• 04 Jan 2017

Originally installed as a mural in the London Borough Polytechnic, Duncan Grant’s Bathing (1911) provoked anxieties that it would lead to the moral decay of working-class youth. Employing critical theory, the article by Vajdon Sohaili in the latest issue of British Art Studies finds the root of those anxieties in the painting’s linkage of naked homosociality to a subtle but pervasive figuration of desire, which Grant constructs via a sophisticated design programme. Grant’s democratic fantasy of homoerotic desire echoes that of his Bloomsbury colleague, E. M. Forster, whose dictum “only connect” induces a state of inoperative touch, made intelligible by Jean-Luc Nancy. The effects of Grant’s composition, when viewed through the repetition theory of Gilles Deleuze, create not only a space but a time of desire, a potentiality located in the figure of the peripheral, uncoupled bather. Poised on the brink of sexual self-awareness, this figure invokes a positive form of Narcissus, liberated from the Freudian taint of homosexual non-productivity.

Read the full article here.