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Encounter

Masks

The James Ensor exhibition in the Moma will run till September 21 and I urge everybody to see it.
My favorite painting is titled “Scandalized Masks”.
The painting shows that contrary to what some people believe sex is not revealing. The erotic encounter is a masquerade.

S

45 comments Last comment
About the post yesterday, I love the story of Madeline, my grandmother used to read it to me, especially the one where Madeline gets her appendix taken out. I think she might have liked it even more than me as she would often say 'shall we read Madeline tonight'? How is the bar decadent? If I remember correctly Madeline was an orphan raised by nuns.
Broccoli
Rereading 'figuranten', I wondered, is the character Broccoli someway your reincarnation of 'Karlson on the Roof'?
Ensor
Oooh, I’m so jealous of you! There is no way I can make it to New York in September. Luckily I’ll get another chance in the winter when the same exhibition is at the Musée d'Orsay.

It’s true, sex is the chance to reveal yourself to another person, but we seem to be so afraid to trust each other. Although, you don’t need to be naked to reveal yourself.
Sasja
Oh no, that's a huge mistake, that sex is meant to reveal yourself. Where exactly does this knowledge come from?
Hordijk
Karlsson on the Roof is an important character in my life.
See also my essay on him in "The Comfort of Slapstick".
By the way: googling "scandalized masks" results in 127 more or less interesting image hits.
And googling 'James Ensor' led me to this (!):

http://foryourinfo.ca/trillium/soundpage_2008.php
Quote:
"MARCH 16: BEYOND THE MASKS TO CHRIST'S FACE
To listen click here (total time: 59:12). The service includes the following items:
- Praise songs (time from start of audio file: 6:02)
- Scripture: Matthew 21 (15:36)
- Children's time (17:48)
- Choir anthem (22:43)
- Offering response: "I am Blessed" - song and guitar presentation by Dave Booth (25:07)
- Message: "Beyond the masks to Christ's face" (37:13)
- Masks in our lives: from Eliot Spitzer to the neighbour across the street (38:20)
- The pressure to be what someone else wants (42:20)
(...)
- Paintings by James Ensor: "Intrigues" (above) shows distorted, tormented faces, and malicious or sad eyes (42:51)
(...)
- Trillium: a place to live mask-free lives? (47:55)
- The man who most needed his church community (49:44)
- Seeing Christ in each other's faces (52:38)"
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Ah!, what masks and masquerades can do to people and literature/the arts!
bhe
A few years ago I went to a museum in Ostend with my school. We had to choose two paintings and discuss them in class. From the two I chose one was called "My dead mother" from Ensor (see it here: http://www.artsite.be/Ensorjaar/picts/moeder.jpg). If I remember well the other one pictured a hanging, I forgot the name. My classmates were shocked that I liked macabre paintings. I believe there is nothing macabre when it comes to "My dead mother". The picture is very moving.
Karlson/Broccoli
I know he did, I've read the essay, I wondered if you consciously wanted to create a 'Karlson-like character', they seem to share a certain attitude towards life, a certain bravoure, a way in which they move around and present themselves.
I'm always afraid to reveal myself during sex.
Arnon
Our Creator might not have meant sex as a means to reveal yourself to the other. Sex was meant for reproduction, obviously. But since we hardly ever use sex to actually reproduce, I think it became very suitable for revealing yourself. And it’s not a knowledge, it’s only my perception. Do you think you KNOW?
This is the painting?
http://www.xiamenoilpainting.com/htmlimg/image-37418.htm
Arnon
Is " De blijde intrede van Christus te Brussel" part of the exhibition?
I once saw a retrospective of Ensor in Brussels, but that painting was missing.
Sasja
Sounds almost Darwinistic what you say. Could it be that our Creator invented sex for giving pleasure, while the effect of reproduction became a by-product?
Arnon
Yes, that could be very well the case! Nice idea. Too bad He forgot to include a manual. :)
Jan
My previous message was obviously meant for you, but I forgot to change the subject , sorry. :)
Allemagne
From a biological point of view pleasure for the sake of pleasure doesn’t make much sense. But as far as I understand the mystery why we need sex for reproduction (there are other ways of reproduction) is still unsolved.
sasja
What exactly do you reveal when you are having sex?Imagine that someone is taping you while you are having sex, the film will be later available on the Internet to a wider audience. What kind of information is unavailable to the spectator listening and watching you on the Internet that is available to the person who is actually engaging you in a sexual act? Well, your smell. I’m not sure if it is necessary to have sex with a person in order to smell him or her, and I’m not completely convinced that smell is of the essence (sex is not a bottle of wine) but there you have a point. The feeling of your skin perhaps? Yes, but won’t a nice close-up give the spectator enough information to provide him or her with a visceral feeling of your skin? Titillation does not require the physical presence of the other person. And although it is theoretically possible to have sex with somebody without giving this person permission to feel your skin (you can be from head to toe covered in a latex uniform) in practice this kind of sexual act will be rare. What I’m saying is that whatever you may reveal while having sex you reveal (most probably) involuntarily. When you go to the grocery to buy come biscuits you can insist on saying that you revealed your face to the grocery clerk (in case you are not wearing a burka) but I would say that you just bought some biscuits and that the side effects of this transaction don’t deserve the word “revelation”. When sex is between two (or more) consenting adults the most important thing that is being revealed is the consent. I don’t pooh-pooh this at all. Consent is an important revelation. But your ideas about revelation and sex are I’m afraid mere sentimentality.
Arnon
When you are having sex you can reveal a lot: your true feelings towards the person(s) you are with, your secret fantasies, your vulnerability, your dominance, your insecurity and probably many other things you usually don’t show in public. As I said before, you don’t need to be naked to reveal yourself, which means sex is not necessary to open yourself to another person. But sex is certainly one of the most intimate moments you have with that person. If you’ve chosen to be THAT intimate with that person, then revealing your hidden self is a very small step. I don’t understand what filming has to do with it. Of course the spectator will receive almost all the same information (although still considerably less) as your partner, but usually your sex encounters are not filmed (mine aren’t) so at that moment you don’t need to be afraid that by revealing yourself to your partner you will reveal yourself to the whole world.

By the way, what’s wrong with being sentimental? I am a woman after all. :)
Sasja, Arnon
Sasja: I noticed.

Arnon: how come it doesn't make sense from a biological point of view (by the way: I meant to put it from the Creator's point of view in my previous message, but that's not so important, and probably you noticed) ? Because pleasure is a luxury good? And whose biology?
Sasja
Isn't the bible kind of a manual?
Jan
My knowledge of the Bible is not that good. Could you point out where the Bible gives instructions on how to get as much pleasure from sex as possible?
Sasja
I'm planning to read an antholgy of the Bible (I finally found one). When I come across the kind of instructions you're talking about I'll let you know.
Jan
Deal :)
Sasja
Sentimentality is the enemy of good writing, as Salinger said. Sentimentality is often the enemy of truth as well. Please, don’t try to convince me that women are more sentimental than men. I believe this is misogyny. Of course I was referring to a hypothetical situation. If a spectator watching a sexual act on a movie gets the same information as the “actor” in the movie, can we still say that the act is really revealing? Is a pornographic movie a documentary or should we classify it as “fiction”? And how should we classify a woman, or a man for that matter, faking an orgasm? With all due respect but I believe that your reading of sex is based on sentimental misunderstandings. Even if you believe that we are capable of revealing our secret fantasies (I have my doubts) I’m quite sure that we don’t reveal these fantasies while we are having sex, for sex is not about what we reveal but about what we hide. You cover the very nature of lust with a sauce of flimflam, and what’s worse you pretend that this flimflam is your “hidden self”. How can I have sex with somebody who doesn’t know the difference between psychobabble and an orgasm?
Jan
I’m not a biologist, but my understanding of natural selection is that pleasure is at best a means never an end. I read the bible from a to z, I published an anthology The Best of the Bible, I’m afraid all you will find there are laws that forbid certain sexual acts. The bible will also tell you that there are certain people you cannot lust after. This section can be titillating.The bible doesn’t say much about pleasure, although Ecclesiastes comes close.If you want to know more about pleasure I urge you to read de Sade, or at least parts of it.
Arnon
“Sentimentality is the enemy of good writing, as Salinger said.” – wow, this is a strong argument, you seem to know how to get to me!

“Please, don’t try to convince me that women are more sentimental than men.” – this was too easy! I didn’t even expect you would react to that.

“You cover the very nature of lust with a sauce of flimflam, and what’s worse you pretend that this flimflam is your “hidden self”. How can I have sex with somebody who doesn’t know the difference between psychobabble and an orgasm?” – we are not talking about you and me having sex, right? Good. Secret fantasies was not the only thing I mentioned. Vulnerability and insecurity as well as your feelings (in the first place) were on the list too. And pornographic films are definitely a fiction. I still don’t understand how having sex in private and acting in a film connect to each other in the context of our discussion. Maybe I am too tired. It’s late – I am off to my own blog and to bed.
Sasja
Sex is always a possibility.
But please reveal your insecurities not in bed. We can go together to church and you can reveal insecurities there. Or we can do some roleplay, I'm the psychotherapist and you are the client. I ask you: "What are your insecurities, Ms. Sasja?" And then you say: "Doctor Grunberg, the problem is I can only reveal my insecurities while having sex. And I have this strange and urgent need to reveal my insecurities all the time."
And then I will say: "Tell me more about it, Ms. Sasja. Did you reveal your insecurities to your father?"
As to the movie, you know what a "thought experiment" is don't you?
Arnon
Haha, playing “doctor” with you seems very attractive. :) You are probably right about insecurities. Before or after, but not during.

I couldn’t sleep very well (too much sex on my mind?) and I though about all the men I’d had sex with. I came to the conclusion that it’s when we had sex for the first time that I really knew without any doubt what their relation to me was. Does a man care about me or about himself? Does he love me or am I just a new trophy? Is he trying to teach me or to learn something himself? Many things stay hidden, but not this. Sex is revealing!
Maybe sex is revealing because you discover the masks after wich one is hiding.
Arnon
You said: "The bible doesn’t say much about pleasure, although Ecclesiastes comes close.If you want to know more about pleasure I urge you to read de Sade, or at least parts of it. "

What about the Song of Songs? Is there no pleasure in it? Or is it too sentimental?
Sasja
You are my trophy. I can tell you this right away, so while having sex you can concentrate on the sex, instead of thinking all the time, does he really care about me?
Jeroen
I’m not sure if you can learn how to get pleasure from the Song of Songs. Ecclesiastes teaches you lessons on how to avoid pain, in and some ways, also how to get pleasure. I agree that the Song of Songs is a great love poem, but that’s a different matter.
Arnon
Funny... where Ecclesiastes teaches lessons on how to avoid pain, the ideas of beforementioned de Sade are just the other way around.

It's good to see that when it comes to learning about pleasure, the reader can have access to such a variety of different sources.
Arnon
I will rather concentrate on the joy of having you as a trophy. Sex will be great, I can tell already!
mieke
You have a romantic idea about sex. Nice.
Vera
I do my best.
And the 'after' in my comment should ofcourse have been 'behind'.
Sasja
Once again you are jumping to conclusions, but that's part of your charm. Am I the first trophy man in your life?
Jeroen
Inflicting pain is not the same thing as avoiding pain. Both inflicting and avoiding pain can be a source of pleasure.
Arnon
I know every man likes to be the first one. I have to dissapoint you - you are not the first trophy man of my life. But definitely the greatest!
revealing sex
If sex is revealing why then is pornography so boring? I believe undressing is revealing and sex is revealing a lot, but hardly anything about the other, let alone to understand, to get to know somebody better; it is a kind of confrontation with the ‘primordial’ contingency of the other, a deep sound, a shrill voice and so on, and that is what she or he truly is, this growling, this blissful smile? But in the discussion about who is going to do the dishes or whatever sex gives us no clue.
Johan Schokker
Are you suggesting that after stripping the stripper or the strippers should do the dishes? This is a great idea. Once I wrote to a woman: “Could you strip for me and after you are done stripping could you do the dishes?” She answered: “Your laconic, humorless, cold, and almost clinical mails are just a terrible turnoff. Too bad, because I am genuinely interested in knowing you better, in learning how to give you pleasure and play with you.” Doing the dishes has no condescending connotation to me. She could as well read me a poem. Great to have you back by the way. I still believe that I did something terrible to you during my classes in Leiden.
Sasja
I have no desire to deflower you. And no I don’t want to be the first. Le droit de seigneur is a bit outdated isn’t it?But I’m happy to be you greatest trophy man. I pity the poor bastards that will come after me.
Mister Grunberg, your interactions with Sasja remind me of the shrink in the film "The Most Distant Course." In light of the above, I recommend it.
And all those years I thought getting terribly drunk would reveal the most of oneself…