May 29, 2004

Francis Bacon – for Undercurrent

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5 out of 5 stars

I've just bought a nice copy of this from Borders in Oxford. It's not this one though as our book review system is currently using the US Amazon database, but rather it is a new UK edition from Continuum. Again without the pictures, but still a great book. Why? Well here's one reason as Deleuze goes beyond anthropocentric phenomenology:

This ground, this rhythmic unity of the senses, can be discovered only by going beyond the organism. The phenomenological hypothesis is perhaps insufficient because it merely invokes the lived body. But the lived body is still a paltry thing in comparison with a more profound and almost unlivable Power [Puissance]. We can seek the unity of rhythm only at the point where rhythm itself plunges into chaos, into the night, at the point where the differences of level are perpetually and violently mixed. Deleuze, 1981: p.44

Where the phenomenological hypothesis finds a grounding to sensation in the finality of the lived and existentially limited and de-lineated, Deleuze sees Bacon's encounter with in-human sensation as the irreversibility of creation, as pure sense without causal or teleological recuperation, as the explosive power of creation, elan vital. The rhythmic nature of this sensation is key. Bacon's figures are repetitive, and each repetition forcibly engages with its predecessor for no apparent reason. However, each attempt at re-engagement pushes the figure one step further away from its predecessor, back into disengagement. Pulsing between the two, but ever onwards. The explosive and inescapable creativity of Bergson's duration, as KAP describes it:

…duration 'is the continuous progress of the past which gnaws into the future and which swells as it advances'. Duration involves a process of repetition and difference. It is irreversible since 'consciousness cannot go through the same state twice. The circumstances may still be the same, but they will act no longer on the same person, since they find him at a new moment of his history'. Ansell Pearson, 1999: p.35–35

Looking at a series of Bacon's works is like listening to extensive and pulsating music, as Mackay describes:

And sound, on its broad peripheries, creeps out of the brain and into the body, then out of conscious sensation altogether. Mackay in Ansell Pearson, 1997: p.249

The last word for now I shall give to Deleuze:

This is one way of introducing time into the painting, and there is a great force of time in Bacon, time itself is being painted. To put time inside the Figure – this is the force of bodies in Bacon…

(image from the Francis Bacon Image Gallery )

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. undercurrent

    it's worse than that…I have the french edition and the english edition (which has a better cover than the US one), but for unknown reasons the english editors used a different numbering system for the paintings, so to read the text whilst looking at the referenced plates you need to make a cryptographic cross-referencing system between the two.

    30 May 2004, 20:55

  2. I'm reading bits of this at the moment for an essay – it's a wonderful book. I'm interested in what you write about the rhythm of Bacon's figures, forcing the repetitions apart – I'm trying to use the idea of planes in the Bacon book to help explicate the way that 'forced movement' is created in Proust in the signs of death. I haven't read much Deleuze before, so I'm on a sort of search and discover mission at the moment..

    02 Jun 2004, 15:06

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