Jury Competition

We can enjoy a lot of competitions in the field of the arts. In each of these competitions there is a different kind of rationale about how to judge the performances of candidates. The composition and competence of the members of the jury are of particular importance. We all tend to agree on this. However, the basic aim or direction of the competition needs to be defined or even redefined from time to time. Some perceive a competition useless if for example nobody takes notice of the results or the event. A good fight or drama within the jury helps to attract attention to it even if candidates suffer at times. The Belgian Music competition „Concour de la Reine Elisabeth“ has an annual major competition of young musicians competing for the beginning of a career as soloist. All phases of the competition are up for streaming so we all can watch and form our own opinions on the many candidates. It is not just the solo performance which counts but also the team performance with orchestra and the openness to new compositions in the realm of classical music. There is no vote of the public (yet?) like in the widely followed „European song contest“ but public acclaim does not leave a jury unmoved I believe. Tough work for jurors to single out small differences of fairly high standards to even enter the competition. The success of a jury has probably another evaluation criteria which consists in the follow up of candidates 5 or 10 years after the event or the awards. The making or destroying of careers as solo performers might hinge on very small differences on a single day. One competition with several prizes awarded is an encouraging way to promote musicians or other artists.

Concours de la Reine Elisabeth 2024 RTBF

Deutsch Deutscher

In English grammer we use comparative adjectives to express that something or someone has changed or undergoing change. Germany might have become more German. The second usage is to make comparisons not only between two points in time, but between two statuses or of two artefacts more generally. The statement “Deutschland wird deutscher”, therefore, intends to describe an ongoing process or the transition process from one state to the other. This statement as such does not offer any explanation or definition of the original state, nor of the second point of reference. It might just describe the dynamics or the direction of the dynamics. In this example it deals with social dynamics. Germany in the 21st century is posing more questions about its identity and future directions than some time ago. The artist Katharina Sieverding has put up this reflection as a poster on walls to provoke discussions about the way to identify and deal with German identities in the early 1990s, shortly after re-unification of the 2 parts of Germany (Image below from “Nationalgalerie für Gegenwartskunst, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin” 2024-5).
30 years later we are scared by a ruthless right-wing extremist and brutal movement that takes to the streets and commits crimes.
It is no surprise that the Higher Administrative Court in Cologne has confirmed that the “BfV’s classification of the party AfD and of its youth organisation as a “Verdachtsfall” (subject of extended investigation to verify a suspicion) as well as the publicising of this classification to be lawful“.
It is a step ahead to become “deutscher” if we battle out such decisions in courts rather than by force on the streets, although this has failed once in German history already. The poster action by Katharina Sieverding is a reminder to monitor and deal with these topics continuously, albeit the knifes may be coming in closer than before. Being frightened is no option in order to defend democratic values. 

Attune Spheres

In Berlin it is easy to walk through the history of art to up-to-date contemporary art installations. Just walk from the Alte to the Neue and then to the Contemporary Nationalgalerie. With the installation and performance in the monumental Hamburger Bahnhof the artist Alexandra Pirici succeeds in an extraordinary way the combined impression of several art formats. I felt particularly attracted by the sound and resonance that the dancers achieved in the huge historical hall of the former train station. Embedded in a choreography that spans the whole hallway and the top of a sand dune, the ideas of „Attune“ bring in demonstrations of scientific experiments as well. We are reflecting on how structures, biological, physical or geologic processes coexist. It is another example of the intersection of biological, psychological and social phenomena. The links between science and art are more direct than what most people tend to believe. This encompassing experience catches all our senses and our mind. It is very likely that this intense experience in the museum space, which attunes our sensory perception of the artwork, sticks with us for longer than many other pieces of art. The 21st century will reveal an even more powerful language of art as it incorporates even more formats to grab our attention and imagination. The research of how patterns are formed is an important question for social scientists as well. All approaches to the subject are welcome and each one reveals our knowledge gaps despite remarkable progress. (Image: Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin 2024-5-11, Alexandra Pirici)

Infinite Landscapes

The “Alte Nationalgalerie” celebrates the 250th birthday of Caspar David Friedrich in Berlin. With a considerable effort to unite in one exhibition many paintings and drawings that stem from other collections of public and private origins. This particularly remarkable as a section of the exhibition is devoted to paintings that were intended originally to be seen next to each other (compare catalogue p. 233). Comparing 2 images from the same painter evolve into a narrative. This raises curiosity as in some instances the 2 paintings do not treat the same subject. Your very own interpretations and associations will make for an individual journey through the sheer endless spaces. The exhibition allows to grasp some of the many questions posed by the period of enlightenment not only in Germany. After “God is dead” what will happen? How is mankind defined? What is its relationship to nature? Are we just left alone or what comes after individualism? Even for painters, much like scientists, it is just as important to pose the right questions. Leaving the exhibition with more questions than answers will put you in the “Berlin state of mind” of 200 years ago. Greiswald, Dresden, Rügen and Copenhagen as well as nearby mountains were influential locations and landscapes for Caspar David Friedrich. Berlin 1906 „Jahrhundert Ausstellung“ made him famous again, despite decades of being forgotten. Yet another question to ponder and wonder about. An additional merit of the exhibition is the section on painting techniques and the use of his sketches and drawings for the preparation of the oil paintings. The final riddle to be solved is the price differential between the German and English version of the catalog in the bookshop next to the usual merchandising props.

Photos Exhibit

Our usual expectation of an exhibition of photography is to look at photos at a wall. Sometimes there is more it. The Exhibition Space at the “Haus am Kleistpark” features Michael Schäfer who attempts to go a bit beyond these traditional forms. In the works of photo cubes on water surfaces “2021_57”, or a dice floating on the waves of oceans, the video representation of his photographs takes the assembled images beyond their flat 2D surface. However, the 2D representation is at the origin, then transformed into a 3D dice, which then is animated as a 4D format. Moving beyond the flat screen image takes photography into the 21st century.
His work “Les acteurs 1-26” from 2007 is shown at the entry hall of the exhibition. It shows pupils of a class at an elite school who deem themselves in leadership roles in the near future. Is it acting? Is it projection into a future role they are likely to take on. They represent stereotypes, of course, but some are pretty convincing in these roles already. Some others still seem to reflect on what they are doing there. Even acting these roles, they are aware of the meaning of social rank and class in society. Without having read the sociologist Bourdieu, all are aware of the fine, little elements of distinction as they have evolved over time. We could teach an interesting sociology class in this exhibition.

Korallenriff

Kinder verstehen direkt, dass es sich lohnt, Korallenriffe zu erhalten. Plastikmüll in den Meeren gefährdet die Korallenriffe und die bunte Vielfalt an Fischen, die darin leben. Ein kleines Theaterstück dazu von Kathrin Brunner begeistert Kinder, weil es sie erleben lässt, wie einfach Lösungen aussehen können. Den großen Leuten zeigen, wie traurig die Welt aussieht ohne die farbenfrohe Pracht der bunten Fische, wird sie schon zu Veränderungen bringen. Das Theaterstück und Buch dazu wurde am 16.3.2024 im FEZ in Berlin aufgeführt. Das Figurenspiel mit überleitendem Refrain, das vom Publikum gleichsam der Promenade in den „Bildern einer Ausstellung“ (Mussorgsky) mitgesungen haben, bildete jeweils eine gelungene emotionale Überleitung und Aufmerksamkeitspause. Wir wünschen uns noch viele kleine und große Besuchende für diese Aufführungen. Die Kinder werden es uns schon lehren, den blauen Planeten noch zu retten.

Magritte Symbol

“People always search for symbols in my works. There are none.” For those familiar with the work of Magritte, they know that he means precisely the opposite of what he is stating there. He applies well-known symbols like the white pigeon representing peace in his paintings to represent and make us think about peace. The image becomes surreal in the sense that we go beyond the real world of violence and war to lift our attention to the other surreal version of the world as it currently appears to us.
In times of war, it is more difficult to image a peaceful world and yet, this is the time we need to believe in the possibility of peace beyond the reality of aggression. In 1966 Magritte has painted “L’oiseau de ciel”, the year the peace movements became more than a surreal dream across the world. It remains a challenge to think beyond the cold war at the time and the hot war initiated by Russia in Ukraine. Surrealism helps us to think beyond the real state of affairs.
In Magritte’s own biography the “dove of peace” occurs towards the end of his own life. Whereas at the onset of his career as painter he dealt with depression and suicide in his family, towards the end of his career he moves beyond the autobiographical topics. Globally valid symbols gain the upper hand. The life course seems to have come full circle.

 

Biographies

The biographies of painters, composers or artists in general can be reconstructed by use of their major works. The biography of René Magritte by Eric Rinckhout (2017) has chosen this way of a retrospective in images and explanatory texts. The biography is built around 50 major images starting with the first one by Magritte at the age of 28. “Les réveries du promeneur” (see below) deal with the confrontation of Magritte with death, suicide and the difficulty to find rational answers to all those questions of why this happens and what becomes of people who experience such a tragedy.
His own childhood was affected by such an event concerning his own mother who suffered from depression. Coping with the evolution of psychic illness over years and the absence of a supportive father have posed a steep challenge for the young person. Creation of art became a coping strategy as well as a relief for those who manage to eventually cross the bridge into their own life leaving behind the bad experiences. J.J. Rousseau was an influence on Magritte as well.
Finding your own destiny and your own style is a process. This process evolves over years. The chronological sequence of 50 images allows to follow the path taken. Thereby, it becomes possible to open up the personal learning and working trajectory of the artist. In retrospective perspective it seems often logical that one style or period of painting follows on from another one. However, in the forward living of the creative life many choices are heavily contingent on other circumstances. Influences of friends, exhibitions, reading, cinema, private or financial situations may determine the creative choices simultaneously or one at a time.
The chronological path of images writes a biography of a special kind. It allows to think in sequences just like in a sequence analysis as sociological methodology. Description, reconstruction, analysis, causality remain a challenge in our attempts to learn and understand more about biographies or the construction and reconstruction of life courses.

Nocturnes

Contrary to some people’s belief “Nocturnes” is not only the denomination of the late opening of splendid shopping centres selling French fashion, but the name of music pieces. The origin of the Nocturnes as innovative form of composing is attributed to Irish born and bred John Field. The Polish born Frédérik Chopin developed the art form to perfection and he is the person who is also remembered for master pieces of this type of short romantic music pieces.
Mozart has left a famous piece entitled “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” and previous lesser known attempts of this kind were named Notturni, popular “Serenade” or “Pastoral”. All these Nocturnes shared the basic emotion, which we might call nowadays some kind of love-songs (Piggott, 1973, p.115). “Bel canto”, the tradition of emotional recitation of songs or arias, Paganini’s virtuous violine play were predecessors of the Nocturnes.
John Field published the first 3 pieces named “Nocturne” in 1814 and continued to produce new Nocturnes and revising former ones. These somehow more easy-going melodies or phrases often written in E or A flat major are technically less demanding for piano players than the later ones composed by Chopin, but their “charme” lies especially in their simplicity. Reducing complexity of sound rather than the virtuous effect seeking of a tune could attract large audiences. After the rebellion in France in 1830 and the foundation of independence of Belgium in the same year, so-called high culture had to address a lot widely differing emotions.
Maybe, in 2024 we are less surprised to rediscover the value of straightforward emotional tunes when even so-called high fashion shows in Paris return to more simplicity.(Image: KI Dall-E, Composer plays on grand piano Nocturnes by Chopin with romantic flair, photorealistic style on 2024-3-5).

Folon Magritte

The exposition in Brussels on Folon and Magritte demonstrates the impact the latter had on the former artist. Both developed an iconic style of painting. Folon paintings apply pastel colors on paper. This style transforms images through the softened sometimes slightly blurred representations near a dream like realization. On the contrary in his sculptural work he uses hard materials to stimulate imagination and abstraction from reality. The side by side representations of Magritte and Folon is more a study in tracing influences and motifs across decades. The honor is just as much to Magritte as it is flattering Folon. Magritte had changed the life of Folon with his paintings and perspective on life beyond realism. Magritte‘s legacy lived on and Folon developed surrealism into a widely recognizable style with his paintings as well as sculptures. In walking around Brussels in 2024 you will inevitably come across some of the sculptures reflecting the work of Folon. The Folon foundation is continuing the pedagogical journey of the surrealist art movement well into today and tomorrow.

Folon Magritte Exposition Brussels MRBA 2024

Poster Design

The effective use of posters in visual communication is a specific craft. Artists have been associated with poster design for more than a century. Cinemas continue this practice. For each movie produced there is an announcement posted in print or digital form. In combination with the Berlinale 2024 film festival the Kunstbibliothek in Berlin shows milestones of the history of movies and their representations in form of posters. Besides the historical approach there are many hints how to interpret the design language of posters throughout the 20th century. The encouragement to try to produce one yourself not only reserved to children is an additional activating feature of the exhibition (Link here). Cats and dogs will always catch attention and the playful approach chosen might be a start into a graphic design interest. Overall the exhibition offers a low threshold entry into the world of art and design. Instagramable image on posters evolved into short preview clips, just like instagram paved the way to tiktok video clips. In retrospect posters also provide shortcuts for our memories to recall whole movies that have accompanied us growing up and growing older.

Richter

Gerhard Richter ist kein Richter. The painter Gerhard Richter is of cause not a judge. But somehow he is. In the representation of his 100 works for Berlin in the Neue Nationalgalerie he judges the horror beyond imagination of the Nazi concentration camps, reflects on the role of his own family in this and finds his own way to deal with it. Colors cover the black and white documentary fotos as if a new imaginary has to grow again to overcome the painful memories. He deals with the most difficult kind of confrontation with evil in an astonishing way. The horror as underlying fact remains present in our mind and at the same time we open up to light at the end of the tunnel and abundance of colors. Color is the way forward. Underneath, we tend to or like to forget about the many killing fields. Scratch a bit on the surface and you’ll find lots of unresolved issues again. All those fancy colors might just cover up the demons of the past and present. Maybe this is a grossly biased interpretation of his Auschwitz Buchenwald series of paintings, but only time will tell if we are successful in 2024+ to stem the tide of right wing extremism (again).

Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin 2024-1

Gruber

Welche Assoziationen kommen Ihnen bei dem Namen Gruber? Das deutschsprachige Fernsehpublikum assoziiert wahrscheinlich die Gruber Milch , die es gar nicht wirklich gibt, oder den Arzt aus der Serie „Der Bergdoktor“ mit dem Namen Gruber. Fiktive Personen, gespielt von noch realen Schauspielern, haben einen starken Einfluss auf unser Gedächtnis.

Wir erkennen zum Beispiel in der Weihnachtszeit nach den ersten 4 Tönen einer Melodie sofort das Lied „Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht“. Dennoch werden die Wenigsten die Person nennen können, die diese weltbekannte Melodie komponiert hat. Das ist überraschend. Es zeigt uns jedoch wie selektiv unsere Wahrnehmung ist. Das melodische Gedächtnis erinnert sich sofort. Das Namengedächtnis kann da scheinbar bei weitem nicht mithalten. Die Auflösung des Rätzels ist: Gruber, Franz Xaver. Der Liedtext stammt von Joseph Mohr. Der österreichische Komponist hat einen Hit gelandet, der selbst 200 Jahre nach der Komposition noch Millionen von Menschen bewegt oder oftmals ungewollt beim Shoppen begleitet.

Vereinfachende Transkription des Originals

Tears mastered

Not many authors find decent ways to write about sad moments and the mastering of tears. Can we master tears? Should we even try to? For authors the question poses itself of a different kind. How do I write about emotions in which a person bursts in tears or sheds a single tear. Even mastering tears or the delayed unmastered tears give rise to ample drama. Have you found a poet or author to whom you relate through the sorrows s/he expresses? Reading itself is a process of mastering tears due to the possibility to go through a wide spread of negative and positive emotions.
Towards the end of her life Cata Dujšin – Ribar wrote a poem that links to the imagery of the Norwegian poet Jon Fosse. Thanks to the exposition of her paintings and writing in the Zagreb City Museum Cata can become known to a wider audience. Hardly any traces in the internet of her writings in English make her even more of a local hero and an early female role model. The windmills are powered by the nothingness of our illusions.  The beauty of futility is revealed in our dream. She puts it so much better. The biography and work of Cata Dujšin – Ribar summarises to some extent the whole history and misery of the 20th century beyond the Balkan region in a few words.

City Museums

Some city museums have a difficult time to present the richness of their historical heritage. Additionally, the question of city heritage maybe entangled with a process of nation building and citizenship altogether. The focus I advocate is on the evolution of democracy and the process of civilisation. The Zagreb City Museum on the top of the hill comes pretty close to such a perspective on history or historical perspective. Due to the recent efforts to excavate remains of the iron age underneath the more recent City Museum the historical line of Zagreb civilisation can be traced back even longer. The tumuli are worth a whole new section in the Museum. The process of civilisation with “burying cultures” are more than 2600-3000 years old in Zagreb. Democratisation as a process can also be studied with all its ups and downs over the history of the city and the Croation nation building. Capitals and city live play an important driving force in this process. Zagreb has experienced a bombing of the city centre as recently as 1991 (Banski Dvora) and again in 1995 (city of Zagreb) in the Croatian war of independence.
It is a real pleasure to walk through centuries of historical evolution beginning with the recent excavation of the iron age as well as the arts and crafts since the medieval times. Even passing the horrors of the 2nd world war through the eyes of the author and painter Cata Dujsin (image below from 1944) speak to us even today.
There is no linear process of civilisation which is improving over time. There have always been backlashes and there will be. It is even more important to be aware of the continuous risks to independence and democracy. The current setup of the Zagreb City Museum seems to focus on the Croatian population to remind them of their great heritage. With more English and foreign language subtitles and inscriptions the example of civilisation and democracy will be more accessible for even larger crowds of visitors. The online visit accessible in English is already an excellent appetiser.
The City Museum is moving from the internal Croatian function more and more to additional external function to offer learning experiences beyond the Croatian visitors in this tourist attraction that is internationalising in its work force at a rapid rate.

Selfie Museum

We have learned that games are not only played for fun. So-called serious games have found their way into health applications where we might learn while playing a game of how to integrate more walking into our life in the city. While walking after work I happened to pass the Selfie Museum in Zagreb. In fact despite carrying the name of museum it is more an assembly of scenarios in which you can realize many selfies in different settings that have been prepared for that purpose. Hence your production of photo shooting with yourself as the major character is facilitated and you no longer have to spend a lot of time on the setups. Call it a museum and you’ll have more visibility and visitors.

Styles of selfies have changed and shooting very short videos to post on tiktok is of course easy there. A real threat to huge and expensive cinema studios considering the enormous reach some of these selfies can reach. It is a bit like a theatre with multiple stages for everybody to use at moderate costs. Before long we shall come to realize the potential for many more interested in theatre to become actors and directors themselves. Democratize the world of theatre is the new social dimension here. Test yourself in another profession through playful interaction. Test and learn about other competencies. We are in the middle of the next wave of “gameification” previously reserved to people ready to accept higher risks of likely failure. The young can now take their parents to the museum and show off their culture and skills. Intergenerational learning has a new aspect as well. The sociology of the virtual has another phenomenon to evaluate.

Zahgreb 2023-12 Selfie museum

Meta-language

Some writers accomplish the formidable task to draft a text that encompasses more than one language. Samuel Beckett surely is one of them. Arnaud Beaujeu (2011) exposes the meta-language that Beckett creates through his reductionism and minimalist style. It is first a deconstruction of language or languages expressed in French and/or English at times. There is an underlying discourse dealing with the link and sometimes opposition, but always a relationship between at least these 2 languages. Beaujeu reveals 2 other languages: « the trivial and the spiritual ». The reductionism of Beckett leads to a conscious expression of the obvious, the trivial in conversations. This, however, he turns in the theatre piece “cette fois” (original “That Time”) into a ritual, spiritual version of 3 persons A, B, C in a prayer like liturgy. In taking out the sentence structure and obligations of grammar more generally the text becomes a rhythmic reading of words. Today we might say a Rap-version of a text.
The meta-language is the spiritual experience and another kind of access and questioning of memory, eventually even reconstructing a collective memory. Maybe the meta-language is the attempt to collectivise and internalize the dialogue that has turned into a trilogue.
It is out of the memory of persons or historical evolutions that Beckett builds his meta-language. Adorno (1974) put this in a relationship to Shakespeare’s dramatic work and the experience of the horrors of Nazi-Germany.  Sarcastically put, the question to Adorno was not ” to be or not to be”, but “to die or to die”. Beckett travelled in Germany extensively in the year 1936 and faught in the 2nd World War with the French resistance.
„Paroles, musique, mémoire“ (Beaujeu, 2011) span a triangle which allows for a profound, albeit mostly empty space. Beckett offers a safety net to bridge the gap by way of reconstructing a language reduced to basics as well as meditative silence. The script lies in the meta-language and poetry is the more common access to this meta or essential level of our existence. Listening to the meta-language is like listening to polyphonic music. Some find it very disruptive, others a spiritual experience. Meta-language is all around us, like it or not. (Image: Französische Friedrichstadtkirche Berlin, Exhibition Princesses, 2023)

Georgia

The Republic of Georgia is honored with a wide ranging program in Brussels in the series of countries presented as part of the”Europalia” events and exhibitions. The exhibition at Bozar in the center of Brussels has a focus on the years between 1900-1936. It is astonishing to look at the creative examples of adaptations from western modern art with cubism and expressionist resemblance. Many artists had travelled to western parts of Europe or trained at well-known art schools there. Own adaptations to paintings, theatre and cinema yielded a unique style of Georgian modernism before Stalinism put an end to independent artists and their creative work.

During the short spells of political independence Georgia managed to re-establish each time a remarkable will to its own culture. Unity with artistic pluralism is a core value of the European unity and union as well. We are many and happy to have a chance with Georgian people to celebrate their artistic past and future.

catalog of exhibition Brussels 2023

Beckett by Beckett

There is an interesting discourse in literature about how to define irony. This really begins with Plato commenting on Sokrates who makes use of the term “eirôneia”. In the history of the idea of irony comes next the philosopher Kierkegaard with his not-ironic treatise “The Concept of Irony. With Constant Reference to Socrates”. Reading philosophy can be really entertaining. It is, therefore, no surprise to find a publication entitled “Ironic Samuel Beckett” (Pol Popovic Karic, 2009). Following Karic there are 3 defining elements of irony: (1) “The message should be intentionally created, …(2) The meaning of an ironic message needs to be “covert”,… (3) During the analysis of a stable irony, the reader can assume that the first interpretation of the ironic message is correct.” (Pol Popovic Karic, 2009 p.49).
Additionally, to understand irony it might be necessary to know more about the context of the statement. Sometimes the ironic statement can only be interpreted as such if you have additional knowledge about the biography of the author (p.47). To understand Beckett better it is advisable to read about his life course in the many biographies available nowadays.
Beckett by Beckett, meaning the translation of Beckett by Beckett himself yields many fruitful insights into his kind of irony and constant reflection and laughing about himself as his very own form of irony. This becomes most evident in the many helpful tables Linda Collinge (2000) presents in her book on “Beckett traduit Beckett”. Translating irony is a tricky endeavour. Many of the translations do not seem to be straightforward at all and can only be understood from the perspective of the whole translation of a piece and the underlying “Haltung”, ironic attitude of the author to his own work. Beckett by Beckett remains a master piece for translaters beyond those from French to English. (Images: Linda Collinge, 2000, p.61-2).

Laughing Matters

It is time to dig out our copies of Samuel Beckett. Jon Fosse refers his work back to a tradition of Samuel Beckett. It is interesting to re-read some of the plays of Beckett. The famous “Waiting for Godot” or “Endgame” figure prominently on the reading list and theatres even today. Laura Salisbury (2012) honours Beckett in devoting a book on Beckett with the subtitle: Laughing matters, comic timing. She refers to a tradition founded by Aristotle: “man is the only animal that laughs”. Even in the most horrible scenarios of war and suffering, the human brain brings up thoughts containing jokes. Laughing makes us a part of the human species. Humour then becomes the “locus and limit of the human” (Salisbury, p. 4).
It is obvious that the basic problem of jokes like most of our communication has a “sender” versus “receiver” problem. People just do not have the same sense of humor in many instances. We might even go as far as stating that a person feels at home, if cracking a joke is readily understood by surrounding people. Test your cross-cultural competence by trying and sharing laughter. It is hard to do.
Beckett succeeds in a formidable way on a philosophical level even to bridge cultures and spread his way to look at the world from a meta-perspective.
Waiting … for what? Endgame … what is the game? Is it a game? These are laughing matters. Not for all, but for many on the way, trying to learn about existential matters that define humanity.
Through choices Samuel Beckett made in his lifetime, it becomes clear that he did not shun away from the most existential choices. In World War II he joined the French resistance movement and risked his life to save our laughter. Jon Fosse appears in the footsteps of Beckett, who decided to seek the silence and remoteness to develop his work for years also in the tiny village of “Ussy sur Marne” near Meaux and a bit further away, from Paris.
In Beckett’s own words he defines what a comic spirit is;
“comic spirit: oscillation between equilibrium and lack of it” (Salisbury, p.20), referring back to Racine and Molière. It is a social skill and it is not always easy to master, like for example to suppress laughter. Aging might play additional tricks on us (reduced strength of affect inhibition). There is a cognitive element in laughter, but also an affective and a spontaneous mix of reactions.
Affect inhibition is linked to the ability to resist spontaneous impulses like laughter.
Resisting impusles, but also resistance on a philisophical kind is in Beckett’s work “a resistance to the given world, while nevertheless displaying all its violent administrations;”. (Salisbury, p.172-3). In asking what remains after we abandon belief makes it necessary to foster a resistance to brutal deviance from humanity. Laughing may matter here more than we might want to acknowledge.
Source: Salisbury, Laura (2015). Samuel Beckett: laughing matters, comic timing. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press.
Image: extrait Eric Desmasière, 2000 Sous le signe de la balance.

Art to People

It is a timely move to not only rely on people to come to exhibitions or a museum, but for art and artists to go towards people. Advertising exhibitions is a first step in this direction. As photography and selfies are all around us, it is a small step to get more people interested in art through photography. The treasures of archives and libraries complement the markets for art and photography. Susan Sontag has taught us the social sciences related to photography. Learning by looking is just like the well-known learning by-doing.

The BnF in Paris is advertising at the Gare de l’Est in Paris. Passing by the board might inspire thousands of travelers and commuters to stop for an instant. Eventually being bothered and to take notice of the intriguing image or images in this reproduction of a photograph or maybe 2 blended ones. A few might note down the address or take a screenshot with their mobile camera to remember. All these instances enlarge the audience for the exhibition or motivate people to go beyond the quick shot with their smartphone camera. The artwork related to photography mostly starts after the first shot. It is in fact sometimes quite a long journey to come up with the final image. Just go for it.

Gare de l’Est Paris 2023-11 BnF exhibition

Black and White

Nothing is just black and white. Some animals have a representation or vision of images in black and white. Just like in computing full color modes or high resolutions use more power of chips and memory. In short colors are computationally costly. For our brains this is unfortunately just as important. Therefore black and white images have a certain advantage. On the one hand they reduce an image to its essential elements, on the other hand they allow a faster grasp of the message or content at sight.

The BNF presents a wide range of images in black and white from the time that color photography has been available, but photographers consciously chose to represent their image in black and white (1907-). Obviously with black and white photography we maximize contrasts. An image can be converted into a graphical representation like a black and white pencil sketch or drawing. A few more nuances are introduced in applying perspectives to capture or to produce by use of lighting forefronts and shadows.

Using different materials as support of photography allows us additional creativity and stunning effects. Lighting from behind the image is popular in advertisements on our high-streets. Last but not least using techniques of color photography gave rise in modern black and white photography to allow for chromatic transitions and contrasts within images.

All this is well documented in the exposition and ample examples make it a formidable visual learning experience. From the origins of just black and white we have come around to the fabulous and magical in black and white. In reducing to black and white the essential becomes more visible. The superfluous is blackened or whitened out. It is a skill of importance nowadays to focus on essentials and to find new ways to go beyond the obvious shot.

BnF 2023-11-10 B/W

Comme les peintres

« Moi aussi, comme les peintres, j’ai mes modèles ». So beginnt ein Gedicht von Jacques Prévert. Ein Klassiker der französischen Poesie. Prosagedichte sind eine Gattung der Gedichte, die in kurzen Texten einen Moment oder Augenblick einfangen und sublimieren. In diesem Genre publiziert Philippe Delerm seit Jahren prosaische Gedichte. Der in 2023 erschienene Band „Les instants suspendus“ reiht sich ein in die Sammlungen von Momentaufnahmen, die sprachlich veredelt die Wahrnehmungen schärfen und sie zum Salz des Lebens werden lassen.
Für Weinliebhabende drängt sich die Assoziation „vendanges tardives“ (späte Lese) auf. Während wir in deutschen Weinanbaugebieten ganz nüchtern die zu erreichenden Öchsle für die Spätlese zählen, verbindet Delerm mit den „vendanges tardives“ „une jeunesse prolongée, glissant vers la mélancolie, et célébrant mezza voce le mariage de l’automne et de l’été “. (2023, S.87).
Die Sammlung „Les instants suspendus“ – auf Deutsch vielleicht „Momente, die schweben“ bietet zahlreiche, aufheiternde und, ja auch erhebende Augenblicke, die trotz der Intensität der Schilderung für viele Menschen Anknüpfungspunkte bieten. Übersetzen lassen sich die Szenen schon, aber es schwingt bei den kurzen 200-300 Wörter umfassenden Texten viel französisches Flair mit.
Bei „Commander l’eau“ wird „Le bruit de l’eau dans la bouteille devient chant“. Wasser einfüllen ist Musik. Oder, « Le moteur de la deux-chevaux », der Motor des 2 CV, « c’était humble et c’est devenu chic », das war bescheiden und ist schick geworden. (S.82). Das federnde, schwebende Fahrgefühl wird bei Delerm ein „accord prolongé“, zu einem nachwirkenden, verlängerten Akkord.
Aus dem Netz der Spinne (toile d’araignée) wird der Stern der Spinne (étoile d’araignée) auf Seite 101. Fast alle hätten diesen Versprecher schon gemacht, aber es ist einer der Wenigen, den die Erwachsenen nicht berichtigen.
Lassen wir den Kindern ihre „instants suspendus“, ihre Momente der Poesie.
(Image: Innenansicht und S.9 Anregung Proust zu lesen im Vorspann).

Dramen

Jon Fosse hat bereits viel Erfolg mit seinen Dramen gehabt. Wahrscheinlich können wir sein umfangreiches Werk mit der Kenntnis von Ibsens Dramen und Becketts Dramen besser verstehen, falls Verstehen überhaupt eine relevante Kategorie ist Fosses Werk. Durchaus vergleichbar mit Beckett hat Jon Fosse früh schon erfolgreiche Aufführungen seiner Theaterstücke neben seiner norwegischen und skandinavischen Heimat in Frankreich. In Deutschland hat der Regisseur Thomas Ostermeier seine Werke in Salzburg und Berlin vor ca 20 Jahren bekannt gemacht.
Suzanne Bordemann beschreibt in ihrem Buch zu der Rezeption von Jon Fosse, wie der schriftstellerische Werdegang des Kunstschaffenden verlaufen ist. Interessant ist dabei die weniger bekannte Ausgangsbasis Fosses als Herausgeber der Literaturzeitschrift Bok oder seine literaturtheoretischen wissenschaftlichen Aufsätze. Selbst seine Tätigkeit als Übersetzer von Dramen aus dem Deutschen und dem Englischen hat sicherlich zu einer Ausprägung von Sprachfertigkeit geführt, die uns heute noch einzigartig erscheint. Schreiben hat enorm viel mit Lesen und stetigem Arbeiten an Texten vielfältigster Art zu tun. Dieses literarische Gesamtkunstwerk ist sicherlich Grund für die höchste Auszeichnung des Gesamtwerks mit dem Nobelpreis für Literatur.
Aus Stille lernen heißt dann für mich, Jon Fosse selbst zu Wort kommen zu lassen. Das hat Suzanne Bordemann in ihrem 2. Kapitel vorgemacht. Als Auszug möchte ich 2 Seiten (S. 26-27) zitieren, die für mich besonders aufschlussreich waren. Sicherlich Grund genug für eine intensivere Befassung mit diesem umfassenden Werk.

Stille

Die Würdigung zum Preis der Stadt Münster für Internationale Poesie 2017 wurde gemeinsam an Jon Fosse und Hinrich Schmidt-Henkel vergeben. In 2023 kennen viele sicherlich den jüngst gekürten Literatur Nobelpreisträger Jon Fosse. Der Preis für Poesie aus Münster hat gleichzeitig den Übersetzer ins Deutsche mit dem Preis bedacht. Personen, die zwei- oder mehrsprachig aufwachsen oder leben, sind mit der Thematik der Übersetzung hinreichend vertraut. Dennoch ist die Übersetzung von Literatur und Poesie eine spannende Herausforderung.
Diese Stille herbeischreiben“ ist der Buchtitel in dem sowohl ausgewählte Beispiele der Poesie von Jon Fosse auf Norwegisch, als auch die Übersetzungen dokumentiert sind. Die einleitenden Beiträge über die Kunst und das Handwerk der Übersetzungen verdienen ebenfalls eine Aufmerksamkeit, da dort die neben Wortschatz, Syntax, Grammatik, Stil auch über den Duktus oder die Haltung des Autors zu seinem Inhalt gesprochen wird. Unmittelbar nach der Begründung der Jury für die Preisverleihung ist das Gedicht „denne uforklarlege stille“, übersetzt mit „diese unerklärliche stille“ abgedruckt (S.70). Dieses Gedicht endet mit den Zeilen:
„Das ist was wir immer wieder erzählen sollen
und was nie erzählt werden kann
Das ist was wir sind und tun“
Jon Fosse ist es gelungen, diese Stille herbeizuschreiben und Hinrich Schmidt-Henkel hat die Herausforderung als ästhetisches Projekt (S.32) gemeistert, sich die Freiheit der Wortwahl zu nehmen und gleichzeitig dem Original treu zu bleiben.
Schon lange bevor es die Übersetzungs-KI gab, war die Kunst der Übersetzung nicht nur das „Was zu schreiben ist,  … und das wie zu schreiben ist“, sondern „auch die Kategorie der Haltung“. (S. 33-34).
Der Begriff der Haltung wir sicher deutlich an dem für Jon Fosse so wichtigen Begriff der Stille. Eine beredte Stille ist zu einer gängigen Redewendung geworden. Wind gehört im norwegischen Kontext zur Stille dazu. Bald wird dröhnt es bei uns wieder in der Vorweihnachtszeit aus den unglaublichsten Ecken „Stille Nacht, …“. Meditation und Stille ist in Religionen ebenfalls allgegenwärtig.
Stille üben fällt schwer. Ein solches Konzept von einer Sprache und Kulturkreis in einen anderen zu übersetzen ist Meisterwerk. Das werden wir noch lange nicht der künstlichen Intelligenz überlassen können. Frage an ChatGPT: „Was ist Stille?“ – … KI: „Stille ist …!” –
Oh just shut up, it was a rhetorical question.