‘Pins and Needles’ Exhibiton Review by 신현진 Hyunjin Shin

Rancière says he is uncomfortable

Hyunjin Shin

It is difficult indeed to overturn your thinking habit overnight. It is even harder for someone like me whose thought is based on reasoning and and humancentricity to follw Deluezean theory because I believe being dependent on senses or subconsciousness is the same as gambling. However, I must attempt to make a brief description on Deleuzean theory; or at least what I have understood so far. His theory came about the time when Postmodern thinkings emerged and started to raise questions on logocentric, anthropocentric worldviews. Basically, his philosophy is to find alternative to the worldview established based on the epistemology of reason. He rejected the teleological thinking system of modernism which is based on there is eternal truth and according structure. He also suggested an ontological condition in which includes unlimited number of the virtuals that can be actualized by the subject that employs all sensory organs beyond the eyes and even the subconsciousness in the process of cognition. This prescribes the nature of the subject as potent beings with subconsciousness and senses that once excluded or suppressed by reasoning. His The Logic of Sense is an explanation of his philosophy through the art of Bacon.       He discussed Bacon in the book and interpreted that the characters in Bacon’s paintings are struggling to escape to another realm. It seems that he intended to prove that there were artists who imagined somewhere beyond the world where in which people had become mechines and territorialized lives in the name of univocal telos.    


There are reasons that I must attempt to explain Deleuze despite my understanding on Deleuze is limited; I was assigned by critic- workshop to form an argument in reading Nial Craven whose approaches are referred to Deleuzean thinking and Bacon’s paintings. Nevertheless, my argument might have some usefulness in the sense that there are not much of chances for emerging artists to get criticism once graduated from educational institutions. Another reason is that my argument would be one of the possible scenarios in which how a theorist would identify the potentials and threats from his art practices so far. More than anything, I was embarrassed as a critic because I completely failed to read the message he intended to convey and wanted to help to form an arguement.


There are various figures appear in his paintings. However, their faces are rarely shown so that it is safe to say that he does not emphasize identities of the subjects in his works. In terms of style, expressionist techniques have been generally applied and picture planes are mostly composed of parts from a body that has been deteriorated or deformed. Despite such selection as theses materials, what I have sensed was more of the warmth from the artist’s gazes on to his subject rather than uncanny or visceral feelings. Or it could be said that I was able to find his warm interest toward them. Recently, there have been some changes in his works. He minimized the expression that used to help creating illusion of three dimentionality on his picture plane; forms are a bit simplified than before; and+ signs and/ or geometric lines are superimposed across the subject’s bodies and backgrounds.  


Then again, when I received his artist statement, my assumptions were proven wrong. First, he calls himself a body painter instead he paints people. He also said that he has been influenced by Deuluezean theories since reading The Logic of Sense. He said, “my work, as you have probably already seen, is concerned with the body, ways of painting the body, and the relationship between paint and the body itself. He also added that he had experienced himself what Deuleuze termed as senseation which is referred to the experience equivalent to a ‘violation against human nerves’ when he looked at medical imageries of deformed body parts by wounds or scars. If so, I am getting close to an understanding on the meaning that his study of relationship between paint and the body is to incorporate “this feeling of interpreting our body by using sensation rather than vision.” It might be, like ‘phantom pain,’ his study is to explore the notion of what we learn from vision is not whole but also it might betray what is actually there to be sensed because the act of cognition involves brain’s interpretation of sensed data in order to complete act of perceiving the reality. He seemed to have agreed to Deleuze who has discovered potentiality in the senses of body. Title he provided also was supplementary to the idea of potentiality in extra sensory perception. “Something I started thinking about, as well, was the way in which we use language to refer to sensation, and this is something that informed the title of my exhibition ‘Pins and Needles’.” In terms of the techniques he applied, he added explanation as follows. “I believe the tension between the painting of the body and more abstract painting can achieve this to some degree, especially if these abstract marks can emphasize the flatness of the image.” After listening to his explanation, I felt safer to say the bold lines or small + signs superimposed over the bodies or backgrounds are metaphorical representations of sensation that cannot be achieved through vision.    


Now, I am almost ready to come to a conclusion. The first thing that came to my mind was how to define the ultimate goal of this type of painting pratice. Specifically speaking, it would be one of these: 1. to reproduce artist’s experience of physical phenomena whichi involves of using other sensory oragans rather than vision sothat his audience can experience the same; 2. to creat visual expression that shows what he sensed using other sensory oragans rather than vision all in the same screen; 3. to narrate the statement that people perceive through whole body; or 4. to contain both the narrative representation multi sendory stimuli. However, one can wonder if it is possible to contain both the regime of representation and that of narration at the same time?


In relation to this, Rancièreonce once defined abovementioned notions number 1 and 2 as the regime of representation or mimetic regime and number 3 as aesthetic regime. If Craven’s goal is no. 1 or 2 all he wants to do is just continue depicting body and create variations until he achieves the most satisfying outcome while comparing to the receptions of the viewers. If his goal is number 3, or number 4, he would make people like Rancière very uncomfortable or very happy as he has fought to overcome the politics of aesthetic regime in modernism. For Rancière, modern aesthetic regime is not whole as it imposed separation between what the audience’s senses and the message conveyed. This is why he advocates indeterminancy in the art works to overcome such regime. Speaking of separation, Deleuze believed that the characters in Bacon’s paintings were attempting to escape to a realm of potency while attempting to ‘become’ something other than human. In this process of reading Bacon’s painting, however, Deleuze ignores what Bacon’s subjective intention whatever that was and reads it as a signifier asif it narrates the logic as is his. Then, Deleuze has replaced ‘the sense of punctum,’ which audience must have felt through their bodies employing logic of sense, with ‘the signifier of stuudium.’ This not only underminds his own theory by making Bacon’s painting has not much to do with ‘perceiving’ senses slipping out of already territorized realm but epitomizes case of ‘reading’ within the frame with which modern aesthetic regime mediates correspondence between the texture of the work and its efficacy.


Let’s go back to Craven’s case. Craven’s paintings have both festered toe and + signs that represent stinging sense. How should we categorize Craven’s approach with two methods of representation? One belongs to the realm of expression and the other to the realm of representation. One is senses and the other is reasoning. One is figurative and the other is abstract. Can one ever achieve totality of realms between senses and reasoning? Maybe his goal is to resolve or disprove Kant’s assumption of antimony. On the other hand, Rancière challenges us to dare to make pensive image, through his book, Emacipated Spectator. This pensive image he introduced is image of an art work that creates a zone of indetenninacy. According to Rancière, a pensive image allows different logics of aesthics to collide within the image. As a result, it creates impass of regimes.  It has potential to covercome the politics of modernist aesthetics, because it evokes spectators to ponder about what the coming aesthetics. Ranciere’s such an imagerial preposition has rings to refutation of dichotomies between punctum and stuudium, between direct expression and representational mediation of an image.  If so, were Craven’s paintigns the pensive images of Rancière’s? I have to admit that I am rather a slow kind of person to catch meanings sensitively. Even so, I still cannot lie that I have felt any tactile sense from his paintings, even from his drawings charged with full energy. I could not imagine either ‘violence on nerves’ or limitation of vision. Instead, I only confirmed that the + signs are the metaphor for the senses outside body and the trace of artistic operation. On the other hand, on conceptual level, every thing perfectly falls in to place. Perhaps his paintings have the potentials to be the pensive images and I only failed again to see such impass of regime. Wasn’t this also true for Cezanne? It took him his whole lilfe, but ecentually Cezanne made it possible to convert the meaning of ‘seeing’ in paintings one from the perpective view to that of phenomenology. Therefrore Craven may expand the meaning of seeing to the realm of synaesthesia some day.