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Francis Bacon

Critical and Theoretical Perspectives

Edited By Rina Arya

This collection of essays on Francis Bacon (1909-1992) pays tribute to the legacy, influence and power of his art. The volume widens the relevance of Bacon in the twenty-first century and looks at new ways of thinking about or reframing him. The contributors consider the interdisciplinary scope of Bacon’s work, which addresses issues in architecture, continental philosophy, critical theory, gender studies and the sociology of the body, among others. Bacon’s work is also considered in relation to other artists, philosophers and writers who share similar concerns. The innovation of the volume lies in this move away from both an art historical framework and a focus on the artist’s biographical details, in order to concentrate on new perspectives, such as how current scholars in different disciplines consider Bacon, what his relevance is to a contemporary audience, and the wider themes and issues that are raised by his work.


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Nicholas Chare Wrestling with the Archive: Saving Barry Joule’s Bacon


Setting the Scene Unspecified sadomasochistic activities are sometimes referred to in slang terms as ‘nameless crimes’ (Murray & Murrell, 1989: 96). The vernacular is revealing in that it draws attention to the oblique ways in which sado- masochism, the eliciting of sexual pleasure from the giving or receiving of physical and psychic pain, is often referred to. The taboos which continue to exist around erotic practices of this kind, which are viewed by some as acts of deviance and depravity, explain why a highly coded language has developed in relation to it. This idiom has been described by Thomas Murray and Thomas Murrell as one used primarily by practitioners of sado- masochism who are seeking out like-minded individuals and is therefore ‘by and large a written rather than a spoken entity’ (Murray & Murrell, 1989: 156). Euphemisms such as ‘nameless crimes’ usually only appear in personal ads. In face-to-face encounters such language is not employed. It is replaced instead by ‘a complex system of body language, including kinesics, proxemics, and haptics […] in conjunction with a trial-and-error, “feel- your-way” method [of communication]’ (Murray & Murrell, 1989: 156). Through a close examination of works from the Barry Joule archive, this paper will argue that the artworks of Francis Bacon can be seen to visualize these ‘nameless crimes’ by way of a pictorial vocabulary which is firmly grounded in the carnal. The artist cultivated a bodily aesthetic, which captures beauty in physical cruelty, finding pleasure in pain, and constitutes an ef fort to visually name...

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