In this paper, I discuss the relation between secret and violence by examining René Magritte’s series of door paintings in reference to Kafka’s paradox of the open door of the law. The discussion is nurtured by two thinkers, Giorgio Agamben and Jacques Derrida, whose thinking revolves around the issue of violence of the law through their examinations of Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘Critique of Violence’.
Magritte’s door paintings express his concern with boundaries, which depict half-opened doors standing outside on their own and detached from any architectural structure. Kafka’s parable of an open door in Before The Law, a story included in The Trial, tells of a countryman who is refused entry through the gate of the law that is perpetually open but guarded by the doorkeeper who tells the man that even if he were to pass this gate, there will be more gates guarded by even more powerful gatekeepers.
Paradoxically, while these doors in Magritte’s and Kafka’s works illustrate the illusionary function of the door as a device for rendering a spatial or conceptual partition, they create a sense of inaccessibility, rather than a liberatory opening, precisely by nullifying the very function of the door as a means of enclosure. These doors prohibit without prohibiting anything and a ban is in force without application to a specific violation. Magritte’s and Kafka’s open doors allegorically expose the space of secret in the law; they are spellbound by the discourse of potential impossibility, and both tackle the legal system, which is inherently dependent on the invention of fictitious boundaries, illustrating the politics at the threshold. As Agamben and Derrida explicate, what makes possible the exercise of the law is nothing but perpetual deferment of the accessibility itself, voicing out a discourse of inaccessibility - ‘do not come yet to me’.