Vlady was born in the very bosom of history, with the whiff of the October Revolution in his nostrils. The maternal milk of history then carried him across the Earth and laid him amid the Mexican rushes. History then removed its bitter teat from Vlady's mouth, only to cover him with its vast, smothering thigh. What a shadow that was! And the sweat! And, surfacing from the very depths of time, what dramas were played out; and those liturgies, assemblies, trials, accusations, verdicts, and sentences! The dirty linen of the revolution, people pickled in brine, Lenin's larvae and his sooty beard. A wandering Trotsky bearing on his back a Talmudic locomotive, grey myths, Babel's writing on the snow, the sweaty dagger under the hired assassin's armpit. And exile, of course all those books thrown into the sea, the disconsolate goodbyes at the Luxembourg train station, a bullet in the soup, and, at the very end, the worn-out shoe-soles on the dead father's feet.
As Vlady sees it, history has been and continues to be heart, saliva, the eye's pupil, asphyxiation, ecstasy, the endless flight of a Sisyphus attempting to escape his matrix. Vlady is as yet unborn. He is being born perpetually from the sex of history. Should he be born, it would be his death.
Nobody who knows Vlady can be sure of the actual nature of his presence. There are certain kinds of saintly madmen, sorcerers, forecasters, Moorish prophets and necromancers who are not only what they are, but also the opposite and, indeed, the very opposite of that opposite. The latter are the worse kind, for, like Vlady, they continue to orate, write or point out in an endless discourse; there is always just one more argument that will deflate once again the discussion that seemed to have come to an end. But the very worst kind, those who are truly damned, are those who have toppled down from the loftiest tower into the clung heap, but who have never strayed from the walls, those who trickled to the bottom of the page, those who always had to speak not only for themselves but also for those who never kept quiet, those who, like Vlady, were horn to hallucinate for US.
If we are to understand Vlady -- or perhaps if we are to understand how it is that he can barely be understood -- our starting point must be the lustful nature of his relationship with history. His very existence is like that of a route charted amid the storms of the century. We stand on the seashore, but he does not; he has always fled from the cyclone. And even now, in Mexico's cloudy oasis, he still carries an essence of the wanderer about him; his clothes never quite stick to his body; one might say his ribs have been shaped by uneasy slumber on a straw mattress, the slumber of the political fugitive, to which is addled, of course, that slight whiff of a fantastic Siberia. This is why history, as Vlady sees it, is not the same as that of the great rational configurations, nor is it merely a means of attaining knowledge, nor a bundle of straw to be used for philosophical rumination.
If I tried to glimpse what history means for Vlady, I would have to talk about a proto-Hegelian dimension, of that obscure magma that peopled Hegel's slumber with phantasmagorias, which fathered chimeras for Marx's fevers and for Freud's skin. Even painting, that wanderer's art, is, for Vlady, history's metaverbal drop curtain. Images rather than words are history's true material. History is a series of representations rather than a discourse. What is not a simulacrum does not exist historically, is not there. But it so happens that, paradoxically enough, even as creations advance towards the light, they clarify nothing but jumble everything; they do not enlighten but confuse. According to some seers, history is an endless mural in which figures accumulate and become the centre of a heated and also endless discussion. And if we see it in terms of what is to come, of the space where stages are to be built, and where the contention begins as to who is to be the painter and who the one painted, then the discussion is immediately transmuted into drama, and those icons of the future are impasted with today's blood. The philosophers' veil of Maya is in fact a painted cloth.
Vlady has understood this. He has also perceived, because he lives crouched like a frail amphibian at the bottom of the historical bog, that this painted cloth is at one with Western tradition. So is all painting, and particularly the painting that belongs to the phase between Giotto (tactile illusion as a crystal of faith) and Velázquez (disenchantment with the world as the fruit of intelligence), at the apex of which one finds Titian. During that period, history literally fell from God's lap. But it reappeared, to man's awe and astonishment, embodied in cloth, walls, wooden panels, in that play of light, substance and human intelligence in which all transcendence ends if it is no more than human, and which we inadequately call painting. It is the heroic transcendence of what is destined to disappear. The eternity of infinite ephemerality. Is it not true that we are certain the Sixtine Chapel will be nothing in a million years, although it is everything for the immeasurable years of foreseeable history?
(Translated by Claire Joysmyth)