Unreal Nature

April 25, 2014

All These Failures!

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… Crisis personified. (Perhaps I am mistaken here; perhaps this is a perfectly normal way to work.)

The following are from ‘Notes 1986’ found in Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting; Writings 1962-1993 edited by Hans-Ulrich Obrist (1998):

21 February 1986. Beuys. This phenomenon, which took us by surprise 25 years ago and soon appalled us, unleashed admiration, envy, consternation, fury; this absolute loner, who broke all the conventions which, for all our rebelliousness, gave us a framework in which we could ‘carry on’ in relative security (above all in contrast with the social system that most of us had known previously, that of the GDR). Over the years, we got used to him, his activities no longer shocked us, and a certain critical detachment supervened. By the end he was a good, honorable artist; to some extent, he had been relativized.

Beuys_natural-history-1982
Joseph Beuys, Natural History, (1964-1982) [image from WikiPaintings]

His death revived his uniqueness at a stroke, and all the early (childish) questions posed themselves anew. His death stirs things up, touching something in me that rationalism long ago suppressed: something mystical, superhuman. It frightens me. I would prefer the normal comfort of not being too conscious.

(How am I to hope that his works [what does that mean?] are just good works, and will endure — when I profoundly want them to cross a frontier that I myself want to break through? — I am a popular artist, a painter within the context of his speciality, and I want to remain just that, successfully; with all my discontent and desperate longing; with all my fear of death and of ‘crossing frontiers.’)

25 February 1986. The idea as a point of departure for the picture: that’s illustration. Conversely, acting and reacting in the absence of an idea leads to forms that can be named and explained, and thus generates the idea. (‘In the beginning was the deed.’)

… Action in pursuit of ideology creates lifeless stuff at best, and can easily become criminal.

[ … ]

18 March 1986. Formalism stands for something negative: contrived stuff, games played with color and form, empty aesthetics.

When I say that I take form as my starting point, and that I would like content to evolve out of form (and not the reverse process, whereby a form is found to fit a literary idea), then this reflects my conviction that form, the cohesion of formal element, the structure of the phenomenal appearance of matter (= form), generates a content — and that I can manipulate the outward appearance as it comes, in such a way as to yield this or that content.

I have only to act in accordance with the laws and conditions of form in order to get the materialization right.

In this effort I am first of all supported by music (Schoenberg and all other pure music evolves out of its own laws, and not out of the effort to find a form for a specific statement); and, secondly, I find the essential confirmation in Nature, which produces material changes without any intention (or cause) related to content, but takes on this or that form in accordance with its own preconditions. The more complicated this process is, the more functional Nature’s ‘contents,’ i.e. there is nothing but form. There is only ‘something’: there is only what there is.

21 March 1986. … Message Art is stupid in three separate ways. The events dragged in by the scruff of the neck are of unspeakable, hopeless inanity in themselves; this is logically matched both by the brazen stupidity of the ‘painterly presentation’ of these events and by their cockily idiotic captioning; and, lastly, unsurpassable stupidity becomes total when it blocks the awareness, even the surmise, that painting, if it is ever to contribute anything at all, must be the very polar opposite of all such messagecraft. And this threefold, shrieking stupidity is actually exceeded by the stupidity of those who promote it.

… art is a way of thinking things out differently, and of apprehending the intrinsic inaccessibility of phenomenal reality; that art is an instrument, a method of getting at that which is closed and inaccessible to us (the banal future, just as much as the intrinsically unknowable); that art has a formative and therapeutic, consolatory and informative, investigative and speculative function; it is thus not only existential pleasure but Utopia. …

21 April 1986. … there is no central image of the world (world view) any longer: we must work out everything for ourselves, exposed as we are in a kind of refuse heap, with no center and no meaning; we must cope with the advance of a previously undreamt of freedom. It also conforms to a general principle of Nature; for Nature, too, does not develop an organism in accordance with an idea: Nature lets its forms and modifications come, within the framework of its given facts and with the help of chance. …

25 April 1986. ‘If art stands aloof from progress and … eschews ideas as well as … theories, then it can recapture the degree of spontaneity, and naivety, and presence of mind, which it needs as a fish does water, in order to become a reality that exists of its own accord’ (wrote Heinz Friedrich). At first sight, I admittedly satisfy the demands of this dictum, which is loathsome to me (I never was ‘modern,’ or ‘radical,’ never subject to any definition of art). But the dictum is wrong, whichever way you look at it. Either there has never been any progress in the history of humankind (or beyond), which would be an absurd assertion, or there is no progress now either, in spite of the apparent and real retrogressive nature of today’s art, which acts either post-modern or trivial or snot-stupid. …

12 October 1986. … All these failures! It is a wonder to me that the pictures ever do show the occasional flash of distinction, because basically they are all lamentable displays of incapacity and failure (failure in the attempt to overcome this incapacity). But it is also untrue that I have nothing specific in mind. As with my landscapes: I see countless landscapes, photograph barely 1 in 100,000, and paint barely 1 in 100 of those that I photograph. I am therefore seeking something quite specific; from this I conclude that I know what I want.

25 October 1986. These continuing difficulties. A constant work crisis that has lasted for decades, in fact ever since the start. Crisis personified. (Perhaps I am mistaken here; perhaps this is a perfectly normal way to work.)

-Julie

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