Gilles Deleuze photographed by Gerard Uferas

L’altro giorno, in biblioteca, perchè ho ordinato un testo di Gilles Deleuze, anzichè ricevere The Logic of Sense,mi è stato consegnato The Logic of Sensation, un saggio-sempre di Deleuze, ma su Francis Bacon; Bacon, il pittore a cui ho fatto riferimento qualche giorno fa a proposito di Lynch ed Eraserhead (saggio di cui non conoscevo l’esistenza).
Gilles Deleuze (18 Gennaio 1925 – 4 Novembre 1995) è stato un filosofo francese fra i più influenti del secolo scorso nel campo della letteratura,del cinema, dell’arte, della musica.
Il testo che ho qui,The Logic of Sensation, tratta l’analisi delle opere di Bacon dal punto di vista figurativo e interpretativo.La pittura di Francis Bacon(Dublino, 28 ottobre 1909 – Madrid, 28 aprile 1992), espressionista, si caratterizza per l’incredibile violenza che traspare dai soggetti rappresentati(crocifissioni, mutilazioni,distorsioni fisiche);l’idea di Bacon,non è tanto quella di rappresentare il teatro dell’orrore,del dolore,quanto quella di rappresentare,manifestare, una reazione all’orrore, al dolore,dunque, di riflesso,trasmettere,attraverso lo strazio delle opere,le sensazioni che ne derivano.
Dicendo questo mi viene in mente quella foto/polaroid di Masahisa Fukase che postai qualche tempo fa; in quella è palesemente rappresentato questo concetto(è puntuale, ogni volta che la guardo,anche solo di sfuggita, la reazione, fisica, di”fastidio” alla lingua,quasi poter sentire la sensazione degli spilli attraverso la carne.Meravigliosa suggestione visiva).
Qui di seguito pubblicherò l’ottavo dei 17 capitoli che compongono il saggio (pubblicato in Francia per la prima volta nell’81,trant’anni fa). In questo Deleuze s’interroga circa la capacità della pittura di esprimere nozioni quali il tempo, il suono,attraverso figure e colori; quello che più di tutto mi pare interessante sottolineare è il riferimento al pessimismo di Bacon; il pessimismo di Bacon non nasce da una forza distruttiva, anzi,quanto più atroce e drammatica la pittura di Bacon, tanto più vitale e ottimistico sarà lo slancio vitale d’interpretazione,perchè- a livello inconscio- quello che spinge Bacon a rappresentare una distorsione, un urlo,è l’orrore che prova per il mondo,dunque-paradossalmente-l’incredibile attaccamento alla vita,la straziante passione disillusa,la manifestazione di un disagio che non tace,ma si esprime e mai reprime. Meravigliosa suggestione visiva 2.

Francis Bacon-Detail of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion,1944

Un giorno mi trovavo in metro quando una donna,d’improvviso (aveva in mano un drink,credo tea,forse caffè) lancia il contenuto del bicchiere-di cartoncino-contro una signora seduta al suo fianco; la signora,praticamente fradicia,inizia a inveirle contro,swearing at her in malo modo. La donna (palesemente disturbata a livello mentale) inizia a piangere, poi a gridare.La signora scende dal treno. La donna rimane. La guardo,mi guarda; cerco di rassicurarla dicendole di calmarsi e che tutto andrà bene,la donna si calma,mi dice che tutto andrà bene.
La donna si volta alla sua destra dove è seduto un ragazzo; questi la guarda, cerca di calmarla, dice lei che tutto andrà bene. La donna lo guarda, gli ride in faccia e gli dà una manata in pieno viso. Il ragazzo allora inizia a inveirle contro,swearing at her in malo modo. You piece of shit,le dice- you piece of shit,gridando. Inferocito,avvelenato,fuori di sè.La donna,allora,riprende a piangere e gridare. Intanto che piange e grida,dice di avere problemi,di stare male,di non poterne più.La donna mi guarda,io le sorrido,le dico di calmarsi,mi avvicino a lei,le tolgo di mano il drink,le dico di scendere con me alla fermata successiva.Tutt’intorno la gente ride.La donna continua a piangere.
Scendiamo alla fermata successiva.La donna adesso è calma,l’accompagno all’uscita.
Dunque? Dunque io ho trovato quella donna di una bellezza esasperante-viva tra i morti. Piuttosto che calmarla avrei voluto unirmi a lei e gridare, se possibile,ancora più forte,contro chiunque,come una forsennata. E se mai avessi avuto un drink,due,uno per dito,avrei voluto rovesciarli tutti quanti contro ognuna di quelle persone a ridere.E se possibile,vomitargli contro tutta la mia repressione.La gente a ridere,noi a gridare. La gente a darci delle matte, noi a compiacercene e compiacerci della nostra follia-di una bellezza esasperante, drammatica e vera.
Il testo
Chapter 8
Painting Forces

Paul Klee-Ancient Sound

[..]In art, and in painting as in music, It’s not a matter of reproducing or inventing forms, but of capturing forces. For this reason no art is figurative. Paul Klee’s famous formula-“Not to render the visible, but to render visible”- means nothing else. The task of painting is defined as the attempt to render visible forces that are not themselves visible. Likewise, music attempts to render sonorous forces that are not themselves sonorous. That much is clear. Force is closely related to sensation: for a sensation to exist, a force must be exerted on a body , on a point of the wave. But if force is the condition of sensation, it’s nonetheless not the force that is sensed, since the sensation “gives” something completely different from the forces that condition it. How will sensation be able to sufficiently turn in on itself, relax or contract itself, so as to capture these nongiven forces in what it gives us, to make us sense these insensible forces, and raise itself to its own conditions? It is in this way that music must render nonsonorous forces sonorous, and painting must render invisible forces visible. Sometimes these are the same thing: Time, which is nonsonorous and invisible- how can time be painted, how can time be heard? And elementary forces like pressure, inertia, weight, attraction, gravitation, germination – how can they be rendered? Sometimes, on the contrary, the insensible force of one art instead seems to take part in the “givens” of another art: for example, how to pait sound, or even the scream? (And conversely, how to make colors audible?)
This is a problem of which painters are very conscious. When pious criticized Millet for painting peasants who were carrying an offertory like a sack of potatoes, Millet responded by saying that the weight common to the two object was more profound that their figurative distinctions. As a painter, he was striving to paint the force of that weight, and not the offertory or the sack of potatoes. And was it not Cézanne’s genius to have subordinated all the techniques of painting to this task: rendering visible the folding force of mountains , the germinative force of a seed, the thermic force of a landscape, and so on? And Van Gogh even invented unknown forces, the unheard-of force of a sunflower seed. For many painters, however, the problem of capturing forces, no matter how conscious it may have been, was mixed with another problem, equally important but less pure. This other problem was the decomposition and recomposition of effects: for example, the decomposition and recomposition of depth in the Renaissance, the decomposition and recomposition of colors in impressionism, the decomposition and recomposition of movement in cubism. We can see how one problem leads to the other, since movement, for example, is an effect that refers both to a unique force that produces it, and to a multiplicity of decomposable and recomposable elements beneath this force.

Francis Bacon-Triptych,Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground) 1964

Bacon’s Figures seem to be one of the most marvelous responses in the history of painting to the question, How can one make invisible forces visible? This is the primary function of the Figures. In this respect , we will see that Bacon remains relatively indifferent to the problem of effects. Not that he despises them, but he thinks that, in the whole history which is that of painters he admires, particularly the problem of movement, of “rending” movement. But if this is the case, it is reason enough to confront even more directly the problem of “rendering” invisible forces visible. This is true of all Bacon’s series of heads and the series of self-portraits, and it is even the reason he made these series: the extraordinary agitation of these heads is derived not from a movement that the series would supposedly reconstitute, but rather from the forces of pressure, dilatation, contraction, flattening, and elongation that are exerted on the immobile head. They are like the forces of the cosmos confronting an intergalactic traveler immobile in his capsule. It is as if invisible forces were striking the head from many different angles.

Francis-Bacon’s-“Three-Studies-for-Self-Portrait”-1976

The wiped and swept parts of the face here take on a new meaning, because they mark the zone where the force is in the process of striking. This is why the problems Bacon faces are indeed those of deformation, and not transformation. These are two very different categories. The transformation of form can be abstract or dynamic. But deformation is always bodily, and it is static, it happens at one place; it subordinates movement to force, but it also subordinates the abstract to the Figure. When a force is exerted on a scrubbed part, it does not give birth to an abstract form, nor does it combine sensible forms dynamically; on the contrary, it turns this zone into a zone of indiscernibility that is common to several forms, irreducible to any of them; and the lines of force that it creates escape every form through their very clarity, through their deforming precision (we saw this in the becoming-animal of the Figures).

Francis-Bacon-Four Studies For a Self Portrait,1967

Cézanne was perhaps the first to have made deformations without transformation, by making truth fall back on the body. Here again Bacon is Cézannean: for both Bacon and Cézanne , the deformation is obtained in the form at rest; and at the same time, the whole material environment, the structure, begins to stir: “walls twitch and slide, chairs bend or rear up a little, cloths curl like burning paper…” Everything is now related to forces, everything is force. It is force that constitutes deformation as an act of painting: it lends itself neither to a transformation of form, nor to a decomposition of elements. And Bacon’s deformations are rarely constrained or forced; they are not tortures, despite appearances. On the contrary, they are the most natural postures of a body that has been reorganized by the simple force being exerted upon it: the desire to sleep, to vomit, ti turn over, to remain seated as long as possible..
We must consider the special case of the scream. Why does Bacon think of the scream as one of the highest object of painting? “Paint the scream..” It is not at all a matter of giving color to a particularly intense sound. Music, for its part, is faced with the same task, which is certainly not to render the scream harmonious, but to establish a relationship between the sound of the scream and the forces that sustain it. In the same manner, painting will establish a relationship between these forces and the visible scream ( the mouth that screams).

Francis Bacon-Study for a Portrait 1952

But the forces that produce the scream, that convulse the bodyuntil they emerge at the mouth as a scrubbed zone, must not be confused with the visible spectacle before which one screams, nor even with the perceptible and sensible object whose action decomposes and recomposes our pain. If we scream, it is always as victims of invisible and insensible forces that scramble every spectacle , and that even lie beyond pain and feeling. This is what Bacon means when he says he wanted” to paint the scream more than the horror”. If we could express this as a dilemma, it would be: either I paint the horror and I do not paint the scream. Because I make a figuration of the horrible; or else I paint the scream , and I do not paint the visible horror, I will paint the visible horror less and less, since the scream captures or detects an invisible force. Alban Berg knew how to make music out of the scream in the scream of Marie, and then in the very different scream of Lulu. But in both cases, he established a relationship between the sound of the scream and inaudible forces: those of the earth in the horizontal scream of Marie, and those of heaven in the vertical scream of Lulu. Bacon creates the painting of the scream because he establishes a relationship between the visibility of the scream ( the open mouth as a shadowy abyss) and invisible forces, which are nothing other than the forces of the future. It was Kafka who spoke of detecting the diabolic power of the future knocking at the door. Every scream contains them potentially. Innocent X screams, but he screams behind the curtain, not only someone who can no longer be seen, but as someone who cannot see, who has nothing left to see, whose only remaining function is to render visible these invisible forces, that are making him scream, these powers of the future. This is expressed in the phrase” to scream at”- not to scream before or about, but to scream at death- which suggests this coupling of forces, the perceptible force of the scream and the imperceptible force that makes one scream.

Francis Bacon-Self Portrait,1972

This is all very curious, but it is a source of extraordinary vitality. When Bacon distinguishes between two violences , that of the spectacle and that of sensation, and declares that the first must be renounced to reach the second, it is kind of declaration of faith in life. The interviews contain many statements of this sort. Bacon says that he himself is cerebrally pessimistic; that is, he can scarcely see anything but horros to paint, the horrors of the world. But he is nervously optimistic, because visible figuration is secondary in painting, and will have less and less importance. Bacon will reproach himself for painting too much horror, as if that were enough to leave the figurative behind; he moves more and more toward a Figure without horror. But why is it an act of vital faith to choose “ the scream more than the horror” the violence of sensation more than the violence of the spectacle? The invisible forces , the powers of the future- are they not already upon us, and much more insurmountable than the worst spectacle and even the worst pain? Yes, in a certain sense,- every piece of meat testifies to this. But in another sense, no. When, like a wrestler, the visible body confronts the powers of the invisible , it gives them no other visibility that its own. It is within this visibility that the body actively struggles, affirming the possibility of triumphing, which was beyond its reach as long as these powers remained invisible, hidden in a spectacle that sapped our strength and diverted us. It is as if combat had now become possible. The struggle with the shadow is the only real struggle. When the visual sensation confronts the invisible force that conditions it, it releases a force that is capable of vanquishing the invisible force, or even befriending it. Like screams at death, but death is no longer this all-too-visible thing that makes us faint; it is this invisible force that life detects, flushes out, and makes visible through the scream. Death is judged from the point of view of life, and not the reverse, as we like to believe. Bacon, no less than Beckett, is one of those artists who, in the name of a very intense life, can call for an even more intense life. He is not a painter who “believes” in death. His is indeed a figurative miserabilisme, but one that serves an increasingly powerful Figure of life. The same homage should be paid to Bacon as can be paid to Beckett or kafka. In the very act of “representing”horror, mutilation, prosthesis, fall or failure, they have erected indomitable Figures, indomitable through both their insistence and their presence. They have given life a new and extremely direct power of laughter.
Since the visible movements of the Figures are subordinated to the invisible forces exerted upon them, we can go behind the movements to these forces, and make an empirical list of the forces Bacon detects and captures. Although Bacon likens himself to a “pulverizer” or a “grinder”, he is really more like a detective. The first invisible forces are those of isolation: they are supported by the fields, and become visible when they wrap themselves around the contour and wrap the fields around the Figure. The second are the forces of the deformation, which seize the Figure’s body and head, and become visible whenever the head shakes off its face, or the body its organism. (Bacon knows how to render intensely, for example, the flattening force of sleep. The third are the forces of dissipation, when then renders these forces visible is a strange smile. But there are still many other forces. What can be said, first of all, of that invisible force of coupling that sweeps over two bodies with an extraordinary energy, but which they render visible by extracting from it kind of polygon or diagram? And beyond that, what is the mysterious force that can only be captured or detected by triptychs? It is at the same time a force (characteristic of light) that unites the whole, but also a force that separates the Figures and panels, a luminous separation that should not the confused with the preceding isolation. Can life, can time, be rendered sensible, rendered visible? To render time visible, to render the force of time visible- Bacon seems to have done this twice. There is the force of changing time, through the allotropic variation of bodies, “down to the tenth of a second”, which involves deformation; and then there is the force of eternal time, the eternity of time, through the uniting- separating that reigns in the triptychs, a pure light. To render time sensible in itself is a task common to the painter, the musician, and sometimes the writer. It is a task beyond all measure or cadence.

Taken from “Francis Bacon-The Logic of Sensation” by Gilles Deleuze (Cap 8 of 17)

Francis Bacon-Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X,1953