RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER [Angst essen Seele auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul), 1973]
"I would like to build a house with my films. Some are the cellar, others the walls and others again are the windows. But I hope that, in the end, it will be a house." -RWF-
Genius. Troubled. Disturbed. Workaholic. Passionate. The possibilities are endless. In his book, Christian Thomsen, a close friend of Fassbinder, illuminates Fassbinder’s body of work while revealing his insider views of a man who, despite a furious temper, manic working habits, and rampant drug addiction, supported an extended family including his mother, a string of male lovers, lovelorn women, and even a pair of frustrated wives - with his intoxicating and prolific imagination. His doppelgänger is the core in much of his work, specifically often-used image of the mirror, a metaphor representing the double nature of personalities, illusions separating reality from appearance, sexual, political, overwhelmingly human contradictions inherent in the life of this intensely creative man and the remarkable films he directed.
“If depressing circumstances are merely reproduced in a film it simply strengthens them. Consequently the dominant conditions should be presented with such transparency that one understands how they can be overcome.” -RWF-
Fear Eats the Soul toed the line between sentiment and self-awareness, a bitterly ironic social statement wrapped up in a humanist call for compassion—or vice-versa. It is not an easy movie to warm up to. It’s no May-December romance that tugs at the heart. It is, rather, another quite courageous attempt by Fassbinder to develop a film style free of the kind of realistic conventions that sentimentalize life’s mysteries. Like all his films, he ruthlessly attacked both German bourgeois society and the larger limitations of humanity, and his films detail the desperate yearning for love and freedom and the many ways in which society defeats that desire.
Thomas Elsaesser goes so far as to suggest that in Fassbinder’s films,“all human relations, all bodily contact, all power structures and social hierarchies, all forms of communication and action manifest themselves and ultimately regulate themselves along the single axis of seeing and being seen.” (Julian Savage: Thomas Elsaesser, Primary Identification and the Historical Subject: Fassbinder and Germany, Cinetracts, no. 11 (Fall 1980), p. 43-52)
Fassbinder is not interested in offering simple solutions to his character’s woes or depicting their decision making as consistent. The impact of Fear Eats the Soul lies in the way all of the characters are shown to be fallible and flawed. We are made aware that the human being who can show with a single look sympathy, affection and love beyond the dictates of the society is also socialized in a way that makes them susceptible to delivering looks of prejudice and hatred. The complexities of negotiating an identity or role in a multi-cultural society are wrought asunder as questions of race, racism, gender, self-preservation and more are confronted in the flux of existence.
Christian Braad Thomsen, Fassbinder:The Life and Work of a Provocative Genius, University of Minnesota Press, 2004 – Book & Review [CHB-F]
Julian Savage, The Conscious Collusion of the Stare: The Viewer Implicated in Fassbinder’s Fear Eats the Soul, Cinémathèque Annotations on Film, Issue 59, 2011 – (Essay)/Review [SC-F]
VAAST COLSON [Though a lie be swift, the truth overtakes it. Ten fibs I told as a child, 2006]
Ten lies Vaast Colson told as a child were printed on 500 white balloons. Each balloon is accompanied by a mini-disc on which Colson explains the project and a signed and numbered information card. During the opening the balloons were filled with helium and released. The people who found a balloon were invited to send a photograph of themselves with the balloon. The most distant balloon thus far was found at 770 km from Antwerp.
JÁNOS TÖLGYESI [Levelezőlap, Balaton durch-sicht – Postcard mirror, 1972]
"Put the postcard in front of a mirror and look out trough the hole: you can get a reality-like view. If the view is not resembling enough you may cut out a larger hole equal to the ‘durch-sicht’ - for sure you will get a real view."
MIKLÓS ERDÉLY, GYÖRGY JOVÁNOVICS, JÁNOS MAJOR [Major János kabátja (The Coat of János Major) at Balatonboglár Chapel Studio of György Galántai Exhibition, Budapest, Hungary, 1973]
János Major as a ‘living tombstone’ and Miklós Erdély contributes to the exhibition with his work ‘God is small’. This exhibition - presented 2 months before the Chapel Studio was occupied and closed by the police – didn’t have any title and was completed spontaneously with works and actions during 2 weeks.
Although it started as the art of freedom, destroying taboos, avantgardism sets more and more limits on itself with each new work of art. I consider the coat that we exhibited together an attempt to set avantgardism free (Miklós Erdély). This work entitled János Major’s Coat, which became paradigmatic in Hungarian art was born during a train ride. I was traveling to Balatonboglár with Erdély & Major, and we knew that the three of us would exhibit something, but as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what to show. […]While we were traveling, Major took his coat off, as he was hot, and hung it up. God only knows who was the first to declare that this was a work of art. I haven’t heard of Erdély claiming this for himself, and Major has never said so either. (György Jovánovics)
GERALDINE FINN [Why Althusser Killed His Wife: Essays on Discourse and Violence, Prometheus Books, 1995]
These essays explore and analyze issues of contemporary cultural concern: science, rationality, sex, violence, representation, ethics, politics, and spirituality. The perspective elaborated in and through them draws on an extensive knowledge of and familiarity with twentieth-century European philosophy, especially the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the ethical and political writings of Jean-Paul Sartre, and the deconstructive project of Jacques Derrida. [PGF]
NIKI de SAINT PHALLE & Jean Tinguely [Hon - en Katedral, 1966 - Stockholm Museum]
[images via catrinastewart]
I never shot at God… I shot at the church. I glorify the cathedral. -Niki de Saint Phalle, 1981- —- So much European art, particularly performance, should be reinscribed within a dialectic of the sacred and profane. Niki de Saint Phalle’s work is situated in a tradition which begins with the roots of the Catholic religion in Europe and extends to the oeuvre of our contemporaries such as Orlan. These themes, and force of her challenge to the patriarchal institution of the Church as well as society as a whole is the focus of Sarah Wilson’s exploration in The Sacred, the Profane and the Secret in the work of Niki de Saint Phalle, Niki de Saint Phalle, Tate Liverpool, 2008.
Sarah Wilson, MA, PhD – The Courtlaud Institute of Art, University of London.
Hon is Swedish for ‘she’, and Saint Phalle was a pioneering exponent of one of the dominant styles of feminist art. She fought on the mythic front. Her female figures are archetypal, elemental, symbols of both oppression and exuberance, often simultaneously. Agony-anger-energy-ecstasy is the emotional compound they embody. The damaged victim becomes the revenging fright monster becomes the goddess of free and unbounded power and joy. It’s an idiom that has its own tradition. This line runs through many writers and artists of the second half of the 20th century.
YAYOI KUSAMA in her studio in the psychiatric hospital in Tokyo and back in the days in her New York studio.
Having suffered nervous disorders and hallucinations since childhood, Kusama has chosen to live in a Tokyo psychiatric hospital for the past 38 years, and has built herself a studio opposite. Health permitting, she still makes a daily journey from the hospital to her studio to paint.
Excerpts from Kusama: Princess of Polka Dots directed by Heather Lenz
ANTONI TÀPIES [Rinzen / Sudden Awakening, 1993] - Spanish Pavilion at the 45th Venice Biennale.
"One day I tried to arrive at silence. Those millions of furious clawings were transformed into millions of grains of dust, of sand. A whole new landscape, as in the story of one who goes through the looking glass, opened before me as if to communicate the most secret innerness of things. And the most sensational surprise was to discover one day, suddenly, that my works, for the first time in history, had turned into walls. The story of how the evocative power of wall images took shape in me goes way back. They are memories from when I was a teenager and young man, trapped within the walls where I lived during the wars… “How many suggestions can be derived from the image of the wall and all its possible permutations! Separation, cloistering, the wailing wall, prison, witness to the passing of time […] So many things arose that appeared to establish a proud kinship between me and those philosophies and wisdoms I so esteemed!” —Antoni Tapies, his 1969’s article Comunicación sobre el muro (Communication on the Wall)—
Antoni Tàpies’ Rinzen which was awarded the Leone d’Oro, was a symbol of protest and a reflection on the effects of the Balkans war.
IRWIN Live, 1996, installation view at CCA, Ujazdowsky Castle, Warsawa, Poland.
IRWIN Live consists of paintings from the “Was ist Kunst” series installed on the ceiling with the Irwin members suspended below them so as to appear standing as spectators in front of their paintings. After the opening the “live” members are replaced with replicas, wich remain in the gallery for the duration of the exhibition. Photograph by Mariusz Michalski.
GÉZA PERNECZKY [Art Buborék, 1972; Postcard from the series Dialectics, Germany, 1973; Art Pingpong, 1972] - Study exhibition: International Fluxus and Concept Art (Impossible Realism), Hungary
One way or another, fluxus is a creature of the fluid moment. It was through fluxus that concept art first attained form, although it had pre-figurations not only in this century, but far back into the past too. —Ken Friedman—
In fluxus activity one’s attitude and approach to life resemble zen exercises, zen koans, as well as haiku moments. The impossible realism represented by fluxus attains form in genreless genres (intermedia) and the living intermediary transient events. Conceptual art striving to transcend fluxus further expands the territory of impossible realism with its paradox and tautology research. –György Galántai—
LAURIE ANDERSON [Fully Automated Nikon, 1973]
I decided to shoot pictures of men who made comments to me on the street. I had always hated this invasion of my privacy and now I had the means of my revenge. As I walked along Houston Street with my fully automated Nikon, I felt armed, ready. I passed a man who muttered ‘Wanna fuck?’ This was standard technique: the female passes and the male strikes at the last possible moment forcing the woman to backtrack if she should dare to object. I wheeled around, furious. ‘Did you say that?’ He looked around surprised, then defiant. ‘Yeah, so what the fuck if I did?’ I raised my Nikon, took aim, began to focus. His eyes darted back and forth, an undercover cop? CLICK.
SÁNDOR PINCZEHELYI [Tükör, 1972]
Mirror-works by 35 artists was an international exhibition at Balatonboglar Chapel Studio (Budapest), called Tükör / Mirror / Spiegel / Miroir organized by László Beke. Sándor Pinczehelyi was one of the participants.