What do we mean when we claim affinity with an object or picture, or say affinities exist between such things? Affinities is a critical and personal study of a sensation that is not exactly taste, desire, or allyship, but has aspects of all. Approaching this subject via discrete examples, this book is first of all about images that have stayed with the author over many years, or grown in significance during months of pandemic isolation, when the visual field had shrunk. Some are historical works by artists such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Dora Maar, Claude Cahun, Samuel Beckett and Andy Warhol. Others are scientific or vernacular images: sea creatures, migraine auras, astronomical illustrations derived from dreams. Also family photographs, film stills, records of atomic ruin. And contemporary art by Rinko Kawauchi, Susan Hiller and John Stezaker. Written as a series of linked essays, interwoven with a reflection on affinity itself, Affinities is an extraordinary book about the intimate and abstract pleasures of reading and looking.
‘Brian Dillon is always invigoratingly brilliant. His sentences, his stylistic innovations, the range and potency of his intellectual adventures; he is a true master of the literary arts and a writer I would never hesitate to read, whatever his subject.’ — Max Porter, author ofShy
‘Affinitiesis a book of enthrallments. Brian Dillon “performs” and “embodies” that tautology of fascination, its unspeakability. On titans like Julia Margaret Cameron, Claude Cahun, Francesca Woodman and Tacita Dean, Dillon is revelatory. Conceived during the pandemic,Affinitiesshares the eccentric pain of the moment, the intimate revelations of self-doubt imposed on us all.Affinitiesis a book after my heart.’ — Moyra Davey, author ofIndex Cards
‘Brian Dillon’s essays match discernment and critical thinking with a sense of pleasure in finding a work of art that speaks to him and lures him into contemplating its mystery and intricacy. His writing is exact and calm; rather than explain he explores, playing what is tentative against what is certain.’ — Colm Tóibín, author ofThe Magician
‘InAffinities, Brian Dillon has woven a sparking electric web of aesthetic attention, an astonishingly deft and slantwise autobiography through the images of others. With this third panel in his brilliant triptych – withEssayismandSuppose a Sentence– Dillon has made himself a quiet apostle of close looking, drawing such intimate connections between such disparate things that he reveals marvel after marvel, and miraculously passes his affinities along to the reader. His project, it seems to me, is a nearly holy one, borne of deep generosity and love for the world.’ — Lauren Groff, author ofMatrix
‘Brian Dillon’sAffinitieseloquently describes the relationships we have – both physical and mental – with works of art. Dillon reflects on the nature of these relationships, the affinities for the selected works, through his research and personal history with them while intermittently allowing us insight into his mediations about the complexity of affinity itself.’ — Hans Ulrich Obrist, author ofWays of Curating