press release

La Casa Encendida presents a retrospective of the life and work of Antonin Artaud

La Casa Encendida of the Obra Social Caja Madrid presents the first retrospective ever held in Spain of the life and work of Antonin Artaud, one of the most outstanding artists of the 20th century. Entitled Artaud and curated by Marta González Orbegozo, the exhibition will reveal one of the creative facets of the author: his drawings and cahiers, as well as several photographs and a selection of manuscripts and documents which will shed light on his poetic universe and help visitors discover the personality of this controversial artist.

The exhibition has been organised with the special collaboration of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and in association with the artist’s sole heir, Mr. Serge Malausséna, and other institutions and private collectors.

The exhibition catalogue includes several texts by Artaud, translated for the very first time into Spanish.

Simultaneously, as part of the parallel programme of activities, the “Artaud. Film” series will feature a selection of titles to highlight the acting and screenwriting talents of the artist as well as his legacy and influence on later filmmakers. Meanwhile, Vicente Molina Foix will coordinate a symposium on the figure of Artaud, and a radio performance inspired by the programme that Artaud created for the French National Radio will be held at the end of May.

La Casa Encendida of the Obra Social Caja Madrid is hosting the first ever retrospective on the graphic work of French artist Antonin Artaud. Entitled Artaud and curated by Marta González Orbegozo, the exhibition has been organised with the exceptional collaboration of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and with the special assistance of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Musée Cantini in Marseille. The writer’s heirs, private collectors and institutions such as the Bibliothèque Littéraire Jacques Doucet in Paris and the Pierre and Gaetana Matisse Foundation in New York have also lent their support.

Antonin Artaud was a member of the group of thinkers who revolutionised 20th-century theatre. An actor and art critic in the 1930s, he was also an experimental traveller, narrator, draughtsman and, above all, a poet. He was well-known as a writer and for his innovative views on the theatre. His text The Theatre and Its Double continues to be read in performance art circles with as much devotion as the theories of Stanislavski or Grotowski.

Speaking about the exhibition, curator Marta González Orbegozo has said, “Artaud’s intense and incredibly moving drawings and cahiers are the main focus of the exhibition organised by La Casa Encendida. His extraordinary, free-minded graphic work is a passionate aspect of the multi-faceted creative energy that motivated his whole life.” Indeed, the works to be presented at this exhibition clearly demonstrate his vast energy, but they also reveal his pain and his obsessions – for, after all, Artaud discovered a new way of making poetry.

The exhibition catalogue

The texts included in the catalogue have been chosen due to their connection to the works on display and translated by Mauro Armiño, winner of the National Translation Prize, who will also lead a conference to be held in the library at La Casa Encendida throughout the month of May. The catalogue includes texts by the curator, Marta González; Dr. Sarah Wilson, from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London; Guillaume Fau, conservator of the Artaud collection at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and Ángel González García, lecturer in contemporary art at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid and winner of the National Essay Prize.

About Antonin Artaud

Antonin Artaud (Marseille, 1896-1948) published his first verses under the title “Tric Trac du Ciel” (1924), which brought him to the notice of the group of Surrealists led by André Breton. Soon afterwards, he decided to break with the group and embarked on a career as an actor, but on failing to achieve recognition he decided to devote himself to the theoretical analysis of theatre and stage design.

After leaving the theatre, he decided to move to Mexico, where he lived for several months with the Tarahumara people, inhabitants of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Artaud’s book Voyage to the Land of the Tarahumara is based on this experience. After spending more than ten years at a psychiatric hospital following several episodes of mental delirium, he was acclaimed by Paris critics as the father of new theatre. An anthology of his essays published in 1938 under the title The Theatre and Its Double has become the most famous work by Antonin Artaud. In one of these texts, entitled “The Theatre of Cruelty”, Artaud sets out his project for the theatre: “At the point of deterioration which our sensibility has reached, it is certain that we need above all a theatre that wakes us up: nerves and heart.” For Artaud, at that time it was a question of regenerating Western theatre, of fighting against theatre for the sake of entertainment, of returning the body to the foreground of drama. From then on, he developed a theatre of signs and improvisation based on the actor’s gestures, body and physical engagement.

Subsequently, having gained the status of a great visionary of contemporary theatre, he published Lettres de Rodez (1946) and Van Gogh, le Suicidé de la Société (1947). His best-known work, To Have Done with the Judgement of God (1948), was published posthumously. Antonin Artaud died on 4 March that same year, a few months before his last publication reached the bookshops.

Cahiers and drawings

La Casa Encendida will present 35 unpublished cahiers by Antonin Artaud of a total of 406. Some of them have never before been exhibited. Over the course of his life, Antonin Artaud produced four hundred and six cahiers, which constitute a considerable poetic and graphic oeuvre still largely unpublished in France. Artaud filled these notebooks on a daily basis with notes, drawings, and preliminary excerpts and texts for some of his published works. Interestingly, on several occasions he returns to the subject of the theatre in these notebooks, as though his confinement in the asylum activated the vital necessity to fight for expression. During this period, numerous texts by Artaud developed the theme of the sick human body and the role of the theatre in regenerating it.

The drawings produced by Artaud during his years of confinement reveal that they were subjected to constant disfigurations; they were merely the graphic version of the same theatre of cruelty which he exploited simultaneously in his cahiers.

About the curator, Marta González Orbegozo

Marta González Orbegozo is an official museum conservator and was Head of Exhibitions at the Museo Reina Sofía for 18 years. She is currently an independent curator. She has worked with La Casa Encendida on other events, among them the John Cage exhibition in 2006.

retrospective of the life and work of
Antonin Artaud
Kurator: Marta Gonzalez Orbegozo