Monday, December 22, 2008

Behold, Szukalski

Zermatism is a science that came about for which a great need has been widely felt, developped by Stanislav Szukalski (1893-1987), a gifted Polish artist and immigrant to the United States, written down in a 39-volume lifework from which only relatively scarce excerpts have been published so far.

Zermatism maintains that

1. All human culture derives from post-deluge Easter Island;

2. All languages derives from one single source called the Protong (Polish being the one tongue closest to the original);

3. All art can be distilled down to a series of universal symbols;

4. The differences in races and cultures are due to the cross breeding of species. The first humans were nearly perfect but they mated with Himalayan Yeti with abominable results.

5. Mankind is locked in an eternal struggle with those "Yetinsyny"', offspring of Yeti and humans, who had enslaved humanity from time immemorial.

Szukalski used his considerable artistic talents to illustrate his theories, which, despite their lack of any scientific merit whatsoever, have gained a cult following based largely on their aesthetic value - an irony likely to have infuriated him.

Photobucket"I put Rodin in one pocket, Michelangelo in the other, and walk towards the sun"

Stanislaw Szukalski

Szukalski had an incredible talent for art. (Pic001) The story goes, when he was only six years old, he had carved a tiny but near-perfect figure on a pencil. The local newspaper duly did an article on the young art prodigy. He then went on to the Fine Arts Academy in Krakow, where he studied art and won two gold medals.

Szukalski emigrated to Chicago in 1913 in his teens, where he joined the art scene. (Pic002) Apparently he picked up English by reading National Geographical magazines. Very soon he was hailed as an art genius and became a member of the Chicago renaissance group along with Carl Sandburg, Clarence Darrow and Ben Hecht. According to the latter, "Szukalski was a starving artist, muscular, aristocratic and disdainful of lesser beings than himself". By the time he reached 30 there was already a major monograph published about his work. In 1929 he founded the artistic movement 'Szczep Rogate Serce' for artists inspired by the Slavic Pagan history of Poland.

On the great Librarything (thanks, Bogus yet again for this resource) site I discovered two early books of his works, published before WW2:

The work of Szukalski , a limited edition published by Covici-McGee in Chicago in 1923, which is worth a fortune nowadays on AddAll, and Projects in design - sculpture and architecture, with Roger A. Crane published by the University of Chicago in 1929, also very valuable today.


In 1934 he returned to Poland and the government who considered him a national hero built the Szukalski National Museum to house his works. In 1939, the Nazi Siege of Warsaw resulted in the destruction of the museum and his life's work - which in one way seems a bit odd given his eerie adoration of some sort of Uebermensch.

"Szukalski's own fairly extreme and outlandish theories on art, history and culture were sometimes not so far removed from the more wigged-out sci-fi elements of Mein Kampf - believing as he did that Anglo-Saxon politicians, fascist Germans and communist Russians (amongst others) were direct descendents of human/ape interbreeding." [001]


After the war Szukalski moved to Southern California where he went to live with his American wife, and languished in obscurity, supporting himself by drawing maps for an aerospace company. In secret, he kept working on his lifework, diligently recreating and improving what was destroyed by the nazis, shut away from the avant-garde which he considered as a waste of time. He drew over 40,000 illustrations to accompany his research.

In 1971, Glen Bray, a publisher previously specialized in the work of artist Basil Wolverton, befriended him and later published 2 books:

One book on Szukalski's art,"Troughfull of Pearls - Behold, the Protong" (1980, 1989, 1998, 2001)


And another one on his art and philosophy, "Inner Portraits" (1982).

Szukalski's works are on permanent display at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago, as well as at the (rebuilt) Polish National Museum in Warsaw. Szukalski died in relative obscurity in 1987 at 94 years old, having spent much of his life relentlessly in producing art to help prove his hypothesis of Zermatism. A group of his admirers (Rick Griffin and Robert Williams amongst them) spread his ashes on Easter Island, in the sculptor's quarry of Rano Raraku. All of Szukalski's work is now being preserved by Archives Szukalski.

I first came into contact with Szukalki's wild art and ideas, like many others, through Robert Crumb's first issue of Weirdo.[002]

Blogwise, I found this excellent review "Szukalski's Science of Zermatism" (with excerpts and 8 pics) of the Protong book on Unurthed Blog , a place well worth checking out! On the same blog "Szukalski and the Eyes of Inspiration" (illustration and excerpts from the book Struggle) and "Szukalski on Thinking" (from the book Inner Thinking).

Then there's this good genaral article on the Whet your imagination Blog, with lots of illustrations.

The Szukalski site houses a beautiful gallery. The site sells four Szukalski books (some of them also accessible on Last Gasp):

"Struggle: The art of Szukalski", 200 pages, the catalogue for his show at Laguna Art Museum.

"Szukalski: song of the mute singer", 36 pages, one chapter of his autobiography and writings by Rick Griffin, Robert Williams a.o.

"World remade", 64 pages,some of his earliest work (forties) on Zermatism; this seems to be vol. 2. but it might refer to the limited edition

"The Lost Tune", 120 pages, a beautiful book of photographs by the artist, of many sculptures that are now lost, and an excerpt of his memoirs; out of print and luckily for me, the one book on Szukalski in my library.

2000 saw the limited edition of the spiralbound "The World remade" published by Archives Szukalski.

The Archives Szukalski may have previously published a paperback of 28 pages named "Bronzes of Szukalski" in 1989 (referred to on Librarything).

Then there's Jim Woodring's short but seminal biography "The neglected genius of Stanislav Szukalski", published in the 1988 edition of the Whole Earth Review.

Two excerpts:

"Szukalski's philosophical edifice was preposterous. (…) He also believed that heat causes gravity and that all modern languages derive from Polish. (…) He was almost certainly wrong about a lot of things; but as anyone who spent any time with him can tell you, he wasn't crazy."

"A few years back it was arranged for him to give a public address and slide show at a rented hall. About seventy people showed up. Szukalski was ecstatic. He loved to hold forth and he felt affectionate toward his every audience. He mounted the podium and within four minutes had alienated or offended everyone in the place. In his opening remarks he praised Reagan to the heavens and dumped all over Picasso (he pronounced it "Pick-ass-oh"; he denigrated art collectors, Russians, FDR, California, America and professional sports, and wound up with a stern denunciation of "homos." Audience members glowered and muttered harsh replies into their lapels but when the lecture was over he received a thunderous and prolonged ovation. They had come to realize that Szukalski was not a man to be judged by conventional criteria; they had applauded him as an outstanding member of their species. "

You might do worse than try to find Robert William's flabbergastric magazine Juxtapoz, the sold out issue 10 from 1997… (which I have lying around somewhere)

While you're at it, you can order issue 59 from 2005 with an article about the Archives Szukalski.

Now I tried to find out more online, especially concerning his theories on Zermatism appealed to my 'pataphysical bias. Nothing on Torrent, nothing on Scribd. Thanks random chance for the Wayback machine! I took the Tardis and discovered two erased sites with just what I was looking for.

From the"Open letter to the providential man his holiness the pope John Paul II" from Stanislaw Szukalski (sculptor, heretic, patriot):

Now, stacked upon the sagging shelves, are 39 volumes, for which I made over 11,000 pen drawings-under a magnifying glass-that these "witnesses" may testify to the correctness of my scientific claims, which are based on some of the most astounding discoveries man has ever achieved. Furthermore, I have contributed six new sciences to anthropology which have given me the keys to undreamed of revelations and pushed apart the curtains of impenetrability to enter the blackness of prehistory further than any contemporary science could ever have fathomed.

Now! Your Holiness and the reading world must hold firmly onto their seats, or they may lose the earth from under their feet on hearing what I will proclaim. All ancient languages and primitive dialects on this planet, be they Sumero-Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Hindi, Iranian, Mongolian, Chinese or Japanese, Korean, Maori, Inca, Maya, Zuni, Navaho, Eskimo or Lappish, Basque, German, Latin, Greek, to mention a few, or even Pygmy dialects, ALL!, ALL!, are not just "foreign" languages, totally unrelated, but mere deviations of my Protong, or archaic Polish Macimowa.

At which point old Carol was probably clutching hysterically to his Holy seat trying not to fall off, since not only did the writer discover the Ur-tongue, but also

It was Protong which mutated Manape into Human, and modern Polish is the key to all languages of Mankind."

Some parts of the text seem frightingly sane (but only if you assume sanity and madness are sharp-edged labels):

'Names' are composite sounds with which we have only some recent association, as we think of gambling while pronouncing the name of Monaco, of deception and death while saying the name of Moskva, or presently of JOHN PAUL II while prayingly whispering the name of Roma.

Then follows an overview of the origins of some great cities.

Babylon: "Baby Lon" shows that this first community was dedicated to the "Old Woman's Womb", which was actually the personification of Easter Island (anciently called Mataweri, which means "Mother of Worship", i.e. of the Sunrise).

Londin: the Alfredian Epoch name of what is now London. "Lon Din" means "Womb of Day", which has the same connotation as the foregoing example: dedication to the Mother of Sunrise, Easter Island.

The image of Sheila-na-gig, one of the many archaic British representations of her.

One of the new sciences I have contrived in my American premature grave and the Cultural Siberia of America (Southern California) is "THE ANTHROPOLITICAL MOTIVATIONS" in the History of Man. Together, the 39 volumes of scientific work are coyly-pompously entitled "I CLAIM THE WORLD!" They go under this generic heading to poke fun at the ghoulish conquerors of the world of all times who, after exterminating the human race they so despised, after spilling rivers of blood of the Glorious (Slav) Civilizers of the natural world, and amassing empires to give then manape puniness the stolen name "Slav", always lost everything again because they were only semihumans from whose bodies the proverbial whitewash irrevocably peeled.

I have a few thousand drawings of all the revolutionaries who destroyed human sociery: Danton's, Robespierre's, Himmler's, Jagoda's; of the dwarves like the mongolian Charles the Great, Catharine the Great, Frederick the Great, Victoria the Great, whose titles implied colossalness, while in truth they were pot-bellied, avaricious, wart-nosed, short-armed, short-legged and neckless semi-humans, devoid of the human traits of gentiliry, morality, honor, compassion.

Criminality is not a human trait, but a trait of those who carry the subhuman heritage. The legal pardoning of killers by American Jurisprudence is therefore a miscarriage of justice. When lawyers "prove" a state of "temporary insanity", it is not insanity they see, but Yetinsynism, the Manape heritage, whose recipient will never cease being a killer.

Sto Lat! Sto Lat! to your Papacy, Father Wojtyla! You evoke Universal Love, without reservations, so that people forget their religious fences. Smile once more-and bless OUR NEUROPA!

The site doesn't mention the pope's reply.

Then there's the long article "Anthropolitical Motivations":

A gorilla, though it is the largest of the apes and terrifyingly powerful so that it needs no pretending extensions of its ferocity, has an ever ready growl on its face and a permanent frown, so to frighten all smaller creatures. This reveals intrinsic cowardice. So, many governments, when frightened by the military superiority of a prospective victim nation, abuse that nation with the foulest invectives, because basically they are cowards.

Despite Darwin's assurance that the two species of ape and human do not produce offspring, I will show you some examples to the contrary. In an old medical book I found this photograph of an oddly proportioned dwarf. His arms were so short that they barely reached to his pelvic bone at the base of his long torso. Therefore, he could not walk upright, because our arms have to counter-swing with the opposite legs in order to keep our balance while walking.

When I first came to the U.S.A., living with my parents in Chicago, I would always see the white horse of the cart that delivered goods to a bakery store, stand with its forelegs on the sidewalk. I soon solved the riddle. When it was trotting in the streets, I saw that its forelegs were much shorter than the hind ones, so that these would have to carry a greater share of the body weight than if they had been much longer.

Thus, this little man who inherited the human, short arms doubly exaggerated, discovered that if he held wooden blocks in his hands, he would make his arms longer and shift some of his weight onto his legs so his arms would get tired less quickly. On the side I made the face of this pseudoHuman in greater detail, that you may recognize the similarity to dozens of famous politicians who always serve some Ideology that, on succeeding, will metamorphose into another Tyranny.

Two comparative drawings for you to see Khrushchev's build. On the first you see a black line where his arm would have been were he not a Yetinsyn. Though he was a Ukrainian, he was a descendant of the Manape, therefore born to be a traitor to his own people. The too-loose pants the Russians used to wear when they came to get what they wanted from the gullible Anglomericans, were to disguise the odd angles of the always bent legs (do not, however, immediately think of the Russian ballet dancers, who have perfectly proportionate legs).

Then compare the two chummy ' 'tovarish-che" (comrades): the weak, will-less Castro who was shoved forward as a dictator by his brother Che, and the just-dealt-with Yetinsyn. Note that the representative of the Soviets towers over the wishy-washy intellectual from New York: But look where their waistlines are. Khrushchev's is just below Castro's chest, the Russian is standing on his left, straightened leg while he is sitting, while Castro, also sitting, has his legs doubled up. The pot-bellied Nikita is not cheating you in order to convice you that he is taller than the "Latino", he simply cannot sit any other way and look his size, because his Yetinsyn torso is one-third longer than Castro's.

Then there's a true gem, "Inner portrait of a man", the most elaborate site featuring lots of original texts from the master. Sadly all the links to the images are broken… but I found a way to download some of them anyway.

Because he was afflicted with epilepsy, he had difficulty finding someone who would share his room and rent. So I invited him, primarily because I was so eager to study convulsions. Soon, at night, when there were no lights to be switched on, I would hear him moan, while his head would pound the hard bed. I would walk across the room in the dark and, crawling onto his bed, hold his arms down and kneel on his thighs and hold him immobile till the attack had passed, that he would not scratch my eyes out.

That winter I greatly suffered from the Chicago cold. One morning I found my newly begun sculpture, an over lifesize bust of a warrior in a helmet amidst swirling flags, literally frozen to pieces. The clay so froze that the water in it gathered in crackled geometrics, separating each small fragment as if by glass. Parts of the sculpture fell to the floor. Since I work very rapidly, having no use for models and therefore knowing in advance what is to be done, the Warrior was well progressed in expression, if not in form. I rushed out and brought back a sack of plaster. Immediately I covered the frozen clay with a plaster cast before the ice began to melt from the daylight's warmth. Thus the sculpture was saved, though I was never thoroughly satisfied with it, since it is the very last days, the very last minutes of finishing touches, that make the difference between a good and a bad work of Art.

The lips are typically American. Nowhere will you see a mouth so thin as on older Americans. Even Italians, Poles, living in this marvelous Civilization as Americanized foreigners, have something happen to their mouths. Their lips completely alter so that, when closed, the mouth looks like a mousetrap that just caught a mouse and either has to free it, or will be obliged to swallow it. Apart from this, they get folds in their cheeks on each side of the mousetrap. When I first came to America as a twelve year old, I noticed these traits on the face of my beautiful teacher. She had these sharp wrinkles an inch away from the corners of her mouth. Even then I could not make up my mind if it was the pronunciation of English words causing this, or the tensions of daily life in this Civilization.

Just another careful silly notion that gave me an excuse to do my best. Get in the habit to work with utmost concentration, and you will be the best. We scream piercingly when born, yet may become dumb mutes from never making an effort to communicate. It is the effort that gives us the vertical posture and creative thinking. Crawl on your knees in an effort to walk your own paths and you will become a thinking person who will be able to bring original values, never perceived before, for within each one of us there is a separate universe of yet uncreated Gifts.

This dear lady, the German-American wife of an American Pole was anemic, hence prevalently dejected in spirit. The overlapping upper eyelids, denoting kidney malfunction, made her predominant expression that of melancholic sadness. Faces are like lanterns, some of them unlighted by the spark of vivacious life. I took liberty with her hair, standing on end some seashells.

It was Dr. Lange who corrected me that one cannot interbreed chicken with turkey, that they ate different species, but I insisted that by artificial insemination we have already gained the smaller cream-colored turkeys from white hens. Hence, could not we artificially inseminate a donkey mare with turkey gobbler's ecstasy and thus gain in such mad-alchemy a Pegasus to fill the California air with hehaw-he-hawing? But he was reluctant to experiment. And so the turkey gobbler never had the fun of knowing that he could have become the father of the Pegasus. Dr. Lange did, however, develop a method of his own, whereby a mare will again become the subject of inspired visits from the stable stork and produce a foal beautiful enough to make the King of Saudi Arabia do a double take.

I am always under awful tension when a lady sits for her portrait. I feel I am imposing too much when I ask her to sit this way or that in attempting to get a view that would be more picturesque. So I do not ask these things and my portraits of ladies start very badly.(…) My tendency to monumentalize, hence make more masculine, would be a fatal offence to her marvelous femminity. So I usually refrain from using women in my works.

Remember, it was Pilsudski who not only to Poland Freedom gave, but to Europe and America. If the Bolsheviks had not been stopped in Poland, they would have overtaken the rest of Europe, where supremely civilized nations would have become slave-laborers, so underpaid by Russia that all industrial competition would be wiped out by her underpriced exports and America would be reduced to a mere agriculture.

I placed over Pilsudski's head a crown of straw, supported there by two angels, as peasant artists would have honored him.

Chobry was the ruler of a powerful poland, whose port Wolin - according to early German chroniclers - was the greatest metropolis of europe. He was an uncle of Kanut the great, who conquered Britain. His sister married Gorm the old of Denmark and was so nobly wise that the grateful Danes sainted her, calling her Danebot, the civilizer of Danes.

Here is the best illustration of how an inferiority complex marks a face. Homeliness and rejection by beautiful girls has made him a victim of hurt ego in his formative years. I refer to these types as the backstairs brooders or future revolutionaries (pronounced haters of Mankind).(…) would NEVER give any political, pedagogic or military trust in the hands of a sterile creature who has lost the INSTINCTS of a social being. I would never place a person burdened with the malady of Anglosex, in a position of responsibiliy or trust. Russell strived to bait Providence by going to Russia and offering his services. He baited the English nation by urging to give up common sense and emulate Russian ways. Eventually he was such a good Providence baiter that he became universally regarded as the Master Baiter of the British Empire.

The future? I found a good follow-up "Zermatism and Utopia" from 2003 by someone named epoxide. I especially appreciated the line

Government leaders must be executed after their term is up. This shall ensure that only the most altruistic and dedicated among us will contemplate public life and civil servitude. Those who consider election to public office simply as a vertical career move will think twice about it.

Apart from that it's the (in my opinion) rather boring Subgenius shit all over the place. Subgenius was great in it beginnings as a child of Discordia; later on I find it became tedious and self-repeating, having lost its joyfull creativity. So I didn't bother to research the Terabits of the Church's documents, sorry.

Sto lat!


001: From 'The Headpress guide to counterculture' (David Kerekes, ed., 2004)

002: Kinda funny that Douglas Hofstadter has one chapter in Gödel, Esscher, Bach with a character named Etaoin Shrdlu whose other avatar stars in this first issue. (And Etienne Shrdlu? A character from Pynchon, of course)


Pic001: Szukalski atelier, Krakow, ca. 1913. "A 19-year old Szukalski, in ghost-shadow, is seated behind a mysterious configuration". from "Struggle: the Art of Szukalski, p. 20.

Pic002: Self-portrait,1917 ibid, p. 12.

Pic003: In bondage of one's Muse, 1923."Art consumes life. The Muse presses upon and stops the artery of the artist's arm". ibid, p. 16.

Pic004: Flower of dreams, 1923. "An idealist in his loneliness puts his head into the vise which holds him in place, while the roots of his flower-ideal enter his brain and devour his blood (…) This is the laboratory of the idealist. The bubble of blood in the blossom is a transbirth of his hapless love". ibid; p. 22.

Pic005: From American Weekly, June 3 1934. ibid, p. 36.

Pic006: Frozen youth, version 3, 1940. "A project for a monument to those who died too young in life: youth frozen in the moment of its flight". ibid, p. 31.

Pic007: Labor (detail). ibid, p. 29.

Pic008: ibid, p. 151.

Pic009: From Behold, the Protong, p. 8.

Pic010: From Behold, the Protong, backcover.

Pic011: From Inner Portraits, p. 6.


Anonymous said...

Great article! I'm researching Szukalski for my studies and I stumbled upon your blog. If you're really interested in him there's a fantastic biography by Lechosław Lameński. It's over 500 pages all about his life ,his art, zermatizm and all that. But unfortunatly I haven't heard about English translation. So it might be only in Polish for now:

Also he wrote a play that should be avaiable in english. Recent Polish reedition looks like this:

Jack Torrance said...

Aha: it was Robt. Crumb who first alerted me to Szukalski too. God bless Weirdo magazine, a fine source of alt. culture in the dry + barren 1980s. Only 20 years later I've finally tracked down a copy of "Behold" and it's as as splendid as I'd always hoped, if not more so. Now I want to know more!

Thanks for your additional research into the man and his works: an excellent post.

Sketch V said...

Great stuff!
I had the good fortune to talk with Robert Williams about Szukalski and he got a huge kick out of it when I asked him if Szukalski thought of him as one of his yetis. He laughed and told me the story of their (Glen Bray & Williams) meeting with Stanislaw. Lets just say that according to Williams, Szukalski found his work very...up lifting...

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