The Role Of Kafkaesque Art

By Miranda Sweeney

Some writers strike a chord universally and their works have a lasting effect on humans and society. Franz Kafka wrote works that are still widely read today and his name is now used as an expressive adjective in language. A bizarre, surreal situation with a sense of unease and potential danger and yet with which people can identify is when this type of adjective is used. Kafkaesque art is art that fits this description.

His works often have an almost dangerous quality and disorientating complexity. Despite a sense of futility and impossibility, there is also a sense of yearning. Kafka used to create doodles that reflected the same tension as his writing. Many of these drawings have been used on his book covers.

His stories are dark and yet humanity manages to identify deeply with them. The strong and absurd images, such as a man becoming an enormous insect or an artist starving in a cage have inspired the imagery expressed by many artists today. The menace of an image like a giant machine used for capital punishment and its implications has also sparked other artistic expression like this.

In a world Kafka presents where everything is subject to change, we are forced to consider the fact that we are subject to change too. Artists today produce intriguing paintings of insects with human characteristics or humans as machines or animals. Individuals experience anxiety and a lack of control due to being subjected to a dehumanized world where there are few answers.

Symbolism is important in any art and the work of Kafka is filled with it. For example, a cage symbolizes entrapment, alienation and isolation from others. The use of symbolism introduces mystery and offers the possibility of different interpretations. Those who enjoy this type of artistic expression are required to use their own imaginations to interpret what is represented.

Kafka was also known for his manipulation of language and use of ambiguity. This was often so pronounced that translators have difficulty translating his works. This use of ambiguity leads to readers searching for meaning. Paintings in this vein also need to be deciphered for hidden messages.

There are so many different art forms that have been inspired by the concepts, imagery and symbolism of Kafka. Artists, musicians, dancers and photographers have all interpreted his vision and even expanded on his ideas. Even computer games owe some of their surreal qualities and presentments of danger to the influence of writers like Kafka.

The complexity of the works of Kafka invites us as readers to actively participate in interpreting them. His ambiguity, symbolism and the fact that he does not present answers is something we can relate to in a world that often does not have any answers for us. Whatever art form it takes, this type of expression forces us out of complacent viewing and makes us active participants in the search for meaning.

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