reede, juuni 29, 2012

Reading Recommendation:

Candida Höfer “On Kawara. Date Paintings in Private Collections”
by Aliina Astrova

Asked to review (propose, suggest?) a book or an essay of some kind for your consideration, I am faced with a few boxes worth of academic writing that occupy the space on the floor of a flat I am about to move from. It all seems a mess; and I have no desire to pick from this pile, let alone impose any of these books in a form of a recommendation. Due to my occupation I read a lot, and there are many texts that have influenced me, but “I don’t believe everything I read anymore,” as a friend of mine put it.

The same guy once showed me a book by Candida Höfer. It was a chunky title, of a coffee table kind. Expensive production, glossy photographs, no writing besides captions. Inside, the artist famous for her photographs of public spaces—banks, offices—reprinted her extensive series of pictures taken of Japanese conceptualist On Kawara’s infamous Date Paintings (1) hung on the walls of their collectors. For a long time—at least 3 years that have passed since that day—my friend’s passionate recommendation of the book overshadowed its contents in my memory, until recently I stumbled upon the same publication in an unlikely location during my travels. The discovery caught me off guard; I have completely forgotten about the book and now it was there in front of me (“It had found me”) and I had no choice but to get it, even though I was only later to find out the importance of this object in my ever decreasing collection.

In my mind, neither of the countless essays, talks and lectures on the nature, essence, or future of painting have succeeded to express the reality of what this medium—or maybe even art in general—have come to be today as well as Höfer’s simple project. Page after page, across over 250 of them in total, lay perfect reproductions of her photographs, each one an immaculately simple shot of expensive laconic modern interior designs wrapping one of the Date Paintings; often choosing her signature classical straight-on angle with the painting taking center stage, but sometimes preferring more subtle ways, where the viewer has to look for “the object” of the photograph, if tat object actually were the Date Paintings. In fact, the object of Höfer’s pictures, or even her project, is not any one of On Kawara’s paintings in particular. Her book is simultaneously one of the most exclusive selections of interior design as well as one of the most critical presentations of painting to date—not to assume that such coincidence would be surprising. It hits you straight-on, just as Höfer’s signature shooting angle: This is what painting is. Neatly stuck onto a wall of an expensive flat, doing nothing. It is dead in a way no verbal criticism could possibly express. It is nothing, and it counts nothing but the days since its own death. AUG.12.1975; 18 JUN, 1995; JULY 6,2000; ... It is not the loud death art and its critics hoped for—the kind that exits with a bang, with a statement, ruining everything; to die for a cause, changing everything in the process; a revolution. Instead, it is a death that goes unnoticed, leaving sufficient space to pretend it never happened.


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