Joseph Nechvatal: Destroyer of Naivetés

Nechvatal_DoN_Cover_Front_WEB-216x348

Destroyer of Naivetés
by Joseph Nechvatal

Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, 2015. 110 pages.
ISBN-13: 978-0692573129.
OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $15.00 [€12.00/£10.00]
in print: paperbound/5 X 8 in.

Published on Punctum Books, Destroyer of Naivetés by Joseph Nechvatal falls through the cracks of time, a decadent epic of the eye, a voyage through the abyss where eye becomes vision in excess of meaning and seems to lure us into a world of non-meaning and nonsense that is not so much a agon of the heart as of the intellect in search of an immanent revelation into the heart’s desires.

This work – not so much poetry, as a gob of light spattered across the black immiseration of our insanity, a metamorphosis on the surface of sex and farce, presenting a litany of surrealist and decadent forays into those crime-Worlds where as Bataille gloatingly reminds us the flesh secretly craves immersion: an excess of voice and gesture, a journey into the grotesque carnival of the dammed, where the Mind of the Eye or Eye of the Mind “fleeing in the face of grotesque danger yet retain[s] the taste for existence” (The Absence of Myth).

From the blurb we learn the usual escapades of sources that thrill those trivial pursuit hunters of influence: Jean Genet, Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, drawings by Hans Bellmer, film/performances of Bradley Eros, and the erotic scribblings of Giacomo Casanova, Georges Bataille, Petronius, Vladimir Nabokov, Marquis de Sade, Yukio Mishima, Ovid, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Kathy Acker and I Am a Beautiful Monster by Francis Picabia. A comic charade of abyss radiance that relates one neither to a tradition nor its explosion, but rather to a simmering brew of monsters for whom life is a cannibal fest for the eye rather than a retreat into its abstract grottoes.

Nechvatal will call it “this delicious satyriasis … an agony of wantonness / of / impatience of expectations” seeking the cathartic escapades of some “delicious copula of lust / stamped by the sign of the ram”. Contingent and full of that corruption which leads us downward and inward towards a chance meeting of thought and being; a fractured record of those “beautiful unfinished things” we know only in the nightworld, where “patches of meaning floated up from the vertigo / penetrating vision which turns people into masks” where one must become an “connoisseur of ocular slowness”, a “saline consciousness fed upon a certain secretion / continuously fine / and spicy / alchemical concept of égréore”. We should also note that this word egregore, dear to Freemasons as members of a discreet if not secret society, was also used by Philippe Audoin and Pierre Mabille, with the latter offering his own completely enlightening definition at once secular-religious and atheistic, sacrificial and unique: “I call the human group that is endowed with a personality that is different from that of the individuals who form it an egregore (a word formerly used by hermeticists).”1 This notion of the égrégore as collective subject, the group that shares in the excess of things, accomplices to the exotic allure of strange days between poverty and need, shaped by desire and moving in that imaginative sphere where time and consciousness recede into the dream grottos of eroticism and death. The group as monstrous life, a personality at once in excess of the individuals that make it up, and a singular manifestation of that dark will arising from the abyss that empowers as well as fractures us into that radiant gleam of delirium we call our erotic lives.**

Ultimately Nechvatal’s poetry opens onto that expanse where we begin beggarly and impoverished as erotic mendicants enabled by “a seeing of electric reality,” and the “absolute propinquity of the real” that manifests itself immanently as the vision of excess wherein the eye and genitals absorb as they are absorbed into a knowledge at once lethal and annihilating. A poem of wound rather than suture, “also the time / of the end of time / the only time where myth could take place”, where the “excess will be our excuse for being connoisseur[s] of embellishment”.  A baroque poetry of elaboration and sensual awakening that offers us not so much a release into that darkness as it does to guide us through that “inward region of strangeness of feeling / defiance through ecstasy”.

What else would one seek from poetry?

As Nechvatal will observe this is a poetry “full of hesitations and nuances,” that is “too beautiful to be really clever / offering little in the way of resistance / fais-moi mal chéri …”. Where the only evil is in not being evil within that extravagant gesture we call love, erotic desire; an evil that “just lapses from satiety to indifference … as if passing from a satyr to a faun”. A loss in both eros and that deathly power that drives us all, a “mercurial knowledge of mise en scene … threatening the common order” of “spiritual significance as a studied self-abasement … explicitly eschewing categorization” that can bring “a web of connections … unruffled, respectful, and disengaged / full of convoluted compositions / full of the subtle / and infinite transformative possibilities / of love”.

Buy his new poetry at punctum books:
Destroyer of Naivetés
by Joseph Nechvatal
http://punctumbooks.com/titles/destroyer-of-naivetes/

also his paintings on exhibition in New York City…
Joseph Nechvatal: Odyssey pandemOnium : a migrational metaphor


** (One is reminded of Bataille’s Acéphale society where the members were required to adopt several rituals, such as refusing to shake hands with anti-semites and celebrating the decapitation of Louis XVI, an event which prefigured the “chiefless crowd” targeted by the “acéphalité”. Members of the society were also invited to meditation, on texts of Nietzsche, Freud, Sade and Mauss read during the assemblies.)


  1. Lepetit, Patrick (2014-04-24). The Esoteric Secrets of Surrealism: Origins, Magic, and Secret Societies (p. 47). Inner Traditions/Bear & Company. Kindle Edition.

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