mimicry (2010) __

the shaman (2009) __

sieg und niederlage (2008-10) __

expansion der gegenwart (2009) __

brigade joussance (2004) __

spaßkulturen (1997) __

international fuel crisis (2007-2010) __

kunst des nationalismus (2006) __

unkirche (2007) __

widerlegung der unterhaltung (1998) __

traktat über die schlange (1998) __

turns (2001-2009)

___

 I don’t make sense

(A Nihilist Statement)

by Z. Terzic

 

In 1999 when New York based artist and instructor Lucio Pozzi came into my studio he described my approach as “nihilist”. By accumulating and acquiring different styles, attitudes, disciplines, and concepts I do not establish an artistic/scientific approach whatsoever but rather engage in the deterioration of form, meaning and value. Yet, this destructive attitude is not totalist in the modernist sense of “non-art”, “anti-art”, destruction art, a Nietzschean anti-science or the like. Also, the typical antibourgeois art-macho-radicalness is not an issue – here I come, here I go. Rather, it is a slowly paced “entropic” attitude towards anything, hidden behind the prettiness of forms and ideas. The “natural biology” of imagery and text, so to speak. It starts with informative things and ideas and makes them less informative, and more importantly, it is not consequent in its approach. Consequence is the evil of meaning.

So, am I a nihilist? I would say: Yes, but it is impossible to claim that. Why? You know why.

A nihilist claims, firstly, to know that nothing has any value or meaning whatsoever. Fine. But, secondly, a nihilist claims that a nihilist position itself is of no value or has no meaning. Thus nihilism – in its consequent form – is basically an assertion about the impossibility of all being, including the impossibility of this very assertion. Yet, a nihilist acknowledges this impossibility (although it is impossible to acknowledge anything) and somehow would like everybody else to acknowledge the fact that there are no facts, that e.g. when we look around, no-body looks at no-thing, or, when we look at each other, no-body looks at no-body. Everything is speechless, form-less and lacking any texture or imagery.

Is this notion one of the reasons why Andy Warhol imagined his gravestone to be blank?

The reasoning behind all this has a very long philosophical tradition since pre-socratic Gorgias claimed that there is nothing, and that, even if anything existed one could not perceive it, and finally, even if one could perceive it, one could not communicate it. (It is worth mentioning, though, that this sophist made a good living of these and similar assertions by traveling around the Greek colonies and holding lectures about and displaying nothing.)

I would put against Gorgias that a nihilist is idealistic and needs to be, because even an impossible life has to be “lived”. A nihilist would like all humans to feel “nihilistic”, because if everybody believed in nothing there would be nothing to argue about and the world would be a peaceful place. Simultaneously, one must also see it the other way around, of course: the world is already “nihilistic”, and wars are waged very often because of precisely “nothing” (think of WWI). The worst conflicts develop out of literally nothing.

The hidden agenda behind nihilist claims is idealistic: either one strives for less meaning, or one detects that there is no meaning at all. It is about jumping and hiding in front of or behind the claims of others, as the own claim is impossible. Yet, the other is impossible, as well.

What does this tell you about art, about my work? Nothing. Nothing?

Ideally, this statement does not make any sense, because I don’t make any sense. But it is also true that if I made any sense, I would be a true nihilist, as well.

There is no soul, says Nietzsche, and by it he means that there is no art, and there is nothing that makes sense – only meaningless material bodies. But then he asks: "What does my body want from music?" That is: how can nature long for meaning if there is no meaning in nature?

Obviously, there are questions that do not stand answers.




                                                                        


 

How bad things start

(2002)

 

Bad things start bad. No.1: Simple Truths.

You want simple truths laid out in front of you? They need to be simple in order to strike you? To touch what is nearest to you? A combination of words that absolutely make sense, that will keep you from thinking about other things that are less important? (Why then, oh reader, do you keep thinking about less important things all the time?)

What is your effort anyway? What is it that you intend to do so simple truths will come to you, at all? What is your invitation? Simple truths do not need politeness or generosity.

I guess what they need is simplicity and surprise. Why is it so difficult to be surprised? You say “it came on to me”. You cannot explain how the idea came on to you, still, you insist on claiming that it is your idea. How mysterious! You lay claims on something that you never have controlled and will never control – as if a little bird had flown into your room window by coincidence and you claimed that it is your bird, not nature’s bird. It is your coincidence, but it is not your bird. However, if it is not yours whose is it? If nature “owns” it, what is nature? Nature is something that has no claims in regard to anything whatsoever – even its natural laws may disintegrate over time (we are looking several billions of years ahead).

Yet, if there is no universal ownership (=purpose) neither by you nor by nature – who do you expect will write words that matter, will produce images that matter? What is the enchanting formula for the lightning that strikes you, a lightning that comes from nowhere, no God and no nature involved?

On one hand, your personal “world formula” is not to be too general because it could sound tautological, like “I am what I am”. Great for songs but terrible for anything else. There is no evidence in tautology (albeit tautology itself is evident). On the other hand, wisdom is not to be too specific as it becomes trivial and mechanic, like encyclopedic knowledge, e.g.: “I know that x has 20 times more y than z.” This is knowledge that makes some people stupid because they think like archives would think if they had a brain – but real archives aren’t stupid because they don’t have a brain; if you do have a brain, don’t be stupid (which is what US-Americans call a “no-brainer”). It is a no-brainer to say: ideas are living beings. Everything else is dead. Is this a platonic sophism? Ideas are dead? God is dead and so forth?

Imagine: After I have accepted each of your clever critical remarks, after I have granted you every possible acknowledgment, after I have given in, lost all arguments, all words, all thoughts, tell me, victorious, what are you looking after? There are no victories. Only defeats. What moves you anyhow? Why do you move at all? What kind of input do you strive for? Not too general, not too specific. The right moment? Kairos, the golden opportunity – is what drives you?

So, this peculiar moment – what is going on in your mind, now, this very second? Where is your lightning? Where are your flashes? No lightning. Darkness. Dead life. Archives?

 

 
 


TOP TEN LIST of what I remember from New York            

(2002)

 

10. The elevator man — Before I came to New York I never had any encounters with elevator men. I forgot his name. Our meetings were very short (about 20 sec) and formal (hello, thank you, good bye).

 

9. Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt’s classes — a joy of scienza gaya, splendid insights in the nature and the imagology of art, film, acting, “in” and “out” - analogies, life, sub-life, and hell’s kitchen. With Tommy I felt like captured in the hallways of an art monastery inmidst of an orchestra of sun light shining through colourful windows and ornaments.

 

8. Art critic Jerry Saltz’s classes — in politics it won’t work but in art theory it does: Jerry divided his memorable slide presentations into ‘bad’ and ‘good’. Despite his journalist ‘camouflage’ I believe he is and always has been an earnest philosopher, which, by the way, should be the secret identity and alter ego of every art critic.

 

7. Fellow student who wanted to beat me up because of my art work. We know about our instincts — and the perceptive Fine Arts chair David Shirey has one more story to tell to the next generation of students.

 

6. Richard Tuttle for asking: “Where is the art?” while standing in-midst of my crowded studio. I did understand the question, of course. Yet, in the end it is a rhetorical issue or an issue of power: the one who asks has the authority to do so. Point Your finger. However, art may be nowhere, at least not in my studio.

 

5. Taboos like: Nobody wants to speak about money. One does not do it: money is part of the game. Play, do not talk about the rules.

 

4. Annoying bureaucracy — the original idea of bureaucracy was to create and maintain justice and predictability. Nowadays, it is the opposite: dealing with bureaucracy is unpredictable as ever and in regard to justice: you have to buy it of the state or the institution that you are dealing with or you won’t get it. (I will not go into personal details.)

 

3. Naked guy completely wrapped in duck tape stepping out of his doorway. Three possibilities: a) a “weirdo”;  b) an actor about to walk to the set/stage;  c) a guy who loves to wear duck tape all over his body; I go for c).

 

2. Secrets are either things that I do not like to remember or I remember at will and with pleasure. I did not have any secrets then, I spilled everything out and thus became a secret to myself. “How are You?” “Well, I don’t remember.”

 

1. Garbage — someone stated once that every garbage – as it concerns fundamental questions about our environment – is holy, suggesting that all garbage of our industrial cities shall therefore be placed in cathedrals and churches. “Holy” means: “worthy of complete devotion”. I remember rich-looking ladies carrying dog shit in plastic bags while walking after their pets, which must have certainly left a deep impression to every animal cherishing Hinduist. Holy Spirit and Shitty Bag.

 

 



 

Holy Spirit and Shitty Bag

The Philosophy of the unimportant (2000)

 

What is unimportant but holy? Garbage. The city would be completely covered with garbage and dog feces in a few days if upper-class ladies did not carry it away or New Jersey trucks did not transport it to the other side of the Hudson River (— a shit-covered city: a new film idea for German film directors living in Hollywood).

What is unimportant? Art. Art is so unimportant that, until now, there has not existed a single culture without it. We depend on things that we don’t need but that make others believe that we need it. Garbage, art. Nobody needs art, we have gyms, supermarkets, television, organic milk, etc. but people nevertheless want to own art or to buy art or to make art. But do they “need” it? No. They want it. Because they do not need it. They can afford to not need it.

The first artists were cave women and/or men who were a “little different”, i.e. who were probably unable to hunt or to gather. Either they were dismissed from the tribe or they discovered new ways to contribute to the group. The idea of early depictions of animals and hunters must have been caused by a social miss-function — much later the bourgeoisie will come to call this state of the art “genius”. I like these useless genius painters from Lascaux, Altamira, and the other couple of caves that have been found by now. As far as Altamira is concerned, it stroke me – when I visited the site – that the scientific literature does not emphasize the compositional method of the cave drawings. The drawings have been placed very consciously according to the relief structure of the cave's stone ceiling. They have not been placed randomly. We can relate to the purpose without knowing the motivation. And that gives us a good reason to compare neolithic and our existence.

Existentialist art theories since the late 19th century stressed that art and pain, art and tragedy are complements. The poete maudit is the prototypical modernist artist, who offers himself to his oevre. In the last years we have come back to the painters’ of Lascaux theory that art and leisure (fashion, shopping, celebrities, hypes, etc.) are complements. In a certain sense we still haven’t left the caves.

Well, in this unimportant world of garbage and art I recall my decission to go to New York to visit a garbage recycling institute, called art school. I produced a lot of waste admittingly, but recycled some of it, made unimportant stuff look even more unimportant and so on.

Our need determines what we depend on. At the same time we depend on things that we don’t need anymore (e.g. garbage). If this is the case then the definition of our lives cannot be complete. Something is missing.

The German philosopher Hegel (1807) called this state of mind the “unhappy consciousness”, which, by the way, appears to be the German version of Thomas Jefferson’s “Pursuit of Happiness” (1778) — Frankly, who pursuits happiness must be unhappy or must at least sense that something is missing.

 

 


 

Life is not like the movies (2000)

(it is not even like life)

 

Perhaps these modern caves of Lascaux represent the answer to the existential gap that seems to concern conscious mankind from the very beginning. It has been pointed out very often: Plato’s cave allegory is nothing but an envision of the movie theater: there exists a light of truth (resp. projector) and only philosophers (resp. directors) are able to understand the production process of its reality of which the general audience only perceives the “shadows” (resp. the two-dimensional image). General audience cannot perceive the whole “story”, they miss something. You can watch “Psycho” a hundred times, you will always find something to miss.

Similarly, our existence is always accompanied by the experience of a gap: “I” am “there”. But what else is there? Or: “I” am part of the world. But where is this “I”? Philosopher Martin Buber found the relationship of Me and ‘Thou’ to be the closest answer to this question of existence. Yet, this is a notion too religious for me. I would rather watch “Psycho” a hundred times and be dissatisfied rather than find fulfillment in the divine other.

True, life is not like “the movies”, it bears serious consequences and there is no repetition, no renewal, no eternity.  Nevertheless, the term “life” contains a lot of imagination, construction, openness, and “direction”, if you will, that can be found in movies, as well. Life has learnt from the movies. Today, almost anyone’s biography could be used as a film script (— Vasari is in retrospect the first art-filmmaker of history). And besides: do we only have one single biography, or is not our Curriculum Vitae rather a complex network of biographies, short stories, never ending repetitions, “eternal recurrences”? At the end, is not our life very much like the movies?

That is: Our life and the art and artifacts that “participate” in it are not analogies but complements: You need the unimportant that permanently surrounds you because without the unimportant you are unimportant — a lot of people misunderstand this and try permanently to look important. Admittingly, no one wants to look like garbage.

But we all are potential garbage that will be disposed of one day. And we live the life of products (“cycles”), we try to be “new”, to “improve”, to be “effective” etc. People who are “out of cycle” become “old-fashioned” or out of date. But if you only look closely everything that you look at is outdated.

 

 

 


 

How to become a young artist (2001)

 

In 1999 I made this painting. It showed abstracted forms on a slick surface. Pretty. I usually do not paint this way, but I wanted to paint something that I haven’t painted before. I remember that a certain kind of abstract formalism was very fashionable in the New York galleries at that time, so immediately after completion fellow students approached me to congratulate me for the painting as if I had been sworn in to a constitution and now had joined a new club. As if it requires genius to paint a certain way and not the other way – ridiculous. I noticed that my intention and their perception – as often happens – diverged. They supposed that I placed myself in a certain art context by painting this. They would not even think of the possibility that I got there, where they saw me, by “mistake”, or that I was a ghost of an artist but not a real one. I did not intend to paint this. I just painted it. This is not to sound mystical, it is just a matter of the production process in an experimental studio surrounding. You produce permanently, and you are not always aware or you simply forget your intentions, which is a good side effect of making art (and probably the only effect of art in general), as it opens up the horizon of things you can produce instead of sticking to “known knowns”(D. Rumsfeld).

Now, if I hadn’t followed artistic rules – namely, to work against my own intentions – who knows what would have happened? Would a certain kind of formal revelation led to a certain style that retro-actively would have been declared as inevitable? That a certain type of art critic later would describe in teleological meditations and with art historical references in order to place may work yet another time in a context where it never was meant to be?

My role would perhaps have been the naive character who does not know exactly how he produces results. The intelligent dumb artist type. I would have to act “young”, straight forward, intimidating, proud, unconscious etc. but at the same time strategically aware of the will to power that rules the art universes – shortly: this effective combination of naivete and strategy that forcefully determines the process of generating value with non-functional objects (art work).

Certainly, I was naive in other terms, instead. I was and perhaps still a believer in the honesty of content and form...

 

The matters were and still are simple: If you found your niche – let us say, you exclusively use only certain colors, forms, or material, which others will later call your “style” – you are recognizable in the market place, which makes sense, as you don’t want to make a complicated world even more complicated.

Don’t spoil the party even if there is no party.

 

Wait a second ... (theory in progress)