Saturday, February 24, 2024

Antonin Artaud

Antoine Marie Joseph Paul Artaud, better known as Antonin Artaud (1896 –1948), was a French writer, poet, dramatist, visual artist, essayist, actor and theatre director.

He is widely recognized as a major figure of the European avant-garde. In particular, he had a profound influence on twentieth-century theatre through his conceptualization of the Theatre of Cruelty.

Known for his raw, surreal and transgressive work, his texts explored themes from the cosmologies of ancient cultures, philosophy, the occult, mysticism and indigenous Mexican and Balinese practices.

In 1943, when France was occupied by the Germans and Italians, Artaud was transferred to the psychiatric hospital in Rodez, well inside Vichy territory, where he was put under the charge of Dr. Gaston Ferdière. At Rodez Artaud underwent electroshock treatments and art therapy.

The doctor believed that Artaud's habits of crafting magic spells, creating astrology charts, and drawing disturbing images were symptoms of mental illness. Artaud denounced the electroshock treatments and consistently pleaded to have them suspended, while also ascribing to them "the benefit of having returned him to his name and to his self mastery". Scholar Alexandra Lukes points out that "the 'recovery' of his name" might have been "a gesture to appease his doctors" conception of what constitutes health".

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