Posted by judith schoneveld on June 14, 1997 at 08:29:13:
In Reply to: And there is more? oh no ... posted by Andreas Broeckmann on June 09, 1997 at 04:00:48:
Dear Mr. Ganahl,
I met Alexander Brener during Manifesta 1 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Early January he came back to Holland and stayed in the studio building I share with other artists. It was extremely cold outside. After the incident took place (we didn't know about it in advance) four of us visited him in prison regularly and served as his Dutch link to the outside world. In Holland there was only media coverage of the incident itself and of his trial. There was hardly any interest in other aspects nor did any discussi-on take place. In reading the letters on your page I had the following thoughts.
Organising a new network and works of art by artists are separate things- The curator has the role of the film director but not his task nor his control on the final cut. Artists are not employed to produce the exhibiti-on of the cura-tor(s). It seems to me that this is the core of the problems that exist in projects that are set up in this seminar-like way (Interpol, Manifesta 1) Artists are not scientists who can be employed to try and solve problems that are defined by others and that are not specifically visual by nature.
Also, the possibili-ties of visual form to tackle cultural issues are very limited. Work that tries to communicate in that way is in danger of becoming an illust-ration or advertisement icon. Language as a go-between reality and visual arts. Images tend to simplify language considerably. This is very useful in learning children how to read or to indicate how to use a telephone or where the toilets can be found, beyond this level there is mostly irony. Art that means to be the sensitive counter-part of ethics as in Western traditi-on, can not serve its purpose in this way. The immediate result is works of art that are strictly bound by the place, the personalia of the artist and topic of the exhibi-tion. They depend on the willingness of the visitors to plunge themselves into the presented subject matter. These works are not autono-mous. It is not surprising to me that artists in the end do not wish to cooperage.
Attitudes, conversations or actions played out outside a symbolic environ-ment are strate-gic and political. Art needs to be recogni-sable as such, one way and time or the other. If not, it can't serve its purpose to transcend. It amounts to treason; breaking the rules of conven-tion. Which is not the same as art, or is it?
Now is Alexander Brener a traitor? I don't think so. With his unhappy $ action he emphasized the visual ethics of Malevich in a negative way. But he did it. I can't help thinking the estima-tion of Brener's $ action depends on your personal estimation of his integrity. Which could mean that he did a bad job. I don't think he is a terrorist either because he aims to moralise, not to demoralise to create chaos. Also, terrorists murder and threaten the lives of people.
I don't think the issue is freedom of expression but the artist's right to intervene. In this case to intervene in the contemporary culture system through a work of a deceased artist that has become a symbol on top of being a symbolic painting. It has become a symbol because Brener being an artist (poet) working in the on and off Russian avant-garde tradition himself, has made it so. The market-price or value of the Malevich painting symbolises Marxist idealism gone to the dogs. Recent history in a nut-shell. Does he have this right? Is it much different from an art historian or critic that flavours a work of art with a defini-te, well put interpreta-tion? This very work is exhibited on the walls of a museum and labelled in a way the painter would perhaps object to. Art historians and critics are never called terrorists as far as I know.
I am not sure but maybe Brener has the right to intervene because of who he is and in this particu-lar case. He doesn't have the right to name this a new style to create a work of his own. He didn't mean to improve the picture. If he meant to destroy the painting he would have used a knife or acid, as many have done before him. The painting was and is by Malevich otherwise his action would mean nothing. There is no visual evidence left of his addition to the painting. The removal of which he must have fore- seen. On the other hand, there is the memory of the incident glued to this painting; spraying over a carefully painted picture is an attack on beauty. The painting is victimi-sed.
An interesting, but sensationalistic, link can be made to the Goldreyer-affair. Barnett Newman's painting Who's afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue doesn't frighten any-one anymore because of its being cut to pieces with a knife. Finally it was repaired beyond repair by a respected restorer with adequate legal support and a professional attitude. Although he broke the contempo-rary conventions in restoration by using paint that can never be removed.
Alexander Brener did his $ action on January 4, 1997. Almost a month after his interview with Flash Art. He thought about doing this to a Malevich painting a lot longer, as I understand. I would hate to see that something as secondary as media attention would cloud the more important aspects of the incident. I have found that almost all artists have this half-hearted-ness towards publicity. Their interests in taking part in exhibitions and projects increases considerably with an increase of media attention. They are not impartial to their own career. It seems there is no alternative way of working as an artist provided you want your work to be seen. This is an alarming fact.
I would greatly appreciate it if some-one could shed some clear light on the whole matter. I'm glad you took the first step.
All the best
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