All the colours of the rainbow: Menippus with André Cadere

Lucian’s work Dialogues of the Dead begins with a dead Diogenes the Cynic asking someone called Pollux to send a message to his fellow Cynic, Menippus, in the upper world.

DIOGENES: Pollux, I have a commission for you; next time you go up—and I think it is your turn for earth tomorrow—if you come across Menippus the Cynic—you will find him about the Craneum at Corinth, or in the Lyceum, laughing at the philosophers’ disputes—well, give him this message:

Diogenes’ message is to invite Menippus down to the Underworld where he can easily make fun of the people who used to be big-shots and now are miserable souls, where it is:

best of sport to see millionaires, governors, despots, now mean and insignificant.

Pollux responds by asking Diogenes how he will recognize Menippus when he sees him and Diogenes describes his fellow Cynic as follows:

Old, bald, with a cloak that allows him plenty of light and ventilation, and is patched all colours of the rainbow; always laughing, and usually gibing at pretentious philosophers.

Menippus’ Cynic cloak – a staple of the movement’s dress-code is no simple shawl, but a multi-coloured coat. If we were to transpose this description onto another item of the Cynic’s attire – his staff or stick – perhaps we’d be thinking of a work by the ‘Stick Man’ himself: André Cadere.

In connecting Cadere’s unique practice with the ancient Cynic movement, a form of painting as street-philosophy, perhaps the equivalent of Lucian’s Dialogues of the Dead would be the black and white photographs of the artist mid-action, at openings, talking to people and fellow artists, like Daniel Buren. These black and white scenes, these Dialogues of the Dead, make the rare colour photographs of Cadere with his multi-coloured staffs (colour photographs of the staffs alone are a dime a dozen) all the more precious and to be savoured, just like the startling appearance of Menippus’ amazing technicolour dreamcoat.

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