Blackness is to hard to define and demonstrate with images, because the word only describes a status, but not a real material that can be touched or directly depicted by the use of language. However, Max Ernst, in his section of Thursday, uses a roster in almost every picture throughout the Thursday story as an observant. It quietly watches everything happening and turns into different forms. For example, on page 152, the roster becomes the main nobility in the scene, wearing a fancy fur and attending the scene as he is no longer an observant.
His existence suggests that the there is always brightness coming after the dark and the roster is the symbol of awaken and awareness of the hidden meanings of the whole book– what’s behind violence, blood, death and manhood?
The creation is about birth, hope and nature, but even though all seven days match the description in the creation, the themes are merely the same. For example, blackness– the word for Thursdays is all about monsters coming out of the darkness of the human minds. The roster can be the Max Ernst who sees through the frost and stands outside the crowd to reveal the truth. Also, the scenes in Thursdays contain mostly women who either are the victims or the witnesses of all the tragedy.
So what do you think about the meaning of the roster? And the hidden messages in other scenes?
What interests me most about Ernst’s “Une Semaine de Bonté” is how it challenges our understanding of a novel. He presents it to us in the format of book but we’re forced to create our own narrative and connections between the illustration. As we discussed in class, his work is very provoking of the agency of the audience, forcing us to create our own plot and grapple with the illustrations to find logic when the very illustrations seem to defy reason. For this reason, I think I would personally classify Ernst’s work as an anti novel. An antinovel as defined on Dictionary.com is: a literary work in which the author rejects the use of traditional elements of novel structure, especially in regard to development of plot and character. Ernst’s work really falls into this definition for me, especially how his illustrations seem to constantly disrupt our process of “reading”, each containing subtleties and details that both reference and distinguish one from the other at the same time. I found this youtube video in which at the very end they mention “Une Semaine de Bonté” as an anti novel.
What I appreciated the most was getting the chance to see her handle a copy of the original prints at around 3:30. It provided that piece of context, to understand that they were meant to be read, page by page, book by book.
In Une Semaine De Bonté, Max Ernst portrays Monday as a great flood of destruction. To understand that this was a commentary on technology and industrialization, one needs to know the historic and economic context of the time period in which Ernst created these collages. I personally did not know that this was one of the interpretations of these collages until today’s lesson.
Up until today, I was convinced that Ernst was depicting a woman’s recount of her nightmare to her maids. I guess the prominence of sleeping women throughout Monday is what made me reach this conclusion.
I thought pages 41 to 47 show the horrible dream that a woman was having.
Then pages 48 to 51 show the slow switch from the dream to reality because we see the woman in the real world as well as the water from the flood in her nightmare.
Then on page 53, we see her telling her maids about her dream in the real world in real time. I decided that this was the real world because of the lack of violent flood waters. Then on page 54 to 67, we are taken back to her dream world and we see the rest of the dream that she is telling her maids about.
Maybe this was just me projecting my own (and perhaps the popular) opinion of what a nightmare Mondays are. In my case it would be because of either having a flood of unfinished work from the weekend, and/or receiving a flood of new assignments on top of the ones I am yet to complete.
This is the beauty of a novel without any words. It leaves the images up for countless different interpretations by the audience. These interpretations usually reflect the reader’s emotional state, mental state, or subjective opinions on certain matters, which was definitely the case in my understanding of the collages.
While collage is a technique of creation most generally associated with the visual arts, when I think of collage I can’t help but think of music. Since the advent of modern recording technology, it has become commonplace for musicians and producers to cut and paste different tracks over others. This collage of recordings first hit the main stream when George Martin began employing such methods when producing records for The Beatles. Today, the collage of recordings is endemic in genres such as rap, hip-hop and electronic music. Artists and producers have found success in the practice, as audiences have continued over time to respond positively to the collages. When speaking about collage, I believe that it’s important to realize and note that it has crossed the boundaries of visual arts into other forms of art as well. Beyond music, collage now hold a place in film, literature, fashion design, and an array of other areas.
Une Semaine de Bonté… It’s taken me a long while to decide what to blog about this week because of the question mark that is this book by Max Ernst (if it should even be considered a book?).
As a kid, I always gravitated towards darker stories, ones with black and white illustrations and not so friendly looking faces (think Stories to Tell in the Dark and The Series of Unfortunate Events). If I were to lump Une Semaine de Bonté into a category, I would lump it with what I like to call my “creepy books meant for kids.” However, I doubt Ernst had children in mind when he created his five part collection.
So with that I ask my main question, the theme of this blog post: could Une Semaine de Bonté be read by children?
My answer (and I’d love to hear yours too… whether you agree or disagree) is yes. I’ll even go further: I believe this book would be even better in the mind of a child.
Let me explain. When I first starting flipping through Une Semaine de Bonté, before we got any background information from class, I had no clue what was going on. I concluded that this book was simply a collection of dark collages representing nightmares. No overarching story, just pictures of the same theme. In no way would I have been able to understand that the figures in the pictures were recurring figures. I never would have guessed that each day had a protagonist. Yes, there was a man who always had some sort of mammal for a head, but how was I to know that this mammal-headed human was the same person throughout?
As an adult reader, I have enough knowledge to discern one animal print from another. My ability to distinguish between to images of animals is something learned. However, I believe that a child, someone younger who maybe is not as well trained at distinguishing the different details between mammal-headed figures, would see the mammal-human as the same character. If that person has an animal head, whether it be a bear or a lion or a cat, it must be the same character.
As we age, we lose our sense of imagination and grow more and more logical. It is hard to except these strange images and connect them into a coherent story. But a child, I think would be able to come up with connecting dots to make the seemingly disconnected images of Une Semaine de Bonte whole.
For today’s post I wanted to focus on the Dada Movement and Surrealism because it is something that I have always been intrigued by when studying Modern Art History. I also wanted to understand the movement and it’s relationship with Max Ernst and Une Semaine de Bonté.
Dada was an art movement that Ernst was very involved in that was developed as a reaction to the changing world following WWI. They were an “anti-art” movement and this was also a common theme in Surrealism. I am focusing on this idea of “anti-art” because I think it is clearly evident in Ernst’s collages and art. He takes the typical human form in the Victorian Era and completely adapts it to his own vision. Whether it is adding wings to a female body or a lions head to a man, he is going against what would normally be seen in depictions of human beings and creates “anti” human beings.
This then peaked my interest further as I considered what his reaction was to the Victorian Era itself? He is depicting these powerful individuals in compromising situations, as beasts, and he even contrasts situations on opposing pages. I think that you can look at the book as his reaction to society during that time, and how he responds to what is going on both in and out of the city. Thinking back to the Dada movement and Surrealism, these artists were in general reacting to WWI, but then applied it to varying situations that they were experiencing in the world.
I was completely taken in by Une Semaine de Bonte. Many of the images depict the “destruction” of women by men, the male gaze, and sexuality. Simultaneously many of his collages depict women corrupting men. I was struck with the images on pages 97 and 98, both depicting women confiding in one another. There are less images in Ernst’s collection showing women interacting with other women. Page 97 shows one aristocratic woman leaning on the shoulder of an older aristocratic woman . The dragon is at their feet. Three portraits in the background show a woman’s hands, the same image of the young woman leaning on the shoulder of an older woman, and a man shooting a gun. Initially I thought the collage was meant to advocate female friendships, but the presence of the dragon seems like this is an act of sin. I’m not sure whether Ernst believe it is an act of sin, or that society does not support female friendships. The second page, 98, depicts the same two women, only the second is covered by a crocodile-like creature. The paintings in the background show the flood that occurred earlier and a homo-erotic painting of the two women. Perhaps Ernst was demonstrating the progression of female friendships to romance, and his disdain for such.
The last couple classes showed me ways of utilizing collage techniques that I had never seen before. The concept of juxtaposing different sources and of combining parts from fiction and non-fiction to form a greater whole gives the audience a chance to look at the piece from different angles and with different perspectives. A collage thus can never be “one-sided” as its essence resides in that it encompasses many points of view to create something original that has never been crafted before. Often times, the collages we looked at in class were politically inclined and used the different parts of the collage to create a stinging satire on politics. For instance, some of the ones we looked at exemplified black rights, post war representations, and issues with gender roles and class-consciousness. Thus, collages remind me of perhaps an early form of political cartoons contrasting and comparing different styles and sources in order to comment on events.
There’s so little and so much to on with Une Semaine de Bonté. On one hand, if we assume there’s a plot, the structure of that plot is a lot of speculation. For simplicity’s sake I go with what we decide in class and make alterations from that. On the other hand, there is so much content to experience! Every plate is its own work, and we could go into depth on all of them.
All that is just to say that I’m going to talk about one aspect of a few images, but that’s only because I have to focus to get anything said.
Looking at Tuesday today in class, Professor Serrano pointed out just how many images it takes for the sleeping lady to notice the flood. As the city is ravaged around her, as so many crowds and individuals can’t escape the water, it takes her four plates to wake up, even when she’s knocked out of bed. And as soon as the water touches her, it skips to her servants drying her feet. And that’s the last we see of her, because as a beautiful woman of the upper classes, that’s as much as the drama touches her. As much as Ernst considers femininity to be sacred, there seems to be an injustice illustrated by the ease, even the laziness, of her escape when others struggle so. It seemed like one of the plainer class statements so far. The fact that it was a woman is interesting, though, because they are often depicted here being violated or erased, not usually as figures in power unless you count their power to captivate the male gaze.
What do you guys think of the implication that class superseded gender as a fact of life for the Victorians, as far as their power over their own worlds? Can they even be equated?
While I’m unsure how relevant and interesting this thought on Une Semaine de Bonté might be, the same thought keeps creeping back into my mind as we’ve looked further into Ernst’s collage-novel this week, so I figured I’d share…
Reading this work has reminded of reading or viewing children’s books or movies… as an adult. As I leaf through the pages, admiring Ernst’s meticulously crafted images, I notice that I feel an odd emotion I experienced when I turned 20. My friend had told me to go back and watch old Disney movies. She noted that as an adult, it’s funny to look back on what were once simply colorful displays of princesses and pick up on some of the hidden inappropriate symbols or themes. For some reason, reading Une Semaine de Bonté has made me feel this weird emotion again. I feel as though I’m looking at this images a few times over, seeing lines and shapes, but it is not until the 4th time that I view all the images together that I am able to discover the violence, brutality, and hyper-sexualization that exist among the pictures. To me, the commentary Ernst is making is not strikingly obvious right off the bat.
Although I’m not sure if other people can relate to this sentiment, I figured I’d share anyways!