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The Rotten Ass

Salvador Dali
A morally-inclined action could be provoked by the
violently paranoid wish to render confusion systematic.

Paranoia itself, especially when seen as a mechanism of

strength and power, leads us to the possibility of a mental
crisis that is perhaps as serious as, though diametrically
opposed to, the crisis induced by hallucination.

The moment is near, I believe, when, by means of a

deliberately paranoid thought process (as through
automatism and other passive states), it will be possible to
systematize confusion and contribute to the total
discrediting of the world of reality.

The new simulacra that paranoid thought could suddenly

reveal will not only have their roots in the unconscious—
more importantly, the strength of paranoid power will be
placed at the service of the unconscious.

These threatening simulacra will act cleverly and

corrosively with the clarity of everyday physical forms, in
such a way that our minds, with their distinctive capacity
for self-censorship, will dream of the old machinery of
metaphysics and almost willingly confound this with the
very essence of nature, which, according to Heraclitus,
likes to hide.

As far removed as possible from the sensory phenomena

that can be thought of as more or less connected to
hallucination, paranoid activity always makes use of
verifiable, recognizable materials. It is enough for someone
in the grip of an interpretive delirium to link the meanings
of heterogeneous paintings that happen to hang on the same
wall for the real existence of such a link to become
undeniable. Paranoia uses the external world to validate an
obsessive idea, with the troubling result of validating its
reality to others. The reality of the external world serves as
illustration and proof of the paranoid idea and is
subservient to the reality in our minds.

Physicians uniformly acknowledge the quickness of

mind and incomparable subtlety of many paranoiacs, who,
by seizing on themes and facts with a finesse that escapes
normal people, often reach conclusions that cannot be
dismissed or contradicted and which almost always defy
psychological analysis.

It is a clearly paranoid process that has made it possible

to achieve a double image—that is, a representation of an
object which becomes, without the slightest figurative or
anatomical modification, the representation of another,
absolutely different object, it too devoid of any distortion or
abnormality that could indicate some sort of manipulation.

This double image was made possible by the violence of

paranoid thought, which cunningly and skillfully availed
itself of the requisite number of pretexts, coincidences, and
so forth in order to reveal the second image, which in this
instance takes the place of the obsessive idea.

The double image (an example of which might be an

image of a horse that is also an image of a woman) can be
extended, following the paranoid process—the existence of
another obsessive idea being sufficient cause for the
appearance of a third image (of a lion, for example), and so
on, with the total number of images limited solely by the
paranoid capacity of the individual's thought.

I subject to materialist scrutiny the sort of mental crisis

that such an image can provoke. I subject to the same
scrutiny the still more complex problem of determining
which such image is most likely to exist if one allows
desire to intervene, as well as the more difficult and more
general problem of determining whether the series of such
representations has a limit or whether, as we have every
reason to believe, such a limit either does not exist or
whether its existence depends solely on the paranoid
capacity of each individual.

Assuming that no other considerations intervene, the

foregoing allows me at the very least to assert that images
of reality itself depend on the magnitude of our paranoid
faculty. Theoretically, moreover, an individual endowed
with a paranoid faculty of sufficient magnitude might at
will perceive a series of changes in the shape of a real
object—as in the case of voluntary hallucination—but with
the more destructive peculiarity that the various forms
assumed by the object can be seen and verified by anyone,
once pointed out by the paranoiac.

The paranoid mechanism, which gives rise to the

multiple figurative image, is the key to understanding the
nature and origin of simulacra, whose fury dominates the
disguise beneath which the manifold appearances of the
concrete conceal themselves. Indeed, it is the fury and
traumatic nature of simulacra vis-a-vis reality and the
absence of the slightest osmosis between reality and its
simulacra that lead to the conclusion that comparison of
any sort is a (poetic) impossibility. It would be possible to
compare two things only if it were possible to conceive of a
lack of any type of conscious or unconscious connection
between them. Made tangible, such a comparison would
clearly embody our idea of the gratuitous.

Because simulacra are inconsistent with reality, and

because the gratuitous can exist in their presence, they can
easily take the form of reality, while reality can in turn
adapt itself to the violence of the simulacra, which one
form of materialist thought stupidly confounds with real

Nothing can prevent me from acknowledging the

multiple presence of simulacra in the example of the
multiple image, even if one of its states takes on the
appearance of a rotten ass, and even if this ass is truly and
horribly rotten, covered with thousands of flies and ants;
since in this case, moreover, one cannot assume that the
distinct states of the image have any intrinsic significance
apart from the notion of time, nothing can convince me that
this cruel putrefaction of the ass is anything other than the
harsh, blinding reflection of new precious stones.

And there's no way to know that the much-desired

"treasure island" isn't hiding behind
the three major simulacra—shit, blood, and putrefaction.

As connoisseurs of simulacra, we have long since

learned to recognize the image of desire behind the
simulacra of terror and even the dawn of "golden ages"
behind ignominious scatological simulacra. The acceptance
of simulacra whose reality painstakingly strives to imitate
appearances leads us to desire ideal things.

Perhaps no simulacrum has created structures to which

the word ideal applies more exactly than the great
simulacrum that constitutes the disruptive ornamental
architecture of the Modern Style. No collective effort has
managed to create a dream world as pure or as disturbing as
these modern-style buildings that stand on the fringes of
architecture as true realizations of solidified desire, in
which the cruelest, most violent automatism achingly
reveals a hatred of reality and a need to seek refuge in an
ideal world that is common in childhood neurosis.

This is what we can still love, this imposing mass of

cold, maniacal buildings scattered across Europe, scorned
and neglected by anthologies and studies. This is all we
need to combat our piggish contemporary aestheticians,
who defend execrable "modern art." Indeed, this is all we
need to combat the entire history of art.

Art critics, artists, and so forth need to be told once and

for all that they should expect nothing from the new
surrealist images but disappointment, disagreeableness, and
repugnance. Far removed from all "plastic investigations"
and other such imbecilities, the new images of surrealism
will increasingly take on the forms and colors of
demoralization and confusion. The day is not far off when a
painting will have no value other than that of a simple
moral yet gratuitous act.

The new images, as functional forms of thought, will

freely follow the penchants of desire, even as they are
violently repressed. The mortal activity of these new
images can still, along with other surrealist activities,
contribute to the destruction of reality for the benefit of
those who, in opposition to infamous and abominable
ideals of every sort, aesthetic, humanitarian, philosophical,
and so forth, are leading us back to the limpid sources of
masturbation, exhibitionism, crime, and love.

Idealists without sharing in any ideal. The ideal images

of surrealism in the service of the imminent crisis of
consciousness, in the service of the Revolution

Translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer

* Here I am thinking in particular of the materialist ideas of

Georges Bataille, along with all the old materialism that
Bataille pretends to bring up to date with the gratuitous
support of modern psychology.