With the first jonquils last spring, a messenger flanked by a drawing portfolio showed up at my gate. A rather rock-and-roll avatar of the ancient errand-boy Hermes, the lad was a fine example of a Yonne yokel perverted by the capital. He made me think of young Edmond, the hero of Restif de La Bretonne. I had met him several times in the entourage of the photographer Hans Gissinger and had noticed his signature under some non-conformist articles in an art magazine. These references were enough to open the door and wine-cellar to him, the moreso as he came precisely with a dispatch from Hans Gissinger.
The portfolio contained sixty photographs of Italian salamis, for which the artist suggested I write a text.
The proposition seemed too daft for me to pay any attention to it. But, as in Virgil, Dis aliter visum.1 Of all the rascals that populate Olympus, Mercury is the most knavish. With his sweet mug, his winged helmet, his firm calfs and agile feet, he has always personified cleverness and cunning. Since Mr. Gissinger’s errand-boy was as savvy as the swift-footed god and displayed the same bodywork, fittings, attributes and talents, he didn’t have much trouble persuading me to lend my pen to this eccentric project. After a few bottles of Chablis, a poulard with truffles, and a sort of siesta, "the thing was in the bag," as the Prévert brothers used to say.
Over-saturated nights often play funny tricks. Between midnight and dawn, mad fancy gives you wings, the cod pokes at the codpiece, you cross all sorts of Rubicons, and carry off all the prizes. Towards two in the morning, I took myself for the new Barthes of the Mythology of the sausage. At three, I explained to the little Praxiteles that Gissinger’s models were totems similar to the enigmatic menhirs of the dancing Giants turned into pillars by Merlin the Enchanter. I was going to chaperone a procession of salamis as art critic, enthnographer, sociologist, theologian, gastrosophist, pornographer, psychoanalyst, and other headings on the shelves of the Grand Ballyhoo.
Waking up with such an exotic hangover that my tongue felt like it was pickled in Martinican rum, I remembered almost nothing. It was the typical B-grade story of a type who gets soused in a bar and finds himself in the sack the next morning with an unknown woman who swears he promised to marry her. I surfaced in front of sixty portraits of sausages for which I had apparently promised a text.
That was the genesis of the salmagundi, or rather salamigundi, that follows.Hans Gissinger is a secretive man hiding out in a Thebaid in the Catskill Mountains. A native of Switzerland, he dragged his formidable Alemannic accent up the hill of Vézelay before settling in New York, where he made it big. Today he leads the life of a psychorigid anchorite among bears, huge wildcats, porcupines, rattlesnakes, and possums. I spent a few days in his parts last March in an attempt to tame him. What haunts the dreams of this wild, modest, and very complex artist? On the margin of his jobs in fashion and advertising, I discovered a strange body of work, a rather disturbing universe of black and white, peopled by bruised flesh, deceased meat, macabre delirium, art-brut sexuality, in which food takes a dominant and morbid place a hundred leagues from what’s known as gastronomy.
The parade of salamis reveals yet another face of this elusive and protean creator: humor, mystification, a journey to Absurdia.
Gissinger set himself up in a photography studio in Milan and, on the advice of a specialist, went around in a taxi visiting all the salumerias in the city and its environs. The disembarking of this sausage-maker’s squadron spread the greatest agitation among the organdy and chiffon frou-frous of the herd of models posing in the same studio. Sossingers dangling from strings alongside the hangers of the great couturiers! Meaty effluvia blending with patchouli!
The adventure began in Italy as a commedia dell’arte farce. Invited to mount the boards of Punchinello, I have improvised as this funambulatory genre demands. Here is my Harlequin’s coat.
Gérard Oberlé is well known by the amateurs of ancient books for the catalogs bibliographical imcomparable, dedicated to subjects as varied as the crime novel, the neo-Latin poetry or the gastronomy. Novelist also, he has creates the person of Claude Chassignet, scholar, gourmet who during two books resolve judicial enigma with the tone of black novel or of the story of journey.
By the same author
Les Poètes néo-latins en Europe du XIe au XXe siècle "Neo-Latin Poets in Europe from the Eleventh to the Twentieth Century". Bibliographie/Bibliography. Pron, 1988.
Louise Michel. Légendes et chants de gestes canaques
"Louise Michel. Kanaka Legends and Heroic Songs".
Éditions 1900, 1988.
Les Fastes de Bacchus et de Comus ou Histoire du boire et du manger en Europe, de l’Antiquité à nos jours à travers les livres ("The Annals of Bacchus and Comus, or The History of Drinking and Eating in Europe, from Antiquity to Our Time Through Books"). Belfond, 1989.
Une bibliothèque bacchique ("A Bacchic Library"), Loudmer, 1993.
Auguste Poulet-Malassis. Un imprimeur sur le Parnasse ("Auguste Poulet-Malassis. A Printer on Parnassus"). Pron, 1996.
Nil rouge ("The Red Nile"). Roman/ Novel. Le Cherche midi, 1999; Gallimard Folio, 2000.
Pera Palas. Roman/Novel. Le Cherche midi, 2000.
Ramages et plumage, une petite correspondance ornithophagique avec Jim Harrison ("Chatter and Feathers, a Little Ornithophagic Correspondence with Jim Harrison"). Pron, 2001.
Book “Salami” published in 2001 by Woodstock Editions, USA, 500 signed copies printed
- Grand Theatre: Le Manguer du XXIeme Siecle
- Nov 20-22, 2002 Dijon France