stones & voices
Markus Heinsdorff and Martin Rosenthal
Exhibition Catalogue 1995
© artists and authors
Hatje Cantz Verlag, Munich, Germany
Authors: Stefan Iglhaut, Gabriele Kübler, Noemi Smolik
Text: english - german
The World, Life and Art
Anybody seeking to find their way around in the thousands of thematic discussions, accounts and rounds of gossip confronting them in the Internet computer network will resort to catchwords and regions. Within these "news groups", all manner of issues concerning the world in which we live are evaluated and bartered in the virtual market place, from matters of elevated scientific impact to matters of comparative inconsequence. One can equally navigate one´s way around the ever-expanding archives of the "Wordwide Web", a hypertext system which opens uncounted places and branches to the user, leading him along programmed "links" to any and every corner of the network world. One´s perception may break free of the linear relationship with any one speaker or story. Internet allows the concepts of Beginning, Sequence and End to divest themselves of their conventional significance. Channel-jumping between dozens of television stations has a similar effect.
Markus Heinsdorff´s idea of a global polyphony of art is related - without ever involving the medium of the computer - to what network communication represents. Synchronizing the playback of interviews preserved on video, a simultaneous, multidimensional babble is produced, a cacaphony which inevitably devolves into a panoply of faces. It is not works of art or science which constitute the theme of these videos, but rather people who are thinking and speaking. Their discourse may be contradictory, their theme the while uniform, namely the world, life and art. Their selection owes more to chance than to any system, and the inherent momentum of their flow of speech is more important than any attempt to direct it. Multiplicity is the keynote, resulting in an authoritative statement on the fragmentation of hitherto self-contained philosophical words.
To return to the world of information networks, cyberspace is filled with multifarious patterns of social behaviour by virtue of these network communities, conferences-by-computer, roleplays in virtual group acitivities or spontaneous on-screen real-time conversations. That artists have concerned themselves more and more in recent years with the idea of network structures and the possibilities offered by global communication demonstrates a need for them to become involved in the network culture, to reflect on it and to see it as a part - indeed as an augur - of our culture in general in the future.
The artistic principle underlying "Voices" is that it should act as a catalyst for reactions which it then collates and arranges as would a stage director. Far from representing a mere curatorial function, the principle is a desire to define open-ended, dynamic systems within a simple framework, such that these might develop further of their own volition. A "Global Bridge" might be taken here as one plausible metaphor, another might be a "virtual community" in the computer network.
Freelance Exhibition Curator
stones & voices
Observations on a stone and many voices
We sense that something was here before us. We are not sure.
Grey, round, smooth, solid, hard, immobile.
We see, feel, know, name this something:
a stone, a pebble.
Our seeing, feeling, knowing changes it.
It is warm to the touch and glows in the water. For us.
Once seen, felt, known, the stone loses its autonomy.
It is no longer a piece of nature, existing by and for itself,
but exists for us-
Man has made the stone into a tool,
functional, religious and aesthetic.
Rain Flower Pebble, a uniquely special stone.
Fallen from the firmament, placed in the water, incredible in its beauty.
No more resembling stone, but like an image,
no longer natural, it would seem, but art.
We make it so.
There are many answers to the question: what is art.
Each voice answers in its own fashion. We hear many voices.
The voices are quiet and/or loud,
answers are given hesitantly and/or spontaneously,
the mood is pessimistic and/or aggressive.
Art is remembrance and/or the future.
Art is hope and/or despair.
Art is a replica of society and/or individual expression.
Art is communication and/or isolation.
Art is revolution and/or regression.
Art needs to be moral and/or amoral.
Art is no longer possible in the world today and/or
our only option for survival.
We expect too much.
One thing is for certain: art is not nature.
L´art n´est pas pur l´art, il est pour nous.
Art did not precede us; we are art´s progenitors.
Art stems from and depends on us. It is an artifice of ours.
We see, feel, hear, speak, know, desire.
A stone lies quietly in the water.
Dr. Gabriele Kübler
Curator of the Foundation for Concrete Art, Reutlingen
stones & voices
Crossroads in a world forum
One of the most crucial events of this century was the realization that there are no universal laws. It was linguistics that first pointed this out, by demonstrating that each system of language develops different rules, and that verbal exchange is only possible within the framework of each particular set of rules. The philologist Ludwig Wittgenstein, who investigated the very essence of language, spoke of "language games". He made it absolutely clear that each of these various games needs to be defined by rules, determining the characteristics and possible usages of linguistic components - in the same way as chess is organized by a complex of rules determining the characteristics of each playing piece and how it may be moved. There can be no game without rules, and the rules of any game are not inherent to it, but rather the result of a tacit agreement.
Today, we know that the same applies to all other semilogical system, including those involved in the fine arts. In turn, this means that no absolute, inherent rules apply to art as a whole (contrary to the belief still upheld by the modern movement), but that all rules applying to any form of art are no more than a convention, or tacit agreement, in respect of that form of art alone. This was precisely the point which Marcel Duchamp set out to illustrate with his scandalous gesture of 1917, when he declared a commonplace pissoir to be a work of fine art. His intention was to demonstrate that the value of an art work in today´s society is not laid down by any established rules, but that the very definition of what is, or is not, a work of art, depends entirely on the consensus of a group - precisely as with the rules of a game. His declaration that a pissoir was a work of fine art was at that time a stroke of genius - which, nevertheless, was virtually ignored by subsequent developments in art; the "art world" maintained the pretence that universal laws existed after all. Only today have the consequences of Duchamp´s statement taken hold.
Duchamp himself knew exactly what he was doing. He then withdrew from art productions and, not by chance, devoted himself to chess, declaring it to be the highest form of art. In 1932 he published his own book on chess under the tiles "Opposition and the sister spaces are united". He descreibes a playing situation in which few pieces are left on the board, and victory depends on whether the king can occupy a square both in opposition and at a particular distance to the opposing king. Both kings pursue a solitary march across the board as if free in their movements. But each of their steps needs to be in accordance with a strict "regimen"; the slightest aberration means disaster.
Duchamp is thus also describing a situation which has arisen in art today. There are no longer any universal rules valid for art as a whole, but a wide diversity of games, each with their own rules, applying only to that particular game. Art has become a pluralist undertaking. Against this background, the modern movement must be seen as a game whose underlying rules were purely and simply a convention stemming from Christian tradition, Western notions of philosophy, and the white man´s desire to rule the world. It suddenly becomes clear that modern art was an exclusive system designed to ward off and prevent other games from taking place; while not quite invoking prohibitions, it most certainly declared other games to be inferior and thus "ludicrous". It is now evident that the modern movement obstructed any possibility of gleaning experience from other cultures, knowledge which could be derived from opening our minds to other games with other sets of rules.
Dr. Noemi Smolik
Freelance Art Historian, Bonn