Clark, Painting in the Year Two (as note 3), p. 16.


Clark, Painting in the Year Two (as note 3), p. 50.


Ibid., p. 113.


Clark, Painting in the Year Two (as note 3), p. 50.


However, the process of representation in Hobbes’ view does not initiate political society but rather terminates it through the attempt of eliminating the contingent and conflictive nature of the social. The image of the Leviathan, the absolute sovereign, does not address the condition of its constitution but incorporates all his subjects (or contractual partners) into his own body. Here, the gap between the represented and their respective mode of representation, which is the place from which all political dynamics emerge, is closed. In distinction from the Leviathan, the portrait of Marat representing the people, thus providing a new image of power, draws attention to this particular gap and shows that modern political society is constituted upon its own reflection. Clark seems to pick up on this when he writes about «the accident and tendentiousness of politics» that was now included in David’s «picture of the world» and «in its conception of what ‘showing’ now is.» [36] Showing here no longer means a display of absolute sovereignty but a reflection of its procedural and historical conditions - an awareness of its contingency. The historical conditions of sovereignty reveal themselves in an event of crisis indicating a moment when «signification breaks down and the groundlessness of [...] society as the (impossible) totality of all signification [...] is experienced.» [37] The portrait of Marat addresses such an event of crisis, a moment of social upheaval, when the absolutist model of sovereignty is called into question but a new social order has not yet been installed.

Clark elaborates further: «‹Contingency› is just a way of describing the fact that putting the People in place of the King cannot ultimately be done. The forms of the social outrun their various incarnations.» [38] The recognition of the impossibility of an ultimate representation of the people (or the social) has now become commonplace in poststructuralist political theory, where the social itself is understood to have no essence but to exist in an unlimited field of discourses. [39] Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe emphasise the partial character of every form of social meaning (nodal points within the openness of the social) which results from «the constant overflowing of every discourse by the infinitude of the field of discursivity.» [40] In the present context, contingency has to be understood as this general openness of the social, the acknowledgement of the ultimate impossibility to represent the social as discursive totality. That is to say, as Clark rightly points out, that not only the body of Marat but any body would be inadequate to stand for the people as a whole and that the process of representation appears to be the predominant technique of politics. [41]

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