Maybe it is about the dialogue with art

This article is a direct follow-up to the previously published “It’s not about art, you know?”, accessible here.

On a gloomy Sunday morning, 10 AM in a vacant and abandoned exhibition hall of the Vienna Albertina, I figured that this judgment revealed maybe the greatest ignorance I ever had.

On that rainy Sunday morning, I found myself submerged by an artwork, an imposing collage about the inner life of what is called a small family. Unable to move I contemplated this private scenery of which I felt we never should not be allowed to witness, but nevertheless, I was.

Eric Fischl, Young revolutionaries, oil on glassine 233.7 cm x 233.7 cm  

As I finally motivated myself to disengage from this artwork and to pursue my walk through the halls of Albertina, I was surprised to discover that an hour had passed. I had lost myself. This work had enchanted me without any prior knowledge, without me understanding its intentional idea behind it that I admired in previous installations.

And maybe that’s exactly how it should be. How we should approach modern art, without the floods of information necessary to “discern” its complexity, its idea behind it. Without the expectation of the heralded greatness of some famous artist and the bragging and competition to show off so-called knowledge. Maybe it’s just about feeling, your special dialogue between the work of art and you, your own self. 

This approach of emotions could teach us a new type of encounter with art. A kind that could alleviate the discrimination between classes and education caused by the required knowledge and its unequal access.

Just imagine a visit to a nearby gallery devoted to this kind of contemplation of art. While you enter the exhibition hall you neglect the advertised and expensive personal guiding tours. You won’t need the information, as they are distorting and they manipulate the raw encounter with you and the piece opposite of you. You leave your smartphone in some safe place behind, as we all know the distracting power imposed by them. 

So with nothing in your hands, you amble into the exhibition room and its atmosphere conjures its magic work. You, placed in the middle of the room, slowly observing the pictures around you, needless to dedicate yourself to all of them, as there is this one which is demanding you. You don’t know why, you don’t know how, but a desire is awaking in you to walk towards it. And so you do. 

And there it is: the dialogue. Observe it, observe how you react to the composition. Listen to the why, why it is moving you. Investigate in those emerging emotions, reflect them, that’s the gift this work is bestowing you. This piece of art has chosen you, and, when you allow it to enter you, you find yourself changed. 

This is what art can do. It doesn’t have anything to do with bragging, with prerogative knowledge and financial means. But our society and its morbid taste in efficiency and money tend to forget that. Art and its value today are measured by its price, not by the special connection it can build with each of us, non-regarding our social class and our education. My education has told me otherwise. Since I was a student, the right interpretation was preached to me from books, my teachers. And so I never entered a museum in school and was asked; what do you see, what do you feel. Therefore, the belief prevailed that one can only connect with art if prior knowledge is established. Today I grasp it’s severe wrongdoing. Seeing art is not about performance, even though our society is driven by that, it’s about you, and your emotions. 

And about candour: you have to trust yourself when standing before a plain honey can and feel nothing but confusion. Or if you find yourself before an overseen ignored piece and are astonished by its beauty. You have to ignore your infused beliefs about what good and real art is and which not. Doesn’t matter what the press or your book suggests how to interpret the object of your consideration. In the end, in this hall of aseptic light, there is just you and this piece. And your feelings and swirls of fantasy.

Beuys Honey Pump 

And maybe when diving long enough into your counterpart, you will discover that what you feel, all those thoughts of fantasy, are nothing else than a mirrored unknown version of you. Maybe when sunken in contemplation, you will discover that this is the real endeavour of art. Finding and losing oneself over and over again.

by Ramona Schnall

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