TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT September 1966

Breton’s Esthetics

Of André Breton, seventy this year, one can say nothing so accurate or definitive as the formulation, in Mad Love, of his deepest aspiration:

“There is, I feel, no more important lesson in esthetics than that which crystals have to give us. A work of art—or, for that matter, a fragment of human life considered in its deepest implications—has value for me only if it possesses the hardness, rigidity and angularity of crystal, its polish on every facet, inside and out. I wish this statement to be understood as a diametrical, steadfast and categorical opposition to any attempt at a definition of formal beauty in terms of a deliberate effort of perfection incumbent upon man. On the contrary, it is precisely insofar as crystal (by definition, not subject to improvement) represents the most perfect expression of spontaneous action and creativity that I am led to defend that action and creativity. My hope is that my life, my writings, the house in which I live, will, when seen from afar, come to resemble those cubes of rock salt seen in close-up.”

One may, however, remember Whitman on Emerson: “Say what they will, he’s a great man. I love men who dive.”

I

The charm of this way of seeing lies in
its revelation of end less avenues of
desire . . . Desire, the world’s only
dynamism, the only rigour worthy of
Man’s recognition . . .

—André Breton, Mad Love

It is true that desire cannot always
attain to the whole perception at which
it aims, but it always attains something of
it and gains new perceptions.

—Leibniz, The Monadology

IF ARTISTIC ACTIVITY MAY STAND—and for Schiller and Nietzche it did—as paradigm and metaphor of human experience, the Surrealists, we may say, heightened that paradigm, radicalized the metaphor by re-defining art as erotic encounter. Consummation became Redemption in that utter surreality in which all antinomies were to be resolved. Fulfillment was Revelation and, ultimately, “the delirium of absolute presence.” And of an absolute Present. Life and art, then, were copulative, a yielding, in wonder (“the first of all the passions,” as Descartes had called it) to the persuasions of the noumenal. In an unending Here and Now—neither Utopia nor Eternal Return, but an Eschato logical Instant—one was “ lived,” as Breton put it, “ravished,” as Emerson had said, or, in Aragon’s word, “fucked.”

The pathos of Surrealism—and its persistent fascination—derive from its inherent contradiction: committed to a negation of time, it evolved, inevitably, under the pressures of history. If Surrealism—neither style, period, manner nor canon—is constantly redefining itself, re-naming its tasks, hopes and demands, as even Romanticism did not, this is not because of commitment to a modernist ethos of self-criticism; it is due to a constant need to accommodate its sense of itself, its urgency, to the pressures of history and to the very notion of time; prophecy had to come to terms with programmatic demands and style.

Alexandre Kojève, speaking of Hegel, has said that, “The recurrent idea basic to Hegelian speculation is that of a kind of metaphysical sin which is responsible for the origin of time, and the philosopher is called upon to restore that state of felicitous unity which existed prior to the birth of History.” No aspect of Surrealism is more contradictory than its Hegelian allegiances, but its articulation of this idea is perfectly unequivocal (as the endorsement of the dialectic was not); in one sense the history of Surrealism is the acting out of this nostalgia. “We want the Beyond now,” but “We are in the service of the Revolution.” The incantatory quality of the litany of re-definition, the apodictic tone of the successive revisions and reversals are styles of identity and dissociation. Surrealism, like other major movements of our time and more than many, represents a gallant acrobatics of reconciliation. The unity which Surrealist improvisation wished to restore (between “subject” and “object,” “matter” and “mind,” “appearance” and “reality,” “dream” and “ waking state”) was to be the decor of clear transparency in which Freedom would be free to be.

If we are to think about Surrealism now—and I am concerned here with preparing to think of current and concrete matters—one finds one’s self involved in a series of general questions: What of Surrealist esthetics and politics for us? What of Surrealism and a modernist art and criticism? What of Surrealist love in a progressive middle-class permissiveness? What of Surrealist painting and objects in the year of Primary Structures and Particular Objects? What of automatic techniques in the contexts of Chance and the Happening? What of transformation and magic in a context of expanding therapy and technology?

One of the beautiful and important works of art I have seen this year however, was a choreography (The Mind is a Muscle by Yvonne Rainer) in which movement and the evocation or figuration of its absence tended to assume the nature and presence of objects. More urgently than any theoretical or speculative contexts, a work of this sort poses the question of Surrealism’s metaphor in a climate in which the notion of making replaces that of revealing or expressing. What, then, of Surrealism at a time when, increasingly, the work of art aspires, as T. E. Hulme said “to the concrete presence of a piece of string?”

Surrealism’s ontology insists on the primordial role and cognitive nature of, poesis and, most particularly, of Metaphor. What, finally, is the place of Surrealism as Metaphor—and of its metaphors—in a time when Metaphor is stripped of cognitive value and exiled to the expressive peripheries of language?

II

The motive for metaphor, shrinking from
The weight of primary noon,
The A B C of being . . .
—Wallace Stevens, The Motive for Metaphor

Criticism is not translation but paraphrase. It can make no claim to finding the “content” of a work, for this content is the subject itself, that is, an absence: all metaphors are signs without content, and it is this distance from what is signified which is, in all its profusion, designated by the symbolic process. Criticism can only provide a continuation of the metaphors of a work of art, not reduce them.
—Roland Barthes, Critique et Vérité

SURREALISM, AS WE KNOW, set out to resolve the crisis which constituted the legacy of a bourgeois humanism, and the movement’s tensions, shifts and fluctuations, its nervous commitments, political and philosophical (Hegel-Marx, Berkeley-Engels) suggest the burden of that legacy. Surrealism neither “bracketed,” “froze,” “suspended,” “cured” nor rejected the classical contradictions or dilemmas of European metaphysics; its attempt to resolve them implied a certain acceptance. Most simply stated, the linking of dream and waking state, of the “communicating vessels” pre-supposed their prior discreteness, and an opposition (among many) which may be bridged, modified, but never really abolished, whether in art or in action. A notion of the “noumenal” persists. Surrealist thinking is haunted by demons and old ghosts such as a “transcendence,” subjected periodically to rituals of exorcism, but never quite dispelled. Surrealist “immanence” is, in fact, and more than most, a “transcendence” in disguise. Or one might say that it is, under periodical stress, renewed, like a fissure in a wall, and that through the crack stream avatars of theory, art and action.

One can begin almost anywhere—by tracing, for example, the development of the techniques of “automatism” as they evolved in time and “history” into an idea of “objective chance.” For the poetic empiricism of the heroic era which produced the extraordinary early verse of Crevel, Eluard, Aragon and Breton, the assemblages and frottages of Max Ernst, was to evolve during the political period of Surrealism—and in that moment when, affiliated with the Trotskyite minority, it was subjected thereby to a doubling of pressure—into a rationale. By 1936, Breton had transformed automatism into a commendably orthodox element in the ideological pattern of historical determinism and proposed, in Mad Love, a definition of chance “which would be the form assumed by external necessity as it makes its way in to Man’s subconscious.” The Marxist-Freudian synthesis now complete, he goes on to speak of the Surrealists’ “intention to stress the highly objective aspect (that which alone reflects an acceptance of external reality) which the definition of chance tends, historically, to assume.”

The comedy of the Trotsky-Breton dialogue on the subject, though delicious, does very accurately express a sense of the real contradictions which could not be resolved in a mariage de raison. “Comrade Breton, I’m not quite clear as to your interest in the phenomena of ‘objective chance.’ Yes, I am indeed aware that Engels uses this idea, but I wonder if, in your own case something else is not involved. I’m not sure that you aren’t trying to keep”—and here his hands described a small space in air—“a tiny window open on the Beyond. And besides, you’ve written somewhere that . . . you find these phenomena rather disquieting.” “I beg your pardon, but I wrote ‘at this particular stage of our knowledge of such matters’; would you care to check that statement with me?” “If you did say . . . ‘at this particular stage of our knowledge’ . . . I see no further correction to make; I withdraw my objection.”

“Your chance is not my chance,” as Duchamp says. And Chance, its esthetic, uses and ideology have a history, currently accelerated by the extraordinary and extraordinarily pervasive quality of the thought, work and influence of John Cage. Any critical consideration of its significance—and I regard this as one of the most urgent and interesting tasks of contemporary criticism and esthetics—would ultimately involve an understanding of Cage’s syncretic approach (involving the use, not only of the Book of Changes, but of geometrical techniques, of tables of “random numbers,” interpretative use of imperfections of materials) as an extension and a literalizing of a Surrealist premise and metaphor. To suggest, as Sartre among others has, that Surrealism has no history (and no present) is to ignore the historical dimension of premise and metaphor (in even their most contradictory aspects) and to distort both aspirations and achievements. The history of Surrealism can be considered as “a repertory of events” only insofar as those events expressed and re-defined the role of Metaphor. It would follow, then, that thinking about Surrealism now must, for a time, center about the nature and implications of that Metaphor and its successive forms; trace its itinerary, a spiral.

III

Of Eros and the struggle against Eros! This exclamation of Freud’s sometimes obsesses me, in the enigmatic quality of its form, as only certain verses can.
—André Breton, Mad Love

And now a confession which you must accept with tolerance! In spite of the many signs of interest which you and your friends show in my work, I am not able to really see what Surrealism is and what it wants. Perhaps I am not in a position to understand, as I am so remote from art.
—Freud, Letter to André Breton, 26 December, 1932

DEDICATED TO THE ABOLITION of a Christian myth and its repressive vestiges, Surrealism derived its strength and its contradictions from that myth. More specifically, its eroticism is Christian in its exclusive heterosexuality, its fetishism and transgressive character. It is haunted, too, by the Platonic aspiration—the ultimate fusion of the sexes in an androgynous union as the symbol of the Reconciliation—yet never relinquishes its cult of woman, reviving and extending the poetic conventions of courtly love. Woman is seen as instrument of redemption, of ultimate access to reality, and the poetry of Breton, Eluard and Aragon celebrates that redemption in somewhat different modes. Breton has suggested in Arcane 17 that the dissensions and defections—or expulsions—which have punctuated the group’s history have been due to a sharpening or articulation of fundamental differences about love, and one can certainly see the break between Aragon and Breton as, in part, a possible instance of this. Breton’s ideological commitments were ultimately to be expressed in a defense of monogamy, quite incompatible with Aragon’s fundamental libertinism and Mad Love contains, in addition to the political rationalization of automatism, a revival of an essentially bourgeois-Christian erotic ideal supported by an appeal—once again—to Engels’ doctrine of The Origin of the Family. Mad Love is, indeed, a pivotal work, as it contains much of the most quintessential—and beautiful—of Breton’s writing, and therefore stands as a clear expression of his most dynamic contradictions.

Surrealism as a whole, however, aspired to both innocence and organicity, or rather to the innocence of organicity, but was condemned to celebrate in its literature and its painting, Love’s pathos and its “attendant perversions.”

Rejecting the ontological status of transgression which animates French erotic literature from Baudelaire through Bataille and Klossowski, Surrealism nevertheless proclaimed and reflected transgression’s dominion. It is this context which provides the grounds for a possible consideration of Surrealist art as inherently pornographic and mannerist.

The Freudian affiliation, like most, began with the elation of a coup de foudre and subsided into something of a mariage de raison, with Breton’s reproaches countered by Freud’s dignified confession of bewilderment. More interesting, however, than the circumstances of the misunderstanding, were its source and consequences.

Nowhere, of course, in that Praise of Folly which runs through Surrealist art and thought, does one sense the immediacy, the agony of madness. Neither in The Immaculate Conception (the early volume of verse in which Breton and Eluard, in collaboration, simulate a style or imagery of madness) nor in Dalí’s adoption of paranoid style and analytic procedures in the elaboration of the Paranoiac-Critical Method is this immediacy or agony present. The literature of Surrealism, and its theory, brackets the excruciation of pain and loss, rather as Epicurean literature sublimates that of pleasure. Conversion hysteria, itself, was viewed as a poetic strategy, and, as we know, Breton called, in 1928, for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of “the greatest poetic discovery of the 19th century.” (The perception involved, by the way, in the historical placing of the “discovery” was perhaps even sharper than Breton, himself, realized at the time; it has since been confirmed by Ernest Jones’ remark on the gradual disappearance of the hysterical syndrome after the First World War. And the 19th century does not end, of course, until 1918.) The Surrealist demand, however, for “transformation,” grounded in its negation of time and history, quite necessarily rejected or set aside the answer of a therapeutic process. The intensity and immediacy of disease were converted to the uses of transformation. Madness and disease, as re-structuring of a contested reality, that of appearances, could be their own reward. They could also be marshalled as agents of a transformational terrorism. The Surrealist image, though inspired and self-justifying as a kind of seismographic representation of an “order of things,” was designed to subvert the established order—of “rationality,” its language and conventions: the language of events, actions and relationships, as well as that of words. The opening image of Un Chien Andalou was an attempt to redefine the possibilities of shock tactics, as well as to intensify them. And the cinema was so quickly adopted by Surrealism because it seemed to present the widest range for re-definition of these possibilities—not only in terms of its mobility and iconographic resources, but because its space (and this includes the spatial relation of audience to darkened chamber, to screen, to depth in the screen) seemed paradigmatically Surrealist. It was not only the quintessential voyeurist situation, but it enabled one, in seeing or looking, to see through things. It opened another front in Surrealism’s war on appearances, or surfaces.

Speaking of Max Ernst in an essay on painting (which is really about seeing, as Surrealism is always about seeing), Breton says of film that it explodes the spatial logic of painting, insofar as it allows a locomotive to arrive on or through a flat surface. This remark (published in Les Pas Perdus in 1928) actually anticipates a particular image of Magritte’s: Time Transfixed, of 1939. At no point subsequently, so far as I am aware (and this is quite consistent with Surrealism’s unconcern with the specificity of forms and media) does Breton go on to question the spatial premises of Surrealist painting generally, or to pursue the relationship of this or any other aspect of painting to the medium of cinema.

The case for cinema as a Surrealist medium par excellence has been extensively argued. Cinema, in its earliest and presumably primitive stages, however, and most particularly in the work of Meliès and Feuillade, was free to invent and to elaborately articulate the structural principles and strategies of which Surrealist film provides a kind of latter-day resumé. “Please believe me,” said Feuillade, “when I tell you that it is not the experimenters who will eventually obtain film’s rightful recognition, but rather the makers of melodrama—and I count myself among the most devoted of their number . . . I won’t in the least attempt to excuse (this view) . . . I believe I come closer to the truth.”

Feuillade’s Vampires (released in 1915), like Godard’s Alphaville (The Capital of Pain, as Godard, quoting Eluard, calls it) was shot on location. The subject of both films is dis-location. Haussmann’s pre-1914 Paris, the city of massive stone structures, of quiet avenues and squares, is suddenly revealed as everywhere dangerous, the scene and subject of secret designs. The trap door, secret compartment, false tunnel, false bottom, false ceiling, form an architectural complex with the architectural structure of a middle class culture. The perpetually recurring ritual of identification and self-justification is the presentation of the visiting card; it is, as well, the signal, the formal prelude to the fateful encounter, the swindle, holdup, abduction or murder.

“Who, What, When, Where?” read the advertising posters for Vampires, and the elusiveness, ubiquitousness and implacable energy of the invaders create a Maldororesque climate of uneasiness. The absurdly simple and inexorable logic of situations are designed—as in all vital cinema of the early period—to see “just how far one can go too far.” Above all, however, the liberties taken with notions of scale (the assemblage of a cannon in a small hotel room), are characteristic of Surrealism generally. Similarly, the interruption of a sequence by the filme narration of a totally unrelated comic adventure (consisting of a piece of old film stock shot in Spain before the war) inserts into the logic of the narrative form a margin of improbability and discursiveness, of openness.

The Surrealist dimension of film is, however, most strikingly communicated in the first sequence of Vampires. On a bedroom wall hangs a painted landscape; in the landscape is a Sphinx, painted against a deep, receding (painted) space. The picture is shifted to one side, revealing a deep, dark recess in the screened wall. Musidora, pale and dark-eyed, emerges and the game begins. War—and it was Surrealism’s war—is declared on—a world of surfaces!

IV

. . . metaphysical anxiety descends upon the picture through the folds in the drapery.
—André Breton, Mad Love

It is not in principle that Modernist painting in its latest phase has abandoned the representation of recognizable objects. What it has abandoned is the representation of the kind of space that recognizable, three-dimensional objects can inhabit.
—Clement Greenberg, Modernist Painting

Breton’s most prophetic observation on painting is to be found in Surrealism and Painting (1928). There he anticipates the cleavage between those artists who were to exploit the techniques of automatic creation in the interests of structural and rhythmic coherence, and those who were to produce an art of imagery, or of trompe l’oeil, clinging to notions of space and volume which had been largely defined by the representational imperatives of the Renaissance masters and exhausted by their posterity. If Surrealist painting has transcended the limitations of its historical sources it has been, as we know, largely through that revision of compositional ideas and procedures which projected it in to the mainstream of significantly modernist art. Breton’s intimation, in 1928, of the differing potentialities of a style or esthetics of figuration and incarnation is or should be, the departure for a history of Surrealist art.

For its esthetics, however, one would do well to begin with the most suggestive phrase in all of Breton’s art-critical work. Speaking of that state of “metaphysical anxiety” generated, for Breton, by the great or revelatory paint ing, he considers Cézanne, and cites an 1892 portrait as one in which this anxiety descends upon the picture “through the folds in the drapery.” Here, one feels, he verges upon the consideration of the consequences of his 1928 statement or prediction, but this consideration is not to be pursued and Breton’s fundamental ambivalence is reflected in his proposing the issue and his reluctance to develop it theoretically. It is further and most concretely expressed in his alternating exaltation and vilifying of both Cézanne and Picasso; both are admitted to the Surrealist pantheon as visionaries, only to be expelled as academicians.

It was Breton’s adherence both to “vision” and to the transparency of physical reality which quite naturally inhibited his commitment to an esthetics of form, or to a formal radicalism. For if Surrealism is Seeing and to see was really to “see through,” then it followed that what mattered was “not the work of art, but that which is designated through it.” And ultimately, the erotic metaphor, its implications and extensions, inhibited the development or radicalizing of a pictorial space in any contemporary sense. To wholly relinquish figuration meant relinquishing the representation of that deep, hollow space which served as the literal theater or arena of the Encounter. The circumstances of that Encounter (for Surrealist painting preserves in its own mode the circumstantiality of the novel) denounced with such vigor in the First Manifesto—and the fusion of the visionary and voyeuristic was to be achieved in a major part of the corpus of Surrealist painting—in that of Dalí, Tanguy, Max Ernst, among others.

The historical and esthetic implications, the prophetic quality, of Breton’s 1928 statement were to be made clearer to us through the history of Abstract Expressionism—and Breton’s subsequent reticence in respect to this development (and his use of that rather quaint term “abstractivism”) suggests a retreat to the notion of automatism as source of imagery. Both Surrealist and Expressionist automatism share an anti-hedonism, a categorical dismissal of “taste” and “pleasure” in the interests of a revolutionary authenticity. It is in this sense that the use of the term “modernist,” (Breton uses it rather more rarely) seems, in part, applicable to both. Both modes are, again, redemptive in their aspirations, and Abstract Expressionism, in its more official American version came, eventually, to develop an ethos or morality rather than esthetics. Though they both developed rationales as “protocols of the unconscious,” Abstract Expressionism came to seem, in an era of Primary Structures, curiously permissive, or hedonistic in its heavy textures and emphatic dynamics of color and brush-stroke. The contrast involves, of course, as always a redefinition of sources and kinds of pleasure, and redefinition is a form of ascesis.

Though Breton did not, could not, in his particular fidelity to the Surrealist Metaphor, pursue some of his sharpest insights, they were nevertheless pursued—by Magritte, to some extent, and by Duchamp, and, ultimately, by Jasper Johns.

If, for Surrealism, Metaphor (and the metaphor) and its subsequent enactments and embodiments were endowed with cognitive value, the modernist tradition has replaced the notion of truth with that of the problem and its solutions. If, for Surrealism, art is seeing, for modernism it is, above all, making—and in some ancillary, ill-defined and perhaps undefinable manner, “expressing.” (“Expression” is a kind of vast No Man’s Land, uncharted but enclosed by a great set of positivist parentheses.) For Surrealism, painting, like all art, is, for all its circumstantiality, transparent; in modernist painting, it is, so to speak, opaque, and, in its assumption of historical consciousness and responsibility, involved in a perpetual inner tension, the tension of the critical act.

Jasper Johns’ work has the particular interest of examining the possible uses of Metaphor within a context of modernist premises. To do this, Johns moved from the meeting of dissimilar entities, through the games and paradoxes of Duchamp to a speculative play (or game) with metaphor and its terms, juggling with the notions of painting as symbolic process and as object, playing with the annihilation, through literalization, of “subject” and “presence.” Metaphor and metaphors are, in short, examined and tested.

A recent indictment of Johns’ work as essentially irrelevant to modernist painting is somewhat analogous to Sartre’s objections to the Surrealist objects and paradoxes as resembling “the sterilities by which the sceptics of the third century B.C. justified their perpetual epoché. After which Carneades and Philo, sure of not compromising themselves by an imprudent adherence, lived like everybody else.” Except, of course, that the paradoxes in question are forms of challenge addressed to intellectual, orthodoxy, in Johns’ case an orthodoxy of modernism. Sartre, engaged as he was in the late ’40s in a tardy recapitulation of Surrealism’s historical dilemma of the ’20s (involvement with Stalinism, could ill afford this sort of recognition, and though subsequent historical developments deprived him of belief in the premises of his argument, they did not impel him to a retraction, but rather to retreat. It is enormously to the advantage of art criticism that it flourishes at present more vigorously in America than in any other place, and that its grounding in an empirical tradition permits it to revise and refine, at any moment, its premises and judgments.

V

Language was given to Man that he might use it Surrealistically.

By means of this machine, syntax could be formulated and logical errors automatically avoided. The machine would not even be able to write the sentence, “two times red is hard.”
—Otto Neurath, Sociology and Physicalism

The literature of automatism has been largely succeeded, within the framework of Surrealist and post-Surrealist writing, by a return to conventions of syntax, rhetoric and a certain appearance of discursive rationality. This development parallels, to some extent, the transition from a painting of rhythmic impulse to one of imagery, to the style, that is, of a certain Surrealist orthodoxy. The situation of literature in post-war France, however, has involved, quite generally, a shift from the formal conventions of poetry to those of prose—and, one might argue, to those of critical prose, insofar as a pleiad of writers (including Blanchot, Barthes, Foucault) has, in re-charting a critical universe of discourse, altered its tone, created the strategies and styles of thinking, and, above all, animated a situation which must be taken account of.

The most striking thing about the renewal of the novel (the aspect of this situation most familiar to English-language readers) is its rehabilitation of that “simple diversity” of objects attacked in the First Manifesto. The rehabilitation is, however, accomplished through a radicalization of a narrative technique which one can only characterize as largely Surrealist in aspect and implications. Not only is the roman objectal (the novel as object rather than the novel of objects) a restructuring of a reality as experienced by or addressed to, the eye, but, if the consequent intensification of contour, the heightened discreteness of thing and event in a narrative space which has been cleared of the bric-a-brac of psychological and sociological observation resemble those of the Surrealist landscape, the emphasis on techniques of focus and shifting of focus do create a relationship of beholder to event and image which is that of the Visionary-Voyeur. In the spatio-temporal economy of this situation, time or chronology is subjected—as in erotic fantasy—to an elasticization process (alternately those of contraction-distension, repetition-abolition) in the interests of a renewed sense of “extension.”

Bearing this in mind (and it represents, of course, only one schematically presented aspect of the radicalization undertaken), one sees the work of para-Surrealists, such as Georges Bataille, Pierre Klossowski, André Pieyre de Mandiargues or that anonymous author of the unfinished Le Con d’Irène, whose verve and invention so strongly recall those of the young Aragon, as transitional, proposing the sources of a new strategy in the erotic—indeed, in the pornographic—situation. This literature has raised the only really interesting question about pornography, that of its potential as form or style.

This perception Robbe-Grillet revived through the ascesis of the “de-anthropomorphicization” process, discarding the legacy of a sensibility of dissociation, together with its rituals and rhetoric. Of its grand metaphor, that of the Erotic Encounter, the terms which, in the Mallarmean sense, evoke or figure “absence,” are rejected. The metaphor as relational principle is, however, literalized (vision becomes sight) and converted (relating becomes narrating); its “presence” is thereby restored, and the war on surfaces ends in armistice and reconciliation.

The thrillingly categorical tone of the rejection—in the celebrated Nature, Humanism and Tragedy, as elsewhere—echoes that of Breton’s grand indictment in the First Manifesto, of the novel as the literature of “positivism” and “a bourgeois rationalism.” It is as though Breton has found, at last, the really worthy antagonist, worth a hundred disciples. Robbe-Grillet, questioning, revising, transposing, literalizing a Surrealist trope to just this side of negation, radicalizes it, renewing, as Johns does for metaphor and Cage for automatism, the possibilities of the erotic vision. The critical figure—of any generation—which is to say, the artist—begins by contesting a vision, but ends by replacing it.

Annette Michelson