Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee

artist6„Strange and Unproductive Thinking“ is a chiffre for (quasi-)introspective endeavour to find genuine modes of expression. It is likely to run counter the mainstream or contemporary cultural hegemony, as a sort of untimely meditation, yet not for the simple sake of rebellion but in order to establish new master signifiers. The so-called mainstream will strike the strange and unproductive thinker not as an enemy per se, rather as a mindless neutrality (which, of course, also contains hostile elements). The strange and unproductive thinker will be a kind of rebel against it, but an apparently conservative rebel who is inclined to think that the genuine, the elementary, authentic idea is already out there, or has been formulated in the past, but has been submerged and spilled by contemporary mainstream. In order to rediscover them, to get down/up to the elements, the strange and unproductive thinker will wander along an „eccentric pathway“ (as Hölderlin calls it), respectively he will, like a mole, dig an underground pathway (as Nietzsche puts it, and Kafka can obviously relate to it), in the dark. If he succeeds, he will finally gain access to the Continuum, where the elements, the immortal archetypes reside, which he then can redesign. For the strange and unproductive thinker the contemporary „mainstream“ will be a material in order to gain access to that which is both the highest abstraction as well as the most concrete, the most elementary, the most natural; he will understand the contemporary „mainstream“ as a black hole through which a wormhole to additional dimensions can be discovered, or established. His visions will be both highly personal and idiosyncratic as well as they are formulated at such a high level of analysis and integration as that his visions become solidified in the „primal ground“ as well as in the „spheres“ in „space“ and „eternal“ in „time“ (which means that they then belong to the Continuum). – Meditate about that.

At the turn of the 20th century new modes of expression had to be found. Urbanised life had become unrepresentable, as well as with the death of God ideals respectively the ineffable spheres have become unrepresentable. The subject as the new demiurge became increasingly questionable as a solid unitarian entity and therefore unrepresentable. Modern art in the 19th century had become much more flexible but therefore also a bit wobbly, and with the concentration on elements (like colour) or demanding specific modes of perception and heuristics the representation of totality had become endangered. Therefore, at least in retrospect, the highest point of analysis and integration and of abstraction became abstraction per se.


Wassily Kandinsky was an outstanding student of economics, but alongside his synaesthetic inner perception he became more attracted to the arts and the possibility of becoming an artist. An epiphany he had when he attended a performance of „Lohengrin“ as a young man: „I saw all my colours in my mind, they were right before my eyes. Wild, terrific lines were drawn in front of me“ – ahhh, that is genuine strange and unproductive thinking, and you will recognise a strange and unproductive thinker when he comes up with inner impressions like that… When you look at Kandinsky´s artistic progress you will sense he somehow tried to penetrate into his own vision ever deeper; you have eccentric „colourful life“ in his early paintings, progessively overwhelmed by autonomous colours/light, a non-symbolic reduction of forms, a hallucinatory disintegrative integration (Sketch for „Composition II“), a charged reduction to elements (Lyrically) – finally the breakthrough and opening of the Continuum (Painting with a Black Arch). The Continuum itself appears as enigmatic, it is the realm of highest objective significance. That which is of highest objective significance cannot be objectively expressed, it is brought to life when it is envisioned by the competent subject, the strange and unproductive thinker. In the vision of Kandinsky it was the disintegrative integrative *****AB—____/7, where you have the dissolution and reconfiguration of forms, the permanent swirl, the permanent bubble, amalgamation of elements that signify objects, ideas, forms, geometry and colour that equals sounds etc., a shattered geometry in space, a perfect geometry in hyperspace, the projection of higher dimensions; and so on. – Kandinsky himself was aware of the danger that his approach might lead to a simple gaining of independence of artistic means, others, like Carl Einstein, dismissed the notion that a representation of intellectual processes in a quasi-scientific way would ever be possible, and it is true: we don´t know very much about their logics or mechanics of intellectual processes (although Einstein himself obviously was, as a child of his time, too occupied with mechanical and linear notions, at least he was not completely aware of the more network-like nature of intellectual architectonics). Kandinsky made theoretical eleborations (which I have not read so far), in which he tried to give to his emanations an underlying structure, a universal translation of the meanings of his artworks, of colours, etc. As I said I have not read them so far, yet I guess they´re not the best part of his work (as far as I know Kandinsky acknowledges the primordial role of the privileged subject, the strange and unproductive thinker, and the processes, and the condensation as well as logical loosing of the processes inside him, but he seems too eager to give a purely objective, quasi scientifically/rationally grounded structure of meaning to his emanations, he wants to establish objectivity where there is privileged subjectivity, respectively wants to give the a-rational, the meta-rational, a rational structure, which is likely to be inadequate, and, to such an extent, not necessary (respectively he seems to forget that Kant already refuted objective categories for that which is rooted in aesthetics, because it primarily belongs to the realm of the sensual, not to the realm of reason) – yet proneness to dogmatism was infectious those days bygone and only very protean artists like Picasso or Klee could ever do without it). Kandinsky, as an artist, did not display logics or mechanics of what is, essentially, strange and unproductive thinking, but established allegories. And in the case of Kandinsky, they carry high inner truth (and the inner truth is the locus of aesthetic truth). Over time, Kandinsky enriched his visions as he became more geometrical or, in his last period, introduced quasi-representations of small, bacteria-like life forms, but it is true that Kandinsky remained trapped in abstraction, respectively – seemingly – in the inner realm, which was, then, his personal shortcoming (take into consideration, though, that shortcomings and reductions are an ingredient to deepen and solidify vision and ideas). It can be said (and Carl Einstein said it) that the highest point of art is Gestaltbildung, new, innovative creation of objective forms (respectively the forms of the object world) – maybe this is true (yes, it is likely to be true) but such a viewpoint would appear dogmatic, a dinosaur from the past when you have undergone postmodernity – Post-postmodernity shall amalgamate modern dogmatism and stringency with postmodern playfulness, rejection of authoritarian center, etc. New Gestaltbildung is what Paul Klee did.


Paul Klee displayed his high genius (which becomes visible also, for instance, in his language) from early on. Likewise, his paintings remained distinctly childish and playful until his death. There is no parallel concerning this childish playfulness in the history of art, as well as there hardly is any parallel to his protean personality and the overwhelming diversity in his output. Of hardly anyone it can be said that he was constantly creating the world anew the way Klee did. – Carl Einstein puts Klee above Kandinsky, because Kandinsky never managed actual and true Gestaltbildung. Klee, however, managed even less the representation of Gestalt, but reached the (supposedly) highest point of painting/the arts: autonomous, fresh and virgin creation of Gestalt. Klee was a creator of worlds. Klee mixed abstraction and figurative elements, he amalgamated the natural, the cosmic, the mathematic (it is true he did not juxtapose them but created a meta-dialectical synthesis). When asked about the nature of his style, he answered: I am my style. Whereas Kandinsky linked his art to the spiritual and became programmatic about it, Klee was mainly interested in the illustration, representation (and, eventually, the productive mimesis) of natural processes – since that´s what the high genius is: an expressive agent of nature. It was programmatic for the Blue Rider to try to establish a connection to the deep structure of the world and a vision of conciliation of art and science; Franz Marc (who died too early) tried to find purity via immersion into and contemplation of the animal realm, Kandinsky in the abstract expression of the spiritual, Klee´s was a „Zwischenwelt“, a world between immediate perception and conscious representation, a world into which „the children, the primitives, the psychotics“ are able to see. Strange and unproductive thinking. The Zwischenwelt is, however, also a kind of stasis, respectively there is not necessarily a dynamic interaction with the macrocosm and the effable spheres, and in a way, it is a world somehow trapped in itself. Klee however introduced dynamics by the shift of lines, mismatchtings; he introduced depth by configuring people and entities via eccentric lines which again get lost in the infinite or by letting them emerge and submerge inside a dynamic enviroment (aaahhh … the multiple layers of reality <3 ). Genie ist der Fehler im System, he annouced; the productive defect which introduces dynamics into the system.


The heraldic animal of the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking is the bird which descends into the abyss in front and rises again from the abyss behind, obviously having encircled the dark side/fond of the earth, coming up with new wisdom and vision, to fly into the horizon of the night again, and to rise from it again, forever. This is a nightly vision which occured to me, relating to Finnish ritual drone doom folk project Bird from the Abyss. – Kandinsky gives us an impression of what you may see down there, in the profound sector of the Continuum, the sector of disintegrative integration, the dark fond. Klee gives us an impression of the bird rising from the abyss again, on a forever new day. Kandinsky´s best paintings display hallucinatory depths, which are, however, the deep structure of the network. In Klee´s emanations, frightening depths are actually absent, the relations and correlations of the object world are represented/established, but their solidity is ever loosened, not actually by the means of subversion, but by the means of (tragicomical) humour; the will to the great gesture, to the gigantomaniac is not prominent in Klee (which is something that is actually a missing element in his oeuvre because the great artist has to be gigantomaniac as well). Kandinsky is meditative, Klee practical intelligence of how to overcome shortcomings via ego-less spontaneity and creativity. They´re both messengers from the Continuum.

Kandinsky on the Spiritual Element in Art and the Three Responsibilities of Artists