Inside: Is the inside visible from the outside? Is the inside only perceptible in its relation to an outside (by way of looking out, for example)? How can I arrive at one of the two, starting from the other? It may be the transition that counts.
Ist das Innen von Außen zu sehen? Zeigt sich das Innen nur in seinem Bezug zum Außen (zum Beispiel beim Hinausschauen)? Wie komme ich von dem einen zum anderen? Vielleicht ist es der Übergang, der zählt.
“My father was not an ‘inspector’ of lighthouses; he, two of my uncles, my grandfather, and my great grandfather in succession, have been engineers to the Scottish Lighthouse service, all the sea lights in Scotland are signed with our name; and my father’s services to lighthouse optics have been distinguished indeed. I might write books till 1900 and not serve humanity so well,” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson to his American publishers (quoted from Bella Bathurst, The Lighthouse Stevensons. London: Harper, 2005). Neist Point Lighthouse was designed by Louis’ cousin, David A. Stevenson.
Photographs serve the illusion of realism, of showing the Eiffel Tower or the bombing of a Vietnamese village as it really was. Perspective strongly supports this illusion. It denotes three-dimensional space on the basis of construction rules that have been derived from optics. A camera basically follows the same optical laws we find at work in the Renaissance theory and practice of perspective. It is a machine for making central perspectives, very much like the devices contrived by Dürer and others to facilitate the drawing of perspectives.
Perspective does not only denote space. It also positions the spectator: Central perspective works best if you stand right in front of the picture’s vantage point. You are thus made part of the geometrical arrangement; your (ideal) position, your eye is inscribed into the picture. For the image to captivate you and work its illusion, you have to cooperate, positioning yourself accordingly. Illusion comes at the price of a loss of freedom for the spectator.
Would absence of perspective, emphasizing the picture‘s flatness, then mean that spectators regain a certain amount of freedom, being allowed to stand wherever they like, without missing anything?
If this were the case, speaking of Informel paintings as ‘democratic’ may not only cover the picture elements (which are all equal) but also the ‘positioning’ of spectators. Confronted with a painting by, say, K. H. Sonderborg, spectators can position themselves freely, they can pick any spot in front of the picture they like. There is a certain openness to this, some kind of laissez-faire a Renaissance painting following the rules of central perspective might lack.
Hans Belting, Florenz und Bagdad. Eine westöstliche Geschichte des Blicks. München: Beck, 2008.
Willi Kemp, “Das deutsche Informel”, Le grand geste! Informel und Abstrakter Expressionismus 1946 – 1964. Hg. v. museum kunst palast. Köln: DuMont, 2010.
Because of its connotations, Holzwege does not translate well. The word literally denotes forest paths or tracks (Wege) that only serve for transporting wood (Holz) from where it was felled and do not connect two places. Since these paths tend to end in the middle of nowhere, hikers who take these paths are likely to get lost. Hence “auf dem Holzweg sein” (being on the wood path) means being errant, lost, wrong.
I found these beech logs rotting in a forest. Decay has marked them in a way that evokes landscapes seen from above, or entirely insignificant maps…