Published in Marcus Kaiser about all the images we know so well, March 2018.
“It’s all about the images we know so well”
Aber der Mensch ist nicht bloß ein denkendes, er ist zugleich ein empfindendes Wesen. Er ist ein Ganzes, eine Einheit vielfacher, innig verbundner Kräfte, und zu diesem Ganzen des Menschen muß das Kunstwerk reden, es muß dieser reichen Einheit, dieser einigen Mannigfaltigkeit in ihm entsprechen.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Der Sammler und die Seinigen, Sechster Brief.
It’s all about the images we know so well forms a collection of nine images gathering landscapes, ornamental forms, portraits, pictures of beliefs or beauty, as well as whimsy. If one cannot trace at first glance a path of logical or biographical coherence between the different motifs presented, a “family likeness” begins to emerge over continued viewing. Following Goethe and his Elective Affinities, Wittgenstein designates, by this term, similarities about which it is difficult to establish what element create the resemblance. For instance, the members of the same lineage can all have a family resemblance without it being possible to determine what connects them. And this uncertainty originates endless discussions about differences and similarities.
Marcus Kaiser creates a collection of almost all photographic images from his real or imaginary archives. With its ternary rhythm, this family of images that we know so well invites the viewer to immerse himself in the life of forms and symbols. As a tribute to Cassirer, we could even say that it is a dive into the world of “symbolic forms”. By “symbolic forms”, we should understand an impure transcendental. That is to say, an aptitude to marry nature and history, the theoretical and the empirical, the intelligible and the sensible, the idealistic philosophy and the social history. In a dialectical movement, this open, dynamic, exponential sequence of images we know so well, produces empirical variations around a theme that, as well as an unobtrusive speculative pattern, structures the whole in an abstract way. Almost Platonic, this collection seems to murmur delicately that our relationship to the real and its images consists in a contingent epiphany in its Joycean meaning, and therefore in an act of faith. Such encounters are apparitions that unceasingly find, according to the coincidences of existence, their corresponding echo in our individual and collective memory. To see is to first recognize. To see is to remember.
Since Niépce, photography, or “writing of the sun”, has known many transformations and mutations. The nine images collected by the artist plunge the viewer into a living history of photography where all phases of its evolution are represented, from the camera obscura to digital photography. Yet, according to Marcus Kaiser, photography does not cease to produce appearances from reality that could have found their incarnation in other forms, in other bodies, in other places. From Ideal Landscape, with its Cézanne accents and depiction of the Lebanese countryside, to the reproduction in painting of the first photograph taken in 1827 by Niépce from his window in France near Chalon-sur-Saône, Marcus Kaiser’s collection aims to catch the “nomadism of images”. We owe this expression to Hans Belting in his opus An Anthropology of Images: Picture, Medium, Body, designating the ability of images to migrate from one medium to another. They create, in their movement, in their incessant becoming, types, invariants – a certain immobility, therefore – that cannot be grasped solely by pictorial reproduction. As Gilles Deleuze suggests in the documentary film Abécédaire, nomads create the conditions of their own immobility through movement. Thus, in their tricky balance between movement and fixity, these nomadic images collected – these ones we know so well – seem to rotate around a center yet never reach it, whereas this center would not exist without them.