Since the model he so faithfully copies is not going to be hung up next to the picture … it is of no interest whether it is an accurate copy of the model. Whether it will convince or not, depends entirely on what it is in itself, what is there to be seen. The model should only serve the very private function for the painter of providing the starting point for his excitement. The picture is all he feels about it, all he thinks worth preserving of it, all he invests it with. If all the qualities which a painter took from the model for his picture were really taken, no person could be painted twice.
That pigment on canvas has a way of initiating conventional reactions for most people needs no reminder. Behind these reactions is a body of history matured into dogma, authority, tradition. The totalitarian hegemony of this tradtion I despise, its presumptions I reject. Its security is an illusion, banal, and without courage. Its substance is but dust and filing cabinets. The homage paid to it is a celebration of death. We all bear the burden of this tradition on our backs but I cannot hold it a privilege to be a pallbearer of my spirit in its name.
From the most ancient times the artist has been expected to perpetuate the values of his contemporaries. The record is mainly one of frustration, sadism, superstition, and the will to power. What greatness of life crept into the story came from sources not yet fully understood, and the temples of art which burden the landscape of nearly every city are a tribute to the attempt to seize this elusive quality and stamp it out.
The anxious men find comfort in the confusion of those artists who would walk beside them. The values involved, however, permit no peace, and mutual resentment is deep when it is discovered that salvation cannot be bought.
We are now committed to an unqualified act, not illustrating outworn myths or contemporary alibis. One must accept total responsibility for what he executes. And the measure of his greatness will be in the depth of his insight and his courage in realizing his own vision.
Demands for communication are both presumptuous and irrelevant. The observer usually will see what his fears and hopes and learning teach him to see. But if he can escape these demands that hold up a mirror to himself, then perhaps some of the implications of the work may be felt. But whatever is seen or felt it should be remembered that for me these paintings had to be something else. It is the price one has to pay for clarity when one’s means are honoured only as an instrument of seduction or assault.
(15 Americans, New York, 1952, pp. 21-2)
My whole life as an artist is the attempt to come into contact with other people, to leave this aloneness (alleinigkeit).
Just as we have no concern for other people, we have no concern for ourselves. We have a common concern for infinity which we can only think of as indefinite, real, and in, absolute. To believe, as we do, that heaven exists for the chosen is a denial of everything and anything rational in the–small letter–universe. Therefore, I would say, that our denial of any principle less than equal to denial of reality is in itself greater than equal to that denial. Absolute positivism suffers from Utopian ideals, and there is not and never has been a reality greater than the excruciation of its absolute realization. If this be the case, we are left with nothing other than this impulse to impede ourselves. In other words, to go on. That is justification enough and motivation enough to causally/casually inflict our will upon others for brief periods, which I gather is the express purpose of my invitation to participate in documenta.
I hardly understand anything, much less anything important, but my inclination must, or seems to, have some significance in the world in which I am living. There is seldom any excuse as good as the excuse to be, and the fact that anyone (anyone else) can be motivated in that same direction comes as somewhat of a surprise. That this surprise quality is not only valuable to me but is also an exercise in the “art of living” causes me to wonder whether the mind’s viewpoint has anything to do with what is, after all, the exact viewpoint of its observation, or whether, in fact, that what we judge worth looking at is, in fact, even in our mind’s eye (there). It is however an estimatable fact that an artwork exists in its own reality and in that exists a certain cause and effect pattern which has baffled the ancients as well as myself. To make something which looks like itself is, therefore, the problem, the solution. To make something which is its own uraveling, its own justification, is something like the dream. There is no paradox, for that is only a separation from reality. We have no mind, only its dream of being, a dream of substance, when there is none.
Work is justification for the excuse.
from Documenta 5 (Kassel: Documenta, 1972)
Dans ma peinture il n’y a ni sol, ni lointain, ni ciel : il y a des couleurs dont les rapports entre eux créent l’espace, et c’est tout.
(In my paintings there is neither ground, nor distance, nor sky: there are colours, and the relations between them create space, and that’s it.)
A delirious silence — the sound of negative space. Inverting presence along with its reflections. Also, and more importantly, inverting absence. And its reflections too. The limits of a reasonable thinking are those that break down when confronted with reflected absence. A confounding assertion in that it refers no longer to the impossibility of presence, but also the impossibility of absence itself. An unavoidable and inexhaustiblepresence of nothingness.
The delirious image — no longer the image of reflected worlds, but the impossible image of inverted reflection. Between selfless self-portraits and portraits of selflessness, not a void but the paradoxical variations of reflected play. Figures of inversion, absurd and delirious. A silent cacophony of tongue-less twisters.
At the limits of a reason of this sort lies, not only silence but also the irrational and its various formulations. And to rise to this challenge, three theses. The thesis of the absurd, Camus’ silent universe and Regine Robin’s Vampire Narcissus. The thesis of paradox, Virilio’s world of sightless vision and the myth of the nymph Echo. And the thesis of delirium, Baudrillard’s world of holographic thinking and Echo turned vampire. Consequently, a theorizing of the signs of inversion and impossibility — reformulating a world that is no longer reasonable; a world that is transformed, from silence to delirium. (read full text)