EWERDT HILGEMANN : BEAUTIFUL RUINS

 

LA CARESSE DE L’ARTISTE

by Rosanna Albertini

Ewerdt Hilgemann: “I’m full of stories, they sit everywhere in my whole body.”

(From a conversation with Klaus Altevogt for metalligent, May 2017)

He had a solo exhibition at Royale Projects, Los Angeles CA, in 2017

It would be exciting to know how exactly each cell, each molecule, each organ reacts to stories and physical realities every time they grab our attention. They become a part of us whether we invite them or not. Here we have an artist born in Germany in 1938 who grew up among bombs and marching boots in the Ruhr area, and had the fortune of having grandparents in countryside, where for a while he enjoyed nature and the experiments on different materials in a cement factory where his grandfather was director of a laboratory. Strange objects fell from the sky. They ruined the hands of his best friend. Half of the house was destroyed. Ewerdt experienced a hostility conveyed by objects, but originated by humans. It takes a long time to find a personal answer to these kinds of absurdities.

I don’t know how he made up his mind. It’s a fact that, in 1982, Hilgemann made what Camus would declare the perfect absurd piece: The Rolling Cube. From Camus’ standpoint, it’s a compliment. Ten tons of Carrara white marble, a cube whose faces were polished by the artist for weeks, soft like a skin he caresses, gently, at the end of the work, is carried on a truck to the top of the mountain. And thrown down the ravine, to become again a broken splinter of the mountain. After the fall though, it is different from the other fragments of rocks throw down by the quarry workers: it had been sculpted. The whole action was filmed.

The caress: “The caress is the waiting for a pure time to come, time without a content. She is made with growing hunger, and more and more enticing promises, something that brings new perspectives on the things we cannot grasp.” (Emmanuel Levinas, Le temps et l’autre)

I was struck looking at the solitude of the artist and the rock during the physical transformation of the piece of marble. “I had to do it,” says the artist, and not for fame or money. He paid for the cube. In exchange, I would say, he became an anonymous field of existence. The cube had to be perfect, and meaningless. There is past in the men, as well as in the object’s material nature, but the object will not have the time to remember, it will be dead in a few minutes, leaving to the artist a beautiful ruin. Ugliness and pain of an inhuman history, its thickness, the smell of war, along with impenetrable political decisions, still heavy like a storm of memories, were persuaded for a very short time to get in touch with beauty. Like Marie Antoinette climbing the scaffold. It won’t last.

Maybe the present starts there for the artist, his own journey free from the weight of the past. Returning to himself, the artist is chained to Ewerdt as never before. He is finally in the present. “C’est un présent d’être et non de rêve.” It’s a living present, not of a dream. “The present has shredded the texture of the infinite existing; history is ignored; the present starts from right now.” (Emmanuel Levinas, Le temps et l’autre)

In the art that came after killing the cube, a sense of damage remains that Michelangelo, Bernini, even Camille Claudel, couldn’t conceive. After so many proofs of destructive power among humans, how could artworks remain untouched? Hilgemann sculptures succeed in being beautiful despite the distance and the separation the artist has organized between his hands and the shape that appears. He prepares a regular volume, connects a pump to the inside of the piece, and waits for the implosion of the form, while little by little the extraction, almost an abduction of the air, produces shrinking, moaning, strong noise at times, for the art body has to be born by himself.

In Europe the beginnings of conceptual experiences in the arts were quite different from American conceptualism. The finitude of the object must pay a price to a very diffused state of mind still disturbed by real ruins and graveyards facing the permanent, immutable natural splendor. There was need “to make violence to the present, forcing art (for instance) to reach levels that are beyond the concept of art. Vincenzo Agnetti. “ Intuition is conscious reality bumped in the dark.” 1970

And Hilgemann’s sculptures of today, with their unsteady balance, deformed as if they had been pinched by invisible inner demons, show their imperfect body with pride, they are so human one can only sympathize with them. Does your heap hurt? Are you strangely bent? Look at me, they say, my odd angles will never change. And I did it by myself. Like you, isn’t it? Yet, they also express care, and a secret determination of the artist to give at least a direction to their taking form. ‘Conceptually,’ I don’t know if it is the proper word, their luminous charm emanates from the artist’s caress, as “waiting for a pure time to come, time without a content.”

An already imploded sculpture at Royale Projects:

And the process of implosion of a new piece at the gallery, during the opening:  (details)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: Peter Kirby

“Only art can go someway toward making accessible, towards waking into some measure of communicability, the sheer inhuman otherness of the matter – the retractions out of reach of rock and wood, of metal and fiber. … Without the arts, form would remain unmet and strangeness without speech in the silence of the stone.”  George Steiner

Bibliography

George Steiner, Real Presences, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1989;  Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, Gallimard, Paris 1942; Concettuale in Italia 1965-1972, Galleria Milano, 1987; Ewerdt Hilgemann, Art Affairs, Amsterdam, 2015; Emmanuel Levinas, Le temps et l’autre, PUF, Paris 1983.

Emmanuel Levinas, 1906-1995. French philosopher born in Lithuania to Jewish parents. At home they spoke Yiddish as well as Russian. In 1928-29 he studied under Edmond Husserl and Martin Heidegger. He was the first to introduce their ideas into France. Levinas was a prisoner of war in a German camp, while his wife and daughter hid in a French convent. One of his early books, Le temps et l’autre, taught me nuances and defaults of our understanding, and the lack of reality of idealistic abstractions: time, being, existence merge into the fullness of life, and only the face-to-face with other humans allows them to exist. Levinas took his notes for this book when he was a prisoner. RA

Objects of a dysfunctional time: PETER SHIRE’s TEAPOTS

At MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles

 

MUSICAL, WHISPERING VOICES

 by Rosanna Albertini

Photos: Hannah Kirby

One can look at them naked, or encrusted with the shells of futurism, art deco, Milanese design, post modernism, California surrealism, like the door of a lobster cage. I would prefer to put all the verbal definitions into a fishnet and throw them deep into the ocean. The abandonment of the teapots to themselves “is an act of generosity,” as Mario Merz would say, “deciphering is the will to die.”

They are sirens these teapots singing the music of colors and forms: an endless, nostalgic song longing for water. Their nose too big, too long for their body, and the body shrunk like a musical instrument, or borrowing heaviness from a building, or eternalizing a fruit that tries to preserve the beauty of a flower and misses the branch moved by the wind. The teapots know there is no use for them. They are sculptures, born from an artist who likes to lie on the void, trying to forget rules and all the rational roads to understanding. Search for beauty is a source of anxiety.

“to orient
not to compel
to orient
in architecture
as in sculpture
like in a drawing of oriental vocal sensibilities
that is to say musical”
— Mario Merz

“All value depends upon somebody else’s opinion. For it is the essence of this philosophy that things have no independent existence, but live only in the eye of other people. It is a looking-glass world, this, to which we climb slowly; and its prizes are all reflexions. That may amount for our baffled feelings as we shuffle, and shuffle vainly, among those urban pages for something hard to lay our hands upon. Hardness is the last thing we shall find.”
— Virginia Woolf

That’s why there is no futurISM in these teapots, no celebration of civil and warlike mechanical machineries expected to pierce the present with energy, violent breaks, and, at least verbally, to introduce hardness. Instead, the teapots are a whispering voice, like the French and Italian words avenir, l’avvenire. From the late Latin ad-venire.

I find their softness and I don’t know what it is that touches me, unless what I like is just the uncertainty about what they are. They are displaced and useless, but searching for their face to face with us. The human side which is in them, the artist’s making, meets other humans in a present which is constantly coming to be, fleeting and incapable of standing as an accomplished future. Displacement is everywhere: between words and things, dreams and reality, thinking and making. What a dysfunctional time!

And yet, I miss stroking them, giving them a caress. I can only send them a philosophical caress, the most beautiful I found.

“The caress doesn’t know what she looks for. Such ‘not knowing’ such fundamental incongruence, is essential.” “The caress is waiting for a pure time to come, time without a content. She is made with growing hunger, and more and more enticing promises, which brings new perspectives on the things we cannot grasp.”
— Emmanuel Lévinas

Mario Merz, Lo spazio e curvo e diritto, Firenze, Hopeful Monster Editore, 1990

Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader, London, The Hogarth Press, 1935

Emmanuel Lévinas, Le temps et l’autre, @Fata Morgana, 1979. First edition February 1983, PUF, Paris.

 

THE CHALLENGE: IN 2001 HE BECAME A TREE

 because the artist can only be a humble flower bed, ASKING FOR APPROVAL (AL SERVIZIO DEL CONSENSO) Giuliano Nannipieri from Livorno, Italy.

THE CHALLENGE OF UNDERSTANDING by Rosanna Albertini

Here we are again. It would be a revolution in the arts if artists could give up being eccentric, like stars that refuse to rotate around the sun. Money perhaps? It would be simple if artists were spreading around their visions, images not needing the walls of a cave to exist for a long time. Or, some of the time.

Giuliano Nannipieri didn’t see limits to what an artist can be. Still does not. Philosophical weeds fed him deeply, but ideas became disposable for him if they were not bringing sparkles to his heart. Patient enough to graduate in philosophy, he couldn’t accept rules and impositions from the organized art world. He teaches art in a primary school.

He never gave up being a vessel of provocative, meaningful actions. Not far from Hirokazu Kosaka throwing arrows in the space between naked bodies in movement. But the Italian artist was the only one at risk: why not be, uninvited, at the Venice Biennale? In June 6, 2001 he went, exposed his physical metamorphosis, was thrown out. Yet, there was no violence on his side: he was just a tree. The metaphor of the artist’s body showing bandages over the painful transformation into a decorative commodity. Yes, with no price, he will not be purchased. It’s in the premise. Such a derisive, self-destructive commitment would lead, no need to say, to the death of any artist.

Guliano-1    Guliano-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guliano-3

Guliano-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guliano-5

Guliano-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 GIULIANO NANNIPIERI – The artist can only be a humble flower bed, al servizio del consenso.

VENICE BIENNALE unofficial performance 6/6, 2001,  6 Polaroids

That’s why I’ll try to uproot his tree and show what Nannipieri did in Venice, as in many other circumstances, by rewriting a page by Emmanuel Levinas. Impossible to translate word by word. It’s a verbal performance,  mine after his.

How can we be if our living time disappears and

we walk through the void?

Let’s imagine things

and people never were, so we could

breath such emptiness in and out

and feel murmurs of silence

subject and names are gone

a field remains of impersonal vibrations

the simple fact of an existing energy field

as impersonal as ‘it rains’ ‘it’s cold’ ‘it’s foggy’

names can’t tell about it, verbs maybe can

no offense to time and space they don’t count

compared with human energy

incurable daughter of fate

no one nothing will change her

what kind of art now?

(free reference to Emmanuel Levinas, Le temps et l’autre, 1979, pp.25-26)

Although I couldn’t tell, I do know some artists feel it in the air, in their blood, in their longs. And it’s against the fossilized values of this marketplace. Now, not in the future. Listen to the silence.

 

ARTIST – TREE – PERSON

 APRIL 14, 2014, BIRTH OF THIS BLOG

March 15 birthday of artist Giuliano Nannipieri from Livorno (Italy)

About thirty years ago, in the department of Philosophy of the University of Pisa, I was teaching seminars as a researcher and Nannipieri was one of my students, as loud and intolerant as those who, being the first in their family to have eaten the bread of wisdom, their mind like an echo from a shelf of books, feel inevitable demanding like barking dogs. I could tell because I was one of them in my early days of desperate drunkness with knowledge. History, philosophy, art, are big words. As life goes on, they soften. And life and art point their fingers toward a vast physical universe made for us to float in wonder.

I soon discovered he was an artist, but I hadn’t foreseen he would have become my guide through the fields of art. More than a teacher: I could read his mind and he could read mine often better than myself. Giuliano since then has never ceased to be part of my life. There is between us an extremely rare friendship based on perfect trust, understanding and also imperfect acceptance, when things get harsch. “Can I help you?” I thought many times, when the call of death seemed close to his ears.”You can only wait,” he told me indirectly. But this year he grew new branches and leaves. The day of his birthday, he performed his resurrection with an act of giving to his city. The gift was a precious olive tree, at least one hundred years old.

Waiting for the pictures of the real tree and of the collective performance, I introduce here a modest drawing, and two images of a ceramic artpiece Giuliano Nannipieri  made in the nineteen eighties: already a plant, a person, a hybrid voice. (Rosanna Albertini)

P1040249

Our resurrection -l’arbre donné(e)

(inclusive transition/translation on the grass-sur l’herbe)

The artist (everyone) must spend, give, pay to exist, and not make money, to be grateful, instead, toward those who listen to him and observe, pay for their attention… “the person who only musts or wants to observe should be paid…” (g.n.)

We are here together to invoke, to evoke the end of the market, of distinct roles… of disciplines… the end of money, of separation… here as an artist ( but also not artist, not maestr*, candidate… tree… ) I associate myself to a tree (that I bought and gave as a gift rescuing him from a destiny of decorative object in a garden) and along with the olive tree, such an ancient vegetable person, we associate ourselves to the other plants, the small animals of the grass, the vegetable gardens,  the stones,  children, and all the other vegetable animal persons… -beyond species, beyond genres, social classes, categories, rules- and let’s dance – paint-eat together- and water? We breath, Transform, include, we are transient obstacles to resist cement, market, beyond capitalism, to preserve this green space of inclusive actions and meetings

WE INVITE YOU TO INCLUSIVE TRANSITION ON MARCH 15 AT THE URBAN GARDENS OF GOITO STREET at 12.30 pm because we already have enough concrete… AND WE WISH A GREEN PLANET INCLUSIVE with no slavery whatsoever 

a hug and a summersault

giuliano nannipieri da Livorno

Our resurrection – l’arbre donné (e)

 (inclusive transition/translation on the grass-sur l’herbe)

L’artista (chiunque)deve spendere, donare, pagare per esistere, non guadagnare, essere piuttosto grato a chi ascolta e osserva, pagare per la sua attenzione… “chi dovesse o volesse solo osservare dovrebbe essere pagato”… (g.n.)

Insieme invochiamo, evochiamo la fine del mercato, della distinzione dei ruoli… delle discipline… del denaro, della separazione… qui come artista (ma anche non artista, non maestr*, aspirante…tree… ) mi alleo ad un olivo (che ho comprato e donato sottraendolo ad un destino da oggetto decorativo in villa) e con l’olivo, con questa antica persona vegetale, ci alleiamo alle altre piante, ai piccoli animali del prato, degli orti, alle pietre, a* bambin*, alle altre tutte persone vegetali, animali… -oltre le specie, oltre i generi, contro le classi, le categorie, i ruoli- e danziamo-dipingiamo-pranziamo-innaffiamo? respiriamo, Trasformiamo, insieme includiamo, transitiamo per resistere alla cementificazione, al mercato, per superare il capitale, per conservare questo spazio verde di inclusione e di incontro

VI INVITIAMO AL TRANSITO IN INCLUSIONE IL GIORNO 15 MARZO 2015 AGLI ORTI URBANI DI VIA GOITO ore 12.30 perchè di cemento ce n’è già abbastanza… DESIDERIAMO UN PIANETA VERDE INCLUSIVO senza nessuna forma di schiavitù

un abbraccio e una capriola

giuliano nannipieri da Livorno

P1040241 P1040240 (The sculpted person-plant sits on a page of the last text I read to my students in Pisa: Le temps et l’autre, by Emmanuel Lévinas. RA)