The game of following the twists and turns of my attention is a personal delight, though perhaps following my Narrative of discoveries and divagations is not an activity that many would find amusing or useful … so this is self-indulgent and primarily for me, to try to capture the daily process. And why not blog it, just in case it might edify or inspire, and so I can find the bits and pieces again myself.
Today’s hypnopompic prompt [waking thought] was centered on the notion of the alter ego (the term said to have been coined by Cicero [‘second self; a trusted friend’]), perhaps touched off by recent explorations of surrealism, and an offshoot of 3 weeks of exploring dreams and dreaming, but a phenomenon of considerable long-running personal interest.
The centerpiece of the moment is Max Ernst, whom I knew had adopted an alter ego, whom he called Loplop, and represented as “Father Superior of the Birds” (the Wikipedia article is a good starting place)
Loplop first appeared in Ernst’s collage novels La Femme 100 Têtes and Une Semaine de Bonté in the role of a narrator and commentator, followed by a number of works into the mid 1930s, forming an informal series of collages, paintings, and mixed media works.
Loplop’s image was not a fixed character, but highly variable in appearance and seldom depicted in the same way twice. Typically (but not always), Loplop had the head of a bird, which could be highly abstracted, often a bird with a crest, comb, or wattle. The body was a square or rectangular space (a canvas, frame, easel, or wall), with the arms and legs being zoomorphic or geometric abstraction in form. Within the “body”, an image, a piece of Max Ernst’s art is presented (a collage, frottage, painting, etc.) which could be equal to, or function independently from the rest of the work.
I first encountered Max Ernst as the subject of a photograph by Frederick Sommer, seen ca. 1964 in Aperture, long before ‘surrealism’ became a subject for my detailed exploration.
(and see fredericksommer.org for how the image was constructed)
Quite a few of Sommer’s photographs were enigmatic and weird enough to draw my attention 60 years ago, as an aspiring photographer on the ragged edges of the conventional, and the Max Ernst photograph seemed at first pretty transgressive of my notions of ‘normal’ portrait images.
So Max Ernst: here’s some of what I collected today, and am working over
Beginning in the early 1930s, Loplop, or “the Bird Superior,” became one of Ernst’s favorite alter egos. Here his beak-like profile peers over the top of a large rectangular field, which resembles a canvas on an easel or a sandwich board, held up by a concealed body with two stubby feet. In place of a painting or commercial slogans or graphics, Ernst substituted carefully cutout photographs of members of the Surrealist group. His own face appears just slightly above and to the left of center, right next to Salvador Dalí. Such pictures of collective or group activity are a persistent theme in Surrealism.
(fromGallery label from Max Ernst: Beyond Painting, September 23, 2017-January 1, 2018)
Max Ernst and Birds (Daily Art Magazine)
Max Ernst: a retrospective pdf from archive.org/details/maxer00erns
Summary of Max Ernst “Inspiration to Order” Mike Busby
A Week of Kindness: Exploring Max Ernst’s Surrealist Visual Novel Une Semaine de Bonté
…and I have La Femme 100 Têtes and Une Semaine de Bonté on order…
But what about the alter ego that I began with today? My fascination with such beings is based in my very own engagement with alter egos, the ‘Pogo’ that has followed me since 1953, and the ‘oook’ that joined the parade in the early 1990s (via Terry Pratchett’s Librarian). It’s not so much that either of those is me, as that I have identified with aspects of the characters for 70-odd and 30-odd years. It doesn’t seem to me that many of my acquaintances have similar relationships, and I’m curious about that. There are plenty of examples in literature (even Superman and Batman, whom I abhor…). And now with AI, anybody can have the wherewithal to design avatars and turn them loose in cyberspace … and of course there’s a TV series (Thanks, Fox…) Alter Ego, Avatars and Their Creators and ‘Legitimately nightmarish’: is Alter Ego the worst TV show of 2021? (Guardian). And there’s the 2009 film Avatar , which has spawned a franchise…
A long way from the playfulness of Max Ernst’s Loplop.
“Avatar” comes from the Sanskrit word avat&amacron;ra meaning ‘descent’. Within Hinduism, it means a manifestation of a deity in bodily form on earth, such as a divine teacher. For those of us who don’t practice Hinduism, it technically means “an incarnation, embodiment, or manifestation of a person or idea”. But in the West, because we mostly encounter avatars in the digital space, we generally define them as the little cartoon person you choose to represent yourself in video games, on social media, or in web forums.
And in the Metaverse?
Avatars are a digital expression of you, letting you freely express your identity, personality and appearance. Avatars are available across all first-party Meta experiences, including those in VR.