There are few occasions as charged with secrecy as the Sadean ceremonies orchestrated by 85-year-old dominatrix Catherine Robbe-Grillet. From her Normandy château, she directs her disciples in complex interplays of sexual power; rituals designed to liberate one’s most transgressive fantasies from the confines of the imagination and make them real. The widow of esteemed writer and filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet, there is something determinedly artistic about Catherine’s own practice: it exists outside financial exchange (she feels payment would refigure the power dynamic) and her most extreme theatrics are available to only a few acolytes. Hers is a vocation, not a profession.
“I think that the aesthetic of these ceremonies has something very cultural, very sophisticated about it,” explains renowned illustrateur sonore Frédéric Sanchez, who has designed this issue’s soundtrack in homage to these erotic occasions, inspired by Lina Mannheimer’s documentary on Catherine Robbe-Grillet’s life, The Ceremony. “To look so deeply inside yourself, inside your fantasies, is something I find very interesting. There’s something artistic about it, in a way. Something pure.”
This sadomasochistic aesthetic – of almost overwrought intensity and the complete sacrifice of power – is reflected throughout Sanchez’s selection of tracks. “It is not a sensitive sentiment,” he says. “It is over the top, but there is something poetic within it.” Opening with the fragments of the Divine Liturgy that are incorporated within Jocelyn Pook’s Masked Ball, we are invited into a sacred world of almost spiritual purity, taken through the furious aggression of Mayhem’s black metal and into the orgasmic intensity of KTL before the relief of Elysian Fields. It is a journey that mirrors the frenzied passions of the ceremonies themselves; a narrative exploration of human desire and devotion.
1. MASKED BALL (1999 Extended Mix), by Jocelyn Pook, from Flood
2. ARRIVAL OF THE TRAINER, by Stephen O’Malley, from Eternelle Idole
3. OPENING SCENE: “MEGÉRKEZTÜNK”, by Béla Bartók, from Bluebeard’s Castle
4. ILLUMINATE ELIMINATE, by Mayhem, from Ordo Ad Chao
5. THE CENTRE OF YOUR HEART, by Swans, from Children of God/World of Skin
6. QUIERO IRME, by Mecanica Popular, from ¿Qué Sucede Con El Tiempo?
7. AENIGMA MESSIAH, by Violet Poison, from Aenigma Messiah
8. SWEET SURPRISE, by Chris ‘n’ Cosey, from Sweet Surprise
9. SILVER SAND AND BOXES OF MOULD, by Helena Hauff, from Discreet Desires
10. LE VALSE DE MARIENBAD, by Francis Seyrig, from L’Année Dernière à Marienbad
11. WICKED WAY, by KTL, from KTL IV
12. LA SVEGLIA, by Alessandro Cortini, from Risveglio
13. LES ODALISQUES, by Tuxedomoon, from The Ghost Sonata
14. MVT IV: ADRIFT, by Bérangère Maximin, from Infinitesimal
15. LES AMOURS PERDUES, by Elysian Fields, from Sombre
A version of this article appears in the S/S16 edition of AnOther Magazine.