press release

The Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation is proud to exhibit to the public for the first time an important moment in the collaboration and friendship between Carmelo Bene and Pierre Klossowski. The work encompasses the complete series – 17 drawings and 4 studies –Klossowski made for a comedy based on Bafometto, for which he also wrote the script. Carmelo Bene intended to stage the work at the Venice Biennale of Theatre, of which he was then director. The dream, however, went unrealized due to the sudden decision by this Italian histrionic figure to abandon the work.

Following celebrations of Klossowski by the Whitechapel Gallery in London, and prior to that by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the BLM of Venice is proud to present this compact group of unpublished drawings.

Mystic and religious breath, fear of homosexuality and perverse erotic desire, homage to Sade and Foucault who were two diverse masters of the liberation of power and of its chains, and youth and suicide are a few of the central themes of this exhibition.

The subject matter of the large pencil drawings, where the figures are almost always in real scale, is an attractive youth, an effeminate young man dressed in medieval attire – set in the dark period of the Middle Ages as a metaphor of the unconscious and of repression. The youth is the continual prey of Knight Templars who both worship as well as torture him and who eventually persuade him to hang himself. The Templars are inspired by Bafometto, their idol and the divinity of witches, the centre of the Sabbat. This latter term is composed of three abbreviations which together mean “The father of the temple of universal peace among men”.

Some theologians believe that Bafometto was perhaps an allegorical and magical figure of the Absolute. Symbols like the triad, horns, and torch underline intelligence. Regarding other aspects, those more closely associated with materiality, Bafometto seems to be linked to the animal realm and to the world of reproduction. His white hands display the sanctity of work. As an androgynous figure, he/she speaks to us of the revelation that is possible to obtain through the use of intelligence.

Many Knight Templars confessed to have seen this idol, marked by a deformed head and fiery eyes. Others claimed to have seen it holding a human skull. For all of them – and here lies the scandal – this idol was the representation of knowledge that could reach divinity through thought alone, or through the sole use of human powers. It symbolized those mysteries which man is capable of finding for deciphering the world, thus depriving the priests and authorities, who believed to possess the truth, of their powers.

Through this turbid event in which the dark serves to shed light on that which is hidden, Klossowski/Bafometto show us the whole of our ability for spiritual research, on the one hand, and for rebellion, on the other.

The idea of the exhibition was conceived by Raffaella Baracchi and Angela Vettese.

Bibliographical notes on the artists Pierre Klossowski

Pierre Klossowski was born in Paris in 1905, where he lived until 2001. Brother of the artist Balthus, his childhood and early adulthood was spent witnessing the crème of European intellectual life pass through the close quarters of his home. Indeed his parents held a circle of acquaintances in which it was easy to hear such names discussed as the Marchese De Sade, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sooren Kierkegaard – all authors on whom he himself would further write essays, which were in turn published in journals of literature, philosophy and psychoanalysis. Klossowski also worked as translator, from German to Latin, of most of his texts, and his French version published by Eneide is well-known.

His creative side was first expressed through letters; he wrote novels of often disturbing subject matter. In the 1930s he participated in the cultural and political activities of the French artistic avant-garde while also collaborating on theatrical projects with Antonin Artaud. In the 1940s he lived mainly as a literary and philosophy critic, publishing works on Reiner Maria Rilke, Georges Bataille, André Gide and again Jouve, Blanchot, Parain, Kafka and Barbey d’Aurevilly. His most personal relationships were those held with the philosopher who theorized on the despicable, Georges Bataille, the painter who dripped his automatic writings on the paper, André Masson, and a series of surrealists writers and artists with whom he founded the magazine “Contre-Attaque” and “Acéphale”, while at the same time working on the prestigious Collège de Sociologie.

His thinking was never formulated in systematic terms, but rather focused on the ante litteram conviction of the “discrete charm of the bourgeoisie”: a position which had political implications - against power and any form of constraint - so deep that it influenced such thinkers as Maurice Blanchot, Georges Foucault and Gilles Deleuze.

His work as a painter is relatively little known, mixed as it is with that intellectual tout court. His images take the form of figurative drawings made from soft, curved pencil strokes, and occasionally in pale colours. The subject matter, however, creates a counterpart to the pastel atmosphere, touching upon strong themes such as sensuality, sadism, eroticism with a magical background, and a mystical world where love and the devil permeate each other.

Carmelo Bene

Carmelo Bene was born in Campi Salentina, in the province of Lecce, in 1937, and died on the 16th of March, 2002, in his home in Rome, at the age of 64. The publication of his entire literary work by Bompiani in 1995 allowed him to proudly define himself as “a living classic”.

He debuted as an actor in 1959 in “Caligola” by Albert Camus and directed by Alberto Ruggiero. The following year he directed and starred in “Spettacolo Majakovskij” which was accompanied by the music of Sylvano Bussotti.

In the decade that followed he devoted himself to radically innovative and free re-readings of “Pinocchio” by Collodi (1961), Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (1961), “Richard II” by Marlowe (1963), a “Salomè” by Oscar Wilde (1964), “Manon” by Prévost (1964), and “Hamlet” by Shakespeare-Laforgue (1967). Just as radical were the critiques that ensued, tearing apart these exercises of style and finding in them the highest form of idealism/unrealism. Bene then launched into the cinema with “Nostra Signora dei Turchi” (1968), followed by other six full-length features. In the 1970s he staged “La cena delle beffe” by Sem Benelli (1974), “Romeo e Giulietta” by Shakespeare (1976), “S.A.D.E.” (1977), and at last the enormously successful “Manfred” by Byron (1979).

During the last twenty years Carmelo Bene pushed his work as an actor and above all his work with voice to the limits of extreme sensibility, and at the same time impetuousness, placing it at the centre of the international avant-garde.

In 1988 he was asked to direct the Venice Biennale of Theatre, which ended up as a colossal failure in organizational terms despite the inclusion of certain masterpieces in the programme: re-readings of Majakovskij, of Leopardi, of the “Canti orfici” by Dino Campana, as well as of the “Hamlet suite” staged in 1994 with a script by Laforgue and the tormenting music he himself had composed. In 2000 his small volume entitled “Il mal de’ fiori” was published.

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Pierre Klossowski
Il Bafometto