Archives For research

Chapter 1 The Round Area, the Ring

What is the round area? The area occupied by the figure. The figure might be seated, lying down, doubled over or in some other position. Bacon creates compositions in which the figures are placed in relation to this round area – a kind of amphitheatre.

Two Men Working in a Field

This is a technique used to isolate the figure. Bacon also uses shapes and forms to isolate the figure such as his famous cubes:

seated figure 1961

These spaces/areas do not confine the subject to immobility. Rather, they render a sense of movement and progression: the figure relates to the space and becomes an image. Isolating the Figure is important as it avoids the figurative, illustrative and narrative character the Figure would necessarily have if it were not isolated. Rather than abstraction, Bacon moves toward the purely figural. Figurative (representation) implies the relationship of an image to an object that it is supposed to illustrate, as well as the relationship of an image to other images in a composite whole which assigns a specific object to each of them. Deleuze argues that narration is the correlate of illustration – when the image is intended to represent an object, narration occurs. Isolation of the Figure is a technique to break with representation – to disrupt narration and liberate the Figure.

Figuration – the figural – is Deleuze’s description for Bacon’s isolated figures. They are wrenched from narration and free from the things-in-the-world that they represent (Figuration). This may be a source of the horror and the disturbance that these images project.

My research: my take away from this thinking on Bacon is the isolation and the sense that the task is to separate the Figure from representation. Being that Epstein asserted that photogenie enhances the moral dimension of a thing-in-the-world, I would alter this to say that photogenie is the enhancement of the moral dimension of the image-in-the-world – it is less about representation and the narrative that representation implies. In the same way that a gun is no longer a gun, a Figure is no longer figurative.

Bacon distinguishes three fundamental elements in his painting: material structure, the round contour, and the raised image. Deleuze explains this as the field operating as a ground, and the Figure functioning as a form, on a single plane that is viewed at close range. This coexistence of two immediately adjacent sectors constitutes an absolutely closed and revolving space.

Deleuze is outlining a simple framework for the discussion of the figure in Bacon’s painting. This chapter is a set up – groundwork – for broader analysis to follow.

 

 

Advertisements

Author’s Preface:

Deleuze describes Bacon’s painting as violent – his painting is of a very special kind of violence. This violence is not ementaing from the subject matter of his paintings: spectacles of horror, crucifixions, prostheses and mutilations. Violence is correlated with colour and line – and described as a sensation. Maybe a texture of violence is an appropriate rewording. Sensation over representation: ‘a static or potential violence, a violence of reaction and expression’. This aesthetic outline appeals to me as it is a step away from the singular dimension of representation and identity politics. Deleuze is establishing a discussion with parameters set outside the norm of linguistic deconstruction and image analysis.

Bacon’s paintings are a ‘relationship not of form and matter, but of materials and forces.’ There is a foreboding of these invisible forces. This language reminds of a childhood nightmare I had: a recurring nightmare in which I would stand at the bottom of a large, spiral staircase in terror, fearful of what was at the top of the stairs. Voices would emerge from a multitude of directions, from adjacent rooms and hallways and I would be compelled to wander up the stairs almost against my will and the terror and fear would exponentially exaggerate until I woke up. In this nightmare was a forebording of the invisible and a force of inertia that carried me up the stairs. Deleuze describes a force of inertia in Bacon’s paintings. The figures and and the bodies are being carried somewhere – the flesh hangs and is shaken from the body. Bacon’s art is an art of materials and forces. It makes unseen forces visible. THere is a concern with time – or a temporal element built into the images. Movement contrasts with stasis. Things fall, stretch, are pulled and pushed. Movement is an affect – something that happens to an immobile body. Deleuze points out here that the violence is tied up therefore wit ha sense of pity and pathos. Flesh and the movement of flesh (decay / violence) is an essential life element.

“The entire body becomes plexus”

Plexus:
1a network of anastomosing or interlacing blood vessels or nerves
2an interwoven combination of parts or elements in a structure or system

 

The next element of Bacon’s aesthetic for discussion is colour. Bacon’s fields of colour are without depth or consist only of shallow depth. The figure detaches itself from the colour field – the figure ‘executes .. taunting acrobatics’. These two pictorial elements draw life from one another – they are not indifferent. Colour is related to many different systems in Bacon’s work. It corresponds to the figure/flesh and to the colour field/section. Deleuze cites Cezanne and describes two problems of painting: “how, on the one hand, to preserve the homogeneity or unity of the background as though it were a perpendicular armature for chromatic progression, while on the other hand also preserving the specificity or singularity of a form in perpetual variation?” This set of problems needs some unpacking.

Armature an organ or structure (such as teeth or thorns) for offense or defense

The first problem is a problem of painting realism: the background must appear as unified as human visual perception of the world unified (is coherent – the spectre of colours are all relatable). However, the world (both in reality and in perception) is perpetually varied. To depict the figure/form, this variation needs to be built in to the colour and composition. The second problem is a problem of painting flesh. For the first problem, Bacon took the path of not representing life through variations in hue, but rather through subtle shifts in intensity or saturation determined by zones of proximity. These zones are induced by sections of fields of colour. The problem of painting flesh is resolved by producing broken tones; ‘as though baked in a furnace and flayed by fire.’

Bacon’s genius according to Deleuze lies in the coexistence of these two aspects:

“… a brilliant pure tone for the large fields, coupled with a program of intensification; broken tones for the flesh, coupled with a procedure of rupturing or ‘fire blasting,’ a critical mixture of complementaries.”

Deleuze next introduces the importance of the triptych. The triptych typically presents three distinct sections that negate any narrative that would establish itself amongst them. For Bacon, the sections are simultaneously linked by a unifying distribution (distribution of colour and field?) that makes them interrelate in a way that is free of any symbolic undercurrent. It is important to note that according to Deleuze Bacon is not a symbolist, expressionist, realist or a cubist – he fits no genre. All that we need going forward is to understand that Bacon has broken with figuartion by elevating the Figure to prominence.

The following blog posts on this topic will seek to understand Deleuze’s ideas on Bacon. I will be looking for ways in which these ideas might intersect with my broader research around photogenie.

 

 

notes from a lecture

February 28, 2018 — Leave a comment

Irit Rogoff

Professor of Visual Cultures – Goldsmiths; University of London

about

research website

Professor Rogoff proposes that we need to move toward a new understanding of the research term. What is a research term? Rather than setting a question in advance through which research is guided she proposes a state of being as a researcher that is permanent: a state of working and questioning. This is a shift from basing all research knowledge gains on inherited knowledge and toward what she describes as ‘working from conditions’. This is not about focussing on ‘conditions’ themselves, but working ‘from’ conditions. I take this to mean engaging in the totality of your life and existence and allowing your pursuit in research interests to eb and flow into and out of life conditions: a continuum from life to research to life. I feel that there is a connection between my research focus, photogenie, and this sentiment. I describe photogenie as a quest to discover images and moments that resonate (sensation) and offer new insights and knowledge about existence (revelation). It is the ‘quest’ aspect that I think relates to Rogoff.

Interestingly Rogoff proposes this as a response and antithesis to the nihilism and dead ends of identity politics. She places emphasis on emergent (emerging) independent and individual subjectivities. She calls this a ‘re-singularisation’. Personally I can relate to this. As an artist I never seek to align myself with anybody or any collective based on my immutable characteristics – whiteness, maleness, 30 – year old-ness, tattoo-ed-ness,  – nor for that matter do I align with political or social interests. Rogoff asked: ‘how do these subjectivities collect together in a moment?’. I believe this to be the right question. I’ve always found it more interesting to relate to a person or another artist or collaborator, or anyone I might meet on a film set, in terms of that person as a unique and interesting individual. What happens when we talk as two unique and interesting individuals without the forced assumptions (identity based, or politically based) imposed by the terms of the collective in which we are operating? I think that openness and open-mindedness (and mind-full-ness) are more powerful than aligning power to identities.

… from an investigative impulse to the constitution of new realities …

The influence of Thomas Kuhn … 

I liked her comment that artistic research is an alternative entry point into significant problems. Granting ourselves permission is an important tenet of artistic expression. What facet of my being needs to be activated – what aspect of my condition is vying for articulation in  reality?

 

 

images from a work in production

title: I Work for the Devil

In these images I am playing around with different colour tones and editing choices. I am building an aesthetic to carry through the rest of production.

 

 

John Berger: Ways of Seeing

Michael Foucault: Discipline and Punish

Derrida: The Animal That Therefore I Am

Griselda Pollock: Differencing the Cannon and Vision and Difference: Feminism, Femininity, and Histories of Art

Herman Melville: Billy Budd, Sailor

My main question/problem (regarding memory, the intersection of filmmaker and subject and the subject wantingto express memory) seems to addressing realism. Though I believe realism is probably the wrong word. Perhaps I am investigating the creation of a depiction of memory through acknowledging the presence of memory theory in the filmmaking process. At this stage this is still very vague, but I hope through reading and discussion with Adrian Danks I will be able to find a hook, or an anchor which will focus these more instinctual ideas.

Another question I need to discuss with Adrian is whether or not to include textual analysis in my exegesis. This could get me into hot water as I will need to spend time explaining why I chose specific films, and this could in fact limit the directions that arise as I produce. However, I am looking for these definite anchor points for discussion and so need to explore the possibility.

Movies to consider:

Bright Leaves (Ross McElwee; 2003)

This film is highly personal and subjective to the filmmaker. The story is of his own journey and autobiographical rather than biographical. Nevertheless, filmmaking techniques may be viable for me to take notice.

Bastardy (Amiel Courtin-Wilson; 2009)

This film is a straight forward biography of Jack Charles, an interesting and prolific Aboriginal Australian, resident of Melbourne. The story follows Jack for a number of years and so portrays quite an in depth and significant portion of Jack’s life. I thought this film would be a little more directly relevant to my own project in terms of style and technique.

Notes from…

Healy, Chris; Histories and Collecting: Museums, Objects and Memories in “Memory and History in Twentieth Century Australia” (ed. Darian-Smith, K and Hamilton, P) Oxford University Press, Mebourne 1994 (pp 33 – 52)

“I am really concerned with…giving you some insight into the relationship of a book collector to his possessions, into collecting rather than a collection….the chance, the fate, that suffuse the past before my eyes are conspicuously present in the accustomed confusion of these books. For what else is this collection but a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order?” (Walter Benjamin in Healy, p33)

Imagine trading the term book for documentary, film or cinema. The disorder, habit and appearance of order could have a relationship with our need or quest for narrative. Like in Hitchcock’s ‘cuts’ or pure cinema. To give precise meaning to an otherwise chaotic situation with any number of outcomes.

What really interests me about Healy’s analysis of the museum in Silverton is its close similarity to the predicament of the documentary filmmaker as he approaches his subject: “The Museum held a huge collection – pastoral, industrial and domestic artifacts; photographs, private papers, sporting and recreational memorabilia; portraits, medals and much, much more.” (p33)

In this case of the Silverton Museum, artifacts “were not ordered by chronological sequence or theme. Many were not labeled and, more often than not, the objects did not follow a theme or ‘teach’ the visitor anything in particular. The museum employed none of the characteristic means by which visitors have been trained to understand and interpret objects on display: the devices of category, of narrative sequence, of juxtaposing the typical and the singular, or of generating an aura of aesthetic wonder. It seemed as if the objects were meant to invoke associations, to trigger memories, to generate questions, confusion or fragmentary recognition.” (p34)

“The Silverton Museum was an anachronism. Those who could have remembered or interpreted the memory palace were dead; it was a place of silence and sadness.” (p34) In a sense a documentary does not document the ‘memory palace’, the documentary is the memory palace. Like the Silverton museum is set up for the understanding of someone from the 19th or 18th century, a documentary is for the understanding of the 21st C. The objects in the museum gather their context and meaning from the situation of the museum, how the museum has ordered them. Likewise, a person’s lament or story gains its context for memory and storage, from the construction of the film. Even, at the most basic level, from the frame of the screen.

Fetishising the subject, making it relatable: “…the stuffed carcass of the racehorse Phar Lap only works as a memory site because it is more than a dead horse in a glass cabinet. It works because it elicits social imagination and desires, and because it has been remade, both literally and figuratively, as an object on display. The museum is the key public institution in which these processes of memory work have taken place in Australia.” (p36)

“The ‘museum’ of the nineteenth century functioned as a general archive in which time never stopped building, in which things of all epochs, all styles, all forms could be accumulated and preserved against the ravages of time, in perpetuity. The Museum acted and in many ways still acts (and not least, conceptually) as a microcosm of the world, as a universal sacred space where Man can rediscover and reconstitute his fragmented self.” (Eilean Hooper-Greenhill in Healy, p3) Once again make as metaphor for documentary. As if documentary, or even the home video, is a way of preserving and a way of reconstituting the fragmented self.

Striving for difference and originality/breaking norms: “these odd collections and their strange ways of communicating relationships between object and history provide very different models of historical understanding, ways of thinking about the past and ways people remember their lives in relation to material objects. We all live as historians by inscribing and depositing the artifacts of our own historical cultures. That remembering, that making of histories, need not be that which we aim to capture, to preserve, to make present or to supersede; it can be part of the performances of remembering, of enacting histories. Digital systems of information storage and production might shift the focus of collecting and remembering in contemporary culture away from preservation and towards renewal, towards what Nietzsche called the possibility of history for life.” (p49)

Themes for memory: Desire, disappointments, fulfillment and compromise