Artefact 3 | Introduction to Phallic Tenderness
The Winged Phallus by James Walker
The third artefact in the Memory Theatre is Phallic Tenderness. Rather than being simply a representation of a body part, the phallus had deeper philosophical connotations for Lawrence.
Stephen Alexander is a London-based writer and philosopher who deploys a playful mode of writing that Nietzschians recognise as die fröhliche Wissenschaft. He has suggested that the memory theatre must reference Lawrence’s libidinal materialism in some shape or form and believes the best way to do this is via the phallus.
Although Lawrence wrote about his erection in the amusing poem ‘Virgin Youth,’ and, for many, will always be the author of that banned book, it is a gross simplification to label him as ‘smutty’. Just because he occasionally admires his penis, doesn’t mean that he would enjoy Pornhub. As always with Lawrence, things are more complex.
For Lawrence, the phallus is more than a body part. It is also, as Stephen Alexander explains, ‘primarily a sacred symbol of relatedness which forms a bridge between bodies and to the future’. It is a ‘central organising element of the world and its meaning’ and is tied up with Lawrence’s philosophy of blood-knowledge – that thinking should take place in the body and not the mind.
When he took up art in his latter years, he enjoyed painting naked bodies. The inclusion of the phallus was to ‘shock people’s castrated social spirituality’. And boy did it shock. His exhibition at the Warren Gallery in 1929 was raided by the police and 13 of his paintings were placed in a cell, facing the wall…
Stephen Alexander had suggested we erect a ‘large phallus tied with pink ribbons and decorated with hearts and flowers to symbolise Lawrence’s concept of phallic tenderness as developed in his late writings’ and that this ‘could be stone or carved in wood; could even be made of gold or glass’.
This is something we will create when the memory theatre begins its physical journey, but while it bathes temporarily in a digital format, we have opted instead to present the phallus as 12 fragments that piece together core aspects of his life philosophy.