Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, “Vortex Gaudier-Brzeska”
The sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was one of the most promising members of the vorticist group. Written from the trenches of France during World War I, his contribution to the second issue of Blast was tragically published alongside a notice of his death in combat. In his “vortex,” he continues to champion vorticist ideas of vitality and abstraction in spite of the violence of war around him.
(written from the trenches)
Note.—The Sculptor writes from the French trenches, having been in the firing line since early in the war.
In September he was one of a patrolling party of twelve, seven of his companions fell in the fight over a roadway.
In November he was nominated for sergeancy and has been since slightly wounded, but expects to return to the trenches.
He has been consistently employed in couting and patrolling and in the construction of wire entanglements in close contact with the Boches.
I HAVE BEEN FIGHTING FOR TWO MONTHS and I can now gauge the intensity of life.
HUMAN MASSES teem and move, are destroyed and crop up again.
HORSES are worn out in three weeks, die by the roadside.
DOGS wander, are destroyed, and others come along.
WITH ALL THE DESTRUCTION that works around us NOTHING IS
CHANGED, EVEN SUPERFICIALLY. LIFE IS THE SAME STRENGTH, THE MOVING AGENT THAT PERMITS THE SMALL INDIVIDUAL TO ASSERT HIMSELF.
THE BURSTING OF SHELLS, the volleys, wire entanglements, projectors, motors, the chaos of battle, DO NOT ALTER IN THE LEAST the outlines of the hill we are besieging. A company of PARTRIDGES scuttle along before our very trench.
IT WOULD BE FOLLY TO SEEK ARTISTIC EMOTIONS AMID THESE LITTLE WORKS OF OURS.
THIS PALTRY MECHANISM, WHICH SERVES AS A PURGE TO OVER-NUMEROUS HUMANITY.
THIS WAR IS A GREAT REMEDY.
IN THE INDIVIDUAL IT KILLS ARROGANCE, SELF-ESTEEM, PRIDE.
IT TAKES AWAY FROM THE MASSES NUMBERS OF UNIMPORTANT UNITS, WHOSE ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES BECOME NOXIOUS AS THE RECENT TRADES CRISES HAVE SHOWN US.
MY VIEWS ON SCULPTURE REMAIN ABSOLUTELY THE SAME.
IT IS THE VORTEX OF WILL, OF DECISION, THAT BEGINS.
I SHALL DERIVE MY EMOTIONS SOLELY FROM THE ARRANGEMENT OF SURFACES, I shall present my emotions by the ARRANGEMENT OF MY SURFACES, THE PLANES AND LINES BY WHICH THEY ARE DEFINED.
Just as this hill where the Germans are solidly entrenched, gives me a nasty feeling, simply because its gentle slopes are broken up by earthworks, which throw long shadows at sunset. Just so shall I get feeling, of whatsoever definition, from a statue, ACCORDING TO ITS SLOPES, varied to infinity.
I have made an experiment. Two days ago I pinched from an enemy a mauser rifle. Its heavy unwieldy shape swamped me with a powerful image of brutality.
I was in doubt for a long time whether it pleased me or displeased me.
I found that I did not like it.
I broke the butt off and with my knife I carved in it a design, through which I tried to express a gentler order of things, which I preferred.
BUT I WILL EMPHASIZE that MY DESIGN got its effect (just as the gun had) from a very simple composition of lines and planes.