Friday, June 30, 2006

The Art of Murder - Jose Carlos Somoza

I recently read a very interesting book called The Art of Murder by José Carlos Somoza. It’s not the sort of book I’d usually pick up and it is definitely surreal but the concept intrigued me so much, I couldn’t resist.

Back cover copy

Welcome to an art scene where realism has gone one step further, where each painting is literally alive, where the model for each masterpiece is the canvas itself. And for the beautiful men and women queuing up for the privilege—to be painted and posed, bought and rented by collectors—there is one artist they are all drawn to: the mysterious Dutch master, Bruno van Tysch.

Then a young female model, Annek Hollech, is abducted and killed, viciously murdered in a most gruesome fashion. The detectives assigned to the case, April Wood and Lothar Bosch, may have little interest in modern art, bu they are going to have to acquire an appreciated extremely quickly. Because van Tysch is about to launch a major exhibition in Amsterdam—the imitation of thirteen of Rembrandt’s masterpices—and the rumours are that the killer is about to strike again….

Hooked by the cover copy, I read the first few pages in the bookstore and decided to buy it. But while the backcover sells it as a murder mystery, the mystery is really a backdrop to the central theme of modern art going to the extreme.

People have become canvasses in this alternate reality. They’re ‘painted’, both literally and metaphorically (by being psychologically manipulated to display certain expressions) and trained to stand motionless for hours. Because ‘works of art’ do not move, unless they’re ‘interactive’, ‘art-shocks’ or ‘utensils’. That’s right, you can buy a Chair, an Soap Dish or a Table made up of living beings.

And if all that sounds a little mind-bending, it is. It’s not light reading—the pace is sometimes slow and there are sections where people talk endlessly about art and what it means, but those are minor flaws compared to the overall genius of the idea. This is definitely a book you’ll remember long after you’ve put it down.

Ever since reading it, I keep imagining a living, breathing work of art in my living room. Or a human Table or a Lamp. Brrr…It gives me the creeps and yet it’s not so outlandish that I can’t imagine a future where it might exist. Which is why this book is so mesmerizing. Pick it up if you’re in the mood to be eerily fascinated.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I've read that book too! It's not very popular/ well-known, but I found out about it when I was just browsing through the library. I don't usually go for murder stories, but I'm an arty person, so I decided to check it out - and I have NEVER regretted it! The few days after I finished the book I also imagined human art wherever I went, it was a bit creepy, but cool too. lol ;P