chapter  21
15 Pages

Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead

BySteve Baker

Art exists [. . .] to make the stone stony . Viktor Shklovsky

One of the numerous short sections in Roland Barthes’ book on photography, Camera Lucida , written shortly before his death, is called ‘Flat death’. It reads as follows: ‘With the Photograph, we enter into fl at Death . One day, leaving one of my classes, someone said to me with disdain: “You talk about Death very fl atly.” – As if the horror of Death were not precisely its platitude!’ (Barthes 1982: 92). I quote this at the outset, because my subject here is fl attening , and deadness , and their near-opposites, thickening , and liveliness – as they apply to animal objects and to writing that addresses those objects, especially in the context of contemporary art.