Saucy Seaside Postcards and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Bert Barrow
Sigmund Freud first visited England in 1875, aged 19, when he stayed with relations in Manchester. From there he went beachcombing and rock pool hunting at Blackpool. This was the first time that he saw the sea.
In The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) he recounts a dream based on his memory of ‘a whole day on the shore of the Irish sea’. He finds a starfish on the sand and then encounters a ‘charming little girl’ who asks if it is still alive - ” ‘Yes’, I replied, ‘he is alive’, and at once, embarrassed at my mistake, repeated the sentence correctly.”
In 1937, middle class anthropologists set off to Blackpool under the auspices of Mass Observation to observe the ‘savage’ working classes in their natural habitat.
The observers employed pseudo-Freudian jargon to the holiday makers who they diagnosed as sexually repressed. They could not resist noting the phallic qualities of the resort’s famous tower and delighted in analysing the smutty pier-end entertainments which included the celebrity transsexual Colonel Barker. ‘Intersexuality’ was rife in Blackpool, they said. But like Freud’s starfish, the blurring of gender distinctions only led to the affirmation of normative categories.
'We expected to see copulation everywhere' - The anthropologists went to absurd lengths to record the sexual antics of the pleasure beachers - prowling the dunes and back alleys in their quest to catch a glimpse of some hankypanky
Heavy wind this night. Sand blowing. Along a strip of sandhills quarter of a mile, [observer] came across only one sign of life, a squawk, perhaps of assent…
Some even seduced women for the purposes of ‘research’
We dived down several poorly lit streets until we came to Back Charnley Road. Observer got her to lean against a wall so he would not dirty his clothes…She was quite gushing when I kissed her and, after several more, observer began to play near the thighs and felt a pair of artificial knickers…
But overall they concluded Blackpool’s filthy reputation was unfounded.
Norman M Klein (mostly) imagines a visit by Freud to Coney Island in 1909 which returns Freud to the funfair. He is alleged to have noted down his impressions:
Busy blocks – eating booths, hot frankfurters on the grill, beef dripping on the spit, wash-boilers of green corn steaming in the centre of hungry groups which gnawed on [them] as if playing harmonicas; photograph galleries, the sitters ghastly in the charnel-house glare … open-faced moving picture shows [that] invite effrontery from the jocose crowd; chop suey joints, fez-topped palmists, strength tests; girls … in tights and spangles (except on Sabbath).
Zoe Berloff has documented the history of the Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society led by Albert Grass who wanted to build a theme park based on Freud’s understanding of the Unconscious. Perhaps Grass is dreamed up figure but that probably doesn’t matter.
See - Blackpool After Freud - http://mmmouth.wordpress.com/blackpool-after-freud/
Strange Woman (Ivan Pyryev, 1929) poster by the Stenberg Brothers
Alexandra Kollontai famously proclaimed that love under Communism would be ‘winged’.
Dorothy Thompson, a less enthusiastic visitor to the Soviet Union in the late 1920s, thought differently. In a Chapter entitled ‘Lame Eros’ Thompson describes with horror a country devoid of beauty - ‘a degradation and devitalization of the senses and the spirit’ - how different the pallid and wretched people on the streets are to the delicate ballerinas on the stages of the Bolshoi!
‘Woman, put on precisely the same level as man, has been de-womanized.’ The Soviet state is interested in cultivating fidelity to the collective and a masculinized image of woman but Thompson claims that woman’s disavowed femininity lives on:
‘the Soviet shop girl buys imitation silk stockings, lipstick, and Soviet substitutes for Coty products – made by Chinese. On the street she pays a dollar and a quarter for a fashion magazine, published in Russian, showing Paris styles of the season just passed, and at home she makes her own clothes, seeking to reproduce as exactly as possible the bourgeoisie Parisian, New Yorker and Berliner… Soviet posters represent the clothes of the worker as the acme of beauty; Soviet artists have even tried, by the well-known advertising model of repetition to create a new erotic ideal- the worker type of woman, broad-hipped and strong shouldered, with massive hands and sturdy limbs, a type fitted to simple and standardized clothing.’
But her disdain for the inauthenticity of mass-produced synthetic commodities aimed at female consumers here is not entirely distinct from the horrors of deeroticised and, crucially, standardized Soviet woman. Either way, the real thing has vanished and in her place is only an ideal type, a reproduced image. Neither the synthetically made-up Nep-woman nor the sturdy woman of the fields is sufficiently ‘woman’ for Thompson. These anxieties about ‘de-womanization’ are not specific to Soviet Russia but can be found all over the place in the interwar years.
(See, Dorothy Thompson, The New Russia (New York, Henry Holt, 1928))
Battus - the snitch stone - Mercury and Battus
Aglauros - a dark statue -Mercury, Herse and Aglauros
Daphnis beloved shepherd from Ida - a stone - Clytie and the Sun
Celmis - adament - Clytie
Some Theban woman - a stone - Juno and the Theban woman
Atlas - a mountain (see also Flora) - Perseus and Andromeda
Men seen by Medusa - a stone - Perseus and Andromeda
Theseclus, Amrynx, Nileus, Eryx, Aconteus, Astuages 200 men - stone - Perseus and Andromeda
Phineus - a stone - Perseus and Andromeda
Polydectes - a stone - Perseus and Andromeda
Rhodope and Haemus - Mountains - Archne and Minerva
Cinyras’ daughters - temple steps - Archane and Minerva
Niobe - weeping marble - Niobe and Latona
Nameless man who saw Cerbeus chained - a stone - Orpheus and Eurydice
Orenos and Lethaea - stones - Orpheus and Eurydice
Daughters of Propoetus - flint - The daughters of Propoetus
Anaxrete - a statue - Iphis and Anaxarete
Echo’s bones - stone - Echo and Narcissus
Seaweed - coral - Perseus and Andromeda
Pitane dragon - stone - Jason and Medusa
Sciron’s bones - Sciron cliffs - Hymn to Theseus
Lailaps and monster - marble statue - Procrs and Cephalus
Serpent - stone - the death of Orpheus
Mad wolf - marble - Daedalion and Chione
Dark blue serpent - stone - the Greeks at Aulis
Scylla as monster - rock - Glaucus, Circe, Scylla
Alcinous’ vessel - stone - Aeneas’ ships
Black pebbles - white pebbles - Numa
soviet cigarettes - no better cigarettes than these
In The Magic Mountain Hans Castorp keeps an X-ray image of his beloved close to his heart. In her absence he presses it to his lips.
‘without a face, but revealing the organs of her chest cavity and the tender framework of her upper body, delicately surrounded by soft, ghostlike forms of her flesh.’
X-rays strip flesh from the bone.This ‘interior portrait’ is a premonition of death.
His doctor demonstrates the wonders of technological modernity:
'There is a female arm, you can tell by its delicacy. That's what they put around you when they make love you know.'
Women’s bodies reduced to skeletons.
thinking about misogyny, the inorganic and the deathly, dissected limbs, mannequin bodies, rationality, flesh as waxwork or plaster - how this relates to repulsion, hatred, concrete violence, the mutilated bodies and minds of actual living humans
Anatomical Venus figures (used in anatomical demonstrations) were also known as Dissected Graces and Slashed Beauties.
The detailing of feminine beauties so dear to the poetry of the Baroque, a process in which each single part is exalted through a trope, secretly links up with the image of the corpse. This parceling out of feminine beauty into its noteworthy constituents resembles a dissection, and the popular comparisons of bodily parts to alabaster, snow, precious stones, or other (mostly inorganic) formations makes the same point. (Such dismemberment Occurs also in Baudelaire: “Le Beau Navire.”) [B9,3] p. 80
"The beauty of the body is merely skin-deep. For if, like the legendary lynx of Boeotia, men were to see what lies beneath the skin, they would recoil in disgust at the sight of a woman. That well-known charm is nothing but mucus and blood, humors and bile. Just stop to consider what is hidden away in the nostrils, the throat, or the belly: everywhere filth. And if, in fact, we shrink from touching mucus or dung with even the tip of our fInger, how could we ever wish to embrace the sack of excrements itself?" Odon of Cluny, Collationwn, hook 3 (Migne), vol. 133, p. 556; cited in J. Huizinga, Herbst des Mittelal’er, (Munich, 1928), p. 97. [K7a,4] p. 402
"In a shop on the Rue Legendre, in Batignolles, a whole series of female busts, without heads or legs, with curtain hooks in place of arms and a porcelein skin of arbitrary hue-bean brown, glaring pink, hard black-are lined up like a row of onions, impaled on rods, or set out on tables …. The sight of this ebb tide of bosoms, this Musee Curtius of breasts, puts one vaguely in mind of those vaults in the Louvre where classical sculptures are housed, where one and the same torso, eternally repeated, beguiles the time for those who look it over, with a yawn, on rainy days …. How superior to the dreary statues of Venus they are-these dressmakers’ mannequins, with their lifelike comportment; how much more provocative these padded busts, which, exposed there, bring on a train of reveries: libertine reveries, inspired by ephebic nipples and slightly bruised bubs; charitable reveries, recalling old breasts, shriveled with chlorosis or bloated with fat…." J .-K. Huysmans, Croquisparisien, (Pari” 1886), pp. 129, 131-132 (“L’Etiage” <Ebb Tide». [Zla,l] p. 294
Excerpts from The Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin