Unreal Nature

April 17, 2016

His Dirt

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… here dwells a trove of memories and expectations, of insights and surprises that has hardly been mined to date.

This is from ‘Cy Twombly’ by Manfred de la Motte (1963) found in Writings on Cy Twombly edited by Nicola Del Roscio (2002):

… many readers may assume that this has gone too far and that Twombly has ensnared himself in some labyrinthine art situation that he has also abused. And opinions of this kind create the first contact and that is the right one: things start with astonishment. This too, is not new, this initiation rite as a stylistic device is known and tolerated everywhere — from gags in thrillers through to ads. In painting it is championed by the Surrealists.

[line break added] The initial astonishment repels in order to provoke a second, more exact look and marks the beginning of a fine network, which Twombly places over our heads to ensure we obey when we are given an over-large and unusual degree of freedom — something that is harder to deal with than orienting yourself in a refined order.

[line break added] The second glance that follows the initial astonishment hardly discerns an object to hold onto for support. And now people get angry, because among all the smears and sullies they find any amount of pornography — and that is the pinnacle of Twombly’s misdeeds — after all, they are not even painted clearly. Does this have to be? Could you not have … No, as these naughty scribbles are best suited to getting under your skin and preventing our eyes adjusting to the pattern with which we usually view art.

[line break added] And if Twombly becomes pushy with his dirt, then we are likewise warmed against penetrating deeper into that obscene world, seeing too much in it and interpreting too much into it. Otherwise, it is we who get clipped around the ears by what is only intimated and is completed by us as observing accomplices. And no one likes to get caught in a shameful act.

… Everything that could point to some systematic compositional endeavor is elided. What other painters introduce, Twombly eliminates. He makes sure that no well-arranged picture suddenly emerges from the scrawls and dirt. Seldom have we witnessed such an accomplished radical rejection of conventional techniques for producing pictures.

We have now investigated a few things that usually lead to the notion of “picture” and have had to accept that this does not work here. There are no delimited surfaces whose size is articulated; there is no color, no graphism, no composition, no emphasis or weighting in whose beauty we could tarry. All these concepts are discarded and clichés do not fit either.

So what to do?


… ticks and nervous habits forge an identity between passive reception and active grasping, prompting us to play with the cord while phoning or to scribble little figures and ornamented numbers on a piece of paper; quite undecipherable, and not meant as messages or news for someone, but freely, out of enjoyment and the instinctual wish to scribble and play, which is only important in the moment it occurs, not as a work to be viewed. This enjoyment of usually perfunctory lineaments, gestures, and steps may be far removed from “art,” but here dwells a trove of memories and expectations, of insights and surprises that has hardly been mined to date.

… The time taken to read it, which you are free to choose but is nevertheless predefined, corresponds roughly to what Stockhausen achieved with his Carré: a continuum of music where you can stop listening or start listening as you like, as what there is to listen to takes a backseat to the act of listening. And from this wealth of selective audio events the piece then arises, not as a whole, complete with beginning and end, but as a unity of what you experience, hear, or of the unheard-of.

[line break added] The composition or decomposition of this open form is what forms, not some pre-given shape. The more impudent and cheeky the individual part, the less it attracts attention, the more it emphasizes its character as a position and not as a detail of the composition. Reading time, or “experiential time” as the New Music buffs would have it, emerges from the temporal sequence of a specifically dynamic duration, which causes the viewer to experience “time” and “speed” instead of simply creating the illusion thereof with some brilliant rapidity.

… But “is that still art”? Art always starts where it quite justifiably ceases.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: