Somehow, images of octopuses kept cropping up at work this week:

Victor Hugo, Pieuvre, 1866.

“All ideals being allowed, if terror is the aim, the octopus is a masterpiece.”

“like a beast made of ash, living in water”

“malady turned to monstrosity”

“a dragon with emotions”

“Viscosity with its own will – what could be more terrifying! Glue shot through with hatred”

“this hideous, ravenous star”

“spread out in pallid rays, a spectral sun”

“veritable blasphemies of creation against itself”

– characterisations of the octopus in Victor Hugo’s Les Travailleurs de la mer (Toilers of the Sea), 1866

Katharina Fritsch, Oktopus, 2009.

Nils Norman, Meanwhile Back at the Museum, 1999.

Both the repugnance and the fear which the octopus inspired have no real support except in its immediate appearance. It is only its looks which encourage the imagination in such a persuasive way. […] The octopus […] is from the first approach a composition of the more than disquieting images of spider and leech. It appears as a giant marine spider but more fearsome because it lives in a different environment, not at the centre of a trap, but as a trap itself. Its suckers furnish it with several hundred obedient leeches along the length of eight equal whips.

Roger Caillois, The Logic of Imagination (Avatars of the Octopus), 1973

See also Bataille’s definition of the formless as “something like a spider or spit”.

And, finally, this gem. ‘Nuff said.


One thought on “Cephalopodia

  1. The swirling octopus limbs reminded me of Minoan pottery paintings and frescos of octopi and other sea life. Then I wondered if the Minoans or other Aegean cultures ever depcited corals or coral divers….they might be the earliest known such images….. and there does seem to be a fair number of frescos and pottery objects with sea-scapes and corals on them :)

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