Chapter 3 Athleticism
The three pictorial elements in Bacon’s painting: the large fields as a spatializing material structure, the Figure (fact/body), and the place (round area, the ring, the contour which is the common limit of the Figure and the field).
Deleuze is describing the sense of movement that takes place between the field and the figure. The movement is simultaneously taking place in two directions: between the material structure and the Figure (I take this to mean the round area and the field – the material structure surrounding the Figure in total), and the Figure and the field (the positioning and shape of the Figure relating to the field). The round area is like a membrane through which this exchange flows. Even if there is no story, something is still happening in these paintings. Much as the bodies seem dead and the mouths hang open suggesting empty but loud screams, there is action in these paintings, even if no narrative.
“Within the round area, the Figure is sitting on the chair, lying on the bed, and sometimes it even seems to be waiting for what is about to happen. But what is happening, or is about to happen, or has already happened, is not a spectacle or a representation.” Deleuze – p13
Deleuze claims that the spectator is excluded from Bacon’s painting. Spectacle is missing. What is left is waiting – the sole spectacle of Bacon’s art is the spectacle of waiting, or of effort. In this way, Bacon resembles Kafka.
“It is the extreme solitude of the Figures, the extreme confinement of the bodies, which excludes every spectator: the Figure becomes a Figure only through this movement which confines it and in which it confines itself.” Deleuze p14
This reads like a kind of nightmare where any movement confounds a terrifying confinement – like quicksand. Deleuze uses the term athleticism as it seems as if these Figures are moving and twisting their into and out of this confinement – like an athlete or a gymnast. Importantly, the movement is not a conscious subjective movement – as in many cases it seems as if the subject is somehow dead or in stasis – but a movement driven by something other and from within the body. Spasm, vomit, excretion, and the scream (in which the body escapes through the mouth) are things that come to mind as relative and relevant. Deleuze interestingly draws on the idea of passing through the eye of a needle. This is an abomination for Deleuze – a scene of hysteria.
“:… the body attempts to escape from itself through one of its organs in order to rejoin the field or material structure.” Deleuze p16