– Autumn/Winter 2014

The Doorman

Our Literal Speed

Poster for International Exhibition of Modern Art, New York, 2013, held at the ‘Jugoslavia’ pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2003. Courtesy the Museum of American Art, Berlin

The essential elements of a person ... come to light only when we must regard him as lost to us, when everything he has done seems to have been a taking leave of us. Suddenly the true nature of everything about him that was merely preparation for his ultimate death becomes truly visible.

— Thomas Bernhard,Verstörung (Gargoyles)1

Somewhere in what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels called ‘Old Europe’, in the years preceding the Great War, in an oak-panelled room, an upper-middle-class, straight white man conjugates verbs that describe the designs and depictions in several medium-sized paintings. There are shapes and colours, composition and a bit of story and many other small and big things to look at, but this upper-middle-class, straight white man does not feel confused or bereft in the face of this superfluity. This upper-middle-class, straight white man is a connoisseur of modern art. He knows the scene’s aura of capaciousness points to a rendezvous with the superlative. There’s too much here to be grasped all at once and for this upper-middle-class, straight white man ‘too much’ feels very good, like a fistful of meat dissolving in his stomach. He feels gratified, because he compares the

  1. Thomas Bernhard, Gargoyles (1967, trans. Richard and Clara Winston), New York: Vintage, 2006, p.17.