chapter  5
20 Pages


The paintings of Francis Bacon would seem to provide ideal instances of the dynamics of faciality, and indeed in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981) Deleuze does discuss the deformation of the face so evident in most of Bacon’s work. Deleuze says that Bacon is a “painter of heads and not of faces,” the head belonging to the body, the face functioning as a “structured spatial organization that covers the head” (FB 19). Bacon’s object is to undo the face and bring forth the head beneath it, thereby making the head an element of an affective, intensive body. Bacon’s decoding of the face proceeds through the disclosure of animal traits within the face, but Deleuze insists that such traits do not operate via formal correspondences or mimetic representation. A smeared eyebrow may resemble a bird wing, a twisted nose a pig’s snout, or a slashed grin a dog’s muzzle, but such animal traits must be seen as zones of indiscernibility or undecidability between the human and the animal. They are instances of a becoming-animal, a passage between identifiable entities toward some unknown figure, elements of an experimental probe-head engaged in a process of uncharted mutation. Rather than turning humans into animals, Bacon reveals their common zone of undecidability, which Deleuze associates with the body as flesh or meat. Bacon’s obsessive treatment of butcher shop imagery-rolled roasts, racks of ribs, trussed loins, crucified dressed carcasses-Deleuze sees as

part of a general becoming-animal of the human. Meat is the “fact” (one of Bacon’s favorite words) common to animals and humans, as well as a state in which flesh and bone “confront one another locally, rather than composing themselves structurally” (FB 20). Face and head oppose one another as bone to flesh, the structuring skull imposing form on the malleable flesh. In meat, bone no longer exercises its organizing and shaping force on the flesh. Likewise, in Bacon’s portraits the flowing currents of flesh defy the hold of the face’s cranial scaffolding.