Thoughts about art

Art always has something to do with sensory perceptions; you have to touch art sensually in order to internalize it and experience an effect.

Art does not have to be good in the process. The statement: art should be a “matter of taste” pretends a synaesthetic connection that does not exist. “Taste” is so watered down and fuzzy as a word meaning in relation to art that I would advise against it. One has to take the trouble to formulate and describe it more precisely. “One must grasp what one is gripped by.”(Emil Staiger, The Art of Interpretation)

From color and form, sound and light, movement and interaction, a sensory stimulus becomes a perception. Although this perception originates in our body, it is immediately projected to the outside by our ever sharpening experiences and thus appears to us as an external perception. The perception through our senses is always unique, it is only generalized during processing and thus loses its exceptionality.

The internalization of a perception forms in us an idea of something. So it is not the perception itself, but our imagination that results from the perception. The imagination arranges the perception into the experienced and provides for a fast processing when perceiving again, one simply “registers”, like with a cash register.

However, the imagination can also obstruct the new perception, so it must be checked again and again with effort so that one does not fall for solidified ones when the situations change. One has to preserve this observing power of judgment (Goethe).

The fast processing (“yes, I know it already!”) can lead to an attrition (“observation”), but also, for example, to a familiar, sensually perceived feeling of well-being. The feeling of well-being or sadness, through its emotional process, may not fade away quite as quickly as the mere perception of fact. Thus, when watching an emotional, sad film, one is still sad, although the subsequent situation has already become funny again.

Some works strongly target the sensual perception of the viewer with emotional impact, some design new forms of emotional encounter, some refer to color and form, some to the absence of one or even both, some develop narratively in the viewer in the sense of inner dialogue or an unfinished narrative.

Some works involve the architecture, the light of the surrounding space, some ignore it and open their own imaginary space to be entered by the viewer with his senses.

The reward of dealing with art comes from the encounter with it, from an encounter that is best begun with a questioning, open-minded attitude, with curiosity, with courage. If one is satisfied with hasty recognition, one often misses the essential insight. It’s not just about “enjoying art,” biting off and then moving on to the next morsel. Staying interested in an experienced work requires practice, patience, and concentration. Concentration does not always mean focusing, but also opening up to an impartiality that facilitates the experience of the work with all the senses.

That’s why you can’t get serious about art at “vernissages.” Concentration wanders like a will-o’-the-wisp between the snippets of conversation, out-of-place and conspicuous people (the inevitable self-promoters) and the art, which is what it is supposed to be about.

And then there are the artists: one is tempted to dream oneself into the lives of these dazzling figures, the publicity photos in their catalogs and reels and stories in the social media are just bursting with clothes plastered all over in studios piled high with trash piles of half-used paint tubes and unwashed brushes. As if the phoenix could arise from trash and not ashes. It would be nice but is not true. The paint that has been thrown and squirted on with panache does not make an artist, and the often lightly clad female artists are too happy to use their bodies to display their art rather than the work of art itself. My great-grandfather was smiled at by such “artists” who already existed in 1870, because he always painted neatly dressed and with perfectly sorted equipment plain air. He was quiet, inconspicuous and affected only by his art result. In the rumbling world he was and is hardly noticed, but his work today is constant and represented in many places. I witnessed this as a child in my artist family, four generations creating art while tinkering with inventions and caring for families. But I digress….

So what is a “work of art”?

The question is too complex to be answered by me, I put it this way for brevity: Marcel Duchamp’s question of whether someone can create a work that is not “art” must be asked again.

His “readymades” were everyday objects that he transformed into works of art by adding a signature. This was a provocative reaction to the New York exhibition “No prices, no jury,” where anyone could submit two works and Duchamp took this idea further and said: if anyone can declare a work to be art without a jury, then everything is art. And he wanted to prove this with the famous signed urinal. Interestingly, the object was rejected and this contradicted the rules of the exhibition. In doing so, Duchamp exposed the organizers.

For Duchamp, the object became a potential art object through its selection (act of artistic creation) by the artist and a real art object through the signature, which could be any one. The presentation of the artwork in a suitable place can also be part of the readymade, the creative process. For him, naming the work was also an important part of the artwork, this is an aspect of conceptual art. Josef Beuys said “Everyone is an artist.” For me he is not wrong with that, in the sense that everyone is also a banker. We all carry the assets, as creatures we can also be creative. However, there are many external circumstances that can prevent or encourage us to become artists or bankers or even “good” artists and bankers.

In the end, only our deeds bear witness to it, the talent must be implemented, otherwise no one knows about it. It’s no use being a genius, you have to make something of it, leave a trace. And if, in our case, a work of art is put into reality, it must always be measured anew yesterday, today and tomorrow alongside many other realizations and receive a just or unjust classification.

According to Duchamp: The work receives its determination only if a viewer sees it.
For me, a good phrase is: an airplane is not a bird just because it can fly.

In the following I list some criteria of my individual evaluation, each point has of course exceptions!

I describe the criteria strikingly, so that one gets the idea of it, not for a final judgment, because just the striking exceptions are the special pearls to discover.

When I am interested in a work of art, I regularly ask myself as I look at it:

  1. Is the chosen format the right one, or – especially in the case of photographic works – is the format too dense and too small, or excessively large? Should the Mona Lisa’s head be depicted life-size, or a little too small, or too large, and why isn’t it a mural of epic proportions? All this because I have noticed that the chosen format is often not coherent. We like to represent too large, in order to be able to estimate a higher price according to the so-called form factor. Sometimes just to overwhelm with the size and not the content.
  2. Another aspect is the craftsmanship, is it just perfect craftsmanship but without life? Is it just almost autistically meticulous and you wonder how you can have so much patience and yet have no poignant statement beyond that?
  3. Is the work part of a series and what series have there been before or are in the works?
  4. Is the series of works manageable so that I, as a buyer, can choose the best work from the series, or is the series endless and more variants are always being created?
  5. Is the print run immensely high for editions, but so is the price, making it similar to a single price? I always multiply the price by the edition plus the artist’s copies, which is the notional work price. Then I ask myself if the work justifies this fictitious total price.
  6. Is it “just” another female nude, exploiting women’s bodies and my sexuality at their expense?
  7. Is it just another skull, of which all manifestations should have already been explored in the meantime? Is the work consciously or unconsciously geared to the taste of a group of buyers? And how is this to be evaluated?
  8. Is it just a multiple, where a cheap effect is constructed by multiplication, like with 1000 Barbie dolls, cacti, Lego bricks, PopCorn, glass shards, candles, bones, stones in one room?
  9. Is it just scaling, a giant hammer, huge skeleton, the tooth imprint filling a white cube exhibition space?
  10. Is it just an isolation, a single, arbitrary object, prominent on a pedestal?
  11. Is it just a disassembly, of a house, a caravan, a PC, a washing machine, disassembled lying in space or suspended or on the wall?
  12. In sound and video art, is it just the millionth narrative of some text or experience, usually to blurry images and sound collages?
  13. Is it the next blob painting of drops, sanded or gradient or flung, in matte or acrylic. How many more are there to come?
  14. If it is already sensually not really perceptible, is the concept behind it convincing by distinctiveness or ingenuity?

(I will keep revising and adding to this text and probably also the list, but perhaps you will find one or the other approach for you while reading).