The Weird Fertility of Violence
The most recent issue of Image journal—No. 81—features a fascinating review/engagement with the paintings of Kim Alexander. In particular, because of Ferguson, Gaza, Mosul and a host of unnoticed everyday reasons, the above painting ("Two Bullets"; acrylic on paper) gives me a long pause in the painful direction of unrelenting human violence.
As Joe Milazzo writes in Image: "'Two Bullets' exposes much that is mythic in our definitions of violence, most prominently, the myth that violence is always something exotic. Violence happens to someone else—not, heaven forbid, us." On the other hand, of course, there are plenty of myths surrounding nonviolence. And Stanley Hauerwas warns us: "You never know where the violence is in your own life. To say you're non-violent is not some position of self-righteousness—you kill and I don't. It's rather to make your life available to others in a way that they can help you discover ways you're implicated in violence that you hadn't even noticed."
But to the compelling point of the painting, Alexander, the artist, says, "There is a weird fertility to violence." Milazzo goes on: "Violence feeds on itself, but it does not destroy or nullify itself. It conserves its resources. Violence is sudden and explosive, like a crocodile breaking the surface of the water to snap at its prey..."
With such a natural explanation, I suppose we must ask ourselves...
Why do we persist in being surprised, time and again, by the crocodile?