One of the world’s most famous self-portraits is going on rare public display in the northern Italian city of Turin. Very little is known about the 500-year-old, fragile, fading red chalk drawing of Leonardo da Vinci, but some believe it has mystical powers. There is a myth in Turin that the gaze of Leonardo da Vinci in this self-portrait is so intense that those who observe it are imbued with great strength. Some say it was this magical power, not the cultural and economic value of the drawing, that led to it being secretly moved from Turin and taken to Rome during World War Two – heaven forbid it should ever fall into Hitler’s hands and give him more power. Whatever the reason, this was the only work from the entire collection of precious drawings and manuscripts to be removed from the Royal Library in Turin at the time.
In one region of Russia, the consistency of the earth is just right that manuscripts dating back centuries emerge almost perfectly preserved. Over the past year, more than 1,000 of these birch bark artifacts from the 11th to 14th centuries have been exhumed from the soil of Novgorod, adding to a growing archive of written history.
Since the bark was accessible to almost everyone, the remnants of text and drawings aren’t just by the elite, but everyone from paupers to merchants to imaginative kids. The most famous of the birch bark texts are the scribblings of a boy named Onfim. Estimated to have been between six and seven years old when he made them, Onfim idly drew himself as a grown warrior and disguised as a beast; the aspirational art isn’t much different from the drawings of children adorning refrigerators today. Often these seemingly inconsequential relics don’t survive the passage of time.
The day before your guests arrive, put all the ingredients — glasses, gin, and shaker — in the refrigerator. Use a thermometer to make sure the ice is about twenty degrees below zero (centigrade). Don’t take anything out until your friends arrive; then pour a few drops of Noilly Prat and half a demitasse spoon of Angostura bitters over the ice. Shake it, then pour it out, keeping only the ice, which retains a faint taste of both. Then pour straight gin over the ice, shake it again, and serve.
The making of a dry martini should resemble the Immaculate Conception, for, as Saint Thomas Aquinas once noted, the generative power of the Holy Ghost pierced the Virgin’s hymen “like a ray of sunlight through a window — leaving it unbroken.” - Luis Buñuel’s (“My Last Sigh”)
A fresco in the church of San Petronio in Bologna, dated 1410, depicts Satan in a fashion quite characteristic of the imaginary of the Middle Ages. The Devil is a gigantic beast devouring human souls. At the same time he is giving birth to them through a second mouth-vagina between his legs, in a circular damnation and movement of ingestion-defecation-rebirth which reminds of the uncanny symmetry of the bicephalous Roman god Janus.
In fact, this image of Satan absorbs what the church wanted to condemn and politically control: not just the pagan background of Europe, but specifically the rural and aboriginal faith in the circularity of nature and the self-regeneration of the whole countryside (that is the regeneration of the means of production themselves). The idea of the eternal return of life – with no divine intervention, no Genesis and no Apocalypse, but rather an alchemic and gastronomic cycle of digestion and regeneration – had to be excommunicated and personified in the pansexual body of a cannibalistic Satan.
A few centuries later the Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade revived a similar image of cannibalism and turned it into his Manifesto antropófago — the founding text of Brazilian art modernism and subsequent movements opposing European colonization. Both De Andrade and the carnal imagineries of the Middle Ages are digested by the Manifesto of Urban Cannibalism.
The Manifesto, however, also condenses a multitude of other contemporary intuitions: an instinctive rejection of the new political correctness of urban ecology, the petty bourgeois ideology of urban gardens, the self-imposed siege of sustainable development, peak oil catastrophism and many other current machines of biopolitical control.
The Manifesto, for sure, still breathes a strong and vivid materialism. Yet it refuses predicticable binaries: namely, good horizontalism vs bad verticalism, molecular revolution vs big apparatuses of capture. As Negarestani has pointed out in Cyclonopedia, any form of religion and politics that expresses and promotes horizontality is in fact the easiest to control and exploit by vertical structures of power. Any polytheism of nature will always be an easy prey of the monotheism of Nature.
By Wietske Maas and Matteo Pasquinelli