Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sein und Zeit (Being and Time)

"Phrenology of the brain," engraver unknown, 1898. Star Publishing Co., Chicago, USA.

After racing through Paris Nord last night to catch the slow train back to Leipzig, I had a few hours to reflect on our collective obsession with time, all the more so in light of Neo Rauch's much anticipated exhibition 'Der Zeitraum', opening this weekend at Eigen + Art. Johann Dieter Wassmann, for one, had hoped our obsessions would be otherwise. But first, a digression. Among Johann's archives is a considerable dossier on phrenology and synesthesia. His writings suggest he was skeptical of both, but in his search for some paradigm that might help him find new meaning in the metaphysical, he was open to all comers. Although Johann's personal vision of the modern was a far cry from what came to be, the very onset of the modern gave Johann confidence that the 20th century would see man enter over into a world in which representation would be derived not only by means of the visual, but through a state of complete sensory and metaphysical awareness. Getting back to time, he believed the modern would allow us to enter over into a world in which space and time were wholly united (somewhat presaging Einstein's notion of space-time in his special theory of relativity, published in 1905), halting the misuse and reckless abandonment of the physical world brought on by our rising obsession with the temporal. In doing so, he believed that cities might one day become more humane places in which to live, factories might develop into more benign places in which to work and human beings might long last relinquish their fixation with the watch inside their pocket, the clock on the mantel or the bahnhof timetable. As I file this post on my new Blackberry at first light, passing through the Harz Mountains, I have to conclude we've landed a long way off the mark from what Johann had hoped.
Will Neo find some means of taking us to our metaphysical zeitraum on Saturday? I'll let you know. In the meantime, here's a link to a very incisive interview Pompidou curator Alison Gingeras did with Neo in FlashArt some time back, touching on many of these issues. Neo's responses are translated by Susan Schwartz

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