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.)

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.“

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

Basquiat

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.