NOTES ON THE BALL JOINT
by Hans Bellmer
Translated from the French by Guy Bennett
Born in Kattowitz, then part of the German Empire, but now Katowice, Poland, Hans Bellmer began as a draftsman for his advertising company. But with the rise of Nazism, he began his "doll series," purposely sexualized images of dolls, often in mutated or incomplete form which in performance-like actions he placed in unconventional poses, in direct opposition to the Fascists' cult of the perfect body.
Inspired, in part by the articulated dolls in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Bellmer constructed his dolls around
the principle of the "ball joint," and one might describe his "Notes on the Ball Joint," printed below, as a kind of early performance piece, projecting a series of positioning and moving of his dolls.
After the War, Bellmer gave up his dolls, but continued creating art until the 1960s. He died on February 23, 1975.
The game belongs to the category of experimental poetry. If we recall its essentially provocative method, the toy presents itself as a provocative object.
The best game sustains its exaltation less in the predetermined images of an outcome [result] than in the idea of the perpetuity of its unknown continuations. The best toy will therefore be the one that ignores the pedestal
of an a priori functioning, the one which, rich in applications and accidental probabilities like the poorest of rag dolls, confront the exterior to fervently provoke, here and there, these answers to any expectations: unexpected images of the You.
So that such a doll, full of affective [emotional] content but suspected of being but a representation and a fictitious reality, may find in the outside world, in the shock [clash] of its encounters, the certain proofs of its existence, on the other hand the outside world, the tree, staircase or chair, suspected of being but a perception, must reveal what the I has accumulated of the you. In a word an amalgam of the objective reality of the chair and the subjective reality of the doll must be formed, an amalgam endowed with a clearly superior reality, since it is both subjective and objective.
Thus the role of the provocative object takes shapes. Let it occupy any place on the swings closest to or farthest from the confusion between the animate and the inanimate, it will be a question of the personified, mobile, passive, adaptable and incomplete thing, it will finally be a questionAto the rather broad extent to which the principal of the doll or the articulated object appears to respond to these demandsAof the mechanical factor of its mobility, of the JOINT.
In his memoirs, Cardan allows us to understand against which attacks he had to defend his equilibrium. Thus warned, one believes one finds the principal of his individual strategy in what it called the "Cardan," this ring mechanism developing into a cross "in the center of which a body could be suspended in such a way that no outside disturbance would trouble the stability of its equilibrium." Not allowing any outside force, with the exception of weight, to act on an object, this idea seems to be the very symbol of egocentrism; but, oddly enough, it is reversible. For, rather than suspend the object within the system of rings, which by its periphery is connected to the outside world, the outside could be attached to the center of the system, in the object's place, and consequently [conversely] the object on the periphery. [image] If we consider that in the first case the distance delimited by the object's center of gravity and the center of the rings can be reduced to zero and that, in the other case, it could go on infinitely, the following surprise results: the system of rings lies between two elementary and contradictory claims, between the two tendencies of concentricity and eccentricity, thus between two adversaries, whose interchangeability is in fact too incomprehensible to dispense with a demonstration by example:
CONCENTRICAL APPLICATION OF THE CARDAN
"We make an octagonal, hexagonal, square or pentagonal inkwell, or in one of the many forms given to prisms. On each one of its sides the inkwell has a place to dip one's pen, and no matter how you set it down, you always have a hole on topAyou dip your pen in the hole, it takes on ink and you write. Take the hexagonal inkwell that you see here. [image] On the inside there is a collar on a tourillon ab; within this collar there is a recipient that forms the inkwell. It is in the Jewish manner, if you like, and the construction of the device resembles that of the censer which turns but remains in equilibrium."
Phylon de Byzance(end of the IIIrd century b.c.) describes this "construction of the octagonal inkwell, an elegant device," in the fifty-sixth chapter of his "Pneumatics." An unknown Arab hand added in the margins of the manuscript:
EXCENTRICAL APPLICATION OF THE