an art/film by Edgar Honetschläger, 2001-2016

by Rosanna Albertini

LOS FELIZ. The scroll has become a film, a Babel of spoken and visual stories sometimes shed like tears in the form of raindrops; images struck by sounds or submerged in silence, dragging fears and fights for control along with a deep sense of how meaningless they are. And yet LOS FELIZ is an art piece gnawed at its heart by desire. An art piece longing for a space in which BEAUTY escapes the torture of being used to seduce the public, and becomes lively and lovable in a pot of grass.

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The visual stream built by the artist stretches and transforms reminiscences of Edgar’s journey between three faraway pots of civilization: his personal experiences in Rome, Los Angeles and Tokyo. His own displacement in the back of his mind, he fills the screen with an undefined space of waiting, searching for and letting go, as if the few persons involved in the fictional trip were figures wrapped around an inner empty hole, measuring the distance that keeps them far from their own lives. Symbols, only looking like humans.

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I travel, instead, through the remains, I would say the ruins of his spiritual and intellectual digging for thirteen years into the solid ground of places and people, until he resets and expands in the now their visual presence through a different story, in a rarefied as well as imaginary world. The question: “Does what we see or understand have anything to do with things as they really are?” wears certainties away. I better avoid truth as a word. I can’t avoid seeing the display of episodes in and out the blue car like parts of a long painting, mostly gray: the remains of a feast on a long table, they make me think of André Derain’s late still lives.

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The image of the three ridiculous cardinals each standing on each other’s shoulders while turning the wheel of the entire story, shifting gears while not much happens in the characters’ inner journey, throws humor over the process. Guns and violence look as absurd as the false teeth of the prelate blocking the gears of a possible new story. Nonetheless, although feelings are vanished from the thread of the story, images and sounds hold on them, strongly.

(Looking at the next image try to imagine an orchestra of insects in summertime:)

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Writing itself, unfortunately, has driven the aforesaid paragraphs into the film logic. I don’t regret it because in LOS FELIZ the artist has embraced the film format in the first place, 102 minutes of a hybrid creature. As God is generated by it’s own name, a bunch of letters makes an absence. My head has been cut off, Edmond Jabès lent me his words for a short while. The world is sound, sound like a head. “Drive,” he says.
Emptiness is your face
Emptiness is your trip
You must carry the film as a sin.
He is talking to Edgar, and to me if I don’t stop writing about the film.
As if it were only a film. It’s also a piece of theater, using the backdrop of ‘miles’ of Edgar Honetschläger’s black and white drawings: the spare profile of the land of freedom as lonely as the universe. It’s a river of music and singing birds and silence and water merging into each other. Almost floating in time, a sequence of accidents in and out the blue car pretending to move from one station to another – the strongest illusion in LOS FELIZ – gives rise to a development that doesn’t go anywhere, very much like in Pat O’Neill’s experimental films. Since the beginning, the idea of a story (Deus ex machina) hovers over the blue little car like a flying stork holding a baby who won’t become an adult. Why the grass? “Oh, it’s NECESSARY,” says Edgar’s shinto goddess. “The necessary angel,” Wallace Stevens would say, and he corrects my Italian vision of angels with wings sitting on clouds. Life is a disturbing storm around, but the artist “merely enjoys existence.”

“The way we live and the way we work alike casts us out of reality.”

“I am the truth, since I am part of what is real, but neither more nor less than those around me. And I am imagination, in a leaden time and in a world that does not move for the weight of its own heaviness.”

Wallace Stevens spoke these words in 1943. Honetschläger’s feeling of flatness is the equivalent, today, of Stevens’ feeling of heaviness. In his art piece in motion LOVE, FAME, FATE become mirages. The more humans rush toward them, the farther away they move. After all, they are nothing but words.

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La vie est plus belle que les idées. Life is more beautiful than ideas. Music and sounds are stronger than words: they convey the infinite vibrations, sudden changes, weaknesses and pitches of living things; they adhere to the artist’s body like a second skin made by past and present others: beauty is sharing. As for images, beauty pervades them when they become flat bodies of a moment, sparkles of time asking our senses to embrace them and let them go, in a river of emptiness.

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(Free adaptation into English from Edmond Jabès)



Battle of Songhwan (Wikipedia)

FIRST SINO-JAPANESE WAR Japanese soldiers beheading 38 Chinese soldiers as a worming to others. By Utagawa Kokunimasa

Japanese soldiers beheading 38 Chinese soldiers as a worning to others. By Utagawa Kokunimasa (Wikipedia)




ARGENTINA 1890: Revolution of the Park.  Revolutionary barricade protecting the Buenos Aires Artillery Park.

Barricade protecting the Buenos Aires Artillery Park. 


THE 1898 SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Battalion awaiting orders to charge the Spanish

3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Battalion awaiting orders to charge the Spanish (Wikipedia)

CHILE 1891 - GUERRA CIVIL Batalla de Placilla

Batalla de Placilla (Wikipedia)

They are colors for wars. Since Humans can’t do without wars since the beginning, we walk across their fields searching for whys. We hardly find them. Mostly, there are myths and beliefs; no equivalent between the whys of the specific time and place of a war and our own. Yet, we throw questions on photographs, paintings and written words as if some truth might trespass. It’s the curse of thinking. As if time had made it better, ripe like a perfectly soft persimmon. The “bitch-goddess of blind objectivity” offers us the persimmon as the snake did, tempting Adam and Eve with an apple. Eat it, and blindness will be inevitable.

Oddly enough, more conflicts, cultural, started in modern times among and between the fellows of photographs, paintings, moving images, written or spoken words. My friend Bianca Sforni, after reading Memento 1, History in Watercolors, brought to my table a book by Susan Sontag I had never read: Regarding the Pain of Others, 2003. I devoured it. And I felt like the boa in Le Petit Prince, but with two elephants in my belly: the large body of war images and the moral presence of a biblical elephant repeating over and over: “you shalt not make unto thee any graven images, or any likeness of any thing.

Sam Erenberg’s watercolors float on paper like the music tunes in the air, having a different kind of absorption. They seem to resurface after sinking into layers of shadows. Better not to reduce them to reasonable patterns or wishful considerations, feelings, meanings… language would limp. Sounds from darkness, whispers of pain, heartbeats, heath, emptiness, mutilations, winds, they speak through the music of colors. We can only imagine. Dates and name of the country introduce one more abstraction, like inscriptions on gravestones. We see what we miss. Despite the growth of sciences, human reason does not progress. We thought intelligence could help us to see clear in ourself and around us, but we can only count on our imagination: the immense machine we are is the first unknown territory we live in. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “Reason is the faculty to organize all the faculties of our soul according to the nature of things and their relations to us.” In this environment abstraction becomes one of the many tools, not the goal.

SAM ERENBERG, Mementos: Argentina 1890 Watercolor, 16 x 12 inc., 2008 Courtesy of the artist

SAM ERENBERG, Mementos: Argentina 1890 Watercolor, 16 x 12 inc., 2008
Courtesy of the artist

SAM ERENBERG, Mementos: China 1894, Watercolor 16 x 12 inc., 2008 Courtesy of the artist

SAM ERENBERG, Mementos: China 1894, Watercolor 16 x 12 inc., 2008
Courtesy of the artist

SAM ERENBERG, Mementos: Chile 1891, Watercolor, 16 x 12 inc> Courtesy of the artist

SAM ERENBERG, Mementos: Chile 1891, Watercolor, 16 x 12 inc.
Courtesy of the artist

SAM ERENBERG, Mementos: Cuba 1898-1902, Watercolor, 16 x 12 inc> Courtesy of the artist

SAM ERENBERG, Mementos: Cuba 1898-1902, Watercolor, 16 x 12 inc.
Courtesy of the artist

Henry James declared to the New York Times in 1915: “The war has used up words; they have weakened, they have deteriorated…” Virginia Woolf during the Spanish Civil War: “Photographs are not an argument; they are simply a crude statement of fact addressed to the eye.” Her revulsion to war is irreducible: war is a man’s game. (Quotes of two masters of words from Sontag’s book) Edmond Jabès: “Le mot ne meurt pas come un homme, mais come un vocable. Avec lui, s’émiette l’univers. The word doesn’t die  like a human, rather like a piece of vocabulary. Along with him, the universe crumbles.

I felt I was losing my mind on December 10, 2001, looking at the “ground zero” landscape in New York, during the nocturnal search for bodies in a hell of debris: a color picture by Edward Keating was on The New York Times’ first page. The center of the image dominated by the back of an ironworker: he stands, but one cannot say he is resting. He looks down at the white blow of dust, or smoke, hard to tell which, as white as a bridge of light. This man’s back is not asleep. What about us? Do we really “sleep our lives?” Do we sleep our writing, our understanding of artworks, resting on a reasonable background that we call theories? Are our systems of thought only fables we make up, to fill the gap between the unaccountable lack of meaning in which we swim every day, and our need for illusion, so deeply rooted that we cannot restrain our minds from liking the absurd act of working, shaping and reshaping intellectual textures or connections?

The fact is that art is not reasonable at all. Art is our best reminder that we are physical entities, mainly connected by a nonverbal exchange. In this sense, as Louise Bourgeois kept saying, art guarantees our mental sanity. Stuck in our search for intellectual truth as a naked tool, we hook ourselves to the sky. But down here there is no escape. Religion of freedom, cult of uniformity and art of forgetfulness — undertaken by centuries of industrial machinery — have cast human brains in iron. I wish they could melt along with Erenberg’s visual stories, and restart breathing.

La parole est dans le souffle, comme la terre est dans le temps. (Edmond Jabès)

Words lie in breath, like the earth lies in time.