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Pierre Klossowski

The Pantomime of Spirits

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Hervé Castanet

This book examines the many facets of the work of Pierre Klossowski (1905–2001). Klossowski first established himself as a writer and was known and admired by peers such as Bataille, Blanchot, Gide, Foucault, Deleuze and Lacan. But in 1972 he gave up writing to devote himself to his ‘mutism’: painting made up of large coloured drawings. In time he became as famous a painter as he had been a writer and theorist. Klossowski now has two separate groups of commentators: those concerned with his writings and those with his painting, with little overlap between the two.
Here, this separation is explicitly removed. Klossowski’s entire œuvre revolved around the concept of the gaze. Rarely has the gaze been so radically interpreted – as an active, mobile, evanescent object that breaks down the connections between representation and the visible. How is one to see the invisible divinity? This question plagued Klossowski, and he displaced it onto pornographic rituals. The pantomime of spirits is the scene, fixed in silence, where bodies meet – a knotting of desiring body and dogmatic theology. A creator of simulacra, Klossowski attempted to exorcise the ‘obsessive constraint of the phantasm’ that subjugated him in all these scenes.
Translated from the French by Adrian Price in collaboration with Pamela King.
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Introduction

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This book examines the work of Pierre Klossowski (1905–2001) in its entirety. His work revolves around the gaze, a gaze heated to glowing point, transforming all who meet it. The focal point is the destiny of Actaeon, a figure with whom the author and his male heroes identify. Rarely has an artist’s oeuvre interpreted the gaze in such a radical way – as an active, mobile and evanescent object that picks apart the coordinates of representation and the visible. How is one to see the invisible divinity (the eye being the noble organ according to Doctors of the Church)? This question plagued Klossowski, and he displaced it onto the pornographic rituals of a woman being violated (a new Diana). Faced with these tirelessly repeated scenes, a subject becomes a pure gaze object. Once a hunter, he is now the prey.

This book is not a monograph on Pierre Klossowski. A monograph has the task of relating an oeuvre back to itself. This does not rule out situating the oeuvre in political, literary, art and other contexts, though nothing will be said here of the literary style of the author. The writing will not be related back to what was at stake in mid- to late-twentieth century literature (Klossowski’s first narrative piece, La Vocation suspendue, dates from 1950).His artwork will not be examined from the point of view of the European avant-garde. Finally, nothing will be mentioned of the impact, which was major, of his works...

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