August 23, 2016
Dali, the painter: Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marqués de Dalí de Pubol (11 May 1904 – 23 January 1989). His self-appointed task: shake up reality. Make the impossible intrude on the ordinary. Expose and confound the critics and the press. Whenever the establishment tries to define who he is, become something else.
The critics would have declared Dali a mental patient if he hadn’t had such formidable classical painting skills. He placed his repeating images (the notorious melting watch, the face and body of his wife, the ornate and fierce skeletal structures of unknown creatures) on the canvas as if they had as much right to be there as any familiar object.
This was quite troubling to many people. If an immense jawbone that was also a rib or a forked femur could rival a perfectly rendered lamp or couch or book (on the same canvas), where were all the safe and easy accoutrements and assurances of modern comfortable living? Where was the pleasantly mesmerizing effect of a predictable existence? Where was a protective class structure?
To make it worse, Dali invented vast comedies. But the overall joke turned, as the viewer’s eye moved, into a nightmare, into an entrancing interlude of music, a memory of something that had never happened, a gang of genies coming out of corked bottles.
What was the man doing? Was he making fun of the audience? Was he simply showing off? Was he inventing waking dreams? Was he, God forbid, actually imagining something entirely new that resisted classification?
Dali’s greatest paintings were undeniable symphonies, and mere acknowledgment of his talent would not explain how he composed the movements.
Words failed viewers and critics and colleagues and enemies. But they didn’t fail Dali. He took every occasion to explain his work. However, his explications were handed out in a way that made it plain he was telling tall tales — interesting, hilarious, and preposterous tall tales.
Every interview and press conference he gave, gave birth to more attacks on him. Was he inviting scorn? Was he really above it all? Was he toying with the press like some perverse Olympian?
Media analysts flocked to make him persona non grata, but what was the persona they were exiling? They had no idea then, and they have no idea now.
It comes back to this: when you invent something truly novel, you know that you are going to stir the forces trapped within others that aspire to do the very same thing. You know that others are going to begin by denying that anything truly NEW even exists. That DOES make it a comedy, whether you want to admit it or not.
It is possible that every statement ever uttered in public by Dali was a lie. A fabrication. An invention dedicated to constructing a massive (and contradictory) persona.
Commentators who try to take on Dali’s life usually center on the early death of his young brother as the core explanation for Dali’s “basic confusion” — which resulted in his “bizarre behavior.”
However, these days, with good reason, we might more correctly say that Dali was playing the media game on his own terms, after realizing that no reporter wanted the real Dali (whatever that might mean) — some fiction was being asked for, and the artist was merely being accommodating.
He was creating a self that matched his paintings.
It is generally acknowledged that no artist of the 20th century was superior to Dali in the ability to render realistic detail. But of course Dali’s work was not about realism.
The most complex paintings — see, for example, “The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus” and “The Hallucinogenic Toreador” — brilliantly orchestrated the interpenetration of various solidities of realities, more or less occupying the same space.
I’m sure that if Dali were living today, he would execute a brain-bending UFO landing on the front lawn of the White House. Such a painting would envelop the viewer with several simultaneous dimensions colliding outside the president’s mansion.
At some point in his career, Dali saw (decided) there was no limit to what he could assemble in the same space — and there was no limit to the number of spaces he could corral on the same canvas. A painting could become a science-fiction novel reaching into several pasts and futures. The protagonist (the viewer) could find himself in such a simultaneity.
Critics have attacked the paintings relentlessly. They hate the dissonance. It’s a sign that Dali could give full play to his imagination — a sin of the first order. They resent Dali’s mordant wit, and rankle at the idea that Dali could carry out monstrous jokes — in such fierce extended detail — on any given canvas.
But above all, the sheer imagination harpoons the critics. How dare a painter turn reality upside down so blatantly, while rubbing their faces in the detail.
The cherry on the cake was: for every attack the critics launched at Dali the man (they really had no idea who he was), Dali would come back at them with yet another elaborate piece of fiction about himself. It was unfair. The critics were “devoted to the truth.” The painter was free to invent himself over and over as many times as he fancied.
Dali was holding up a mirror. He was saying, “You people are like me. We’re all doing fiction. I’m much better at it. In the process, I get at a much deeper truth.”
Dali was the hallucinogenic toreador. He was holding off and skirting the charges of the critics and the historians. They rushed at him. He moved with his cape — and danced out of the way.
The principles of organized society dictate that a person must be who he is, even if that is a cartoon of a cartoon. A person must be one recognizable caricature forever, must be IDed, must have one basic function. Must — as a civilization goes down the trail of decline — be watched and recorded and profiled.
When a person shows up who is many different things, who can invent himself at the drop of hat, who seems to stand in 14 different places at the same time, the Order trembles. This is not acceptable. (Fake) reality declares: what you said yesterday must synchronize absolutely with what you say today.
This rule (“being the only thing you are”) guarantees that human beings will resonate with the premise that we all live and think and work in one continuum of space and time. One. Only one. Forever. That’s the biggest joke of all. The big lie.
Whatever he was, however despicable he may have been in certain respects, Dali broke that egg. Broke the cardinal rule. He reveled in doing it. He made people wait for an answer about himself, and the answer never came. Instead, he gave them a hundred answers, improvised like odd-shaped and meticulous reveries. He threw people back on their own resources, and those resources proved to be severely limited.
How harsh for conventional critics to discover that nothing in Dali’s education produced an explanation for his ability to render an object so perfectly on the canvas. It was almost as if, deciding that he would present competing realities inside one painting, he perversely ENABLED himself to do the job with such exacting skill, “making subversive photographs come to life.”
That was too much. But there the paintings are. Imagination realized.
Like it or not, Dali paved the way for many others. He opened doors and windows. And the pressure has been building. The growing failure of major institutions (organized religion, psychology, education, government, the press) to keep the cork in the bottle signals a prison break in progress.
More people understand that the veil is not really a veil of tears. It’s a curtain madly drawn across the creative force. The pot is boiling. People want out.
Somewhere along the line we have to give the green light to our own creative power. That is the first great day. That’s the dawn of no coerced boundaries. Everything we’ve been taught tells us that a life lived entirely from creative power is impossible. It’s crazy. It’s meaningless. We don’t have it within us. We should maintain silence and propriety in the face of greater official power and wisdom. We must abide by the rules. We must, at best, “surrender to the universe.”
But what if, when we come around the far turn, we see that the universe is us? Is simply one part of imagination? Is a twinkling rendition installed to keep us titillated with dreams that would forever drift out of reach?
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon Rappoport was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at NoMoreFakeNews.com or OutsideTheRealityMachine.