Punctum in MoMa New York

Musea bezoeken is niet altijd even eenvoudig. Sterker nog, het is een kunst op zich. Hoe ga je om met al die kunst om je heen, de naambordjes, de stroom van informatie, de vele mensen om je heen die van zaal naar zaal slenteren? Hoe kies je wat je wilt zien, wat is je doel?

Musea bezoeken is niet altijd even eenvoudig. Sterker nog, het is een kunst op zich. Hoe ga je om met al die kunst om je heen, de naambordjes, de stroom van informatie, de vele mensen om je heen die van zaal naar zaal slenteren? Hoe kies je wat je wilt zien, wat is je doel?

Continue reading “Punctum in MoMa New York”

Recensie: “Sterven voor een idee” / Of: Over levenskunst

Een vorm van kunst die me na aan het hart ligt is de levenskunst, een specifiek filosofische kijk op het leven, filosofie en kunst. Binnen de levenskunst gaat het erom dat kunst en filosofie niet zomaar dingen zijn waar je over praat, maar het zijn performatieve zaken. Je hele leven is een belichaming er van.

Continue reading “Recensie: “Sterven voor een idee” / Of: Over levenskunst”

Review: Lost River

Every once in a while you see something that won’t let you go. That stays with you for days in a row. That makes you want to be quiet about. An experience that changes your perspective on (the) world. Something which is perhaps only possible through and because of art. Here an attempt to review, to speak up about one such experience. However impossible.

Continue reading “Review: Lost River”

Reflection on Birdman and the reality and/of art

Naomi Watts in Birdman

Winner of four Oscars, and some of my favourite actors in it (Edward Norton, Naomi Watts). Enough to go and watch this film, right? Or perhaps it is the subtitle of the film that made me go and see it… In any case a movie that is worth watching: “Birdman: or the unexpected virtue of ignorance“. A reflection without any spoilers.

Continue reading “Reflection on Birdman and the reality and/of art”

All Worldly Knowledge – Venice Biennale 2013 – Kan Xuan

The problem one faces when visiting any museum, let alone one that covers a whole city, let alone one that focusses on ‘all worldly knowledge’, is the sheer amount of impressions one has to deal with. Often you end up perusing through the lot of it, glancing over the area in front of you and tracing superficially what is presented. Of course you can also specifically look for certain works that you choose, but somehow it is also very tempting to try and get a glimpse of this ‘all worldly knowledge’.

And when you walk through it, head full of images and thoughts, emotions and boredom running through your veins, it could just happen that you stumble upon something that keeps your intention for half an hour or more, and which you know will stay with you for a while longer. Sometimes this does not happen. And sometimes it happens more than once in one day. If you’re lucky. (Or not, for who would want to be influenced by a work of art these days?)

There were several installations that were of particular interest to me. I will focus on one of them here, namely the installation by Kan Xuan, China. It was part of the Arsenale presentation and not part of any national pavilion. Instead, the curator choose this particular artwork ‘Millet Mounds’ (2012).

Part of installation at Venice Biennale 2013
Part of installation at Venice Biennale 2013

In it, Xuan showed hundred of nicely built frames beside each other in two rows, in which photos were shown as if in stop-motion, each sequence of maybe even a hundred photos having its own atmosphere and its own environment. On the wall next to it, a map was drawn for each frame, showing the trajectory of the artist while taking the pictures. Each frame, together with its map, could thus be seen as a memory of space and time. Each combining the two, in a very subjective manner. It looked as it each frame with the hundred or more photographs had their own filter, their own colour, their own emotion attached. But each frame, was arranged within an enourmous line of frames, showing the linearity of memory storage.

One of the things I ask myself when presented with a work of art that attracts my eyes, which keep me wondering and looking until my head because swallowed up by the vastness of it, is precisely why this work appeals to me. And when the answer to this question comes too easily, I am somehow put of by it, and forget about the work of art as soon as I can.

This obviously did not happen to me this time. At first I was fascinated by the colours and the rapid movement of the images. Focussing on one frame, what could I distill? Was there a story enfolded in front of my eyes? What did the artist want me to see? Why were these barren landscapes, that somehow all resembled each other in some way, enough to let me think they were taken at least in the same country, so interesting? I still don’t know.

The second wonderment that I felt, was when I tried to follow Elie During’s experiment. He had shown us in his seminar at the European Graduate School just a few days before, that it is possible to listen or to see different sounds or images at the same time. That is, not merely hearing or seeing the harmony between different tonal lines or visual images, but seeing two separate things, simultaneously.

This is what I tried with this artwork, and which lend itself extremely well for it. Not only was the whole artwork based on the idea of positioning oneself in space and time, as the maps on the wall indicated. Also the sheer amount of frames and space-time sequence of moments made this an extremely bewildering experience. I found it was possible to see about four separate instances of spacetime simultaneously. The result of this was not one field of vision, one experience of time, but a fourfold of space and time.

In the end, the impression that stays with me when I visit any museum is what attracted me in this artwork. And instead of it being a negative emotion, the overload of spacetime, images as well as experiences of time, made this such a beautiful experience. I could easily imagine myself being one of these frames, documenting all the images I had seen and would see that day visiting the Venice Biennale 2013. Besides me, the people visiting the same space, strangers and friends alike, all occupy their own frame. But when these frames could be put together somehow, without judgement or destinction, we would end up with what the biennale really consists of: subjectified spacetimes.

When you would want to present ‘all worldly knowledge’, this would be the only way to do so; By showing simultaneous spacetimes of all possible perspectives.

Art As It Is Meant To Be: Io Sono Li

Tao Zhao as Shun Li in “Shun Li and the Poet”

Sometimes you come across a piece of art that is exactly what it supposed to be like. An experience that doesn’t leave you alone for quite some time. Watching ‘Io Sono Li‘ is such an experience.

(Don’t worry, no spoilers involved.)

After five days of loud music and cheering as my city has been taken over by partying youngsters and military and other people who walk fifty or so kilometers a day for four days in a row in order to get a small token to remember it by (Nijmeegse Vierdaagse), I needed to flee the heat and noise. So I went to the cinema. Specifically, I went to see a film that just came out, an Italian ‘art-house’ production.

It is amazing how chlichés can be avoided by showing things for what they are, not making them into whatever you hope to show your audience. To let the images speak for themselves. Some reviewers said the actors were very well chosen, as if the part was made especially for them. But I think that is a superficial way of looking at it. When actors play their part, it is up to the viewer (and thus up to the director) to look at their emotions and the thoughts that speak through their eyes. Not getting too much involved creates so much beauty!

Of course there are a large amount of social issues that are part of contemporary society that forms the structure of the film. But I say structure, not the content. The content is independent of the surrounding, which is what makes this film so extraordinary: the viewer can relate to it especially because it shows something human, and not some bigger picture. Art is not used to ‘fix’ a problem or to create a discourse.

Art as it is meant, to look at the world once more, differently.

After Barthes

Pavel Filonov – Flowers of the Universal Flowering, Мировой расцвет

Yesterday I visited the exposition on ‘The Big Change’, on Russian Art 1895-1917. As you might know by now, I’m obsessed by the idea of ‘change’ (well, it’s the topic of my PhD, so I’m rightfully obsessed by it) and as I am very fond of everything Russian ever since the great documentary-travel-televisionseries by Jelle Brand Corstius, I was curious what this had to offer.

What I liked about this exposition, was that it used all sorts of art, although it was still conventional enough for old people to visit it (they bring in the money, of course) in that it showed mostly paintings. But the little alcoves with music composed in that time and the rooms with moving images made it into a great experience.

But after having read Barthes’ Camera Lucida just the day before, and having some great discussions about it with some friends from the European Graduate School, the paintings gave me a very morbid impression. What Barthes is describing about himself as an observer, is something that is easily recognized: being enchanted by something, as if there if something in the artwork (or, photograph as Barthes is focusing on that specifically) that like an arrow pierces you, hits you, yes even wounds you. It is not something that can be searched for in the artwork, it is not something that is rationally approachable. No, it is not what Barthes calls the studium, something that I see in the artwork that I can relate to, and which therefore interests me. Instead, what is moving me, what makes art great, is the punctum.

I realized at this exposition, that although the topic interested me, and the technique and the movement of that time and place is interesting and concerns something that I am thinking about a lot, this didn’t make me experience something unique, which is what ‘true’ art is able to do, in my opinion. It was this punctum that was missing, that lightening that I was waiting for.

Until I got the last room, in which one artist really made me boil inside. Pavel Filonov, ‘Entry into World Flowering’ 1914-1915. Amazing. I stood before it, for quite some time, not analyzing it, not trying to find out what this experience was. No meta-level. Just enjoying the amazing-ness. It was indescribable.

But something was still missing, that photography is a much more willing character for. Paintings are created, one brushstroke at the time. Photographs capture something fleeting that is now made to be there forever. The more the photographer is trying to bend reality in order for his picture to show what he has thought about, the more interesting the picture might become (in the studium sense of the word ‘interesting’), but the less force of capturing the observer it will have. Barthes describes this beautifully: “The Photographer’s ‘second sight’ does not consist in ‘seeing’ but in being there.” (Barthes, Camera Lucida, 1982, p. 47)

Then, to end this discussion, I’d like to share a quote which was written on one of the walls of the museum. It shows how artists have a feeling for the bigger picture, and try to put it in words in perhaps a beautiful way, but it also shows how naive this can be…

We ourselves are creating our own hypotheses anew and only upon them, as in our inventions, can we build our new life and new world view. Revolution in art has always predicted the breaking of the old public consciousness and the appearance of a new order in life. (Ljubov Pupova 1921)