Member’s Voice: Originality – A Waste of Time! By David James Doody

Heinz Chili con Carne

Ceci n’est pas an original!

***

Hey Peter,

I am finally having a few moments of rest, just long enough to drop you a line. I had been meaning to drop you a note for a while now, actually I had thought to add a comment in regard to the blog on dadaism. Both Jorden and I were stoked, to say the least, to be included in such a pertinent discussion. Thank you for that. Without too much focus on pride, it feels good to have our work mean something to others, especially to those who are interested in art.

It’s Sunday morning, French toast and toasted pecans… but as I was saying, it was a good debate on dadaism today, and especially on the relevance of the “ready made”, and the notions of the loss of heart in art. For us, this cusp is a very interesting and fully charged place to be working, but, in all honesty, to come to writing a fully immersed position on art, artmaking, and the world of viewership – well, that really deserves more than a shorthand electronic dialogue between two super enthusiasts, but in reality… that is all I have to offer up at this stage of the morning… But as I imply from your earlier rebuttal, the sincerity of humor is so often overlooked as legitimate, valid place for art making. Now, I’m not trying to push the potency of irony, nor the surgical precision of sarcasm. I am just referring to humor in general. Generally speaking, if a work is not connected with serious connotations, it is often not taken seriously. Perhaps it is my own sheltered naivety that allows me at times to bask and revel in the not so serious nature of natural life, in the beauty of the moments in between. And perhaps my early introduction and fascination with the likes of Monty Python has persuaded me to “always look at the bright side of life”. In my opinion humor is often sadly discredited in art. But in saying so, like anything, art making and the reflections of life are not one-sided, but multi-dimensional, so humor is one side of a pervertible coin.

In regards, more specifically, to the concept of the “ready made” in contemporary art – I agree that the Duchampian notion of the “ready made”, at its time in its original context, had a certain potency seldomly found in current practices. However, I believe this is for a multitude of reasons. One of them being the “well that’s been done”. And we all know that sort of president can easily rob new material of its punch line (and now again I’m going to try not to fall into a discussion of the pertinence of Duchamp to his time and ours, due solely to the lack of commitment, energy and my interest in the beating of dead horses or overstating the obvious…).

I guess those concerns are lost on those who struggle in search of the “original”. And I say fuck that shit! I mean – what a waste of time that is! Isn’t the devotion to “originality”, and the search for wholly new artistic ideas, idioms, methods and motives, one of the most unoriginal positions one can take on as an artist? Aren’t the concrete assertions of an individual to complete and utter originality both in the same breath wonderfully, uniquely, enriching, inspiring as well as completely constricting, misdirected, naive and just a little redundant?

So what’s the use of “ready mades”, now that I’m no longer worried if they are a valid original or unique? “Ready mades” are like colors. Just one type of tool. One type of mark in the plethora of residual, excreting expressions so many of us refer to under the umbrella of “art”. And since I’m not chained down to anything here, I’m again free to make rogue collisions of colors, materials, images, items or what ever else might find its way into the realm of my mind.

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“Rogue collisions of colors, materials, images, items…” – Jorden Blue and David James Doody, “right window” (detail-3), 2008 (http://www.artdoxa/com/users/thedoodys/artworks/13119)

***

Sure, people have made full investigations into the autonomy of colors, their stand-alone qualities, their own “originalities”, and here I do not attempt to lay out judgements of good or bad or ugly. However, those investigations rarely interest me to the point of elation or anything. And I must admit I never really stoked, even when sitting in person in front of Yves Klein blue, but I guess he was stoked enough to keep moving with it… more power to him. For me, it has always been the dialogue, the internal conversations that exist between aspects of a work. The conversations that all at once include and exclude you, that are explicit or rather undefined – the space between what I hear and what it is I think I have heard.

And this is where I can agree with Michael Pointer and Charles Zigmund (Why more Dadaism? – by Charles Zigmund; (http://blog.artdoxa.com/?p=66) – that art (lets call it for the sake of fun neo-dadaistic) seems , at times, at least from my point of view, to lack something. But I’m not going to try and say it is a formulatable thing which I can point out, nor am I going to put forth that artists choose to use “ready made” materials because of lack of talent – that is far too narrow a view. Or that there is some power struggle set up between the users of found goods (which, I should point out, includes any one buying pre-ground pigmented paints and store bought brushes) and the purist “fine artists” who can create out of pure “original geniousity”. I believe that each and every one of us truly sets up context and dialogue for one another, like some simple base equation.

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“Each and every one of us truly sets up context and dialogue for one another…” – Jorden Blue and David James Doody, “even as a young boy…”, 2008 (http://www.artdoxa.com/users/thedoodys/artworks/9964)

***

However, I do feel (and this may just be a bit of pessimism locked deep down in my core, extending outwards far beyond just my feelings on artists and art works, on to the world at large…) a lot of people lack a sense of heart in what they do, a lack of conviction, perhaps futility – as if their actions have no real consequence and make no real difference. And that in itself saddens me a bit, but I guess not that much…

I like to believe there is some kind of resonance that can be felt as some kind of truth to honesty, following that honesty somwhere along some kind of path… and that is something I really sense from your short introduction and conversation with Jochen Hein (http://blog.artdoxa.com/?p=64 ). Although I’m very much in a different space than he in so many ways, I felt I could really identify with something there. He suggested a personal search – and relation of that search – through art and the potential of residual transcendence (http://blog.artdoxa.com/p=82) and experience captivated or at least related to in the making of art.

All the same, this is turning out more of a rant than anything else. Hah! Go figure… bad habits die hard… I’m going back to my toasted pecans which seem to have burned…

David

***

(Photos: HEINZ Chili con Carne – Peter Bies, all rights reserved;
“right window (detail-3)” and “even as a young boy…” – Jorden Blue and David James Doody, all rights reserved)

“Oh, it was absurd!” – Abstraction, Painting and Photography: An Interview with Jochen Hein, Part Two

 

“I gladly share the wealth of my wisdom with others.”
This part of the interview is more like a chat among old buddies, for old times sake… full of sentimental reminiscence… Indulge!

Peter: So losing your utopia was a relief?

Jochen: I wanted to be nobody’s fool. But I was a fool, after all. Just like everybody else.

Peter: Tell me about it… I remember you back in secondary school… we were a bunch of hippies… You used to be a big fan and avid reader of the works of Carlos Castaneda

Jochen: Those were the days! That was born out of an overwhelming desire for transcendency. Man! Castaneda! My daring attempt to overcome the limitations of adolescence! I wanted to know so badly what the hell is going on! I wanted so much! And I couldn’t get it! Well, just like any other boy at that age… So, in order to be cooler, wiser and more powerful than my peers, I would just have to acquire some secret knowledge, you know… so it had to be the occult… magic powers… the hidden lore of the Yaqui people… Thus I could be wiser and more powerful than anybody else – on a completely different level! On a level which others couldn’t even hope to understand… And I went wow! That’s it! Castaneda! And presto! I am the master! Yessir! Well… I still am. The master, I mean… It’s still the same. I’m still the same. I retreat into my shell. Paint my stuff. Explore regions I never went before… I paint to satisfy my desire for transcendency, for the sublime. But on a profane, down-to-earth level now. Secular. Nowadays I gladly share the wealth of my wisdom with others. Rejoice! Quite the contrary to Castaneda’s arcane system…

Peter: At that time, you’d been delving quite deeply into Castaneda’s strange universe.

Jochen: Among my peers, nobody else had. That way I could keep a high profile! Seemed pretty athletic to me… And I didn’t even have to be concerned about the inconsistencies of Castaneda’s system… The sheer possibilities of his crazy universe were so alluring. It was like playing the stock market without a clue… Let’s go for it! For the hell of it! He can’t be all wrong after all… Crap. Castaneda, like everybody else, just wanted to sell something, something only Castaneda himself would understand…

Peter: Well, I’ve read Castaneda and I must say, it got weirder and weirder from volume to volume…

Jochen: Because it had to make some sense, after all. Castaneda didn’t know what it was to become when he set out on his strange journey. I didn’t care. I was seventeen, and the whole thing reflected my relationship with the world. And I still appreciate some of The Teachings of Don Juan…

Peter: “Don’t join the battle you can’t win”?

Jochen: That was ever so helpful! Don’t go where you can’t succeed. Besides, I hate to be forced into something. I hate force. Ever since I finished my Zivildienst* as a paramedic, I’ve always done what I wanted to do.

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“Do what I want!”

By doing so you can easily lose your way. But it’s still your decision. Castaneda was all about that “Freiheit im Geiste”. Freedom of the mind. Spiritual freedom. That was vital. I might have found these ideas elsewhere, but Castaneda presented himself on my way, at that time and place.

Peter: Speaking of your job as a paramedic – how was it to be so close to death at that age?

Jochen: I remember a heart failure… a bowling alley… the wife, his drunk brothers, subdued in a corner… Us tired paramedics riding the old ambulance, trying to reanimate, waiting for the doctor on call… It was disgusting. It was disgusting to be in contact with life in all its banality and mortality. I was twenty. I wanted to be in close contact with the pulsating heartbeat of life and not to be concerned with the technical details of death and dying. It was my choice, but I was shocked and depressed. Death was on my mind. But I couldn’t figure out the meaning of death. There seemed to be no sense in dying. The ambulance station was on Parkstrasse, north of the Schlosspark. In between shifts, I’d take a break and lie down in the park, under those big, old trees, often. I put on mental sunglasses. Frosted glasses. Immunity.

Peter: Like that pop song… “Immunity – my way of hiding when the truth hurts me…” It was you who turned me on to Rupert Hine in those very days, dude… And I remember your legendary Parkstraße parties.

Jochen (wistfully): Yes, those were always a full success. Despite my gloomy mood.

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Putting on mental sunglasses…? – Jochen Hein: Untitled (Schlossgraben – The Moat), 2000

***

Peter: Then you went to art school in Hamburg. You got any closer to that pulsating heartbeat of life?

Jochen: To be honest – no. Back in Husum, I was rather glamorous. It is easy to pose as an artistic type in such a small town. It was all different in Hamburg. Much more anonymous.

Peter: Well, Hamburg isn’t exactly the home of the arts either. Money rules here. Trade and commerce. Advertising.

Jochen: Right. But as a student, I had the chance to try out a couple of things there. I was determined to learn something. Things I was interested in. Things I had never done before. Nudes, for example. Life drawing. I had to realize, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get a grip on it. It was beyond my grasp. I guess that’s why I wanted to do it in the first place. To try and find out. Experience. Gradually, I got hold of something. I came into my own. I drifted into a flow of my own. I was able to do things which were artistically satisfying and gratifying. That was exciting. I didn’t went out a lot, I didn’t spend much time in clubs or so.

Peter: What – you didn’t hang out with Lehmi and Paul at the Bar Centrale? The Subito?

Jochen: Maybe for a game of table soccer… I didn’t drink at the time… I was a tee-totaller! Hanging out with those stoners was always a bit of an effort, really. Exhausting.

Peter: You went abstract for a short period of time, back then. I saw those bright, colorful abstracts hidden in a corner of your old Grindelhof studio once … as if you were ashamed of them. You told me then, that you had totally abandoned non-figurative painting. Not your cup of tea?

Jochen: Oh, it was absurd! I had gone abstract under the influence of one of my professors. I don’t want to remember. Too painful. Too embarrassing. I gave it up as soon as I discovered the hyperrealists and the airbrush. Eventually, it turned out that I didn’t like to paint with paint, actually. I figured that there were no future discoveries to be made in the field of traditional painting. Everything’s been done and tried and practiced already. I wanted to develop a new technique, and I found the airbrush quite adequate. Appropriate. You know, Chuck Close had become a hyperrealist because he wanted to distinguish himself from the abstract expressionists. And to abandon direct contact to the canvas, to transfer paint by air – I found that idea fascinating! At the beginning, I just wanted to be different, do something different. It was as simple as that. On the other hand, I wanted to go directly into the paint, into the color as well. That’s why I had gone abstract in the first place, well, at least temporarily. So I started to use big scrapers. To get abstract, painterly subject matter. Something Gerhard Richter was doing at the same time, actually. On huge canvasses. I went to see “Von hier aus”, the legendary Düsseldorf art show in 1984. There I stood before Richter’s giant abstracts, awed, crushed. Great, Jochen! So you’ve had the same idea. A certain impulse to go with a certain subject. Never again have I felt it so clearly, so explicitly… You have an idea. Somebody else has the same idea. But his implementation is so much better, so infinitely superior. Gerhard Richter had an entire universe of experience at his disposal. A different dimension of non-figurative painting altogether. So I gave it up, then.

Today, it’s different again. The way I use my material now, I’m going towards abstraction as a matter of course. There is a lot of abstract color in my paintings now, because I have a different approach towards the image now, the image object, the image matter. I used to walk around with a vision of an image in my mind, with a vision of a painting. My visual memory used to be the primary tool to create an image. Now I want to create a thing, a thing to be convincing not only as an image, but as an object as well. My paintings aren’t any longer meant to be the result of cortical vision, of neuro-imaging only, but there’s come into the picture, literally, another level of imaging – the physical element. It took me many a detour to bring together the vision and the material.

Peter: Well, good for you!

“I need only very little information!”

Jochen (patronizingly): You know, Peter, the collages you’ve shown me the other day… I like your stuff!

Peter: They date back to 2006, when I still had a studio. I don’t have that any longer. So I don’t do any paintings or collages any more. I do a lot of photography now. And lots of editing. My right shoulder hurts from a million mouse clicks. But it’s fun. What I get is pure eye candy, though. Mostly eye candy. I like to work with contrast and gradation.

Jochen launches into a vivid and erudite lecture on image histograms and gray scale values. He’s an expert. I’ll skip the details.

Jochen: It doesn’t have to be eye candy, you know? If you find the perfect form for your theme, your subject, it isn’t eye candy any more.

Peter: I like to emulate analog b/w photography. Filter simulations. High-key lighting. To get a certain late sixties documentary look… Günter Zint… RD Brinkmann… I just want to get decent pictures. Technically okay pictures. Without any artsy pretensions. Just like twenty-five years ago, like, with my first camera, a Canon AT-1…

Jochen: Yes… I remember that one… I had a Minolta XD-7 then but let me show you how I do it… See here? Lago di Comomonumental light, the sparkle, children on the beach…

Peter (unimpressed): This looks like a textbook example…

Jochen (animated): But look what happens when I take this detail… I’ll do this… and this… now this is interesting… you have a totally new and free composition – and you can be totally oblivious to the fact that this comes from a camera! Take this effect… look how little it takes to get this overexposed, white frosting! I need only very little information! Indeed, only a little negative information here, a little positive information there – and I’d be a whole lot wiser!

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“…something evil, something malicious…” – Jochen Hein: Tree Trunk, 1998

I’ve learned something! I’ve understood something I can use in painting! The photograph has taught me what is required to create this particular spatial illusion. I hadn’t expected this. But I’ve seen it now. And I like it. Different exposures. Now here’s a dull, boring photograph. But here… let’s cut out this detail… the water has a new look here… something else… it’s turned to oil or whatever, something strange! What I mean is, it wasn’t there before. It wasn’t on my inner screen. I had no vision of this, no preconception. But now it is there. It was given to me because I did something. I did something to the image. I was active. And it would take on another meaning still, if I decided to paint it. Another dimension. It would be interesting.

This is why I like to take pictures. I throw away most of them. But what remains is full of surprise.

Peter: Sure. I know. I do the same.

Jochen: I make a lot of eye candy, too… but while doing so I’m bound to find something new… Some artistic angle. Unintentionally. Involuntarily. A view, an aspect which really fascinates me. Something I want to translate into – something evil, something malicious, like this here oily water… A still posing as slow motion… It doesn’t take much to get me interested. Free association photography. All doubts and misgivings included!

Peter: Now I get it! What you meant, when you told me why things look like how they look like! Thank you for the interview!

(*Zivildienst: Alternative service for conscientious objectors)

Post Scriptum:

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The Death Metaphor

This nasty artefact is a model spacecraft made of plastic scrap. Jochen used to be a big fan of space movies. For more than twenty years he’d been harboring a secret ambition to build a model spacecraft entirely made of plastic scrap. Always procrastinating and postponing the deed. Until now. I’ve spontaneously christened this super-aggressive, evil monstrosity The Death Metaphor, and I’ve got my reasons. According to Freud and Lacan, death drive and libido are one. I feel this is a very healthy and highly libidinous abreaction of dormant anger and frustration. Congratulations, dude!

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“Hate, as relation to objects, is older than love.” — Sigmund Freud

All the shots of Jochen Hein and The Death Metaphor by Peter Bies. All rights reserved.