Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Coagulated self-referential prank

Urs Fischer, Untitled 2011, @ the Venice Biennale (via Design Boom)

Untitled, Urs Fischer's 1:1 life-size candle sculpture above, has apparently caused a stir at the 54th Venice Biennale. I am attracted (if at all) to its unapologetic narcissism -only slightly attenuated by its future slow self-destruction.

Below, a wax copy of Giambologna's 16th Century The Rape of the Sabine Women. (θ)

Us seeing ourselves seeing. One can easily fool oneself at being the outside observer (the wax-statue of the middle aged man), instead of the immanent observer looking at Untitled.

Self-reference in art -as in anything- is the most seductive, as the following review demonstrates:
Gradually this beautiful statue will become a waxy lump, the shapeless stub of time. Facing it is a life-size realistic figure of a man with his glasses raised, looking cool: the model was a fellow artist but he functions here as a contemporary Everyman. He, too, is a candle, melting down by the minute.
Let's follow the reviewer's suggestion and become the contemporary Everyman. This Everyman evokes a phenomenological lead close to Heideggerian phenomenology. Let's explore it and see where it takes us:1 Untitled includes a wax statue of the contemporary Everyman absorbed in (θ). But (θ) + the wax-statue = Untitled.  What is at work in the work?

The Being of beings

For Heidegger, it's not a good idea if the material disappears into the tool (as the wood handle of the hammer). If it does, the material (wax) cannot shine. But the material as form will disappear (as melted wax). One could still retort that the melted wax is never destroyed. After all, there is nothing "in itself" about wax-form, even Untitled, if not for Dasein's unveiling of it.

Which brings us to the "work-being of the work" -or the relation between work and truth. Van Gogh's painting of his shoes (for Heidegger, a paragon of truth in art) incarnates the strife of world and earth (whatever strife is omnipresent in Heidegger). What's earth? What sustains the world where the art is and -more poetically- what resists being exhausted by it.

Is Fischer's sculpture emerging from the "unconcealedness of its being"? If anything, it points to a face-to-face catalysis of Xeroxed presence. Isn't presence (and its cohorts) a form of concealment?

Unless art lies.2 If art lies, it presents itself as that which is not. Not as in a "nothing," which Heidegger is fond of:
Does truth, then, originate out of nothing? In fact it does, if by "nothing" we mean no more than that which is not a being, and if "a being" represents that which is objectively on hand  in the normal way—a [way of conceiving] "being," the merely putative truth of which comes to light and thereby becomes shattered by the standing-there of the work. (PLT, 71).
Who, me?

Untitled makes one think of oneself. In any case, at first, it makes one curious, then, it sinks one's attention onto oneself. Self-presence, the surprise of self-proximity, the proximity of the question of being to itself. With Fischer's Untitled one gets lost in the no, while the -thing remains hidden, like a sort of wood-handle (of the work-being of the work).

If so, Untitled really points to -----> ;__________.. What is it?

A coagulated self-referential prank.
Disclaimer: How can one write about a piece that one has not seen yet? One does it virtually (if the following obtains): 1- This reviewer already saw Giambologna's original @ the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. 2- This reviewer doesn't actually need to see the second statue of the group (the contemporary Everyman). Why? Because this reviewer is the contemporary Everyman! 1As Heidegger asks in The Origin of the Work of Art. 2I'm thinking of O. Wilde's infamous line in De Profundis. I find this excerpt about a different Fischer piece whose pathos may be akin to Untitled
An investigation of space, the work is a continuation of the artist’s exploration of vanitas previously manifest in skeletons and melting bodies of wax (as in his first show for HQ that included What if the phone rings (2003)). Talismanic, the installation possesses a physical presence so audacious that surprises and shocks in equal measure. Spontaneous and unpredictable, Fischer says "My work never ends up looking the way I intended... all that matters is if the artwork takes on a life of its own."
In this piece, Fischer sheds light on his thinking process: "I'm interested in collisions of things," "...how objects relate to each other." 


Anonymous said...

interesting take.

my opinion is that the artist is preoccupied with what is trendy though the melting wax statue is kind of cool.

Tommy said...

Triff: Too complicated. I got the end but missed the rest. One has to know Heidegger to understand what you are saying.

Feminista said...

Untitled has too much presence!

Nice post. I'm going back to the Origin of the work of art. It's a dense essay but the argument is poetic enough to go through it again.

Anonymous said...

Professor, this was not a chocolate ice cream but the chocolate itself! :)

I hope you can come to the Metromorphosis unveiling tomorrow Friday, there's an artwork I'm including which is very much related to the philosophy of art :D

Dissey said...

fischer pushes the buttons and people swoon. people want more of it. do they know what they want?

miamibourbaki said...

Feminista: I agree.
Tommy: Heidegger is just a deck of cards.
Facundo: I'll try to make it.
Dissey: Fischer-the-button-pusher.

Thanks for the comments.

No art critic said...

I prefer Fischer sculptures from few years back 2005-2007. This new stuff is too ceremonial.

Matthew said...

Hey Triff. Food for thought: If everything is art is there is non-art?

miamibourbaki said...

Interesting point, NAC.

Matthew: I'm still mining your question.:)