by Filippo Fossati
“Je manipule” – dit l’Alchimiste. – “Non, tu rêves”. – Je rêve, dit Novalis. – “Non, tu manipules”(…) ”
1. COOKING AT PICTURES
I have had your painting “Come Here” hanging crooked on the wall in front of my bed now for a while. Usually paintings are hung straight at the eye of the viewer, but yours is crooked and much higher than usual. I like it that way, it makes my crooked wall look straight, bigger and enlarges the room. I enjoy the sense of lightness and that subtle subversion of wanting to be crooked. The painting is on thick paper mounted on a smaller stretcher so that the paper has some distance from the wall and floats on it. The composition is set on an enlarged copy of an unused menu from a restaurant Quo Vadis, dated Monday 19th November. Under the letterhead and the printed date, there is an irregular grid made of boxes of different sizes, in which the various dishes are supposed to be written. Close up (the main subject) is a woman immersed in a white claw foot bathtub. She occupies the entire space of the menu. (She seems to be your main dish). Her left hand dangles from a side and holds a man’s hat of which the viewer sees only the empty dark inside. The right hand embraces an open bottle of wine at the height of her face. Right below (or over impressed or under impressed) is a scene in black and white. A man and a woman are standing/dancing/fighting? While a dog is sitting on a high chair smoking a pipe. It seems part of the menu as it’s perfectly set into the main central box. From the dog’s head starts part of the woman’s left leg that dives into the green reddish painted water. Is it water? The color of the paint evokes a more solid fluid and the beaten face of the woman suggests a liquid closer to vomit than to water. Through the paint puked on the menu one can see letters but only three complete words can be read. On the upper left: BITES, in the center left: TODAY’S….MAS… and on the lower right: BRAISED. Along with the search for the capacity of the space (the menu, the painting, the bathtubs, the volume of the woman, the paper floating on my wall, etc.), there is a consciousness and the feeling of the space. The woman in the bathtub lives in the space as she is always winning it with her furor and her energy and hence is there denying it as spaciousness. Her only desire (the painter’s desire) is to express, with unprecedented overbearing action, the FORM.
Dear Jay, what should one make of all of this?
1. WHAT HAS JAY GOT TO DO WITH IT?
As in a movie’s long initial pan sequence, each image is always and at least double. The representation is invariably science-fiction and it has no form, even though the painter aims to represent the form and its limits, in an emptiness rarely seen in painted images. The landscapes, mutations and alterations are all internal to the image, to the bodies exhibited that change properties; that try to levitate wanting to fly. “That’s why I love him”, says the blind man, “for the unconscious, almost Balzac like courage with which he wants to be an “inspired” artist. Because he shows constantly, shamelessly and obscenely in his work the art’s corpse and the artist’s monstrous hypertrophy”. The human figure is also traumatic. It leaves him perplexed. Human figure dominates us. Human figure is a philosophy. The human being as a measure of the world, of the space, not a writing’s hypothesis. Jay doesn’t care about representing his26
characters. He wants to present them, to exhibit them. He wants to display and exhibit the corpse of art. Perspective means distance. If you don’t use it you annihilate distance. Pollock represents the artist that becomes the painting. He annihilates the limit, he defeats the perspective. He even hides his birth place before the dogmatic hypothesis of the painting. I think that Jay Batlle has always defected his figurative dreams to accomplish them. He likes to dissolve them in colors, in transparencies, in wine, in food, in menus of restaurants with legendary names, sacrificing and consuming the artistic corpse after having flagrantly exhibited it. He commemorates the present by macerating it in memory. In the confusion of temporal layers that he crosses over turning them into ghosts. They don’t vanish though, but remain as a reminder that we all have in our blood the idea of the journey. It’s part of the human condition. And it’s not a passive fantasy, but an active desire, an invention, a construction. Every desire, every invention, every thing we construct contains the idea of the future. And to make it real we need the past and our capricious imagination. The dramaturgy. The theatricality of art.
2. GAME PROPOSAL:
I send you words. You send me images. My turn: “A painting is a window. A window is a painting.”
3. AS AND KB – THE ART SQUAD AND THE KITCHEN BRIGADES
The story develops during the 1st Universal Revolution between two ambiguous factions that have decided to join forces to overthrow the bloody world’s dictators. They are the notorious Art Squad and the unforgivable Kitchen Brigade. Together they want to depose the five absolute rulers of the known universe. The five vicious autocrats on their part have joined forces to turn all the world’s population into obedient lackeys. To do so they have started a process of “homogenization”. They have kidnapped a group of scientists who have invented a system to pasteurize human beings. Each one has to be the same as the other. Diversity and uniqueness are banned. Something that has been cultivated by all the extraordinary people that preceded is being suppressed. Dialogue and conflict. The Art Squad and the Kitchen Brigade are fighting an uneven war, even amongst themselves. Many are the accounts, the testimonies, the rumors and speculations on that barbarous war but there are no survivors and there are no direct statements left by the leaders of both sides. However, some of the protagonists have been able to leave notes in various fashions; on pieces of paper, in recordings, digital files, scraps on walls. (List to Follow – here is one randomly picked): I am thinking about old ancestors and about drama and shadowiness. Something is missing in our sense of modernity which is clarity in all its meanings. We are not transparent nor coherent. We are in the shade. We belong to the shade.
5. A PAINTING IS THE ONLY INANIMATE OBJECT THAT CAN THINK, TALK AND DREAM:
Looking at the consistent body of work he has done until today, I think it is safe to say that as other great painters, Jay Batlle has been able to create a universe of his own, which is easier written than done. It requires preparation, discipline and dedication. Like a skilled assassin, Jay first creates his modus operandi and then follows through. He starts by fitting out the universe he constructed. He equips it with objects, signs and symbols of his own. In the meantime he forces himself to consider each individual object, sign and symbol
not as an isolated phenomenon, but as a portion of a greater whole, of an essential project, a matter of life and death as Mr. Groucho would say. The fact that each of his own works is not one but multiple, absorbs him and pushes him to think about his condition. A sort of revelation, the realization that each work he is making are just fragments of an interminable mosaic. It obliges him to think and to keep making new works. He puts together fragments and fragments are by definition linked to a suffering, each powerful enough to contain the previous ones, and to go beyond; and each new one has to unify all of them together, confirming at the same time each one as distinct within the whole. Artworks with something to say, with memory, thoughts and a reason to exist all together. A cumbersome labor. In the interval between the making of one painting and the next, time enters the painter’s life. Time to which it is difficult to give a shape that is not that of an autobiography. Jay synthesizes clearly in each painting the meaning of his thoughts and a little at a time he fixes the progressive results of his own quest. In each progressive work he discovers more clues and points out to new directions. All of Jay Batlle’s works, set one after the other, form a long thread that tells a different story, more impersonal and general. A history of human condition, in which are plunged his personal condition with the more unemotional and dispassionate condition of humankind. That thread bears the weight of the artist’s personal history, also that of himself thinking and making his paintings. One after the previous one, and before the next one. One after the other. A certain seriality of Jay’s work is not a repetition but an element given to the chorus. A chorus of the greek tragedy, conscientious and aware. The artwork as a chorus in which there is no nostalgia but the reminder that the classical tragic chorus is made of twelve people. As opposed to the modernity and the radicalism of the artwork that pretends to be a lonely scream. Later the painter reclaims the brush and hides behind the canvas from where he started. What’s left is the painting which exists in the world. If it is a good painting, the presence of the artist will be felt as he or she was never there and the painting will think, talk and dream by itself. Otherwise it will lead the life of a bureaucrat.
QUEST: “That smoke in your painting is Munch’s hairs?” “Yes, but it’s not a quotation. Only the use of something that was well made before”.
8. A BUREAUCRAT: (If there is any need to reassert the importance of language)
“J’ai tant aimé les arts que je suis artilleur”. (Guillaume Apollinaire, 1916)
Let me start by stating my rank. I am currently the Chef de Cuisine of the world famous restaurant The Gastric Laughingstock, on the Island of Scurano, in the Venice Lagoon. I started my career as an apprentice under the great Monsieur Auguste Escoffier. I was his Garçon de Cuisine at Le Faisan d’Or (The Golden Pheasant), in Cannes. I was young then and my mind was absorbing like a sponge, I owe a great deal to that time and to Mr. Escoffier and his wife Delphine. They brought me with them to Montecarlo where I worked as a Communard with Mr. Escoffier at the Ritz. He taught me how to be a Commis, a Cuisinier and he started me as a Saucier. When Mr. Escoffier and Mr. Ritz decided to conquer London, I went to the Savoy Hotel and was hired as an Aboyeur. There I witnessed the invention of the Pêche Melba and the Melba toast, in honour of the Australian singer Nellie Melba, whom I personally waitered. I worked with Mr. Escoffier again as a Tournant at the Ritz in Paris and as a Garde Manger at the New Carlton in London. I learned to cook pastries and by that time I was a Legumier, and Potager.
BLUE CHEF 2010
SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES 201028
I had a good training as a Poissonier and well performed in cruises as a Rôtisseur, a Grillardin and a Fruitier. I went to America on the SS Imperator and I was with Mr.Escoffier, among the personal staff who cooked for Kaiser Wilhelm II, whom I had the honor to ask if he liked the dinner. In my life I served the most important people society had to offer. I witnessed and participated in the making of many famous dishes such as the iced Bombe Néro, the fantastic Fraises à la Sarah Bernhardt with pineapple and Curaçao sorbet, the meringue Baisers de Vierge, with vanilla cream and crystallized white rose and violet petals and the extraordinary Suprêmes de volailles Jeannette with jellied chicken breasts and foie gras. I suggested the ingredients for The Salad Réjane, after Gabrielle Réjane, and I can assure you that the disputed Tournedos Rossini were not invented by Monsieur Rossini, but by my master Mr. Escoffier in his honor.
When Mr. Escoffier died, I served under Chef Akiyama Tokuzō, the then chef of the Japanese Emperor, he physically abused me and dismissed me for gross negligence and breaches of duty and mismanagement of the kitchen. I then decided to leave London and ended up in Italy, where I became Sous-chef de cuisine at the futurist restaurant Holy Palate in Turin, where I served under many chefs including Jules Maincave and Orazio Rosso. I dedicated my life to the kitchen. I have no family except the one behind the stove. I am currently the Chef de Cuisine of the world famous Restaurant The Gastric Laughingstock, on the Island of Scurano, in the Venice Lagoon.”
BUTTATELO NELLA STANZA NUMERO 234! (THROW HIM IN ROOM #234)
12. TACTILE DINNER – FROM THE FUTURIST COOKBOOK 1932
(PIERO MANZONI IS THE SON OF TOMMASO MARINETTI)
A multi-course meal. The pajamas prepared for the dinner are each covered with a different material such as sponge, cork, sandpaper, or felt. As the guests arrive, each puts on a pajama. Once all the guests have arrived and are dressed in pajamas, they are taken to a dark, empty room where they have to be silent. Without being able to see and talk, each guest chooses a dinner partner according to their tactile impression. The guests then enter the dining room, which consists of tables for two, and discover the partner they have selected.
The meal begins. The first course is a ‘polyrhythmic salad,’ which consists of a box containing a bowl of undressed lettuce leaves, dates and grapes. The box has a crank on the left side. Without using cutlery, the guests eat with their right hand while turning the crank with their left. This produces music to which the waiters dance until the course is finished. The second course is ‘magic food’, which is served in small bowls covered with tactile materials. The bowl is held in the left hand while the right picks out balls made of caramel and filled with different ingredients such as dried fruits, raw meat, garlic, mashed banana, chocolate, or pepper. The guests cannot guess what flavor they will encounter next.
The third course is ‘tactile vegetable garden,’ which is a plate of cooked and raw green vegetables without dressing. The guest eats the vegetables without the use of their hands, instead burying their face in the plate of vegetables, feeling the sensation of the greens on their face and lips. Each time a guest raises their head to chew, the waiters spray their face with perfume.
Banquet au Palais D’Orsay in honor of Mr. Auguste Escoffier
20. THE PAINTER AS A SINNER
The three men are lying satisfied, satiated with food. Their heads converge under the tree of Cockaigne on top of which is the rest of the supper. Two of them are sleeping on their side and one is laying on his back looking at the sky. They are nicely dressed and the bodies look like immovable sacks on the ground. In the upper left corner of the painting a noble knight sits crossed legged with his helmet and his mouth open to the sky, ready to receive his every desire. A gastronomical delight trots about undisturbed, mocking the viewer and distracting the attention from those heavy static figures. With the open eyes and mouth it is the only element that gives a sense of movement to the scene. Let go of cinema and television, greedy of reality. Art has to be false and charming, misleading and enchanting, deceitful and fascinating. In Art one can find all the symbols of things we have lost sight of. The artist has been gourmandized and his work is affected by that Christian vice, a mortal offense punishable with a trip to one of the seven circles of Hell in eternal damnation. Shuffle the cards, read them and lay the corpse on the table.
32. INSTRUCTIONS TO COOK A MASTERPIECE
You will need a large plastic sheet, an apron, a knife, a hand saw and a bottle of Barolo by Bartolo and Mascarello of any year before 2005. Open the bottle and decant in a stopper glass container. Wear the apron, cut the plastic sheet to cover the floor and tape it at mid height on the walls. Then lay down the body belly up. Grab one leg from the foot. Kick the muscles for a few minutes to relax them and then pull and twist hard the ankle for a few minutes. Feel the strength. Artists’ legs don’t break up easily. Painters in particular are known to have strong feet and legs, as they often work standing, but they will come apart if you turn them around 360 degrees with all your strength. Help yourself with the knife. Remember to hold the artist’s trunk with the shoulders to the floor, otherwise he/she will rotate and may get loose or damage his/her arms, which, together with the eyes, are the tastier part of the artist’s body. When you have taken apart both legs, cut the feet with the saw and place them in the pre-oiled pan. Also have ready a heap of old rags and some strings to stop the bleeding. Memorize all the colors and the sounds, they may come handy. You will notice that the artist now is quieter and more willing to allow his/her dismembering. Now let’s get to the arms. Make sure you position yourself sitting behind the head, with your feet on the body’s shoulders, then grab each hand and pull back. You want to push very hard with your feet as they are right on the articulation, that is the breaking point. If you find this method too hard you can always hang the body from the ceiling with the arms tied on the back and use the saw. The joints will crack and it will make it easier to cut and pull the arms off. Once the arms are taken, hang the trunk and let it bleed. Save the blood for later. Now go to the pan where you have the artist’s feet. Lay the legs and the arms next to them and brush everything with a mixture of olive oil, rosemary, and the spices you like the most. Salt and pepper at your pleasure. Heatt the oven to a 360 degrees and leave the meat in for one hour. Once the meat is cooked take a large canvas and the blood you have saved. Display the dismembered
The Artist closer to the sky in his studio in Brooklyn, 201530
body parts on it and throw the blood you saved with self-indulgence on the entire picture. Now pour yourself a generous glass of wine. Look at its color against the light, gently twist the glass and let the wine breathe. Smell it and drink it slowly with your eyes closed, then open your eyes again and look at your work. Here you have a masterpiece.
Take a picture and send it to Marry Cagosian in New York.
52. THE STATE OF THE ARTWORLD IN 2017 ACCORDING TO A VIEWER
“If a superficial man, a sociologist or an anthropologist for example, would establish the composition of the art world’s international public based on the most popular and successful shows, I think he would arrive to the conclusion that the art world’s public is made of a myriad of vile parasites, a ghoulish mixture of maniacs, sadistics, posers, depraveds, voyeurs, amateurs, thieves and assassins. Obviously we know that is too much of a general statement and it’s not totally true…but close enough…”
84. ARTISTS FLY
This is the story of an artist on his/her way to New York. He/she doesn’t speak English and doesn’t panic when the pilot announces that the airplane has lost altitude and is about to crash in the ocean. The artist calms a child who’s screaming and helps the stewards, the hostess and other people to put back luggages that have fallen down from above their heads . Finally the pilot is able to bring the airplane back to a safe altitude and the artist is being mistaken as a brave hero. In the end, when the artist realizes the misunderstanding, he/she becomes really brave in order not to disappoint his/her new public.
136. MORAL OF THE STORY – BOTTOM LINE
As in the making of our life, making art is a never ending series of mistakes, each one supports the previous one and leans on the next. Once the mistakes end it’s all over.
_New York, June 2017
NAKED RAVIOLI Moscow, Russia 2014