#ChristopheHuysman 10. Fantasies, Vomit, Cults

Friday 16 December 2016, by Christophe Huysman, Michel Belisle (Author - Translator) (Date of earlier publishing: 31 October 2013).

Ed. complementary note: The Syrian scenes [1] are taken from the compendium published by Christophe Huysman in May 2001, comprising his real time writings—during his intercontinental journey within his artist residency at The Villa Medicis Hors Les Murs in 1995—that forms the eponymous documentary play: The Toppled Men. The play, on stage with the author along with Vincent Dissez and Olivier Werner, was created during the Avignon Festival at the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, from July 8 to 12, 2001, and then was performed at the Nanterre-Almond Theatre from October 16 to November 11, 2001, followed by a performance at the Lurçat National Theatre, Aubusson’s National Stage, on November 27, 2001, and at the Dijon-Bourgogne Theatre from November 21 to 23, 2001. [2] (A. G. C. / M. B.)

            Restricted settings, open space.

The Surveyor, The Stationary Man, The Scrutineer         The surgeon of Damascus is on a stretcher, they are all painted yellow, they run.

As soon as one arrives on the streets of Damascus, spoken words take over everything, bonding to walks, visits, and whenever one gets accompanied. The people here are not only charming, caring, but also in a sort of a vacuum or a phantasmagoria of exchange so intense, fully devoting their time to their city, being alive and determined to remain so.

Distressed Bodies No. 26

The Surgeon of Damascus           He tells a story. “An old man and a young girl marry. Every night they go to bed and before they fall asleep he takes her hand, gently. Every night it is. And then one morning the girl wakes up surprised: she asks the old man why he did not take her hand the night before. He replied: I’m sorry, my dear, I was tired.”

Distressed Bodies No. 27

Two "Blue Berets" of Finnish nationality

1—Ammonia smell stings my nose. 2—An intense activity.

The Surveyor “I’m tired of all elite.”

The Scrutineer “You’re in the oldest inhabited city in the world.”

The Stationary Man             Syrian border.

I noticed on my access card at home that I was a poet. So I got interrogated; it was short but by the book: “Political writer?—For whom?—Where?—Why are you here?—What are you writing about? . . . ” I say blandly that I write romantic comedies and songs. “Songs?—Yes, love songs.—And how is the ending of your love songs?—Ending well, always, love always has a good ending.” Customs officers are smiling, moist eyes, glancing at each other with complicity, then laughing frankly——love stories always end well! And they stamped on my passport and wished me a good trip. Before me a man, less fortunate, his love affair had ended rather badly, an Arab with American citizenship. He has just been bluntly deported. When he shows his other passport, Lebanese this time, he is told it’s too late! Pushed, denied, he is forcibly carried off. Two Blue Berets of Finnish nationality by my side were treated with all due respects: they were blissful and astounded. They seem to wonder why they are here.

Two “Blue Berets” of Finnish nationality          Very kind. 1 & 2. “What are we doing here?——” (They give the impression of going to a summer camp.)

Distressed Bodies No. 28

Misery facing Doubt             Red, bloodshot in its eyes, the misery of the people we have not heard of. It can be bent four-fold. You can also see a red, disjointed body gently saying ‘hello’.

“You wanted me here today at this very moment with you. Offered me this show. Needed you to have any reproaches towards yourself, please talk to me and you’re talking to me. I thought for a moment to rob you of what you could have taken from me but have not done yet, what I could have imagined of the things you could have dispossessed me from, and what can I do for you, astray, and me curled up in such a precarious condition?”

The Surveyor “I would like to go home.”

Misery facing Doubt           Bent four-fold. “The occupied space is negotiable, the space to be taken is negotiable, negotiating its legitimacy——” (the rhythm of his voice shouts ‘even me!’.)

Thunderous animation.

The Surveyor           Folded in half, at night, very loud but fleeting sounds, bicycle bells, pre-recorded electronic music made of a few repetitive notes (think that shifting a vehicle into reverse triggers the “lambada”!), etc.

The taxi driver who takes me to the city center to the Saroujah souk asks me, without further ado, about my religion. I realize how important this is, and the secular in me panics, I think of my grandfather who was a Catholic and I answer as he would. The driver seems very satisfied, he is also Catholic, and exuberant: he then presents me the Holy Virgin who accompanies him in his taxi, a jolting figure, fluorescent, a kind of bobble head on the dashboard. I start to think that if I were that Holy Virgin I would vomit.

The Scrutineer           Green-Coloured.

The mosque built by Sinam is closed during the prayers, then is closed because it is not payer time, therefore closed: I head then to the large dilapidated garden surrounding the mosque, abandoned remains of an ancient splendour, adjacent to the army Museum. I wander first in long rooms offering a large retrospective of engraved daggers, on the ground floor overlooking the famous abandoned garden in which some models of rusted aircraft, gutted jeeps and tanks are littering the equally neglected floral clutter. A wasteland. As I go along doubts are growing in me, I start to lose the sense of this organization, the meaning of this museum. Objects, guns, grenades, portraits, hardware packed in glass cases, actually crammed with neon light above, unlabeled, without explanation, a conglomerate of years, wars, threats of which I cannot grasp, its portion of reality, nor even its dysfunctional character, I cannot even represent the nation thus exposed to myself. These aquarium-like displays of disparate military objects induce laughter, terror, blade and conviction inducing fantasies altogether, an almost unnecessary derision. I think of Beuys and the Fluxus period and also of Aman, all piled up, our piles, representations in which man is excluded, exhibitions of personal effects: a possible installation of an army museum here in our Western countries where ingeniousness about the war and historical representations is remarkable. A museum exhibiting the conquered in a country of conquerors. When I arrive in a burlesque hall gloriously exalting the only Syrian to have been into orbit around the Earth. There are displayed his combination, sweater, undergarment top, gloves and socks, repetitive portraits of Gorbachev with his birthmark and Afez-Assad, without any; I do not know why Wim Wenders and his naivete comes to my mind. Or rather yes, the violent and unbearable feeling of confusion in this museum, dizziness caused by the difference between the series of portraits of their childhood and the fact that I am unable to forget a single moment for myself that this is a killing machine. If a single burlesque moment is allowed to be inserted in this, the only human madness, it recreates a desert with unnecessary words. “Even the poor and almost incoherent signs in their brutal succession are oppressing. Childish doodles across this butchery create an undeniable emotion” as we would say in our enlivening comments. Each speck of dust too. A museum of orphans.

            Sound of defective piping.

The Stationary Man            The flesh and bones, railway station in Aleppo.

            A train pulls into the station, I’ll see if it’s the night train to Damascus. No, I do not know where it comes from or where it goes, but I’m amazed to see, in the particular ambiance of train stations, an empty train at night with all the windows bearing shrapnel wounds, slashed, punctured, the view is amazing—Here in the station, the movement of people is unpredictable but remarkably fluid. Many different clothes. Shoes, and how well worn they are, reveal where people come from. The rest rooms stink—The chandeliers in the Aleppo train station are superb—The soldiers are standing, arm in arm. One of them is walking back and forth, leaning on the shoulder of one of his buddies, looking at him with disarming tenderness—A rather fat guy with atrophied legs slides on the ground pulling himself forward with his arms making strange contortions of his back as if he were boneless like some sort of gelatin-filled bag: he follows a man/woman couple of a certain age dressed in black displaying an hesitant but graceful gait. Soldiers, arm in arm, walking back and forth across the hall. A young thug (Russian?) with a neglected look, blue eyes, brown hair, humorous, wearing cowboy boots, metal tip under the heels (‘clack-clack’) looking over and over in his wallet with a Velcro closure (‘sccrriiiit!’), leaning on a large silver coloured iron radiator, turns his back on me giving me the opportunity to admire his handsome ass then turns back to me, joyfully staring at me, he likes to be looked at especially making a show of his tight trousers, his body language clearly states he is not from here, then, after he stared at me : he heads towards a door, always the same, then comes back, taking a look inside his wallet, standing by the radiator and so on—A beautiful slender young man with very soft black eyes is fascinated by my hand, writing down notes. It is true that here I have not seen anyone write in any public place—A group of people dressed: Western blazers over long dresses for men, dresses with colourful flowers and palmyrene hairstyles, long sections of fabric falling on the back for women: children in red and green, women holding them in their arms, overall they move with an odd choreography, they seem lost, a man stands out of the group, looking for information, men are anxious and women are beautiful with their shiny eyes, children are asleep. Do not forget the gait, men with heads leaning forward, women especially their bright eyes, the smell of rest rooms, different ways to remove water and urine, government propaganda . . .

           A serendipitous light rain caresses my face, a reminder that I am heading north towards anxiety, broader and more rebellious outpourings. The body politic is not foreign to me. Here, money can buy everything, drink, sex, food . . . I feel Europe is nearby, no longer a country of Bedouins, some instantly recognizable seductions are in place. Nostalgia permeates everything here, an amazing nostalgia stems from each bit of dust up to the ruined myths, ruinous, not the kind of nostalgia one would expect about the deserted citadel overlooking the city and the guts of the souk, but strong political nostalgia with sparkling eyes, proud, accessible, close, capital, organized, an artisan nostalgia, spiritual and sexual. Drink, laugh and comment. A city of requests, a city filled with looks and respect, a city of appointments, discretions, deliverances.

          The evening of my departure, a young Kurdish peasant, Sido, black eyes, bright, round face with chubby blushing cheeks offers me a bouquet of midnight blue irises, without a word. I see on his face that he realized I was leaving, this genuine attention overwhelms me. This face lives into the moment, opened to the world, undisturbed, I will never forget.

          The memory of an outlasting calm that will not fade into weariness.

© Christophe Huysman (2001). Les hommes dégringolés. Paris: Les Solitaires Intempestifs. pp. 45-52.

© Michel Belisle (2013). “10. FANTASIES, VOMIT, CULTS”:
Unpublished translation into English from Christophe Huysman’s “10. Fantasmes, Vomissements, Cultes”: Les hommes dégringolés (The Toppled Men) pp. 45–52. Paris: Les Solitaires Intempestifs. Source www.criticalsecret.net.

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[1] Excerpt from “The Toppled Men”—Les hommes dégringolés—by Christophe Huysman, (Les Solitaires intempestifs Publisher).

[2] See the dedicated page to the stage play in 2001 in the website of C. Huysman’s theatre troup “Les hommes penchés”.

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