Diary Excerpts:

February 22nd 1984
Visiting Gotham Book Mart, located in the Diamond District in New York, I acquire a copy of The Non-Objective World, the first English edition of Kazimir Malewich’s Die Gegenstandslose Welt, published by Paul Theobald and Company, Chicago, in 1959. Back at the hotel, I find a card, obviously used as a bookmark, inserted on page 69. The card reads:

With Compliments

Ernst Beyeler

The card is yellowed; yet a closer look reveals a white field reminiscent of the discoloured area on a wall, after a picture has been removed. Obviously something has masked out parts of the card, leaving a bright white square framed by the yellowed surface. Page 69 shows an illustration titled: The basic suprematist element: the square. 1913. This is Malewich´s first version of The Black Square. The transformation of the surface on Beyeler’s complimentary card pre-articulates a pictorial theme of Malewich yet to come; white square on white ground, re-found in the colour scheme of this aged card. I decide to keep the card on page 69, as a reminder of its iconological relevance to the content of the book.
(Added later, June 2009: On Wednesday, June 10th I attend a book auction at Stockholm’s Auction House, finally acquiring the first German edition of Kasimir Malewitsch Die Gegenstandslose Welt, Bauhausbücher 11, edited by Walter Gropius and Moholy Nagy, published by Albert Langen Verlag, Munich, in 1927.)

October 14th 1988
I am on my way to the first meeting with the Secretary for the German Academic Exchange Students at Düsseldorf Art Academy. Upon entering the Academy building in Eiskellerstrasse, my attention is directed towards a card, lying on the floor in front of me, with the title “Die Kinderzeichnung Eine Entdeckung und die Folgen” – “Children’s Drawing A Discovery and the Consequences.” As I am picking it up, I register a punctuation mark in each corner of the card, as if it previously had been attached to something.
To my astonishment it is an invitation to a lecture in 1970. The card is stamped on the rear with a registration form, originally used for registration of students works acquired by the Academy. The layout of the registration form is partially altered and filled in by hand, referring to a certain:

Fenster m. einem Loch in der
Scheibe Aus dem Jos. Beuys
Atelier Raum 002
(Hole in the windowpane in Joseph Beuys’ Studio, Room 002 Düsseldorf Art Academy.)
The card is signed and stamped October 13th, 1988.

October 18th 1988
I have been in Düsseldorf since August. The autumn semester has not yet started, and I spend my days in Rheinland’s various museums: Cologne, Gelsenkirchen, Mönchengladbach, Essen, Bonn. At the museum in Frankfurt a diptych by Rémy Zaugg makes a deep impression on me:


The word ”here” is painted on a tactile ground, with the texture of one single, heavy brushstroke. (Added later: Rémy told met that his wife had painted the letters under the large magnifying glass in the studio in their old house in Mulhouse. Her work as a translator -”Otherwise there will be no food on the table” - became an inspiration for the text-paintings and the thematic structure of translation. German-French-English - and eventually Norwegian.)
Leaving the museum, I become aware of a similar small painting placed close to the exit, almost with the appearance of a regular sign:


Between these two paintings the entire museum unfolds. The unexpected combination of (displaced) painting (with a heavy texture like a biscuit you’d like to bite into) and extremely precise contextualisation is unforgettable. Emotion, feeling and thinking, architecture understood as action in space. It touched me, and keeps touching me. (Added later: My initial reaction to his installation in Frankfurt was my response when Rémy put me to the test, working as a curator for the Art Collection of the Norwegian Parliament in 2004 – obviously he wanted to find out if I was really interested in his work. After recounting my experience in Frankfurt, mutual trust was established).

December 11th 2004
Travelling to Basel to meet with Rémy Zaugg; he picks me up at the airport in his Renault. On our way to Mulhouse on the French side we cross the Swiss border. On the route we pass French, German and Italian street signs. I register the differences in the layout of the signs, not solely the different fonts, but their variation in size and colour; in short the different character of the signs - their expression. Is it solely a matter of difference in language that creates the character of ”German” or ”French”? Or is it, somehow, connected to pure formal considerations? Obviously language defines a mood, a territory. We are speaking German. After arriving I take a walk in the garden situated in front of the studio, designed by Herzog & de Meuron. Rémy´s wife is an arborist wearing rubber boots. She gives me a tour of the arboretum, naming the various trees, each of them carrying a separate sign with the name of the tree in Latin.

Malus domestica Quercus coccinea Picea sitchensis Pinus Strobus Sequoia sempervirens Delonix regia Taxus aurescens Chamaecyparis obtusa Cedrus deodara verticillata glauca Microbiota decussata Pices pungens Sorbus pseudobakoniensis Fagus silvatica purpurea Helianthemum nummularium

I enter the studio. A series of paintings are in progress; perfect, smooth rectangles on white gesso. White Square on White Ground. Polished plaster and glue? Various bottles are placed on a table, each individually labelled with a separate date - the day the gesso was used. The date refers to the procedure where additional oil subsequently must be added to each new layer of gesso, otherwise layers will not adhere to each other. (A practicality connected to producing the paintings in opposition to the principle of extinguishing painting´s chronology through embedding the silk-screen letters and the coloured ground into the same ground). The studio reminds me of a laboratory surrounded by poetry. Das Museum, dass ich mir erträume, realised as studio, as working space. It makes perfect sense, as Rémy Zaugg himself stress the normality, the everyday-aspect of responding to an artwork – comparing a visit to the museum with ordinary tasks, like going to the butcher.
In the evening we had planned to go to a restaurant, however, since I have no driver’s license, and the host has been drinking beer with raspberry juice, we are dining in the kitchen instead. We talk about the upcoming project in Oslo, text-based paintings, addressing the interdependence between image and text; texts dependent on images and images dependent on texts.



Numerous faxes (Rémy preferred this form of communication) have been sent between Pfastatt and Oslo in order to find a precise Norwegian translation of this word-image. The final version makes me happy, it is just right for the Hearing Room in the Parliament, in a context where controlling words have first priority. We are drinking beer with raspberry juice, a softening aspect of a man of no compromise.
The following day I am guided through his project for the pharmaceutical company Roche in the centre of Basel. It consists of a defined colour scheme and the application of texts on the facade, with doors leading to several administrative and laboratory functions. On our way we pass the Beyeler Foundation. Rémy is tired and we part in a café, and I assure him I will be ok the rest of the day on my own. It turned out to be the last time I saw him. After he had left, I pick up a postcard lying on the table next to ours; Kandinsky, Improvisation No 10, in the Beyeler Foundation. Instead of going there, I visit Basel Art Museum to see one particular painting, le Corbusier’s Nature morte à la pile d’assiettes.

(Added later: I had copied this painting in 1990, while still a student at Düsseldorf Art Academy. Why has the concept of copying as part of a painter’s training become discredited? Did this possibility evaporate during modernity? Why can’t a copy be considered at least within e.g. minimalism’s critical strategy of repetition? Did the paradoxical respect for the uniqueness of the moment of creation prevent such an understanding; considering this occurrence a holy, unrepeatable moment? A ridiculous paradox: to worship exactly that which modernist critique seemingly oppose). (Added later: Via the text-image, I should re-find the possibility of the Copy).

(Added later, June 2010: Jeff Wall opens the exhibition Transit in connection with the reopening of the newly renovated Albertinum in Dresden. I am invited, as the diptych Eternally Vanishing Bodies is included in the new display of the permanent collection. In the context of one of Europe’s prominent collections of painting over the last five hundred years, I am reminded of Wall’s observation of the three historical axes that meet in traditional history painting; the event itself, the moment when the artist painted it, and finally the moment when the viewer stands in front of the painting. Thesis: While conventional history painting is dealing with the first moment, modernism was so concerned with the second that it is as if the first and the third do not exist. No other historical event but the moment of creation; consequently, Jackson Pollock always painted a Jackson Pollock.

September 2009
Since early summer I have been working on a series of small scale paintings based on museum information signs. Perhaps as a consequence of painting’s total loss of its privileged position, the idea of gaining perfection through rehearsing scales, i.e. the copy, has fallen into disrepute. The series address the impossibility, the denial of the possibility of losing oneself in an unknown material, and the subsequent longing – in a physical sense - to take in, to be overwhelmed by pre-existing images. Appropriation, characteristic of modernism and contemporary art, represents the antipode, belongs to another economy, and comes close to what Guy Debord fittingly characterised as the sun that never sets over the passivity of modernism. The new paintings address a certain longing for the technical and time-consuming activity of painting, while simultaneously acknowledging the impossibility of the same.

(Added later: An element in the project at The Institute of Social Hypocrisy might illustrate what is at stake here; a replica of the white flag of the Institute, with a frottage of the bullet-hole in the window, the re –enactment of Joseph Beuys’ hole in the window of his studio at Düsseldorf Art Academy).

In his diaries Eugène Delacroix describes the inability to fully comprehend how Rubens painted the bluish veins pulsating underneath the warm flesh tones of the carnation; his own repeated attempts to paint this particular quality have failed. The diary – i.e. the medium of text – demonstrates the impossibility of the process of copying, highlighting error, underlining a certain malfunction; the modern manifestation of the inability of historical empathy; a precursor to painting understood as a machine for producing and making visible malfunction and fault? Michel Serres adds an existential perspective in his reference to the icon-painter and his total eradication of his own subject and free will under the total submission to a pre-existing icon.
The unconditional submission under the existing object is a preparation for death, a rehearsal in letting go of your own body, the momentous task foreseen for all of us. On this background, Serres suggests that nobody has come closer to death than the painter of icons.

(Added later: How close did Ernst Beyeler get to Improvisation No 10? In a video interview with Beyeler, the layman’s direct access to art is addressed, represented by a certain unnamed housewife who suddenly came to money. This “ordinary looking” woman, this seemingly “simple soul”, recognised the inherent quality of a painting by Kandinsky on display in Beyeler’s gallery, and bought it - simply because she liked it. “Who is it by?” she had asked afterwards: “Who is Kandinsky?”).

In 1951 Ernst Beyeler had acquired Improvisation No 10 under questionable circumstances from the Nazi art dealer Ferdinand Möller. It was his first major acquisition – a purchase that proved controversial, as the painting had been confiscated in 1937 by the Nazi-regime. In 1989 Jen Lissitzky, the son of the Russian Constructivist El Lisstzky, claimed ownership of the Kandinsky and demanded it back. Beyeler refused, but eventually settled out of court.
Later he built a museum to house it (and his additional collection), describing it as possibly the first abstract painting – do you hear, Kazimir? – Did his endeavours pay off, did he get closer to his icon? Was Mr. Beyeler, because of his involvement with this work, better prepared for the 24th of February 2010? The housewife representing the ideal of the pure and immediate recognition of artistic quality; Beyeler and the housewife, analysis and connoisseurship versus revelation, the idea of immediate, unmediated access to art.)

October 2009
I have discovered a possibility for reintroducing repetition (related to modernisms refusal of copying as a valid strategy) in painting. It will consist of a collection of text- based paintings referring to modernist paintings named La Collection Moderne, starting with 1867 – the year Courbet painted L`Origine du monde and ending with 1937, the year Picasso completed Guernica. Within this time-span I will select modernist paintings I have responded to in one way or another, and which (with the exception of Le Corbusier’s Nature morte à la pile d’assiettes) I have never copied myself: Purely text-based paintings, listing name of the artist, year of birth and death, the title of the painting, its technique, measurements and provenance. It is decisive that the description oil on canvas is part of the technical description; oil on canvas on oil on canvas. The impossibility of the copy re-established as tautology? I seek to rediscover the lost terrain of painterly repetition in making these text-images, furthermore: I do suspect that a consequence of my endeavour might imply a heightened awareness of the tactility of the medium, minor imperfections and materiality. One of the paintings is the already mentioned Improvisation No 10 by Kandinsky.

(Added later: I am happy to have discovered an interview with Ernst Beyeler in front of this work. I film it directly from YouTube on my computer with my mobile camera: A kind of electronic frottage, a digital imprint, to be presented alongside the classical frottage of the bullet-hole on the white flag. My first videowork? In the interview Beyeler characterizes the painting as possibly the world’s first abstract painting.)

Improvisation No 10 was included in the collection of the Provinzialmuseum in Hannover in 1927. The text-font used for the painting of this registration is Bauhaus, based on the geometric sans-serif typeface, Universal, created by Herbert Bayer in the mid-1920s. Confiscated and registered as degenerate at the Niederschoenhausen Castle, Improvisation No 10 no longer is registered in a typeface related to Bauhaus. In 1941 Martin Borman, Hitler’s private secretary, issued the so-called Bormann-Erlass, a decree regulating the use of typeface in Nazi-Germany’s official documents. This identificatory process, reminiscent of today’s creation of corporate identity, be it a museum or other public institutions, through a graphic design profile, was dealt with personally, on the highest level. The understanding that not only the contents of words, but also their graphic expression produce meaning, is expressed on various levels; here as aesthetification of politics and politicizing of aesthetics. The unpleasant, disturbing factor of this choice of typography finds its equivalent in the Casa del Fascio by the avant-garde architect Giuseppe Terragni. Hyper-modernism rediscovered on fascist territory. The conflict of letters was given a name of its own; the so-called Frakturstreit. Antiqua (roman-face) was officially declared to be the correct typeface, while gothic type fonts (black-letter face) previously connected with Nazi-Germany, such as Schwabach, were banned. (For the sake of propaganda, Schwabach was characterized as Jewish letters, ”Schwabacher Judenlettern”, in the Bormann-Erlass).

It is worthwhile to register that in the Bormann-Erlass, a document issued with the letterhead of the Nazi-party, the name of the party, Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, still appears in the Gothic typeface Schwabach. Inherent in the very text-image that was to implement the Nazi-regime’s new norm for the use of correct typeface, is the irreconcilable conflict between historicity and the cult of the future.

According to the Bormann-Erlass, the registration of Kandinsky´s Improvisation No 10 at the Niederschoenhausen takes place in Antiqua. (1. Added later: The registration of 1937 is four years prior to the Bormann-Erlass.) (2. Added later: (Former director of the contemporary museum of Art in Oslo, Jan Brockmann, who grew up in Berlin, became interested when I told him about the Bormann-Erlass. From school in 1941 he recalled that pupils had to change their handwriting overnight. Suddenly, the previously preferred Gothic handwriting was banned).

In 1957 Ernst Beyeler acquires Kandinsky´s Improvisation No 10 for his collection. For the painting of the registration in the Fondation Beyeler, I choose the font Bodoni according to the font used for the card I found on page 69 in the English translation of Die Gegenstandslose Welt. Of interest here is the seemingly neutral curatorial registration of the museum label; name of the artist, artwork, measurements, technique, provenance, biography and selection of font – with the visuality of the text propelling itself to foreground, transgressing the text image’s usual minimal visuality, transmitting political, aesthetical and historical meaning. Further, the iconic quality is stressed, as the label originally is meant for the museum wall. In his thesis Discourse/Figure (1971), Lyotard demonstrates that a new meaning of the term figure arises when the usual minimal visual, horizontal reading pattern is broken; suddenly the text unfolds as deep, vertical - and from this unexpected spatial transformation a new understanding of the term figure arises. What is at stake here is a certain malfunction in the otherwise efficient communication system of text reading. This fault enables another figure than the established figura to enter the visual field of the text, a vertical entity that differs from the familiar contours of the figura.

Undoubtedly, Lyotard’s figure is the result of projection (Tony Oursler’s 1990s Peaman (?) crosses my mind), the projected figure far from being neutral, strengthened through its separation from its original iconography, existing as the double of the original work. This kind of figure is contourless, it protrudes as a consequence of failing and is produced by an occurrence, an event. To paraphrase Lacan, this kind of figure never stops the activity of failing to inscribe itself. In a traditional museum display the function of the sign is to explain the artwork, to pass relevant information to the viewer. It is exactly within this convention the particular tension arises, which is the condition for the negotiation between the two different obligations of the viewer’s gaze, whether to concentrate on the work ”itself” or its ”explanation,” argon and parergon. This corresponds with the axis Jeff Wall referred to in relation to history painting. To introduce this theme in painting implies trying to re-discover painting in a presupposedly ”foreign,” minimal material, identified in an event between artwork and iconography, in an in-between-space, half seen (Zizek), where the gaze of the viewer neither rests upon the work or its textual explication, but rather is forced to negotiate between two regimes simultaneously exposed on an identical surface.
If the viewer reads the sign before examining the artwork, it inscribes itself before the viewer has seen it, and opposite: the artwork establishes itself beyond description like a nunc stans, absolutely, here and now. At the same time the description produces an inner image, while the image produces its own text. Advancing a visual artwork in physical space and reading a text represent highly different experiences.

This is the museum’s curatorial registration as sujet, as still life, but foremost as an event. A fusion of post-structuralism’s understanding of imagery as an ongoing production, unfolding in space between viewer and artwork, the image as a machine for producing meaning: A never ending story of the artwork failing to inscribe itself combined with an already existing, pre-formulated meaning in a (technically) de-skilled, neutral approach which, nevertheless, in the end, is taken over by painterly pleasure leaving haptic traces. Technical skill and craft transferred to the visual expression of the museums or art-institutions level of information (here we come close to the certain Fingerspitzengefühl demonstrated in the Bormann-Erlass). It is, paraphrasing Claude-Lévy Strauss, also an expression of skill to be able to pick up the telephone and calling the right person to solve a technical problem. In a museum, these textual intrusions, the information signs, are exposed parallel to the artworks they are describing, they represent their own visuality, they are in their own right, whether the work reference is a painting by Raphael, an artwork by an unknown master, or a contemporary artist. The text unfolds on the very same wall, and the gaze of the viewer oscillates between reading texts and examining pictures. With the so-called Frakturstreit in mind, a parallel to the importance of corporate identity within the contemporary museum structure, including architecture and web-design. On a macro-level, the museum sign speaks about the professional level of the institution; its design gives away whether the museum is in tune with valid aesthetic codes, including how the sign is distributed on the wall (conventionally, the already mentioned painting by Rafael obviously allows the sign to be placed quite near, while a contemporary work demands greater distance).

(Added later: A possible consequence of discourse entering the exhibition space? However, text has historically been an integrated part of painting, e.g. the so-called phylacteries, bands of texts stretching through baroque allegories – here, texts and images are offered synchronically, seamless, so to say, as parallel visual entities).

The field expands: What kind of information, and in which proportion is it distributed? Plain, physical choices are also at stake here; would it be an expression of over-design to mount a sign made of plexiglass on steel brackets? Or should the sign be cut out in the conventional model maker’s foamboard? Is the informative text to be painted directly on the wall? In a grey colour? White on grey? Or simply in orange coloured letters, with slim fonts? These priorities run parallel to decisions related to exhibition architecture, and which artworks to leave in the depots and which to bring up in the light of the exhibition space; a set of different codes apply to various museums. In historical collections, where one no longer can take it for granted that the visitor is familiar with e.g. Greek mythology, and hence capable of decoding a specific theme, a communicative strategy is implemented. The opposite applies to museums of contemporary art. To give out an excess of information would be contrary to the self-esteem of any contemporary collection. It is taken for granted that the visitor is informed. A crucial aspect of the contemporary art museum’s social contract with its audience, is that a certain amount of lack of information is accumulated in the visitor- addressing the specific position of being left behind, accumulating an uneasy, withering feeling of not being 100% updated.

Paradoxically, this also seems to be characteristic of the contemporary art museum. Especially when it comes to painting, the situation could be described as the image not being able to keep up with the speed of the text it generates, unable of coping with the consequences of its own extended iconography. We all know that painting has long lost the battle of its former position and social power in the hierarchy of art. However, unexpectedly, a promise of re-establishing some of the previous glory seems to be at least re-negotiable by implementing the aura of social or political analysis. The belief in the position of self-doubt representing painting’s new privileged position. Dave Hickey characterized the modernist artwork as a sphinx, confronting its viewer with unsolvable questions, withdrawing in splendid isolation. This insight is delivered in text only; Hickey is not pointing at a specific artwork, exclaiming; ”look, it withdraws!”. It is however within a specific occurrence, an event, or possibly a site, that the friction between artwork and discourse is negotiated. This site or topography can be physically identified as the exact distance in centimetres between the artwork and its museum label, comprising a minimum of discursive information; basic curatorial registration. Exactly here, in front of the viewer, in the visual field of the museum wall, the artwork does not cease not inscribing itself (Lacan).

Returning to the copy as painting’s lost strategy: as the image unfolds in a space in-between, not occupying a physical, concrete surface or typography, the possibility of making a copy in the conventional manner seems out of the question. Multiplicatory or appropriative strategies, yes. But the (imagined) object of direct and long-lasting scrutiny, head on, – and that only, seems lost. The abandonment of discursive negotiation with the sign placed on the side of the image. Head on. Exit the alternative directions of the gaze. No avoiding gaze, rather a slow, serious registration, a longing for aura. A gaze that combines the (artist-) viewer’s gaze with the moment of execution, believing in historical identification, despite being informed that there exists no such thing as historical identification ( Benjamin addressed the tiger’s leap) – must be deemed to fail? But what if this gaze is left clinging to the museum sign, treating this as its object of desire, identifying the object of description in this foreign material. Controlled by this gaze, text suddenly becomes the stranger.

Autumn 2009
Finally, quite different aspects relevant to the presentation of La Collection Moderne should be considered. In Berlin, Ernst Beyeler entered the stage again, and the presentation of three museum registrations of Wassily Kandinsky’s painting, Improvisation No 10, stirred up events reminiscent of Strindberg´s Inferno, with its descriptions of the author’s movements in Paris, including alchymistic experiments, the search for supernatural signs in everyday objects and occurrences; a possible precursor to Friedrich Jürgenson, Konstantin Raudive, and EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena).

November 2009
In connection with my exhibition, Dysfunctional Male Parent in Paris, I am introduced to Victor Boullet and his two-year project ISH (The Institute of Social Hypocrisy). The title of the paintings refers to Dave Hickey’s description of the modernist artwork as an impossible father figure. (Added later: This diptych is again based on Eternally Vanishing Bodies; a diptych included in the display of the permanent collection in Albertinum Dresden from June 2010). The principle of a black ground with reflecting lines has been expanded upon to include various textual elements. The texts relate to perception and visuality (with Georges Didi-Huberman as an important reference).

The idea to introduce text as a visual element was confirmed by reading Malewich and his description of ”Architext”; he considered the black square a consequence of overlapping texts printed on top of each other resulting in a monochrome, black surface; the black square. The white edge mirrors the margins of a printed page rather than an ordinary frame. This information, totally absent in the traditional sublime reception of modernism, is vital: it is of great importance whether an abstraction is based upon rejecting a figure or unconditionally incorporating the same: a total overload of texts versus the ascetic hygiene comprising the reception of e.g. Ad Reinhard under Clement Greenberg’s sublime horizon. As a representative of the idea of a concentrate - ashes of burnt art museums burnt down collected on jars - Malewich principle has an obvious polemic dimension to it; however, and of greater significance, the blackness of the black square exceeds polemics and gives space to the viewer. The physical gathering of texts, their various graphic expressions melt into each other, becoming one single image. An architectural parallel might be the skyscraper, with its diversity of inhabited spaces on top of each other, a principle that in the end exceeds the individual plan of each apartment or office, defining a compact surface, dissolving spatial organisation. This principle presupposes the vertical gaze, the void, or rather the depth in text; re-enter figure as Lyotard describes it, in Discourse/Figure.

I understand the choice of typeface as an expression of political and ideological preferences.

January 21st 2010
La Collection Moderne opens in Oslo. The time-span of the Collection is defined from Courbet´s L’Origine du monde (1867) to Pablo Picasso´s Guernica (1937). A specific concern in the selection of references for Oslo is the late acceptance of modernism in Norway. One pair of paintings combines Charlotte Wankel´s Figure from 1927 with Fernand Léger´s La Partie de cartes from 1914. Wankel was a student - and allegedly a mistress - of Léger while she studied at the Academie Moderne in Paris in the 1920s. What concerns me is the provenance, with Léger’s painting circulating between prominent museums (La Partie de cartes is now in the Kröller-Müller) from the moment of its creation, while Wankel had to wait for 50 years before her painting Figure was bought by the National Gallery in Oslo. Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Blue, with three museum registrations, was also on view in Oslo; Hannover Provincial Museum, Schloss Niederschoenhausen and Philadelphia Museum of Art. The National Museum in Oslo acquires the Wankel/Léger pair, the Mondrian-versions and Edouard Manet´s painting from the 1867 Paris World Fair (the painting was included in the last Documenta by Roger Buergel).

February 4th 2010
La Collection Moderne opens in Berlin. In this exhibition, one painting is represented by three versions: the registration of Kandinsky´s Improvisation No 10 in Hannover (typeface: Bauhaus) Niederschoenhausen (typeface: Antiqua) and Basel (typeface: Bodoni):

Wassily Kandinsky, 1866 / 1944

Improvisation No. 10 - 1910

Öl auf Leinwand 120x140 cm

Fondation Beyeler Basel

K a n d i n s k y, Wassily 1866-1944
Improvisation No. 10, 1910

Öl auf Leinwand
120х140 cm

Schloss Niederschönhausen
Berlin Pankow - 1937

Wassily Kandinsky
Improvisation No. 10, 1910

Öl auf Leinwand
120 x 140 cm

Leihgabe Slg. Küppers, 1927
Ankauf von Frau S. Lissitzky-Küppers Moskau, 1930
(Irrtümlich eingetragen / war nur Leihgabe)

Hannover Provinzial-Museum

In Berlin the initial painting is Gustave Courbet´s L’ Origine du monde (1867) ending with Pablo Picasso´s Guernica (1937). Parallell to my exhibition La Collection Moderne, the gallery present Nick Laessing’s and Athanasios Argianas’ We All Turn This Way, in the adjoining project-room - ”studio pick # 1”. They present an object (previously shown at the Serpentine Gallery inLondon) reminiscent of a harp, incorporating a radio-receiver tuned to the so-called Jürgenson frequency (1485.0 kHz), named after the Latvian-born opera-singer, painter and archeologist Friedrich Jürgenson (1903-1987). The piece refers to EVP, electronic voice phenomena. Jürgenson was convinced that he could communicate with the dead via a radio receiver and a tape recorder, tuning in on the wavelength of the dead on this particular KHz-frequency.

February 24th 2010
The prominent art collector Ernst Beyeler dies at the age of 88 years.

February 26th 2010
In an email from Valeria Schulte-Fischedick, director of the Galerie Opdahl Berlin, I am informed that the art critic Thea Herold has just been to my exhibition, and will write a review, to be published in Berlin’s newspaper der Tagesspiegel coming Saturday.

February 27th 2010
I receive several emails with the correspondence between Valeria and Ms. Herold. They all express concern as to whether or not the review of La Collection Moderne wil be published this Saturday. One of the e-mails informs that the Saturday edition of der Tagesspiegel has been reworked because of the extensive obituary of Ernst Beyeler. ”And exactly Beyeler!” Valeria responds in an email, “look at the provenance of the Kandinsky – you have to admit it is rather uncanny!”

February 27th 2010
As predicted, the extensive obituary of Ernst Beyeler is published in der Tagesspiegel; consequently, there is no room for other articles, including Thea Herold’s review of La Collection Moderne.

March 6th 2010
Herold’s favourable review is published in a shorter version.

June 12th 2010
Seated next to me at a dinner party is a lady who worked with Ernst Beyeler for a period of three years. It turns out they became acquainted when she was working as an art consultant, in the 1980s, for a Norwegian investor in New York. Beyeler established contact with her because of his interest in Edvard Munch. From now on, it seems impossible not to address this phenomenon one way or another. As mentioned earlier, it increasingly reminds me of August Strindberg’s Inferno, where secret messages and codes are transmitted in the most unexpected manner. In my case, with connections reaching back to my student years in Düsseldorf; via my visit to Rémy Zaugg in Basel - without visiting Fondation Beyeler, yet being reminded of the existence of the same from the postcard I found in the café; my investigation into the issues of provenance and political implications of various fonts and typefaces; Ernst Beyeler’s intervention through death, coinciding with the display of the EVP-object in the project space next to my exhibition, with the radio transmitter tuned to the so-called Jürgenson frequency. By now, it has become impossible to join even a peaceful dinnerparty without Ernst Beyeler crossing my path. I know that I am totally tuned in to the Jürgenson-frequency; communicating, not with the dead in plural, but with the dead one.

Berlin / Dresden, June 20th 2010
I arrive in Dresden to the, re-opening of the New Albertinum, where the diptych Eternally Vanished Bodies is part of the permanent collection. Just now, I am in the middle of elaborating La Collection Moderne and the problematic of the copy as terra prohibita after modernism.
I am copying – or interpreting – already existing works of art – or make my own versions of stylistically ”typical” paintings, as an exercise in historical empathy, including recreating their physical aura (surface dirt, craquelures, etc.) These works refer to paintings that originally were meant to transgress borders, programmatically radical statements. Today, they exist as the antiques of our time, to adjust Roger Buergel’s formulation from Documenta 12; modernism as the Antiquity of our time (In the context of my own biography, this is really to return to the origin; as a young man, I painted my way through the collection of the National Gallery in Oslo. I mounted them in frames, representative for the period, and put them on display at home.

The frame is a central element in this project, original 16th and 17th century French and Spanish frames I visit Lehmke in Berlin, a renowned restorer and frame-dealer for the last forty years, educated as a gilder and owner of an impressive collection of classical frames, reaching from the 15th to the 19th century, presented in period rooms in his Berlin flat. Although I came without an appointment, Mr. Lehmke gave me a guided tour. I saw several frames of great interest to me, especially Spanish flat frames from the 16th century. (He commented on something I have observed physically, original frames are always relatively lightweight as a result of evaporation of all humidity from the wood). Mr. Lehmke cooperates with the firm Niklaus Knöll in Basel. On explaining where in Basel the shop of Niklaus Knöll is situated – the firm had recently changed location – Mr. Lehmke tells me that the workshop is now situated in a particularly narrow, dark old house in the city centre, adding; “actually it is situated opposite the famous collection, the private museum, you are bound to know it.” ”I know the collection, I said,” the name having momentarily slipped my mind. Seconds later we practically simultaneously exclaimed: Ernst Beyeler.

(A further connection: Mr. Lehmke has provided frames for several artworks now on display in the Berggruen Collection in Berlin. Hans Berggruen was an old friend of the father of the lady sitting next to me in at the previously mentioned dinner-party.

Oslo, June 23rd 2010
Spotting an interview with Ernst Beyeler in front of Kandinsky´s Improvisation No 10 on YouTube. I start filming it directly from the screen of my powerbook with my mobile camera. I consider it a parallel to the technique of frottage, a metaphor for the idea of contact-contagious material: An electronic frottage (see:Flag).

Paris, September 2010

Arriving in Paris late in the evening, carrying (or rather: rolling) a heavy trunk-borrowed from my mother-in-law with the three Kandinsky’s, two copies of der Tagesspiegel with the Beyeler Orbituary and the recension of La Collection Moderne. The suitcase is locked with a codelock, and it turns out that I have forgotten the code. Calling Hege late at night to get the combination, she again calls my mother-in-law. Hege calls me back, providing me with a combination of numbers, obviously the incorrect code. In the night I consider to break into “my own” suitcase, however decides to wait until the next day. In the middle of the night, on entering a random number after hours of trying, the suitcase suddenly opens.

Paris, September 2010
Upon Victor’s request, I photograph the Kandinsky’s in the suitcase with my mobile camera the next morning. The paintings, all wrapped in foil, suddenly have a suspicious air around them, the photograph, resembling police documentation or proof, heavy taped parcels of drugs.
Rolling the suitcase up the Rue des Archives to mount my exhibition The Ernst Beyeler Obituary Phenomenon. At the Café on the corner I have my breakfast consisting of one hard-boiled egg served with coarse salt, une baguette and tea. Passing the old Archive and the building where Anselm Kiefers office is situated. His Hotel Particulaire adjoining, just around the corner. (VB’s project: Stalking AK). Immediately after arriving at the Institute, I decide to bring the grey colour of the lower part of the wall in the stairwell into the exhibition space. Lauren provides black pigment, intended for colouring concrete. Mixed with ordinary white wall colour, this type of pigment adds a kind of physical substance to the colour.

In addition, I decide to make a wall painting outside the territory of the exhibition space, painting a version of the Kandinsky registration in universal typefont directly onto the wall. A wall painting, deported, expelled from the proper exhibition space, doomed to its future existence long after the exhibition and even the Institute has closed down in the dark hallway with a slight odour reminiscent of cabbage and a fire some storeys higher a couple of years ago. From one spot, a subdued vue ideale allows the painting on canvas and the expelled wall painting to be seen simultaneously. An “X” is painted on the floor, marking this spot like the star in the Vignola/Pozzo collaboration in Rome. Further, this border or cut between inside and outside is marked inside the door-frame through the interface of the grey colour of the exhibition space and the original gray colour of the stairwell A dialogue occurs with the hole in the window pane in Joseph Beuys studio, re-enacted by Victor for this show as a gunshot through the window, accompanied by the original registration form (identical to the one mentioned above):

Fenster m. einem Loch in der
Scheibe Aus dem Jos. Beuys
Atelier Raum 002
(Hole in the windowpane in Joseph Beuys’ Studio, Room 002 Düsseldorf Art Academy.)
The card is signed and stamped October 13th, 1988.

Paris, September 2010

Planning to visit the Museé Victor Hugo at 10 Place des Vosges. Added later: To his day, I have never been there. The Poet’s fingerprints in the famous des doigtsmanuscript, wavering between figurability and textuality (as described by Georges Didi-Huberman in Phasmes) have haunted me since I first saw them. The trace of an event, the author spilling ink on a sheet of his manuscript, entering the visual field by turning catastrophe into figure, his fingerprints arranged in a semi circle like of individual heads , reminiscent of a group of people gazing towards the bottom of a well. (The fact that Hugo, a draughtsman in his own right, probably instrumentalized his modi operandi makes it even more precarious, even more intense; the exception, the event, the occurrence employed as method. Added later: I have to think of Gustav Mahler who has brought me to similar places - the breakdown, the ritualised destruction, a certain open-mindedness towards the brutality of nonsense, will anyone be able to follow me in here? – and above all the possibility of relocation of beauty. THE RELOCATION OF BEAUTY. Berlin, Concert Hall, May 15, Symphony 2.
I have brought with me a copy of the doigts, mounting it in the kitchen of the Institute. 25 sheets og Hahnemühle 100x80cm copperengravingpaper, traces of fingerprints (black colour) on the edges.

November 2010
Sommer&Kohl Berlin. Registering the registration of Merlin Carpenter’s Coat Hanger. The artwork was identified outside the realm of the artist, an objet oublie, a forgotten object in opposition to a found one. To incorporate it into La Collection Moderne ordered by Victor for the show at Sommer&Kohl in Berlin it had to be re-registered, its materiality, plastic and metal (Benny les Hommes Coat Hanger) made it necessary to re-registering it, in order to keep the tautology oil on canvas, thus having to register a painting, and not any object made in whatever materials.

May 12th. 2011
Arriving in Dresden with 15 students from Oslo Academy of Fine Art, on the third day of a study trip also including Leipzig and Berlin. At Albertinum, Gemäldegalerie neue Meister, a painting by Rémy Zaugg “Not Here” is mounted opposite my diptych “Eternally Vanishing Bodies”. I am quite touched by this occurrence; on attending the opening almost a year ago, a piece by Joseph Beuys was placed opposite my work, and now Rémy unexpectedly had changed place with Beuys. The next day I take the students to Claes Nordenhake who gives us a tour in his showroom – he mentions the collaboration I had with Rémy Zaugg. In an e-mail, thanking Claes for his effort, I tell him about the dialogue between our paintings in Dresden. It is almost like a thought, he responds.

(Text in progress).