“Who is he? What does he want? Who’s mans is this? What does his heart seek?” These are the first thoughts I had upon seeing the above image. This image filled me with such a feeling of dread and unease that I had to close my laptop, stick it in the fridge, and go cry by the dumpsters outside for an hour and a half.
The most prominent figure in this picture is the diminutive gentleman in the fur coat or “housecat.” He is entering the room as if to query your presence, Stranger, or to let out a tremulous cry of warning. What he is warning, we shall never know for his pronouncement catches in his trachea like an unsuspecting child specimen trapped in an IKEA.
Now one might initially see a cat walking on its hind legs and think, “I might as well lie down and die right now as he is clearly the alpha. He will consume my flesh. These are the end times. Goodnight, sweet prince.”
BUT upon closer examination of his body language, we can conclude that all is not well. His tail is not held with the jaunty swagger usually seen on fluffy cats like this, but it lies low to the ground, with a dip like that in the stock market. His tail hangs behind him like the anchor of an old warship being hauled away for scrap, once a thing of beauty and power but now decrepit and obsolete like so many killing machines of old.
The Presence under your lintel (the top part of a doorframe) holds his forelimbs in suspicion and apprehension. He is betwixt thoughts of sanctuary and thoughts of jeopardy. What does he know that you don’t? Who does he think you are? What does he suspect you of knowing?
Next we come to the Figure’s eyes. Alas, his eyes! Stranger, have you ever seen such eyes? Behind them, distrust, yes, but there is something more, something ancient and noble, illustrious and bold. His visage says run and hide.
Above his eyes, like two soft mountain peaks stand his ears, ever-vigilant. What do they hear? Hear them celestial harmonies of symphonies past, ethereal melodies? Or mayhap he hears the echoes of battle, the distant screams of children, the staccato of gunfire, and the whine of an ersatz Armageddon falling from the heavens. Has he spent his civilian life trying to escape the war or return to it? What does he hear that he longs to forget? What eternal cacophony plays in his head every eve before he plunges into the fathomless depths of slumber?
To understand this image, we must examine the figure in its context. He ambles into a bedroom in a state of moderate disarray. His eyes follow you. You, Stranger, lie upon your bed, engaging in modern media from the blue light box. Why are there maracas on your shelf? What are they for? Do you play the song of the universe to the drumbeat of time, do you play until your lifeforce runs dry and you become another dusty old record on the shelf?
Furthermore, the picture itself must be analyzed, not just the scene of impending chaos within. The colours are muted, there is poor lighting and a graininess to the quality of the photograph. This shows a dissociation between the medium and the message. This was likely taken on a cellular telephone camera, but the Figure asks you, “WHY?” The artist uses an everyday object to capture a rare occurrence. The disconnect between the physical and emotional qualities of the image forces the viewer to realize themselves within the situation. This is representative of the eternal battle between the aesthete and the moralist; the amoral aesthete is a hedonist and the moralist with no aesthetic clings to a puritanical view of opulence, only the appearance of abundance.
But what is this picture trying to tell us? There are many possible interpretations. P’rhaps the pale Figure is meant to be understood as a visual metaphor for Death. Death comes to take us all in the end; maybe he knocks on your door or maybe he creeps in silently. Death rides a pale horse, and can’t you just imagine this cat in lil cowboy boots?