Falling open to the world

In the beautiful conversation between Ann Hamilton and Krista Tippett, which I wrote about earlier this spring, Hamilton is formulating very nicely some of the yet unfinished thoughts I have been struggling with the last couple of months. As I see it, she is figuring out some of the things I hoped that Alain deBotton would grasp – but didn’t. Here are some clippings from the above mentioned conversation:


  • What are the circumstances for we ? – that I can enjoy the pleasure of something I’m seeing here, knowing that I’m also sharing this pleasure with the person next to me.
  • There is an interesting kind of intimacy with this total stranger, which the situation makes possible. And that this can change our whole day. We are alone together.
  • Maybe too much togetherness makes us really nervous.
  • Finding our own presence, our own gestures, in relation to a larger presence or being: across time, space and cultures.
  • As an artist working today: How can we create a circumstance in which those kinds of processes in joining and acknowledging can occur.
  • Labor is a kind of knowing. An evidence of someone else’s body in the object. 
  • The museum can be (like) a sacred place, soaked in beauty. A place where air and time feels different – calm.

ANN HAMILTON: the event of a thread (2012), Park Avenue Armory, New York

I find the idea of the sacred, as formulated by Hamilton – not as a relation to God, but to a greater, collective non-individual being, incredibly fruitful when thinking about art. Being alone together, being quiet together, letting our body connect to something outside of logic – this is what religion used to do for us, but for many of us no longer have  the power to do. But I wonder; can art? These are the things I like to study.

Writing is easy:

From Virginia Woolf’s beautiful garden studio in Sussex

I’m home after a week in London. I have already written a critique of Bill Viola in St Paul’s and of Marina Abramovic in Serpentine (non of the texts is hitherto published, so my judgement has to stay a secret). But the most difficult task for me, as a writer, is to make an essay on Virginia Woolf, related to the exhibition at NPG. The text is right now  spinning somewhere in the ether between my mind and hand. But how is one to write well about someone like Virginia Woolf, such a self-opinionated woman, such a great master of words?! Is there at all anything new to contribute – .

I’m sort of beginning to feel the trueness of Gene Fowler’s words:

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead


Journalists gather at the opening of the exhibition Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, at the National Portrait Gallery, London



still things to do -

Photo © Rodney Todd-White & Son

Look at the intensity in this painting; the contrasting green & pink, the glow and shine in the pottery, the soft blue set against the reddish brown, the intensity of the woman, lost in her own planning, not noticing being watched. How colour, form and theme all play joyfully together. As I see it – this painting cherish the meaning & simplicity of everyday life in a beautiful way.


the perfect definition of the work of art

from flowerville

In these lines of Baudelaire:

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté, 

Luxe, calme et volupté

in which the inattentive reader sees only a cascade of words, I see the perfect definition of the work of art. I take each one of these words separately, next I admire the garland they form and the effect of their conjunction; for no one of them is useless and each of them is exactly in its place. I should quite willingly take them as titles of the successive chapters of a treatise on æsthetics:

  1. Order (logic, reasonable disposition of the parts);
  2. Beauty (line, dash, profile of the work);
  3. Luxury (disciplined richness);
  4. Calm (tranquilization of the tumult);
  5. Voluptuousness (sensuality, adorable charm of matter, attractiveness).

André Gide - Journal 1918 (Detached Pages)

art as seizure

(In search of better words, cont.)

Here’s a claim: The way we speak about art mirrors the kind of art we speak about. Presently the art and language held in favour by the establishment cultivates and celebrates the intellectual. Art is hereby reduced to a branch of philosophy.

There is nothing wrong with philosophy. But reducing art to a cerebral activity is to overlook many of art’s most important – the most important -qualities. Treating art as philosophy is furthermore a way of making art inaccessible for the general public.

Bill Viola, still from: The Sleep of Reason (1988) © Bill Viola Studio

Fortunately Chris Townsend has found a way of expressing this dilemma, in a text on the artist Bill Viola he writes:

Bill Viola’s emphases on affect, on pleasure in looking and the pursuit of profound spiritual meanings is largely at odds with the dominant tenets of the institutional forces – such as museums, universities and art colleges, and governmental organizations – that have increasingly shaped the public reception of art in the West for half a century.

Bill Viola is concerned with the meaning of art, or more strictly with the role of art in life’s continuing, and never satisfied search for meaning.

Some say (actually this is the common saying in todays art-world) it’s no longer fashionable to look for meaning in art, apperantly (A situation that solicits – begs for – the question of what much contemporary art might be providing instead, since it’s clearly not concentrated with either visual pleasure or the elevation of technic for its own sake, not even with an effective critique of history).

For Bill Viola sight and sound are privileged experiences.

Bill Viola, Amrican (b.1951)


Field report

I live in two houses, one by the sea and another by the ocean. The one by the sea is at Hundvåg, in Stavanger, a town house in a busy neighborhood . The ocean-house is in the country side. It takes me an hour to drive from one to the other.

This week I’m by the ocean – and here are some images (unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera, so these are from my iPhone)


In the centre of this image you can spot the house, it’s almost invisible (which is the intention), built in Siberian Larch it will get more and more grey like the rocks surrounding it. The house in itself might be invisible, but the views from the house is spectacular, here is from my bedroom window looking west.


The landscape here, at the south end of Jæren, is varied; mountains to the east, rocky coast to the south, long sand beaches meeting the North Sea in the west, beaches stretching all the way from Ogna (where I am now) to Stavanger. In-between the ocean and the mountains are well tended rich and fertile agricultural land. The wind is sweeping most of the time, average temperature in July is 15°C/ 59°F. I’ve just been told that we have had the driest June in 21 years, normally it would rain quite a lot.


Despite lack of rain the forest floor still looks lush green. This is from my morning walk at 8 o’clock.


Even if it’s too cold for sunbathing, the 70 kilometers long beaches are the main attraction of the area. Some come for surfing, Hiking is highly recommendable!
2012-03-27 12.36.08
I’m already looking forward to my afternoon walk, but first there is some writing to be done …

art & affect

continuing my research on the importance of art -


(Oh, I know – some of you are more than sick and tired of this, if you are amongst the exhausted ones; please visit again later!)

Here we go: I went to Alain de Botton, I read his book and visited his exhibition, and even went public with my findings. All this because I find his insistence on the meaning of art in our daily life – his focus on the relation between art and audience – of greatest importance. I also find this very same relationship to be under-valued in todays art world. I appreciate de Botton’s focus

- but;

I am not convinced by his model or method. I find de Botton to be too instrumentalistic. This is how he present his ideas himself:

This book proposes that art (a category that includes works of design, architecture and craft) is a therapeutic medium that can help guide, exhort and console its viewer, enabling them to become better versions of themselves.

A big problem for me is that I, even if I disagree with de Botton, haven’t yet come up with an answer to my own question(; … the question of the importance of art). I know a lot of reasons, but I’m trying to build something bigger here, I’m trying to go universal … – it is as if I have to leave my Cartesian brain at home to come up with new and better ideas, new and better language for my feelings …

So why not give in to affections – ?!

Here is Chris Townsend:

There are some works of art that are better written about than seen, though that writing may be only marginally more or less accessible than the art in question. There is a great deal of contemporary art where, through the cultural attenuation of its capacity to apprehend images, to understand historical contexts, to think critically for itself, an audience is thrown back upon the hermeneutic activity of specialists who tell it what to think, how to feel.

Bill Viola, Five Angels for the Millennium 2001 © Bill Viola Studio

There might be a parallel between art and theory here, as if we have painted ourselves into a corner. I do believe that art is of another quality and importance than science and research. The two fields are filling different needs. I don’t thing it is satisfying for the audience to be thrown back into hermeneutic activities, I believe we go to art for something else, something different. We go there, to art, to be transposed out of the ordinary, out of our more or less well controlled minds. I think we have to talk about AFFECT – .