Alberto Giacometti: The Art of Relation
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Alberto Giacometti's attenuated figures of the human form are among the most significant artistic images of the twentieth century. Jean-Paul Sartre and AndrÃ© Breton are just two of the great thinkers whose thought has been nurtured by the graceful, harrowing work of Giacometti, which continues to resonate with artists, writers and audiences. Timothy Mathews explores fragility, trauma, space and relationality in Giacometti's art and writing and the capacity to relate that emerges. In doing so, he draws upon the novels of W.G. Sebald, Samuel Beckett and Cees Nooteboom and the theories of Maurice Blanchot and Bertolt Brecht; and recasts Giacometti's Le Chariot as Walter Benjamin's angel of history. This book invites readers on a voyage of discovery through Giacometti's deep concerns with memory, attachment and humanity. Both a critical study of Giacometti's work and an immersion in its affective power, it asks what encounters with Giacometti's pieces can tell us about our own time and our own ways of looking; and about the humility of relating to art.
might here lead in the direction of eye-sockets. Spatially – in the metonymies of form, and in the metaphors of association – the question arises repeatedly, and differently at each juncture: where? Suspended between enchantment and anxiety, the circle, the disc, offers freedom of interpretation, and any number of threads through the surface tension of the pictures, their visual beckoning to so many different disciplines and different ways of knowing. Equally, an understanding of the intellectual
of attachments, their dispersal and oblivion. Poised in that way between knowing and not knowing, what it is we are looking at, how should we respond to the difference between the two versions of Trois hommes qui marchent? A model of progress or improvement from one to the other is not supported by either one of them; each beckons and dismisses the presence of the other from within itself. In one the platform supporting the three figures – none meeting, as we know, each perpetually on the way
by the living. Didi-Huberman is struck by the meaning of grief in learning to think without resolution, and draws on Jean Genet’s sensation of the separateness of human beings reawakened in him looking at Giacometti’s figures, and watching Giacometti modelling.34 And yet even grief is not only a matter of separation, a state of solitude that might descend on any one of us, implacably. Separateness, aloneness – there is always further to go, until total loss and wholesale oblivion is arrived at,
and his manner of inviting his viewers in. I have tried to avoid capturing either Giacometti and his effects or those of Sebald: a lost cause, as I will have been ensnared in my own ways of looking and writing in response to the story. Still, in whatever idea remains of looking without capturing, perhaps I have learnt something about the difference between loud and silent allusion, about its uncertainty and its melancholy, which is a pervasive and sometimes brutal one, no less so for being on the
blindness to our own seeing. Like Benjamin’s, Giacometti’s angel here recedes as much as it emerges, rushing headlong into its own absorption in present history, and the present rush to supersede.27 Such is the witness to the past and the experience of others open to us, Giacometti seems to suggest in this troubling piece. To witness is to be blind to our own witness. In La Cage, there is another box underneath the box with the remnants of human figures. But there is nothing to see. Where are