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Metaphysics & Psychology

Where Did Picasso’s Genius Come From?

Where Did Picasso’s Genius Come From? 86

A visitor pauses to study Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The 1907 painting is credited for the birth of the Cubism style of painting, and is said to be Picasso’s most tortured, and most successful, painting.

Photograph by Fausto Giaccone, Anzenberger/Redux

Genius: Picasso premieres Tuesday, April 24th at 9/8c on National Geographic.

On April 24, Antonio Banderas will strut his stuff as Pablo Picasso in the latest installment of the National Geographic Channel’s Genius series. As an appetizer, this week’s Book Talk features a new book, Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World, which tells the story of how an impoverished Spanish painter from Barcelona exploded onto the Parisian cultural scene and changed the course of modern art with a single painting.

When National Geographic caught up with the author, Miles Unger, at his home near Boston, he explained Picasso’s complicated relationship to money and fame; why his treatment of women was so awful; and how his masterpiece “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” took art in a revolutionary new direction and would become the cornerstone of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The term genius has become debased through overuse today. But Picasso seems to genuinely merit it. What’s your view?

I’m a little uncomfortable about the term genius because it does seem to be denuded of content. He was incredibly innovative and had enormous artistic courage. That’s one of his qualities. Fewer famous people have painted as many horrible paintings as Picasso. That was intentional. He was not afraid of ugliness; in fact he was much more afraid of prettiness. He feared most of all to adhere to formula, to do something safe. He said that art had to be dangerous, to be offensive, to push boundaries, and he had an enormous drive to do that. If you can call him a genius—and he certainly transformed the course of art, so in that sense it’s valid—what it consists of is his enormous courage and defiance of rules.

One of the keys to his particular form of genius was that he knew the weaknesses of the “enemy” because he had been one of them. He’d been brought up in a very academic tradition by his father and given a classical training, going through all the stages, from etching to classical sculptures. It’s not that he discarded these tools, but he used them for very different purposes. You see his gift for draftsmanship and knowledge of the tools of art, but he took them apart and put them together in unexpected combinations. What distinguishes him from other iconoclasts, though, was that he didn’t simply tear down; he tore down in order to build up again.

We have to address Picasso’s chauvinism, especially now, in the age of #MeToo. How should we view his attitudes and behavior toward women?

He came from a patriarchal family and part of the world in which women were expected to stay at home and take care of their husbands and children. Your social life revolved around men. Men were your intellectual and drinking companions. For sex, you went to the whorehouse, and occasionally came home to your wife. So, as a lover and husband, I think he was horrible. He bullied and domineered the women in his life. He famously said that women were either goddesses or doormats. Usually, they went from being goddesses to doormats.

Some people, when confronted with an artist like Picasso, say he was a great artist but a terrible human being, but that the two have nothing to do with each other. I think that’s a mistake, particularly in the case of Picasso, because his attitudes toward women were so much a part of his art. If you look at “Les Demoiselles D’Avignon,” the fury and conflicted feelings about women all come through. That doesn’t mean we should forgive his treatment of real women. But one should also recognize that art can often come from a very dark and furious place, just as Matisse’s art came from a joyful, sensual, much-less-conflicted place.

One of Picasso’s contemporaries, Andre Salmon, said “Les Demoiselles D’Avignon” was “The incandescent crater from which emerged the fire of present art.” Talk us through the creation of this iconic work.

In 1906, Matisse paints “Bonheur de Vivre,” or “Joy of Life,” which was a smash success and propelled Matisse to the forefront. So Picasso starts thinking of a masterpiece to rival Matisse’s great work, but in his own, unique style. In 1907, he begins to create this counter-masterpiece, based on the image of a whorehouse, which is larger than life and full of demonic figures. If Matisse’s painting was the “Joy of Life,” Picasso’s might be called “The Horror of Sex.”

He gets his patrons, the Steins, to buy him another studio in his apartment in the Bateau Lavoir and sets down to recreate art from the ground up. Picasso is famous for the rapidity with which he painted, but he labored over this work for months, filling notebook after notebook. He is trying to reinvent western pictorial modes, drawing on primitive sources like Iberian art, which he was very influenced by. Later, he visits the ethnographic museum in Paris, where he sees African and New Hebrides sculptures, and Native American works, and is blown away by this completely different approach to form, which is much more conceptual. It is not based on trying to recreate the world that we see, but a symbolic, almost shamanistic approach to the human form.

What he creates after eight agonizing months of struggle is a completely new pictorial form. If you stand in front of “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” the impact is incredible; it’s enormously in your face. He pressed everything up to the front of the canvas. There is no empty space, just jagged forms, these horrifying creatures who stare right back at you, the viewer. It creates a completely different way of relating to a painting than the traditional notion of a painting as a window on the world. It’s as if the window had been turned inside out, pressing outward into outer space.

Picasso eventually became fabulously wealthy. But the Bateau Lavoir, or Laundry Barge, the building where he painted his masterpiece, sounds more like a stage set for Les Miserables. Put us inside this world of art, STDs, and squalor.

The Bateau Lavoir was a former piano factory on the top of the hill in Montmartre that was converted into artist studios. There were a bunch of cramped little rooms with flimsy walls and dirt all over the place. There was one toilet at the bottom. It was so hot in the summer you couldn’t wear clothes, but in the winter the tea froze in the cups.

It was mostly artists and their various mistresses and hangers-on. Many were opium smokers. One German artist Picasso invited to be his neighbor in the Bateau Lavoir ended up hanging himself in an opium-induced binge. Picasso lived with a menagerie of cats and dogs, and even had a pet mouse. He claimed he slept with almost every one of his models. His first serious mistress, Fernande Olivier, was originally the mistress of a sculptor who also lived in the Bateau Lavior. It all became very complicated, with bitter arguments, jealousies, and rages, partly fuelled by alcohol and drugs.

Picasso described it later as the happiest time of his life, even though he often didn’t know where his next meal was coming from. He told the story of trekking across Paris in the snow with a painting that he made specifically because he thought it would sell; it was more cheerful than the other stuff he was doing. But he couldn’t even get a sale from his dealer, Berthe Weill, and had to trek back hours through the snow in boots with holes in them. Whenever he did make a sale, he immediately spent his money going into the Lapin Agile, a cabaret in Montmartre, so by the next morning he had no money again. He often resorted to stealing from friends. He once snuck into another artist’s studio and took some money and food off the table. He and his friends cheated the local baker. They’d order from him, then pretend not to be home when the order arrived, so they would not have to pay. They hid from creditors. It was a very difficult life but, in many ways, a very romantic one.

Today, perfumes, pens, and cars are marketed under the Picasso name. The painter would have been appalled, wouldn’t he?

I’m sure he would have been totally disgusted by it. He felt art came from a very dark place, and didn’t like to be branded. He fought for fame all his life and when he finally got it, he treated it with contempt. He hated the phonies who came up and kissed the ring of the great man. Anybody who called him a master would be shouted out of the room. One time, he got so fed up he took out the revolver he’d inherited from Alfred Jarry and began shooting it in the air. He was a belligerent and feisty guy [laughs] who didn’t put up with nonsense. He craved adulation, but he loathed sycophants.

He once said you have to be rich to live like you aren’t interested in money. He had a complicated relationship with his own fame and success. For a while after he married the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, she tried to make him into a proper gentleman, but he soon got totally disgusted with her and with it, and returned to his Bohemian friends. He was also an incredible miser and paranoid about money. He kept all his money safety-pinned in a little pocket inside his jacket and was constantly accusing people of having opened it up and stealing his money.

“Les Demoiselles D’Avignon” now hangs in MOMA in New York. Tell us the story of its journey across the Atlantic and what its legacy is today.

The strange thing about “Les Demoiselles D’Avignon,” which is usually regarded as the key work in the modern era, is that it was almost invisible for many decades. After Picasso painted it in 1907 it was shown a few times to his friends, but the reception was so terrible and people were so shocked and appalled by it that he rolled it up and put it away and it was not seen for many years.

It had already launched a revolution, though. People like Georges Braque and André Derain were blown away and began to paint in that style. Eventually, in a year or two, we have the full-blown movement known as Cubism. Though the painting is buried away, it has an almost cult status but nobody ever sees it until 1916 when André Salmon has a show and it finally gets its name. Then, in the 1920s, André Breton, the inventor of surrealism, rediscovers it and calls it the key work in the history of the modern movement. It spoke to him with its surrealist interest in sex and violence.

Eventually it travels across the Atlantic and Alfred Barr, who is founding the Museum of Modern Art, realizes this is going to be the key work around which he will build the museum. But its meaning has shifted drastically over the years. First, it was seen as the founding work of Cubism. In the 1970s, people began to see what was there all the time, which is a savage, violent sexuality. Today, after more than a hundred years, it’s hard to put oneself back in time and feel the sense of shock that people originally had. But I still think it’s a pretty tough, aggressive painting. It radiates a savage power even to this day.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Simon Worrall curates Book Talk. Follow him on Twitteror at simonworrallauthor.com.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Research confirms that “near death experience” is not an illusion

Research confirms that "near death experience" is not an illusion 87

Dr. Alexander Batthyany, a professor of psychology at the University of Vienna, has studied thousands of cases of near-death experiences. Human thinking ability has nothing to do with the brain.

Near death experience case study

Dr. Batthyany and others collected thousands of complete cases describing near-death experiences , and recorded in detail the content of the near-death’s private prosecution and doctor’s consultation.

Doctors ask dozens of questions about what the patient sees (visual), what he hears (hearing), what he thinks (consciousness and thinking), life background (such as religious beliefs, life experience), etc., such as “Have this experience before Do you?”, “Do you see the light?”, “Who do you talk about your death experience?”, “Do you believe in your death experience?”, etc., to judge and evaluate the credibility of the patient’s narration of the near death experience Degree and the patient’s mental state after death (whether normal, etc.).

Dr. Batthyany said that the results of the study are reliable and fully confirm that the near-death experience is a real mental activity rather than an illusion. He also said that research methods have certain limitations, which will lead to underestimation of the proportion of near-death experiences.

Extremely credible near-death experiences

Dr. Batthyany explained that due to the limitations of the method, cases are likely to be missed, so the actual rate of near death experience should be higher.

Dr. Batthyany explained how he and his colleagues analyzed thousands of cases by compiling and integrating medical records into a resource library (such as the NDERF website), and then using search terms related to vision (vision) or cognition (such as “See” (saw) or “thought”> search for related medical records and score them according to visual or cognitive content, and then further narrow the scope of the study, such as selecting near-death experience cases with detailed medical records. This screening method based only on search terms is likely to miss cases where there is no such vocabulary in the expression.

Dr. Batthyany said that the near-death experience cases are highly credible. They considered that thousands of cases with near-death experiences are likely to have false reports, but in the process of sorting and analyzing, they noticed that only 1% of near-death cases were deleted due to validity.

Therefore, Dr. Batthyany believes that even if there are still false cases, the number is not enough to affect the overall conclusion.

Evidence of the phenomenon

In addition to these near-death experience studies, Dr. Batthyany also pointed out that the phenomenon of back light also shows that the phenomenon of thinking consciousness is extremely complex, even in the case of severe deterioration of brain function, there can be active thinking.

Dr. Batthyany studies the back-to-light phenomenon in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Among patients with Alzheimer’s disease (ie, Alzheimer’s disease), some people have been completely incoherent for many years, but suddenly showed a marked improvement or normal thinking shortly before their death. This is what is commonly referred to as “return to light”.

According to the current neurological concept, as the brain function of Alzheimer’s patients gets worse and worse, their thinking performance should be that their memory and various thoughts and feelings are becoming more and more lost, and there is even no human thinking at all.

However, the actual situation is just the opposite. The whole state of mind of Alzheimer’s patients may suddenly become intact like a spark burst.

“Psychological Vision” of the Blind

In fact, there is also a phenomenon of “mindsight” or “mind intuition” which also illustrates the independence of thinking. “Psychovision” refers to the sight of a blind person who reports during a near-death experience.

Kenneth Ring of the University of Connecticut found that among 21 blind cases who reported near-death experiences, 15 blind people described seeing the scene and had vision.

Dr. Batthyany pointed out that some scientists believe that near-death experiences are hallucinations produced by human neurophysiological processes. However, “in this study, the results of near-death experience, rebirth, and psycho-visual phenomena suggest that patients experience near-death experiences when their condition deteriorates, die, or have no neurological activity, and it is common.”

Therefore, Dr. Batthyany concluded that even when the brain function changes or even the electrical activity of the brain stops (the EEG is flat), there is still a clear sense of self, complex visual images, and clear mental activities. And other thinking phenomena.

Even though back-lighting and psychological vision are very rare phenomena, the countless examples of near-death experiences are enough to illustrate the problem.

Dr. Batthyany wrote:

“Our research results show that the visual scene, mental state and self-awareness that people continue to appear in the near-death experience are a rule rather than an exception.”

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Metaphysics & Psychology

What people see after clinical death: Stories from survivors that they would rather forget

What people see after clinical death: Stories from survivors that they would rather forget 88

Humanity still does not know much about death. Of course, it’s easy to write it off as “nothingness,” but what if in reality everything is a little more complicated? In the selection below – ten creepy stories “from the other world” from people who survived clinical death.

Recently, the user Aidanmartin3 asked near-death survivors on Reddit to describe what it was like. The post quickly went viral, with hundreds of people sharing their stories in the comments.

I was about fifteen years old. Climbed onto the kitchen counter to grab something from the top cabinet, but slipped and fell headlong onto the marble floor. The next thing I remember is walking barefoot on water. Then I look to the right, I see a very bright light and a hand, as if calling me. I go to her and suddenly realize how peaceful and relaxed I am. Like the best deep sleep ever. Then I said to myself: “Dude, this is so cool, I would never wake up.” And then all of a sudden everything disappears, and I wake up because of my mother, who is crying over me.By that time, I was already numb, cold, pulseless and even managed to urinate in my pants. As an atheist who does not believe in all this, I often think about that case.

Cule4444

My father died for a short while and then said that at that time he was walking along a long corridor to the door. But when he was about to open it, his father felt himself being “sucked” into his own body

Whiskeynostalgic
What people see after clinical death: Stories from survivors that they would rather forget 89

GIF © Giphy

He died of an overdose for several minutes.In reality, there was nothing. It’s just darkness and an incomprehensible period of time. It was almost like waking up after hanging out all night and feeling like a horse kicked in the chest.

Th30xygen

It seemed to me that I was kind of floating in a long tunnel and I felt very tired. I remember how I fell asleep then and had a dream that I was in the kitchen of my childhood home, and dad was preparing breakfast. I heard turmoil and chaos at one end, and at the other, there was a warm light that seemed soothing. But then all of a sudden I ended up in the chaos of the emergency room.

Free_Hat_McCullough

The story of my ex-girlfriend’s mom. Her heart stopped for 28 minutes. The doctors had already told the family that she had left, and even brought in a priest to bless the room. But in the end she returned. She said that she recalls running around the field with a little girl, who, according to the woman, was her niece, in the dress in which she was buried.

CastingPouch
What people see after clinical death: Stories from survivors that they would rather forget 90

GIF © Giphy

I heard a loud, high-pitched noise telling me that I am still too young to die. Then he got even higher, and I saw a bright light and woke up. The ambulance driver was shining a flashlight in my eyes

Workerhard62

Anaphylactic reaction to the deadly sting of the Irukandji jellyfish. I saw this white glow and how I soared up, then my family and the doctors and nurses who were saving me. Came back and felt a lot of pain

Georgestarr

It felt as if my body was being filmed on a CCTV camera from a third person. Then the camera gradually moved away and rose. I became very cold and began to hear loud clanking sounds. Woke up in an ambulance to the sound of a gurney bouncing on a rough road. It was so surreal. Since then I have not been afraid of death, to be honest. It was almost six years ago, but I still think about that case several times a month.

Hemptations
What people see after clinical death: Stories from survivors that they would rather forget 91

GIF © Giphy

I was hit by a car. I could see everything, blood had not yet got into my eyes. I heard all the commotion. I felt myself being pushed in the back, and then doing artificial respiration … After that I felt only the first beats of the heart and how the blood flowed through my body. The pain began to build up with renewed vigor, and then everything went black

Outsider531

I was pronounced dead three times. But “after death” I have never seen anything. At least i don’t remember

Amihuman159

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Psilocybin mushrooms sprout in the blood of an ‘experimental’ patient

Psilocybin mushrooms sprout in the blood of an 'experimental' patient 92
Image: Giphy.com

US doctors described the story of a man who tried to relieve depression with psilocybin mushrooms in an unconventional way. He injected an intravenous infusion of mushrooms, causing the mushrooms to continue to multiply in his blood and cause multiple organ failure. The case was reported in the Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.

Many drugs that people traditionally use as psychedelics are increasingly becoming the focus of medical attention. Some of them have already been repurposed and started clinical trials: for example, micro-doses of LSD have proven to be at least safe in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, and psilocybin has helped patients with  migraines and  depression. Often in such experiments we are talking about microdosing – that is, the mass of the substance is not enough for a psychoactive effect.

The story of an American who decided to experiment on his own was described by doctors led by Curtis McKnight of Creighton University School of Medicine. According to relatives, the 30-year-old American suffered from bipolar disorder, but shortly before the incident stopped taking his prescribed medications and suffered from alternating states of mania and depression.

When he stumbled upon research on the potential benefits of psychedelics, he boiled psilocybin mushrooms and injected the filtered solution into his vein. A few days after this experiment, relatives found him in a lethargic state with jaundice, diarrhea and bloody vomiting and took him to the hospital.

Doctors discovered the patient had a problem with multiple organs at once: acute renal failure, liver damage, tachycardia, and low blood saturation and ionic imbalance. He was prescribed droppers to normalize the composition of the blood, vasoconstrictors to raise blood pressure, antibiotics and antifungal drugs. Despite this, he developed septic shock and DIC (excessive blood clotting) and needed plasmapheresis. Only eight days later he was discharged from the intensive care unit, and at the time of publication of the article he had already been in the hospital for 22 days.

In the patient’s blood tests, in addition to the Brevibacillus bacteria , there were also Psilocybe cubensis fungi  – the same ones from which he injected himself intravenously. Apparently, due to insufficient filtration of the solution, the fungi entered the bloodstream and multiplied there, causing intoxication and multiple organ failure.

Psilocybin mushrooms sprout in the blood of an 'experimental' patient 93

The authors of the work note that this is not the first such case – at least in the 80s of the 20th century, doctors already described a patient with similar symptoms after an intravenous injection. Therefore, McKnight and coauthors warn their colleagues: since psychedelics are increasingly used as a medicine (at the end of 2020, they began to legalize it in the United States), it is important to remind patients of the inadmissibility of self-therapy. Intravenous administration can be dangerous – doctors still do not know if it has the same psychoactive effect as the classical methods of administration.

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