Unsatisfied Desire and the untrustworthy Language of Art

Some people die of their own passion.
Some by the passion of others.
And some simply die of illness
or another natural cause.
I am against it.

Art is not a mirror. Art is a translation
of that which you do not know, but of
which you want to convince others or
rather, that which no-one knows, but
by which everyone can be seduced into
believing that although ‘it’ is bad, ‘it’ is
good: it’s good not to have what you
desire most.

I’ll continue to cry for the doomed:
innocent brushstrokes, painterly
trances, the exotic other, ‘love-fictions’.
To lip read and name the silence,
to use the dream that torture will stop
when the prisoner talks.


Unsatisfied Desire and the untrustworthy Language of Art was originally published in Private Symbol, Social Metaphor (cat.), 5th Sydney Biennale and Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1984; and is included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, first edition Galerie Paul Andriesse and De Balie Publishers Amsterdam, 1998; and second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.