Michael Jackson renewed my faith in art.
– Liz Maw
In my case, every kind of reading belongs among my recreations – hence among the things that liberate me from myself, that allow me to walk about in strange sciences and souls – that I no longer take seriously. Reading is precisely my recreation from my own seriousness. During periods when I am hard at work you will not find me surrounded by books: I'd beware of letting anyone near me talk, much less think. And that is what reading would mean.
Seeing that before long I must confront humanity with the most difficult demand ever made of it, it seems indispensable to me to say who I am. Really, one should know it, for I have not left myself 'without testimony'. But the disproportion between the greatness of my task and the smallness of my contemporaries has found expression in the fact that one has never heard nor even seen me. I live on my own credit; it is perhaps a mere prejudice that I live.
I only need to speak with one of the 'educated' who come to the Upper Engadine for the summer, and I am convinced that I do not live.
Under these circumstances I have a duty against which my habits, even more the pride of my instincts, revolt at bottom – namely, to say: Hear me! For I am such and such a person. Above all, do not mistake me for someone else.
Lured by my style and tendency,
you follow and come after me?
Follow your own self faithfully–
During his lifetime, living in the midst of a high modernist culture that worshipped eccentricity, visual adventure, restless innovation, and willful autonomy, Picabia and his work were routinely dismissed and distrusted for exhibiting a surfeit of just these estimable values. ...
More engaged with making works of art than with constructing an oeuvre or articulating an ideology, Picabia wore out styles like a baby wears out shoes. Impressionism, fauvism, orphism, dada, surrealism, transparent palimpsests, pop appropriations and plastic abstractions all flickered by like subway stops, and there was never a moment in his long, unquiet career during which we might have caught up with him, during which his endeavour might have consolidated itself in the view of critics or jelled in the public's mind. ...
So Picabia would understand, I think, and probably appreciate the peculiar status of his reputation in the current histories of twentieth century art, where he is regarded as more legendary then legitimate. He would certainly take some pride in the extent to which his works have resisted explanation and consequently remained afloat and alive, because in the years since his death, right or wrong, prophetic or inauthentic, Picabia has become the resonant, multi-valent wild card in the hand of painters that twentieth century modernism has dealt us. His work constitutes the secret vault to which contemporary practitioners retreat for sustenance.
Let the most heroic souls question themselves about this. Every smallest step on the field of free thought and the individually formed life has always been fought for with spiritual and physical torments: not only moving forward, no, above all moving, motion, change have required innumerable martyrs, all through the long path-seeking and basic millennia of which, to be sure, people don't think when they talk, as usual, about 'world history', that ridiculously small segment of human existence. And even in this so-called world history, which is at bottom much ado about the latest news, there is no really more important theme than the primordial tragedy of the martyrs who wanted to move the swamps.
Nothing has been bought more dearly than that little bit of human reason and of a feeling of freedom that now constitutes our pride. But it is this very pride that now makes it almost impossible for us to feel with those vast swathes of time characterised by the 'morality of the mores' which antedate 'world history' as the real and decisive main history that determined the character of humanity – when suffering was a virtue, cruelty a virtue, dissimulation a virtue, revenge a virtue, the slander of reason a virtue, while well-being was a danger, the craving for knowledge a danger, peace a danger, pity a danger, being pitied ignominy, work ignominy, madness divine, change immoral and pregnant with disaster.
You think all of this has changed? You who think you know man, learn to know yourselves better!
May the living forgive me that occasionally they appear to me as shades, so pale and sombre, so restless and, alas, so lusting for life – while those men then seem so alive to me as if now, after death, they could never again grow weary of life. But eternal aliveness is what counts: what matters ‘eternal life’ or any life!