Lu Shoukun, Liu Guosong and Lin Fengmian

Lu Shoukun (1919-1975) left China in 1948 to become a influential figure in the Hong Kong art scene, where he founded and championed the New Ink Movement. Ink painting is a powerful tradition in Chinese painting (and „a way of self-cultivation by scholars to enhance morality and the mind“), and Lu Shoukun aimed at taking it into another era, reconcile it with modernity. He draw upon Western avant-garde and integrated it into his own vision. The height of his vision he reached toward the end of his life with his „Zen paintings“. They consist mostly of bold and broad brushstrokes on a (usually) white background and a red dot (signifying a lotus or a butterfly). Adapting the langauges of Western Abstraction, Abstract Expressionism or Action Painting, the Zen visions seem both bold and devoid of gravity as they seem effortless created, within a moment, to reunite it with the timeless, formless and eternal as well as with sweetness and the living world and the pulsating heart (the red dot). In Lu Shoukun´s Zen paintings, the West and the East mirror each other and show possibility of integration, and especially 1974´s „Zhuangzi“ delivers the quality of an icon.

 Like Lu Shoukun, Liu Guosong (b. 1932) is an important pioneer in Chinese modernist painting, and he is even considered the „father of modern ink painting“. He moved, in 1949, to Taiwan and attempted to overtrow the conservatism in Chinese and Taiwanese art. Embracing Abstraction and Abstract Expressionism, he creates dynamic landscapes which seem to express the forces of nature as well as the creative forces within painting and the human mind – a dynamic interplay. He also uses innovative techniques like „stepped ink“ and „water rubbing“ as well as collage, to give his paintings greater depth and texture. Most notably, Liu Guosong developed the idea of „revolutionary life force“ where, according to the freedom of creative mind, the ink is completely set free. As a teacher, Liu Guosong allows his students to use whatever material they like and „the more different their paintings are from his, the better“.

 Lin Fengmian (1900-1991) artistically impressed people already as a youngster. As a student he spent many years in the vibrant Paris and Berlin of the 1920s where he got into touch with the Western avantgarde and mixed it with Chinese tradition. His life is a story of ups and downs within the turbulent history of China in the 20th century. In the late 1920s he returned to China and became a respected artist and professor but his career experienced a setback within the Sino-Japanese War. Becoming more reclusive, Lin Fengmian further developed his style. During the Cultural Revolution he was forced to destroy a large part of his work and became imprisoned. The last decade of his life he spent in Hong Kong as his reputation in the Asian world increased once more. Not very well known in the West, his art amalgamated traditional Chinese style with Western avant-garde, and especially with his many paintings of ladies and nudes, he alludes to Matisse. Although more limited than Matisse (who has his own distinct limitations of well, though), his Ladies are very, very tasty and enchanting as they are stylised but, in that reduced manner, also an ideal of beauty, grace and elegance. His equally tasty portraits of nature show that Lin Fengmian was a true freak of nature.

Duncan Wylie: Construct and (Various) Disasters of Democracy in der Galerie Dukan (Leipzig), 13.4.2018 – 9.6.2018

Inmitten von Moden und ephemeren Trends widmet sich Duncan Wylie der eigentlichen Aufgabe der Kunst und der Malerei: die Tiefenstruktur und Vielschichtigkeit der Welt zum Ausdruck zu bringen, die Potentialität inmitten des Realen, das Geschrei des Seins (auch, wenn es möglicherweise nur die Lautstärke des kreativen Geistes ist, der sie wahrnimmt). Große, geniale Kunst lässt in der Welt, die sie abbildet, immer auch noch eine andere Welt sichtbar werden und hat ihr Leben im gegenseitigen Widerspiel und dem gegenseitigen Durchdringen dieser Welten bzw. Seinsbereiche. Das ist die ewige Aufgabe der Malerei und ihr eigentlicher Sinn! Duncan Wylie bildet die Tiefenstruktur der Welt ab in einer Zeit, in der, physikalischen Spekulationen zufolge, unser Universum in eine unendliche Vielzahl von Multiversen eingebettet ist, in denen wir selbst unendlich oft, mit alternierenden Geschichten, auftreten. Duncan Wylie hat neue Lösungen gefunden, den Reichtum und die Tiefe der Welt darzustellen.

Geboren 1975 in Zimbabwe, fällt ein gewisses Nomadentum in der Biographie von Duncan Wylie auf – der gegenwärtig in London lebt und arbeitet. Ausgehend von der Erfahrung der Vertreibung von (in Zimbabwe weißen als auch, und zahlenmäßig umso mehr, farbigen) Siedlern und der Zerstörung ihrer Häuser als auch dem Versuch der Zerstörung ihrer Identitäten und ihres Gemeinschaftsgefühls, bilden Akte der Zerstörung bzw. devastierte Architekturen ein frühes Grundmotiv in den Werken von Duncan Wylie – reflektierend verlängert in die Aufgabe, den „Augenblick“, dem Impakt – möglicherweise „das Ereignis“ – einzufangen, sowie den Zufall, das Schicksal; inmitten dessen die metaphysische Unbehaustheit des Menschen innerhalb des Seins, dessen Sinn offensichtlich abwesend ist, oder erst konstruiert werden muss. Zutiefst existenzielle Motive.

Wenngleich in seinen Bildern meistens keine Menschen vorkommen – von zeitweiligen rätselhaft unverblümt-unmittelbaren Porträts unter anderem von Robert Mugabe abgesehen – ist es in letzter Zeit die Figur des Seiltänzers, die öfter bei Duncan Wylie auftaucht. Ein Gradwanderer, der sein autonomes Selbst mühsam konstruiert, ein originärer Künstler, der zwischen Kosmos und Chaos als den Elementen wandelt – die Selbsterschaffung und graduelle Selbststabilisierung des Menschen in einer potenziell chaotischen Welt, die Erlangung autonomer, den Zumutungen der Welt gegenüber souveränen Subjektivität, ist die Botschaft, die Duncan Wylie dem Menschen mitzuteilen hat – weniger als eine harsche, autoritäre Aufforderung denn als Vermittlung von Hoffnung und als Zeichen des Respekts für die individuelle Gradwanderung, den individuellen Lebensweg, die individuellen Kämpfe jedes einzelnen.

In seinen jüngsten Arbeiten, die in der Galerie Dukan erstmals gezeigt werden, scheint Duncan Wylie bei einem Subjekt angelangt zu sein, das über eine etwas sicherere Bahn (Eisenbahngeleise) wandelt, und das beginnt, von seinem inneren Material, seinen Innenräumen produktiv chaotisch überlagert zu werden, das zunehmend komplexer und reichhaltiger wird. Er nennt sie „self constructing figures“. Die Doppelbedeutung von „construct“ scheint eine wesentliche Inspiration zu sein: insoweit ein Konstrukt eine definitive materielle Konsistenz und Objektivität haben kann, aber auch etwas Subjektives (z.B. „ein ideologisches Konstrukt“) sein kann – damit eben auch ein Akt der Schöpfung. Haben wir es mit einer Verhältnisbestimmung Subjektiv – Objektiv zu tun? Dem Ineinanderspielen von beiden? Man bemerke, wie sich die „explodierenden“ Subjekte und die Welt, der Hintergrund, in den sie eingelassen sind, offensichtlich überlagern. Gleichermaßen figurative wie auch abstrakte Kunst. Die Architektur in diesen Werken ist nunmehr intakt, die Welt scheinbar „heiler“.

Zusätzlich präsentiert sich Duncan Wylie in dieser Ausstellung auch noch auf eine neue Art und Weise mit seinen Gravuren „(Various) Disasters for Democracy“: Kaltnadelradierungen, die an das Dämonische im Dasein gemahnen und die an Alfred Kubin erinnern – entdeckt Duncan Wylie auch die Möglichkeiten des Surrealismus für sich?  Duncan Wylies Kunst bleibt, wie es heute selten der Fall ist, universal, und in ihren Aussagen von universaler Gültigkeit. Nichts entkommt letztlich ihrem Blickwinkel; in der Hoffnung, die sie vermittelt, liegt Mahnung, in der Mahnung Hoffnung.

Philip Hautmann (geb. 1977 in Linz) ist Schriftsteller und Philosoph und lebt in Wien

http://www.galeriedukan.com/exhibitionhome/duncan-wylie-construct-and-various-disasters-democracy

In the midst of fashions and trend dictates, Duncan Wylie dedicates himself to the true purpose of art and of painting: to express and portray the deep structure and the multilayeredness of the world, of potentiality within reality, the clamour of being (even if it is only the loudness of the creative mind that perceives such a reality). In great art, in art of the genius, you always seem to have another world emerging within, or beneath, the world that is ostensibly presented, and seems to live in the mutual osmosis of both worlds, respectively world visions. Isn´t that the eternal purpose of art and the true meaning of art? Duncan Wylie portrays the deep structure of the world in an age where, according to scientific speculations, our universe is embedded in an infinity of multiverses, in which we, most personally, appear with alternating biographies. Duncan Wyle has found new solutions to portray the richness and depth of the world.

Born in Zimbabwe in 1975, a certain nomadism is evident in Duncan Wylie´s biography –  who currently lives and works in London. The experience of the expulsion of (in Zimbabwe not only of white but also, and at distinctly higher magnitude, black) settlers and the destruction of their homes, not least also with the purpose of destroying their identity and sense of community, acts of destruction and devastated architectures become a basic motiv in the works of Duncan Wylie – transcended into the task of portraying „the moment“, „the impact“ – maybe even „the event“, as well as of chance and fate and the metaphysical Unbehaustheit of man within an existence in which meaning and salvation is obviously absent, or needs to be constructed in the first place. Deeply existential motives.

Although there usually are no people portrayed in his paintings – apart from intermittent enigmaticly blunt and direct portraits, for instance of Robert Mugabe – it is the character of the tightrope walker that emerges in Duncan Wylie´s more recent works. A wanderer between worlds, who laboriously constructs his own self, an original artist, navigating between chaos and cosmos as the elements of art – the self construction and gradual empowerment of man in a potentially chaotic world, the acquirement of autonomous subjectivity, sovereign against  the impositions of the world seem to be the message Duncan Wylie wants to transmit to man – to a lesser extend as a harsh, authoritarian appeal than as an indication of hope and as a sign of respect for the individual tightrope walking within one´s own challenges of each and everyone of us.

In his most recent works, which are presented by the Dukan Gallery for the first time, Duncan Wylie seems to have pushed forward to a subject that wanders on a somehow safer track (railroad tracks) and that seems to become overlaid by his own inner material, in a productively chaotic way, a subject that seems to become ever more rich and complex. He calls them „self constructing figures“. The double meaning of „construct“ seems to have been an inspiration: since a „construct“ can have a definitive, material, objective substance, yet can also be something rather subjective (i.e. an „ideological construct“) – a materialisation of creativity at any rate. Do we have an exploration of the interdependence subjective – objective it that? The osmosis of both? Also take a look at how the „exploding“ subjects and the background of the world they are situated in obviously interfere with each other. Both figurative and abstract art. The architecture in those works is meanwhile intact, and the world seemingly a safer place.

 In addition to that, Duncan Wylie presents himself in a new fashion with his engravings „(Various) Disasters for Democracy“: Drypoint etchings thar are reminiscent of Alfred Kubin and seem to refer to the „demonic“ in the world – does Duncan Wylie also explore the possibilities that lie within surrealism? Duncan Wylie´s art remains – what is rarely the case in our days – universal, with messages of universal significance and validity. Nothing escapes its focus, in the hope that is transmits there is admonition, in its admonition there is hope.

Philip Hautmann (b. 1977 in Linz, Austria), is a writer and philosopher and lives in Vienna

Duncan Wylie, Contemporary Metaphysical Painter

Acts of the Unspeakable

In some of the more recent notes (about e.g. Malevich, Mondrian, Minimalism, in some respects also them about Tapies and Sheeler) you have meditation about art in which there isn´t much in it, or so it seems. Sedlmayr (a conservative/Nazi) is quite aware of progress in art, which to him is exemplification of metaphysical regress throughout modernity nevertheless, he does not deny the innovativeness of Malevich´s Black Square, but he says that it is „untersprachlich“ (sublinguistical), and not „übersprachlich“ (i.e. portraying the Gottmensch, which would be, according to Sedlmayr, the purpose of art). But I like it because of the eloquent silence that it carries. It is meditative, quietist, Zen-like, it confronts you with the mysterious materiality/spirituality of the world, with otherness about which you have to figure out about how it can be adeqately captured, with something that seems both beneath you as well as beyond you, younger than you as well as much more ancient, harmless and inanimate as well as seemingly carrying deadly potential, etc. It refers to the Nullpunkt of creativity as well as to the infinity of universe and things, the pseudo-tabula rasa of mind, the ontological potential of the Matrix. It does not come as a surprise that in your metaphysical quest you come across (and have to go through) the Black Square tunnel, in a quest for purity, originality, being able to construct new forms and the like. In the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking, which is about that quest, I wrote a lot of somehow abstract (and seemingly silly and/or funny) texts (which they are, but they are also dead serious and indisputable). As you may remember, I was also fascinated by the task of how to describe how animals think (intelligent crows for instance), or how children learn language – and how is language formed at all? According to a universal grammar (as proposed by Chomsky), or as a quasi-emergent phenomenon that is based on some more primitive primordial tools and man´s situatedness in a social context (i.e. the more Wittgensteinian proposal)? How does protolinguistical experience look like? Is it right to describe the mind of a crow or newborn as a corner of a white space, then there comes some dull and vague sound, maybe also an orange flash? Very interesting to temporarily inhabit the sublinguistic lodges! I guess a creative person will be fascinated by it. It is about the (lower) edges of thought, beyond/below that of what is graspable for us. It signifies a horizon, respectively something beyond the horizon, hence it has to be explored.

Getrude Stein (a genius) was a pioneer in a modernist experiment to subvert language. She took „stream of consciousness“-writing to an extreme insofar as she tried to evade (not only stringency and conclusivenss of plot but) meaning as much as possible, by just writing down what immediately came to her mind. The result were voluminous books full of sentences largely free of meaning – but, as Jonah Lehrer (in his super book Proust was a Neuroscientist) explains: she found out that she could not evade basic grammar! Also other experiments/observations – like, for instance, deaf people developing a sign language, or immigrants developing a pidgin/creolian language: whereas these languages will be primitive in the first generation, the subsequent generation will make it more sophisticated and introduce grammar – seem to indicate that there is actually a universal grammar as something innate to humans in the Chomskian sense. Chomsky´s concept of universal grammar however has always met criticism as well, and for instance more recent research seems to imply that language, and the way infants learn a laguage, is a kind of emergent phenomenon that comes into being via the use of several „tools“, like ability to make analogies, to categorise things, recognise things via schemes (a dog is not likely to have a concept of a steak, but it is likely that a dog will recognise his environment via proto-conceptual schemes) or the reading of communicative intentions. I also consider that likely to be that way, and whether there is a universal/deep grammar or need for universal/deep grammar appears doubtful to me, since the grammar of sentences just reflect the way things are, respectively how man can act in the world – it reflects the structure of our actions and intentions (which would be a somehow empiricist notion, respectively a contact theory of grammar and linguistics) (however, since I am not an expert on liguistics, but it must´ve been that someone has thought about that before). And the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking is full of texts that celebrate the chaosmotic architectural/iconoclastic processuality of creative enterprise. (And if there is a deep grammar, why do languages frequnetly happen to be so different and distinguished from each other?)

Concerning the Untersprachlichkeit and the „fascination“ of being inside the mind of animals et al., more recent research (respectively an activation of more ancient knowledge/understandings) seems to indicate that plants are „intelligent“, respectively that they aren´t as „vegetative“ as it may seem. Plants adapt to their environment, they „communicate“ with their environment and with other plants, different species of plants have different „character“ (i.e. plants „fairly“ rewarding insects that carry their seeds, while others, like orchids, tricking them in a nasty way), they have more senses than humans do, and the like. Is it adequate to think that they are conscious and intelligent? Animals are, in a reduced sense, intelligent and conscious, it amazes me to see them play (for what purpose?), to see how eels can „befriend“ humans, or how one of Liliana´s gatas, Lorenzo, has a quite distinguished (and somehow sociopathic, or – to do more justice to him – adventuruous and challgening) personality. Maybe – given the extreme inprobability that our universe can be as fine-tuned as ours – even the universe, and everything in it, is a conscious – there are arguments for and against pan/cosmopsychism.

Then there are people who think that animals are better or more innocent than humans, dolphins more intelligent, etc. However, pigs ( = very intelligent animals) have the cognitive abilities of an average three year old human. Think you are inside the mind of a trout! A trout has an IQ of 4! What would it be like being a creature with an IQ of 4? Think of being a cockroach! AI has invented a creature however that superbly is able to act like a cockroach – the algorithm is: 1) Take flight from bright light 2) If there is not light, take flight from sound 3) If there is neither light nor sound, wait a while, then move. With that program, the behaviour of a cockroach can (basically) be captured. However, hopes that animals can teach us something are likely to be disappointed. Michael Tomasello writes in his book A Natural History of Human Morality how apes are morally quite inferior to men, and basically egocentric, whereas in humans you have a genuine sense for cooperation. Also Laland – in an article about what distinguishes humans from animals – notes that if Apes could talk, they would make poor conversationalists: while they are able to understand (a limited range of) sings, they cannot produce grammar, and their conversation would be utterly egocentric – the longest „translated“ statement by a chimpanzee goes: “Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you” (which, however, carries some resemblances to conversations on social media or Youtube comments). When I gave my text about the trout and its 4 IQ to my friend Dagmar, she responded that it made her think about humans (having an IQ of 4, going with the crowd, being only interested in eating, fucking, sleeping, having no higher moral sense, being envious and egoistic, etc., with women often being the worst to each other)*. In a way, if you think about the subliguistic and its magic and mysteriousness, you frequently have it quite next to you; go, for instance, to the opera and try to empathise with how many of the folks in the opera house have their higher sentiments triggered, their catharsis and the like – when being exposed to the Gralserzählung or the Karfreitagszauber they may actually think about their business or so. Going to the netherworld, where no meaningful thoughts are formed isn´t actually that difficult, it happens all the time around you <3

In Sedlmayr´s opinion, the purpose of art is portraying man made in the image of God. He is aware that this is not a modern option, nevertheless his history of art is a history of a long decay (a quite intelligent and empathetic one however). His hope is that, after a long agony, art of the future will be about the portrayal of the Gottmensch, the divine human being, the finally fully accomplished man, furthermore his hopes adress those who have suffered most from the (modern) human condition (on a metaphysical level) i.e. individuals like Goya, Kleist, van Gogh, Hölderlin, Stifter, Nietzsche et al. to be able to erect or embody the image of the Gottmensch. The Gottmensch is baptised by fire. Kierkegaard, whom I happen the read at the moment (since I want to write about him), on the other hand shortly adresses at the end of his magisterial thesis about the concept of irony with permanent reference to Socrates, that the defining quality of the Gottmensch will be (metaphysical) humor (as something much more skeptical than irony but also containing a much higher positivity than irony) (unfortunately Kierkegaard´s ruminations enter quite abruptly at this point (with the excuse that humor is not a topic in a reflection about irony), yet, upon reflection, although Kierkegaard was among the species of overmen, he actually was overly ironic himself – but not actually funny or humorous, i.e. irony was the realm where Kierkegaard was king, but humor was a demarcation where Kierkegaard ended). I say, the Gottmensch will be so comprehensive as that he reaches into the lowlands and netherworlds as well as into the spheres, as mind and soul of God contains everything. Therefore the übersprachliche Gottmensch will also try to adress that which is untersprachlich, try to put himself inside the mind of a crow or a trout; the untersprachliche Black Square will be the eternal tunnel to wander through the white light from infinity, the silence you can hear from there is message from base. Listen to the voice of nature (which doesn´t really talk of course).

*„Die Forelle finde ich klasse wobei ich für mich den Gedanken weiter spinne… ist nicht die Allgemeinheit wie eine Forelle (4 IQ essen trinken in die selbe Richtung schwimmend wie die anderen Forellen ) … Moralisches streben in der heutigen zeit ist ein sehr löbliches Ziel und du bust wahrscheinlich einer der wenigen menschen auf.diesem durchgeknallten planeten der es wohl schaffen könnte. Der rest der menschheit ist neidisch verschlagen link nur auf seinen vorteil bedacht prakmarisch materiell und wirtschaftlich ausgerichtet … Und zum.teil oft so dumm in seinen ansichten und oberflächlich ich bin.oft so froh wenn ich mich nicht damit auseinandersetzen muss … Und frauen sind mit abstand oft am ärgsten zueinander und das meist wegen einem.mann wie grotesk ist den das könnte bücher füllen mit geschichten darüber glg sent from mobile“

Minimalism and Object Ontology

„Now the world is neither meaningful nor absurd. It simply is… In place of this universe of „meanings“ (psychological, social, functional), one should try to construct a more solid, more immediate world. So that first of all it will be through their presence that objects and gestures will impose themselves, and so that this presence continues thereafter to dominate, beyond any theory of explication that might attempt to enclose them in any sort of a sentimental, sociological, Freudian, metaphysical or any other system of reference.“

 (Robbe-Grillet, cited in Barbara Rose: „ABC Art“, an influential article about minimal art published in „Art in America“ in 1965)

Call it the Apollonian, but reduction to essence, bringing into form, carving the unnecessary out, introducing some silence, being elliptic is a major element within the art conquest; in becoming ever more minimalistic, stuff seems to become ever more invincible and undisputable – think of a child wrapping a box up respectively making something like the box via minimalistic wrapping, busily and affirmingly it says „So!“, „So!“, „So!“ when completing each step towards perfection, finally there is this silly, silent box and the child standing there, looking up to the grown up (or to deity), arms crossed behind the back: as if it says: „I have done everything right! There is nothing to be disputed anymore! You cannot catch and nail me anymore! You can groan and moan as much as you want, but…“, etc. Hail to the child! Likely, within all that the human child is a bit unsure, as it lacks orientation in the world, and eschatological knowledge, but in wrapping up the minimalistic box it has come up with something assertive and is aware of that; the adult-deity may rejoice or at least twist his mouth and move his head back a bit, as he is defeated, at least for a while. Hail to the child! It has achieved some manifestation in the world. Take a look at Robbe-Grillet´s statement there above! Aaahh… the world, and its metaphysics not being made by reference to the celestial world, but by the blunt encounter and relationships between subjects and objects within the world, maybe unforeseeable in their implications, yet often, and normally, to remain only a reference to an empty potential! Minimalists challenged the notion of sculpture and object in the 1960s as they placed some minimalistic forms in space, opening the possibility of interaction with the recipient (for instance also to be experienced as an obstacle that stands in the way)! The grid of the world as a relational structure! By reducing stuff into minimalistic forms that, due to their sharp and essential geometry, are both more real and less real than the objects you encounter in the world, you have, in minimalism, the disposability (and Zuhandenheit) as well as the unavailability of things, and of the things that make up this world. Remember that numbers or ideal geometric forms refer to the virtual, and therein also minimal art refers to the virtual via a paradoxial intervention, as, by taking out any specific content, those artworks actually refer to nothing, they´re neutral and inexpressive. But what they are is that they are present, and therein, you encounter presence in both its most manifest as well as elusive form. You have a metaphysics of pure presence, as well as a metaphysics of neutrality and a metaphysics of boredom. Somehow, those minimalist works seem to be so autonomous (and, as feminist critics claimed, masculine-sharp-assertive, whereas in the works of female artists somehow linked to minimal art, like Eva Hesse, you have some quasi-organic, soft, biomorphic forms and flows and the like). Due to not having much in them, minimal art refers to quietism, to Zen, to a transsubjective world-continuum – and Lucy Lippard calls Robert Morris a „master of formal silence“. For the creative mind, silence contains the virtuality of the clamour of being, therein, minimal art indicates the possibility of all creation. Those minimalistic forms are enigmatic, as they both refer to basal elements of construction, yet also to virtual ideals that are beyond any construction. Ahhh, what a dialectics! It brings opposites together, the small and the infinite (?)! Pseudo-immanence and pseudo-transcendence! Those squarelike forms of minimal art adress the square in me! The boxes of Donald Judd are some kind of rivets that hold the subjective and the objective universe together, they´re an encounter (like the installations of Sarah Sze)! Very mysterious, all this! In another context, there may be a trajectory from minimal art to degeneration of art via the growing preeminince not of the artwork but of the kunstähnliche Gegenstand (artlike object) from the 1970s onwards. Finally, indeed, there is actually not so much to say about them minimal objects, but that is good, since it binds the hallucinatory endless depths of imagination back to something solid and concrete, an anchor. In a world of ambiguity, objects attached with meaning etc. you encounter pure, literal forms that have nothing to tell and signify and you can endlessly explore what they speak to you. Glory! Glory! Glory! Glory!

Minimalist sculptures somehow challenge ancient notions as they are not, tradionally, sculptures, also not, traditionally, objects – they are rather forms and work as systems or systemic inventions in environment (or carry within themselves the possibility of their own extension or reduction like in the cases brought upon by Sol de Witt).  However, they create the impression of dumb objects, of materiality, or of ideal forms, to try to push and slide and emerge into this world, make themselves important, underline their presence; seem to say „Here I am, man… what will you now do against me?“ They´re there. They´re, maybe, middle-range objects that came to inhabit this world as well, out of unknown reason and for unkown purpose, and where dialogue and domestication is, to some degree, possible, to some other degrees not (check out also the note about Charles Sheeler and his eloquently silent industrial architectures). They seem to be vivid, stupid, and mysterious, follow their own (reduced, but also ungraspable) logic, like Kafka´s Odradek. In Realismus Jetzt, a Merve book edited by Armen Avenessian which is about speculative philosophy and metaphysics for the 21st century, there is a contribution by philosopher Graham Harman about his „Object Orientated Ontology“ (OOO) in which he wants to give dignity to things and tries to introduce an understanding of things being an essential element of metaphysics and to be philosophised upon (he even says that, corresponding to the „linguistic turn“ in 20th century philosophy, we´d need an „object turn“ in our century). He makes reference to Heidegger´s tool analysis (which he claims to be the hidden truth of all Heidegger´s metaphysics), and also to the „humming universe“ of the friendly metaphysicist Whitehead. Remember that Heidegger speaks of zuhandenem Zeug, objects/tools that are there in the world and, as tools, may change man´s possibilities of access to the world, respectively the world itself, implicating that objects/tools is stuff that is metaphysically relevant, that seem to be somehow autonomous, carry potential and may be game-changing (what is not mentioned in the short article is Heidegger´s philosophy about technology, as a force that, in a somehow conservative fashion, he saw as alienating and incorporating a life and logic of its own that is somehow stronger than that of man and therefore, finally, a heteronomy upon the man´s world). (Opposed to other philosophical traditions, Heidegger´s philosophy does away with a lot of categorial stuff and focuses on man as being rather „spontaneously“ in the world and navigating through the world, and changing it, i.e. Heidegger´s man is not a well-defined (and therein limited) man, but a rather fluid creature, i.e. Heidegger´s epistemology is rather a contact theory, like the one I have recently encountered in the book by Hubert Dreyfus and Charles Taylor.) Whitehead, as we remember, develops an ontology where everything (every single entity, as basal elements of reality) is connected in a network that makes the („humming“) universe. That is nice and friendly. However, says Graham, where Heidegger does not have a lot to say about things as that they both reveal (entbergen) and conceal (verbergen) themselves, Whitehead somehow implicates a notion of an instable or overly colourful universe that can be changed every instant, which is rather not the case: in doing away with the notion of substance – which seems to implicate a stickiness that isn´t exactly there –, network ontologies like that of Whitehead seem to do away with structure and seem to implicate a flexibility (or creativity) that is also not exactly there (although there is only an indication but not necessarily a reason for coming up with such a critique since substance-ontologies may contain network-notions and vice versa, and if I remember correct, Whitehead is not stupid or one-dimensional in his thinking). At other occasions (lectures to be found on Youtube) Graham Harman stresses the importance of an object orientated ontology by saying that if we reduce (meta)physics of objects, we could not explain phenomena of emergence, whereas if we put to much emphasis on substantial notions we could not explain change (hm…). OOO introduces some mysteriousness into the world, a notion of the cryptic potency of inanimate things that is potentially much more potent than pure human potency, and he also makes reference to aesthetics and the arts – that the notion of a world that is not completely „given“ at any moment, but a world that is partially withdrawn is actually what is captured/reflected in the arts, respectively illuminated in the multidimensional mind of the artist that „reveals“ the hidden truths of man and the universe (Graham, by contrast (on that occasion) says that in the arts objects become „mysterious“ and „withdrawn“ —– let us remember that in art the place of objects and the meanings of things become dislocated and put into other context, therefore you may have a certain disassociation: but for the reason of showing how the thing actually works and to reveal its existential ontology and its meta-noumenon!). (Graham also discusses minimalism shortly in here (47:30) <3 although the connection between minimalist art and object ontology sprang to my mind independly.) In diving into the hidden depths of the „withdrawing“ world, Graham Harman also mentions the „negative theology“ of Pseudo-Dionysius (i.e. that God indicates himself in this world via an absence that can be mystically approached and experienced, and that the light of God is a „dark“ light).

Very interesting and metaphyscial! I have got me some books by Graham Harman and want to get more closely in touch with OOO and then maybe write a note about it (which could make a Postscript to the Metaphysical Note about Extreme Metal). I think with his notion of a „withdrawing“ world that is never fully given he may refer to complexity – and it may be that complexity is a true phenomenon there in the world i.e. that is ontologically given (complicatedness means: something is more or less complicated and difficult to see through, but can be solved and defined; complexity means: you have an ever changing system whose interactions cannot be entirely foreseen — in his lecture Graham Harman refers to the social sciences as a science that has to operate with a complex flux, but also economics may come to mind (or meterology, or hydrodynamics, etc.). In his paper The Trouble With Macroeconomics Paul Romer explains how describing and computing an economic system involves a matrix of mxm parameters, but their interdependence is described by only m equations; hence complex systems probably cannot ever be captured by mathematics, implying that mathematics is not the deep/universal language of the universe, etc.) I also ask myself the question what is the Ding an sich of a car? Or of petrol? Or of a toaster? Or of an institution? That is relatively easy to say, think however of how the ancient wheel relates to the car etc. Feynman says, what we can construct we understand (with reference e.g. to the brain or consciousness which we cannot construct so far and probably never can), does that mean we see the thing in itself of the respective issue? I also wonder how potent things/objects/tools ever are; some popular notions, like that of McLuhan describe medias/tools as extensions/protheses of man; however when I read ancient Chinese literature like the Classic novels of China, I am astonished how similar people actually are across time and across culture; also Stanislaw Lem mourns or satirises about far (technologically) advanced future civilisations which are, to considerable extent, primitive and childish nevertheless (i.e. maybe tools and machines aren´t actually that important).

 

Dear Phillip:

Thanks for the nice post! It is well-written and well-informed. And I share your instinctive liking for minimalism.
There are only two points where I disagree. Or rather, one where I disagree and one where I sort of disagree.
The first: „whereas if we put to much emphasis on substantial notions we could not explain change (hm…).“
Actually I defend substance. The philosophy that cannot explain change, in my opinion, is the philosophy of actions or events that does not allow for an underlying hidden substance.
Also, complexity theory isn’t quite what I’m doing. Objects can be quite simple, where complexity theory talks about the complexity of relations, and OOO is above all an anti-relational philosophy.
Anyway, thanks again for the interesting post.
all the best,
Graham

Meditations on an Exhibition: „The Art of the Viennese Watercolor“ (Albertina)

Otto Weininger says intensity and comprehesiveness of memory is a defining feature of genius, and I think also Proust´s undertaking is about the possibility to enliven memory and, through that, make one´s own subjectivity more compact and immediate – maybe also more objective, since memories amalgamate the subject with an object experience and the world. I have to say that I also need to have everything on my monitor and that memory plays a vital role for me. Think of me being surrounded with an atmosphere that is memory and that I want to have present and compact. In contrast to the intelligent person the memory of the creative person will not necessarily be (quasi-) eidetic and textual, it will rather be associative and hypertextual. There! It happens I think of something, and then my memory often delivers me an instant from the past that somehow goes along with it – combining the thought/idea and the memory usually amplifies both and adds up to harmony. It becomes immersive. – Being immersive, or enabling immersion, is also an element of art. So I enjoyed the current exhibition at the Albertina: „The Art of the Viennese Watercolor“, showing watercolour paintings from Austrian artists, most of them from the 19th century, many of them from the glorious Biedermeier period. They usually portray everyday life scenes, and it moves me a lot to look at all these people and sceneries respectively to dive into my extented national memory and try to enliven them. They become present. Often these street scenes are from a time when also Beethoven used to walk those streets. There are also children in it and for instance in Karl Postl´s „View on Prague from an Archway“ (ca. 1800) you have a child accompaning her mother at the center. As you remember, I get immersed into children as they embody potential, becoming and the openness of future – and, therein somehow paradoxically, those children are long gone. I wonder what those people´s lives have been? Their individual experiences, their memories, their happinesses, their sorrows? I would like to get into every house of the world, not only in our time, but throughout all history, and investigate. That will feel good (?). Those watercolour painings are very enlivened, very immersive. Ahh, the innocence of perception of them painters and their high level of awareness and empathy for their surroundings! You become a part of something when you dive into those paintings. As for more specific purposes: Take a look, in great astonishment, in the amazing detailedness of Rudolf von Alt´s works! See how Peter Fendi, with his a bit dissoluting style, creates some sense of double identity of the world and of the social realm! Check out how August von Pettenkofen (a solitary eccentric) pushes that even further, into the twilight realm! The exhibition „The Art of the Viennese Watercolor“, does it bring me some happiness and relief? Yes, it does. And what an impression of nature there is in all that!

(Note that only Rudolf von Alt´s „Der Traunsee“ was part of the exhibition, and that both Fendi´s and Pettenkofen´s are oil on canvas, but I like them and good pics of the paintings aren´t so easy to find and you should go to the exhibition and get the book about the exhibition anyway.)

UPDATE 5. März 2018

Albert Oehlen and Daniel Richter

After the (alleged) demise of meaningful painting and make metaphysical statements, from this implosion and collapse in itself, from the depths of the mind of Albert Oehlen formidable and tasteful explosions emerge, masterfully executed. The eternal whirlpool from below. That means there is hope.

Daniel Richter paints tasty pictures packed full with stuff, in an opposition to minimalism. Sometimes he is abstract, sometimes figurative. The statue of man is often erected as seen via a nightscope of armed forces. There was an exhibition of his works last year and Erich said, Richter is a damn good painter.

I wonder what would happen if I was a painter. Given the extreme intensity of my intellect and unearthliness of personality, I relate to Vicent van Gogh. What would van Gogh do, after the demise of painting? What would his explosions be? Since reality is dim, I finally had to rely to a significant amount on dreams in order to finally do literature. A while ago, after I quit or suspended doing literature, I dreamed about painting a picture. There was not much to it, there was part of a circle in the upper end and also a triangle, then there was the usual seam which you have in dreams which make content unclear but make things seem so interesting. I think it was about easy geometry, but there was much to it. Maybe, in doing so, and exploring those possibilities, I`d be on the right way. The Merowinger said I should start to paint. But I guess I am not very skillful at this endeavour and I do not have the time to learn it now or in the nearer future. Geometrical forms – I will remember it however as maybe that is the way out to express the metaphysics of our age.

Piet Mondrian (and the Geometry of the White Lodge)

I like the name Piet Mondrian. It is like an oval spheroid, self-saturated, self-contained, stabilising itself in his own harmony. A rippling, a wave, a self circuit that does not spread confusion or butterfly effects in the universe but that comfortably leads back again to its own start, to be explored again. Piet Mondrian. Indeed, Piet Mondrian was one of the leading proponents of making harmony great again in art. Look at the immersion of mind, progressively plunging into deep reality, to finally see the movement of primal/eternal forms, to give rise to new concepts and frameworks in order to communicate and understand reality, getting into closer touch with it! See how he starts as a naturalist painter, occasionally flirting with impressionism, portraying quiet nature or quiet people! Gradually the fire of deep reality litting eleven poplars, the woods near Oele, red cloud in the sky, devotie becoming more intense, apple trees becoming more semi-abstractly distinguished from as well as embedded in the background, the windmills as evocation of silent materiality increasingly on fire and finally a triumphant semi-abstract red mill (leading critics to denounce such paintings as „insane“)! In accordance to Mondrian´s thinking inspired by theosophy the evolution of (wo)man as a hypercycle! Then, in his peculiar adaption of cubism nature made of eccentric lines and curves, until the basic raster of reality of geometric lines finally breaks through (most perfect in Composition VI), then loosens its own grip (Composition 10), then becomes replaced by somehow moving rectangles/colour fields, until you finally have impersonal geometric grids (that would alienate critics and cubists from such an approach)! At that time and point of immersion, Mondrian was alienated from the art scene, devoid of success and unsure how to progress further (and he thought about giving up art and becoming a sailor then). With the help of friends he was lucky to find a humble but steady income nevertheless and in deep doubt how to progress further the final breakthrough happened into his signature paintings made of lines, rectangles and colour fields over white ground! Kind of „last paintings that can be made“ the possibilities of movement within such basic scenario are vivid; in the 1930s his paintings would often become even more minimalistic. In his final period, when he moved to London and eventually to New York, the geometry of New York would provide new inspirations, the grid becoming deep and threedimensional or vibrating in its own fractal intensity to the Broadway Boogie Woogie – the calm and calculated Mondrian also was a big fan of jazz and a vivid dancer, likely not only for Dionysian reasons but also as an adherent of the eccentric and moving/shifting geometry expressed in jazz (indeed, Mondrian was both an ascetic monk as well as a hedonist, in both respects at peace with himself and balanced in himself). As a theorist, Mondrian was an eminent and influential figure of the De Stijl movement (although it should be noted that other members of De Stijl like Theo van Duesburg and Bart van der Leck were very influential upon Mondrian). Like suprematism in Russia, De Stijl was striving for expression of harmony and perfection. In Mondrian´s understanding, art was not about the „self expression“ of an artist, but a striving for expressing that which is universal, and eternal (and therefore harmonious). As such, as a seeker for deep reality, who wants to see through things, in order to investigate the thing-in-itself, Mondrian was a metaphysical artist. At his time, Mondrian had to acknowledge that religion as the sphere of the universal had become superseded. Instead, a protean modern subject had come into power as well as an impersonal technology that facilitates, standardises and explosively increases productivity and the possibilities of man. Like other abstractionists, Mondrian saw abstraction as the possibility to express the metaphysics of a modern, industrialised age – but he hoped that within that process of amalgamation or dialectics, a more concrete subject would come into being, a man that is fully matured, who is able to reflect and internalise the forces of protean subjectivity and technology and is not alienated by them: that is, then, the new, and final universal (or, the overman, if you want). In order to master a transgression like this, art had to supersede to be spiritual by expressing the tragic of human experience but had to become intellectual via a purified intellect – and Mondrian´s artistic endeavours can be understood as an undertaking of purifying the intellect. In that respect, Mondrian also said his art was about the expression of pure relation and pure relationships between things (as, so to say, the network of reality). As, in reality, relationships between things can never be seen directly but only concealed, the task of the artist is to directly express those relationships: in the pure form, the relationship between the thing and the other thing is a square angle (and the emanations of reality colour fields). That is the primal geometry of the world (respectively the mind that looks at it). The Universal means the unification or concilliation of object and subject, respectively, as Mondrian deals with it, of the thing and the other thing. Harmony is established when object and subject, the thing and the other thing are reconciled. Like in the works of his fellow compatriot Vincent van Gogh, trees have been a prominent subject in the (earlier) paintings of Mondrian, allegedly symbolising the solitary artist, in his serenity and timelessness. While van Gogh can be said to have been a Dionysian painter, Mondrian was Apollonian. While Vincent´s letters were maniac and passionate, Mondrian´s self-reflection was expressed in the mode of calculated and methodological essays. While Vincent was expressing the sensational character of the world, or of his mind, directly, Mondrian expressed them indirectly. In the white ground of his paintings, where lines and surfaces are erected, you have the white noise of possibilities in which everything is contained …. Remember that I called the space where you are surrounded by white nebulaic light, where ideological and doctrinal segregation between things have broken down and you have pure and universal perception the White Lodge. And indeed, the White Lodge can also be seen as a space of the possibility of pure relations. It is the space of the beginning and the end, of the Alpha and Omega, where subject and object, the thing and the other thing are reconciled as waves within the continuum that is the White Lodge. Mondrian´s signature paintings can be understood as expressions of a white Nirvana, they can also be understood as expressing the geometry of the White Lodge.

Although he is considered the major Netherlandic painter of the 20the century, Mondrian remained relatively poor during his lifetime. He never married. When he happened to have success and his reputation increasing, he would perplex people and lose his reputation again as he would become more experimental again and moving to new territories. I find it very sad not to have found an extensive biography of him, but he also destroyed letters and traces from his past later in life as he became confortable with maintaining his image as an impersonal „art monk“ so that it seems a bit difficult to distinguish how much of this was motivated by constructing an image (which is, nevertheless, likely of a greater necessity also in the most venerable regions of human endeavour in order to make oneself a circulating unit) or simply the truest and the natural form of Mondrian himself. I have read elsewhere that there are no indications that Mondrian had a lot of humour, contrary to many humorists he never gave up his enduring optimism about the arrival of the universal man. Later in his life at peace he had been very much at peace with himself and he never gave up hope. In preparing this note I have read however that it would frequently happen that people reluctant or in opposition against Mondrian´s paintings sooner or later have an epiphany how harmonious and calming those paintings are, radiating inner peace. Art dealer Sidney Janis said in his career he had met only two artists who did „not feel compelled to defend their own vision against that of others“, who were vastly tolerant and balanced, therefore, in a way, im/transpersonalised truth seekers: One was Duchamp, the other one was Mondrian. In the valuable book „Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts“ (edited by Ingo F. Walther) the conclusion about Mondrian was that although his mature paintings seem to be easy, hardly any artist is more difficult to imitate or to forge than Mondrian. Of all the artists of De Stijl who were striving for harmony, Mondrian (they said) was the only one to have actually achieved it.

 

Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was one of the most ultraintelligent painters, his intelligence supposedly relates to an IQ score of 180, the world he inhabitated, perceived and computed was extremely vast, his epistemology comparable to that of Goethe, his art reaches the supreme goal of being, finally, inexplicable, incummensurable and not to be translated into other languages of thought without losing power and coherence, strange celestial and (un)earthly realms. It is not easy to say where the final conclusion about Bruegel´s oeuvre may be situated, it is always evasive, eternal sunshine of the spotless raving mind. Says his friend Abraham Ortelius: „He painted a lot that cannot be painted. All the works of our Bruegel are more thoughts than pure painting.“ Which is true, in some cases explicitely, in all cases implicitely, the lines between the sensual, the (subjective) thought and the (objective) idea are blurred in the most profound way as they are (in some way) mirrored in each other; as is the line between the subjective and the objective in general; (spiritually) Bruegel is both a nominalist and a realist, and he neither is a nominalist nor a realist (and probably you can shed some new light on the problem of universals by meditating about Bruegel); there is no exact monadology or harmony, but of a perception of disharmony in the world he creates an (idiosyncratic) intellectual and spiritual harmony of vision.

Bruegel´s life remains in obscurity, he was born between 1525 and 1530 and he died 1569 in Brussels. Despite his interest in peasant life it is likely that he was an educated townsman and, as a common thing for painters, he traveled through Europe to get impressions from nature and learn from other painters. He lived in a time of upheaval at the dawn of modernity: Nature had become tacitly manipulable, for very far-seeing eyes God was about to become gradually dethroned and the understanding of nature and the cosmos as an eternal and static order gradually shattered, you had religious wars and violence alongside political upheavals, the gradual formation of the nation-state and struggles for independence. Bruegel seems to be concerned about situating man in his environment, and a general message seems to be that man should not leave his individual place in society and disturb the natural order, else he gets punished (like Icarus or the Babylonians): Note that Bruegel lived at the very dawn of modernity, and innovations are usually not welcomed in traditional societies that have learned some humble ways how to wrest humble meals from nature and therefore view novel ways of doing things as dangerous experiments that lead to bad harvest (which they often are, or had been) – and note also that disorder and destruction of harmony is what the genius abhors and fears (see also Newton´s stubbornness concerning religion, Einstein´s stubbornness concerning refuting quantum mechanics or Goethe´s stubbornness concerning his theory of colours). And so you have most eccentric visions in the works of Breugel, an extremely vibrant force in everything that comes out of itself, seems to try to transform, maybe only to be thrown back onto itself and its own incapability to trancend itself on the one hand, and the extreme need for frame and order and meaning on the other hand („Dionysian“ vs „Appollonian“, if you like): Corresponding to his ultraintelligence and fine genius, Bruegel does not only depict the vastness of the world but tries to give meaning to it by tacitly moralising and trying to give it a moral framework. He is very concerned about the world as a moral phenomenon, desperate about the obvious inexistence of the world as a moral phenomenon or at least the lack of moral in it, therefore eager to make his art carry moral instruction and elatedness. He is very concerned about the cohesion and coherence of the world, the vast heterogenousness of the world, and of man´s insufficiency, nevertheless always escapes the unifying vision of the genius – and so you have both ecstasy and raving out of joyousness over the geniuses` own ability to perceive and give meaning to the world and to share it to others, as well as ominous depression and near-psychosic neurosis about the final inability to do so and being, like a neurotic, trapped in his own world (in the case of the genius, the world of his own inner riches that he tries to project into the world).

While Bruegel depicted the horrors of religious persecution of his time (the persecution of the Protestants in the Netherlands by imperial Catholic Spain as Spain feared to lose control over them, executed by the brutal and sinister Duke of Alba), it remains even unclear whether he was Catholic or Protestant himself, what is clear, however, is that Bruegel was that kind of man who transcend such limitations and make them look stupid, instead, they make religion by themselves. Religion, however, is rather present in the work of Bruegel via the sacred individual, in the Conversion of Paul or The Sermon of Saint John the Baptist (which indicates that Bruegel at least had sympathies for the Protestants and their proclamation of a new religion), apart from that religion rather is presented as a dangerous thing that leads to manslaughter, atrocities and violence (Massacre of the Innocents) or ridiculous hybris and self-aggrandizement of man (The Tower of Babel). Not only in The Sermon of Saint John the Baptist but also in the Procession to Calvary Bruegel however depicts a human race largely indifferent to the suffering of others and to the spiritual, but people (pseudo-)immersed in their own, more or less, serious affairs. Many listen to John the Baptist for entertainment purposes – although Bruegel usually depicts that it is not their fault: they are, more or less, innocent as they simply cannot be reached and touched by the spiritual. As there is nothing truly divine to be found in this world, or there may be just a deus absconditus that becomes deus relevatus only to the artist and the exceptional individual, Bruegel throws back man on himself and frames nature in itself: therefore you have the impression of everything being made of forces that are eager to unleash. In the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking I made some buzz about the great genius always seeing an eruptive, if not explosive vision before his inner eye, and also in Bruegel you always have eruptions (most explicitely, the tower of Babel erecting and growing into the sky).

In Bruegel´s vision, you have a communion of creature. Peasant and noble man are alike, they are of the same flesh and moral status, maybe they both are cripples, either as a punishment for sin, or due to the indifference (or meanness) of nature itself. Therein you may both sense a democratic and philantropic vision as well as a warning against hybris – as well as a vision of everything mirroring everything else as you have it in great art. (Why does hybris seem to be a topic that Bruegel so prominently depicts (a notion that forgets, however, that hybris isn´t such a prominent topic in Bruegel´s oeuvre, in which you have the entire spectrum of human (mis)behaviour, as kind of implicitely explicited in the Netherlandish Proverbs or the Children´s Games)? Bruegel was depicted as a very calm man, and boastfulness usually is alien to the genius – the fight against hybris and all other sins, in order to get rid of them, the quest for moral perfection is however the geniuses´ quest, and his achievements, talents and visions surely went to the head of that calm man, which surely embarrassed him and made him uneasy every once in a while.) In Children´s Games he portrays children as somehow grown up, indicating that they are, in the end, alike, and the affairs of grown-ups comparable to child´s play. Likewise, you have Blind leading the Blind as a vision about humanity.

Bruegel´s vision of the world is not a pleasant one, and you have landscapes of death or horror or of hell in his oeuvre. It is an egoistic world of Big Fish Eat Little Fish with man topping all the other fishes (and the vile and resolute look of one of the fishermen, with a knife in his mouth, indicates that some of men seem to sadistically enjoy it (with animals actually not being much better, nor man being much worse)). You have mourning about the Treacherousness of the World and an obvious fine man turned into Misanthrope (leaving open the possibility of weakness in the misanthrope himself and an implicit warning that a truly noble heart cannot be corrupted). You have hellish visions, that are, nevertheless, populated by clumsy demons that do not seem to be real or harmful, indicating that the true hell may be the man´s world. Divine spheres are more or less absent, although Bruegel made an iconic depiction of the Land of Cockaigne – as a narrow garden of largely earthly delights. Celestial heaven, as a sphere where you can see and feel all the beautiful things maybe is not a tangible place for men who are largely not able to see, feel and experience much with their hearts. The seperatedness between the artist (or the saint) and the world is also a latent topic, most prominently depicted in The Painter and the Connoisseur where behind the contemplative, concentrated, helpless-melancholic-unnerved artist there is the bourgeois who is impressed by the magnificence of the artwork and instantly opens his purse to buy it – and ironically, the bourgeois in his naiveté looks more likeable than the somehow grouchy artist.

Bruegel is famous for the depiction of peasants and peasant life. Although the peasant was a subject of mockery to the more educated people at that time, Bruegel´s depiction of peasant life is – although of course not free from depiction of human error – empathetic and it does not come as a surprise that he enjoyed attending peasant festival, weddings and funfairs. I also get immersed into watching children playing, their innocent but powerful movements that seem to actualise the full potential of gesture and immersion into itself. The innocently raving mind is the geniuses´ mind, and it does not come as a surprise that by watching children playing or peasant´s dancing, the genius feels that such must be heaven! Of course the genius knows that those gestures are, to a considerable degree, empty and behind the seeming ecstatic creativity there frequently is no creativity at all – however, he gets a very pleasant impression, also of human innocence, of humans enjoying themselves and being immersed in themselves – and it is a vision of the self-sufficiency of creature that he enjoys as well in it. In Bruegel´s peasants you often have vulgarity or an expressionless physiognomy due to the absence of soul, but there usually is no meanness (although of indications of meanness there is no shortage, of course).

Bruegel´s physiognomies are a mix between individuality and idiosyncracy, typology and caricature, all mirrored in each other at once, and the richness of how to depict it in always new ways is another expression of Bruegel´s overabundance. Bruegel does not depict humans as truly vile, instead there is dignity in most of them, it touches the heart to look at the personnel of the Peasant Wedding being content with themselves while eating, even if it is animal-like and there seem to be no higher interests – but they are not to blame and the genius usually rejoices when he has the possibility to watch someone innocently enjoying something and, therein, fully actualising himself in his own self-containedness and immanence. Look at how the aberrations from beauty, like the physiognomy of the bag piper and his friend at the Peasant Dance, are giving identity nevertheless, although the tastyness of it seems to predominantly lie in the carefulness (and empathy) of artistic execution. Even the many demons like in the Dulle Griet or in The Fall of the Rebel Angels look like funny little animals, and they provoke some sympathy as they are obviously cursed to a ridiculous existence for their lack of character and their debasedness, and they actually look harmless and neither affect the Saint Antonius and not even the Dulle Griet. In some paintings, mostly those portraying peasants at the harvest, you have an absence of physiognomy, and the rather uncanny Beekeepers are defaced – people reduced to their social role (the Beekeepers are a late work and it is curious to think how Bruegel would have developed had he lived longer). Facelessness, however, is also a good principle, as it indicates the concilliation of the subjective and the objective, the individual and society, etc.

As it was about situating man in nature, Bruegel was also (kind of) revolutionary and hugely impressive as a painter of landscape: Karel van Mander noticed that Bruegel, on his journeys through the Alps, seemed to have „devoured all the mountains and rocks, to spit them out as paintings again – that close he had been able to get to nature in this respect, and in others“. It is true that the productive mimesis of the genius goes that far: he internalises things in his mind and soul and recreates them. Bruegel´s landscapes usually are extremely vast, diverse and depicted in great detail, most prominent to be seen in The Tower of Babel or The Hunters in the Snow. They are neither real nor overly surreal, they are neither an abstract „idea“ of landscape nor an exact realisation, they aren´t exactly sublime nor are they indifferent – again it is difficult to find out how Bruegel actually situates man in nature, or nature in nature, or nature in a divine order. The hunters seem to have, in a humble way, captivated and domesticated a bit of nature but seem to be far from the dominium terrae and the cultural mandate expressed in the Old Testament („Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.“). In the vision of Bruegel the Elder, there seems to be some tacit symbiosis, some possibilities of exchange but also a vast indifference and impossibility of communication and communion between man, animal and nature. Man and animal in nature and nature in nature – a story of heterogenousness, as told by Bruegel.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a famous and respected man during his lifetime, and after his death his sons carried his legacy. Nevertheless he had not been very prominent for centuries afterwards and came to be misunderstood, for instance, as a minor copycat of Hieronymus Bosch in the 19th century even by respected art critics – LOL, what a stupidity – but this often happens to the most intelligent people. In the 20th century the implications of Bruegel´s worldview and artistic vision became honoured and broadly understood, and it is actually difficult to fully understand and appreciate Bruegel before our own age (concerning Bruegel and Bosch, it needs to be said that Bosch lacks Bruegel´s humour – and in Bosch´s world evil is not man-made — whereas in Bruegel´s world of man and deus absconditus it is man who is responsible for evil: that is not to be taken as a derivativeness but there is actually a broad spiritual and cognitive distance between those two visions – apart from that, when a genius seems to copy another genius, it will not be because of lack of own imagination, but because there is a familiarity of mind and competence – and because to honour the predecessor and to establish another mirror view).

To sum up, in Bruegel´s vision you have ecstasy, eccentricity and eruptions of overabundance and a strong sense of connectedness and how stuff is mirrored in other stuff. As it had been frequently said in those notes about artists, art is about revealing the existential ontology of a thing via presenting a thing mirrored in different or in dislocated contexts that shed new light on the thing. Bruegel, via his omega mind, more or less shows the existential ontology of the entire world! He is able to investigate relationships and interrelatedness of any kind, and then to ironically question them, respectively, via irony, add an additional point of view to the entire structure. Bruegel´s vision, and Bruegel´s mind, is, more or less, complete and Bruegel´s world floats and stabilises itself via the solidity of its own endogenous set of equations. See how you have everything, or may see with your inner eye, as a burning chamber, every person, every peasant or demon, throwing some light on his surroundings – without, however, illuminating the whole world. It isn´t the case that „every thing mirrors everything else“ or that the world is an „endless network of jewels“ or a monadology where every monad contains everything else and the complete history of the world, including the world´s future, as the enlightened mind often claims it is: it is a world of more or less limited areals, where some connections are possible (to some), others aren´t. And, as it seems, if the enlightend mind is honest to itself, that is how the world truly is. Endless and without limits (?) is the mind, heavily bumping into each other and blocking themselves are the objects of the real world. Bruegel the Elder depicts the world, in general, as a kind of purgatory. Which, however, means that it is up to the individual itself and the duty of the individual to make a good impression via catharsis, reformation and refinement.

P.S.: That I said in the introduction that Bruegel´s intelligence relates to an IQ of 180 is a personal guess at the moment, maybe Bruegel´s IQ was only 160, but, given the vastness and sophistication of his intellect and the total inner cohesion of his vision, I guess it was considerably higher – and actually as high as human intelligence can ever get (note that this does not mean that Bruegel would have scored 180, or even 160, at an IQ test, since especially an artist´s intelligence is not what IQ tests adequately measure and represent – however I try to estimate a person´s intelligence via the level of analysis and integration, abstraction as well ability to see individual aspects to a thing, and in such respects, Bruegel´s intelligence is hardly ever reached and maybe only in the case of Leonardo only ever truly topped). I do not come up with this out of an intelligence/IQ fetish, which is viewed with suspiction in our society, but as a matter to achieve clarity about the Bruegel case! Having said that, it may come to mind that maybe Bruegel even had an IQ of 200! Note that very high intelligence and creativity will come in as a kind of psychosis to others, due to the extreme throwing up of heterogenous and diverse material at once and the eagerness to establish hardly intelligible connections between all of it, however, only as a kind of psychosis, since, to the sympathetic observer, it will reveal itself as a vast cosmos of sense and meaning, not the collapse of meaning as you have it in psychosis. There´s no abnormality to it, but hypernormality. As I follow along these lines of thought and establishing perspective, it comes to me that Bruegel the Elder depicted the psychosis of the world! Jiiiiiii! A completely rational depiction of the psychosis of the world! Finally, maybe the ultimate fulfillment the human mind can reach is that it is not an („enlightened“) mirror image of an „endless network of jewels“ that would make up the real world (a vision that is a lie!), but that it is the endless hall of mirrors (ego should also evaporate when a stage like this is reached). Bruegel´s interior is the endless hall of mirrors. So you see, it is not meaningless when reflecting about things with the help of IQ scores.

 

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.

 

UPDATE 011518: LOL

 

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.“