Sunday, December 28, 2008

just let me be the dog at your party

frank waaldijk, just let me be the dog at your party

just let me be the dog at your party (own work, 2008, 21 x 30 cm, mixed media on paper)

been sick for days with a heavy cold. nothing to do but lie in bed, write posts on this blog and...yesterday's drawing.

art & money 3: robert hughes, damien hirst, mona lisa curse

so just a short note. it turns out i've missed a tv programme on the english channel 4 called `the mona lisa curse'.

really a shame i missed it, in the programme art critic robert hughes denounces the contemporary art scene in a clearcut way, it seems. i've tried to find videos on the web, to no avail.

a taste of the well-received programme can be found in a hughes' article in the guardian.

i'm uplifted by finding a prominent art critic sharing my views. still, the new clothes of the emperor keep on being admired and talked about...for instance by germaine greer in the same guardian. germaine really illustrates very aptly what i've been trying to say: `art in the 21st century isn't about making things, the real art is marketing'. or something similar (go read for yourself). and she's serious. the hirst auction is the artwork, according to germaine, not the stuff that was being auctioned.

well. sigh again. not a very deep work then, just rather lucrative. it's more like a pop tune for the rich. but who in their right mind is going to put britney spears in the same category as a certain old and dusty johann sebastian...although according to germaine we should do so, i believe? germaine?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

art & money 2: sotheby's (& postmodernism)

just yesterday i happened upon a recent video message (2 actually) sent out to the world by sotheby's - you know, the art auction house. the first video is called `contemporary art market- a candid view from the inside'. (the second video is the most recent private viewing video for the auction of 11 november 2008,


deep sigh.

i usually try to ignore these hyped-up worlds. but as in some previous posts (first half this year i believe), when it gets too blatant i feel some kind of counterweight is necessary.

to not put a too fine point on it: sotheby's is about making money. that much becomes clear after seeing this video. its message seems to be: please keep selling and buying contemporary art at the highest prices that the economic situation allows.

quite an uplifting message for mankind, i suppose. people in deep poverty everywhere, people dying from illness, malnourishment...and then comes sotheby's with an explanation why john currin and jeff koons (oh let me add richard prince here too for good measure) are such wonderful artists, since they depict the emptiness of the jet set life. and for this wonderfulness the jet set is nudged to pay exorbitant sums...which they do...emphasizing their emptiness, i have to admit, but the so-called art is not any better for it. in my not so humble eyes these art works are shallow and feeding off the emptiness of their buyers, not drawing upon some inner treasure, not adding to the growth of human art experience.

it becomes, upon closer analysis, quite disheartening to see what incredible influence money has on contemporary art. i believe the situation completely comparable to the influence of high-risk money marketeers on the global economy (see the current financial crisis). to make the latter precise: a handful of people driven only by some primitive gluttony/competition/risk-thrill are really capable of disrupting the world economy.

likewise, the jet set with its nauseating excess of money is capable of corrupting the whole concept of intrinsic value of art. auction houses, galleries, museums, art institutions, newspapers...they all go along with the ride.

why exactly is richard prince such a wonderful artist? it is -really, realistically- because the jet set has adopted his works. this then becomes the assignment for artists: create work that will be adopted by the jet set.

john currin -like many others- proudly describes this process: how in the beginning he wanted to `break into the art world', and the way to do this: do something noone else is doing. now currin is painting shallow remakes of danish '70 porn pictures. (why sex? see the previous post on ralf kwaaknijd) it doesn't really matters what he paints anymore, he has been jetsetted for life. if you want to be similarly jetsetted, then one popular recipe is still as dumb as ever.

let me spell it out for you:

you have to confront the jet set with their idiocy, but in a very obvious and shallow way, or they won't get it, get it? don't waste your time on real technique or colour development or well, anything really artistic you know? the jet set doesn't know the difference, they've spent their energy on making money, not on looking at art. they rely on art experts, brokers, other jetsetters, auction houses etc.

do something blatant, different. but remember, stay shallow. the shallowness is important so that first art experts can be shocked (controversy is necessary to justify that your work is in some way `important!' `new!!'). and then by just keeping on doing shallowly what you are shallowly doing, some experts will start to say: oh, but it is ironic, it is deep, it is an ambiguous comment on consumerism, it is ART, you should buy now...

if this is what you want to do with your talent, then good luck, fellow artists.

for me, beautiful art (it is relatively rare) can be found in any price range. a higher price doesn't guarantee a higher quality at all. don't let all these (moneydriven) art buffs fool you into thinking otherwise. use your own eyes, your own feeling, develop them, and ... let me know ;-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

man woman spirituality 7: rembrandt's jewish bride

rembrandt van rijn, the jewish bride

rembrandt van rijn, the jewish bride (around 1667)

rembrandt van rijn, detail of the jewish bride

rembrandt van rijn, the jewish bride (detail)

an interesting site on rembrandt's technique: northern light studio.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

tft monitors bleach out art pictures, especially paintings

a short post today about thin film transistor liquid crystal display monitors (tft monitors).

the thing is, almost everywhere i go, i see this type of flat screen monitor being used. but when i view my artist's site on such a tft monitor, it all looks awry. the colours and lighting of especially paintings and drawings are horribly distorted, making many works seem as if they are simply bleached out by having been in the ocean for extended period of time.

i tried to see if other pictures of artworks suffer similarly, and yes they do. it really hurts my eyes to look at pictures of paintings on these monitors. (sculptures generally come out ok, normal photographs also are acceptable.)

yet noone seems to be complaining. i remember returning a brand new tft monitor of a well-known quality brand a few years ago (i couldn't stand the way it rendered the colours of my own paintings) and that the salesperson told me that yes, colour was known to be an issue, but i was the first one to complain. i had to say that i'm a visual artist, which convinced them to take it back and refund me.

my dilemma is now becoming acute. should i buy such a tft monitor and try to limit the damage by spending enormous amount of time to readjust my art photographs? or should i just stay with my old iiyama vision master, in the knowledge that the majority of people looking at my sites will get to see something horribly different from what i see (which are usually strong, well-lighted colours).

i cannot express how stupid i find this type of problem. one does one's best to create faithful pictures (this is hard work, because photographing paintings and drawings is not easy), and then supposedly better technology comes along, and all the hard work is for nothing. simply because to most people, faithful colour representation of art works is not so important.

oh well. there goes the neighborhood. sorry to grump on you. please, if you visit my site, try to do so on a crt monitor or something comparable in colour /lighting quality.

Monday, December 1, 2008

woman, man 6: postpostmodernism & spirituality

ralf kwaaknijd, man woman ii, 2008

ralf kwaaknijd, man woman ii (2008, polystyrene on wood)

so let's connect the two running themes (postpostmodernism & man-woman spirituality) for a moment, returning once again to dutch visual artist ralf kwaaknijd. kwaaknijd obviously kicks against the ruling postmodern art structures with this work, which is so small that one must squat to see it properly. (an ironic reference to the in kwaaknijds eyes unpalatable and unimaginative postmodern sculptures which borrow their legitimization purely from their absurdly large size). yet this irony could be construed as postmodern, were it not for the fact that kwaaknijd also carefully chooses his subject, materials and sculptural form. man and woman here are engaged in an abstract entanglement which can be viewed both as dance and as struggle, as embrace and as fight, as opposing and together. made from the same materials and forms, man and woman are -somewhat fiercely perhaps- completely equal, thus shattering any `romantic' but discriminatory notions one sees so often in prepostmodern art. but what about sex?

ralf kwaaknijd, man woman i, 2008

ralf kwaaknijd, man woman i (2008, polystyrene on wood)

in the same man woman series, kwaaknijd comments on the -in his view absurd- role of sex in postmodern art. since postmodernism cuts away `meaning' and `sense' and even `morality', what is left in terms of human motivation? often sex is the answer. largely of course because sex still has some power to shock the general public, making an artist who uses explicit sex somewhat of a controversial figure, which is 3/4 of the thrust of the postmodern establishment. shallow for those who see through this marketing technique, but then again that is a seldom heard minority.

but also because in the absence of any `higher' or `spiritual' values, people really start defining their `realization' in terms of sex.

kwaaknijd's sculpture above tackles these issues rather blatantly, in the familiar abstract sense. looking closely one sees an abstract representation of male and female genitals, engaged in sex. yet once again, male and female parts are made of the same materials and sculptural forms, closely resembling their parallel embryonal genesis (for those of you with a working knowledge of embryology). the reduction of `man woman' to their genitals is both scornful and yet, in its simplicity also defusing. sex is simple, from nature's abstract point of view. there are no higher values in sex, unless we add other values...and for this we need some form of spirituality - a simpler conclusion is: we need some form of spirituality (which is a decidedly unpostmodern view).

kwaaknijd however still uses postmodernist techniques, he exaggerates them, distorts them, but he is still a child of his times. this to me suggests the term postpostmodernism. and i wait impatiently for a truly different ism to shoot up. come, daring fellow artists, whither shall we go?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

meeting on the quai of the stream of subconsciousness

frank waaldijk, meeting on the quai of the stream of subconsciousness -- with passerby walking dog, seagull, trees and cloud of unknowingness

meeting on the quai of the stream of subconsciousness -- with passerby walking dog, seagull, trees and cloud of unknowingness (own work, 2008, 21 x 30 cm, mixed media on paper)

yeah, today's drawing...and don't even have the time to comment on it. sorry. maybe sunday.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

woman, man 5 (spirituality, eve & adam continued)

frank waaldijk, park encounter iii

park encounter iii (own work, 2005, 15 x 24 cm, mixed media on paper)

just to keep the blog rolling a bit...i would like to do `a drawing a day' also, but i find that all this internet activity costs an amazing amount of energy, which i frequently don't have.

above a rather shy woman noticing but not really acknowledging each other, although aware that each is aware of the other...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

woman, man 4 (spirituality, eve & adam continued)

frank waaldijk, park encounter iv

park encounter iv (own work, 2008, 20 x 30 cm, mixed media on paper)

well, not to lose the thread on spirituality, man and woman altogether in the storm of (post)postmodernism...

much of the famous art on man & woman seems to center around sexuality (i think i will visit sexuality also specifically, somewhere to come on this blog). but for me `woman & man' is even more reflective of a certain spiritual bond which -especially if humanity would evolve along lines that i deem spiritual progress- could also quite naturally exist between any two given people regardless of sex.

but in my experience it's usually that in the framework of `romantic love', which allows woman and man to come real close to each other, this closeness is acceptable, even sought after. whereas in other frameworks, people shy away.

a detail of the above drawing:

frank waaldijk, park encounter iv (detail)

park encounter iv (detail, own work, 2008, mixed media on paper)

maybe i will find some time to go into this `mixed technique' and subject later on. the thread will be continued.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

postpostmodernism & postmodernism 3: meaning

francis bacon, study for a bullfight no 1 first version

francis bacon, study for a bullfight no 1 first version

perhaps i should start by saying that various sources have confirmed me as being very `postmodern' in my opinions and even in my artwork. this could explain why i compare postmodernism to puberty: i never really got over puberty either, but life goes on anyway. one cannot undo puberty, likewise i feel we cannot undo postmodernism. because postmodernism is just the reflection of a (to me higher/deeper whatever you wish to call it) insight that we have gained in the nature of truth.

to be more precise: we have found out that there is no absolute truth, and that the previous quests for absolute truth have brought countless wars and social disasters. [and also infrequently, somewhere, on the sidelines, some remarkable works of art/literature/philosophy/science/...]

in the visual arts, likewise there is no absolute aesthetics. previous quests for absolute aesthetics have brought countless mediocre works and museums filled with them. [and also infrequently, somewhere, on the sidelines, some remarkable works of art...]

so the resistance, the rebellion, whatever. let's show everybody how relative everything really is. let's deconstruct the ignorant people's preconceived notions of art, let's become societal prophets by creating art that educates society about its postmodern predicament.

but this means a shift in the `meaning' of art. `meaning' is redirected, transposed from the work of art to include the onlookers. and `meaning' can also be: to show these onlookers that there is no absolute meaning. [sorry to be so obscure, can't help it, that's what you get on the meta-level of meaning, and that's the mess postmodernism has justly gotten us into.]

for me, this type of meta-meaning isn't enough. at least, not in the long run. to kick against absolute truth is one thing, but to find personal truths is another. and although the first certainly is useful, imnsho, the second should not suffer from it too long.

so take a moment to consider the above painting by francis bacon. does it not capture a lot of this `relativity of meaning'? it also distorts space, spatial links between event and onlookers, temporal links between bullfight crowds and the second world war,...but what makes it a great painting imnsho is that it is painted in a painstakingly developed personal style, it is a personal painting expressing some personal truth...not meant solely or primarily to educate me about my ignorance on the meaninglessness of meaning...

and then consider francis bacon's second version...where the onlookers have all but vanished...:

francis bacon, study for a bullfight no 1 second version

francis bacon, study for a bullfight no 1 second version

Sunday, November 9, 2008

postpostmodernism and postmodernism 2

mark rothko, magenta black green on orange

mark rothko, magenta, black, green on orange

the wikipedia entry on postpostmodernism suggests (to me) a wide variety of interpretations, most having to do with the idea that postmodernism is somehow past its prime.

what strikes me from my personal perspective is that there are but a handful of artists from the postmodern period whose work really gets to me - to be precise: there are many individual art works that get to me, but they mostly seem to be exceptional in the artists' oeuvre. so i mean artists whose work gets to me more than a few times, work in which something fundamental to me seems to be developed. And then again, are these artists anywhere postmodern in the art-philosophical sense? also, none of them are alive anymore. [of course my knowledge of modern art is rather limited. i look forward to discovering artists which disprove my contention about postmodern art].

of course, for me there is mark rothko. then, for me personally with rather contradicting/conflicting feelings: joseph beuys. also francis bacon, especially when he focuses more on spatiality than on gruesomeness (of which i'm not a fan at all). i'm also intrigued by constant (nieuwenhuys), also especially his more spatial paintings. perhaps i'll think of some more (oh, i wrote something already on chuck close, ok perhaps he should be in this list also...)

to be continued.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

postpostmodernism and postmodernism 1

ok. time to tackle some art philosophy again, just for the fun of it, but perhaps even more because i promise(d) to do so in the subtitle of this blog.

i'm intrigued by the word `postpostmodernism', which sprang in mind easily to describe a certain feeling i have about postmodernism. what i do in such a case of spontaneous word genesis is to google up `postpostmodernism' and to see that -like many similar words- it has been discovered/manufactured by many others. but with google results in the thousands, not tens of thousands, meaning that it's still kind of uncharted. [correction some days later (9 nov): don't know what went wrong, but latest search turned up 19,600 results...with a wikipedia entry post-postmodernism]

in other words, humanity - a very small and insignificant part of it at least- is working to develop some pastures called `postpostmodernism', but it's not sure that they be fertile grounds, where the claims are precisely and where the fences should be. obviously, this has something to do with the pastures called `postmodernism'.

to me postmodernism has always felt as a sort of inevitable crisis, comparable to puberty. Just like puberty, in postmodernism anything goes, and anything is challenged. mostly because `absolute truth' has become `obsolete truth'. somewhere along the line, perhaps also due to the enormous emotional crisis from the second world war, a large enough number of people realized that the concept of `absolute truth' is fallacious. to maintain `absolute truth' one is in fact forced to manufacture and/or swallow untruth after untruth.

more accurate would seem the picture of manifold truth. truth depending on one's point of view. anything goes, and anything is challenged, but...

clay butler, you're standing on my neck (postmodernism)

clay butler, you're standing on my neck

(thank you clay for the kind use of your cartoon).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

eve & adam 4: tamara de lempicka

while i'm at it:

tamara de lempicka, adam and eve

tamara de lempicka, adam and eve

how superstylized style still allows for sensuality.

eve & adam 3, art, spirituality, michelangelo

michelangelo, sistine chapel, the expulsion of adam and eve from paradise, for eating fruit from the tree of knowledge

michelangelo, sistine chapel the expulsion of adam and eve from paradise, for eating fruit from the tree of knowledge

to continue with the thread i was trying to weave...eve & adam, man & woman in art, spirituality...

but the influence from my other blog pitfalls of spirituality is still felt. to me, mankind in ignorance is not mankind in bliss. bliss is highly overrated anyway. a spiritual heart and an inquisitive, critical, intuitive, logical what will help us to slowly rise above our current condition humaine, is my belief.

the expulsion of adam and eve from paradise for eating fruit from the tree of knowledge? it is not knowledge that causes shame of sexuality, guilt, etc. etc. i would sooner blame religion for that.

frank waaldijk, the expulsion of adam and eve from the paradise of ignorance to the terrible pastures of knowledge

the expulsion of adam and eve from the paradise of ignorance to the terrible pastures of knowledge (own work -perhaps still in progress-, 2008, mixed media on paper)

Friday, October 3, 2008

intermezzo: Corry Loermans - Universal Brain

It is always both a wonder and a pleasure to come across special art outside of the limelight. It happens to me every once in a while that I see what I consider special work by some artist who is not well known, but who obviously has spent a lot of time, thought, craftmanship etcetera in developing her/his art.

In the series `Universal Brain', I think Dutch visual artist Corry Loermans aims for several layers of meaning and complexity. She does this in a subtle way, using subtle materials and subtle physical layers in the work itself. From a distance, the works transmit a certain light serenity, a quiet radiating. Coming closer, slowly i was drawn in to a far more complex surface, and a lot of intense energy.

In the above drawing [removed on a later request by the artist (permission was originally obtained prior to posting)], it seems there is only one line...endlessly twisting its way, almost impossible to follow.

It brings up questions about thinking, the brain, feeling...while at the same time simply being visually rewarding art without too much conceptualization. I'm interested to see where her work will go in the future. You can view some works here:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

eve & adam 2, art, spirituality

frank waaldijk, the creation of adam and eve
the creation of adam and eve (own work, 2005, mixed media on paper)

i'm still neglecting this blog, for which i apologize (especially now that the blog attracts well over a 100 visitors a day). however, my other blog pitfalls of spirituality deals with about 16 subjects [19 pitfalls as of may 2009], of which i have now covered more than half. so in due time i should be back here with full attention.

actually, this split attention touches on the question what one can perceive as the role of art, and of artists, in society. my other blog deals with pitfalls of spirituality (see previous post for a link). but i find that out of this blog, images are coming to me, drawings, sculptural ideas, which perhaps carry a much directer message. which is critical in nature, just as the blog.

on the other hand, a lot of what i think of as `positive' spirituality has been playing a large role in my work ever since i started out as an artist, over 25 years ago.

and i would like to think that art can play a role in our uplifting. both emotionally, by providing beauty, solace,... and spiritually, by appealing to the level where we feel connected to other human beings.

therefore, art confronting us with suffering or abuse of people, might touch us in a way that a written report cannot. also,as another example, art showing the loving equality between woman and man might give some counterweight to all the stereotyping which we are confronted with from advertising and other outer-wrapping oriented endeavours.

this is my hope. i also believe it to be (and to have been) the hope of many other artists whose work can be classified as `spiritual' or `drawing on spiritual values'.

pablo picasso, boy watching woman
pablo picasso, boy watching woman (details unknown to me)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

eve & adam, man & woman

frank waaldijk, eve & adam dancing with the animals

eve & adam dancing with the animals (own work, 2008, mixed media on paper)

i've been neglecting this blog a bit, since my other blog pitfalls of spirituality is taking up more time than i intended. but one of the posts there has reminded me of a rather constant theme in art, and also in my own art: eve & adam, man & woman.

i would like to do a series of posts here, ranging widely, around this theme. although sexuality has some role, my intent is more of a spiritual nature. (as an important side note: although in my own work homosexuality doesn't feature very prominently, please don't think that i have anything against it. it's just that many of my works come from my subconscious, and it is only in retrospect that i notice they are mostly of a man-woman nature. in fact i think it would be good if spiritual same-sex love would be portrayed more often in art, as to form some counterbalance against the widespread discrimination of homosexuality.)

in the above drawing, i am probably as surprised as you to find eve and adam half dressed, with only the top half covered. have they already left paradise? one would think so, but they seem to rejoice nonetheless. and amongst the animals the snake is there too...

Monday, August 18, 2008

chuck close: more than realism?

what struck me with some of chuck close's works was the intensity of some of the portraits. an intensity which, in retrothinking, i would ascribe to a combination of ` harsh' realism (non-prettified i mean) with an extra layer of (is this a word?) deconstruction of reality [oh oh i'm starting to sound like ralf kwaaknijd here...].

by ` deconstruction' i mean his pixel-like approach, where each pixel is just a small abstract element. but in the best works it seems to me he added to this also extra abstract expression in these pixels. and freedom with respect to the size and placement of the `pixels'.

and then suddenly, the work for me starts to shimmer, vibrate, i don't know. it's an effect which i do not experience with the small reproductions on internet. i think you must go and see the work for real.

chuck close, maggie

chuck close, maggie (photo by ellen page wilson, courtesy of PaceWildenstein, new york, ©chuck close [and i hope ellen and chuck don't mind]

but in other works i did not get much vibes beyond the realism. i wonder where chuck close will take his work in years to come!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

chuck close: a portrait in progress

ok, something more serious now.

saw a wonderful short documentary `chuck close - a portrait in progress' by marion cajori, it seems there is now a feature-length version.

also saw a show of chuck close's work, last year in aachen. was glad i went, there were some very interesting and beautiful works (amongst works that i liked far less, to be honest and complete).

here is a video from youtube:

i will come back to this in the next post.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

dutch visual artist ralf kwaaknijd: the purpose of art is controversy & the hidden in plain sight series 2

the reason that kwaaknijd is being sued by citizens rights' organizations such as the french citoyens contre la contresurveillance is that his unobtrusive hidden-in-plain-sight works are actually being monitored and filmed on a 24/7 basis. the (digital) videorecordings reveal amongst others the general public's reaction to the discovery -for instance- that the object they just sat on is ART. But also the general public's nondiscovery of the object as a work of art.

kwaaknijd uses the footages in a synthesis apotheosis of his hidden-in-plain-sight series, to confront both art experts and the general public with the increasing cryptogenetic content and appearance of modern art, where only the text tags on the wall tell us what is art and what not.

however, for obvious reasons, the videoregistration of the using of the toilets in his carefully painted and designed pub(l)ic art space / hidden in plain sight xxiii is a privacy violation in the eyes of citoyens contre la contresurveillance (cccs).

ralf kwaaknijd - pub(l)ic art space / hidden in plain sight xxiii (2001, louvre paris)

but cccs also fights the enregistration of say, people trying to clean up the debris in rectangular spatial composition with debris / hidden in plain sight xlvii , and then finding out the debris won't budge (since it is glued to the floor) and then noticing the small sign on the wall saying: don't sit on the artwork, do not touch - above the attributal tag with title and artist.

ralf kwaaknijd - rectangular spatial composition with debris / hidden in plain sight xlvii (2008, louvre, paris)

kwaaknijd has repeatedly stated that he is glad with the law suits, since he considers the purpose of art to be to create controversy. art to kwaaknijd is only worthwile as

`anything to shake up the rusted beliefs and mindsets of the public and the art world in particular. we must continuously create new synapses in the brains, faster than our forebears, or we will end up like our forebears and mess up our world. forget esthetics, forget beauty, forget understanding. we must act art, to disrupt and regroup'.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

dutch visual artist ralf kwaaknijd: the purpose of art is controversy & the hidden in plain sight series

i've been trying to reach the infamous dutch artist ralf kwaaknijd for comments on the controversy over his work, but it seems he is very busy working on his new installation series, which is taking him around the world to leading museums of modern art.

one of his best known series hidden in plain sight still is surrounded with controversy and even law suits from concerned citizens' rights organizations.

let me reproduce some of these `hidden in plain sight' works here, first without commentary.

ralf kwaaknijd, rectangular spatial composition / hidden in plain sight ix

ralf kwaaknijd, rectangular spatial composition / hidden in plain sight ix (2006, stedelijk museum amsterdam)

ralf kwaaknijd - pub(l)ic art space / hidden in plain sight xxiii (2001, louvre paris)

ralf kwaaknijd, pub(l)ic art space / hidden in plain sight xxiii (2001, louvre paris)

ralf kwaaknijd - reflectionary interactive surface composition / hidden in plain sight xxix (2006, stedelijk museum amsterdam)

ralf kwaaknijd, reflectionary interactive surface composition / hidden in plain sight xxix (2006, stedelijk museum amsterdam)

ralf kwaaknijd - rectangular spatial-flat composition with brick background / hidden in plain sight xiv  (2004, bonnefantenmuseum, maastricht)

ralf kwaaknijd, rectangular spatial-flat composition with brick background / hidden in plain sight xiv (2004, bonnefantenmuseum, maastricht)

ralf kwaaknijd - rectangular spatial composition with debris / hidden in plain sight xlvii (2008, louvre, paris)

ralf kwaaknijd rectangular spatial composition with debris / hidden in plain sight xlvii (2008, louvre, paris)

the one below is perhaps a forgery, as stated in an earlier post:

ralf kwaaknijd, paradise snake

ralf kwaaknijd, paradise snake / hidden in plain sight xxxiv (2005, centre pompidou paris)

the purpose of art? a purpose of art? artificial porpoise?

so, alain badiou considers art a domain where important truths arise.

perhaps he agrees with my perception of a purpose of (my) art: deconstruction of existing clichés. a more positive way of saying this would be: the creation of images beyond what is solidified-as-cliché, in order to express and touch inner/outer Reality.

... lighten up! a little humor could work like a torch to dry cinder, i hope.

purpose of art? purpose of life? purpose of love? truth is, i haven't got the foggiest. you?

frank waaldijk, self portrait as unorthodox thinker

self portrait as unorthodox thinker (2005, mixed media on paper)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

sonsbeek 2008 (2): procession and `grandeur'

to be fair, perhaps i should give some more background to my previous post. here you can read an interview with anna tilroe, the curator of sonsbeek 2008.

(her theme is `grandeur'...why do these things need a theme? call me negative, but i cannot help thinking that this is a combination of entertainmentlike advertisinglike promotion. let's all collectively do something arty about ... suggestions anyone? do i hear grandeur? fabulous, thanx a bundle.)

first her take on this procession business:

Tilroe: ‘The reason I called it a procession is that I wanted to get away from the idea of a spectacle - it's not a parade or a carnival. For me, a procession is something that demands a considerable effort. It really demands something of someone to take part in it. I've nothing against an event in itself, you could define an event as a break-through. The art is literally carried by various groups in society, which we've called bearer guilds. They display the art to the public: look, this is art, make of it what you like but we've engaged ourselves with it. The educational nature of this undertaking, the information they receive about the work of art and the encounter between the bearer guild and the artist are important here. The guilds have to know what they are carrying, what they are engaging with. So far there are several initiatives for bearer guilds, consisting for example of allotment gardeners, policemen, and cultural bureaucrats. '

sorry. it still doesn't make any sense to me at all. but anna tilroe also says some interesting things, i reproduce some questions and answers from the interview mentioned above:

Question: Alain Badiou argues that art is not without obligations, but a domain that generates new and important truths. There are, he says, four domains in which certain ‘truth procedures' occur: politics, love, science and art. For this reason, art has an educational and ethical task. You believe in this, too, but is it not a naive thought in today's neo-liberal economy, in which the world of art is largely determined by the art market?

Tilroe: ‘The international art world hangs together through mutual connections and these are not free of big commercial interests. The art world is completely sick, it is nothing but an art market. I'll just have to see how I can keep aloof from this. But what the market has to offer is not everything. I'm trying to resist this. I recognise its dominance, to be sure, but there's more. There are enough artists who succeed in keeping their distance from the art market.'


Question: To conclude, isn't it so that the wish to unite art and life remains an insatiable desire? In the Netherlands we're plagued by a real boom in social art projects, and didn't you also once say that artist themselves have almost nothing to contribute since what reigns is the curator's concept?

Tilroe: ‘I agree, but my exhibition is different. It's not art in the neighbourhood, it's a celebration of art. Works of art are special; I would only go so along to a certain extent with the idea that ‘art is life'. I can already anticipate the criticism: I'm making art into a fetish, objectifying it, making art something sacred. But I think you have to keep trying to rescue art from the flows of capital that it has now become part of, and from Richard Florida's notion of the Creative Industry. The work of art is being celebrated in Grandeur not because it is an expensive object, not because it is the plaything of the elite, not because it is something that has a sacred status. But because it represents the human imagination.'

so, at least i think i could have an interesting conversation with ms. tilroe (perhaps boring for her, me being so out of the loop of modern art worlds). there is hope yet in art for those who don't wish to join the general advertising/entertainment/capital flow.

Friday, July 25, 2008

example: sonsbeek 2008, the procession (advertising, the bane of modern art 4)

like multatuli, i do not have to go out and look for examples. if i stay at home and lock the doors, i still cannot escape them.

about 3/4 yr ago i was contacted by slak, an organization in the area arnhem/nijmegen that rents out subsidized studios to professional artists. slak announced that sonsbeek 2008, the 5-annual(?) open air sculpture exhibition in sonsbeek park arnhem, would be accompanied by a Procession...


well, because processions are becoming the fashion in modern art. there had been a procession in ... and also in ... and they had been a huge cultural and artistic success.

*but what the mahogany is the meaning of this `procession'?

well, to show that art is supported by the people, the procession will feature the exhibited sculptures carried by `guilds' through the streets of arnhem, before their placement in the park for exhibit. guilds of course, you uneducated artist, were what we had in medieval times, when processions were popular. And so it all makes sense, you see?

*but what do you need me for?

well, it would seem most appropriate if the artists of slak would form a guild, to carry one of the sculptures through arnhem. of course, a guild is more than just a labour gang. the guild will adopt their art work, meet its maker, and organize meetings around it, and take care of it in years to come, etc, you understand?

*ok, so let me get this straight. i'm a professional visual artist, but you are not interested in my work. instead you have some `star' visual artists, and to promote and advertise their work in a carnivalesque need me? oh, i see, that makes sense. but only if you think that art is entertainment. and then of course, satellite entertainers will enjoy their part (even if small) in the Grand Event. well...good luck...i hope...


let's see what the website has to say:

The Procession
Art carried by the people

It is unique that at Sonsbeek 2008 the inhabitants of a city carried works of art through the streets in a magnificent Procession. An event that states that art needs the support of many in order to acquire a real meaning in society. But the idea of the Procession is also a celebration, a festive way of presenting art as the symbol of human imagination.

On Sunday June 8, 2008 this Procession took place amidst the decor of the old innercity of Arnhem.


to me this is a perfect example of advertising winning out over art (at least what i call art). the advertising for art (that's what this procession nonsense is about) is surrounded with the same bla bla that art is surrounded with, and then pronounced art itself. the artistic success is measured in terms of advertising and entertainment terms. serious professional visual artists are even expected to join in for free, for the good cause of art i suppose (or because it will give them exposure...?).

let's all arty party...would you hold my sculpture there, then i can dosido around this painting...and take your brush and swing it wide, paint your partner side by side...

sonsbeek 2008, procession

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

advertising & art 3: conflicting purposes

again and again my thoughts come back to the question: what is the purpose of art?

to be honest, i don't know. in its generality the question even seems unanswerable. of course many people claim some authorative knowledge on this question. i seldom find their answers convincing. the question to me only makes sense on a personal level. then it first becomes: what do i see as the purpose of art? and later, as an artist, the addition: what do i see as the purpose of my art?

in order to explain why i consider advertising the bane of modern art, i should explain what i see as the purpose of modern art. i phrased it a little mystically in the previous post, but even on a personal level i see hardly another way than this mystical phrasing. but perhaps a few more words will help, who knows.

to me, visual art's unique possibilities lie in the opening and widening and deepening of our perceptions of reality. for me personally, i connect this with spirituality in the sense that i believe visual art can help experience spirituality, can help develop human(e) concern for the well-being of others and other living creatures. but visual art can also reveal -brutally, one might think at first glance- la condition humaine: the level of our collective spiritual (un)wellness. as well as the harshness of nature, our fragile existence, our limited role in this universe, etc. etc.

so whatever the precise form or formulation, visual art for me has as its purpose the deconstruction of old clichés -after all most of these stereotypes in my eyes are hampering our progress by cluttering up our brain and heart in the same way as our predecessors, and look what state the world is in because of their and our doings along these stereotypes. the methods, images, contexts etc. used can vary greatly from artist to artist, and from artwork to artwork. one artist might, like goya, depict the horrors of certain types of human behaviour, in order to open our eyes to this behaviour, in order to make us realize: this is what you get when you think and act along these current stereotypes. another artist might depict loving scenes, going beyond what is the current cliché of love, in order to remind us that spiritual love between people is not only possible but even something that deep in our heart many of us crave. yet another artist might go for aesthetic abstract beauty, yet another for unsettling bodily/sensory sensations in some sort of installation.

francisco de goya, los desastres de la guerra

francisco de goya, los desastres de la guerra[one of 80 prints]

therefore, the purpose of advertising to me seems diametrically opposed to the purpose of art.

the ultimate purpose of advertising is to increase sales, i think. the advertising approach to this purpose seems to me to be this: reinforce existing clichés and stereotypes, and then tie these clichés to the product/concept/brand you wish to sell. just look at the simply awful gender stereotyping in advertising (because sex sells? reinforcing stereotypical gender roles makes people happy?), look at all the fake and superficial youth-and-happiness imagery.

now why should i worry about advertising in connection to art?

firstly, it seems to me that increasingly, the purposes of artists and other people in the art world are verging towards the purposes of advertising. (increase sales, to do so first achieve brand recognition, to achieve brand recognition first introduce suitable existing stereotypes, and reinforce them in some `new' (albeit shallow) fashion, then repeat them over and over and over.)

secondly, it seems people are spending more and more time looking at ads, and discussing them, to the point where i'm starting to believe that people derive some sort of personal meaning-to-life from these ads. then, when they see art, they look at art in the same way and if the clichés of an artwork are not as readily scooped up as in advertising, well then people are puzzled, disappointed and distracted and will seldom spend some more time trying to `get' it.

so which of the two approaches to imagery is winning out? that's why i consider advertising to be the bane of modern art. pretty soon modern art will be a branch of advertising, if this isn't already the case.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

advertising, the bane of modern art 2

before continuing the thread, first an image - absolute necessity for an art blog:

georgia o'keeffe, black place ii

georgia o'keeffe, black place ii

from the metropolitan museum website:

--The Black Place was the name O'Keeffe gave to one of her favorite painting sites, located in the Bisti Badlands in Navajo country, about 150 miles northwest of her home in Ghost Ranch. It was a stretch of desolate gray and black hills that the artist said looked from a distance like "a mile of elephants." Isolated far off the road and away from all civilization, O'Keeffe made several camping trips there in the 1940s, with her assistant Maria Chabot. Writing to Stieglitz in 1944, the year Black Place II was made, Chabot described in words what O'Keeffe captured in paint: "… the black hills—black and grey and silver with arroyos of white sand curving around them—pink and white strata running through them. They flow downward, one below the next. Incredible stillness!" (Maria Chabot—Georgia O'Keeffe: Correspondence 1941–1949, 2003, p. 193).--

incredible stillness. yes, that about captures it, what i mean with advertising being the bane of modern art. incredible stillness, does it even still exist? it is in every case the very antithesis of advertising.

but in my opinion, only from that place of incredible stillness can come what i call great art.

the bane of art: advertising 1

due to a trojan horse on my computer (a variant of vundo) i have spent quite some part of the last three days behind the screen trying to fix my computer system.

finally, i succeeded. no more silly popup-screens advertising for battleknight, mobile telephones, and a host of other products. google available again. the computer again on reasonable cruising speed (still not warp speed, but anyway).

but it makes one wonder, doesn't it? why should anyone want to advertise so badly that they are willing to disrupt millions of computer systems, and saddle their owners up with hours of work - if even successful?

in some follow-up posts i would like to examine this phenomenon of advertising more closely (it already was part topic of some previous posts). the more i think about it, the more i'm convinced that modern advertising is the bane of modern art.

Monday, July 7, 2008

quality & art 15: digital fabrication 3

crystal skull, british museum

crystal skull, british museum

let's face it, fellow visual artists: digital fabrication is one of many upcoming technological developments that will shake the paradigms of art...without changing the essence of art, but with farreaching consequences for artists' practice, income, distribution etcetera.

will these technological developments help us? i should say so, on many levels. but i see drawbacks too. these drawbacks have to do especially with what i perceive as the proliferating superficiality of `professional' imagery. some possible reasons for this that i see are:

  1. new technology brings previously difficult to master technical "visual art" effects into the reach of everyone. this encourages people to produce many otherwise shallow images with these effects, where previously these types of images were only produced by artists with a deep technical but also deep artistic development.
  2. the new (digital) generation of professional imagery-makers for the general public (advertisements, video clips, movies) pays more attention to the technological effects, than to the deepening of the imagery itself. therefore the images are often of a shaming cliché nature, covered by a predictable sauce of technical/digital effects.
  3. superficial doll-like `perfection', in other words, to cover mediocre visual ideas. a nice(?) example of this is the absolutely ridiculous `crystal skull' which is used in the latest indiana jones movie (indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull). the thing is so obviously made out of some sort of plastic, it is truly amazing that a movie with such a budget for digital/technical effects cannot even achieve anything close to a crystal skull. and, even more ominous, few seems to notice...! although: see here [it is interesting to note that there are hardly any pictures on the internet of the skull-prop used, it seems the movie company is aware of the fakeness the prop radiates. wouldn't it be interesting if in the meantime they had a crystal skull counter further criticism. it also strikes me that digital fabrication would be a nice way to produce such a fake-looking skull from real crystal...] and oh yes, another interesting thing: there are many `old' crystal skulls in far all have been found to be 19th/20th century fakes, as far as i can make out from the internet. at least they look like they're made of crystal - probably because they are.

well, in order not to become too pessimistic, even with the above drawbacks, i can see some sort of parallel with the music world. if digital fabrication becomes widespread reality, then artists will have more ways to realize their ideas, more ways to develop their art. also, the artworks themselves become reproducible, bringing them into the home of anyone wishing to pay a modest sum for the digital blueprint (or copying the blueprint from a friend...).

will my house not become overfull? will any visual artist be able to still generate enough income? will the market be swamped by mona lisas, davids, jeff koons's [wow, these are easy to produce yourself, just click `enlarge' on the blueprint of your home china figurines]? i don't know.

i just wish i had a digital fabricator the size of a large barn...but i will settle for a digital painting machine / paintprinter (yes, a machine that really paints, but which is controlled digitally, although i would definitely need a paintpad / digital canvas and a digital brush, perhaps even real paint, i don't know how to solve the kinesthetic problems).

Monday, June 30, 2008

art & quality 14: personal fabricator 2 (digital fabrication)

to continue with this line of thinking, a question relevant to the quality of an art work also seems: how difficult is it to make such an art work?

with nanomachinery, the time is nearing where we will be able to manufacture many things from a digital blueprint.

consider a van gogh. the oil paint has a certain age, the brush strokes are (say) thick and impasto-style. it is as much a 3dimensional work as a twodimensional one. which is part of the reason why photographic reproductions don't work, and why it is hard to forge a van gogh.

but now suppose we can create a nanomachinery-driven 3d copier, which replicates paintings down to the very essence of a brushstroke, down to the chemical components, say molecule by molecule (or very close).

suddenly, everyone can have a van gogh in her/his room IF the museum would allow the nanomachinery-driven blueprinting, and subsequent distribution. everyone can have brancusi's sleeping muse, in any wanted material too.

think about it.

what would it mean for art & quality? how would it change our perspective of forgery? and what does that say about the validity of our current perspective?

quality & art 13: forgery 3: andy warhol

obviously, other people are thinking on the same issues. i came across edward winkleman's blog (the posting of thursday 26 june 2008, i cannot link to it directly), where he discusses a current forgery issue which tallies with my previous post.

it concerns works by -or not by- andy warhol, such as the work below:

andy warhol? 315 johns

andy warhol?, 315 johns

the issue is also discussed in the new york times of 26 june 2008.

the interesting thing these articles show is that intrinsic value of an art work seems to be considered completely derivational to who made it, generally without any questioning whatsoever as to whether this is a sound principle. by contrast winkleman runs an open thread on what makes an art work `good', and he is clearly thinking about art & quality somewhere along the same lines as the thread art & quality of this blog (he doesn't make a pagerank comparison though, which i believe to be a key issue).

would you -i mean seriously, would you really- believe there is such a thing as the andy warhol art authentication board? it would lead one to not ever take the modern art world seriously again. perhaps unless an art work strikes you as inescapable, unless you are rooted to the ground, or you find yourself coming back to an art work either physically or in your mind over and over again.

i doubt that art works made by artists who produce works by the dozen a day will fall in the above category.

when an artist doesn't produce works as if every scribble, every scrap, every idea, every execution is brilliant deep art - in other words when an artist takes time, effort, mistakes, reworking etc. before releasing art to the world, then i think there will be much less need for an authentication board.

i have seen exhibitions of joseph beuys for instance, serious exhibitions mind you, where it seemed that the curators thought that every scrap of paper that the good man ever touched was transformed into breathtaking mindboggling art.

all the more is the pity, because in my eyes beuys was a very talented draughtsman...but how to find these wonderful drawings amidst all the nonsense? how difficult to fake/forge a beuys? well that depends on the work, but in general it should be extremely easy. just take any oily substance (wax, linseed oil, cooking oil, motor oil) smear it on an envelope, add some pencil, maybe a little ink/paint and you are done. the less you think about it, the more convincing. if you want to do a good job, study beuys' handwriting carefully, and add some mystifying terms. in german.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

quality & art 12: forgery 2

returning to `quality and art', although really this theme also underlies all the previous posts, i would like to add some extra background to the post on anonymous art and forgeries. [where anonymized art as well as forgeries are presented as methods to prick through the balloon of art legitimization. a balloon which floats most of the contemporary art scene. don't be impressed by it, is what i'm saying.]

so, forgeries. what do they have to do with quality?

suppose i would brilliantly forge a scarlatti sonata. [you should read this, to be honest about my musical ablities, as: suppose i COULD forge a scarlatti sonata ;-)]. i would claim i was cleaning some attic, conveniently dating back to the 18th century, when suddenly my eye fell upon...etc.

experts go wild. in all the texts 555 has to be replaced by 556. special performances are given all over the world. reviews are raving.

then, i'm found out. boohoo. BUT does it make the music any less beautiful? is its QUALITY any less for having been found out as a forgery?

well, in the visual arts this is not a question. so-called experts even frown upon this question. a forgery of a matisse, when found out, will be removed from the museum's exhibition. how hard is it to forge a matisse? well, to be honest, i don't think that should be too difficult.

henri matisse, icarus

henri matisse, icarus

in fact i have sold a number of...oh. perhaps i should wait a little with this revelation, since the centre pompidou is already in trouble with another suspected forgery, see below.

ralf kwaaknijd, paradise snake

ralf kwaaknijd, paradise snake / hidden in plain sight xxxiv, 2005, centre pompidou paris

rather exact replicas of this work from controversial dutch visual artist ralf kwaaknijd have been acquired by a number of other museums of modern art, raising serious questions as to its authenticity. [ralf kwaaknijd is preparing a statement on the issue, it is said. more work by kwaaknijd later.].

tribal art? modern art? look and see

one of the many irritating things about the presentation of `tribal' art in western museums is precisely the implication of `tribal'.

what a complete lack of self-reflection. as if our society is not tribal. as if our medieval and much of our other-periods' art is not religious / shamanistic even.

but even on the aesthetic level, the difference in appreciation can be stunning to behold. i repeat the picture from the previous post, below. and i ask you: is this sculpture not in every sense more balanced, more provoking, more evoking than eg. any of giacometti's works? do you not think that most `modern' sculptors would have given an arm and a leg to have a form sense as profound as in this statuette?

man, wood, african 19-20th century

man, wood, african, 19-20th century (did not write down the details, sorry)

alberto giacometti, sitting man

alberto giacometti, sitting man (or something like that, did not write down the details, sorry), centre pompidou

so why don't we see any african art in the centre pompidou? or other `tribal' art? could it be that although we are supposedly in the 21st century, we are still as bigoted as our 19th century forebears? could it be we are still droogstoppels, only covering up?

Monday, June 23, 2008

world cultural heritage 2: musée du quai branly

one of the museums not permitting the taking of pictures is the (new french prestige) musée du quai branly, which shamelessly presents extremely valuable religious/shamanistic tribal art works from africa, asia, polynesia, and the americas... shamelessly you say, why do you use that word frank? well, because one cannot help but wonder where all these incredible art works came from, and how they were acquired. and even if they are in need of protection and conservation, why they are not in the respective national museums of the countries of origin. [the same question irrevocably pops up when visiting the louvre, and seeing the enormous amount of egyptian art which i believe was largely simply carted off during 19th and early 20th century by the french. why not give it back to egypt?]

so, the art works having most likely been taken away from peoples not capable of protecting their national cultural heritage, the museum also actively obstructs these peoples and the rest of the world in acquiring images of these art works.

are these not mankinds collective treasures? are these not meant for as wide a dissemination as is possible? shame, musée du quai branly.

man, wood, african 19-20th century

man, wood, african, 19-20th century (did not write down the details, sorry)

world cultural heritage: taking pictures in museums

in several important museums containing critical elements of world cultural heritage, it is forbidden to take pictures. the only sensible explanation for this is that the museum wants to exploit its collection even further by selling photographs in the museum shop.

also, in many of these museums, we are talking about art from centuries and centuries, deplaced from its original country (often robbed/stolen/looted in the days of colonialism).

i find myself increasingly angered by such museum policies.

from what does the museum, which is almost always publicly funded, derive its right to limit access to the imagery of its collection to those fortunate enough to be able to travel to the museum?

you can argue that other people can look at photographs in books, but the point is that most of these works cannot be found in books, or only very poorly photographed.

it is an example of closed source, where money and power motives of a few win out over benefit for all. shame on these museums. and shame on us for letting our legislation permit them to act like this.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

intermezzo: constantin brancusi in paris

illumination of this blog is necessary i think, or we will end up with words words words.

saw works of constantin brancusi in centre pompidou on my visit to paris. pictures can be taken freely in the museum -i will come back to this- so here three pictures i took:

constantin brancusi, sleeping muse

sleeping muse, constantin brancusi

constantin brancusi, sleeping muse 2

sleeping muse, constantin brancusi

constantin brancusi, sleeping muse 3

sleeping muse, constantin brancusi

here is where you can see a webpanorama 360 degree view of brancusi's atelier in centre pompidou.

icarus 5, multatuli 2

[just visited paris, stayed with a friend, which was very inspiring. talked about multatuli, for one. more on paris later.]

did multatuli's book max havelaar put an end to colonialism in the end? maybe. but not to economic slavery. how aware are we of the working conditions in china, india, pakistan, ... - where so much of our `cheap' goods & clothing come from? why is there still an organization called max havelaar trying to foster `fair trade'? are we more aware of the appalling amount of child labour than our 19th century predecessors?

i dare say not. or we have become more callous in these matters. how difficult is it REALLY to pressure governments into protecting at least the children of this world? i don't know. but a new multatuli would not be out of a job, of that i'm sure.

visiting amsterdam recently, i came across...the lauriergracht! readers of max havelaar will recall that lauriergracht no. 37 is the address of the satirical character droogstoppel, coffee-broker (makelaar in koffie, in dutch) with the firm last & co. i didn't know this canal (gracht means citycanal) really existed, but now of course i had to take my children to see no. 37...and to my surprise this is what i found:

lauriergracht no. 37, amsterdam

lauriergracht no. 37, amsterdam

if you look sharply, you will see the aged and faded letters on the stone read: last & co, makelaars in koffij. i can tell you, i was quite surprised. but some research showed me that the stone was placed later, at no. 37, as an ode to multatuli and his character droogstoppel. droogstoppel actually starts off max havelaar with:

I AM a coffee-broker, and live at No. 37 Lauriergracht. It is not my custom to write novels, or any such thing; so it was a long time before I made up my mind to order a couple of reams of paper and begin the work which you, dear reader, have just taken up, and which you ought to read if you are in the coffee business — or, in fact, if you are anything else. And not only have I never written anything which was in the least like a novel, but I don’t hold with even reading anything of the sort, because I am a man of business. For several years past I have been asking myself, What is the use of such things? And I am perfectly amazed at the impudence of poets and novelists in palming off upon you things which have never happened, and, for the most part, never can happen. Now, in my business — I am a coffee-broker, and live in the Lauriergracht, No. 37 — if I were to send in to a principal (a principal is a man who sells coffee) an account containing only a small part of the untruths which are the main point in all poems and romances, why, he would at once go to Busselinck & Waterman. (Busselinck & Waterman are coffee-brokers too; but it is not necessary for you to know their address.) So I take good care not to write any novels or send in wrong accounts. I have always noticed that persons who let themselves in for that kind of thing generally get the worst of it. I am forty-three, and have been at the Exchange for twenty years, so that I have every right to put myself forward when a man of experience is in demand. I have seen plenty of firms fail in my time; and usually, when I examined into the causes of their failure, it seemed to me that they must be sought for in the wrong direction given to most people in their youth.

I say, “Truth and sound sense!” And that I stick to. The mistake comes in, in the first place, with Van Alphen, even in his very first line about the “dear little creatures.” What on earth could induce this old gentleman to call himself an adorer of my little sister Truitje, who had sore eyes, or of my brother Gerrit, who was always biting his nails? And yet he says that “he sang these verses, compelled by love.” I used often to think, when I was a child, “Man, I should like to meet you, just for once; and then, if you refused me the marbles I should ask you for, or the whole of my name in chocolate letters, then I should consider you a liar.” But I never saw Van Alphen. I think he was already dead when he used to tell us that my father was my best friend — I thought far more of Pauweltje Winser, who lived next door to us — and that my little dog was so grateful for kindness! We never kept dogs, because they are dirty.

That is the way children are brought up; and later on, come other lies again. A girl is an angel! The man who was the first to discover that never had any sisters of his own. Love is bliss! One is going to fly, with one object or another, to the end of the earth. The earth has no ends; and, besides, love is madness. No one can say that I do not live happily with my wife. She is a daughter of Last & Co., coffee-brokers. I am a member of the most respectable club in Amsterdam. She has a shawl that cost ninety-two florins. And yet there was never any question between us of a foolish love like that, which insists on living at the very end of the earth! When we were married we made a little tour to The Hague; she bought some flannel there, and I am wearing undervests made of it to this day; but love never drove us out into the world any farther than that. Bah! it is all madness and lies!

It is not verses alone that seduce the young into untruthfulness. Just go to the theater and listen to the falsehoods that are being spread abroad there. The hero of the play is pulled out of the water by some fellow on the point of going into the bankruptcy court. Then he gives the fellow half his fortune. Why, such a thing could not possibly happen! Not long ago, when my hat was blown into the Prinsengracht, I gave the man who brought it back to me four cents, and he was quite satisfied. Of course I knew I should have had to give something more if it had been myself that he pulled out, but certainly not half what I possess. Why, it is clear that, on this principle, one need only fall into the water twice to be ruined! But the worst of it is, with such things represented on the stage, the public gets so accustomed to all these falsehoods that it thinks them fine, and applauds them. I should just like to throw a whole pit-ful of such people into the water, and see whose applause was sincere. I, who hold by the truth, warn every one that I am not going to pay so high a salvage for the fishing up of my person. Any one who is not satisfied with less may just let me stay where I am. On a Sunday, however, I should pay rather more, because then I wear my gold watch-chain and my best coat.

Yes, the stage ruins many — still more than the novels. It looks so well! With a little gold tinsel and paper lace things can be made so attractive — for children, that is to say, and for people who are not in business. Even when they want to represent poverty on the stage, the picture given is always a false one. A girl, whose father has gone bankrupt, is working to keep the family. Very good. There she sits, then, sewing, knitting, or embroidering. But just count the stitches that she takes in the course of the whole scene. She talks, she sighs, she keeps running to the window, but she does not work. The family who can live on such work as this must have few wants indeed. Of course a girl like this is the heroine. She has thrown several villains down the stairs. She continually calls out, “Oh, mother! mother!” and thus represents virtue. What sort of virtue do you call that, that takes a year to finish a pair of woolen socks? Does not all this give people wrong ideas about virtue and working for their living?

Then her first lover — he was formerly a clerk at the copying-book, but now a millionaire — suddenly comes back and marries her. Lies again. A man with money will never marry a girl from a house that has failed. And then, virtue rewarded! I have had plenty of experience in my time, but still it shocks me terribly when I see truth perverted in this way. Virtue rewarded! Isn’t it just like making a traffic out of virtue? It is not so in this world, and a very good thing it is that it is not. Where is the merit of being virtuous, if virtue is to be rewarded? Now, I am as virtuous as most people, but do I expect to be rewarded for it? If my business goes on well — which, in fact, it does; if my wife and children keep in health, so that I have no worry with the doctor and chemist; if, year by year, I can put away a little sum for my old age; if Fritz grows up a good man of business, so that he can step into my shoes when I retire and go to live at Driebergen — well, if all these things are so, I am quite content. But all that is a natural result of circumstances, and of my attention to business. I don’t ask any special reward for my virtue.

That I am virtuous is quite evident from my love for truth. This, next to my attachment to our orthodox belief, is my ruling passion. And I should like the reader to be quite convinced of this, because it is my excuse for writing this book.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

icarus 4: multatuli

ok. let me step outside of the visual arts for a moment, to introduce you to someone who is still -i believe- little known outside the netherlands:

statue multatuli amsterdam

statue of multatuli (by hans bayens) amsterdam

multatuli is seen by many as the greatest dutch writer ever, anyway i think he's a great writer [what great means i leave be, in the light of the ongoing chautauqua on quality; it looks like a gpr-qualification (gpr=generalized pagerank) but can also be simply personal, which is how i use it.]

although he is most famous for his revolutionary work max havelaar, or the coffee auctions of the dutch trading society, to which i will come back, his 7book work ideas is perhaps the most direct inspiration for this weblog to have seen some light of day (electrons of night is more accurate but would you get the analogy?).

to understand this, you should know that multatuli's numbered ideas are in their essence and form a weblog avant-la-lettre. but they date from the second half of the 19th century. they also contain a play and an entire, wonderful novel called woutertje pieterse.

yes, yes, you're getting impatient, i know. what the buzz does this multiperson have to do with icarus...

well, take the time to follow the links above, then you can read in what way multatuli was so far ahead of his time, and flying so much higher as to merit an association with icarus. in his ideas one can read also what his contemporaries write about him and his answers to this. and like boltzmann he put an imnsho lamentable amount of time and energy in trying to uplift his contemporaries to his own level. which, by sheer mass, results most often in being dragged down...

although? let me cite wikipedia on the longterm effects of max havelaar (written in 1860!):

The combination of these two strategies caused widespread abuse of colonial power, especially on the islands of Java and Sumatra, resulting in abject poverty and widespread starvation among the farmers.

Multatuli wrote Max Havelaar in protest against these colonial policies. Despite its terse writing style, it raised the awareness of Europeans living in Europe at the time that the wealth that they enjoyed was the result of suffering in other parts of the world. This awareness eventually formed the motivation for the new Ethical Policy by which the Dutch colonial government attempted to "repay" their debt to their colonial subjects by providing education to some classes of natives, generally members of the elite loyal to the colonial government.

Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer argued that by triggering these educational reforms, Max Havelaar was in turn responsible for the nationalist movement that ended Dutch colonialism in Indonesia after 1945, and which was instrumental in the call for decolonisation in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Thus, according to Pramoedya, Max Havelaar is "the book that killed colonialism".

to be continued.

Friday, June 13, 2008

icarus & spiritual growth: two-edged sword

icarus shot down at night (own work, 2006)

icarus shot down at night, own work 2006

i think the easily understood message of the icarus myth is: if you strive too high -egotistically- without regard for consequence and without a sense of balance, then you will crash. this seems actually the same as my `brave new world' feeling (science, apes fire) discussed in some previous posts.

but again i feel a bite to the the sense that the above is very often abused by people to bring down `highflyers'. act normal, they say. why don't you do as we do? you probably think you're better than we, don't you. but you're just an icarus, and you will crash.

so the spiritual growth that mankind -imnsho- desperately needs, is also stunted by the resistance of the group to anyone who wants to rise to a higher level of spirituality. in that sense the story of icarus could easily be a false account.

what if icarus designed the wings, and flew high? people got jealous, angry, frustrated, frightened by this new power, afraid of their hard-won positions in which they had become entrenched, scared they might lose their standing, their wealth,...

...and therefore they shot him down at night, and covered it up with a good story of melting wings...

icarus intermezzo 2: who is icarus anyway?

[this blog seems to be attracting quite a number of interested people from all over the world. amazing. but noblesse oblige: to be read means to be held to write.]

how did i get to icarus from science and apes...well that's not so difficult of course, since from greek mythology icarus is traditionally depicted as the foolish son of scientist/inventor/architect daedalus (and he's the one who built the palace on knossos with the labyrinth for the minotaur, and who was then marooned off on a deserted island with icarus, but contrived to escape using wings made of bird feathers and wax) who flew too close to the sun, thus melting the wax of his wings, thus crashing to his death in the sea below.

unwise use of science/technology. apes playing with fire...

but actually, i've always felt uncomfortable with the icarus story. the myth itself -though instructive- also begs for reinterpretation.
[i will -i promise- come back to the themes of quality & art, brave new world, personal fabrication, but i cannot leave poor icarus be]

the fall of icarus (own work, 2006)

the fall of icarus, own work 2006

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

icarus: reading about brueghel 2

in the train of thoughts that forms this chautauqua i'm reminded of rudy rucker's book as above, so below on the life of pieter brueghel the elder, one of my favourite artists. (first post here)

i find very revealing especially what the author makes pieter say about the following painting:

pieter bruegel, the fall of icarus

pieter bruegel, the fall of icarus

according to rudy, pieter paints this picture to show that icarus types can easily be missed from society. they do not contribute essentially, life goes on as usual with or without them. supposedly pieter brueghel adheres to simplicity of life, which prompts him to paint peasant scenes and peasant village landscapes, having little admiration for highflying `false' ideals.

of course i have no way of knowing pieter brueghel's mind when he painted the above. but rudy rucker's interpretation to me seems too easy. the real bite of the painting to me - and such a bite i consider pieter to be very capable of - is that the painting also depicts the narrow view of the worldly world. the farmer doesn't look up, not because he's knowingly not interested, but because he's too engrossed in his own world to notice anything out of the ordinary. the same for the herdsman, and the other (fisher?)man. the ship sails, but does not set out a rescue party for the person who has just crashed in the accomplishment of a miraculous feat. why not? well, there's time to consider, effort...and anyway these highflyers...have themselves to blame don't they? ignoring seems a safe bet.

i think brueghel in his time was a highflyer himself. the painting has this double edge, that it depicts what society (not brueghel!) thinks of real highflyers (not the happyfacehowdoyoudo (con)temporary stars of a given period) in their own era.

to be continued.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

science: we are apes playing with fire

rembrandt, doctor faust (detail)
rembrandt van rijn, doctor faust (detail)

another aspect of brave new world & scientific progress: it seems to me we resemble apes playing with fire. we uncover and unleash forces more powerful than ever before unleashed by mankind. but we have not grown significantly in a spiritual sense these past thousand or so years.

so we are left with serious threats to life on the planet (and therefore our own existence) such as nuclear war or nuclear terrorism or other nuclear disaster, the creation (through genetic engineering) of life forms -perhaps viral perhaps not- which can wipe out ecosystems or more, toxic waste / global pollution, global warming, to name a few.

less known but potentially just as dangerous (in my eyes): the ongoing creation of nanomachinery, and physical experiments aiming at the creation of a black hole on earth.

i've begun a sculpture series called `The World Circus Proudly Presents!!!' , probably as a way to vent my incredulity at our common human stupidity in these matters. pennysmart, pounddumb about sums it up for me. whatever brilliant scientific discovery is made, it will be swept up into the vortex of human greed, arrogance, intolerance, unwillingness to see further consequences, personal gainseeking etc.

we desperately desperately need spiritual growth. much more & much more urgently than any other growth.

The World Circus Proudly Presents!: The Terrorist Turtles with their Nuclear Balancing Act on Top of their Twin Towers!!! (own work, 2006)
The World Circus Proudly Presents!: The Terrorist Turtles with their Nuclear Balancing Act on Top of their Twin Towers!!! (own work, 2006, 150 x 90 x 90 cm, turning mobile)

The World Circus Proudly Presents!: The Terrorist Turtles with their Nuclear Balancing Act on Top of their Twin Towers!!! (detail of own work, 2006)