Stills from a performance for camera, inspired by the photographs of Unica Zürn taken by Hans Bellmer
"The disruption of body parts has an important function for Bellmer. He is fascinated by the ‘bubbles’ of flesh that are created and the inability of the mind to understand what it sees. For Bellmer ‘the imagination derives exclusively from bodily experiences’ and language is hardly sufficient to describe ‘the interoceptive images of the body’. It is the places where the viscera intercept with desired excitation that he is interested in unveiling. These could be any point of focus where desire is submitted to by an internal impulse leaving the rest of the body to disappear or be displaced.”
— Miranda Argyle, Hans Bellmer and The Games of the Doll
Untitled (Double-Sided Portrait of Unica Zürn) by Hans Bellmer, 1954
“She wants to look beautiful after she is dead. She wants people to admire her. Never has there been a more beautiful dead child.” — Unica Zürn, Dark Spring
“Now her room is almost dark. Only a distant street lamp glows faintly through the window. Now she no longer cares whether she dies “on foreign soil” or in her own garden. She steps onto the windowsill, holds herself fast to the cord of the shutter, and examines her shadowlike reflection in the mirror one last time. She finds herself lovely. A trace of regret lingers with her determination. “It’s over,” she says, quietly, and feels dead already, even before her feet leave the windowsill. She falls on her head and breaks her neck. Strangely contorted, her small body lies in the grass. The first one to find her is the dog. He sticks his head between her legs and begins licking her. When she does not move at all, he begins whimpering quietly and lies down beside her on the grass.” — Unica Zürn, Dark Spring
“It is a very beautiful day. The woman looks around and thinks: ‘there cannot ever have been a spring more beautiful than this. I did not know until now that clouds could be like this. I did not know that the sky is the sea and that clouds are the souls of happy ships, sunk long ago. I did not know that the wind could be tender, like hands as they caress - what did I know - until now?” — Unica Zürn, Dark Spring
Anonymous photograph, Thomas Eakins carrying a woman, 1885. Via.
Someone travelled inside me, crossing from one side to the other. I have become his home. Outside, in the black landscape, someone is maintaining that they exist. From his gaze the circle closes around me. Traversed by him inwardly, encircled by him from without — that is my new situation. And I like it.
Unica Zürn, The Man of Jasmine: Impressions from a Mental Illness, 1967, translation by Malcolm Green. Via.
“From my earliest childhood, the first woman’s eyes I encountered conveyed the same uncontrollable anguish spiders cause me… This is why I very soon divided myself into two halves.” — Unica Zürn, Gesamtausgabe
“red, do wind the body
do turn bread into dolour,
end distress, hatchet becomes
life. We, your death,
weave your plumb to you
into earth. Deer couriers,
we love the death.” —
Unica Zürn, Wir lieben den Tod (We love the death)
From Hexentexte (Witches’ Writings), trans. Dagmar Travner
“What is at stake here is a totally new unity of form, meaning and feeling: language-images that cannot simply be thought up or written up. They enter suddenly and for real into their interconnections, radiating multiple meanings, meandering loops lassoing neighboring sense and sound. They constitute new, multifacetted objects, resembling polyplanes made of mirrors. “Beil” (hatchet) becomes “Lieb’” (Love) and “Leib” (body), when the hurried stonehand glides over it; the wonder of it lifts us up and rides away with us on its broomstick.” — Hans Bellmer, postface to Unica Zürn’s Hexentexte (trans. Pierre Joris)
“They invent a howling theatrical language through which it becomes possible to express the grief of the whole world, a language understood by no one but the two of them.” — Unica Zürn, Dark Spring
Hans Bellmer and Unica Zürn smoking
Unica Zürn, from Orakel und Spektacle (1960)
"Each time, she finds herself tormented by her terrible fear of the rattling skeleton of a huge gorilla, which she believes inhabits the house at night. The sole purpose of his existence is to strangle her to death. In passing, she looks, as she does every night, at the large Rubens painting depicting "The Rape of the Sabine Women." These two naked, rotund women remind her of her mother and fill her with loathing. But she adores the two dark, handsome robbers, who lift the women onto their rearing horses. She implores them to protect her from the gorilla. She idolizes a whole series of fictional heroes who return her gaze from the old, dark paintings that hang throughout the house. One of them reminds her of Douglas Fairbanks, whom she adored as a pirate and as the "Thief of Baghdad" in the movie theater at school. She is sorry she must be a girl. She wants to be a man, in his prime, with a black beard and flaming black eyes. But she is only a little girl whose body is bathed in sweat from fear of discovering the terrible gorilla in her room, under her bed. She is tortured by fears of the invisible.
Who knows whether or not the skeleton will crawl up the twines of ivy that grow on the wall below her window, and then slip into her room. His mass of hard and pointed bones will simply crush her inside her bed. Her fear turns into a catastrophe when she accidentally bumps into the sabers, which fall off the wall with a clatter in the dark. She runs to her room as fast as she can and slams the door shut behind her. She turns the key and bolts the door. One again, she has come out of this alive. Who knows what will happen tomorrow night?”
— Unica Zürn, Dark Spring
Unica Zürn, from Orakel und Spektacle (1960)
Le repas frugal - Illustration by Hans Bellmer for Oeillades ciselées en branche (Glances Cut on the Branch)
she opens out, forming a shining star
made of countless new arms and legs and necks and heads, she becomes a beautiful, flower-like monstrosity….
— Unica Zürn, The Man of Jasmine