Black Pudding by Tom Robinson
December 3, 2008, 7:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:


arms-table-cowboysVideo. 10min, 20sec. Title: That lusty pioneer blood (is tamed now). Tom Robinson


1 lt Blood

340g Shredded suet

300ml Milk

50g Oatmeal

3 Medium Onions, chopped

1 tbsp Salt

1/2 tsp Mixed Herbs

1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper

Pinch Nutmeg

I have a vegetarian friend who has a dilemma. He has not always been vegetarian, and has lingering desires for various foods he has now made unavailable to himself. One such food is black pudding. He came up with an, as yet, hypothetical solution to this problem. He would have a pint of his own blood taken and turn that into a black pudding, which he could then consume in good moral conscience.

This is a hypothetical solution I will return to after turning to the case of cannibalism in Germany. I need to run Armin Meiwes, the cannibal, and Bernd Jurgen Brandes, the victim, through Bataille’s notion of general economy. Bataille considers, at a vastly macro scale, the movement of energy across the globe, rather than currency, goods, or wealth. Organisms or systems that produce more energy than they need to simply exist have an energy surplus. It is, Bataille argues, what is done with this surplus – this ‘accursed share’ – that defines that organism or system. Characteristic of post-industrial capitalist societies is that they concentrate on turning that surplus to growth, to progress. When surplus is spent, it is done so in a way that ultimately funnels it back to growth, so that no energy is squandered or lost.

When we regard the cannibalism of 2001 in these terms we can begin to understand what makes it seem such a heinous and exhilarating act. To try to pick out the play of power in the relationship between the two men, and later, between Meiwes and the German state, may be a slippery task. At first glance there seems to be a simple case of domination and submission, hunter and prey. We have to remember though, that Brandes was not forced or coerced, he wilfully submitted to the event. Indeed, it seems to have been as symbolic for him as it was for Meiwes. There are several ways we need to view this event in order to understand the striations of power and taboo that run through it. The first is the more immediate, the situation as it existed between the two men. It was a context of agreement, of cooperation, even collaboration. There was no conflict, no struggle for power. One consumed, one wilfully submitted to consumption. If we enclose the extent of moral society at the perimeter of the two central characters, it is a perfect utopian agreement.

However, inevitably, this enclosure could not be maintained. When news of the event reached the wider German and global public the nature of the event underwent a radical posthumous change. Whilst the material aspect of the event was unchanged, the ideological ramifications spread instantly with the news. And in this broader context the event cannot be considered cooperative or utopian. At this level it amounted to a radical political affront, an act of terrorism, the basest assault on liberal democratic values. Brandes did worse than to waste his life. By composing his death in collaboration in the manner he did, he removed his death and his sovereignty from the burden of productivity. His submission to a sacrificial death removed him from subservience – a contradiction, yes, but a powerful one. Despite our instincts, it is the eaten Brandes who performed the more aggressive share of the act. His act, although similar to suicide, is not quite the same. By sharing his death with Meiwes, he sent the spores of his choice into the realm of public life. Suicide is closed, private. Brandes’ death, his deliberate self-squander, was public. It is this unnerving aspect to the case that provides the context to understand the German state’s push to convict Meiwes’ of murder after he had been convicted of manslaughter. 

 At this point I would like to return to the hypothetical black pudding. The pudding made from my friend’s own blood. And the inevitable question is that of whether this act of self-consumption could bring about a similar reaction, could signify such a significant act of taboo from such a seemingly contained private space? Somehow I doubt it, but nevertheless…

This is the space I want to sketch out for the work I intend to present in Greece. The translation I am interested in is that from private to public, and the flesh I want to eat is all the turgid ideological baggage that might be dragged along.


This is a bastardized, hideously shortened and grossly simplified version of Bataille’s thinking.

We shall see that in fact, it is the behaviour of Brandes that lends the events the degree of notoriety that they received.

It is exceptionally important that this word be read in the right sense here. It would be an injustice to consider Brandes the weaker partner. His share in the directing of power, of energy, was at least as great as Meiwes.