MICHA WILLE -
you: don ́t you want to make people happy?
me: no, I want to make people jealous.
you: you don ́t really mean that.
me: watch me.
24.06. − 10.08.2023
opening: 23.06.2023, 7 pm
opening hours: Thursday/Friday 4-8pm, Saturday 12-4pm and by appointment
curated by Eric Beier
A CONVERSATION ABOUT FIGURATION AND HUMOUR IN ART
Micha Wille in a ZOOM interview with the New York/Berlin-based curator
Charles P. Kipplatzer-Swift, Nov. 2020
In your interview with eSeL-Lorenz Seidler at Vienna Art Week 20, you began by stating that the opposite of serious art is not funny art, but lousy art. How come?
Yes, it was a good idea to trumpet this out, a few slots before me there was an artist who had a replacement present his work – caricatures and painting – the question about the relationship between art and humour was presented actually to him – but he didn't answer it - and besides his caricatures, he also showed some abstract paintings – I found that extremely interesting, that someone who dares to try humour professionally then says: and I also do serious painting and it's abstract – for me an exemplary cowardly and wrong decision.
Immediately it is clear: – these are now some basic observations – humour seems somehow coupled to figuration and to linguistic material (language) – what else? – both feed meaning-generating systems - and then it gets tricky because you realise: FUCK: it's mega-difficult – that it doesn't become banal – since you are immediately stuck in the realm of referentiality, or arbitrary referentiality.
I feel the same way – we still have to talk about humour, but even so – just figuration as a formal decision is currently also linked to the problem of the lack of knowledge about reference systems and their effect: there are very few who can make an interesting figurative work – why do you think that is?
Well – there are several suspicions on my part: in the first place, it is certainly also the lack of knowledge about sets of references/ about signs/ and about the intertwining of image and theory that you mentioned – then there is certainly also the fact that you have to have already gone through a lot in terms of craft in order to act your own figuration: that is to say – I do learn at the beginning to do with my hand what the eye sees – but it must not stop there - good lord! super-boring if you ask me, and so this connection, which should be purely due to the craft/drawing as a tool, has to be overcome: then it really starts and you have to begin to depict what your inner eye sees – this is where micro- and macro-narratives and hopefully poly-referentiality come into play – and also intertextuality, which I take from literature into art – now it's no longer just abstracting from the figure in the picture, but also in the head.
So – and anyone who can't contribute to current discourse, who doesn't backflip over the Mercedes with a snowboard and then give the whole thing a good chinwag – has no business here.
You're that strict about it?
Yes, if you want to call it strict – I always ask myself when I see a picture whether it is necessary to have painted it – does it blow me away? – does it make me laugh? – does it answer a question about thought and culture? – is it so interesting in terms of craftsmanship that I can read its contemporaneity?
Very few pictures stand up to this – therefore again – well done figuration is the winner in the artworld – now we have forgotten about humour again...
Give me a few winners' names whose handling of figuration you find good.
Ursula Susanne Buchart is rich and funny, you have already noted in a great text about her work how smartly she plays with the figurative gesture - she also cites painting - internal figuratively driven genres, such as the portrait, and then smears this with (POP) contextual bits - great, this interweaving brings a very uniquely humorous sound into it.
Then – I would also like to impute to Rene Schoemaker at least one level of humour in his implemented narratives, Adrian Ghenie is formally funny. and then of course Ashley Hans Scheirl as a very big act – I love it – for whom one still has to rethink a lot within the theory of painting – also a consequent commitment to humour. The ones that everyone has seen in the museums, Bacon, Condo, Guston and Hockney: they demonstrated very early on how figuration and possibility are connected – I love them, too. But with those mentioned I actually feel some kind of coherence in dealing with their decision on how not to tilt figuration from tipping over into the banal, and that doesn't include mere depiction – hyperrealistic (except for Schoemaeker – who can just do it) – it involves an underlying narrative/commentary which one translates into one's own language and then in turn translates it into the image. The manoeuvre can be humour – it can be speed speed, it can be irony – also in the palette, but there must always be smartness – or or all of these together. The reins must not be given out of one's hands, and yet enough levels must be opened up to allow the viewer to read along at least on one level.
If this does not succeed, I, as a viewer, can simply look at the picture in a computationally compositional way: ah, there is a freezer and there is a whatever and there is the next xy – in such a case the figuration has failed in my opinion – one component in the picture must NEVER legitimise the other one by its own – they all simply have to be legitimised by the whole picture.
Cooking is also just another form of decomposition, but you don't put in the onion because you put in the carrot. but you put in BOTH because you are making soup.
You have just postulated that humour is linked to the paradigms of language and figuration - what about abstraction? Where to put that?
The making of abstraction is incredibly hard – people totally underestimate it – but it's perception-friendly – it can be anything and nothing, which is very much in line with people's desire for decoration. Now, if you take it up formally, I find the abstract/figurative division very obsolete: figure is surface pressed between lines – with eyes half closed, every Caravaggio looks like an abstract painting. Again: I really only see the distinction as relevant for the perceptual side: people see something concrete in the representation of something halfway concrete – that is trivial. And that is precisely why it's so unspeakably boring, quite often...
When talking about painting, you always make comparisons to literature – is that perhaps where you come up with the boring? – because you expect PLOT?
Good question – I'll go through it – the plot in contemporary literature often distracts from the excruciating banality and debility of the language – or the LACK of language in general. Bizarrely stuffed plots have to cope with these deficiencies, that there does not seem to be much there in linguistic terms – I am thinking of masters of language such as Proust or Gogol, Bellow, Jelinek, and Deborah Levy – who don't need to throw out twists every second in terms of content, because their language itself already constitutes a large part of the work – Adrian Ghenie again – you do it! It seems to me to be like that, here as well as there: if the formal peculiarities of the language or painting are fit and established – and then content is added – mindblowing! – but if it's only content, I just think about it, then it needs to be solely scipt on the tableaux – in such a case I might accept it, but otherwise... And then of course: hardly any content with poor craftsmanship – one would rather prefer the view into the bleak valley...
Returning to humor – how important is that for you in art?
For me humour is one of the most important manoeuvres – next to FORZA – to embed and convey meaning: when you laugh about something, in the best case you have understood, right? It is, so to speak, meaning through the back door – no one needs the in-the-face educational crap...
It appears crooked to me that so many have no humor in art, or even don't want to have it – not the work and even more so the artists – I am always puzzled about that.
Just take the genre of movies – and there comedians – it is one of the hardest genres – I see that as soon as becomes theoretical in art, humor gets lost – I know many artists who are funny with their work, but then their approach is: I do this because I find it funny – and then they often reject the conceptual component.
I want to have more of both: humour within concept. The sculptor Catharina Bond is certainly one who achieves all this thoroughly – as do all of the above mentioed. I, for my part, do not want to leave art to the humorless: this gradual weaning away of humor in art is like an evaporating lake – you do not notice while it is happening – but one day all the fish are dead!!!!!
Forgot about Kippenberger. Kill me now.
24. Juni | 11 Uhr
Micha Wille und Ursula Susanne Burchart im Gespräch
1. Juli | 12 –16 Uhr
Kreativworkshop für Kinder von 3 bis 99 mit Nadine Wölk
24. Juli | 19 Uhr
Autorenlesung Kolja Reichert
„Kann ich das auch? 50 Fragen an die Kunst“
gemeinsam mit der Internationalen Dresdner Sommerakademie, im Riesa e.V., Wachsbleichstraße 4a