de profundis, part one



douglas cohen

de profundis, part one (1996)

This is the score to the first part of Lawrence F. Brose’s experimental film De Profundis, which uses Oscar Wilde’s fall from grace as described in his prison letter of the same name to investigate the historical implications of sexuality, gender construction, and language. Brose’s film has two more parts. The score to the second part was composed by Frederic Rzewski and the third part by George Brunner.

For de profundis, part one, I worked with aphorisms extracted from several of Wilde’s plays as read by Agnes de Garron.

Aphorisms from the writings of Oscar Wilde as used in de profundis, part one

  1. The only advantage of playing with fire is that one never gets even singed. It is the people who don't know how to play with it who get burned up.
  2. We are punished for our refusals... The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification… The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick.
  3. I would sooner have fifty unnatural vices than one unnatural virtue.
  4. Ah! It is so easy to convert others, that is why they think us dangerous.
  5. The first duty in life is to assume a pose, what the second is no one yet has found out.
  6. There is no such thing as a good influence. All influence is immoral.
  7. There are as many perfections as there are imperfect men. And to the claims of conformity no man may yield and remain free at all.
  8. If art is a mirror, we look in it to see a mask.
  9. Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know.
  10. Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.
  11. No crime is vulgar, but all vulgarity is crime. Vulgarity is the conduct of others.
  12. When you’re alone with him does he take off his face and reveal his mask?
  13. What paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion.
  14. Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act. Art that the world calls immoral is art that shows the world its own shame.
  15. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
  16. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it
  17. I saw then at once that what was said of a man is nothing, the point is, who says it.
  18. Laws are made in order that people in authority may not remember them.
  19. The duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.