After deciding to write this short piece on the twentieth century painter Francis Bacon, I promptly stopped by the local used bookstore (semi-famous for its relatively extensive “Art Books” section) to see if I could nab a hard copy of Bacon’s work in order avoid the hassle of switching back and forth between Google and Microsoft Word every time I wanted to consider a particular piece (a real hassle, as I’m sure you can imagine). The book I selected was Luigi Ficacci’s Bacon.
It’s a good little introductory overview, focusing primarily on eleven of Bacon’s most popular paintings while including reproductions of his “lesser” works interspersed throughout the text. Ficacci thankfully focuses on the art itself rather than Bacon’s biography, which, as Ficacci himself notes, is easily accessible elsewhere (there is, in fact, a fantastic BBC documentary on YouTube that amply discusses the more salient aspects of Bacon’s biography. It’s free and well-executed. You can watch it below. My purpose here, however, is not to follow or outline Ficacci’s analysis of Bacon’s work (although it is quite interesting and worthy of a read). Ficacci’s thoughts do, however, provide a good point of departure for my own analysis of Bacon’s painting. (more…)
Possession is a strange concept. Like many of the categorizations we use to piece together what roughly might be called our social existence, possession is marked more by its ambiguities than its certainties. What do we possess? We possess our possessions. But what are those? Merely material things that cost money, that stand at one end of a transaction like the period at the end of a sentence? A mere placeholder for exchange, a trophy for participation in capitalist society, a pause after a civic duty duly discharged?
Perhaps it entails something closer to an aura, a relation within a context of other objects, accumulated for aesthetic or practical use. “It was his coffee and his cup. They shared the newspaper but it was actually, unspokenly, hers” (4). The coffee is his only in contrast to the newspaper (which is hers). Is this possession, then, this magical game of comparison, animating the space between the mute objects of our houses with a thin web of relations? An imperceptible fabric strung between the piano in the corner, the hand-painted cerulean lamp table, the sofa patched with soft, gently outlined squares, the white, porcelain coffee cup on the glass surface of the card table, near the edge furthest away from the stack of unopened bills? (more…)
In Amerika by Franz Kafka, the character Karl Rossman is shipped away to America by his parents following a scandal with a servant girl. From hotel employee to bum to servant, young Karl experiences a panoply of adventures and emotions as he tries to find his way through life. Superficially, it’s a straightforward tale, a Huckleberry Finn-esque Bildungsroman. Since Kafka rarely wrote superficial tales, however, it is possible that Karl’s adventures mean something else–for Karl and for Kafka.
Interestingly, the title “Amerika” comes to us from Max Brod, who changed Kafka’s original title. Kafka’s title Der Verschollene, however, translates to “The Missing Person” or “The Man Who Disappeared.” Why would he give the novel a title that expresses the point of view of Karl’s family while the narration itself follows Karl, giving only passing mention to his family? (more…)