I TALKED ABOUT GOD WITH ANTONIN ARTAUD
“I Talked About God With Antonin Artaud” was one of six staged readings in the monthly series Tropismes. I developed the series in response to the lack of quality contemporary French performance and cross-cultural dialogue in New York City. My aim was to stage radical French plays in translation for American audiences. Written by Sylvère Lotringer, this play had not been staged since 1985, when it was directed by Chris Kraus and Lotringer at St. Mark’s Church.
Sylvère Lotringer is a theorist of French and American culture and editor of Semiotext(e). I felt his phenomenal work on Artaud deserved a new audience. This play is not published in English; I pieced together the original text at the Fales Library and edited it with support from the author.
The play is based on a series of interviews from the 1970-80’s in which Lotringer speaks with Antonin Artaud’s psychiatrist at the Rodez asylum, Dr. Jacques Latrémolière, who treated Artaud with electroshock therapy against his will. Throughout, Latrémolière (played by visual artist Antek Walczak) fervently denies Artaud any artistic merit whatsoever, while Lotringer (played by Kate Moran) skillfully exposes the hypocrisy of the psychiatrist’s claims and the dangers of denouncing madness. The play also incorporates actual dialogue from an enlightening interview with Artaud’s sister, Marie-Ange Malausséna (played by Joanne Tucker). “I Talked About God With Antonin Artaud” offers a rare glimpse into the horrific reality Artaud experienced at Rodez and challenges the definition of madness in contemporary culture. This reading was preceded by a screening of Chris Kraus’s short film on Artaud, Foolproof Illusion, and followed by a cruel set from DJ Etienne Pierre Duguay. The evening was an éloge to Antonin Artaud and physical proof of the work he continues to inspire in those who share with him an instinctual cultural contract.
There is in electroshock a puddle state
through which everyone traumatized passes,
and which causes him, no longer at this moment to know, but to
dreadfully and desperately misjudge what he was, when he was himself,
his own elf, his fief, wife, life, tripe, damnit, and THAT.
I went through it and I won’t forget it.
P.S. I want to complain about having met in electroshock
dead people I wouldn’t have chosen to see.