Moderna Museet Malmö, Installation view
”There is beauty and death in the eye of the beholder” by John Peter Nilsson, Moderna Museet Malmö
”There is beauty and death in the eye of the beholder”
In the Eye of the Beholder is the title for a video triptych by Lena Mattsson that portrays legendary publisher and writer Bo Cavefors. The title emphasizes the complexity of the portrayal due to the presence of artist and curator Ola Åstrand. The relationship between Åstrand and Cavefors remains undefined throughout the story, with Åstrand appearing like a silent witness as Cavefors tells us about his eventful life. This relationship is complicated even further by the soundtrack of the triptych – a newly composed rock score by musician, philosopher and art critic Conny C-A Malmqvist, which amplifyes Cavefors’ hedonistic way of living – sex, philosophy and rock’n’roll.
The concept of “the eye of the beholder” refers to how perception, say of beauty for instance, is defined through the eyes of the viewer, and is thus highly subjective. But the term can also be used when someone who is sentenced to death is offered a blindfold before the noose is tightened. This is not to spare the condemned suffering – on the contrary, by avoiding the gaze of the victim, the hangman is ‘protected’ from personal responsibility.
There lies thus both beauty and death in the eyes of the beholder, something that Lena Mattsson’s piece is very much about. The piece reminds me of the 18th century philosopher Thomas de Quincey’s aesthetic point of view: a work of art depicting a murder shall not tell of the murder but rather be the murder in itself. When you observe the scene of a murder it’s not through the perspective of the victim but rather the murderer’s – the beholder. De Quincey meant that if you were to adopt the viewpoint of the victim, the horror would be so overwhelming that to render an aesthetic experience would be impossible.
Lena Mattson does not regard Bo Cavefors as a victim, however. Folket i Bild/Kulturfront describes him, in a preamble from 2004, as follows: ”Bo Cavefors is the ex publisher whose sprawling and provocative publication riled the establishment to the point of where he was deemed to be silenced”. Mattsson’s focus lies elsewhere. She claims she is examining the rock’n’roll myth: ”All three video pieces are synchronized to a surreal rock’n’roll triptych that envelops the viewer and both visualizes and illuminates the myth”. Agreed, but it’s also tempting to think that Mattsson stages a kind of mouse-and-cat game: In whose eyes exactly is the observation created?
Bo Cavefors is a nomadic free-thinker who is impossible to pin down and easily pigeonhole. Without entering into specifics, he has never shied away from extreme opinions found in both left- and right-wing politics, both personally and professionally.When, on top of that, he throws in taboo questions regarding sexuality and religion, Cavefors is easily perceived as a controversial and politically incorrect intellectual.
Lena Mattson’s surreal rock’n’roll staging becomes a thought provoking resonator for this controversial figure. The Nigerian author Ben Okri’s book A Way of Being Free (1997) comes to mind. Okri suggests that the term “dialouge” is not first and foremost founded on agreement but rather on misunderstanding. Agreement is often implicit and
confirms stereotypes. Misunderstandings can be dangerous but if we can agree on a mutual arena (a museum, a theater, a newspaper, etc.) where you are allowed to ask the question “What do you mean?” without being lynched, then misunderstandings can lead to new ways of thinking and new conclusions. Therefore, the role of the artist, the poet and the intellectual is dual. He or she should, on the one hand, be able to express their vision, but on the other hand they must also represent a place where different opinions can meet.
In the Eye of the Beholder was originally made for the exhibition I Want to Hold Your Hand, which was recently held at the Borås Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition presented thirty or so Swedish artists that had been inspired by different kinds of rock music. Lena Mattsson interpreted it: “Bo Cavefors is, in spite of his claim of being totally unmusical and belonging to another cultural field, a person who, as we say in Skåne, rockar fett (totally rocks)!”
But the piece works just fine separated from the original context of that exhibition. The intricate scene unfolds into a labyrinth of gazes ultimately belonging to eyes of the unknown. The installation becomes a place where anything can happen – where anything is allowed to happen. Just like the place Bo Cavefors himself created with his wayward publishing house. A place not taken for granted but one which must be conquered and reconquered time and again.
John Peter Nilsson
Bo I. Cavefors
THE BOY WITH THE BELT
Pup often takes the bike to meet his stepdad at the Falsterbo train, which steams into the station at about five in the afternoon. Sometimes, Pup waits in wain.
It is on just such an afternoon, when he’s ten years old (his birthday was in November), that one of the young men who also ride that same train every day between their summer houses and their work in Malmö leaves the station with him, puts his arm around his shoulder and strokes his neck. They take a detour among the sand dunes to watch the sea.
At the lighthouse, the young man unbuttons Pup’s trousers, a pair of tight grey flannel summer slacks, knees down in front of him and takes his cock in his mouth. Pup meets this young man several times that summer, and the summers that follow, and learns to enjoy being fucked, and the tickle of the young man’s tongue. It feels good, and it feels safe when the young man holds his butt in his warm hands. And Pup becomes aware of his power of the lover, that a grown man is before his feet.
A few years later, when Pup now in a boarding school on the southern outskirts of London, meets Jacob and Michael, who are both his age, he quickly grows into a more varied homosexuality. And he learns to love the whip, whipping and being whipped before they fuck and suck cock, kiss and hug. The need for whipping just comes to them. None of the boys have seen a whip, other than their parents’ riding crops, and never have they thought that a riding crop could also be used to whip queer boys on their butts. Without a riding crop, the belt becomes their natural tool when they want to show each other their love in a more forceful fashion. Pup loves the smacking sound when the belt is drawn from the loops of Michael’s trousers and hits the butt. It hurts so good!
On leave from school, when Pup visits his mother in Malmö, he goes into the bushes by the birdcages in Palace Park for gay sex, There too he craves the belt before he is sucked off or fucked or strokes men’s hairy chests, kneeling to worship and stroke and suck their cocks.
Faggotry fast becomes his routine for ecstasy, for beauty; it’s impossible to resist the desire to use or to be used by a grown man’s body.
What separates Pup’s cock-chasing from the boy prostitutes who are not gay, but do it for the money? Morally, ethically, there’s nothing that separates the street boys from the mama’s boys. For Pup and other gay boy it’s the sexual experience, the taste of semen, men’s bodies of flesh and blood, that’s irresistible. For the boy prostitute the sex takes a back seat to the money, but he too enjoys the break from is lonely, daily jerk-off sessions.
Does Pup tell his mother that he’s having sex with grown men? Of course not. He knows it would turn the world turned upside-down, there would be tears, he would have to reveal everything. He knows he would never take that kind of commotion. He doesn’t want to see his mother cry. He doesn’t want to be humiliated in front of his stepdad. He knows he is intelligent enough to know what he’s doing is right, because he enjoys it. With every visit to the park his confidence grows. He grows.
As Pup, Jacob and Michael, now ninteenish, have finished school, and they have gay sex and offer themselves up in Hyde Park, just a few stone’s throws from Park Street, where they share an apartment, they become competition to the other young prostitutes their age who now lose market share to these well-groomed upper-class boys who don’t come to the park to make money but to offer themselves up for their own pleasure, a need, and so are also more inventive, more free. At the same time, many of the men who come to the park looking for young dicks prefer the regular prostitutes. Technically, Pup and his friends too are prostitutes when they’re in the park out of lust, in total freedom, open to new experiences, new variations. And they love the mystique of the park after dark, the shadows of the men hunting them down, the naked bodies, the sounds of the city, the wet grass.
Earlier published in Destroyer, Journal of Apollonian beauty and Dionysian homosexuality, #6, 2008.
Copyright©Bo I. Cavefors 2008.
Bo I. Cavefors
LIBERTY AND EQUALITY
Summer 1956. Jacob and me. We loved each other since we was twelve. Now: twenty years old. London. I am back in town after a year or more in Uppsala, Sweden. Military service. Jacob back in London after a journey to the old Empire, Ghana. He is on way through the door to Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and I on way down the stairs, to meet my love in the foyer. We kiss each other on the cheeks. Jacob comes from his lawstudies. I have had a sweaty day together with Mr. John Fernald, who is staging The Caucasian Chalk Circle, by Bertold Brecht. First time Brecht is played in London. The Times write that "Mr. Fernald's team responded well". And The Daily Telegraph, with the head-line 74 In Cast Of Brecht Play, writes that the performance was "a good pupils' play; but it must have meant very hard work for Mr. Fernald as director". Exactly. So it was. But now: Jacob and I: deep-kissing. Love. Possible here at RADA. We walk Gower Street to Museum Street, have a speedy check in to the antiquarian department at Collett's Chinese Bookshop. Soon again on the road… we turn in, to right, on New Oxford Street. More and more passionate kisses. We fleet along Poland Street, have the idea to buy some toys to Cecilia, but give up. Then: Regent Street, Royal Academy on Piccadilly Street. Burlington Arcade (many kisses), and there in one shop time to buy more egyptian cigarettes from Andron (Speciales), H.A. Georgopulo & Co, Cairo, and, in another shop, Charbonnel et Walkers, chocolate-creams (our most loved was Pomponette, Moulée and Amande). And: from the Arcadian directly the right way to Mr. Bertram Rota, the antiquarian bookseller on Vigo Street (I bought Criterion from 1914). Kisses. Again. Can’t stop it. Then to right New Bond Street and then to left Grosvenor Street, and then and there: the embassy at Grosvenor Square. The lift to the third floor, a beautiful apartment, “Stars-and-Stripes” behind the desk, and we get some beautiful and with fine artistery folded packets with cocaine, white and fine as italian meal from the Podelta. And so: to our beloved butcher round the corner for warm wellroasted beaf, pickled cucumbers, bread. Strong mustard. And so to our Park-Street-flat, the fourth floor. There is a lift, slow. Again, we are kissing, must do it. And hugs. I fondle Jacob’s teats under his jacket. My hands down, his leatherbelt, his rump. I love it. He love it, to have my fingers in his glory hole. The keys, ok, the flat! Wow. To hell with black shoes, black socks, black trousers and jackets, white shirts and upper-class-ties. Roastbeaf and bread on the table. Pale and Ballantine. We smoke our cigarettes, windows open, the warm breeze catch the curtains. All the sounds from Park Street, people, cars, birds from Hyde Park. All these sounds as a dark cloth outside the curtains. I slumber in the armchair. Read, a lot, in the Criterion, some lines, unconcentrated, some fragments of an Unpublished Work by James Joyce, page 489: "Duff-Muggli, who now may be quoted by very kind arrangement, first called this kind of paddygoeasy partnership the odyssean or tetrachiric or quadrumane perplex”, What!? Difficulties with my concentration. You understand? At the same time: Jacob boll his body round and: his breast down and the rump up. His black skin. He stretch, the back, the shoulders, the blackblue thighs, he rock with the rump, lean the head to the pillow, the right arm directly to the jacket hanging on the chair beside the bed, and from the jacketpocket he take two of these very fine artistery folded packets with cocain. We take it. Expiration. Relax. The cigarettes… finito. No more roastbeaf. Still Ballantine. My foots on the edge of bed. I stretsch my back. My hands on my cock. Hardjacking. Jacob and his legs. It is very clear. Fine lines in the fog. Coca and cock are married. Whisky. Our boddies explodes as solitaire objects among furnitures, beddings, pictures and books. All is smelt as a richly coloured ocean.
The billows run high. The body is sweet. To hug. To look at. Jacob is absolutely still but must raise the rump to give space for his bigger and bigger cock. His black skin, but deep in his rump it was more and more white. Even when I not touch him I can in my fingers and in my tongue feel how it is to kiss the silky hair on his rump. How his rump react, how his body tremble in every limb when my tonguetip tickle him. I stand up from the chair and get to Jacob and fucked him. And fucked him. We really loved. At nine-o’clock we get out of bed. Douche. Nightlife. A private performance. Very much naked and action, on the stage, beside the stage.
+ + +
It is Jacobs and my liberty, freedom and equality I try to create in my three plays, produced as a kind of performance-theatre, The leper hermit in the town Aosta, De Sade and the Japanese, and Revolt in the Casbah. My theatre is closed for the world around. The theatre must be a world of freedom where you can do exactly what you must do. On the stage you are absolute supreme and have all power. The audience, the public, the Public Opinion, the High Commissar for the Authorities, has to leave the theatre if they don’t like our creativities; they can hiss off the performance, but they can never kill my ideas, my intentions, my seriousity.
In these three plays the actors act naked, no clothes, only a whip, military boots, tattoos, paints, and so on. Even a catholic play as The leper hermit in the town Aosta, by Xavier de Maistre, must be played with clearly showed erotic meanings, sometimes with really sexual actions. In De Sade and the Japanese the religious problematic and the political dimension is actualized with quotations from Ulrike Meinhof and Michel Foucault. Revolt in the Casbah is a very homosexual play with really actions.
The word has the central position in these three plays, but the word must be transformed into realities, into action, and that can only be done if clothes and stage-properties are out! Naked bodies, naked words, naked readings, no furnitures on the stage. The word, the will, the man, must be what is essential. Is this decadence? Yes it is a theatre decadence. Religious, political, sexual. My ideas of a Decadence Theatre reflect our time, our society.
Decadence? Yes, cocain give our five senses a greater sensibility when we try to get the sound of life, the vibrations, swollen cocks, ecstatic and poignant explosions of whips, blood and sperm, to get a feeling of that our bodies still alive. Seldom or never you get such theatre to-day. Sensitivity and sensuality has been killed by sociology, psychology and psychoanalysis. That’s the result when people departs from their cravings of metaphysics, when you forget the Greek tragedies. A new theatre must be a revival of the Renaissance-dramas in dark colours, ritual actions as reflections of the sadomasochistic need of orgies. Free from rhetoric it’s possible to re-create the relations between erotic and Cross, between love of Christ and suffering of the Cross, between the sexuality and sadomasochism. Art is the way for intensification, for a more rigourous acting. That’s not to profane religious faith and rites. The eroticism comes from the wounds of Christ. That’s all. I have to do it.
WHEREVER BEYOND THE WORLD
When Bo I. Cavefors writes he let the people, outlaws or not, act as if they already was emancipated, as if they are absolutely unaffected of the normal models for a society. As if they are nonmembers of our world.
”He love to act nude right in front of the mirror with a blue-green border. The mirror lean a little. When he get closer to the mirror it seems as if the reflection should crumble him.” The anxiety is qualified because the I in the autobiographies by Bo Cavefors’ Childlich memoirs (Barnsliga memoarer) and The whelp as a young man (Valpen som ung man) is an natural force essential to rule, it can fall down from the mirror and crush the boy when ”alone at home in the summercottage, he place himself (…) in front of the mirror, looking at his reflected image, with the hands he caress his rump, he stretch his chest…”. The reality is to cement oneself as another boy, to control himself as another person, to control himself from the point of a stranger authority. The exhibitionist soon learn that dissipations denigh discipline and asceticism; ”He develop his capacity, and he has this ability already from very young years, to survive when he even when the day is a day of liberty, black the shoes every morning, take care of the clothes, wash them, sew loosen buttons, read books and papers, study, visit the theatres, go to church. All these actions give his spirit and body energy to endure when horniness and hankering force Jacco and him to excesses and debauches.”
The boggerlife in Malmö, London and elsewhere in the 1950-, 60- and seventies are attempered, because there even are the trivias prosaical trivialities... Bookreading, the studies, involvements for theatre and the church are engagemants which prevent Cavefors, his ghanesian lover Jacob, and all the other boys he love and all of them are friends and each other’s lovers since the years at the Jesuit boarding school off London, to go to “the hell [which] was welcoming them when they sniffs cocaines and on evenings and nights carouse the pubs in the Covent Garden quarters.” Everydaynesses, the loathing and the externality of system of rules and disciplin, protect them not specially from the risk to go to hell but also influence their experiences from that nightlife we even in a city like London get in embowered darkness of parks and gaysaunas: ”When horniness throw them to borders of insanity they strike to Hyde Park, the bushes between the park area and Park Lane, or they strike to St. James’s Park, strip quite nude and offer themselves as buckshees to men, or they fuck each other. ( … ) Not so far away they can hear the speakers, the politicos, the preachers and the buskers at Speaker’s Corner, on Park Lane flow the night-traffics, on the sidewalks whores parade and in the Myfairapartments families flock for evening meal. Fraternaly part preachers and the striplings the same world but a sightless border separate reality from reality. The striplings separates and run over the Myfairrealities, because the night never clue the day.
It’s my believe that Cavefors has an absolute animus to think and act in relations and totalities, ergo how his Mayfairexistence de facto impact on his and his friends life on the other side Park Lane, in the darkness of Hyde Park, how night and day really is a twentyfourhour tour, a greater textural totality, how standards/rules and estimates not can be separated as oil and water; conclusion: the Caveforslife is for some people very provocative. To surrender as well the Mayfairsociety as its backbiters repulsion to live beyond the world is the true snag. Because, to captivate this position should be to abjure that sovereign power which is a result of the impotence to add one world to another one, in the repudiate to comply that canoncial folkways and political tactics build on your identification with yourself by analogy with others, identification with enemies and friends, but Cavefors intend that it, in spite of everything, is the egos of itself who is the other; you only need the mirror-image, and you are certified, and you know you exist. Because the I point the versus externatility, indicate the whole life.
Is Cavefors a provocateur? Hardly. His activity is that of an exhibitionist. It’s enough to read some of his essays to understand that his story is one and the only one: his own. Not even in his critics, in his plays and performanceactions he vary the tonic, it’s one and only one and sound always alike. It break from that impersonal power there is attested in something so petty as indicative as the verity of a lonely life.
In traditions of the Christianity the truth hypothesise more as a question about light transmitting capacity than as correspondence or coherence. The same in the life and writings by Cavefors: the unman and the laying bare, are acts interveawed with features of abasement and enjoyment. It is a lusthermeneutic when the confession relate to the genitals as a tucker ideal where all analyses has the start and final. Cavefors’ delineation of the life (living) is constantly sexualized, but unproblematic, something only pay regards to the intensity of the enjoyment in its fulfilment. The sexuality remain practice and concolidate no identity necessary for some extraordinary form of sexual practice. The informality of the sexual activity is what it must be up to. Some fine lines comes in the description from the boarding school in Osby, Sweden, where Cavefors (ten years old) was a year when he had finished the elementary school: “When he a year later get to a boarding school in Göinge he and his friends Tom, Claes and Björn sometimes lock the door for to masturbate and suck eachother and talk and fantasize about the girls.”
The confession behaves to the sex but not to a code (an act) or to a alreade existent identity. Cavefors’ melancholy longing for love and his sexhungerworks have its origin in the western literature of faith and its culture, but, paradoxically Cavefors’ works stand apart from its most symbolized characteristics; the glorification, the explanation. In his works there are no explication why he is more magnetized of men than females, or why sadomasochism or pang for him is pure enjoyment. If you get any explanation it is abstract Manichean and irrelevant: the flesh is depraved, God is only interested of our spirit, our amour and our purposes – and that may be our guidelines the whole life. And, concern to sexuality and normbreaching, the works by Cavefors are absolutely lack of breakdowns. The strip in itself outwear the avowal and make its explanationvalues empty. And it is created very articulated on a stringent prose without mercy. All intents are as if they are present in the words disrobe of the truth, rude depicted through the transparent sentences.
This promtly ivorydiction is the absolutely contrary to all sentencelarded icebergprose. Cavefors carve a break from the subsistence and exemplify a life wherever outside the world. A life where the values and its equivalence-elements are suspended and where intentions not can be attached to facts because white always is white and black noir, never hoity-toity and never inferiority – unable to be compromised, compared to or rated. An Utopia, for certain, but an utopia here and now, where the prose and the life the prose attest on a very radical way break off the idea about sexuality as discoursespawned sociality, as all literature of confession, because the works naiveé oppose every relate of an act to a canonical model of explanation. Whoever are indignant of Cavefors and his works are presumably persons who dreads the radical transformation our manners and habits should be if the system of norms Cavefors try to write himself out of, will be demolished. In his works the individuals, outlaws or not, act as if they already was emancipated, as if they are absolutely unaffected of the normal models for the society. As if they not are members of our world.
Copyright©Mårten Björk, 2007.