Dioramas, Microphagia, and Microscripts

This painting is titled “Two Sisters”; it was painted by Romanian artist Nicolae Tonitza. The use of cross-hatching blends the colors and keeps them in motion, but it is the eyes—the hollowed out eyes—that resemble the X’s on the face of cloth dolls, the absence of eyes, which haunt me. 

Brutality hides inside banality—beneath the ironed uniform, under the cassock of the priest, in the starched business decorum of the professional—the monstrous is made even more monstrous because it looks safe, ordinary, appropriate.

“Germany declared war on Russia. Went swimming all afternoon.”

  • Franz Kafka in his notebooks

This juxtaposition is horrifying precisely because it is banal. It reveals how life goes on as usual in the middle of tragedy, in the space after losing a loved one, in the hollows of genocide and wars, in the sunshine that greets a patient leaving the office where she has been given three months to live. The brutality of the ordinary assures us that life continues like a machine without us. Tell me the city is burning. Tell me you baked blueberry pie.