In her work, language becomes speaking that manifests itself as an image or sculpture. The art of the Dutch artist Falke Pisano is not easy to understand. Nor is that necessary, she says. There are other ways of appreciating it.
‘After graduating from the Utrecht School of the Arts in 2001, I tried for a short while to continue making work, but I realized quite soon that I had not developed any tools or methods to translate what I was thinking about into something that I would consider a “work of art”. I was thinking about many things, but always side-stepped them when it came to the moment of production. So I decided to stop, and found a job as an assistant for Ellen de Bruijne Projects in Amsterdam. Of course, I learned a lot and after a while I started to curate the gallery’s project space, Dolores, which gave me the opportunity to engage directly with artists from my generation, like Frank Koolen and Keren Cytter who were then at De Ateliers.
After a couple of years, in 2004, I felt a desire that did not so much have to do with wanting to make art, but more with an idea of synthesis. I had all these thoughts and ideas and wanted to find a way to bring them together and externalize them, to find a form and a context for them. I wrote an application to the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, approaching it very strategically: I tried to write something that was concrete and precise enough to convince the committee, but at the same time left the subject of research completely open. The title of my proposal was “Thinking as (Pragmatic) Action”. Looking back, it was basically the formulation of a methodology (it came with a short list of subjects to think about). I applied to the Theory Department – I didn’t realize it was so academic then – but luckily they forwarded my application to the Fine Art Department, where I was invited for an interview. During the interview, I explained that it was not my intention to make art, but if I happened to accidentally make a work it would be fine as well. I was accepted, and in the first week of introductory lectures I presented my proposal. And the funny thing was that several people perceived the proposal as a “lecture-performance”, something that I didn’t know existed. And I was also positively surprised about how this simple format could communicate both subject matter and something more formal. I felt very comfortable with it, and I really felt I had walked around a wall that I had always been walking straight into before this. So, even if I did not “perform” this “lecture” again, I think we could say this was my first artwork.I am still trying to figure out why it is so difficult for me to take a distance and speak about my practice in a more theoretical or reflexive mode. Sometimes I feel like my work is a black hole that absorbs all of the matter in its proximity.’
‘There is certainly a strong sense in my text-based works of moving matter, of transforming or constructing in a very material way. I would connect it more to a combination of a materialist and a performative approach than to constructing truth, but I do see a link to the very forefront of science, where theories are being developed on the basis of many unknown and uncertain factors, and the only way of verification is deduction. When something comes to light that doesn’t work with the theory, the theory needs to be adapted. And when this doesn’t happen, scientists continue to build on their latest theory.
I might use a somewhat similar strategy, without the claim to explain the world, of course, because it simply does not make any sense to say, with a claim to truth: this is how a sculpture turns into a conversation, or: this is how an object disintegrates into a relational situation. What I do use is a method of stating things in an objective style, without references to a context outside of the work/text, as a way of making something concrete in language. And because I often try to make something concrete that is not possible in the material world, it also becomes an experiment in how much materiality language can take on before the link to the sensible is lost.The work in which I follow this strategy most strictly is The Complex Object (Affecting Abstraction 3), which is a step-by-step construction of a linguistic object. I state in the first sentence: ‘The object of which this is the first sentence doesn’t exist yet.’ There is no way to verify if this sentence is true or not, and there is in my eyes also no way to read it as a metaphor. It means what it means, and it is the beginning of the linguistic object.’
‘Thinking back now, I would say that my concept of “the object” (and my use of language as I explained before) had very much to do with what may be the most non-linguistic objects in art history: the non-object of Ferreira Gullar and the specific object of Donald Judd. These objects are decisively non-representational, and non-metaphorical. They are actually not exactly sculptures but objects; but they distinguish themselves from other, common objects like tables and chairs – and, in both Gullar’s and Judd’s concept, they distinguish themselves from painting in the sense that they don’t exist in “illusionistic space” but in “real space”. Both Gullar and Judd also included the spectator as being part of the object-being-made.What I was trying to figure out (or “imagine”) in Object and Disintegration, was whether it was possible to draw a line from the highly modernist non-object or specific object via relational, but still object-based practices like those of Helio Oiticica (in the late 60s and early 70s) and of Lygia Clark (after 1963) to something that doesn’t include any objects at all, something that might resemble a conversation in the sense that it is based on exchange, that it is informal and doesn’t adhere to rules or Constructivist principles.’
‘This earlier work (2006/2007) consists of a double projection with voice-over. The left black-and-white projection has the subtitle Part Zero (Collection and Construction) and consists of images of modernist sculpture, people looking at or making sculptures, images associated with alchemy, text fragments and small drawings, all embedded inside a large diagram loosely based on László Moholy-Nagy’s Dynamics of the Big City, over which the camera pans. The right projection, which together with the voice-over has the subtitle Part One (Description), shows a series of (kind of atmospheric) colour photos of a group of people, seen through fragments of a red sculpture, having a conversation. In comparison to the text part, I worked much more loosely on the visuals. They are there to make space, like you say, to prevent the text from becoming the only account of the transformation.By contrast, the voice-over is that of a text quite literally describing a sculpture turning into a conversation. The language establishes/shapes the material as it were, and the main motif is the search for a logic that can bring about the transformation (turning) mentioned in the title. It was not an easy text to write. My biggest problem was to figure out how a specific object (a non-referential object that is described through its material qualities) could transform into an informal and content-based conversation. Where does sensation (of material and form) connect to meaning that can be verbally articulated? I was drawing a lot of diagrams to help me write the text. I finally came up with quite a complicated solution, where I constructed the text explicitly around the transformation, and neither the sculpture nor the conversation ever exist as whole and concrete.’
‘I think here, and likewise in other texts that rely on such a convoluted logic, my work comes to a point where there is a real resistance against the mode of conversation. There is a turn where the text becomes an object (again). What I want to achieve with this, is that a part of the attention is shifted from the text as representative meaning-making to the text as gesture, highlighting the performative aspect and the way this work functions within a broader system. To articulate and visualize the relations between works, I make use of line diagrams, for instance to re-think the connections between three earlier works. A clear instance of this occurs in the lecture Figures of Speech 1 (2008). I subsequently translated the diagram that this lecture is based on into four wall sculptures Figure 1 - 4 (2009) for the exhibition Figures of Speech (Formation of a Crystal) at Hollybush Gardens in London, 2009. Later, these sculptures re-appeared deconstructed in the form of indexical diagrams that I presented both on posters and as wall paintings.So the diagram functions as a methodological tool, becomes form, attains a materiality, then falls back into an intermediate state coming closer to language and thought, where it evolves before it becomes form again, and so on.... I think I only really started to think about the diagrammatic, and work with it consciously, in this later lecture, Figures of Speech 1 (2008).’
‘The book definitely was a kind of closure, and afterwards it took me a long time to figure out how to proceed. Actually, these months in Brazil have been very important in an unexpected way. For me, Brazil has always been very much connected with fluidity and exchange, with social relations that are being performed and transformed, raising questions about how to evade institutions and how the unofficial and informal can work on the official and formal. Conceptually, I’m thinking through Deleuze, Guattari, Oiticica, Clark etc. In that sense, my idea of Brazil was very much connected to the work in Figures of Speech.
But since I have been in Brazil, I have started thinking about things that interfere with these ideas: I'm finally reading some post-modernist texts, thinking about representation and image and about how representation functions in relation to distance. Previously, in thinking about diagrams (the image as diagram) I assumed that different contexts could be brought together without planes of real resistance, but in thinking about representation I became more sensitive to obstructed flows, or ways in which things stay fragmentary, cannot be integrated, are being kept at a distance even if a meaningful connection can be made between very different contexts.At the moment, I am researching the format of comics, and especially comics made during and after military dictatorships (for instance in Argentina), thinking about strategies that were used to address the violence and oppression in the face of state censorship, but also how comics played a part in reconstructing a suppressed collective memory after the fact (where indexical images failed). Simultaneously, I am looking into representations of the body in repressive conditions where the institutions and structures thrust the organic body into a state of crisis, not only through direct state violence, but also through institutionalized definitions of (mental) health and illness, for instance. I am not sure what will come out of it.’
Monika Szewczyk is a writer and curator living in Berlin and Rotterdam, where she is Head of Publications at Witte de With
- Falke Pisano
Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam
10 September – 22 October
- The title is a reference to Piet Mondrian’s text Natural Reality and Abstract Reality: An Essay in Trialogue Form, which consists of a conversation between a Layman, a Naturalist Painter, and an Abstract-Real Painter.
- Ferreira Gullar in an interview: ‘The non-object does not rest upon references of use or of sense (meaning) because it does not form part of the condition of utility or of verbal designation. The non-object is transparent to perception. It is a meaning immanent to its own form that is simple signification. The non-object is not a representation but a concrete presence that is perceived above the real space of the world and not above the metaphoric ground of abstract expression. The verbal non-object is anti-dictionary: space where the isolated word irradiates its charge. The non-object demands a spectator (does it even have to do with a spectator?) as proper condition of its act of ‘being made’ and not so much that passive boundary of its existence. Without a spectator the work exists only as potentiality, awaiting the human gesture that actualizes it.’
- Anna Dezeuze in ‘Minimalism and Neoconcretism’ (lecture, 2006): ‘New York, 1962: Puzzled, Donald Judd looks at one of his first free-standing pieces, which he describes as “a right angle of wood placed directly on the floor.” He is thinking: “The work is not lying flat upon the floor, therefore it isn’t a low relief on the floor. But on the other hand, it isn’t heaped upon the floor either, so it isn’t a high relief either.” Years later, Judd would look back onto this moment and conclude: ‘Before the right angle and its predecessor, nothing had ever been placed directly on the floor.… My work on the floor was a new form, creating space amply and strongly.”’
- This work by Moholy-Nagy was a schematic/script for a film, spread across several pages.
- ‘Performative fiction’ is a term I borrowed from Daniela Castro, a Brazilian curator and writer.