Narcissus in Troubled Waters explores the myth of Narcissus from its earliest sources, to offer a study of its repercussions on the art of the 20th century.
The myth is a cultural archetype, to be found all through Western literature and art history, a myth that is at the origin of a strategy of representation that confronts a person with his or her own image through a medium. This study brings to light the situations of illusion structuring this founding story in each of its variations, and examines their reformulation in visual terms: in the work of Caravaggio and Poussin, then through various examples taken from the artistic activity of the 20th century right up to our own time.
As such, the metamorphosis of Narcissus into a concept-narcissism-and above all its re-elaboration through the image-the mirror stage-are confronted with the myth. On the strength of the different historical, exegetic, and visual layers covering the story of Narcissus, this book offers case studies taken from the work of three artists, Francis Bacon, Bill Viola, and Jeff Wall. Each of the three bodies of work selected exemplifies the use of a different artistic medium: painting, video, and photography. They offer not only a reverberation of the myth and/or its visual instantiations but can, moreover, interact with each other, communicating at times through the grace of an explicit reference from one artist to another, in such a way that this work is constructed as a coherent thematic circuit.
Henri de Riedmatten is Head of the Research Program of the Swiss Institute in Rome. He holds a masters in philosophy and a doctorate in history of art from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. In the course of his studies he has been a research assistant at Harvard University, and a scientific collaborator at the National Centre of Competence in Research Mediality- Historical Perspectives of the Swiss National Science Foundation. He is also the author of articles on issues of reflection and self-reflection in contemporary art.
PREFACE by Victor I. Stoichita
2. THE SOURCES OF NARCISSUS
The Stage of the Other
The Stage of the Mirror
Nicolas Poussin, Echo and Narcissus
The Narcissus Flower in the Myth of Demeter and Persephone
Poussin, The Birth of Bacchus
In the Mirror of Zagreus/Dionysos
Leon Battista Alberti
3. NARCISSUS ENCOUNTERING NARCISSISM:
THE MIRROR IMAGE
Jacques Lacan: The Mirror Stage
The Specular Reflection
The Illusion of the Image
Scopic Drive and Death Drive
4. FRANCIS BACON
Death at Work
The Face in Shreds
The Face on a Strip
The Black Hole-Face
The Face of Shadow and Light
The Face to Dust
5. BILL VIOLA
A DISTURBED MIRROR
The Reflecting Pool
Narcissus in Tears
6. JEFF WALL
SELF-REPRESENTATION AND THE SELF-REFLECTIVITY OF THE MEDIUM
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