fled from the Nazis in 1940. Bataille was a surrealist who clashed decisively with Breton who was the main theorist and founder of surrealism. I think the clash was over the role of consciousness in approaching the unconscious. This description of the difference between early and late surrealism may not be widely accepted. Later Bataille became the central intellectual figure in the late surrealism of the soixante-huit movement. Breton and Bataille shared anti-fascist views and early on launched a review called Acéphale or Headless Review. The play Ubu Roi, the "pataphysics" of Alfred Jarry and others (part satire on the hybris of science and part mysticism about about the beauty of science), several works of Genet, Bunuel in this period, and though I do not care for his literalism, Dali as well, are part of this trend that was provoked in part by anger after WWI, the onset of fascism, and the impact of Freud, Marxism and new science at the turn of the century. These works are a broadly funny mix of Freudian literalism, dream imagery, satire on rationality as it is associated with power, and erotica. Picasso was not a member of the Surrealist group, but his "Guernica" has a man-ic quality in which violence and the erotic are edgily mixed; but Picasso seems to have a far more self-serving ego-separation than Bataille. That Picasso and others auctioned off work to help Bataille when he became ill shows they ran in the same radical circles. These works are intentionally subversive and blatantly anti-patriarchal and (except for Picasso—though he did the set and costumes for Ubu Roi), anti-masculinist [?-ist?] to the core.
Perhaps Bataille's most hard-to-take theory is the idea that violence and the erotic are conjoined [intrinsically? or all too often?; should I reverse the order and say "the erotic and violence"?] (cf. Catholic imagery); but apart from his "artist" life and fascination with brothels and "low" life in general, Bataille was incredibly respectable from an academic perspective. In any case Bataille was hardly alone in his fascination with the night world; consider Joyce and Henry Miller. But Bataille worked in the Bibliothèque Nationale of France with Levi Strauss among others. … The trans-moral perspective that Bataille shares with both Nietzche, and to the extent that Jung loved Nietzsche, Jung, paradoxically reflects to contemporary eyes the unfeeling side of Levi-Strauss's theory of binary opposites as a way to understand anthropological data. Perhaps Bataille's most famous work is the Encyclopaedia Acephalica Headless Encyclopedia which is a satire on the reductionism of logic and includes some horrifying and at other times humorously juxtaposed words and images. One of these words is the word "informe," a verb as much as a noun, which he compares to spittle. … So you see this is a battle with form itself, that is with labels and definitions…
Bataille took his idea of erotic ecstasy or fusion very far, but to avoid the controversy his name evokes, he may be understood as an anti-rationalist who converted to Catholicism because he was attracted to the psychological realism in the juxtaposition of violence with the sacred in Catholic imagery, and then to Buddhism because he was compelled by the idea of compassion ("dissolution of the subject"). Like it or not (and the idea of the dissolution of the subject feels transgressive even to some Buddhists I have known in our protestant-based society), he has become an increasingly important critic of the Western patriarchal growth and power-oriented perspective. Others reject ideas in Bataille but love things that are based in ideas that are shared by Bataille, e.g. Grotowski and the The Poor People's Theatre, and the Peter Brook film Marat Sade—which becomes suddenly comprehensible from this viewpoint as it follows the increasingly disjointed conversation among mental patients to its entropic end!
The very idea of putting a series of words in alphabetical order that are not connected in some reasoned way may be anarchistic; and this "informal/informel" genre/form was picked up by Rosalind Krauss and Yves Alain Bois in a funny and beautifully designed catalog for a Paris exhibition on surrealism called Formless A User's Guide, but these books may or may not have been part of the inspiration for Peter Foley's alphabet book of altered book covers "Autocthonous."
In any case, his asymmetrical image of genetalia surely embodies the Puer-in-One defense of trinity, whereas the picture I felt driven to put next to it serves as a kind of (equally) childish blow to the “masculine” aspect of patriarchy by calling a man "leaf 1 2 or 3," thus satisfying a certain need for revenge while quoting Homer at the same time......