January 17. Introduction

January 24., March. 3.: Malevich: Surematist composition: white on white

March 10.,17.: Dürer: Veronica

March 24.: Bosch: The wayfarer ("The Prodigal Son")

March 31., April 7.: Vermeer: The Lacemaker

April 21., 28.: Van Gogh: Peasant Shoes

May 5.,12.: Moholy-Nagy: Lichtrequisit (Light-Space modulator)

In the course of the semester we analysed six works of art and, with the help of these, we reviewed (European) art from the late middle ages to the middle of the 20th century. In choosing the works, besides personal taste, I also tried to view the work more generally, the different versions, the recognition that occurs through the picture; as artistic history of tradition and development. An important and inevitable question has purposefully not been brought up yet, of his artistic interpretation fulfils ( this is not the same as the question of how to interpret art). So as to avoid direct answers such as e.g. this is a study - let us put the question in a more precise form: What do we recognize by examining the piece: do we reach the piece itself or do we reach something through the piece? Not taking into account the possible self-evident answers, let us use these questions as hypotheses. Notice the heideggerian smell of the second question, and notice the traditional (scientific) method of the first. Beginning with the latter, the view point of this interpretation of the question: it takes the piece into consideration and its goal is to reach the piece itself. Of course we think that it is obvious that the only way to reach the piece is by train, plane, car, etc.; photos , photocopies, etc. after which with the original and then it becomes clear that we start out from the piece and go elsewhere, in a totally different direction. According to Heidegger, this "elsewhere" can be described by the word truth, and instead of debating this let us just accept that in this case we can do with a lot less: in the direction of some kind of recognition. Otherwise the door that opens to the unknown is the piece, in this way the piece is to be recognized. Therefore when starting out from the piece, we go through the same steps so the direction doesn’t change. Of course this is the still unknown, the wished for, the desire to be possessed by beauty (Kunstwollen). Moreover if we imagine the inverse of possession, that is, being possessed by its proximity, the wanting to always be close to this unknown, (an unknown we consider to know well) to reach this we think of more and more tactics. To understand this procedure and for the role of the piece in this context to become clear, let us take a simple thing, an object, something that is close to us, it can be anything, the simplest thing that we can physically hold in our hand at the moment (To take the opposite the opposite of the Heideggerian example with Van Gogh’s Peasant Shoes) Let it be a glass, or the chair I am sitting on at the moment. Take it and examine it. ( By the way this would be a good opportunity for the deeper explanation of the fluxus maxime: everyone-is-an-artist, everything-is-art; but is everything an art piece? No. Everything-is-art, no.) What purpose does the examination of an everyday object serve? If we choose it to be the object of our examination and apply to it all the possible viewpoints of art-interpretation, we would easily notice that it is much more general and widespread, we can rapidly approach the outline of the universe’s history. So: This is a wooden chair. The product of industrial mass production, it is to be assumed that it was produced in Hungary in the early 70’s. Already we have five directions we can take. Because in this respect (if the examination is a strict one) every bit of information is to be profoundly meditated on; to be made precise. Material: wood. What is a tree? Since when do trees grow on Earth (what is the Earth?). What purpose do they serve? What kind of tree are we considering here? What kind of provisions allow us to make use of the tree in this manner ( the history of wood production) and since when is the idea known? What other kinds of uses are there (e.g. fires), and to what extent is this use special? What is it’s situation in Hungary ( what is Hungary and since when does it exist?) and elsewhere? etc. Function: Chair. It belongs to the furniture family. ( What is furniture and since when does it exist? Since when do chairs exist? The stump is the forefather of the chair. Is it the oldest form, or is the branch, or perhaps the bare ground? Is sitting the basic function from which we start out? Since when does man sit or what is the ontogenesis man sitting? What level of consciousness does sitting indicate (e.g. dogs sit as well) -how did it change throughout history? Who and where did they sit ( apart from the chair what else is suitable for this), in what situation, for what reason or social necessity? ( Consider the sociology of the chair: from the throne to the stool, the bunk or the stocks, to the electric chair or the privy)

A short review: from what other sort of materials are chairs made of, do these materials have anything in common that causes them to be suitable and does this serve as a moral concerning our chair? Form of production (technique) industrial... and let us stop right here. What is industry? What is the difference between manufacturing and mass-production? Since when does it exist? . How does agriculture and industry take a part in the chair or how does the chair take place in these two areas’ historical relationship (e.g. why weren’t there chairs on the tribune?). Even further: mass and hand crafted. The culture and anti-culture of mass production. Now that its nature can be felt, I will mention a few (in order to save time) movements that deny the chair, outlines of special cases of the chair in literature, (Imre Madách's chair-brandishing-Michelangelo), in art (Kosuth: 1+3 chairs) and in the auditoriums (the stall and box).

And we can at any time (or maybe never) return to the concrete example: we can measure it (weight, size, density) we can investigate the colour ( how it changes), we might notice the storage number (the owner of the chair, who sat or could have sat on it?) Where may the same - it can be frequent - be found? What does (could) it represent? What kind of ordinary and extraordinary marks are there to be found on it and what of conclusion may be drawn from these? ( See Baudrillard: Le systéme de l'objets). Can it be modelled and has this concrete chair played a role in any other intellectual context (does it have a history, and if it doesn’t why is it so easy to confuse?)

Would this be the universal definition of the chair? Does it really bear such a complex message, as every piece (as every piece of art) does? No, these messages are carried by the human spirit, and this brings to light that this matter is suitable for any simple object in the same manner. But not for works of art. Exploring those is not as simple, as a piece of art is rather limited, not so generously defined as this chair. It is finite, or rather limited, restricted, monadic (referring Leibniz) in space-time continuum. However, it allows, but does not desire, impartial investigation. Although it allows everything, everything is not always equally sensible. And since the piece of art is the problem at hand, not the already known, the 'observer' has to find the problem in the piece, not in his self (the already known). This sequence in thought is not the application of the piece to itself, but to the observer’s own knowledge. In some cases the observer will acclimate to the piece (to the aura of the piece) with the whole of his being, and notice the direction of this climate. However, he is not confronted with a case of the probable, it is a case of the incomparable, an example of the incomprehensible. Of course the majority of art is material. Perhaps it is not inaccurate to say that the more the material can be brought into the investigation of a piece -according to the above mentioned characteristics- the less the piece qualifies as good (e.g. with Goya it is not as interesting that it is oil and canvas as it is at the shopping centre when you see that it is an original oil painting and not a reproduction on paper). And it is also clear that the latter may be easier to find.

Miklós Peternák (1993)