1916 __ « The mediumistic artist »
‣ Comment : For Pound’s view of the “mediumistic artist” a propos of the new technical media (especially radio) (see Daniel Tiffany. “Phantom Transmissions: The Radio Broadcasts of Ezra Pound”, in Substance, vol 19, no 1, 1990, p. 61). Daniel Tiffany's comment on Ezra Pound's preoccupation with the mesmeric and mediumistic power of radio waves is useful here: "The telephonic order of radio becomes equivalent, in this egard, to telepathy, but also to the lethal effects to radioactivity. By "radio images" I mean images whose invisibility corresponds directly to the magical effects of transmission, translation, and exchange (which stem from the "decay" of the body). [...] More remotely, we also discover in Pound's theory of radioactive art the origins of a conception of radio as a medium that is capable of unifying the "subconscious energies" of an entire population. [...] That is to say, fascism discovers in radio not only a technical medium that is essential to its practical dissemination, but its proper ideological medium as well. In Pound's case, the ideological medium of radio has its origins in his speculations about the Image -- a trajectory that recapitulates the historical spectrum of radio waves : "Begin in a radio dreamland, end in a radio war". [...] The insidious power of technology reaches deep into our hereditary past, the realm of the dead, as well as into the future, the realm of unborn. Pound's uneasiness about the technical media comes to light long before he encounters and finally surrenders to radio. He defines "Imagism", for example, in part by contrasting with the "impressionism" of the cinema. [...] For Pound, the technical media reopened lines of communication with the dead and the illicit realm of mimetic enchantment. [...] It is precisely the supernatural aspect of the technical media that produced a schism in Pound's attitudes about technology. Although he frequently condemned the medi, as we have seen, he was also remarklably sensitive and responsive to a number of technological developments. Inspired perhaps by Marinetti's concept of the "wireless imagination", which exploits the telepathic effects of the media, Pound marvels at man's ability to make "electricity carry language through air" ("ABC of Reading", p.19). A early as 1913, he shows an interest in Marconi's invention of "the wireless telegraph", and imagines radio technology from the standpoint of a medieval mind : "A medieval 'natural philosopher' would find this modern world full of enchantments, not only the light in the electric bulb, but the thought of the current hidden in air and in wire would give him a mind full of forms" (“Literary Essays”, pp.154-155). [...] He compares consciousness to "a great telephone central" or a telegraphic device : "Man is -- the sensitive part of him -- a mechanism, for the purposes of our further discussion, a mechanism rather like an electric appliance, switches, wires, etc... In the telegraph we have a charged surface attracting to is, or registering movements in the invisible ether" ("The Spirit of Romance", pp.92-93). [...] Pound implicates the medium of radio in the art of "public memory" -- though it also serves as a channel for personal memories, thereby associating the mnemonic effects of radio with the occluded origins of Imagism. Moreover, the radio is a "devil box", a source of "sub-human transmissions". Radio's memory broadcasts direct from the underworld. Yet Pound occupies the place of the phantom in order to speak frankly, to expose the reality of economic and cultural bondage. The realism of radio is truly magical. [...] ". (Daniel Tiffany, “Radio corpse: imagism and the cryptaesthetic of Ezra Pound”, 1995, p. 246) — Many of writers, artists, filmmakers and poets work as “mediums”. To work as a medium is not so much a matter of what an artist does, as what he/she doesn’t do; it is akin to the Chinese idea of wu-wei (non-action), a concept that denotes effortlessness, spontaneity, or what Chuang Tzu refers to as “flowing”. It is the ability of getting out of the way and letting the event, emotion, experience express itself-as-itself. Every well-told story and poem flows, as does the act of every artist when he/she operates “mediumistically”. The art of flowing, requires that the artist/writer get out of the way. A dramatist must become “empty”, unobtrusive, so that the characters can become whatever the characters are, so that that which is yet-to-be can come into being, allowed to birth itself through the agency of the storyteller-made-medium. (Compiled from various sources) — "Art is a mediumistic activity.". (Marcel Duchamp)
‣ Original excerpt : « There are, as often has been said, two sorts of artists : the artist who moves through his art, to whom it is truly a " medium " or a means of expression ; and, secondly, there is the mediumistic artist, the one who can only exist in his art, who is passive to impulse, who approaches more or less nearly to the " sensitive," or to the somnambulistic " medium." The faculty of this second type is most useful as a part of the complete artist's equipment. »
‣ Source : Pound, Ezra (1916), “GAUDIER-BRZESKA, A MEMOIR BY EZRA POUND”, LONDON: JOHN LANE. THE BODLEY HEAD, NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY, 1916.
‣ Source : Tiffany, Daniel (1990), “Phantom Transmissions: The Radio Broadcasts of Ezra Pound”, in Substance, vol 19, no 1, 1990, p. 61.
‣ Source : Tiffany, Daniel (1995), “Radio corpse: imagism and the cryptaesthetic of Ezra Pound”, Harvard University Press.
‣ Source : Pound, Ezra (1910), "The Spirit of Romance", New York : New Directions, 1968.
‣ Source : Pound, Ezra (1934), "ABC of Reading", New York : New Directions, 1960.
‣ Urls : http://www.archive.org/stream/gaudierbrzeska00pounrich/gaudierbrzeska00pounrich_djvu.txt (last visited )
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