»The frameset of art«
Good evening, friends of all kind of pictures!
English isn't my native language (that's german of course), so I've gota natural problem in expressing myself in a way, that is differenciatedenough to formulate the various thoughts about themes, that could be froma certain value for you.
But the same problem is up to the very most of you, I think.
This little handycap should not be regarded as a simple apology for talkingnonsense, since it points directly into the midth of all topics, I'm busywith for more than twenty years. The fact, that I'm standing here as a painting,drawing, writing and even sometimes composing artist, who never did anyreal comics in his life amongst an international pile of professional comic-artistsand friends of this art is a weird challenge for me.
But the motto of this biennal is the influence of the new medias on thevarious forms of art, zapping through numerous TV-channels, working witha computer, being interconnected via Internet, dealing with new languageslike HTML, that "HYPERTEXT-MARK-UP-LANGUAGE", JAVA and all theother program-languages or those rather conventional languages of friendsand business-partners in very distant countries. And all that are conditions,which aren't private anymore, but worldwide really public and common toall of us.
So, here and now I'm dealing with a non-native language in Brasil, for mea new and exciting, but nevertheless a foreign land in the foreign worldof comics, although of course one of my cultural neighbourhoods.
What I would like to talk about now is the difference, which is dividingus into classes of different nations, ages and socialisations, and whichat the same time puts us together and holds us in a new human condition,which for the first time in history has a real global aspect as a unifyingmetaform. I think, this both connecting and dividing difference could becalled "FRAMESET".
Who is a bit familiar with the new describing and programming languageslike HTML and JAVA, will have remarked, that I'm already using some terms,which belong to those, as there are CLASS, FRAME and FRAMESET, METAFORM,VALUE, LANGUAGE and as very important expressions in this listing, the distinctioninto PUBLIC and PRIVATE.
All art ever had to do with forms and we always distinguished public fromprivate pieces, simply said, things, which are meant to be published andothers, who are very personal and intimate. So, none of these terms arereally new ones, but there function has radically changed and enables allpossible users in the world-wide-web to interact on the same common level,to start with the same conditions all net-activities, to live in the sameconception, the same frameset of a playing or working ground.
The term PUBLIC in JAVA means a general order to let any browser on thisplanet perform the same function or operation, installing a GIF-animation,turning around an image or calculating ones body temperature or the numberof visitors on a private homepage. On the other hand, the user's content,his personal datas or just individual application is called PRIVATE.
What has this to do with the expectation of a normal user for a bit funin the net or what has it to do with art? I believe, really a lot.
It was the french painter Eugène Delacroix, who first formulatedthe important challenge for any artist, namely to be always contemporary,what means nothing else but to be up-to-date.
There is another expression, which is meanwhile occupied by the digital,telematic world, and it's name is UPDATE. Everybody, who is trying witha computer, will probably sigh emphatically, because no one can avoid fora longer period this annoying screw of looking for new updates, of gettingbigger memories, a faster disk, a newer sytem. And that not only costs moneyand endless time, but first of all a lot of nervs.
But, and that seems to be the general rool nowadays , if you are capableto look after updates, you're hired, if not, you're fired. Probably it'sno longer a question of living in a certain country to be estimated as amember of the first, the second or the third world, because in the nearfuture there will be only two worlds, the one of the busy interconnectedpeople, who have a good job and the sad and hungry world of those, who havenothing. And this separation, I think, will go through all countries andit will certainly last for a good while.
According to the motto of this biennal I would like to describe the developementof some mental UPDATES in my artistic life, looking both for their publicand private component. For years I feel a certain duty to look after thegeneral updates and levels in my society and to comment and formulate theirfeatures, as long, as I can percieve them. This feeling results from mypersonal generation pressure and it's due to the fact, that I, concerningmy age belong to those, who grew up with no books, no television, no computer,but had to learn and handle by and by all these arousing new metalevels,which means in total that form or structure, we call culture in general.It is really a chance, being part of a learning and developing generation,being on the edge, because all man before didn't know anything about computers,all those following after us will have no distance toward this technology.They just grow up with it and it's perfectly natural like floating water.My son now is nineteen and he took television for granted in his childhood.He was eleven, when he started with a computer. I got a secondhand Atari,bought a Notator-music-program, so we could compose and play both with it.My daughter on the other hand, who is three years old now, already paintson a Mac and she enjoys a lot of throwing something into the trash. Thingsare a changing very fast.
My first touch with that metaform "culture" was a comic-seriesnamed AKIM, a Tarzan-clone by the italian drawer Pedrazza, which was alsopublished in the german fifties in a very small and cheap Piccolo-versionand had been continued by the german Hans-Rudi Wäscher. Since therewere no other books and pictures in our workers-class-household, I had nochoice than to collect, what ever was collectible, not only the obligatestamps and coins, but really all things, where there were pictures upon,matchboxes, package-papers for oranges, beer-mats and all that commercialpicture-material, you can find between cornflakes, chewing-gum and margarine.
Years later, in a very serious period, I formulated one of several mottosfor my work, which could be read: "Collect the scattered, what else!"That's a motto, which still functions in the ORBIS TELEVISION PICTUS drawings,I even call the collected pile of videos "splinters" or "fragments".
Probably the early attempts to get a bit of order, structure and shape intoa chaotic world of scattered things were privately motivated, but lateron it wasn't longer ignorable, that my private condition of course had apublic aspect. Seeking for such a form, powerfull enough to put all disparatestructures together in an understandable way therefore was the main bootdriverin my work.
This form can be called FRAMESET.
The very large house of art has a lot of stores and numerous rooms. Eachartist, living in another corner feels the responsability to look for anown frameset in his work, for his own individual conception. It's ratherbanal to mention, that most artists always go for the same theme, just varifyingand changing a little bit, thus increasing the amount of strategies andcompetence. But it seems to be right according to the special kind of adaption,one develops, being more meditative or playful, looking for quick gags ortending for selfperformance, prefering more an intense expressiveness ora calm researching practice. The modus of looking, working and understandingseems to keep rather constant. So none will be astonished, when I tell thetitle of my examen paintings in 1976, namely: Pictures in pictures(that was a series of 5 large screens), long before I knew this functionas one of a remote-control or had put an eye on that window-surface of aMac or a PC.
Before I talk a little bit about those windows, set in frames, how theyare embedded in the history of european theories of perception, I wouldlike to mention the sort of focus, who directed my interest before dealingwith windows.
One of the most astonishing and motivating questions for me always had beenthe uncertainty, wether there is a valid iconography in modern life, comparableto the one of the middle-ages, which could be of a public value or not.
So I went for formulations in painting, which could be good metaphers forthe contemporary handling of nature, of instructions, how this world hasto be taken and understood. Petrol-canisters, tea-bags, egg-cartonages andtinned vegetables became favorite motives for several series. The main irritationwas a contrary of form, the enclosure of two totally different things, anatural living being and a cultural container, which functions as a frame.This relation you can see easily, when you regard a simple flowerpot orbowl as a cultural metapher. There are two things, the living flower, tornout from her natural surroundings, the existing context of her relativesand a form, we invented, that container-pot, which isolates the flower andmakes her both available and mobile.
In former times there were only a few possible contexts, a flowerpot couldbe put in and it had always to do with a sort of border. They mostly stoodaside an altar, at the threshold of a door, a big portal or on a windowsill.Regarding this relationship or perhaps even meditating over it in a church,you could easily recognize yourself in your own human condition, being alive,wild and connected with all other living beings and at once captured andhold in various frames of family, church, law and science. The elder namedthis ontologic difference natura naturans and natura naturata,to show also the dependance. But they meant God to be the active part ofthat naturans to look for the form, the shape and mould of all theexisting live and that relationship has totally changed.
Today it's clear, that men are controlling all frames, that we are programmingtheir setting, that there is no longer use of meditating over a border betweenculture and nature. Flower-bowls are standing today also in the middle ofa shopping passage, on little traffic islands or on a parking space.
To say it a bit in JAVA:
For me the question arose, which historical background enabled this separationand I came up to the renaissance theory of perception called perspectivetheory, a term token from prospectiva naturalis and prospectivapingendi. That usually seems to be regarded as a simple technique for artists,architects and perhaps for sailors, but from the very beginning I had beenfascinated by all the consequences, this construction bears. It looks veryclear and cristalline and is completely estimated as a natural thing andit's said, that this is just the way, we use to look upon things.
I believe on the contrary, that this is a very technical and historicalconstruct and it's really worth to be investigated. I don't want to go herefor too much details, but a brief description must be allowed. The mostof you will remember the theory of perspective from school-lessons, whenyou were perhaps twelve or thirteen years old and it was rather boring mostof the time, often only a question of discipline and the effort to handlea ruler in a correct way. There was no space for imagination, fantasy orexpressiveness. I don't know the practice in the different countries, butin Germany for instance the beginning of perspective drawing means in generalthe end of that unreflected and only joyful painting of all children. Afterit there are some shy attempts to go for art history, but art generallybecomes a resting place between the more important subjects.
Since the art of comic-strips, as it arose in this century, works very oftenwith simulations of film-functions such as cuts and shots, zooms and especiallythat perspective architectural background, the reflection of that theorycould be of a certain value for you.
What are the main features of that perspective construction?
You have a symmetric rhombic form, you get, when you put two long pyramidstogether. On one side there is an isolated eye, the subject, which is regarding,on the other side is the regarded object. Between those two points are unnumerousrays, cut through in the middle section, a sort of interface, to have aframe, wherein one can handle all proportional things as a representationof the real world in digital points. This construction can only function,if both the eye of the viewer and the regarded object are fixed and madeimmobile.
This renaissance invention is highly important, because without it therewouldn't have been any other following inventions like camera obscura, panoramabuildings, fotography, film, comic-strip, detective-novel, television, peep-show,psychoanalysis, cruise-missiles, endoscopic operations, computertomography,concentration-camps, video-games or WINDOWS '95.
This arrangement sounds a bit weird perhaps, but there are features andlogical structures, which are equal for all of them and this is due to thefact, that the perspective construction puts an unbridgeable gap betweensubject an object, that makes it impossible for the subject to look furthermoredirectly on the object without an interface between and without the chance,that the regarded object could look back. In this construction there isno interaction, because the looking subject can peep and shoot to his heart'scontent, without the risk, that anything can look or shoot back, but atthe same time he looses all connection with the object.
You have to imagine this in its historical freshness.
Most of the theoretical components had been there for more than two thousandyears, when the italian artists and architects invented this very importantwindow-frame, but their greek ancestors still had a mythological background,which prohibited the total separation of subject and object. They alreadyhad that pyramide with the isolated eye behind its end, so all proportionscould be put into practible mathematical operations, but they still workedwith a theory of rays, which included an emanation of psychic powers throughthe eye. If a Greek talked about reflection, he didn't think in rays oflight, based upon an outer source. His starting-point was the eye itselfand he just followed the looking rays, till they became reflected by thethings, before they turned back and he still had to reckon on the presenceof forbidden beings like a genius loci or a demon or a god or a marriedwoman, no man should ever dare to look upon. That open situation, thingscan look back, still included a value like respect or to say it in a JAVA-term:VALUE=RESPECT.
<!...Leonardo: Holy communion>
When the greek theory came to the mediaval Europe, imported by arabian scientistsand merchants, this respect turned into a prospect. The new spirit of pioneeringlet the young individual selfconsciousness look forward, right into a successfulfuture. Therefor they named that new theory "Prospectiva". Themain innovation was the cut through the pyramide of horizontal rays or beams,which installed that window-frame, all things appeared upon proportionally.The italian architect Alberti demanded, that a painting should functionlike a window, we look through on a part or a detail of the world. Thislooking-through is like peeping or hunting out of an ambush, it means seeingand shooting, without being seen or hitted himself.
<!...J.Jarmush, DOWN BY LAW>
So, in a world of computer-windows there is no longer the possibility oflooking through, what meant the prefix PER of the expression PERSPECTIVE,but we now only look at the world. Therefor we should, being always correctly,change this name from PROSPECTIVA into ADSPECTIVA, or as a short-cut inenglish "aspect". Dealing with cameras (fotography or film) orworking with a computer show the different levels of looking through orlooking at something. What's in any case out of business, is the value=respect.
<!...Lady Di and the paparazzi.>
When I'll be back in Cologne, there will start a symposion titled "Indra'snet", organized by the japanese culture institute, discussing possibleethics in the immensly growing web. It seems, that the great demand forsome understanding and order puts a lot of people together. No one can exactlyknow, what is coming up to us and we all made the experience, that thingsare changing faster than we can expect, but perhaps some features are yetin sight.
It is strange, but all sponsored projects in the moment, dealing with art,expect from the artist almost as a character feature INTERACTIVITY, thekeyword in the net. I can't understand that, because art hasn't become betterin no time ever, when there are too many cooks to spoil the broth.
INTERACTIVITY rose up as a value in television times. There is an importantdifference between german and brasilian television, I think, because welearned to know TV by public channel television with a lot of pedagogiccomponents, very clean and correct with some selected drops of entertainment,but Brasil started, as far as I know, directly with private TV, which means,the main things right from the beginning are the commercial spots and thatfor two good reasons. First of all, what is arranged around the spots, mustfit to the commercial background, must draw enough attention to bind peopleto a certain channel and a certain time. But second, what is perhaps evenmore important is the fact, that spots are teaching us. We learn, how thingslook like and move, how they can fly and explode, how they can morph andvanish, how they have to be drunk and eaten in the right way, in summon,how we have to accept and understand the world. In this function televisionreplaced all the previous forms like schoolbooks and encyclopedias. I collecteda lot of this encyclopedic stuff like illustrated dictionaries, becausethey are very funny and a good material to work with. They fed me with manymotives for my large screens.
But TV is better, espacially when it's private. The first time I could noticethis effect, I was in Sicilia in 1983 and had the opportunity to zap throughmore than twenty channels. It was a silly strip-quiz-show, which animatedme to draw right in front of the TV. Each time the candidate couldn't answer,a masked housewife had to strip on a couch. At that very moment the ideaof a whole series of TV-pictures arose, but I had to wait, until Germanyinstalled private-TV. That simply could only function for me on the backgroundof that gigantic floating multiple channelsystem, which penetrates one eyeand leaves the other, without saturating us. It's like fastfood. It's commercial,nothing in special, but always the same, because it comes out of a factory.It's reversible like that very important button on our remote control. Youcan record all, bring it back as often, as you like, it will always be thesame.
Real life is of another kind, it's irreversible and must end inescabally.What was fascinating for me, was the challenge to detect rules and thematiclines in this virtual chaos of television and to formulate and comment them.
Returning to the theme of this biennal I would like to summarize now tocome to an end. The most important question for all of us, whether artistor not, is, what will happen to us in that virtual field of TV- and internet-illusions,can we take enough influence on it and how far it is changing and shapingourselfs.
I got the impression, that the demand for interactivity for instance pointsout the problem, because it attacks a value like "authorship",which was essentially for all history of men. It is uncertain, on whichlevel this development will shoot us, but it seems, that artists have toaccept the fact, that in an increasing surrounding of connected apparatesthey are nothing more than a kind of MODUS, a mode of working, playing,understanding, handling, changing, morphing and building. We came into competitionwith our own inventions, our monitors and functions and they are in advantage,because they are faster, public and completely reversible.
But the concurrence doesn't sleep.
Conquering new territories of liberty for the last hundred years the houseof art gave away a lot of rooms, a lot of functions, which once belongedto the area of their responsability. They gave it away to photography, tofilm, to the comic-strips, to designers and web-designers. In reaction tothis we got a bunch of wonderful abstract paintings in this century, butnow painters are performing rather wild and sometimes helpless and we lookupon very different groups of artists.
There are those, who are not yet well in sight, who themself seem to vanishin enterprises, looking for a good sponsoring, or in sciences, working ona computer.
On the other side there are those, who want to remind us of the vanishingspace, who go for room-installations, wall-simulations, landart and so onand thus fulfill a rather religious function. They remind us of the lostspace.
In many science-fiction comics and films there is a topic named "Lost-in-space",which formulates very old fears. But I think, that in the moment the spaceitself is in danger like all the other real stuff. We are dealing with virtualthings, like we ever did in history, let it be cave-paintings or dreamtimesof aborigines, let it be religion or scientific theories like the one ofthe "BIG BANG".
No, virtuality itself is not the danger, because we are originally fullof it. But what is questionable, is the fact, that there is an opening scissor,that we look upon documentary films of people and animals and landscapes,which are dead or gone and out of congruency. The danger is, that we loosethe interest in reality and that is, what we have to care for.
H. Zänder 10. 1997
Conference in Belo Horizonte, Bras.