Changer la vie


Albert Serra

The night is the door to true life, that full life in which the impossible rules and death does not impose its law. It is the empire of enigmatic dreams, unfathomable but also biased and dangerous because they impinge upon our logical thinking. Above all, however, as has so often been said, dreams represent desires. They are common to every human being and they structure our most intimate core, making visible an operative self whose whole activity is prompted by desire, configured in this case from the extreme tension between that which is unreasonable —common to all non-human nature, from the world of animals to the processes of geology— and that which is rational —exclusive of the human sphere. This core possesses an immense complexity, even for the contrived creations of the human being, which give an always schematic and unsatisfactory vision of it; from this inability there emerges the metaphysical air of most human creations, especially artistic ones, which are born with the noble aspiration of understanding and which emulate the operative core of the self. Being concrete objectivations through artistic forms and languages (visual, literary, musical and cinematographic), their uselessness becomes even more evident for a very simple reason: they are intended to emulate and make understandable —to fix— that which is based on pure vagueness: the desire, perpetual motion in a vacuum, infinite by definition, that disappears when we wake and that always comes back with the darkness, under a different aspect, when our willpower is exhausted. Metaphysical angst is the consequence of rendering this impossibility conscious and the artistic search for beauty is its nostalgic lament. Some works of contemporary art from the end of the twentieth century have, nevertheless, consciously assumed this contradiction and have abandoned the ambition of original creation (the unique individual —the author— who creates a unique object —a fetish—); that is to say, the idea of being the real vestiges of desire, in favour of the natural acceptance of being works born to be reproduced, as symbols of the absence of desire. In our minds the influence of these works is strong and inquisitive because it does not function by suggestion but rather by pressure. They provoke a new sensation, coherent with their nature, and their final effect upon us is not productive, but “reproductive.”
Maybe, though, in the end, the most innocent, the most direct and the cleanest translation of the drive of desire in the world of daytime wakefulness are life ideals. That is, the concrete habitable worlds where we try to attain what the nocturnal dream has made us desire. These habitable worlds include the moral sense, which is the coordinate that allows this translation into the daytime world of what we dream overnight and that can be absent from the great artistic creations. Surrealism, that habitable world, that ideal of life that it wanted to make it as close as possible to the hazy way in which we perceive the drive of desire, and whence the subversive aspect of that ideal. It may have been the most accurate and, therefore, the most beautiful and exciting attempt to translate the irrational logic of desire into a moral logic of life. And the memory of this (maybe failed) achievement has not yet left us. The oppression we feel today as artists is the proof, the certificate, that our ideal of life is demanding and consistent with Rimbaud’s maxim, and that we still want to live in the permanent dream.

Let us read this book as a renewed attempt to persist in this goal, ever distant, ever at our fingertips, in the same way as night is from day, and let us not fail in our wish to transform life.