Update about the Fourth Dimension

I have repeatedly stated that the genius sees things in an additional dimension, as there are no conventions how higherdimensional objects are to be seen and recognised in society, he has no true instrument to figure out and has to rely on his own „intuition“ and „vision“ (respectively rationality). That is, originally, private and primordional, I have spoken about how the genius sees a field of intensity (as the soul-like abstraction of an entity he wants to describe), and then wants to move through this intensity and let the intensity shoot through itself, to, somehow, turn the field of intensity inside out and open it into a space of negative curvature (at least in the case of the transcendent genius as opposed to the immanent genius) – that is an immediate expression of the intellectual and somatic processes that happen in the mind and the body of the genius if he deeply thinks about something. In the note about Giacinto Scelsi I think I have illustrated that, whose „compositions“ where vibrating spheres of an extreme interplay of intensity and stasis, etc. – it was the intensity shooting through itself. Intensity vs form you have, prominently, in Beethoven´s music, and that kind of inversion and erecting a somehow paradoxical structure that opens into another dimension in some of John Lennon´s compositions like Strawberry Fields Forever, I am the Walrus and, most perfectly, Tomorrow Never Knows, or in the entire The Piper at the Gates of Dawn album by Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett.

When I read that Duchamp was keenly interested in the „fourth dimension“ respectively in painting how fourdimensional bodies would appear in a threedimensional world, how their „shadow“ would be, or how it would be if a threedimensional object took a ride through the fourth dimension, it said that if a threedimensional object would take a demi-tour through the fourth dimension, it would return mirror-reversed and inside out. (That is to say, the genius intuition proves correct or adequate.) If I remember correct, that is also how Cube2 – Hypercube can be interpreted, the sequel to Cube, an enigmatic mystery/horror film where people are trapped inside a gigantic cube-like structure for unknown purpose: In Cube2 – Hypercube they are trapped inside a hypercube/tesseract! Despite the dramaturgy and grouppsychological dynamics are a bit of a cheap copy of the original (which is why it got largely dismissed by the audience, including my friends), I found the enigma of the hypercube (and of the conspiracy behind it) extremely immersive and, as also quantum physics got mentioned, it made me think a lot about it. In that respect, Cube2 – Hypercube was one of the coolest films I´ve seen.


Francis Picabia

One of the coolest and most stunning exhibitions I´ve seen was the Francis Picabia exhibition at the Kunsthalle Krems in 2012 – Krems and the Wachau region is by the way considered one of the most beautiful places in the world, it is included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and the train ride from Vienna to Krems is something I find extremely pacifying. – Picabia was one of the greatest talents among the painters of the 20th century, and he had one of the most unusual visions. A permanent experimenter and close friend of Marcel Duchamp, he emerged from impressionism and would subesequently touch upon many streams and possibilities of art/painting, he had an influence on Dada, ironically hailed the machine age, he painted a beautiful series of portraits of Espanolas, in the Transparences he painted in multiple layers, he was a painter of nudes as well as of portraits that are, well: proto-pop art? Or just unintentional, immediate art?, and finally he would turn into abstractionism.  What he did is not something you would expect. Picabia´s paintings are all immediate and well-formulated, nevertheless you are always under the impression that they are on the run and there´s irony to them: Product of a very quick and malleable mind. It is difficult to put into words what makes their metaphysical quality (i.e. showing the possibility of another world in the world that you immediately present), when I look at Picabia´s paintings, they suddenly collapse into themselves, into a (pseudo) singularity and from there form anew, probably into something completely different, but no less (meta) ironic, a hasty child laughter accompanying the process. – You´re under the impression that Picabia created no great masterpieces although many pieces like Femme à la cigarette, La Femme au monocle, Mardi Gras (Le Baiser), Femme nue, Ganga, L´élégante, Petit soleil, Cynisme et indécence, Espanola à la guitare, Nu devant un paysage et al. are very cool, and in fact it is the entire oeuvre that galvanises. Picabia´s oeuvre is extremely vibrating in being such an expression of – art … and the spirit of art – I reiterate, I am very happy that I have seen this grandiose exhibition! – Some (like Marcel´s brother Gaston) said that the permanently experimental nature of Picabia´s oeuvre is because – while being a major talent – Picabia would, in reality, lack depth and personality, but as I state once in a while, escaping the boundaries and bondages of personality (and depth) is not necessarily a bad thing as it makes you more flexible and fluid and a better human being (it is true however, that, upon reflection, Picabia´s Transparences, alluding to the possibility of experiencing the multilayeredness of the world, do not acually reveal metaphysical depth or a deep structure of the world, rather an indifferent togetherness if not juxtaposition (also his writings are, well, a juxtaposition of superficiality and depth (which is, however, not uncommon among artists (and one of his aphorism says: „What widens our personality is good, what can do harm to it is evil, therefore God has no personality.“)))). – Despite the appearance of a jovial hedonist, Picabia was described nihilistic and profoundly negative; an eminent mismatcher like Duchamp, he was likely to reply to anything by saying „Yes, but…“ or „No, but…“. Of himself he said, he is the anti-artist – and signed many of his aphorisms with „Francis Picabis, the funny chap“. Indeed, he was a kind of a joker in the art world, as he was actually more evasive than Duchamp: Whereas Duchamp was more radical concerning the means of doing art, Duchamp´s urinals etc. are profound oeuvre-like manifestations; Picabia´s paintings are somehow more difficult to grasp, they have a vanishing point in the creative implosion of painting and somehow contain their own swansong just to immeditately rise anew, fresh and impudent (though no less unstable; respectively it is that very specific mix between masterful, apollonian erection and chaotic, dionysian destruction/evasion that establishes a unique Picabiadian viewpoint on the usually contained inner forces of any great art). Going from floor to floor of the art palace, Picabia seemingly stops his paternoster always in an eccentric entresol respectively between two floors and then laughs from half below or three-quarters above. Hans Art called him a „Columbus of art“ (who „sails without a compass“), and Picabia had an influence on postmodernism and, specifically, Sigmar Polke. When Picabia was terminally ill he received a note from the aging Marcel Duchamp that simply said: „Cher Francis, à bientot.“

The Genius of Marcel Duchamp and its Disastrous Consequences

Some say he was the most intelligent man of his century, others call him the artist of his century, Breton said he was the most unique man of his time: And it is true that, if a man can ever do that, Marcel Duchamp carried the infinite; even when he (relatively early) ceased to produce art to play chess instead (it was a profound and supremely honest artistic statement), or when his final piece of art after thirty years of eloquent silence, revealed posthumeously, (Etant donnés) became an infinitely entangled mix of seriousness and silliness, of recollection and abandonment of his own cosmos, of bringing together the most profound and elementary (the Eros, the Great Mother, desire etc.) and revealing its possible banality (or construction via the voyeuristic gaze or the human mind/imagination that obviously, at large, has nothing better to come up with), etc. Genius spiritualises everything, says Dali, and everything Duchamp did was art – what is more, it was an artistic statement, and the way Duchamp spiritualised everything (in such an unexpected way) was that, via apparent dislocation, Duchamp gave meaning to everything and established an infinite space of context: to be correct, he established a new coordinate system within which objects can be located within an open infinity. – And what a guy he was! Everybody loved Duchamp! Journalists where very fond of him early on as he never gave them the impression to ask stupid questions, but instead unassumingly and in an uncomplicated way explained them the most avant-gardist art and the most avant-gardist ideas, and, therein, never seemed to be keen to promote himself and his own art: Instead, he rather liked to talk about art in general and expressed interest in all kind of things. He had the most profound innate understanding of art and the many divergent trends of his time, and other artists and collectors relied heavily on his opinion even though he was an obscure figure for the most time of his life and achieved international fame only as a senior citizen. He did not search for fame, rather, his quest was an inquiry into the possibilities that art may provide (like in the case of van Gogh) – and when he ceased to find further meaningful possibilities for himself in that respect, he ceased to produce art (so as not to replicate himself). There is this bonmot that he considered himself to be just „a breather“, as the elderly Duchamp would respond to a journalist´s question about his occupation, and he would also say that the entire undertaking of his life was to „get away from himself“ i.e. to move on to new territory: A mismatcher par excellence (like his friend Picabia), he was on the other hand always extremely centered and grounded in himself and fiercely identical to himself (in seeming contrast to the more extravagant Picabia). Although he was kind of a pessimist he was jovial and constructive. His intelligence was very extraordinary (and easily relates to an IQ of 160) but not monstrous and instead able to relate to anything; his genius did not express itself in a spectactular, theatrical ego of a great synthesiser as e.g. in the case of Dali, but in analysing and sorting things out in an unassuming way and with a somehow ironic, but for the most part complacent and self-satisfied smile that is at peace with itself. Despite his vast mind and triumphant knowledge, Duchamp was not an avid reader though, although he liked to listen to other artists when they intellectualised and internalised what they said and told him. Art dealer Sidney Janis said that Duchamp was nearly the only artist he had ever met who had the „inner security“ so as not to constantly feel the need to defend his art against the art and the approaches of others, who was open to everything and who also enjoyed art vastly different from his own – the only other artist of this kind was, in Janis´ experience, Mondrian (there is, however, the rumination that Duchamp did not read a lot because he eagerly wanted to defend his own vision and territory and not let other thinkers conquer or colonise it too much). The magic of Duchamp was that you had complexity in him as well as simplicity, elistism as well as populism, and not much by calculation but as a natural phenomenon. – If there is the question for the artist of the 20th century, the trinity Picasso-Warhol-Duchamp may come to mind – with Picasso the Father, Warhol the Son, and Duchamp the Holy Ghost. Duchamp was a meta-artist.

I am afraid I do not have the knowledge to adequately understand and evaluate Duchamp´s paintings (or I do not feel that I do). Duchamp´s major paintings are considered major by everyone – but the question remains whether most of them are truly Ivy league art of the 20th century. Greenberg, for instance, said that it is apparent that Duchamp left painting and revolted against „retinal art“ as his genius was „too mechanical“ to adequately dive into the depths of Cubism or, more bluntly, that Duchamp made „readymades“ and became innovative in other domains of art was due to the circumstance that he wasn´t a truly genius painter (Greenberg, though at large respectful with Duchamp, however was likely also a bit frustrated seeing how Duchamp invalidated his theories). I am rather under the impression that Duchamp´s genius was above painting and therefore it might be true that his paintings are somehow eccentric or may appear as if they would not rest in themselves (I reiterate, I cannot adequately answer that at the moment, I would need more expertise about painting and need to see the originals, I am not a painter myself and probably others are better suited to judge that in any case) – yet remember Dali when he said that he, Dali, was not a good painter himself because: „In order to be a good painter you need to be a bit stupid“ („And I, Dali, am too intelligent to be a good painter!“), so that it is simply a natural and structural issue that Duchamp was the painter he was and fully realised as the painter he could have been: since he was, in his way, too intelligent to be a „good“ painter. Duchamp´s major paintings – from Jeune homme est triste dans un train, Nude Descending a Staircase, The Bride to Tu m´ and the Large Glass look like a (meta-) reflection upon painting and upon the different styles of his time. He later would say that, for instance Nude Descending is not so much a painting to him but „an organisation of space and time via an abstract expression of movement“ or he would say that in La Roi et la Reine entourés des Nus vites he would „allude topics like King, Dame, act, velocity without actually painting them“ and approach them in an „unpolitical, humorous way“ and also as a potshot against then contemporary trends – there is no true „metaphysical“ depth in it (which Duchamp´s fanatic exegetes came to suspect in everything he did and to overinterpret into his art), no reflection about (as it is alluded) the „original sin“, the painting is just to be understood in an aesthetic sense and as an aesthetic experiment. – And it is true, that Duchamp´s paintings had the character of permanent experimentation and carrying a DeleuzeGuattarian„line of flight“ within themselves (that is their metaphysical structure/gleam). Duchamp was never a member of schools and movements (and he would later say that the rejection of Nude Descending by the avant-garde artists of his time for the, in today´s world unimaginable, reason that a „(lofty) nude cannot descend a staircase“ (i.e. do such a trivial thing) made him very sceptical about art movements and the avant-garde in general). He was only interested in a true „creatio ex nihilo“ (and when he later found out that it wasn´t possible for him to do so anymore he would abandon art to play chess instead, so as „not to repeat himself“ as an artist). Probably expressing the usual feature that genius can see „in an additional dimension“, Duchamp, in the 1910s, was eager to paint the „fourth dimension“, respectively how a fourdimensional body would appear in our threedimensional world (therein also extenting the major problem of painting: how to project a threedimensional spatial reality onto canvas) – and he would say that The Bride was the painting where he was actually able to see the fourth dimension (to obviously lose interest in the fourth dimension as an explicit problem afterwards: His last painting, Tu m´ (obviously alluding to „tu m´emmerdes“ (you annoy me) or „tu m´ennuies“ (you bore me), looks like an impatient gaze into the fourth dimension, with the attached bottle brush as an object reaching into a additional dimension, somehow (not so) ironically alluding to King Arthur´s sword Excalibur or Wotan´s sword Notung rammed into the treedimensional world that will give him able to handle it the magical and mystical powers of the fourth dimension and make him the overman). Already in his paintings Duchamp expressed his innocent joy about puns and wordplays – which can be regarded as an expression of Duchamp´s ability to make (paradoxical) associations, also between remote concepts, and to permanently shift from background to motif: Associative horizon, as it is called by Paul Cooijmans, is an ingredient of genius and the ability to actually see in an additional dimension respectively to establish a n+1 (or n+x) dimensional perspective upon things regular people can´t. „There is no solution as there is no problem“, Duchamp would say concerning the fanatic exegesis concerning his major work, the Large Glass, that would come into being late in his life: And it is true that great artworks (or, at least, great meta-artworks) are free-floating associative structures or association-fields that establish and stabilise themselves via their quasi-endogenous equations (and therein, they imitate life, as life itself is a conquest for establishing relations and connections that establish endogenously meaningful structures and personal environments). Most of Duchamp´s major paintings carry explicit erotic content (though they are about (egoistic) desire, not love), that is to say, they are about the „big things“ in life – and the great artist is he who identifies the „big things/subjects/topics“ of life. The Large Glass was Duchamp´s most major work, he worked 8 years on it, including writing reflections about it, only to lose interest in advancing further and leaving it unfinished (and when it broke to pieces years afterwards, Duchamp wasn´t shocked but calmly restored it, diligent craftsman that he was). It truly carries the insignia of a great artwork/“masterpiece“, it is large and overdimensional, it is painted on an unconventional medium (glass), it is about an archetypical subject, it is enigmatic, it is both static and dynamic, it is highly original and unparalleled and incomparable, it is „infinite“. In the Large Class as well as Etant donnés (and many others of his artworks) Duchamp seemed to revolve around libido or desire as the prime mover of the world, but rather in a pessimistic and nihilistic way – and the Large Glass is a reflection that the desire of both the boys and the girl are nothing but egoistic – so that the question arises whether Duchamp understood so much about love at all (since, to some considerable degree, love, and the world in general, is not egoistic). At any rate, even when apparently fixing the „deep ground“ of the world, Duchamp obviously remained no metaphysicist, but a metapyhsical ironic, who would distance himself from what he just said in a minute (without, however, losing what he just said).

(Duchamp was a master womanizer and they were all very fond of his both sharply contoured as well as soft personality. However, if you consider the short-time marriage to Lydie Sarazin-Levassor and read Lydie´s sad memoirs (written decades after the marriage, but however very balanced, apparently free from hostility and obviously doing justice to Marcel) you will get the impression of a crack in Duchamp´s alleged lofty personality – and commentators to the memoirs would rather not see an art monk or saint in Duchamp but rather a somehow narcissistic and egoistic maverick devoid of true feelings for others. Remember that the reasons for the short-time marriage, orchestrated by Picabia, are somehow obscure: most consider money the sole motive, others suspect a dadaistic joke by Picabia – however it obviously was an experiment to truly settle the nomadic (and impovershed) Duchamp (who was, at the age of forty, already an ex-artist with no true plan in life) in ordinary life, by marrying him to the (intelligent, but young and naive) daughter of a wealthy man, but not least as the wealthy father did not support the young couple a lot, the marriage would not last long. Duchamp was, at first, very charming and natural to the young Lydie, but gradually became more emotionally withdrawn and increasingly emotionally cruel to her – maybe calculatedly, to drive her away from him, despite, however, also showing signs of friendliness to her. At least Lydie´s memoirs show that Duchamp was not completely an elevated monk but could become truly angry and frustrated by the upheavals of everyday life that was not dear to him or when it came to voice resentment against the art market – moreover they reveal that Duchamp´s gentleness as well as his (justified) fierce struggle for independence was kind of paradoxical as they seemingly involved some indifference towards other´s feelings and egoism: Max Stirner was one of the few authors Duchamp really had read and obviously embraced: the notion of the aristocratic individual that deserves to be fed by others and the (productive) egoism involved. Other exes, like Mary Reynolds, thought that, while being a nice guy, Duchamp was not able to truly love and surrender to a person. Consider however also that most women – including Lydie – Duchamp met in his life were not exactly of the kind that Duchamp could take them very serious (which does not excuse his behaviour of his potential for emotional coldness towards others), it seemed to be the extraordinary Maria Martins to which Duchamp somehow felt ready to surrender for the first time and his late marriage with the unconventional and natural Teeny was happy ever after (i.e. Duchamp was able to truly love when finding the right one). – When entering the marriage to Lydie, Duchamp wrote to his motherly friend Katherine Dreier that he is aware of what he is doing and it seems ok for him – if it would turn out sour, he, however, could change and rearrange things again (i.e. get divorced): Indeed, even it may have been natural to Duchamp as womanizer to leave many women with bleeding hearts respectively since Duchamp never felt heartbroken a lot and obviously had difficulties to truly imagine too much of respective emotions in others, there was no deep consideration of what his actions would do to Lydie and her family. The marriage with Lydie was no heroic episode of his life, but how much it truly invalidates the hero within Duchamp cannot be told.)

Duchamp lost interest in painting and „retinal art“ (i.e. art adressing the eye) and moved into art that adresses the intellect. He would later say that the „readymade“ was probably his most profound invention and his most important contribution to art – although he would feel to never have managed to give an exhaustive interpretation of what the readymade actually is and implies. And this is justified, because the readymade is the infinite as (the idea of) it establishes a new coordinate system within which objects in open space can be located. It was a new paradigm. It can be stated that in a world of manufactured urinals, manufactured urinals sooner or later will be reflected in art, just like in a world of Campbell´s soup cans, Campbell´s soup cans will become an object of art (i.e. there is some immediacy and simplicity in the readymade). Duchamp was avant-garde when he early on (in the 1910s) said that the bridges are the true objects of American art, the readymades he started as an intellectual game and experiment, the expostion of the urinal in 1917 was a metaphysical event that, in depth, was recognised decades later. Immediately the urinal is both a dadaistic debasement and calling-into-question of art, but also opens the possibility of extension of aesthetic perception and reflection as one is forced to recognise the inherent beauty of the urinal and of (manufactured) objects that now have become part of our world, and therefore also deserve to be recognised (and dignified) by artists. In a more general sense, with the readymade Duchamp did what an artist does: opening up new possibilities for the imaginary, but not only pronouncedly for the aesthetic imaginary but also the intellectual imaginary, adressing also the question of how the sensual and the intellectual can be truly seperated, respectively how profoundly they are ever interlinked. There is a reassessment of what the artistic/aesthetic/intellectual imaginary actually is or can be. As we have, referring to Agell de la Sierra, repeatedly stated, great art is metaphysical as it reveals the existential ontology of a thing (i.e. the possible aspects and connections of a thing) and replaces the desired vision of a thing-in-itself with the meta-noumenon of the exposition of the existential ontology of a thing – and the readymade is, so to say, the meta-noumenon of even that and, therein, the true and final statement a meta-artist could make in the 20th century. Other statements of the post-retinal Duchamp, besides playing chess, was introducing the „art coefficient“ as a (somehow democratic) measure and acknowledgement that creativity and judgement of art also lies in the audience and the eye of the beholder and that there is constant reevalutation of art – respectively the art coefficient is the relation between that that is openly expressed in an artwork, and that which is unexpressed, or maybe its subconscious, that is more subtly and permanently revealed. There also was the interlude with Rose Sélavy where Duchamp mimicked a woman – somehow expressing that the creative person is usually ambiguously gendered and has both „masculine“ and „feminine“ personality aspects. And then (by drawing a moustache on the image) he revealed that Mona Lisa probably was actually not a woman but a man – with the enigmatic smile being due to the secret the homosexual Leonardo would share with his model, therein shedding a new light (or maybe giving the answer) on the probably most emblemic (and enigmatic) work of art ever.

Duchamp and the afterlife and the legacy and the funny eyecatcher headline concerning his „disastrous consequences“: Duchamp was bitter about the art market and that he did not get his share during most time of his life (where he, as his initial paintings already began to sell at considerable prices, stopped doing art and feeding the art market, however), and later in his life he became sceptical about the commercialisation of art (including, however, recognising also the ever more limited obvious possibilities of creating truly original and „shocking“ art and be so staunchly innovative as it was possible for him and his contemporaries in his younger years at the turn of the 20th century) (including also the acknowledgment that the bulk of even the great artists is not out there primarily  for introspection and meditation in the first place, but for making money and achieving fame). He said that the true artist of the future would „go into the underground“. Superficially (and maybe also deeply) it can be said that Duchamp destroyed beauty and destroyed standards and paved the way for an „anything goes“ in art. An artwork is some peculiarity in the world, but at art fairs of today you are surrounded by stuff that seems just empty and meaningless peculiarities (respectively you are more or less excluively surrounded by urinals). His intellectualism (paved the way e.g. for Concept Art but) destroyed standards concerning craftsmanship (although, ironically, Duchamp was a very skilled craftsman). His own standard, that art, in the first place, has to be intelligent, is undermined by art that is unintelligent. His inclusion of the living world and its objects into art is now a typical artist who is overly contemporarian and makes something trendy without the metaphysical effort to reveal not only the contemporarian structure of society but also the deep structure of all society. Granted, that this is somehow polemic (and that Duchamp cannot be actually blamed for such things is apparent – although it raises the question about how constructive the influence of the innovative genius ever can be? Maybe life would be better if geniuses would not bother the world!) – there will be a sober note about the most contemporarian art somewhere soon. As for now, we will grant Duchamp absolution. Duchamp was a man who had simple but astonishingly great ideas, who were both the most eccentric and the most obvious. Everything he did and his mere existence as a „breather“ was art, respectively it was even the center of art. This is very rare and, at such a level, probably happens once in a century. If you think that contemporary art is stupid, remember that de Kooning said (to David Sysvester) that artists usually have stupid ideas and that also, for instance, Cubism (today widely regarded as one of the apexes of painting) was based on a stupid idea („… I don´t think artists have particularly bright ideas. Matisse´s Woman in Blue – Woman in a Red Blouse, or something, you know – what an idea that is! Or the Cubists: when you think about it now, it is so silly to look at an object from many angles. It´s very silly.“). That may give you some sense for relativity (however also of de Kooning´s erratic statement) and you may meditate about that. – Concerning Duchamp himself, his influence is not as direct and obvious as it may seem: The paradox of the most intelligent and original creators is that they, often after a prolonged period of incubation, become hugely influential, but also then also are actually never copied and they do not have true successors. They remain singular (and, as Einstein said: „It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely“). Such is also the case with Duchamp. Duchamp isn´t actually copied, and there is actually no one who truly tries to imitate him. In the Continuum, the realm where the spirits of the great ideas dwell, there is immediate connection with Duchamp possible, but not in the real world.

There is the question: If Duchamp came today, what would he do today? The possibilities of expressing his specific creativity seem long superseded (as you cannot shock anyone with a urinal anymore, etc.). Even if you think a lot about it and try to concentrate on it, no answer seems possible – in terms of content (or concerning the question whether Duchamp would become an artist at all in times like ours – but, as I guess, of course he will!). What can be said however, is that Duchamp is an avatar of Yorick, the fool/the trickster. The Yorick has always been there since the dawn of time and across cultures (think of Socrates-Diogenes or the Heyoka-Shaman), and he will always recycle himself until the end of time. This is also an aspect of the „eternal recurrence of the same“.


Antoni Tàpies and Sarpanitum

Antoni Tàpies produces kind of primal landscapes, sunken continents, relicts or only ground plans for ancient temples or fortresses, seeming relicts of a past long gone, traces of the most atavistic humanity, presence both of the earth and its inhabitants. It is submerged, it has lost its meaning and functionality, it has become levelled and incomprehensible but is still there and is indestructible and will there be long after our demise. Sunken into the depth and weathered those architectures probably did not make much sense in the first place but still they confront us with the enigmas of the world and of humanity that tries to overcome them and gain mastery. You want to come close to those paintings, to better understand them. They´re immersive. In their silence they seem talkative and carriers of knowledge – as they carry ancient dignity. You´re attracted to them. They´re pacifying and stirring.

Like Wols, Antoni Tàpies was a master of Art Informel, in contrast to Wols his expression was less explosive and volcanic, it was meditative and concerned about giving order. He liked to use materials like clay, sand, etc. and someone said that Tàpies´ artworks are more „tellurian“ than they are metaphysical. Yet of course the tellurian with its mystery and its depth and ancientness and reaching into the most shapeless and faceless future as well is the most metaphysical of all: That is what Zarathustra meant when he said: Die Welt ist tief/Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht (i.e. the world cannot be fully discovered by even the most advanced mind but always carries surprises). And Antoni Tàpies scratches on the strata of the earth, or throws them up. „I was obsessed with materiality … the pastiness of phenomena which I interpreted using thick material, a mixture of oil paint and whiting, like a kind of inner raw material that reveals the „noumenal“ reality which I did not see as an ideal or supernatural world apart but rather as the single total and genuine reality of which everything is composed“, says Tàpies (so again you have it that art, and creative sentiment, supersedes the epistemological „thing“ vs the „thing in itself“ puzzle and replaces it by a meta-noumenon, as it reveals the existential ontology of a thing, i.e. the embeddedness of a thing in all possible context). These artworks are haptically suggestive, and acoustically. You may want to touch them or stroke them with you hand, to get a sense of it, or hold your ear to them, to listen to the silent sound of the earth. Someone said, the earth is constantly making a sound. That sound will be all in your mind.

It is something you cannot directly communicate with, it is ancestral. It is mysterious, enigmatic, evocative. It gives you a sense of your own vanity and your own importance. Probably we´re alone, or very intelligent species are really very, very rare in the universe due to the right biological combinatory play to produce complex life being very unlikely (hence the Fermi paradox i.e. that, if the universe was so crowded with intelligent life, why hasn´t there been an obvious contact between us and them so far?). And that´s not even the end of the glorious story: In the future, as we advance, we might even colonise the mindless universe, or at least the milky way! That will be the heritage of mankind, over the long run. It is actually a very important heritage. We should not forget that.

A very sophisticated, yet underrated form of art is extreme metal, and it is good that extreme metal gained some new impetus in recent years. While more initial bands like Morbid Angel, Meshuggah or Brutal Truth sounded as if they would come from another planet, newer bands like Abyssal, Mitochondrion or Portal sound as if the came from the very depths of outer space itself (from close to the region where Azathoth dwells). Sarpanitum, a band hitherto unkown to me, are also of this kind, and what is peculiar about them is that they combine some „Mesopotamian“ elements with their chaos and forlornness in space as you have it with bands like Melechesh or Nile. (Although the album Blessed Be My Brothers has a medieval setting) you feel as if you´re in an ancient temple or some kind of stucture, long abandoned, of an atavistic high culture, so ancestral that you could not even name it. So, as well as in outer space, you are forlorn in an unreal situation/setting which is however tangible as well as it refers to very ancient humanity, to something that once made sense although that sense is faded but could be (partially) reconstructed. You have sameness in otherness, and vice versa, and that somehow feels good and chilling (at least for me, for my boring fellow humans probably not). You´re inside the continuum of history and humanity as well as you´re in the vast, but also local universe. It gives a sense of place and belonging, but not an immediate one, as it also gives you a sense of seperatedness and unrealness. Those sacred ancient halls, erected by Sarpanitum! They´re sublime, but it is a kind of undefined sublimity or infra-sublimity or transcendent sublimity, as it is something to which you have profoundly lost connection. I mean, if you´re able to get immersed into things you can somehow reconstruct it, as allegedly primitive extreme metal musicians can. Be taught: (extreme) metal mainly is surrealistic exaggeration, it is abstract and it is erudite. The lyrics (about satan, etc.) are more attached to reality than the phony love songs you can hear on the radio. With Blessed Be My Brothers Sarpanitum probably had the death metal album of the year 2015. And I think I´m going to write the long promised Metaphysical Note about Extreme Metal soon. It is good that I have already noticed some things about it, because to some degree I forgot what I wanted to say in that note hell yeah.

„When listening to the likes of “I Defy Therefore I Am” or “Thy Sermon Lies Forever Tarnished” the band’s blend of clinically chaotic but elegant almost cosmic riffage, and the historical imagery and themes makes me picture some sort of giant celestial knights clad in steam punk crusader garb usurping Sumerian thrones in far away galaxies. It’s not catchy or immediate, but presents an epic, swirling, nova of brutality and glistening beauty.“

Review of Blessed Be My Brothers by a guy named Lustmord56 at metal-archives.com

Homage to Rose Piper

It repells me that hardly anything can be found (neither in the library nor on the internet) about Rose Piper (1917-2005)! In the late 1940s she did some paintings (oscillating between abstraction and figuration) that recently had considerable impact on me. They´re about the situation of black Americans. About people who live in the social abyss, but long for a better life in the land of opportunity. It is obvious how they are trapped and their chances to ascent are dim – although there is some indication of hope. They´re painted semi-abstract, but they are – as you have it in good art – „more human than human“. In Grievin´ Hearted (1948) the grief of an (anonymous, faceless) individual as well as of a collective is expressed in the most powerful way possible. – Who has ever done a thing like that in the history of art? (Notably) Grievin´ Hearted is a very great painting and should be approached with the same awe as the Sistine Madonna or stuff Goya did (it at least was voted the best figurative painting by the seventh Atlanta University Annual Art Exhibit jury in 1948). If you like abstractions and generalisations you may even go as far as to think of a suffering humanity in toto that you have in Grievin´ Hearted – but no! Though of course such a generalisation is not without justification, Grievin´ Hearted is distinctly about the suffering of „negroes“, and the genius of Rose Piper is how she makes that clear. „Nobody suffers like the poor“, says Bukowski in Barfly. Suffering cannot so easily be generalised and thought to be a common good. Empty Bed Blues (1946) was a statement about black female sexuality – also an idol of Rose Piper, blues singer Bessie Smith, was quite offensive and confrontational against social norms as it came to being assertive about female sexuality – Piper´s The Death of Bessie Smith (1947) is probably her best known artwork. – When Rose Piper did those paintings her success was quite immediate and she began to feel that she „could make it“ – becoming a premier league artist, like Pollock. „I had the greatest time. The world was at my feet.“

Rose Piper was born in New York on Oct. 7, 1917 and grew up in the Bronx in an educated middle class family. When as a young lady she wanted to become a painter she was also heavily inspired by blues music and the situation of black Americans in the South and in rural America (she had not been familiar with up to then). She received two Rosenfeld stipendiums in the later 1940s with which she made trips to the South, originally she was a highly figurative painter who soon turned a bit more into abstraction, obviously to make her display of the human situation more universal without losing individuality. Her first exhibitions had been a success and she could earn a living with her art by then. Unfortunately, due to bad luck and family circumstances (she had to care for ailing family members) she had to give up art and instead became a (successful, but anonymous) industrial designer. When she retired, in 1979, she was Senior Vice President of her company. She then turned back to art, painting in a quite different style from that of the 1940s however. She died on May 11, 2005 in a Connecticut nursing home of a stroke.

Rose Piper was the aunt of performance/conceptual artist and philosopher Adrian Piper. I came across Rose Piper via Ann Eden Gibson´s valuable book Abstract Expressionism. Other Politics, which tries to shed light on artists of that era excluded or forgotten because of their race, gender, or sexuality (the Abstract Expressionists were actually quite macho-like and unemancipated, you see).

11 Female Abstract Expressionists You Should Know, from Joan Mitchell to Alma Thomas


In a crowded and overpopulated millennial art market Jean-Michel Basquiat was the rare occurence of a true genius. And his genius was for immediacy. He immediately did things right and did not need to have a program or ideology or philosophy so that, like in the case of Modigliani, there wouldn´t actually be much to add to and analyse about his artwork. – We can, however, say that Jean-Michel gave an impression about how a painting could look like at the turn of the millenium and that he made a solid statement that, with the right attitude, after the supposed death of painting (by exhaustion) authentic painting is still a possibility. – In the works of Basquiat you have the credible erection of figure! You have the masterful use of colour! You have spatiality and the location of the figure in the world (a somehow flat and immediate, but also hypertextual space that is both segmented and has open/undefined ends)! You have individual physiognomy (with the personnel being both individuals, types, caricatures and – what is essential to art – „more human than human“)! Although it is suggested that Basquiat´s painting style is „raw“ (and associates, e.g., to Dubuffet) it is actually immediate and the figures usually are complex and sophisticated. Also Basquiat has been labelled a Neo-Expressionist (like other artists of that time), but with expressionism you would, somehow, associate a content that is dynamic and that emerges out of itself, still has hidden meaning, but in Basquiat´s paintings nothing seems to be hidden. Everything is there and is fully illuminated and in bloom. Masterful – no, genius! – how the seeming immediacy (and „rawness“) he puts something on the canvas with and suddenly nothing else needs to be added (and with his immediately drawn double portrait of Warhol and himself, with which he tried to approach Andy, he immediately stunned Warhol). You have the highly associative intelligence of the genius as Basquiat never hesitates to put all kinds of stuff that crosses his mind into his paintings making up for the rich and saturated and (ironically) suggestive texture a great painting is about. Basquiat´s paintings even allude a bit of parody on painting – and in the respect that it´s definitely not but may seem to carry it, it adds another aspect and to the completeness and multidimensionality.

Complexity and immediacy – on the one hand a sharp contour and great definedness, on the other hand an elusiveness and enigmatic openness – was what Jean-Michel Basquiat possessed and what helped him make him a star. It was also this mix of coming up expectedly, but in an unexpected way. A black guy who was socialised with Afroamerican as well as white (counter)culture. Who hung around in East Village at the turn of the 1980s. Who turned graffiti into „something (artistically) serious“. A street artist who made it clear that his desire was to become a glamorous star (and, as such, was dragged into a world with which he actually could not identify either). A wanderer between worlds, both integrated in all of them and isolated from/in all of them. An early demise (at the wicked age of 27) due to heroin. This spring a work by Jean-Michel sold at a record price of 110,5 million dollars at Sotheby´s (to a Japanese online retail magnate, Yusaku Maezawa). Already when he was alive Basquiat would do senseless things like renting an entire floor in a hotel because he made so much money – on one occasion, and putting bundles of money into the pockets of the homeless on another. You had the mysteriousness and the heavenly impertinence of the genius. They called him the Radiant Child.

I took minor notice of Jean-Michel all over the years of couse, via art books like Fineberg´s Art Since 1940, etc. There are usually some paintings shown by major/remarkable artists and those presented by Basquiat actually didn´t really have an impression on me. Yet a while ago I bought a whole book about Basquiat, and that was when it did „take“, and so I wanted to write a note about him because I was shaken by his importance. When I looked at his stuff again now, I have to admit that I wasn´t that struck anymore, but that may change again and at any rate I found it necessary to sing this hymnos and paint this tableau. In the chapter about the East Village art scene in Art Since 1940 there follows a chapter about David Wojnarowicz. I have not come close to Wojnarowicz so far (so that maybe there may happen the same epiphany I had with Basquiat). Before he became an artist he worked as a male prostitute (and died of AIDS at age 38). His memoirs have the intriguing title Memories That Smell Like Gasoline. But I could not get them so far.

Remembering Lucrezia Buti, Marie Fel, and Company

Years ago, when I saw Quentin de la Tour`s portrait of Marie Fel (an opera singer of the 18th century – born Oct. 24, 1713, transformed Feb. 2, 1794) it moved me. A beautiful, lively, a bit secretive and mysterious face, a suggestive and eloquent physiognomy, staring at you, it has a high degree of presence and immediacy – but is long dead! Does this make me melancholic? Yes! The contours are soft, it seems like an emanation from an obscure, nebulous, eternal, undifferentiated background; well: a momentous epiphany of (distinguished) man out of the silence of eternity, into which it must pass again after some instants in time – or maybe still is there, behind the veil. Ahh, the human condition! Does this make me melancholic? Yes! Thoughful, to say the least. So it goes. Marie Fel´s heart will go on somewhere in mine and I have her on my mind.

As I wanted to write the note about Childishness in Art I borrowed a book from the library (Kinder in der Kunst) (unfortunately I did not find much else about that valuable subject). In that book I also saw Filippo Lippi´s Madonna with Child and Two Angels (1465), which moved me as well. The Madonna is supposed to have been a nun named Lucrezia Buti, who had been turned into a monastery together with her sister Spinetta by her brother Antonio. She fell in love with Filippo and fled from the monastery, causing a scandal, later giving birth to two children, Fillipino and Alessandra. Because of the couple´s courage and the sincerity of their love they later found pardon by clerical authorities. In the heavy book about Filippo´s paintings there wasn´t much information about Lucrezia, unfortunately. Maybe I can get a better book about her and the story of her life. That would interest me. At any rate I like Lucrezia´s idiosyncratic beauty. Because of this also she seems immediately present.

In Kinder in der Kunst there is also the fresco Leucothea and Dionysos, which was painted in the year 20 A.D. in a villa in Rome. What a gracious lady! And so you may ask yourself: How did the ancient Romans look like? How did Messalina look like? Were they graceful and, occasionally, vulgar as well, like people in our times? A while ago I read Quo vadis? by Sienkiewicz. The depiction of the massacres of Nero against the Christians are colourful, although I cannot actually tell how exactly. It is a horrible book as concerns the (exaggerated) portrayal of Nero´s holocaust-like atrocities, but the depiction of the Christian´s strong and transcendent faith and of their nice (actually, a bit faded) personalities had an impression on me. A main character of Quo vadis? is Petronius Arbiter, author of the Satyricon, the product of a very free and independent mind – Nietzsche loved it, I do it as well. Someone like the Arbiter occurs very rarely among humans. And hence it is alleged in Quo vadis? that Petronius was the only person in the culturally most high standing Rome who actually understood what poetry is about (whereas the others all took it as an extension of their ego or an instrument to flatter the emperor or so). When Petronius was sentenced to death by suicide by Nero he would say that the loss of life is not actually something to be sorry about: as things in this world are beautiful, but men are, in their majority, so wicked that an escape from them into the void is not regrettable. Long ago I was very impressed by Robert Graves´ I, Claudius, a historical novel that brings ancient Rome triumphantly to life. Graves was massively intelligent and had a stupendous output. I also read his White Goddess – although the specific anima of the White Goddess has not been a direct muse for myself, I like Graves´concept of analeptic thought: throwing one´s mind into the past to receive impressions. Indeed, it is good to have everything on the monitor, yes.

In the book there was also a portrait of young Mozart by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, a painter who painted in the style of rococo. In the book it was said that while Greuze enjoyed great success in his earlier days, he increasingly came to be seen as outdated, could not live from his sales anymore and had to become a teacher and finally died in great poverty. That moved me a lot and I got me a book about Greuze (since I also like the name „Greuze“). To be correct, Greuze´s influence declined in later years, but not substantially and he died in poverty mainly because of mismanagement and embezzlement by his wife. When I look at this Portrait of a Young Lady I wonder about her, like I wonder about Marie and Lucrezia. There is mysterious life in this face, evanescent but still very present and stronger than decay. What would the young lady have to tell? – Greuze was a painter of sentiment. His paintings usually carried a message respectively tought a lesson in moral. He lived in an age of sentiment, where a spirit of moral responsibility and enabling a good, decent life for everyone was in the air (and stood in relation to the bourgeoisie as a (proto-) revolutionary class – the cult of sentimentality could, in a Foucaultian sense, be understood as a formation of identity and self-awareness by internalising the moral codex of the state). Greuze´s most distinguished pupil was Constance Mayer, who would later commit suicide. Unfortunately I could not find much about her neither in the library nor on the internet. (Also Quentin de la Tour was associated with a female painter, Rosalba Carriera, as Rosalba made pastel-coloured painting popular again in Paris at his time. So I got me a book with Rosalba´s paintings. But I have to say that I hardly find in this book such glimpses of eternity as you have it in the portrait of Marie Fel et al. Indeed, that is rare in the domain of human physiognomy respectively art anyway.) The abbé de La Porte said: „I am sure that Moniseur Greuze is a man attentive to all that surrounds him: he is an observer who keeps nature constantly in view, and knows how to capture it in its most interesting aspects… What nobility!“

As you see, these (mostly ordinary) folks have long since passed and left no other trace in history, but they´re on my mind. Their presence is, actually, heavy. You see, I am not very talkative and I feel profoundly isolated from society (actually: from humanity), even from the high IQ societies, since these structures never seem to be resemblant to me, yet actually/but on the other hand I am so attached to and affected by the world that for instance when I look at the tree in front of me, it seems to immediately come near, even overrun me. The most common feeling I have (or had, especially when I wrote the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking) is that I am drawn, absorbed into the universe, and stick on it (a feeling that was, when I wrote the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking, quite painful as I felt literally enchained and grown together with the universe/the totality of being and unable to detach myself from the pain and the impositions existence includes). And so, although I am quite alone I am always surrounded by people, maybe even grown together with them, and Marie Fel and company are an expression of that. They reach into the depths of myself. When I look up, Lucrezia Buti may sit on the bench next to me. I live in a heavily populated world. Where does my self end and that of other begin? And ghosts are, in this respect, real (and more human than human).

Because of this, I am an unemployed social reject. When I was waiting for my adivisor in an institution for unemployed people recently I asked myself: When I somehow say that: after my death I am still a part of the flow/the continuum of life or so (I cannot remember the exact wording): is this a rational allegation, an emotional one, or a spiritual one? This is actually not easy to distinguish and it is correct in all those dimensions. I´ve been thinking for a while how rational, spitirual, emotional etc. sentences can be seperated, i.e. in the Wittgenstein manner. But maybe there´s some Quine to the whole problem who said that the analytical and the synthetical are not so easily to be seperated (if I remember correctly). The thing is, if your attachment to the living world/creature and capacity to get immersed in it is profound and not as superficial as in the case of ordinary man, respectively if you´re the overman, such distinctions are superfluous, indeed. But what it means among man is to be philosophised upon.

Childishness in Art

In the sunny season I like to get out and watch the children playing. I do it several times a week, and for about 90 minutes each time. I like the children´s movements and strange attractors, their unrepeated, chaotic cycles. Look how they´re doing something and immediately afterwards something else, as some other thing comes to their mind: wow, what an organic flow! And regardless of what they´re doing, they´re all anchored, resting in themselves, immersed in themselves, undistracted, unalienated. The actions of children are graceful and charming as, unmitigated, they act out of themselves and within themselves, with what they´re doing they seem to realise the full potential of the action and the full potential of the moment the action is situated. Nothing is hidden, everything is there! Kids playing signify emergence and full immersion into themselves; immanence so complete that it is somehow transcendent and unreachable to man. Kids playing are fully identical with what they´re doing and they´re fully identical with themselves. Children (in their explorative drive) are Spinozians, says Deleuze (referring to Deleuze again we can also say that they permanently fold and unfold – and that´s what Deleuze says life and existence is all about). – Blobb is at the water dispenser and produces a water bomb, something our children like to do! Little Leyla comes around and wants her flask to be filled, and four year old Sara helps her! Aynur and Aybüke and a couple of other children use the seesaw! Looking from my book up again I see how Mucahit has invented a running game, that after a while will transform into some other activity! Ines uses her scooter! Dinah marches around with her toy buggy! Hatice stands there and eats her sweets with a gaze that symbolises everything and nothing (i.e. complete immanence)! Three year old Benko and two year old Bim drive in an electric toy Ferrari over the place, undirected, meaningful, Bim all Benko´s Ferrari Bride! After a while they need to change and hand over the Ferrari to other children. Deprived of it, Bim starts to cry. Quickly, her mother gives her a tricycle and she is happy again and makes her rounds again, now with the tricycle! – The child and the genius are alike, and natural allies, in a world ruled, and distorted, by grown-ups. They symbolise the creative force, the elementary, ruthless drive of life, that triumphs over unworthiness, oblivion and obliteration. They´re uncontaminated and anti-entropic. In their clumsy movements they are graceful and the most elegant of men. In their squeaky voices, they sing like the sirens. It is good, warms the heart, uplifts the soul to see how they´re spontaneously cooperating. How their meta-choreographic patterns emerge and transform, or suddenly collapse just to give rise for something new and unexpected. That is, then, the grand scheme. – Indeed, I like to watch the scenery, the grand scheme at the market, the colourful immigrants from the lazy countries from the south, and the self-contained children. The unagitated, quasi-relaxed activity and atmosphere within which things are permanently in innocent motion. I find that meditative. It is extremely balanced and everything has its place in it. Heaven must look like this. It is the quietiv, and probably a vision of the White Lodge. It is, at any rate, exactly what the inside of my mind and of my self looks like. As I stare at this outside, I stare in my inside. Hence the immersion. Ubi bene, ibi patria.

The child embodies origin, authenticity, warmth, playfulness, innocence, relaunch and the choice of a new generation. The child is art. In art you have from time to time direct references to the child respectively its spirit, usually when the stupid grown-ups have failed again. In Dadaism, for instance. After WW2 in Art Informel and in Art Brut. Both significantly relate to Jean Dubuffet. Dubuffet tried to re/discover innocence and presuppositionlessness in art, and longed for access to the raw imagination/experience. He related to the unconscious, yet not in the sense of delirious association, as you have it in surrealism, but rather in automatism and rawness and the uncoditionality of the (artistic) expressions of children, outsiders and the mentally ill („Art Brut“). In his days the question was virulent in art of whether art should relate to reality, or the artist is to be understood as a creator of autonomous forms – and in Dubuffet´s art you have an amalgamation of both. It tries to establish an autonomous individual´s reality. Like Wols (who philosophised about the microcosm inherent in a crack in the pavement), Dubuffet found things produced by matter itself sometimes more interesting than things produced by man, and he tried to give banal things dignity. He was highly aware of the interconnectedness, of the primal unity of all things and occasionally found the space between objects more interesting than the objects themselves. In order to produce his paintings he used his fingers, he used spoons or scrapers. In his metaphysics of a keen interconnectedness and unity of things he understood this mode of unity as a permanent metamorphosis that happens between things, respectively between man and his surroundings. He also saw the primal ground of undifferentiatedness (and expressed it, for instance, in Place for Awakening, an undifferentiated, amorphous field of primal chaos) and the task of the artist to erect (malleable, flexible) forms.

In the late 1940s also the CoBrA group tried to establish authentic art by relating to the expression of outsiders in a grown up world (i.e. children, the mentally ill, etc.). However, the group disbanded after a while as they began to sense that in doing so, i.e. in trying to undermine style, a new style began to emerge – as something CoBrA was eager to avoid, although its members continued to produce art as individuals afterwards. CoBrA had understood its mission as distinctly political as well. Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, in his depictions of the full potential of human gesture, also often relied on the depiction of children. Bouguereau used to paint cool children. Sir Joshua Reynolds was a pioneer in painting children in a gracious way. In our days, Morgan Waistling does.

Upon reflection, there doesn´t seem to be enough childishness in art. Well, Nietzsche once said, in the realm of the intellect there are artists, philosophers, scholars, scientists. All of them are rare among humans, and he said that artists usually are very vain and conceited. The rarest of all are individuals are those interested in nothing but digging mole gangs, subterranean tunnels, in blindness, just for the sake of discovering something new about existence. According to him, that´s the true anti-egotism (and is usually poorly rewarded). I cannot find this aphorism right now, maybe it is in the second book of Menschliches, Allzumenschliches or in Morgenröte or Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft. Vincent, the Omega Painter, for instance, was of this kind (and also Franz, who explicitely wrote about a giant mole and about subterranean tunnel burrows). According to legend, van Gogh used to get very aroused when he saw little children, and he said: A child in the cradle has the infinite in his eyes. When his acquaintance Sien brought a child to this world, Willem, Vincent again was very fond, and also in the eyes of Willem he saw the infinite (Willem later became a worker for a railway company and made himself unpopular among his comrades with his flirtations with fascism).

Kazimir Malevich, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Frank Stella

In the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking I have meditated excessively about genuine creativity and how it may become a possibility. More generally, the ruminations were about the realisation and purification of mind, spirituality, intellect, humanity. A prominent topos was the necessity to channel through your hereditary intellectual and spiritual equipment. As you´re equipped with ancestral concepts, intellectual theories and the like that enable orientation in the world, you got to get to know them all, finally transgress/semi-destroy them, in order to come to pure perception from which you then can establish pure concepts again. That is the cycle of life in the transhuman, intellectual realm (or: the Continuum, as I called it a while ago), that´s how the story goes. It is a bodily process. It is a bodily urge that drives the creative/spiritual individual; it can be quite painful, and it longs for a „transcendent“ breakthrough, hell yeah. For instance, you may feel a strong impuls shooting up from the lower, visceral body regions up into your head, crashing immensely at the cranial vault, which it tries to break open and pulverise your enigmatic essence into the sky, the universe, to become one with it. There are many different ways to describe it and personal experiences that shine in respective individual colors; the products of transformation may be Zen-Buddhism, the General Theory of Relativity, or something else. Alongside the process, there likely is an encounter with, well, the Nullfläche. In the clean sweep to achieve a state of purity you have absolute reduction, it is usually a monochrome surface or a flat space (that can be stretched into the infinite depth), where every point/segment is indistinguishable from another. And in the next moment there will be something going on, some kind of activity, that is undefined, enigmatic, likely unrelated and that vanishes into the Nullfläche again in the next moment, without obvious consequence, like maybe a distant thunderstorm. That is, finally, the apparent primal state of the mind, and the mind that has come to itself. It is also apparent that this is an image of the universe, and of totality – maybe even of the heavens, and of the „spheres“. It is the Alpha and Omega. As they say. In the art of the 20th century you have some expressions of it.

Most notably in Malevich´s Black Square. Kazimir Malevich was a very versatile artist who painted in (or founded) various styles. Already as a child he became highly immersed into and alert to the act of painting/drawing and a metaphysicist who wanted to explore the possibilities that lie within painting itself. As a young man, and in the artistically extremely versatile and volatile time of the early 20th century he started as an Impressionist, then became a Neo-Primitivist, then a major developer of Cubo-Futurism (which tried to combine Cubism and Futurism), then (as Cubo-Futurism was tried to establish an independent Russian tradition which, however, was only semi-independent) the champion of Suprematism. The goal of Suprematism was to connect man to an ideal world, respectively to establish the spheres (and not only via the display of geometric forms as the main motive and the absence of anything human, it somehow carried the ambiguity that the ideal world or the spheres are not human but inhuman, though, however, somehow tangible via the (purified) mind). Whereas Futurism was dynamic and „progressive“, Suprematism tried to display tranquility, self-containtedness and permanence. Kazimir´s Black Square was, so to say, the fulfillment and the cumulation of Suprematism as well as it carried the possibility of its transgression, as a wormhole, so to say. The original Black Square is not perfect (as its later reproductions) but a bit eccentric, signifying an inherent dynamic that opens the possibility for evolution. It is also cool that it is fragile and became full of fissures after a while, i.e. that its indicated stasis and permanence also carries life, spontaneity, respectively erosion and decay (that there are myths about the creation of the Black Square, that we do not know, for instance, whether Kazimir purposely executed it poorly or so spontaneously that he had to paint over another painting as he lacked any other canvas in that moment, and the like, add to the complexity and the mysticism inherent of the whole complex). There is the idea that once you meet the Nullfäche, practised the the clean sweep, went through the chunnel and the wormhole, the state of pure perception, you will be able to create new concepts and establish new figuration – and after Suprematism (and under Stalinism) Malevich painted a series of Russian/Soviet peasants (as well as portraits) again, in a distinct style however, and engimatic/ambiguous in its message. Some say that the peasants are mostly uncanny and unhappy, and Malevich secretly displays the horror of Stalinist collectivisation. Yet actually the paintings are colourful, the world is in order, the sun is shining (in an enigmatic way however, as if the world had been consumed by a terrifying and all-consuming eternal day that annihilates anything crepuscular and nocturnal). The asymmetric colours may indicate individuality or pseudo-individuality (a problem that is relatively independent from Stalinism). Often the peasant´s faces are empty. The anticommunists take it as an indication of annihilation of individuality and the human essence under communism. Yet if you´re spiritually more evolved and have more creative intelligence you know that the empty face is the best of faces (as it indicates the Nullfläche again and transpersonalised potential, including, nevertheless, destructive potential; which is also what Kazimir explicitely, though opaquely, said). His final works were a series of portraits he labelled as „Supranaturalist“. They commonly depict women and should indicate a better human race of the future. They are depicted in ancient clothing and there is a self-portrait of Malevich as a Renaissance painter. That´s, again (as mentioned in the introduction), how the story goes, in the Continuum.

As David Sylvester noted, Barnett Newman was a kind of a slow learner among the Abstract Expressionists. When Abstract Expressionism developed (in the 1940s) he was more respected as an intellectual among the Wild Bunch. When he finally achieved his creative breakthrough it took quite while until it became accepted. Increasingly, he became noticed as the greatest American painter of his time. Onement (1948) is quite literally an emanation of transcendent breakthrough: it is actually how breakthrough is enlivened and vibrates – and Newman tells us that, although at first he did not actually know what Onement is about, he felt that it is very alive (Malevich reportedly was so upset by the Black Square that he could not sleep or eat for a week after he painted it). A true work of art, as Deleuze/Guattari for instance say, can stand on his own and stabilises within itself. And such is the case with Onement, respectively the zip, it its uprightness. Onement is a monochromous colour field in which there is an energetic stripe: the zip. The zip, respectively the entire vision, is less – well – conceptual/elaborated than the Black Square, as it is, apparently, not even a primal form that emerges from the primal ground – it is a kind of lightning, a flash, or that In the beginning was the Word. It is, directly, one of the lightning flashes that happen at the Nullfläche, and that actually make it, and are a part of it. It is both epistemology and ontology. It is the primary process that (apparently) establishes order over (apparent) chaos. There´s a lot of stuff in that, and it is also an exercise is grasping the sublime. Until his death (in 1970), Newman painted in this style: Large, beautiful colour fields, that are often invaded by the zip. Very tasty. They have something sacral to them, and they are intented to give the viewer a sense of place. „I hope that my painting has the impact of giving someone, as it did to me, the feeling of his own totality, of his own seperatedness, of his own individuality“, says Barnett. A lot of things happen in those colour fields. Maybe I could watch them endlessly, although, then, I rather prefer to watch really a while the children playing outside at the market (that is to say, in another time dimension, or at the meta-level of time I watch the Newman painting endlessly as the imitate my mind). Newman gave an impetus for colour field painting and minimalism. What we have in his work is an autonomous creation. It is a great order. It is a universalisation of a personal epiphany, respectively it is a basic, universal expression of epiphanic creativity. Likewise, it is also an expression of man: as being individual and excluded from a whole, but also somehow belonging to a greater whole.

Ad Reinhardt, labelled the „Black Monk“, was a kind of enfant terrible among the Abstract Expressionists, and among artists (or the art scene) in general. He became successful only late in his life and his final solution were the black paintings, i.e. he painted canvases that simply were black. He said that, in painting, there should be no texture, no brushwork, no colors, no design. With his black paintings he intented to paint the last, final paintings that can ever be painted. If you look closely at them, they however shimmer, minimally, in an individual fashion as they show different colour grades of black, respectively black minimally amalgamated with other colours. Therein, they are said to create an atmosphere and aura. Reinhardt said no sketching or drawing, no light, no scale, no space, no time. He loathed subjectivity and had an attachment to the Zen. He was very intelligent, philosophised about the black colour and other stuff of importance and was programmatic as he set up rules and programs in which he said no acrobatics, no self-pity, no guilt, no pain, no supernaturality or subhumanity. An heyoka with a program and manners at the edge of absurdity he expressed disdain for the art market and (as they have been the more dominant alienating channels at his time) the art institutions and academies and he said no drugstore-museums, no cultural entrepreneurship, no jurys, no prizes, no competitions, no masterpieces, no cheap art commodities. As he also raided against his Abstract Expressionist colleagues as they, quite willfully, became a part of the machine and art-entrepreneurs once they gained success they did not find that so funny anymore. Newman ended his friendship with Reinhardt (and tried to sue him for 100.000 Dollars) when Reinhardt did something (that was, from Newman´s perspective) actually not very nice (and threatened Newman´s reputation); Reinhardt regretted it that the Abstract Expresionists „did not talk to each other anymore“ (once they had become famous) but only „talked to the audience anymore“. The „funniest“ things Ad Reinhardt had to tell about reclusive purist Clyfford Still, a champion of Abstract Expressionism who shunned the light so much as that he often refused to have his art exhibited and was very rigid about what the Clyfford Still Museum that was set up after his death in Denver, Colorado was allowed to do (for instance not to have a café or museum shop so as not to contaminate the purity of aura) as he explained how Still was skilled at always finding a millionaire that would pay for him and finance his life, and if Still wasn´t to be seen with a specific millionaire than it was an indication that Still had found another millionaire lol (Clyfford Still reportedly tried to kick Ad Reinhardt out of some vital inner circles and institutions important for artists after that). Ad Reinhardt said no primitivism, no expressionism, no supression of time and of subjectivity, no low-level consciousness, no portrayal of life, no abstraction of anything, no anti-intellectualism, no confusion of art with something that is not art. In his writings there also is a cool and dedicated essay about art in ancient China (something I want to touch in the future).

Frank Stella was influenced by Ad Reinhardt when he entered the scene at age 22 with his Black Painings. In the 1960s he developed his idiosyncratic style which on the one hand drew from various sources and at the same time paved way for other innovations. Stella confused critics at the beginning because there is not much in its paintings. And indeed, you more or less have only the painting itself. Although heavily influenced by Barnett Newman, he was so concerning method, not content. There is no transcendence intended – there is, so to say, after the great hypercycle of going through the Nullfläche, which signifies both the primordial as well as the spheres, a return to base – and the return to the base of painting, in a peculiar way: there is no („radical“) transcendence, but „radical“ immanence in Stella´s art. Stella was aware of the mystical, contemplative tendencies of Abstract Expressionism, but combined them with the immanence of hard-edge painting. It is the movement of the great energy, of the great impetus, shooting, undifferentiated, into the sky, into space, to return to base, splash at the canvas and then to organise itself, peacefully, self-contained, self-sufficient, as you have it the works of Stella (to sooner or later start a new cycle, supposedly). Stella said that he was unhappy and that he found it unconvincing what the Abstract Expressionists did at the margin/edge of the canvas. A lot of energy, of convincing energy there is in their paintings, which however tends to get lost at the margins of the canvas. Hence Stella adapted the canvas to what he wanted to express and introduced the shaped canvas, a major innovation he came up with. Like in the case of Jasper Johns his paintings were not really paintings anymore, but objects. Like all the artists mentioned in here Frank Stella is highly intelligent and his writings and lectures are a worthwhile read. Interestingly, they reveal that Stella is very attached to Caraveggio – because to him, Caraveggio gave the most striking solution of how to display spatiality and figures in space. Stella was influential for Pop Art, Op Art and Minimalism and he also became a sculptor.

There are some other manifestations for this kind of subject. Mark Rothko or Yves Klein may come to mind (also, in a way, Mondrian, but there shall be a specific note about Mondrian). Malevich however was the most pronouced and universal of the passengers through the Nullfläche – and he even was the most aware that Zero/Null and totality are the same, respectively a kind of mirror image of each other. He saw himself as a depersonalised entity, born from a „desert“, respectively having his origin in space itself, which is free to create ex nihilo. „I have seen space“, he annouces. And then he was motivated by an urge that culminated in an urge for a transcendent breakthrough. – That Malevich chose a square as the primal form makes sense, as, in contrast to the apparently more perfect circle/sphere or any other form, the square indicates authority, assertiveness, uprightness, presence and dominance over the four cardinal directions. When I tried to write my first short story (for the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking, after I had written a huge novel like Yorick as a start) I again un/fortunately came up with something incummensurable/inalienable like The Square, an associative, delirious text that displays how creative emanations appear, including the possibility of architecture and how their architecture could look like, of of the dark fond of the Nullfläche, before they vanish into the Nullfläche again. – Malevich´s art-religion does not know an exact salvation, it is all an ongoing process. The goal is an atomisation, a nebulisation of man – I know this from myself – to become a true cosmic, depersonalised entity, that erects various mirrors in space so as to get a view over totality. In our time one could also think of a fleet of tiny nanobots sent out into deep space, for the purpose of exploration, or make contacts with other life forms.

Frantisek Kupka and Charles Sheeler

In 1912 Frantisek Kupka caused a sensation as he came up with the first truly abstract painting, Amorpha: Fugue in Two Colors. Yet he did not consider himself an abstract painter nor a cubist, as in fact he was an unhoused loner who fell into relative oblivion in later years. Whereas Kandisky´s Concerning the Spiritual in Art circulated a lot, Kupka´s book Creation in the Plastic Arts went by largely unnoticed. At that time, abstraction was mainly understood as an expression of modernism and a progressive, scientific spirit, Kupka however strongly related to ancient and archaic art and culture and nurtured from the atavistic. To him, the artist cannot create something truly new anyway, therefore it is appropriate for him to try to relate to the glorious cosmic forces. He also says: The artist does not make reference to nature but is rather busy trying to organise his inner material and experiences and visions which are, to some degree, chaotic and consist of perceptions that are unclear, yet, within the process turning it into art, achieve greater clarity – via instrumental composing. The artist is highly sensitive (with a sensitivity that is achieved trough life and not innate), so to say a nerve system that reaches into the cosmos; his self is not a compact unity as his awareness is diffused over the whole body. The artist tells about his privileged inner experiences and visions and, therein, creates new experiences for others (which is, to Kupka, the (rather humble) end of art). There will be no endpoint in art, as the possibilities for visions are endless, likewise, there are no absolute ideals or rules but a quasi-spontaneous combination of elements that makes the primal ground: art is performative. In saying so, Kupka did not make a lot of friends among those who were talking about art as directed towards perfection, wholeness, etc. Kupka was leaning towards the dionysian and the dynamic. – In the Albertina Wien, they have this cool painting Aufragende Formen (Ascent). It is about making cosmic forces and ascension visible. It refers to Hinduism and temple architecture. I like it because it gives you a sense of place. The erectness is appealing. You can communicate with it, but not directly. That´s so fascinating. On the internet I see in the 1990s they had an exhibition about Kupka in Germany, titled Die abstrakten Farben des Universums.

Whereas the unhoused European Kupka, who affirmed that the artist lives in a transcendent or pseudo-reality, was (as they say) otherworldy, respectively, due to his high intelligence, operated at a high level of abstraction respectively overview over the human and the metaphysical condition and was tangential to the man´s world, the Americans were at the same time about to find their own identity and self-assurance in the domain of culture and artistic style. The Great War had shattered humanistic and progressive/spiritual ideals, also those transported by the avant-garde. At the same time the significance of the old world gradually eclipsed and American hegemony gradually solidified. The 1920s were a peculiar decade that brought about rising living standards, liberalism and pluralism, a democratic mass/consumer society and an intrusion of the „mundane“ into high art (the jazz age); alongside a mourning about spiritual emptiness, superficiality, commercialisation as well as that, obviously, under the surface man does not change or improve but may even be hollowed out by stereotypical mass culture. Intellectuals were uneasy about the absence of a grand narrative – in an age where traditions are under siege and society progresses yet no one knows to what end: The usual confusion of epoches of transformation and transition. In Europe, it lead to fascism. In America, the Roaring Twenties were ended by the Great Depression.

Artistically, Precisionism was the dominant style of the era. Pioneered by artists like Charles Demuth, Georgia O´Keeffe, Preston Dickinson or Charles Sheeler, Precisionism combined abstraction with the realisitic representation of everyday objects, particulary those associated with the functional or industrial or urban enviroment. The objects and landscapes are presented as harmonic, hygienic, flat and immediate, new, you have the absence of dirt, decay or human meddling, a rigid geometry, seemingly a „new harmony and order based on function“ that „offered an ideal of stability, eternity, permanency, order and power beneath the chaotic shifting reality of modern life“. You have both culture and inhumanity, a humanity that is probably soon to become obsolete or reduced by the anonymous power of industrialisation, as something both larger as well as inferior to human life. American Precisionists wanted to embrace both „native tradition and modern vision“ (Charles Demuth even said his depiction of modern America tries to relate to ancient cultures and their manifestations and therefore his art relates not to the future but „to the past“). Ambiguous, as it is. Ahhh… Die Welt ist tief/und tiefer als der Tag gedacht. What a supposedly flat pool of meaning, that is yet so deep and obscure. That´s metaphysics. (Quotations from Susan Currell´s book: American Culture in the 1920s)

Charles Sheeler was both a painter and a photographer, which made his paintings particularly „precisionist“ and proto-photorealistic. Sheeler was also particuarly influenced by Duchamp in finding secret meaning and appeal in everyday objects. What I like is that his forms and industrial landscapes are also ascendant and it is cool to be confronted with/exposed to their erectness, and their rigidity, and their asepsis. The sublime comes to mind, and is then relativised: as it is not unlimited and infinite, but seems to carry the potential for transcendance, even ultra-transcendance. It annihilates the subject and, at the same time, empowers it. It is infra-sublime, as it seems more humble and less competent than man, as well as it may be ultra-sublime, that which is destined to transgress man at all. It seems to speak to you, and it does not. It seems to be empty as well as meaningful as well as overcharged with secret meaning and stuff that surpasses man and human understanding, maybe leads into the transhuman or signifies the advent of the transhuman age. Have we conquered functionality, or will it conquer us? It is both heteronomous and homonomous. If it cannot replicate, it will survive as ruins. It is as old as time itself, archetypical. While hypermodern, it also seems ancient (and Sheeler compared it to religious expression in gothic cathedrals, whereas the new religion is scientific objectivity and industrial functionality that relieves man from hardship and makes life smooth). It, foremostly, signifies that there is stuff out there in the world which has semi-independent existence. It adds something to the world, to totality. An enigmatic ontology (respectively Ding-Ontologie), that philosophers have not exactly figured out so far. In reverse to what Kant says about the sublime (that it transcends the possibilities of our sensual perception but not of our ideas), it does not transcent our senses (as it is clear-cut and contoured, even somehow humble), it transcends our intellectual categories and indicates that our very modes of perception and intellect are going to be transformed (opening the apparent rigidity of Kant´s epistemology a bit and making it more malleable). I like the Upper Deck as, in silence, it speaks to me. In insignificance, it signifies. It is pure meaning and significance. It is a culture without me. It is the Great Other. When Bodhidharma failed to make himself intelligible to the Emperor, he sat in front of a wall for nine years, in silence, and finally invented Zen-Buddhism.