Antonin Artaud was a writer, poet, director, visual artist… whose entire work was marked by his psychiatric problems.
Member of the surrealist movement
Genius for some, crazy for others, Artaud was a poet, author and theater director, actor, visual artist, an exceptional artist. Member of the surrealist movement, he embodied a unique, strange verb, always on the verge of unreason, his poetry and his theater were the reflection of his soul and his drug-addicted practices. Today what we have left of him: a unique, grating work, inscribed in the absurdity of a life that was diverted from right-thinking.
Antonin Artaud was born in 1896 in Marseilles. Her father was a naval officer and her mother from Smyrna.
Interned in a psychiatric asylum
When he was very young he fell seriously ill. He will keep nervous sequelae all his life, he will have to constantly take medication, in particular laudanum, which will calm his anxieties.
He will be interned (in 1937) in a psychiatric asylum, for nearly 7 years and will undergo electroshocks. This omnipresence of pain will mark his relationship with others, explain his loneliness and his artistic creation.
His work was marked by illness but also by the religious education he received from the Marist Fathers.
It was in Paris in 1920 that he began to write. He had already published some of his poems in his high school newspaper.
But during his lifetime, success is not really there. His first collection was refused by Jacques Rivière (the director of Gaston Gallimard’s NRF) in 1923. But he published their correspondence all the same.
La Révolution surréaliste
In 1923, Antonin Artaud self-published the first issue of the magazine “Bilboquet” but under the pseudonym of Eno Dailor.
In 1924, the management of the Centrale du Bureau des Recherches Surréalistes was entrusted to him by André Breton. This allowed him to continue to write and publish in the magazine “La Révolution surréaliste“, the organ of the surrealist group. But when the group of surrealists decides to join the French Communist Party, Antonin Artaud refuses and leaves it: he thinks that the revolution must be spiritual and not political…
he was treated there by electroshock
In 1936, he left for a National Education mission in Mexico: he wrote texts and lectures. Artaud was particularly interested in the Amerindians of the Sierra Tarahumara. The following year, he experienced another sentimental failure with Cécile Schramme. Artaud then saw himself interned in various asylums, at the request of a poet and surrealist “friend”.
Artaud could not really get out of it until 1946: he had been interned at Quatre-Mares in Sotteville-lès-Rouen, at Sainte-Anne in Paris, at Ville-Evrard in Seine-Saint-Denis and at Rodez in Aveyron. Concerning this last psychiatric hospital, he was treated there by electroshock. Its director had the pleasure of monopolizing some of his works, in particular his plastic work, and in the name of art therapy… If Antonin Artaud was known for having acted, directed or as a playwright, this was also a visual artist.
Interned in various asylums
In 1946, he finally found a warm welcome, friends to give him worthy attention. He was thus able to continue to work, and gave a few radio interviews with his very particular tone: The Sick and the Doctors and Alienation and Black Magic, To End the Judgment of God.
He gave his last lectures at the Théâtre du Vieux Colombier. He laid the framework for his theater of blood, his last work was on Indian Culture. Artaud died of cancer on March 4, 1948 in a care home, he was found at the foot of his bed. He left a large number of notebooks, manuscripts and drawings in his room in Ivry, including the famous “subjectiles” that inspired Jacques Derrida.