Antonin Artaud

[picture of A. Artaud]
Madman/theorist/philosopher/playwright Antonin Artaud's final work was a radiophonic creation entitled "To Have Done With The Judgment Of God." It was written after several years' internment in psychiatric institutions which roughly corresponded to the duration of WWII. During his stay at the asylum, Artaud's behavior was characterized by delusions, auditory hallucinations, glossolalia and violent tantrums. He underwent a myriad of bizarre treatments for this behavior including coma-inducing insulin therapy and electroshock therapy. "Pour En Finir Avec le Judgement de Dieu" is a heretic's scatalogical tirade at the extreme of the linguistic lunatic fringe. It was perhaps Artaud's electronic revenge against his incarcerators-- an invective broadcast from the end of the mind.

It was commissioned in 1947 by Ferdinand Pouey, the director of dramatic and literary broadcasts for French Radio. The work defies description, and although it was actually recorded in the studios of the French Radio at the end of 1947 and scheduled to be broadcast at 10:45 PM on February 2, 1948, the broadcast was cancelled at the last minute by the director of French Radio, Vladimir Porche. Citing Artaud's scatalogical, vicious and obscene anti-American and anti-Catholic pronouncements as something that the French radio audience could do without, he upheld this censorship in the face of widespread support from many culturally prominent figures including Jean Cocteau, Jean Louis Barrault, Rene Clair and Paul Eluard. Pouey actually quit his job in protest. Artaud died a little over a month later, profoundly disappointed over the rejection of the work. It was not broadcast over the airwaves until thirty years later.

In the actual text of "To Have Done With The Judgment Of God" America is denounced as a baby factory war-mongering machine. Bloody and apocalyptic death rituals are described. Shit is vividly exalted as evidence of life and mortality. Questions about consciousness and knowledge are pursued and answered with more unanswerable questions. It all dead-ends in a scene in which God itself turns up on an autopsy table as a dissected organ taken from the defective corpse of mankind. In the recording all this would have been interspersed with shrieks, screams, grunts, and an extensive vocabulary of nonsense words-- a glossolalia of word-like sounds invented by Artaud to give utterance to the dissociation of meaning from language.

One would be hard pressed to find anything like Artaud's work being broadcast on radio or TV now, but to get an approximation of an idea of it, do this: turn on the radio to any station (except WFMU of course), turn on the TV with the sound up and the picture off, smoke a joint and just listen to the glorious sound of the babbling media. As good as electroshock therapy.

-- Maria Levitsky

NOTE: The information for this article was lifted directly from Alan Wiess' chapter entitled "Radio, Death and the Devil" in The Wireless Imagination: Sound Radio and the Avant Garde, edited by D. Kahn and G. Whitehead.
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