Else Marie Bukdahl

The Recurrent Actuality of the Baroque

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300 DKK
The Recurrent Actuality of the Baroque is a book about visual art. It deals with the broken continuity in time from the historical Baroque to the contemporary one. The text follows a comparative method of study based upon recent research in the fields of art theory and aesthetics. Apart from the hypotheses of Walter Benjamin and the epistemology of Michel Foucault, the book introduces and expands the most important theories about the actual Baroque as they have been devised and developed by Mario Perniola, Christine Buci-Glucksmann and Gilles Deleuze. The problems of passage between visual forms and composition of the images are analysed in terms of simulation, rationality, space, the wildness of artistic intentionality and the folding of matter and meaning. If the text is discreetly haunted by Leibniz, Ancient Rome and the poetry of Baudelaire, its direction of thinking is totally devoted to the understanding of visual art from Bernini and Velázquez to Louise Bourgeois, Mona Hatoum and ORLAN. Special attention is paid to visual artists in Denmark dealing with ìBaroque universalsî from the 1980s up to the present day.

The Recurrent Actuality of the Baroque

Controluce 2017, www.controluce.dk
© Else Marie Bukdahl 2017

Translation: Inge Tranter
Consultant (text): Neil Stanford
Consultant (images): Marie Kirkegaard
Layout: Rasmus Eckardt
Print: Specialtrykkeriet Arco A/S

ISBN.: 978-87-92172-04-4

Printed in Denmark 2017

Pressemeddelelse

Else Marie Bukdahl: The Recurrent Actuality of the Baroque.

Udkommer d.12 juni 2017 på forlaget Controluce
260 sider, gennemillustreret, engelsksproget.
Pris DKK 300,00

Barokkunsten, der begyndte at erobre kunstscenen i slutningen af det 16. århundrede, vækker stadig større opmærksomhed blandt filosoffer, æstetikere, kunsthistorikere og kunstnere. De betragter den som en inspirerende forløber for vor tids kunst, fordi den for første gang fortolker naturvidenskabens opdagelse af, at Jorden svæver i et uendeligt rum og derfor optræder samfundslivet som foranderligt og uforudsigeligt med truende kaoskræfter ude i horisonten.

Betyder det – spørger bogens forfatter dr. phil. Else Marie Bukdahl – at vi kan betragte vor tid og dens billedkunst som en form for ”moderne barok”? Og hvordan kan barokkunsten udvide vort oplevelses- og erfaringsrum og vor kunstforståelse?

Oplevelsen af at mennesket befinder sig i en verden uden faste holdepunkter og grænser esulterede i, at adskillige af barokkens teologer og filosoffer blev optaget af, hvordan denne erkendelse, der ikke kan gribes i et enkelt perspektiv, kan visualiseres, tage form og dermed blive synlig for os. Det medførte, at digtningen og billedkunsten fik en langt mere central plads i kunst- og kulturlivet end tidligere og blev betragtet som en selvstændig kilde til erfaring. For netop disse kunstarter kan – på en intens og anskuelig måde – udtrykke både den lidenskabelige henrykkelse over de nye erkendelser og den smertelige oplevelse af, at enhver menneskelig orden er skrøbelig. Dette spændingsfelt gav anledning til en fornyet debat om forholdet til både naturen, samfundet og Gud. Det er sådanne eksistentielle og kunstneriske problemer, som mange af vor tids filosoffer og kunstnere oplever som aktuelle.

I sin bog om Barokkens tilbagevendende Aktualitet belyser Else Marie Bukdahl disse problemer gennem tolkninger af de forskelligartede løsninger som fem fremtrædende moderne filosoffer har fremlagt og som en række væsentlige samtidskunstnere har udtrykt i deres værker.

Billedkunsten har en absolut fremtrædende plads i hendes bog og derfor har den også den første prioritet i hendes nye fortolkninger af de teorier, som de fem filosoffer har fremsat om barokkens egenart og aktualitet. Det drejer sig om den franske filosof og idehistoriker Michel Foucault, der karakteriserer Las Meninas af Vélazquez som en forløber for moderniteten og den italienske æstetiker Mario Perniola, der fremdrager modreformationens teori om billedets selvstændighed og dets betydning for vor tids medieverden og kunst.

Hertil kommer den franske barokforsker Christine Buci-Glucksmann, der gennem nye analyser af ”kroppen og blikket” afdækker overraskende paralleller mellem barokkunstnere som Bernini og Caravaggio og moderne kunstnere som den tyske maler Anselm Kiefer og den franske performancekunstner ORLAN. Den franske filosof Gilles Deleuze er først og fremmest optaget af at afdække paralleller mellem det dynamiske, foldede og åbne rum i især Berninis og Tintorettos barokkunst og foldningerne i vor tids abstrakte billedkunst. Alle fire filosoffer er hver på sin måde inspireret af den tyske kulturfilosof Walter Benjamins teori om barokkunstens allegori, der afdækker fragmenter af glemte betydningslag i vor tids kunst og kultur. Mødet med de fem filosoffers analyser af de mange forbindelseslinjer mellem de eksistentielle problemer, skabelsesprocesserne og de kunstneriske strategier i barokkunsten og samtidskunsten har også inspireret adskillige af vor tids kunstnere, bl. a. den franske billedhugger Louise Bourgeois til at skabe nye kunstformer.

Også forholdet mellem barokkunsten og den moderne kaosforskning, først og fremmest fraktalgeometrien bliver draget frem i lyset. Det gælder især slægtskabet mellem de komplekse fraktale formforløb og de mange gentagne former, snirkler og spiraler, der præger dekorationerne i de sydspanske – og sydamerikanske barokkirker og som den amerikanske kunstner Frank Stella senere har eksperimenteret med.

Flere samtidskunstnere  – herunder Mona Hatoum, Joana Vasconcelos og Olafur Eliasson – har i disse år erobret barokkens slotte, parker og kirker i en række dialogudstillinger, som fandt sted bl.a. i slottet og i parken i Versailles På disse udstillinger er det lykkedes kunstnerne at skaber værker , som på mange overraskende måde både afdækker glemte sider af barokken og skaber nutidige paralleller til dem.

Andre kunstnere – bl. a. Mariko Mori, Hein Heinsen og Øivind Nygård – giver anonyme steder i det offentlige rum en ny profil gennem skulpturprojekter, der er inspireret af barokkunstnernes værker i byrummet.

Adskillige billedkunstnere har valgt at føre en anderledes visuel dialog med barokkunsten. Således har Picasso indlagt visuelle citater fra Velázquez’ La Meninas i adskillige af sine værker, ligesom Mark Tansey har skabt visuelle parafraser fra den nederlandske barokkunst. Gennem dette greb har de afdækket nye former for billeddannelse og nye betydningslag.

Et af de mange krydsende spor i forholdet mellem barokkens og vor tids kunst, som både de fem filosoffer og kunstnerne hver på sin måde fremdrager, er billedkunstens særlige evne til at aktivere både intellektet, sanserne og fantasien og i flere tilfælde næsten drage beskueren ind i projekterne.

I bogens mange dybtgående værkanalyser bringes barokkens formverden og erkendelsesformer på ny i spil. Else Marie Bukdahl afdækker bestandig nye aspekter i en række væsentlige samtidskunstneres værker ved at se dem gennem barokkens perspektivudvidende og rigt facetterede prisme. En af de fremtrædende facetter i dette prisme er en forståelse for, at både barokkens og vor tids kunst ikke blot skænker os en æstetisk oplevelse, men også har betydning for organiseringen af vort liv, idet den afdækker nye sammenhænge og orienteringer i en uforudsigelig verden. Derfor er den en nødvendig og uundværlig del af vort liv.

The Recurrent Actuality of the Baroque 

Else Marie Bukdahl
Release: June 2017
Controluce publishing house
260 pages, 103 illustrations.

Price €40 / DKK 300,00

 

The Baroque era has frequently been described as “a distant mirror of our time”, primarily because the interpretations of both the artistic and the fundamental existential and cosmological problems of that time have so many features in common with the ones that we are struggling to resolve today. What are the main issues?

At the end of the 17th Century, when the Baroque was at its zenith, a new understanding of the world developed in which the planet was seen as being suspended in infinite space. Society appeared to be an unpredictable universe with impassable labyrinths and the forces of chaos a constant threat on the horizon. This sensation of inhabiting a world without fixed boundaries resulted in theologians, philosophers and artists becoming increasingly interested in the problems of visualisation. To this end, they constantly asked themselves the following question: How does the world become comprehensible and visible to humans and how does it take shape? Artists were aware that a world of this kind could not be apprehended from a single angle, but needed a multiplicity of viewpoints to be rendered visible in a world in which any human order is fragile. Not only artists but also poets interpreted – in a concrete and engaged manner – both the passionate rapture of new discoveries as well as the painful experience of standing on the brink of chaos in a changeable world. Art and literature were imbued with new significance in this volatile world. Philosophers, aestheticians and artists of our own time have found these existential and artistic problems to be both topical and relevant.

In the first part of her book, The Recurrent Actuality of the Baroque, Else Marie Bukdahl analyses these problems through the interpretations of five prominent modern philosophers of the new concepts of Baroque art and its impact on the art of our time.

These five philosophers – Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Mario Perniola, Christine Buci-Glucksmann and Gilles Deleuze – have, in different and unexpected contexts, investigated most of the basic concepts, which are also called “Baroque universals”. Baroque scholars agree that these are central to the Baroque period, an era that is otherwise difficult to define, and which remains an irregular “Baroque pearl”. However, the overall theme of the five philosophers’ interpretation of Baroque art is a perhaps more unifying typology of the Baroque. Else Marie Bukdahl has thus dealt with Benjamin’s highlighting of the “allegory” at the expense of the symbol, Foucault’s interpretation of “the problem of representation”, Perniola’s notion of the “simulacrum”, Buci-Glucksmann’s concept of “Baroque reason” and “the madness of vision”, as well as Deleuze’s new theory of “the fold”. In her interpretations, Else Marie Bukdahl always allows visual art to occupy a prominent position, which may constitute an unprecedented approach.

The attempt to interpret these aspects of the involvement of art, which the five philosophers employ in their constructions of their theories, required both interpretations of their concepts of Baroque art, as well as analysing the artists of our era who – like ORLAN and Simon Hantaï – have been engaged in a visual discourse about the Baroque period. Specific examples of artworks that the five philosophers included in their elucidation of their views of Baroque art and its traces in modern art, are often presented in a somewhat schematic manner, but are always precise and inspiring. What they resemble most is a flowering bud. When completely unfolded, they contain precisely the information that may provide further justification for – and visualisation of – their theories.

This is why Else Marie Bukdahl has deepened and developed their analyses of art and, in some cases, included new artworks to provide their theories with more substance. Deleuze in particular wanted his readers to include new artworks to demonstrate his interpretation of the influence of the Baroque

In the second part of her book, Else Marie Bukdahl analyses a broad range of modern artists not directly included in the sphere of the five philosophers, but who have established other visual dialogues with Baroque art. The two groups have, however, also focused on the same characteristic features in many cases, but expanded and changed them in different ways, as well as visualised them in a new context. They have chosen the Baroque artists as dialectical sparring partners in a more direct way. When artists conquer the Baroque buildings and selected places in the urban space and in nature, they reveal new aspects in the surroundings thanks to their own artistic interventions. This applies to artists like Vasconcelos and Eliasson, who amplified and transformed the mirror effect of the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. Other artists, such as Robert Morris, worked with Baroque-inspired forms in more anonymous public spaces and gave them a new profile. This was also one of the artistic aims that the sculptors of the Baroque strove to realise.

When the copying discipline escaped the classicising straitjacket of the Academy, artists started to copy Baroque art to learn its language of form with a view to being able to realise some new artistic discoveries. These strivings continue in Modernism in artists such as Picasso. Other younger artists, including Bacon and Tansey, envision Baroque art as part of an uninterrupted continuum of aesthetic developments concerning the problem of visual representation by means of quotation and reference. Finally, there are some artists such as Louise Bourgeois who incorporate very free and often only partial quotations from Baroque art. All these forms and figures of more or less free quotations that our contemporary artists extrapolate from Baroque art show that the encounter with the Baroque space has been capable of expanding their own experiential space.