Les Baux dans les Alpilles, les Antiques et l’hôpital psychiatrique de Saint-Paul-de-Mausole (la Maison de Santé de Saint-Paul) à Saint Rémy de Provence

Les Baux, the mistral blasting over it, where it rises out of the surrounding countryside, after St. Remy, in the Alpilles, under a cloudless, hazeless, pellucid and intensely blue sky, offered another of those heart-racingly exciting moments, expected, as in we’d seen photos, unexpected, because of how it was to have climbed onto a plateau, be driving between groves of olives and vinyards, in alternation, and recognise, to see it ‘at last,’ as they say, in all its attendant resplendent unrecognisablility. You ask yourself, Does it look like the photograph? Answer: Yes, of course, exactly like it. Then why is it nothing like the photograph? Reality appends its signature excess. Naturally.

What that excess does is not simply to escape or transcend the limited distant view, the precursive mental image or media image. The question might be: Is the inability of reality to be represented an essential inability? Does inimitable mean unrepresentable?

It reminds me of Wilde’s Critic as Artist, who recreates according to the medium of the critique the work of art under consideration. The critic’s imitation becomes a kind of anti-representation, since it is critical. And it enacts from the inside out what is essential about the work. How it works. This enacting concords with the proximity of critique and analysis.

An enactment, analytical, critical, is representational. Particularly in terms of theatrical representation. Theatre as the art of representation par excellence.

To invoke the theatrical in Samuel Weber’s critical view is not only to summon shadows in a cave and does not just necessarily imply the dialectic between real and imitation, but also involves place, placement, placing. In terms of the where from, in regard to the where to, and also the convocation of both where to and where from in a sense of indissociable place, outside of speech, a place for acting, where time has passed, is passing and will pass. And as such, a place of memory. Of the memory of the individual. Why? Because it is the individual whose point of view is implicit in this sense of place from which a world, with all its times, extends.

How can the place transcend the place of which it is the photograph? The photograph represents this place with its point of view. The paradox only becomes apparent with the difference in point of view, not the difference between representation and reality.

Reality’s excess comes out of the sense of a place that it can, like the best representation, or art, have, upon it, as well as ‘chastely,’ an infinite number of points of view. It can suffer the most banal as well as the most sophisticated interpretation, critique, or analysis.

Les Baux confirmed this sense of the inimitable. White sandstone escarpment perforated with windows. Q. said, That’s the best house ever. It was the side of the Chateau we were looking at. Its side that was sculpted from a quarry in use since 60 BC. And against and into which the rooms of the castle nestled. Little left after the seventeenth century destruction because of acts of disloyalty against the French king, under the Lords of Baux, whose lineage had by then died out. The castle was demolished symbolically and the people were fined.

When the mineral bauxite was found in the area, it took its name from a place that was all but deserted. Now, a number of what are called ‘artisanal’ businesses occupy Les Baux, sweets, olive oils, wines from the region, as well as soaps, and good-looking restaurants, creperies, cafes, and auberges.

We explored the Chateau, without the impedimenta of audio-guides. The wind though milder than yesterday was no less violent, threatening to take us off this promontory bodily at times. We saw the impluvium, a tiled area for collecting rainwater and directing it into a reservoir, climbed up onto towers, looked out at the marvelous vistas, where land and sky were smeared together by distance, were repeatedly forced down low to escape the mistral, or behind sheltering buttresses of stone, always bearing the evidence of human use, runnels for water cut into the rock, shelves, cupboards, kennels, stables, chapels, handles wherefrom tools were hung on hooks, the whole complement of uses a community could make of the space on top of the escarpment borne witness to in the stone, drilled, hewn, cut, chiselled, sculpted, quarried and built up again in blocks, sealed after openings and doorways had lost their use, like the oldest parts of the chateau, the Roman arches, bricked up and reclaimed as walls to the chapel.

You wished you might see it how it had been. And at the entry there had been the cute chapel we entered where people were crouched in the dark watching the documentary Provence from the Sky, aerial footage of the area, especially the piece of it these people were on, albeit that outside, impossibly occluded by the darkness, the exigencies of cinema, not least, the tonal shift in colour, the occasion for which was, as J. pointed out, that the projector lamp needed to be replaced, was yellowing. So it said on the screen. I couldn’t stay and watch it after that. Laughing too hard.

Starving, we went down and picnicked in the car again. And then went up again to buy lots of lollies at the store right inside the village.

We hurried back to Glanum, an important archeological site: the most complete Gallo-Grecian, Gallo-Roman village in France, ruins concentrated around a freshwater spring. It was too late to get in. But we could walk around the victory arch commemorative of the Roman conquest of Marseilles and a mausoleum, a decorated tower, thought to have been erected to remember the grandsons of Augustus, a deified emperor.

Over the road, we could visit the asylum where Vincent Van Gogh painted a lot, was dowsed under cold water a lot, walked in the gardens a lot, where there’s a ‘reconstructed room’ from his St. Remy period, which doesn’t amount to much, apart from lousy art direction, a beautiful cloister, a room with two dunking baths, a garden, a shop, selling Van Gogh stuff and art from the art therapy programmes still being run at what is a working psychiatric institution. How much more fun Van Gogh would have going mad now!

The rooms set up to museum-itise him, are lacking in imagination, but for that all the more affecting. As if the lack of imagination in the way he was treated with his epilepsy and toxin poisoning – including too much smoking, coffee and absinthe – were carried over into the pathetic lack of imagination with which this place were set up. Sad.

Home through the magic light of magic hour in Provence light. The plain trees bordering the road on the long straight into Cavaillon utterly magical.

Past queues at petrol stations. Tomorrow general strike. Seems more serious than in its incarnations and mobilisations so far. Unions are said to be blocking the major airports outside of Paris. We saw footage of bonfires beside highways.

Best Super-U tortellini ever. With a chardonnay from Orange.