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Antonin Artaud

Antonin Artaud

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Antonin Artaud
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Antoine Marie Joseph Artaud
, better known as
Antonin Artaud
(September 4, 1896, inMarseille  – March 4, 1948 in Paris) was aFrench playwright,poet,actor andtheatre director.
Antonin is a diminutive form of Antoine (little Anthony), and was among a long list of nameswhich Artaud used throughout his life.
Biographical information
Artaud's parents, Euphrasie Nalpas and Antoine-Roi Artaud, were of Greek origin(Smyrna
), and he was much affected by this background.
 Although his mother had
nine children, only Antoine and two siblings survived infancy.At the age of four, Artaud had a severe attack of meningitis.Thevirus gave Artaud a
nervous, irritable temperament throughout adolescence. He also suffered fromneuralgia,stammering and severe bouts of depression.As a teenager, he was allegedly
stabbed in the back by a pimpfor no apparent reason, similar to the experience of 
 playwrightSamuel Beckett.Artaud's parents arranged a long series of sanatorium stays for their disruptive son, which were both prolonged and expensive. They lasted five years, with a break of twomonths, June and July 1916, when Artaud wasconscriptedinto thearmy.He was
allegedly discharged due to his self-induced habit of sleepwalking.During Artaud's
"rest cures" at the sanatorium, he readArthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, andEdgar 
Allan Poe. In May 1919, the director of the sanatorium prescribedlaudanum for Artaud,  precipitating a lifelong addiction to that and other opiates.
In March 1920, aged 24, Artaud moved to Paris to pursue a career as a writer butquickly discovered he had a talent for avant-garde theatre. Whilst training and performing with the most acclaimed directors of the day, most notably Charles Dullinand Georges Pitoeff, he continued to write both poetry and essays. At the age of 27, hesent some of his poems to the journal
;they were rejected,
 but the editor,Jacques Rivière,wrote back seeking to understand him, and a
relationship in letters was born. Thisepistolary work,
Correspondance avec Jacques
, is Artaud's first major publication.In 1925, Artaud effectively took over directing thesurrealist movement, writing many of the articles for The Surrealist Revolution and running the Bureau of SurrealistResearch, a loose affiliation of surrealists interested in exploring automatic writing,recording dreams and engaging in anything which rejected rationality. After about 18months he grew increasingly frustrated by what he perceived as the surrealists'unwillingness to do any more than disrupt bourgeois art events and create scandal. Theyin turn, spearheaded by André Breton who possibly felt his leadership of the movementto be threatened by Artaud's dynamic energy and extreme radical commitment, set aboutejecting him from the group after he publicly began to call their revolutionary bluff.Artaud cultivated a great interest incinema as well, writing the scenario for the first Surrealist film,
,directed byGermaine Dulac. Dali and
Buñuel, two key Spanish surrealists, took their cue for Un Chien Andalou from this. He also acted inAbel Gance's
 in the role of Jean-Paul Marat, and inCarl 
 as the monk Massieu. Artaud's portrayal
of Marat used exaggerated movements to convey the fire of Marat's personality.In 1926-28, Artaud ran theAlfred JarryTheater, along withRoger Vitrac. He produced
and directed original works by Vitrac, as well as pieces byClaudelandStrindberg.The
theatre advertised that they would produce Artaud's play
in their 1926-1927
season, but it was never mounted and was not premiered until 40 years later. TheTheater was extremely short-lived, but was attended by an enormous range of Europeanartists, includingAndré Gide, Arthur Adamov,andPaul Valéry.
In 1931 Artaud saw Balinese dance performed at the Paris Colonial Exposition.Although he did not fully understand the intentions and ideas behind traditionalBalinese performance, it influenced many of his ideas for Theatre. Also during this year,the 'First Manifesto for a Theatre of Cruelty' was published inLa Nouvelle Revue Française which would later appear as a chapter in 'The Theatre and Its Double'. In
1935, Artaud's production of his adaptation of Shelley's
was a commercial failure, although it employed innovative sound effects— including the first theatrical use of the electronic instrument theOndes Martenot--and had a set designed byBalthus.After the production failed, Artaud received a grant to travel toMexico,where he met his first (Mexican) Parisian friend, the Painter Federico Cantú in 1936 when he gave lectures on the decadence of Western civilization. He also studied and lived with theTarahumaran people and experimented with peyote,recording his experiences, which
were later released in a volume called
Voyage to the Land of the Tarahumara
. The
content of this work closely resembles the poems of his later days, concerned primarilywith thesupernatural.Artaud also recorded his horrific withdrawal fromheroin upon
entering the land of the Tarahumaras; having deserted his last supply of the drug at amountainside, he literally had to be hoisted onto his horse, and soon resembled, in hiswords, "a giant, inflamed gum". Artaud would return to opiates later in life.In 1937, Artaud returned to France where he obtained a walking stick of knotted woodthat he believed belonged not only toSt. Patrick ,but alsoLucifer andJesus Christ.  Artaud traveled to Ireland in an effort to return the staff, though he spoke very littleEnglish and was unable to make himself understood. The majority of his trip was spent
in a hotel room that he was unable to pay for. On his return trip, Artaud believed he was being attacked by two crew members and retaliated; he was arrested and put in astraitjacket. 
1938 saw the publication of The Theatre and Its Double, his most well-known work.This book contained the two manifestos of the Theatre of Cruelty, essential texts inunderstanding his artistic project.
Final years
The return from Ireland brought about the beginning of the final phase of Artaud's life,which was spent in different asylums. When France was occupied by the Nazis,friends of Artaud had him transferred to the psychiatric hospital inRodez,well insideVichy 
territory, where he was put under the charge of Dr.Gaston Ferdière. Ferdière beganadministeringelectroshock treatments to eliminate Artaud's symptoms, which included various delusions and odd physical tics. The doctor believed that Artaud's habits of crafting magic spells, creatingastrology charts, and drawing disturbing images, were
symptoms of mental illness. The electro-shock treatments have created muchcontroversy, although it was during these treatments — in conjunction with Ferdière's
art therapy  — that Artaud began writing and drawing again, after a long dormant period.
In 1946, Ferdière released Artaud to his friends, who placed him in the psychiatricclinic atIvry-sur-Seine.Current psychiatric literature describes Artaud as having
schizophrenia,with a clear  psychotic  break late in life andschizotypal symptoms
throughout life.Artaud was encouraged to write by his friends, and interest in his work was rekindled.He visited an exhibition of works byVincent van Gogh which resulted in a study
Gogh le suicidé de la société
Van Gogh, The Man Suicided by Society
], published by K éditeur, Paris, 1947 which won a critics´ prize[1]. He recorded
 Pour en Finir avec le
 Jugement de dieu
To Have Done With the Judgment of god 
] between November 22 and November 29, 1947. This work was shelved by Wladimir Porché, the director of theFrench Radio, the day before its scheduled airing on February 2, 1948. The performancewas prohibited partially as a result of its scatological,anti-American,andanti-religious 
references and pronouncements, but also because of its general randomness, with acacophony of xylophonic sounds mixed with various percussive elements. While
remaining true to his Theater of Cruelty and reducing powerful emotions andexpressions into audible sounds, Artaud had utilized various, somewhat alarming cries,screams, grunts,onomatopoeia,andglossolalia. 

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