The Darkening

The Darkening

Endarkening means a presentation that does not want to speak. Worlds of pictures, shown as phenomena. As if one is at their mercy. In this case, one remains merely a collector, setting up small arrangements, as painting, in films, in rooms. At the base of the arrangement, attitudes might be embedded: a melancholy, a fascination with clear and definite pictures that one does not want to produce oneself. As they exist they may be picked up again, recombined. They were already there, they weren't self-made, so they avoid posing personal responsibility. It could be the sunset, the galloping horse, the great dictator, the rebellion, the codes of deviance. Is fascination responsibility? No, apparently not. The method of placing pictures which clearly intrigue, by mirroring desires, engagement, attachment or addiction to their subject, next to pictures which are clearly empty - of presenting material as coincidentally picked up and put together - removes personal engagement from responsibility, distances it as a material, betrays it in order to be able to use it. The distance to personal preference portrays it as yet another material which one just happened to find in oneself. This stance of distance knows no omissions, never should it arouse the impression that it might be so important as to not allow multiple ways of understanding. On the contrary, if the pictures are clear and definite, for example in their political symbolism, for example by using reactionary signs, if they have no secrets, a level of dialogue will be thrown over them to veil their clarity, although no reason for making these clear pictures ambiguous becomes apparent. These pictures are not to be mediated, they are to be distributed.

Through this exhibited distancing the viewer is disassociated from the picture until the simple question of why something became a subject for the artist in the first place seems to be a break with the picture's story. It is indicated to him or her that in this case asking about the picture would evaporate the picture and its secrets into nothing and the only possibility of looking at it is by becoming-accomplice-to so that there is indeed something there and more than one would ever be told. The answer to what one sees is the description of the subject. The picture, however, says that not all is told by the description. This is intentional withholding of information, the Endarkening.

The statement of the images is that of being thrown into a picture-world that is evidence of a world that one did not make oneself and will not make oneself and for which one cannot take any responsibility. Here the romantic artistic individual is conjured up again, who, in the definition of Friedrich Heubach, as a model of modern man, knows of the failure of cognition. Or, as Walter Benjamin describes, has no council himself and so can give no council.

However, in this powerlessness against the world one power still exists, namely that of vision, of perception, and with that naturally also the privilege of gaze, to see, have and weigh that which is seen. Included in powerlessness is an attitude of sentimentalism for ones' own gaze and to illustrations that distance oneself from the world.

In this respect, the Endarkening is the political realism of a society that offers everything as images but where a clear hierarchy is made between the images - which are available - and the reality allegedly represented by them - a reality which however is said to be not representable in fragments and therefore not seizable at single points in its description. In this description single political engagements such as an intervention at one point (like a demonstration) are seen as naive and ridiculous because of not comprehending the whole structure. Instead one is left with fragmented pictures that have autonomous political impact as such, but that do not enable abstract political positioning. The possibility of another life stands there, equally distanced between possibilities, between engaged inclination and recognized conditions which make personal engagement just another one of the recognized possibilities which is just as far away.

The positive conception of the individual "clairvoyant about the failure of cognition" and the secluded production of the endarkened image is just one side, another lies in taking an oath to a picture universe (whose expression seems to me threatening, not analytically totalitarian but deeply structurally authoritarian). These authoritarian gestures in art are granted ambivolence and benevolence, especially as opposition to the authority of multilingualism in seeking understanding (by using structured media and the political topics discussed in the centre of society).

In some corners of this endarkened picture-world, reactionary iconography is worked with strikingly often. A reason for the use of political signs, an indication in what way they should be read, is not given. Judging by their effects, it does not seem to be the public which should be provoked by them. On the contrary it is the public, by feeling comfortable in this reactionary picture-world together with its authoritarian mythology, which can provoke the Outside (in this case not more closely defined). If one reads from the results, from the popularity and market success of ideologically charged iconography, one could expect a conceptual strategy with the goal of unveiling the social field which is represented by the pictures and first triggered by them. Looking from within, however, it seems that by picking up the offered ambivalence, the field of art is enabled to withdraw and fold itself in the secrets of its own political possibilities. These secrets also contain a threat. The possibility of elite authoritarianism, in other words the contempt of any "powerless" mediation is indicated, as is an anchoring in self-righteous self-evident political correctness.

Sometimes the artist shirks the personal responsibility of the society created by his pictures through a pathologization of his own person, when for example 25 secret languages and 17 grimaces are offered as a form of communication in which everything is material. Just as in the fairy tale where the lord orders his serfs to call the door a table and the bed bread, until all have died of hunger, in these secret languages the artist forces his public to say Material to Fascism and Fun to Jeanny so they would all starve to death unless they agreed amongst themselves that they never said it.

That is an old theme and maybe fun for the artist in the denunciation of his public. But it needs a disclosed circle.

This circle uses as a password the term Gesinnung (Sentiment). Why however does this word Gesinnung not help the viewer any further? Is it the ground, the language upon which this word came to be? Is it ambivalent? Not even.

It is part of a secret language. It is used because it is un-understandible for outsiders. It is only usable by someone who says it to someone who understands. It distinguishes.

In his political philosophy Carl Schmitt reduces every political relationship between people to one fundament, the friend - enemy relationship. Either they are for us or against us, as Bush well knows. In this heteronomy there can be only one inner autonomy, that fundamentally agrees or is against. And for the political this fundamental agreement is necessary (according to Schmitt) because only those who recognize each other have the capacity to recognize who is better, their own elite.

Well, if Gesinnung were not only there where Denke becomes Zeige (Thinking to Pointing out) alas in the philosophical language of Heidegger, then the word would still only be possible in a definitely contained friend - enemy relationship. Its containment is exclusion. One would have to take that which is said in correct Gessinung and follow it until it could be seen that it wasn't really the right Gessinung, but for example a blind elitist nonsense, and the result would be rejection. It would not be reinvented at every moment and there would be nothing performative about it. Rather it would be the basis of all speech and behavior and through its own power free one from suspicion. This would be until rejection a pretty risk-free game.

Let's say someone paints a picture of Adolf Hitler. The picture is shown in an Austrian gallery and sold at the Madrid art fair ARCO. No one ever says anything, addresses the artist or takes any notice of what he has done. So, justifiably, the artist begins to worry. He isn't quite sure what he had intended for the picture, but the easy success wasn't it and he begins to feel discomfort. A darkness opens up to him, to which he doesn't want to become ingratiated.

Let's say someone paints a picture of Adolf Hitler. It is painted within the Gesinnung and sold within the Gesinnung. So everything is ok, no need for anyone to feel any discomfort. This happens entre nous. This is esoterics.

But even within esoterics, shouldn't there also be an assurance of the social framework within which the image will be received when it is presented in such an ambiguous way? And can this certainty be possible within this society, with all its many layers of self-assurance on antisemitism and authoritarism, based on such equally self-explanatory liberalism and enlightment, about any issue to the point where it wouldn't be necessary to ask again: but what exactly have you seen?

When Johan Grimonprez presented his picture collection about plane hijackings, including plane crashes, plus additional material on terrorism, in the middle of the nineties, the art critics were quite ready to see a political statement in the film (D.I.A.L. History). The obvious fact that it included no level in which a positioning could be traced (even the text was a sample from a bestseller novel) was not understood as a unwillingness to take a position, rather, the act of using the pictures was in itself seen as a political decision.

This attitude has completely changed. To whatever fatigue this may point, there is an enormous readiness to see pictures only in respect to their aesthetic content, as if there was nothing in them, no other content to which it would be necessary to position oneself, nothing that could compromise you, and in any case nothing showing a framework. A picture may be multivocal, endarkening or ambiguous, but it is not the ambiguity of the spectator that is legitimized by them.


Although this text deals more with the reception of a melancholic and endarkening image, it has been published under the influence of artworks of: Mark Leckey, Relph and Payne, Annette Kelm, Yael Bartana, Kalin Lindena, Cosima von Bonin, Thomas Jocher, Fanni Niemi Jukola, as well as Jonathan Meese, Andreas Hofer and some of the artists in this issue as well as many more.

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