The Split of Life paintings are a compulsive-obsessive block to the continuation of everyday life. The order of the paintings is fractal. They remain indefinable on a deep level in terms of style – They are turbulent. Now turbulence is fractal; it is self-similar, it represents a qualitative attribute of substance, much as color is self-similar. But turbulence has form; it appears to be an accumulation of processes, inchoate procedures, the speaking of the mute. This speaking of turbulence cannot be grasped; it is removed, remote, from the phallocentric world which constrains and places terror within the realm of everyday. The turbulence remains abject; it implies an impediment to the "ordinary." Yet, on another level, turbulence is not only ordinary; it is characteristic. So here is the ordinary which cannot be grasped; here is the everyday which is both form and formless, and a level of the everyday which becomes transcendent in relation to its contents. It has all the destructive fury of Kali, the Hindo goddess who devours time; and turbulence itself devours time; there are measurements, no remnants of everyday life when destruction, in all its coherency and incoherency rules. Instead, there are only parts objects, part-games which work within specific subrealms –nothing evident on the scale of larger frameworks, so that the paintings are both the obsession of the painter and the incoherency of everyday world.

This incoherency, what the dust mop mops up, is of course banal; we all have absorbed the notion of banality of evil until it, too, partakes of banality, becoming evil in the process. But this should not be underestimated; the core problem here is that evil is not only banal, it is also incorporated, and the activity in Lebanon, the activity in Nazi Europe, is the fulfilling of another kind of market place, that of ultimate and complete expandability, for a product such as bullet or rocket, once employed, can never be used again. The war economy, which is doubly protected by the presence of neologism, our language itself, creating a distancing effect between the very real destruction of these weapons and their appearance, as shifters, within the discourse of the lifeworld. And this sort of incorporation is phallocentric – it is based on boundary, isolation, demarcation, quantification, repetition, parameterization, the enumeration of the world which in reality refuses to be circumscribed, circumlocuted. So that the painting, as a commentary, must necessarily reuse this enumeration, or at least partake of an ironic attitude towards it. So that, in a sense, these paintings partake, not only of the destructive and turbulent aspect of Kali, but also of her femininity as well, that other order which contains the erotic and the presence of the body as revolutionary. Hence the eroticism of these bodies, their revolutionary aspect.

It is clear that most of the larger paintings are recessive in the upper center, and somewhat bilaterally symmetrical. This recessivity is often in the form of a face placed against a vaginal form; the horror seems to issue from the vaginal opening, deploy itself towards that opening. So that the center is not dominated by the phallus here, but by a mother of war, a kali-figure. Could this be aligned, in the most superficial level perhaps with the notion of castration anxiety, fear of the woman, an attempt to remain on the plain of the masculine., a denial? For it is the vagina here which devours, which issue forth. It is the vagina that is responsible for this eccentric space against which the figures themselves disappear, a space of turbulence? On the other hand, the horror presented is precisely a form of interiority; the space is a total institution against which (there is no "against") there is an absence, a void. So what occurs occurs only here; there is no elsewhere; which is precisely for example the cases in the interior of Brazil, in Beirut, in Afghanistan. A total war, a pure war, one in which destruction is rallied to the absolute in conjunction with the corporeal and everything "else" is relegated to the status of target or cipher, a demarcation of the site of a bullet, bomb, or rocket. Hell is nothing but what it is.

It is part of the lecture of banality of evil to insist that the devils present here are of our own "making," that "they are us" and so forth. We have digested the lessons in this century; we read them daily in analyses on a pop level of what goes on. But we have refused to work through these lessons in the Freudian sense; we do not act accordingly, so that the lessons remain in the form of suture, or a myth; we utilize them precisely to ward off their truth, by their restatement, in time and again, by the banality of their repetition. For the banality of evil is self-sustaining; it is a myth which serves its own purpose.

In the face of horror there are only two courses: to circumscribe, create a bar, an absolute demarcation, to be "at one" with the confluence and to refuse to overcome it- or to obsess to the point of no return, to create a canvas the size and shape of the original, a one-to-one mapping of the real upon itself, which uses the body of the artist "in a transitive sense" across it. And that is what is occurring in these paintings, the annihilation of the painter to a certain level, the obsessiveness of a private life dedicated to by the concourse of evil to the extent that it becomes compulsive, at odds with the everyday, the bearing-forth of the turbulent posture, its relation to the turbulence of the real world, a turbulence which engulfs everything including the artist’s gesture. The drawback of these canvases, if there is one, lies in the fact that they are bound, and this binding represents a repression in the Freudian sense, a repression which also results in sublimation, for their binding produces objects where ther were no objects before, as if evil were bound, as if the symmetricization of the scenes in the canvas could really be centered "here and there" upon the field of the artist’s work. A series of objects immediately allows them to enter other institutions, in this instance of the gallery; an obsession becomes a form of display… And one, which can enter the market place (as opposed to Goya’s final mural) – objects among others. How to keep these particular visions from drowning? How to continue them on the level of meaning (in the traditional sense) – a meaning lying in their contents, and not in their existence as "art"? that is the question posed, not only by these but also by all other objects which protest in late capitalism, objects existing with a totalizing culture, a culture whose evil lies in banality and the ability, remarkably flexible, to sweep contradictions, bodies, the elderly, minorities, foreigners, aside to create the continuance of a mythical present, to produce the subject and subjectivity where there is none, where one will never lie?

                                                                                                                                  Alan Sondheim



Orientalism | orientalists | orient | splitoflife | eastwest | fractal
Orientalism | orientalists | orient | splitoflife | eastwest | fractal