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Paintings from the daily press

Le 28 April 2015, 14:07 dans Humeurs 0

the document wrestled free from lumpenly naturalistic signification. Also, as in Fore, it appears necessary to excavate the pre-history, leaping backwards over the Nazi Third Reich, to engage the richly modulated debates that took place in Germany in the 1920s.
The book opens with Brecht’s little-examined Kriegsfibel – his cut ups of photographs from the daily press that are coupled with ironic rhymes – in order to conceptualise the mode of seeing that should be encountered on the ‘common ground’ between photographer and spectator. It is ‘complex seeing’. The juxtapositions of text and image and image and image ‘activate seeing’. Where Kriegsfibel, like the photomontages of John Heartfield, achieves this from the Left, Ernst Ju ̈nger, we are told, models this for the Right, through his ‘stereoscopic seeing’, a mode of photographic enstaging that purported to present the material and the metaphysical, or, in other words, the Urbild, or underlying essences of Being. One might be rather more circumspect about how overlapping these two modes of seeing really are.
James mentions Ju ̈nger’s rehabilitation in Germany of the 1960s, which serves to legitimate the use of him as, again, a prophet and legislator of the image politics of the atomic age. Indeed Pawek’s What is Man? cited Ju ̈nger as an influence, and he appears to be a vector for blasting Steichen’s smooth, harmonious humanism into a violent, conflictual image of the age. Photography had altered subjectivity and transformed the gaze. Ju ̈nger, in writing of and providing images of violence and danger, had not been an advocate for it, but rather was simply mimicking the growing incursion of violence and pain in everyday life, occasioned by militarism and the machine. Photography was mobilised to show the danger and the hardened self and was itself mechanical, providing a sharper mechanical vision. It was suited to the accumulation of perceptions, to the provision of sequences. In The Transformed World, Ju ̈nger splices gruesome pictures with leisure images, taken from the world of the newspapers and the illustrated magazines. Crowds at a mass hanging in Afghanistan are set next to female life savers doing skills demonstrations in Melbourne, in front of large crowds. Bodies are wounded and killed. Bodies are rescued at the moment of death. Violent juxtaposition redoubles the violence of the content. The mass age and mass reproduction meet, as Walter Benjamin observed, though he also, unambivalently, unlike here, lambasted, as a politics of aesthetics, any ‘misuse’ of the apparatus, that is to say, fetishistic, reactionary uses that seek to perpetuate, rather than more or less blankly mirror, the violence of industrial fascisto-capitalism.
Ju ̈nger’s images work in concert. A determining focus of James’ book is serial photography. James is interested in the relations between photographs, whether that occurs as part of a photographic project (as in the Bechers’ practice or in Scha ̈fer; and Schmidt), or as an exhibition (such as Steichen’s or Pavek’s), or in magazines or photo essays. Seriality is, so the claim goes, necessarily political, whether it proposes identity or difference across the images. In either case, it forces the establishing of connections, or rationale, of narrative. In this way, we are told, singular innocuous images.


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Portrait paintings from photos

Le 17 March 2015, 09:04 dans Humeurs 0

In this sumptuously produced and illustrated book, Rina Arya, who is Reader in Visual Communication in the University of Wolverhampton, moves the study of the art of the 20th-century Irish artist Francis Bacon on to new levels by her close atten- tion to its complex religious dimensions. Although Bacon himself was a professed atheist, much of his work remains saturated in the central images of the European Christian tradition as dictated by the Church, above all the triptychs of the crucifixion and the horrifying images of the Pope, especially drawn from the art of Vela ́zquez and his great Portrait of Pope Innocent X. Bacon paints in a godless world, a world after the death of God as heralded by Hegel and Nietzsche, and in the 20th century joins with such radical and disturbing figures as Georges Bataille in a profound rethinking of the sense of the sacred and profane.
Though perhaps, in Francis Bacon’s case, this is not so much a rethinking as a revisiting of the depths of human sensibility in a new sense of what it is to be in the body in the modern world. Emerging from his unhappy childhood in Ireland, his homosexuality, his experience of the horrors of the Second World War, Bacon offers us an art of the body which is uncompromising, difficult and profoundly disturbing. Arya, with her training in art history, art theory and religious thought, guides the reader with assurance and learning through the roots and the significance of Bacon’s paintings. As we move, in chapter three, to a consideration of Bacon’s early and deeply disturbing images of crucifixion, dating back to 1933, Arya situates his work within the rich traditions of Western Christian art of the Cross, linking Bacon par- ticularly with, among others, the painting of Mattias Gru ̈newald and also with the near contemporary work of Graham Sutherland, especially his 1946 Crucifixion which was commissioned for St. Matthew’s Church, Northampton. But we are rightly reminded that if Sutherland frames his work theologically, Bacon does so anthro- pologically—and the difference is absolutely crucial. What happens to the power of religion in a world which is now, for Bacon, godless? And so we come back, inevitably, to the three great and still deeply shocking paintings of about 1944, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which draw attention away from the Cross itself to the ambiguous, fragmented and menacing figures that lurk in its shadow—not the sorrowing figures of Mary and the disciples of Christian tradition, but something more bestial, fragmented, inhumane and horrifying. Arya’s great achievement is to show us how to look at these figures without attempting to impose any final inter- pretation on them. We see how they lurk within not only the Christian tradition, but also the Greek and classical traditions of tragedy right up to the drama of T.S. Eliot (which Bacon saw)—Bacon confronting us with the darkest nightmares lying in the depths of our culture.

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Le 8 February 2015, 14:02 dans Humeurs 0

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