Archive for August, 2009


Francis Bacon’s Poetics of the Grotesque

The retrospective for the twentieth century figurative painter Francis Bacon on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art shows Bacon’s belaboring exploration of the grotesque. He is fixated on both religious iconography such as in his paintings inspired by Velazquez, and malformed depictions of enigmatic carcasses.

Though Bacon seems to recycle the same sort of grotesque in his oeuvre to an extent that becomes exhausting there is something still powerful in his poetics of the grotesque. He reminds us of bygone times before the age of the laboratory and medicalization of illness when the temple was a site of ritual killings and sacrifice. As Yve Alain Bois remarks in his essay, “Base Materialism,” on Bataille and the photographer Eli Lotar: We live in an age where the slaughterhouse, just like the madman, is quarantined from everyday life. In his triptych series titled after the T.S. Eliot poem Sweeney Agonistes, Bacon depicts enigmatic fragmented lumps of life matter. The extreme upward tilt of the paintings draws the viewer into the painting, while having the contradictory effect of flattening the picture plane. In portraying such liminal figures that hover between life and death and inserting them between flat and deep space, one confronts the return of the repressed. That which is repressed and sublimated inevitably intrudes as the signified momentarily catches up to and disrupts the signifier. The horror in these works is in their representing the repression of violence. As Bois argues: “To show violence purely and simply would be a way of incorporating it; it is more effective to underscore how it is evacuated.”

Bacon’s painting Blood on Pavement similarly hovers between deep and flat space. The obscure blood stain is a trace of a violence and trauma that remains absent. The horror of Bacon’s imagery lies not in its portrayal of violence, but rather in its undefinability that places the viewer between the sublimation and intrusion of the trauma. It is a horror that remains truly other and resists incorporation and resolution in the quotidian. He reminds us that the comforting sanctity of our daily latte and other objects of commercial consumption is  continually haunted by wars, sweatshops, and environmental devastation. Bacon does not naively revel in the violence of the status quo, but rather exposes the ways in which we sublimate and expunge the traces of violence in presenting objects which remain liminal and resist foreclosure.


ghost island style icon: john lydon

Dick Clark at his finest.

required viewing

(more required viewing – watch both parts)

Tom Snyder at his prickliest.

It’s not just that he’s an unimaginable dick, because he was certainly not the first or the last. It’s that he somehow managed to weasel his way into the system in spite of that, working every possible angle for his ‘communications company’. Can you possibly imagine 10 minutes of music like that on television today? A shambling Tommy Bahama reject nowhere near the microphone.  Or how about ten minutes of music in general? What really does it are the next two clips, almost 12 minutes of unimaginable awkwardness. I’ve seen uncomfortable interviews before, Orly Taitz comes to mind, but these questionings are always weird and stilted because the people being interviewed have nothing of substance to say.  Forget about ‘Rotten,’ Mr Lydon sets a different standard. I love his notions of an even ground between fan and audience.


shameless self-promotion

Hi fellow Ghost Islanders,

I’ve recently put some of my recordings out into the world for everyone to hear, and I wanted to cordially invite all of my fellow residents to check them out, either at:

or, if you suffer from extreme Attention Deficit Disorder, you may prefer:

A few of you out there may have heard me perform under a different moniker before, doing a somewhat different style of music. If you think this new stuff sucks though, and liked the other stuff more, the song ‘Chicora’ on the website might be just the thing!

Sincere thanks, though, if you take the time to listen to any of it. Any feedback from you guys would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you use myspace, become my friend if you are so inclined. It’s totally lame having Tom in my top eight still.

August 2009