Hilma af Klints – Seeing is Believing - Del 3 - Bildvärldar och andevärldar

Hilma af Klints – Seeing is Believing  - Del 3 - Bildvärldar och andevärldar

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foreign thank you thank you so much and it's a real pleasure to be here speaking about helmer so as a professional artist trained at the academy of fine art in stockholm in the 1880s as we know helmer was no or she was no outsider well she was not let's say an outsider artist in the way we think now about uh outsider artists untrained working outside the system amateur or otherwise disengaged from the mainstream of professional art or you know that term outsider art traditionally and very problematically also encompasses folk art child art the art of the insane and so on and so forth um but i want to suggest this afternoon that what hilmer managed to achieve more than her professional practice as an artist was the outsider inside herself and and that this to make that claim might tell us something about our art making about creativity if you like um and if we open the the the species of image uh we call abstract the species of image we call abstract art to helmer then we do so to many many more artists like her um so i'm stressing the place of helmet of clint's work as belonging uh to an image world that's of this world our world uh albeit not the artistic world either hers or ours as it might be more narrowly defined um so i want to suggest that her work belongs to an image world rather than a world beyond it but an image world understood as a visual imaginary that's fueled not necessarily explained by but fueled by the ecstatic images conjuring a spirit world um of course one of the problems we're dealing with as soon as we begin is the spiritual claims for early abstraction in general um and i guess i have to confess i've always wanted to save abstraction from itself on on that score i may be alone in this but i want to in a way try to understand what um or try to figure out what what travels under that name of the spiritual um as a non-believer what travels under that name and what travels under that name is very powerful and very significant it may be something to do with the not yet known but it also you know encumbers us i suppose to think about the problem of metaphysics that besets abstraction and is indeed dramatized in the historical formation of abstraction from the outset it shouldn't be overlooked it's already been mentioned by hands it shouldn't be overlooked in the context of our discussion i think how fertile aground such esoteric imagery continues to be for a range of any number of contemporary artists in particular but by no means exclusively women artists from susan hiller that i show you here this was a work where she found film clips hollywood film clips of young girls with tele telekinetic powers um through to lindsay sears both of whom both of these artists have importantly used occult esoteric and super natural forces as sources for the their work and michael newman said once of lindsey sears work extra mission which which is not this one he asked how do images enter our lives and that seems an interesting question to me that we might try to direct to helmer's image world so that relationship between mental and physical images you know suggests some facility for image projection that we have um we may not understand what we have which can be seen as a factory in a way not just of dreams but of self-proliferating images and what the elaborate method that's hilmer's also seems to demonstrate is far from the metamystic metaphysical meanings or spiritual iconography but what it suggests to me even more is how a self-generating system functions you know that is itself self-perpetuating in a way it understands it helps us to see how image worlds work rather than simply understand what they're of and so that's not necessarily to speak of causation or causality but to think about a a motor of creativity that's actually hard to stop so the question is not to ask how it starts but how it can't be stopped in a subject such as helmer so i'll come back to the problem of self self-proliferation and over-production later but thinking about the spaces and intervals between the works within a an esoteric system directs attention away from i guess a mythological content to its structuring system you know not necessarily what it's of but how it works so hilma's work forces us to think about that space between experience what we feel about an image and a transcendental model and for my purposes it's not so interesting to think about the mystics belief system or at least that loses some of its explanatory capacity um it's the difference between affect and effects we're forced to think about different modalities of perception how art weaves in and out of them and then that there is what i certainly there is within a history of abstraction and ecstatic tradition that we can't afford to lose sight of um and i think in a way it helps us or it allows us to think about our own stake as subjects in what we might call the the work of the artwork that's to say the ecstatic aspect of the work perhaps helps us or in my case my role of a sense of myself as an artist historian to to to help us understand why we might over invest in the image in some way why we might love these images too much um why trying to figure out exactly what they're of might be a way of kind of containing that impulse and why to understand an artist like hilmar is actually to put our own sense of being an art historian a good art historian in in question so in some way and that's to think about them i guess systematically rather than singularly economically in terms of um constantly fluctuating uh pressures the sheer repetition of motifs there are obviously many ways in which we might think about their complex sources but i i simply want to draw attention in this short time to these more basic schema as if they're the underlying schema of all representation that inform and in a way indirectly format hilma's um diagrammatic idiom that david's already referred to which we can locate as he has done of course within larger histories of representation we can call this the the idiom of of the diagram the idiom of diagrammatic uh rendering which david's discussed in terms of um botanical motifs and drawing but which i draw attention to you here as embedded in color theory this is a plate from goethe's theory of color this too this particular tradition of image making let's call it an image bank it's a tradition of images that we might relate to goethe's diagrams but we might also relate to that esoteric tradition of diagramming from rudolf steiner and his blackboard drawings and so on so forth through to hilma herself this is one of her many notebooks um we could also think of the point of view of that the philosopher peter slotterdijk in his uh work on what he calls spherology he talks about a psycho-historical perspective where he has in this kind of remarkable book a whole chapter on france mesmer where he thinks about the consequences for a bourgeois individual a bourgeois subject of the waning of man magneto pathetic methods through to the counter culture of the 1960s so he kind of tracks that kind of interest in in through mesmer right through to the counter culture of the 60s this is a plate from the 18th century german physician franz mesmer his name of course the origin of the term mesmerizing mesmerized you know words that we have for this over investment being too fascinated by the image mesmerized by it mesmer had been interested in the effects of the movements of the planets on bodies as in the movements of the tides and a famous experiment of mesmers attached numerous magnets to a woman's body and flooded it with energy that felt like tides rushing through it the sexual politics of that is not to be uh easily missed and what peter slaughtertek is interested in is the what he calls the polymorphism of this uh historical spherology um his metaphorics are kind of themselves ecstatic and euphoric but he's interested in these kind of inter-subjective relations um as i say an ego transcending trajectory that takes him from mesmer to the 60s counterculture and psychoanalysis of course was part of that psycho-historical account i'd see it as part of it rather than its explanatory motor and for all the problems of slotted dyke's use of images he scatters his his volumes with images from not just uh images such as this but from the history of art it's still i think very uh suggestive in thinking helmer's polymorphic strategies and maneuvers within this ecstatic rather than um rational paradigm um this is hilma and so when she comes in in 1920 for example to uh to a series which you know different kinds of image whether they're diagrammatic or whatever that the kind of character they take i don't mean really to kind of reduce them to you know she was influenced by mesmer far from it i want to try to just suggest some of those interconnections that would place her in an ecstatic tradition particularly seen as a tradition of diagramming that takes her her back in important ways back to blake william blake in some ways but also through such kind of diagrammatic images as this um i think there's there's something within um these traditions that has um in many ways it might seem kind of contradictory that this ecstatic tradition should be articulated through the diagram which of course we associate with the mechanical and the machine but far from it that's what i want to suggest that it's very much part of this ecstatic tradition so you know what do these images tell us about desire and what do we desire in them yes they could be connected to surrealist automatism but perhaps more specific is this idea of hilma as a medium and what's surely interesting is those ideas of what is being written or imaged or traced through hillmer so who is writing hilma what is the work that flows through her freud thought he understood how the unconscious would reveal itself in dreamwork but in these trance-like seances in the collective body may not be quite that you know hilma was following instructions um so who or what was writing her but the voices of the dead or at least we could say that she was re-channeling dead or obsolete visual schema i would want to suggest and surely what's at stake here is not a universal vocabulary a spirit world but on the contrary in a way an intensely conventional way of diagramming knowledge um for instance in this relationship as i've suggested very very briefly to goethe's uh color theory but one might mention any other uh any number of resources here again another image from goethe um so points of contact the points touch on a a receptor surface um but also between in a way interested in these gaps between image worlds where the diagram oscillates on the edge of these two worlds so rather than a medium for the supernatural helmer herself almost becomes a kind of technological apparatus she's a receiver she's a recording instrument that's the that's the image that that helmer gives to us the work is making itself it's being made in front of our eyes and that making of the work is surely of now in many ways iris muller westerman has written about the relationship at the time that helmer was working the relationship of spiritualism to radio technology i think which is interesting but we can also see hilma's image making let's say as its own kind of technology you know she's a she's her own technological apparatus as far as i'm concerned she's not only um a medium she's a receptor uh you know she's a mediator she's a device she's a she's an instrument and she makes that being an instrument a form of agency a form of making something um you know she's a transmitter from past to future and for all the kind of hyperbolic language that we find in hilma that's kind of true so this trope of being a receiver can also be really permissive and liberating i think it allows her to it allows her to not cover raw canvas it allows her to write little notes it allows her to make mistakes it allows her to leave the errors just like that because it's just how it's spoken through her now all the things that make them interesting to us all those errors are obviously seem to me interesting as seen through the net of what we understand modernist painting and its aftermath to be rather than necessarily explained by the occult and esoteric uh system that helmet herself believed in but how permissive that was and how remarkable what she did with it um so what i want to suggest is that this is to me important for thinking how creativity works what what drives us to images marion milner the winnie cutty cottian psychoanalyst who wrote on not being able to paint some of you might know that book she suggested that it was having to lose yourself that enabled you to paint you know the sense that you had to lose yourself in something you had in order to loosen the bonds of conventional aesthetic constraints and in a way perhaps that's one way of thinking about how helmet came to make the work that she did so my point is very simply that what hilma made can't be explained away by the belief system that informed it simply because you know the elements that make them interesting um the way the liquid might spread the way the watercolor in some of her more diagrammatic works may seep beyond the contours of the pencil you know the failures to to make it exact and right is exactly what makes it interesting to us so for me the work that she makes are almost kind of diagrams of vision itself and of a kind of visionary process and as such represent a kind of different order of knowledge it's not about anteriority you know who's the first abstract artist who comes before whom that matters i think but interiority that's turned radically outwards and according to these sensitive rather than mathematical or mechanical geometries there kind of is some charge between the physical and a psychic point of contact and i think in a way that touch where they touch is a point of resistance to what we think we know about how images work now i said at the start that helmet's achievement for me was to find the outsider inside herself but i guess i just want to end with the obvious point and forgive me if it's too obvious but that she could only do that because she was a professional artist trained to look trained to assimilate conventions hypersensitive to all those conventions hypersensitized to being able to absorb them in the way that she did consciously or not so here she was absorbing in this remarkable way you know not the message of the master not the image springing images springing forth raw from a spirit world but rather than an image world that was available to her that she'd learned from the diagrammatic schemas of color theory the diagrams drawn from esoteric literature a whole set or several sets of complex conventions that were alien totally alien to the world of professional oil painting to landscape or portrait painting which she practiced but which given precisely because she was not making art of this type to deploy in her own idiosyncratic image system this system that self generates continually thank you [Applause]

2021-08-09 00:14

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