Each work gives rise to another. In a sense, the fact that the route to a finished work remains obscure is at odds with the actual core of artistic work – the process – which cannot be brought to a conclusion. Not until one gives up. Could it be that the notion of a finished, bounded work is incompatible with the activity of thinking and creating? How can one mark off a creative process so as to say, this is where it begins, this where it ends? And how can one break it off? For we depend on something manifesting itself as a finished entity, as a statement we can take a stand on.
Agitator. The poet Vladimir Mayakovsky felt a need to transform life.1 For him, poetry was not just a form of expression but a speech act that was meant to weld form, content and the practice of life into an entity capable of attaining a future objective: revolution. But this utopia soon became a distortion of reality, the goal turned against him to become an enemy. At the age of thirty-seven, Mayakovsky chose to put an end to his life: Hey you!
Take your hat off!
Here I come!
I can’t hear…
The universe sleeps,
laying upon its paw,
tick-laden with stars, its enormous ear.2
The words stand there. Raised from that once so beautiful body, up to the stars, down in front of our eyes. Released from the hand from whence they came.Volodya.
Although Mayakovsky’s struggle to implement utopia failed, at least it imposed subjective frameworks on the world. Ideal problems function all alike. They can never be solved but are important even so, for in the hunt for answers one finds solutions in other problems.
Ideelle problem captures this meaning by presenting us with a reversed blackboard, which only becomes manifest when colour is applied to it. By painting around the white, numbers and calculations emerge, and by covering other parts of the surface with black, white, grey and brown, Slaattelid alludes to the way permanence is continually erasing the answers of the past. But the colours also offer resistance. They force something three-dimensional (time) into the two-dimensional surface. They bring out the sensuous aspect of the ideal, and romp in shameless intimacy with heaven, earth and history.
Against this background, the quadratic echoes of Malevich remind us of the artist’s lot, which is to balance the real with the ideal. Behind all painting, all endeavour, lies an objective – to arrive at the one place:
An diesem Ort war ich noch niemals: anders geht der Atem, blendender als die Sonne strahlt neben ihr ein Stern.3
- Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (1893-1930) was one of the foremost members of the Russian futurist movement and a renowned spokesman for the Russian revolution, as a result of which he later came to be seen as a defender of Soviet ideology and its methods. Mayakovsky was a contemporary of Alexander Rodchenko, with whom he worked closely, and Kasimir Malevich.
- This excerpt is from the poem A Cloud in Pants (1915), translated by Matvei Yankelevich, in the book Night Wraps the Sky.
- “This is a place I have never been before: the breath comes differently, beside the sun a star shines yet brighter.” From Franz Kafka’s Aphorisms, trans. Peter Cripps.