Cry Babies

“I/O, I/O it’s off to work I go” and “little deaths, little lives” are the titles of the drawings in case you can’t read the type in the pictures themselves. I’m cynical and bitter but I’m not morbid, little death refers to the French la petite mort, a loss of consciousness—sense of self—during orgasm.

It’s in French because the French philosopher Roland Barthes extended the meaning to include losing one’s self in a good book or, as I add, art in general. Did Barthes mean reading and writing a book? I don’t know. I’ve never read a book by Barthes, only books about him. He certainly could have meant both.

I/O is of course input/output, some computer term. Do I know anything about computers?  Some, more than I know about Barthes.

These drawings are about growing up, about infancy. I’ve got two more about adolescence and maturity in the works but I thought I should get these up first.

Babies are selfish machines with simple input/out functionalities. They suck (input) and they shit (output) and they cry when they want these functions dealt with. Is this crying their first attempts at art? It is, if you subscribe to the theory that art is feelings made concrete/real for these cries are real and/or the theory that art is about communicating feelings –translating the private into the public, they are quite public.

So, in my book, all babies are artists. And mom, dad, school and society at large train them as they age to ignore and repress being so. When babies have become teens they still feel but they are not allowed to cry. Being a teen sucks.


Mom and dad are just bigger babies at times. Dad wants mom to himself much like baby does, mom wants dad and baby wants dad, too, although not as much as mom wants baby and baby wants mom. Selfish machines all. Mom is the most conflicted of the three. Facing baby/artist but turned towards dad, who may be coming or going.

Mom, dad, baby and art.  Art as baby’s output and mom and dad “killing each other a little.” Is the canvas a necessary part of art—the vehicle for it to be in the world of moms and dads or is it a shield, wall or fence keeping that world from baby/artist?


Back to Barthes. The baby doesn’t have much of a self to lose when it cries; it simply cries because it feels. Mom and dad, by consciously losing self-consciousness are, among other things, expressing a pair bonding thing. They are making a display of loss-of-self to proclaim being of the pair for their chosen other’s benefit as well as their own. It’s a much more complex activity; a lot of effort goes into it.

What about the artist and his efforts? Is he crying or proclaiming? Both, I say. Growing up is learning how to, what to proclaim and when, and when not to do it, as well as learning not to cry. One grows up by trial and error in interaction with the world of things and others. The artist has been through more trial and error (one can add consequent punishment and ridicule) than most folks, because he’s never stopped crying.