A hundred years on, what once – in an emphatic gesture – assumed the place allocated to an icon has long since itself become an icon. When first presented on 7 December 1915 in the Dobytčina Gallery in Petrograd, Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ (on a white background) took over the position which, in a traditional Russian house, is reserved for a religious icon.
Concerning this event, Malevich is quoted as follows: “When in 1913, I was trying desperately to free art from the dead weight of things, I exhibited a picture that was nothing but a black square on a white field … What I exhibited was not an empty square, but rather the feeling of non-objectivity.” The fact that underneath (that is, under the visible picture surface) there is now presumed to be a further picture is something that could have been foreseen. For the appearance it is first and foremost the surface that is relevant – and only partially the quality of the bearer material. And multiple layering, after all, is always given, but the desire and will is for compaction and clarity.
To the question as to whether Malevich and Mondrian have not already said everything that can be said with a square Josef Albers answers: “No. Mondrian never painted a correct, precise square. And Malevich only rarely showed it mathematically. I believe that, fundamentally there is no ultimate solution in visual formulation. Each and every form demands repeated ‘performance’.”
BIEST’s new Square series – two squares of material laid over one another and so stitched that arms, a head and a body can be inserted – engages and exercises the ideas of non-objectivity and of performance. Namely, a non-objectivity which, when filled by its wearer, again becomes a body, a thing, an object. Wherein otherwise could its substance and shape lie? And surprisingly contour-giving into the bargain. There is always the need of a space for rendition, reverberation, resonance. The white ground in Malevich, the frame of the picture, the border to another colour, contour, meaning. It would be too easy to see in nothingness always just the immanent whole. At BIEST, the Platonic body (that is, the body with utmost symmetry) and our bodies (that is, bodies that are human only when and because they are asymmetrical) come together in repeated perfomance. If symmetry enhances the aesthetic feeling of beauty / truth – are we then the winners?
Foto: Ina Schoenenburg/OSTKREUZ