Monday Modern Art Madness #15: Alchemical Dada in Evola’s “La libra s’infiamma e le piramidi” (The book in flames and the pyramids).

This week on MMAM, I feel as if it was inevitable that this series will be graced (or tarnished, depending on who you ask) by the MAN, THE MYTH, THE….legend? I say this with some trepidation and self-interested detached caution because honestly, Evola is a very controversial figure, especially after the New York Times/Bannon expose'(hit piece), and in some regard, this will be a very personal edition of MMAM,. So buckle up Buckos, we are going for a ride, and exploring a painting, and more importantly, a side to the Italian Baron and Right Wing internet Icon that few pay attention to, and the contemporary art world has long forgotten (or rather, wishes never happened in the first place!)I may potentially be committing future career suicide, but let me be frank and honest in asserting that, despite my eventual reservations and criticisms of his thought, like many in the “rectosphere”, Evola has been a foundational thinker that for a very long time I was/am fascinated by. I remember being in glass, ironically learning about such and such in vogue topic of Post-Humanism, and I got a text from my friend saying “Gio, I can’t believe it, I never thought Evola would be in the NYT!”- suddenly I felt a jolt, a stutter, and all i could think about was getting home to viciously explore this article and its implication, and devastating it was; Here we have a figure that us especially in the Trad/Reactionary/NRx corner of the internet was our private reserve of scholarship, an esoteric recluse, an aristocratic madman that danced between and in the face of various regimes, a man the world of European academia simply collectively decided to forget about, etc.  you get the picture.

Here for the world of Bogie boomer libs to see, the usual litany of “isms, ists, and phobes” attached to Evola. He was a “jew-hating Nazi” that hated women, and of course, Steve Bannon mentioned him once, so the usual game of connect the dots commences; The people who cared enough to actually read his world knew better, but those people have podcasts and wordpress blogs (like this one), not to be given a fair shake in the pages and soundbites of the blogger-sphere mainstream media. But enough about this business of trying to defend Evola to the ubiquitous “Normie”, that’s for another essay. My point in this is to merely highlight the turmoil in trying to take outsider dissident thinkers seriously in academic and media settings that are dictated by a scholarly orthodoxy as thick as a Fort Knox bank vault door. A recent grad from U of T almost had his dissertation taken away recently for doing work on Dugin, and being a bit too charitable for some in the Poli Sci faculty (his mistake was publishing it in Arktos media however).

Now onward to our original purpose for this installment. Let us first give a background to this particular piece of Dadaist Italian futurism; Evola, to the horror of the contemporary art world, was a foundational artist in the early European DADA movement, having worked with and influenced foundational artists such as Tristan Tzara, and of course Filippo Marinetti. In his short time as a painter, Evola had various gallery shows in Berlin and Rome, even having his world appear in the historical collective show of Italian futurism in Rome. Evola as the trailblazing aristocratic individual, used his art as a model of “the way of what is to come” to quote Jung’s Red Book. He saw DADA and futurism in art as a way of coming to terms with Vedic philosophy and the Kali Yuga, to ride the waves of the immense decay and destitution of the modern world, and to quote

“Let each person shout: there is a vast, destructive, negative task to fulfill. To swipe away, and blot out.In a world left in the hands of bandits who are ripping apart and destroying all centuries, an individual’s purity is affirmed by a condition of folly, of aggressive and utter folly”.

Evola saw the tendencies in the modern art of Dadaism, ironically enough, as carving the path towards total liberation, primordial energetic longing, and the shock and awe campaign waged in the spiritual war against modernity. Dada was founded upon a shock to the modern senses by going FORWARDS, not BACKWARDS into the physic abyss of fantasy, abstraction, horror, nonsensical expression, irrationality, and the breaking of any and all conditioning upon the spirit of the artist. Dada rejected the stultified rationalism and aestheticism of late capitalist society, and here Evola led the way in expressing the primordial through the artistic tools of the modern; It is similar to the odd (but never, ever expressly mentioned) precarious ersatz-kinship between postmodernists and anti-modernists such as Evola and Guenon. Evola’s paintings seem nonsensical, even “ugly” in a subjective sense, but this is for a reason.

Like the hyper political performance and conceptual artists of ugliness to the left of him, Evola expressed the ugly, the alienating, and the absurd in his visual art for the purpose of shaking people out of their modern, pleasant, bogie artistic sensibilities. Evola used the visual palette of absurdism, DADA and futurism to “the expression of an impulse towards the unconditioned”, Another great irony in this is that long before the abstract expressionists, beat poets and weirdo counter-culture academics that would probably spit upon Evola’s thinking (or at least its right wing conclusions), Evola used western styles of visual art to express the void like absurdism and momentariness of Zen, Taoism, and Chan Buddhism.  The 60s trend of western counter-culture artists culturally appropriating Zen for their artistic purposes was actually kicked off by the ultra-traditionalist, a Traditionalist that other Trads have reservations about, Julius Evola!

This piece is a stunning example of the traditionalist, the primordial and ancient being expressed in a modernist form, and coming to terms with the modern; “The book in flames and the pyramids” has been a favorite of mine for awhile, for it has a more solid form of the rhythm found in futurism, with symbols and breakages that run free of its machine-like appearance.

The piece is hearkening to the practices of the ancient alchemists, the Egyptian pyramids, the pages of alchemy that burn during the many rituals of magic, but now in a mechanical appearance.  The tiny planet dots look like buttons on the many tubes of the alchemy machine, just abstract enough to get a “sense” or feeling of the picture. as one article on the piece points out (I have translated the passage):

“In the close link existing in the Dadaist period between the pictorial and poetic production of Evola, the same title of the painting was used for two lyrics, nevertheless completely different from each other and not only because the first is written in French and the second in Italian, inserted in Abstract Art (La fibra s’enflamme et les pyramides, p.19) and in Raâga Blanda (The fiber becomes inflamed and the pyramids, p.43). The work is linked to research on the pictorial reading of the alchemical process, as indicated by the symbol of the sulfur that is reported there. The painting contains a replica owned by the Evola Foundation”.

The painting itself is a turning point in Evola’s periodic expressions, here he is starting to blend the esoteric with the abstract, and it is only a few years later after this piece where he jumps from art to actually becoming an esotericist. Sulfur in western esoteric alchemy is the masculine quality of the ability to bring about change, the heat and solar elements that are associated with fire. For readers of Evola, it is immediately apparent why he chooses to input this symbol in his “abstract machine” (pun indented). The Evolian Solar principle finds its beginnings in the aesthetic-symbolic for Evola during this period. The guiding hand of solar civilization, embracing the unseen metaphysical-primordial principles of all reality, endlessly creative and transcending. Evola of course discounted the feminine-lunar principle as also being integral to the survival of a civilization in their cultural and traditional milieus, but that is again, another essay.

On a personal note, I remember years ago seeing this painting for the first time, often case aside as a mundane work of dadaist abstraction, it seemed to pull me towards something. Immediately after  discovering it, I had a dream of the apocalypse, being chased by a red eyed demon to a lounge where these people were holding up behind steel doors hidden by a fake red brick wall. we were in this retro 70s or 80s lounge with food and water, just sitting around and talking for weeks, it was a large but long shotgun house design with a big lounge in the center, with green couches. After awhile, on the other end, this door opened to a fantastic, alien room, a dark room illuminated by a shiny silver-steel platform with tubes and holograms of people sparkling in the center, and a backdrop that looked like a more silver version of this painting; I was stunned, until a white and silver cloaked monk, an alien in human form with silver hair, told me “here, everything is right where it should be”, and just like that, the dream ended. Perhaps in some crazy and ineffably, inexpressible way, this painting was telling me something.

 

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