Hector Nectar, elder Wisefool and famous eccentric among even the famously, universally and competitively eccentric faction of Wisefools. he maintained that the sought-after secrets of humour were to be found in smallness, nay, tinyness, and through a series of experimental health procedures began reducing himself to the size of an atom. said methods were all exercises in the popular lifestyle pamphlet and instructional video course for cosmetic size reduction, “Small Yourself”, produced by the same company known for the equally popular program, “Large Yourself”. Hector Nectar continued the exercises well after the medically-advised three clownmonth period. at every Wisefool meeting he attended his colleagues in the farce arts and dark farts would remark to each other how much old Hectar had shrunk, placing bets on whether he would be communing with caterpillars or wrangling dustmites by the end of the year. one day Nectar’s two husbands woke up to discover that he had vanished from vision and was now existing on a molecular plane, only able to be viewed by a strong microscope. after that, he winked out of existence completely, and is assumed to be roaming an undiscovered dimension, probably still insisting on further littleness.
Marchesa Casati, 1919, oil on canvas, the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto.
Luisa Casati was an eccentric Italian heiress, muse, and patroness of the arts in early 20th century Europe. As the concept of dandy was expanded to include women, she fitted the utmost female example by saying: “I want to be a living work of art”.
A celebrity and femme fatale, marchesa’s famous eccentricities dominated and delighted European society for nearly three decades. The beautiful and extravagant hostess to the Ballets Russes was something of a legend among her contemporaries. She astonished society by parading with a pair of leashed cheetahs and wearing live snakes as jewellery.
French composer Erik Satie hated rules and refused to be categorized. Known as “the velvet gentleman,” because he always wore velvet, he said: “If I have to follow someone, I think I can say it’s just going to be myself.”
He was born Alfred Eric Leslie Satie in 1866 to a Norman father and Scottish mother. He left the Paris Conservatory after eight frustrating years, intolerant of academic rules, and joined the military (like somehow he’d find fewer rules there!)
A year later he deliberately caught bronchitis, was declared unfit for service, changed his name to Erik and published Valse-Ballet, his first work.
He hung out at Le Chat Noir, “the” cabaret for humorists, painters, and symbolists. In 1888 he composed three Gymnopédies, inspired by a friend’s poems. After that came the Gnossiennes (Nocturnes). Home was a small room at the top of a building at Butte Montmatre, “high above my creditors.”
In 1891 he met Debussy who was his friend until 1916, when Debussy’s criticism of his work led to a break-up that would never be reconciled.
That same year he met Sar Josephin Peladin, who had established the Salon de la Rose + Croix for painters, writers, and musicians, the Symbolists in particular. Under Paladin’s guidance, Satie composed Trois Préludes du “Fils des étoiles”, le Sonneries de la Rose-Croix.
Two years later he burned his bridges again, arguing with his mentor and breaking away amidst declarations of artistic independence.
Satie used no bar lines, arranging chromatically around complex chord structures that foreshadowed Debussy’s harmonic and timbre experiments.
He would replace conventional directions such as “allegro” and “piano con brio” with “don’t make your fingers blush,” “from the top of your back teeth” and “just do your best.”
In 1895 he composed Vexations, aptly named because it was an eight-measure motif to be played 40 times consecutively for a total of 18 hours.
Satie and Suzanne Valadon, a model and artist, began an affair in 1893. After their first night together, he proposed marriage. She refused, but moved into a room next to his.
He became obsessed with her, calling her his Biqui, and writing impassioned notes about “her whole being, lovely eyes, gentle hands, and tiny feet.” Valadon painted Satie’s portrait, which she gave to him. After six months she moved away, leaving him with “nothing but an icy loneliness that fills the head with emptiness and the heart with sadness.” It is believed this was the only intimate relationship he ever had.
In 1910 he co-founded Les Six with Diaghilev, Picasso, Picabia, Ravel, Stravinsky and Cocteau. He invented “furniture music” which he called an industrial product. “Art,” he said, “is something else.”
In Parade, at Cocteau’s suggestion, he included the sounds of typewriters and factory sirens. The scandal was enormous. Debussy rejected it outright, but Apollinaire was so enthusiastic he coined the term surrealism. The Dadaists made Satie an honorary member.
Satie’s Socrate (1919) would have a profound influence on Stravinsky.
In 1924 the ballet, Relache with text and staging by Picabia, and the celebrated intermission film by René Clair opened in Paris to an uproar. Satie died the next year, poor but illustrious, surrounded by admirers, in Saint-Joseph hospital.
Arguably, besides Ernst Fuchs, the last of the 20th century’s master surrealist painters has passed behind the veil. We will never see visual artists attain the near mythical status that men like Giger and Dali achieved during their lifetimes ever again. We, as a society, just do not process images in the same way as we did in the 20th century. The collective consciousness of humanity does not ruminate long on exceptional painting anymore. We have other dalliances to keep the confusing and dark recesses of our subconscious fears at bay…
The obsession of Sex and Death. The black clothes and wild hair. The maddening isolation of only painting at night. The suicide of the muse. The promiscuity and drugs. The weapons. The famous friends. The eccentric castle. The Celtic Frost covers. The controversy and mystique. The persecution. The groundbreaking technical skill and vision…Giger had it all.
Well played, sir, well played. I humbly am in gratitude for your influence on my imagination and path in life, however arduous and obscure that path may be. R.I.P Hans Rudolf Giger, there will never be another like you.