A Broker of Madness

Stumbled upon this passage, contained within a Susan Sontag essay in the Penguin Modern Classics edition of Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille. It resonated with me when I first read it, even if I don’t feel I personally fit in the mould it describes yet.

“If within the last century art conceived as an autonomous activity has come to be invested with unprecedented stature – the nearest thing to a sacremental human activity acknowledged by secular society – it is because one of the tasks of art has assumed is making forays into and taking up positions on the frontiers of consciousness (often very dangerous to the artist as a person) and reporting back from there. Being a free-lance explorer of spiritual dangers, the artist gains a certain license to behave differently from other people; matching the singularity of his vocation, he may be decked out with a suitably eccentric life style, or he may not. His job is inventing trophies of his experiences – objects and gestures that fascinate and enthrall, not merely (as prescribed by older notions of artist) edify and entertain. His principle means of fascinating is to advance one step further in the dialectic of outrage. He seeks to make his work repulsive, obscure, inaccessible; in short, to give what is, or seems to be, not wanted. But however fierce may be the outrages the artist perpetuates on his audience, his credentials and spiritual authority ultimately depend on the audience’s sense (whether something known or inferred) of the outrages he commits upon himself. The exemplary modern artist is a broker in madness.”

– Susan Sontag, The Pornographic Imagination


Published by Gareth

London-based artist

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