1st – 9th Lecture 2016/2017 »Revealing the Machine I«
The basis of art and design
The basis of art and design is experience (in the sense that something happens to me) and with it the question: “How to keep it?”
By transforming what happens to me into an experience about which I can say:
“It belongs to me! It's a part of me!”
“How can we do this?”
We have to differentiate between experiences with environment and experiences with other living beings.
For example it is not possible to keep water in your hands.
For example it is not possible to own anyone, not even ourselves, not even the things we are doing in art or design.
For the work of an artist or designer it is highly important not to confuse the receptacle with the content.
The artist or designer has to give the content an openable and stable form, he has to relate the content and the form in a vivid way.
In former times the designer was working mostly on the relation between body and environment, the artist was working mostly on the relation between the body and some kind of eternity.
Today both –the artist and the designer– are working in their respective ways through the use of the object and the subjective perception.
We are talking about a practicably usable or a narrative object which is present in its material dimension as well as in its sensual reality.
In the reality of our sensual perception there is no difference between a usable object (for example a cup) or a narrative object (for example a picture by Philip Guston).
Both touch us in a direct way; without the necessity to touch the object (although we can...) we will be touched just by looking at it.
“But then you must never forget; every object has its passions it has its implications [for everybody], no matter who they are. If I could record you five people in this room, how could I do it? How can I make the immediacy and the different suggestions by your very contours, by the difference in your faces, by the difference in your shapes?
How can I make those things?”
Faith, Hope, and Impossibility by Philip Guston
“There are so many things in the world –in the cities– so much to see. Does art need to represent this variety and contribute to its proliferation? Can art be that free?
The difficulties begin when you understand what it is that the soul will not permit the hand to make. To paint is always to start at the beginning again, yet being unable to avoid the familiar arguments about what you see yourself painting.
The canvas you are working on modifies the previous ones in an unending, baffling chain which never seems to finish. (What a sympathy is demanded of the viewer! He is asked to “see” the future links.)”
If we recognize that not only the pictures of a single artist are standing in a close relation (as described by Guston) but every picture with every other picture, with every object, with every subject, we are talking about the phenomenon “Relational Art".
Our daily experiences are telling us; everything we perceive is standing in a close relation.
This relation is not grounded logically in the sense of a causal chain.
It is like an infinite web in which we are only a knot-point among others.
But this knot-point is the centre of our universe.
If we are not the centre of the universe, we are nothing.
"If we are not the centre of the universe, we are nothing."
“I believe in being selfish. [...] A painter works with his human material, not with colours and paintbrushes.
It's his thoughts that enter the painting. I don't expect any certainty in life, I don't believe in anything, not in God, not in morality, not in social success ...
I just believe in the present moment if it has genius –in the spinning roulette ball– or in the emotions that I experience when what I transmit on to the canvas works. “
Francis Giacobetti, Interview with Francis Bacon, 1991
To prevent any misunderstanding; to be the centre of the universe does not mean, the whole world should turn around us.
To be the centre of our universe(there is no other than our own!) means:We have to decide how to go in an active way into the world and how to act within the world. This presumes that we are able to decide. But: What do we have to decide?
We have to decide how to work with the relations between ourselves and what happens in the world. We are constantly touched by being in the world and by what happens in the world. We could be touched in a negative way as well as in a positive way. How to deal with it is a matter of the creative self-consciousness.
The smallest element of being touched (which we actively perceive), we call "Formative". By various numbers of Formatives our experiences are put together.
The identification of the Formatives is equal to the conscious perception of immediacy. The real object of experience is immediacy. Our aim is to be able to feel the immediacy in a recognizable way and to capture it in an immediate artistic way.
We are always talking about the immediate perception of a room, a thing or a person and the relations (the changing of movements and coordinates) between the objects mentioned.
The rules of movements, of extraction or contraction of the moving elements and the position of the coordinates with which they are fixed we call grammar.
We must be able to use the grammar without thinking about it (like riding a bike) to give the relations between the smallest elements of our perception (from which our experience is put together) an immediate expression.
Francis Bacon was asked if he preferred to work alone or in front of the model which he was painting.
David Sylvester: “You prefer to be alone?”
Francis Bacon: “Totally alone. With my memory.”
David Sylvester: “Is that because the memory is more interesting or because the presence is disturbing?“
Francis Bacon: “What I want to do is to distort the thing far beyond the appearance, but in the distortion to bring it back to a recording of the appearance.”
David Sylvester: “Are you saying that painting is almost a way of bringing somebody back, that the process of painting is almost like the process of recalling?”
Francis Bacon: “I am saying that.
And I think that the methods by which this is done are so artificial that the model before you, in my case, inhibits the artificiality by which this thing can be brought back.”
David Sylvester, Interview with Francis Bacon, 1966
The methods by which the recalling (of the presence) is done, have to be differentiated into:
a) the methods of grammar (coordinates, relations),
b) the methods of volume (movement, colour, material).
I observe the work which I am doing
Now I observe the work which I am doing right now; working on the lectures and doing some sketches. I think about it. I try to understand.
First I write down these sentences. The sentences will give my thought a structure.One word leads me to the next, one term calls for another.
Until now, I do not know to which place the words will lead me but the field is marked. It is not the field of my knowledge. It is the field of everything that I have lost since my earliest childhood.
As a child it was always a great pleasure to lose the old things, memories and relations because with every day something new happened which took me out of the past and pushed me into the present.
But then I lost the present. I gave up my present for the future in which all the things that may get lost are very useful. All my activities aimed now at the future. For being successful in the future, I had to prevent the loss.
I hope that the place to which I will be lead by what I am doing right now is the place of my lost present. A place filled with all the touches which I lost.
But now, standing here with empty hands (there is nothing more at which I have to clamp myself), I am ready to own everything again just for these present moments.
This is the aim of what I am doing now. As always, I start again at point zero. As always, I am afraid that I will fail.
Before I start, I drink two cups of coffee. To drink coffee gives me time to think.
To be honest: While I am drinking coffee I am not able to think. The drinking of the coffee sucks up all my intellectual energy.
Now I will go into my studio. I will take the computer with me. At the same time I will try to write and to work on the sketches. My studio is a tiny room, more like a womb than an open space.
All my attempt yesterday failed. Nothing remains which I could use today.
First I have to put on my working clothes; old jeans and a paint-stained sweater. Than I have to go with the dog. Thank God, all this will take a little time...
A stay of execution remains to me...
It took me more than two hours to walk the dog because I got lost in the forest and totally lost my orientation. While I was thinking about this lecture, I left the regular way, that was the reason.
Besides: To stay on the forest path is always boring for me.
As I started my walk, I was thinking about two topics: How much time I have wasted in my live, in preparing for something in the future that never happened? That was the first topic. The second was about the question: What is space?
Space is not a thing that exists for itself. Space has to be defined by its metrics; how long, how wide, how high?
During my attempt to find my way back, I realized that both topics are standing in a close relation.
To prevent the loss of those things which I need for the future, I have to define a space in which these things are secure. The things and the space are often identical. My house is such a space also my car, my clothes etc...
"And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?"
Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again, after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground"
(Talking Heads, Once In A Lifetime)
I tore up the canvas. The parts I got by this were in a size that I could have wrapped my arm in (or my head, my leg or torso).
I started with the charcoal then I used the colours black and white to draw the contours and to fill the body.
While I did this, I thought of nothing. I just listened to the music. The music was playing very loudly.
I spent nearly two and a half hours within the womb. Finally, with all those pieces around me, it was too tight to go ahead with my work.
I was terribly tired and lay down to sleep.
Later I ate a piece of cake.
The Giant Writing-Machine / The Vitruvian Machine
„Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Giant Writing-Machine / Vitruvian Machine is an art project by the authors and painters Lisa Kränzler und Tomaso Carnetto. The project aims to realize the machines, to offer two different ways to express yourself directly with the movements of the whole body.
The Giant Writing-Machine is directly what the words say; a huge mechanical writing machine which you need your whole body, your hands, arms and legs to write with. Writing in this way will be much slower, that means to extend the time between touching the keys and the printing of the respective type-letter on the paper. The extension of the time between the touching and printing will have an enormous impact on what you are writing because the time of thinking about, it is improperly stretched.
With having too much time to decide it will be very hard to make a decision what you have to say.
("I have nothing to say but I'm saying it!", John Cage)
In contrast to the Riesenschreibmaschine the Vitruvian Machine will eliminate all the time between the movement of the body, the touching of the buttons and the fixing of the signs. The Riesenschreibmaschine is working with regular type-letters whereas the Vitruvian Machine will use the basic shapes, just points and lines which yield the connection from point to point. In its concrete form the Vitruvian Machine is a plate of two meters by two meters. On this plate are sensors which receive the impulse caused by the movement of the body and pass it directly to the transformation into signs. The signs are just visible as points and lines but having their fixed coordinates within a matrix, every sign is transformable into a letter, a sound or a spoken vowel or consonant.
Both machines will lead in their own way to the momentum of immediacy. The first one by stretching the time to much, to think about what you will say until you lose the intended sense. The second one by eliminating all the time you need to say something which was intellectually intended.
In both cases, the sensitivity of the immediate touch will be the result - to touch the world immediately and to be touched by the world in the same way.
For the artists Kränzler and Carnetto the momentum of immediacy is the groundwork for all their future elaborations, their drawings and paintings as well as musical or vocal compositions (which will be done in collaboration with musicians and composers).
From a philosophical viewpoint, both machines refer to the immediacy of the word in its grammatical dimension. “Grammatical dimension” understood as the “Logos of prophecy”; what has to be said can only be said by saying it without thinking about it.
In other words: Jewish prophecy in its purest form. What has to be said can only be said by us but the words are the words given by YHWH, they are identical with YHWH himself.
In this sense, you have to lose all meaning which you intend (as well as having to lose everything else, like Job lost everything he once owned) to remain under the immediate will of GOD.
The machines led us to the loss of all certain meanings. The result is that we do not have to grab with violence anymore the things which we think we see as essential for our existence. In this sense the Riesenschreibmaschine as well as the Vitruvian Machine are loss-machines: Now our hands are free as we are with our body and in our mind to grab for the immediacy of our being and be grabbed by it. Without any doubt, this freedom is the precondition not only of all art but for every vivid living together.
A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of those who wrote the manifesto. The term Manifesto is derived from the Latin word “manifestum”, which in its origin means to fix something with calm hands (by writing or drawing).
Our manifesto points at those moments of immediacy which can only be grabbed and fixed by spontaneous gestures and movements. Fixing the moments of immediacy means to create something that works as a text which activates the correlation of momentum to momentum always anew.
In correlating from momentum to momentum we are interwoven in the correlation between personal and common history.
The momentum is a formative of time which jumps through the levels of history and is connecting these –from formative to formative– by chance. In this sense, history is result of a random process and we are forced to give it a personal meaning as well as a common meaning.
The result of our effort is the explanation of what the “meaning of life” should be. The “meaning of life” is written down as a text and the meaning consists of reading the text and therewith becoming part of the moments of immediacy. We can designate the moments of “Immediacy of being” also as moments of history.
Our manifesto is a declaration of how to interconnect the moments of immediacy of two persons and why we need two machines for this operation.
Over more than twenty years, I visited a friend of mine nearly every month in prison. He was there because of four-fold murder. Imprisoned from 1978 (when he was twenty-three) until 2003, he died in 2007 at the age of fifty.
In the early years of our meetings, we made a secret contract.
I met him once a month for three hours. During the so called visiting-time when we were sitting in front of each other, we had no other possibility than just to sit and to talk. Our talking and with it the involuntary movements of our hands filled the space between us; a wooden plate with a surface of white laminated plastic.
I visited him because of an instruction given by my mother.Most times I did not follow her commands but this time I followed them because I hoped to find someone with whom I could talk about what interested me most; writing and drawing.
Ernest was deeply interested in making music. During his childhood, it was forbidden him. Once, he found an old concertina in the attic and he began secretly to play it. When his father discovered what Ernest was doing, he beat him nearly to death.
During his years in prison, he learned to play the guitar and flute.
The secret contract said: I will write a poem and he will compose the music for it. That was it.
But it was terribly complicated because we had nothing concrete with which to fulfill our contract – only the white formica-plate between our bodies. I wrote everything on this plate which needed to stay in my memory.
In some sense, the formica-plate was a provisional blank-space and therefore a composition-field, 90 x 90 centimetres, anticipating the mechanical writing-body which was planed later.
With the writing-body (Giant Writing-Machine / Vitruvian Machine) we will give the inner reality an outer construction.
In my imagination, the writing-body was a big mechanical apparatus which is made of wooden parts and fixed with leather bands, something that Leonardo could have made.
I finished the poem in 1996:
just imagine right now
we would be connected
like the sky with the sea
and a flood light
that comes from the ships
therefore a burning seam
In 2002, during his first walk outside the prison yard after 24 years, that means to be on the other side of the prison-walls without handcuffs, with two prison warders always nearby, we visited the Limburg cathedral and in a side chapel he played and sang his composition for me.
„Anything in life or in art, any mark you make has meaning and the only question is, ‚what kind of meaning?‘
I enjoy having a subject to paint. But it's not very controllable, in fact totally uncontrollable, because meaning keeps shifting and so does the structure. In this necessary engagement, images appear, then as quickly disappear. Failure is always around, waiting. I also think the only real things to talk about are not possible to talk about.”
Philip Guston, lecture at the University of Minnesota, March 1978
How to act with the authorities?
“The first duty for an artist is freedom!”
Vice versa: Freedom means the duty to decide by yourself what to do. But how can we decide without an authority which tells us what is right and what wrong?
Like I explained in the last lecture: The only authority we have to follow is the authority of the momentum. The momentum of immediacy and therewith given the question how to interconnectthe moments of immediacy from vivid being to vivid being.
To realize the interconnection we need different structures, inner and external structures. The inner structures we call grammar (linguistic grammar, visual grammar, musical grammar etc.). We summarize the external structures under the term "community".
We need the political authorities to secure the common structure by which a relation between the individuals is going to be possible. For sure, democracy is not a perfect system but in comparison with all other systems, democracy is the only one which gives the individual enough space for his development in relation to the other individuals.
We can say: In focussing the individual, democracy aim at political and cultural structures which are valid for all.
Today we must recognize how the fascist idea of a world which is bonded to a leader who will bring salvation, has gone on to be reality in more and more countries. Salvation of the individual is always identical to salvation of the Nation. The Nation is based on blood and soil, honour and heroism.
This is the opposite of being a self-responsible individual.
By his acting every individual is responsible for preserving the democratic system – whether she or he is able to reflect it or not.
The main tasks for an artist or a designer is to give thecommon structure an aesthetic dimension.
If we have a closer look at what a designer has to fulfill, we will see that the task of aestheticizing the common structure is given in every range of art and design: All kinds of visual and performing arts and also all kinds of design: Corporate Design, Information Design, Fashion Design, Textile Design, Interior Design and so on.
Within theaesthetic dimension, the duty of freedom will be recognizable as a value which rules the relation between the individuals in a very concrete way: by designing the objects and spaces (the physical as well as the medial).
We should be aware of the fact that with every artwork or work of design we are involuntarily making a political statement. In other words: With what we are doing, we are inevitably interwoven in the correlation of personal and common history.
Short note about that what we cannot possess
Ownership is not just to give us the feeling of security, it is also a promise to reactivate all the moments of immediacy which are connected with the idea of possession.
If we're honest, we know: this promise is a lie.
Immediacy and the will to possess something are contradictions. I do not say that we should not possess anything, but we should be aware of the fact that what we possess could cause an enormous fear to lose the possessions. The fear may be the reason why it is impossible for us to feel ourselves in the state of immediacy.
To keep the state of immediacy we need a frame in which the respective conditions of the respective immediacy can be reactivated again and again.
The machine is a frame with which the Formatives will be separated.
Every machine is a three dimensional frame in which the Fomatives first will be separated and then connected again to become a different object than it was before. The differentiation between the former object and the current one is defined by the grammar of the respective machine. Grammar is the structure on which the immediacy, i.e. the emergence of an object in our perception, is grounded.
By deconstruction and reconstruction his material and by integrating the moments of his own immediacy every artist and designer is such a machine. Every deconstruction is based on a former reconstruction, whether it is a natural process or a cultural.
A picture for example is always a reconstruction of other, similar pictures which have been wiped out in our remembrance or have been blurred. So the construction of a picture is always based on a so called palimpsest.
The same applies to any other construction; it arises on base of the traces which have remained within the frame. The Emergence which happens within the frame –based on the palimpsest– is what we call a immediate apparition of an imagination or vision. With each viewing it happens again. So we are –as viewers– part of the machine.
Drawing or painting means to transfer the emergence of immediacy into a solid state. We can say that a picture itself is a machine, built to enable the emergence of immediacy for the moment of viewing.
„My whole life is based on anxiety – where else does art come from, I ask you? [...] When the picture takes form, the new structure elates and calms me.
I would hope that the looker does not feel he is looking at pain, trouble and anguish but get a real positive charge. So when the 1960's came along I was feeling split, schizophrenic. The war, what was happening to America, the brutality of the world. What kind of man am I, sitting at home, reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything – and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue.
I thought, there must be a way I could do something about it. I knew ahead of me a road was lying. A very crude, inchoate road. I want to be complete again, as I waswhen I was a kid. Wanted to be whole between what I thought and what I felt.“ Philip Guston
A Sign to Me
„It was a sure sign to me that […] I was using this subject as an excuse to make pictures. And there is nothing more boring in the world than to make pictures. What you want is an experience, to making something that you have not seen before in that way.“ (Philip Guston)
What does it mean to want an experience? Are we talking about making an experience which is caused by ourselves?Is it possible to provoke or cause an experience?
What do we have to do getting into a state that enables experiences?
First we have to know what is important for us, important that we are absolutely committed to it. Second we have to understand that we have to concentrate our engagement to the structure (or the grammatical dimension), not to the so called content.
The most exciting question is which experience will be revealed by following the structure.
What we know is that it will always be an experience of immediacy which in its immediate dimension is identical with the immediacy of drawing or painting that we use to reveal the content. What we do not know is the content of self-recognition in which the structure will lead us.
Beginning with the sixteenth month of my life until my second birthday, every evening my father told me for a half hour a part of a continuing story which he named the „story of the lost child“. Assuming a normal pace of speaking, it would correspond to a reading of approximately two-thousand pages.
My mother only knew the title of the story. If she entered the room, my father fell silent and continued his story only after my mother had left the room.
While he was talking, I held the eyes tightly closed. His words, which I carried to the horizon of an unknown landscape, like the ups and downs of my breathing, remained in me; grains of seed which were laid deep into the earth to break through one day.
Later, years after his death I said to myself: „I call against my fear each of his words – I command them to be witnesses of my hidden being.
All the witnesses partitions stayed in me; partitioned in elongated fields of what is good and what is bad which were laid close together, like the background and the foreground (but constantly oscillating back and forth) of a perspective drawing.
In sense of a logical construction, I was not able to understand a single word which he spoke to me. He was talking Italian. At this time I understood neither the language nor the chronological succession of the action.
But in sense of phenomenological perception, I understood everything by processing and storing the vowels and consonants within the nervous system of my body.
The words of my father fell down into my fertile flesh.
The just fleeting apparition with which the words appeared in his eyes, filled my imagination with constant movements. Because of this I was getting tired. I lay there with a lightweight baby blanket, pulled up to my chest, rowing with my arms in rhythm to the spoken words. Now the grid was warped. I saw my father's body parted by the diagonally running struts.
There was a voice – stone to stone with my father's voice – which had caused, the gridded wall at first, to build something which I had identified as a solid construction (which possibly could give me shelter) but was then falling apart.
By this time I was not able to understand that the other voice was my own and that the relations of the proportions (from one voice to the other) could only build a solid more-dimensional construction if the voices are set together in a vivid relation by both those who are speaking and listening at the same time.
During my studies, I had comprehended (but, to be honest, more instinctively than intellectually) that I would need a suitable machine to set the words free which had been stored in my flesh by the voice of my father.
To build such a machine you have to fulfill three tasks:
First task: resist any pre-defined meaning.
Second task: Think about the grammatical basis of any (any!) intentionality and find a notation for it.
Third task:Put yourself in a position which allows you to explore and develop furthermore your results of the first and second task in a self-confident way and if you have reached this point, find those who are free, willing and strong enough to stay in a space without perspective and horizon, in other words; to tear apart subject and object, which means to enter the machine-state.
"What do I want most in my life?"
What I want most is to tell the story about my being in the world. Narration is always a game and at the same time the most serious task to recognize and percept of ourselves as an individual being.
The telling is predetermination of what we are.
The telling is prophecy.
The telling lead us back to the origin.
The material I am narrating with, are the moments of immediacy.
The place in which I am narrating and about which I am telling is the space between me and another living being: the space in between where the touching takes place.
The inner space where contact takes place, we call love.
The external space where contact takes place, we call our home.
What we need for our telling is the freedom to put the inner and the external space together.
I am talking about the freedom to stand naked and with empty hands in front of each other. We have to accept all our sufferings and losses to transform it into passion and lust.
Then the telling may start.
With other words: What I want most is to play, write and read the game of shattered and restored love again and again.
The term Love describes a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that range from interpersonal affection for example to a friend or a pet, to the lust for the own body (narcissistic love) or an other body (sexual desire).
Love is mostly related to an emotion of strong attraction between two persons. Love can also be a virtue representing human kindness, compassion, and affection: the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another. Love may also describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one's self or animals. Love is also related to an activity:
„I love to draw!”
„I love to paint!”
„I love to design!”
To stay in love it needs our unreserved attention to what we love and all of our willing and energy to fight for it.
If we put it all together, we will see, love is a personal statement as well as a political declaration or an aesthetic manifestation. In any case, love is inseparably from passion and lust.