By Søren Kierkegaard
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The throwing away of the object is primarily the result of negativityrejection, an expenditure of energy discharges that mark the object as separate from the body. Kristeva explains: the very moment of rejection/separation ‘fixes the object in place as absent, as a sign’ (Kristeva 1984: 123). It sets up a relation between the subject – the heterogeneous system that has produced the sign – and an outside or social other. The cotton reel’s appearance as a sign or mental image of the thing is an indication of material production of language.
This can be seen, for example, in (and any number of other avant-garde movements and artists could have served to illustrate the point) the practices of Dada artists such as Otto Dix and George Grosz, whose satirical 33 Interpretation as practice paintings and sculptures were anti-bourgeois, anti-capitalist, antiwar and indeed anti all traditional values that typified Western societies of the 1920s and 1930s. Feminist and so-called post-colonial practices provide fertile and more contemporary illustration in this regard.
It is principally through the title of the work that we may confirm that it is the figure of a child. In the foreground of the painting, there is what may be construed to be an arm caught in a gridlike structure, part of which may also be read as the torso of a larger ‘headless’ figure from which the vague idea of a second arm at the left side of the figure emerges. A roughly circular pattern of lighter marks form a track which leads back to the sheltered area, passes close to the figure of the child and goes beyond it to a dark mass invading the top of the scene above the canopy of trees.