You tell me that you are communicating emotions. You store and process emotional experiences, give them form and transmit them further. Your own experiences and also the experiences of others. But it is not your private ego that we see and we cannot infer your consciousness from the picture.
One of my favorite thinkers, the German sociologist, Niklas Luhmann, describes human consciousness in terms of psychical systems that are constantly coming into formation by linking one thought to another. A new thought can only arise when an earlier thought clutches the new one as being relevant. He calls the social contexts of which people are part social systems. Social systems, he says, produce themselves dynamically by connecting communications with communications. The bearing premise for Luhmann's psychical and social systems is meaning. In other lines of thought, God or reason is the bearing premise, but Luhmann believes that life revolves around what is meaningful.
When you tell me that your pictures are personal messages from you but are not manifestations of your privateness views and that they repudiate any biographical reading, you are toppling the late modern worldview Luhmann has given me concepts to understand. This might appear to be a sophistic theoretical observation but it does have revolutionary consequences.
You clearly do not subscribe to the supposition that people have an unconscious, true and private core – a black box – that we get a chance to look inside of when we contemplate your works. What vanishes in this denial is the expressive, in the classical sense, as a yardstick for your pictures. And with this, also the conception of mankind's innermost core as being what is especially valuable. This is the conception we have otherwise grown accustomed to praising as the authentic when we grasp works by Asger Jorn, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.
I am discovering you as a person who behaves like a narrative, or in Luhmann's words, like a psychical system that behaves like a social system. This means that you emerge into the world by linking communications with communications. When you, in your works, attach other's experiences to symbols of a bygone age and distill this into a personal message from you to those who might happen to intercept it, you and your works are communicating about what is meaningful in a way which, up until now, has only been vouchsafed larger systems to communicate. Such systems are, for example, the various "isms" in art history or the narratives of human beings' linear progress in developmental history. Do you agree? When a person is behaving like a narrative instead of a consciousness, then what get dissolved are the categories, the indexes and the subjects that are all supposed to classify the many consciousnesses into streams, tendencies and epochs.
I wonder whether what we theorists are currently observing as a tendency to use emotions as material in art is merely an observation generated by the fact that we are exclusively wearing spectacles that can see and look for new categories? What if that which is at stake in your works is simply another way of being human? Another way of being an artist? Is this what you are feeling when you say that you do not want to be classified and that you are afraid of history's verdict?
Contemporary art's hardest historical instruments are the conditions that the avant-garde has defined. When we look through the avant-garde's optics, we catch sight of the new as the absolute premise for what is valuable. The new as being something different from the ordinary. The avant-garde's artists have steadily and steadfastly been widening the potential space for materials and form and the historians have gone along with the narrative and included body, silence, actions, private spheres, social plastics, interventions. Is this the gavel that you do not want to be controlled by?
Can we judge with anything else but history? When I ask about your success criteria for a work, you mention mirroring, reflection, and relevance. These are relational concepts. They are not absolute qualities linked up with the object, like the new is. They are not aiming up toward any hierarchical position but take their momentum more in the form of horizontal movement. Circulation. Catalyst. Filter. Empathic antenna. Do you recognize the words? The relational criteria do not belong to you or to your work. They allow the intermediate space between the artwork and its surroundings to define the work's content. The artwork's meaning? In Luhmann's terminology, your success criteria are precisely the meaningful connections where communication is attached to communication.
I wonder whether you install the relationally meaningful as a criterion? As a contrast to the universally human, which, in fact, determines the great time-honored narrative that something can be equally universal and true for every human being. The relationally meaningful subscribes to the notion that nothing is universal or true and that meaning is only established in the form of valid connections in some of the meetings that your works achieve. Maybe that's why you ask: Should one want something for the world?
For my part, the valid connection is skin. I receive the opportunity to link up my narratives with that of the art works through the skin. Torso after torso. I notice how a trifling displacement in the hip is transmitted as an erotically conscious repose, how an extended neck reflects an apprehensive expectation of praise, how the skin's soft surplus reflects the sense of tender youth. The skin becomes the first reference for recognition.
I recognize ... and fall silent
Published in North Magazine no. 141/2013